Monday, February 28, 2011
Phenomenology of Spirit, Preface, paragraph 1
In the case of a philosophical work it seems not only superfluous, but, in the nature of the case, even inappropriate and misleading to begin, as writers usually do in a preface, by explaining the end the author had in mind, the circumstances which gave rise to the work, and the relation in which the writer takes it to stand to other treatises on the same subject, written by his predecessors or his contemporaries. For whatever it might be suitable to state about philosophy in a preface – say, an historical sketch of the main drift and point of view, the general content and results, a string of desultory assertions and assurances about the true – this cannot be accepted as the form and manner in which to expound philosophical truth. Moreover, because philosophy is essentially at home in the element of generality [Allgemeinheit], which contains the particular, it more than other sciences gives the appearance that all that matters is the end or final result, so much so that the end result expresses its complete essence, against which the process of arriving at that final result is non-essential. But with a science such as anatomy – something like the knowledge of the parts of the body viewed in terms of their lifeless existence – we are quite sure that with a general knowledge we do not yet possess the thing itself, the actual content of the science, but rather need to concern ourselves with particulars as well. What’s more, in the case of such a collection of bits of knowledge, which has no real right to the name of science, any talk about purpose and suchlike generalities is not commonly very different from the historical and concept-less way in which the content itself – those nerves, muscles, and the like -- is spoken of. In philosophy, on the other hand, it would at once be felt to be incongruous were use to be made of such a method, one which philosophy itself shows to be incapable of grasping the truth.