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Course on Modern Thinkers.

Lecture VII: Hegel.


Topics of the Lecture:

1. Introductory Summary.

2. Schelling's Successive Approaches to a System.

3. Hegel's Character and Development.

4. Hegel's Doctrine of the Paradox of self-consciousness.

5. Further Illustrations of the Paradox.

6. Hegel's Philosophical Use of this Paradox.

7. General significance of the Paradox as set forth in the "Phenomenology of Spirit."

8. Nature of Hegel's Systematic Procedure in his later Works.

9. General Estimate of his Significance.

NOTES:- Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel was born in 1770, studied at the University of Tubingen from 1788 until 1793, became Docent at Jena in 1801, published his "Phenomenology of Spirit" in 1807, was later Gymnasium Director, between 1808 and 1816, was then professor at Heidelberg, and afterwards at Berlin, and died in 1831. His "Logic" was published in the years 1812-1816. His works were collected and printed, after his death, in eighteen volumes. In English the best account of his life is that of Edward Caird, in Blackwood's "Philosophical Classics." Of Dr. Hutchinson Sterling's famous and historically important book, "The Secret of Hegel" (2 vols. 8 vo., Edinburgh, 1865), much both good and evil can well be said, but the work is at all events useless to the elementary student. More valuable for a fairly equipped beginner is Wallace's "Logic of Hegel."

In following not only this but all the later lectures of the course, it will be important to bear in mind the substance of the following summary of Kant's doctrine:

1. The Origin of Kant's Philosophy is the Problem of Human Reason as the Eighteenth Century had developed this problem. The problem was: How can the Truth which not only Theology, but also common sense and natural science pretend to know about our world, be defended against skepticism? Our human powers being once for all so limited, how can any genuine truth of any sort be known.

2. Kant's first answer is: Things in Themselves are of necessity unknown to us. We can know in a theoretical sense only the things that appear to our senses, i.e., the Phenomena of the World of Show. Neither common sense, nor science, nor theology, can, with theoretical assurance, carry us beyond the world as it seems to our human powers of observation and experience.

3. In particular, Space and Time can be shown to be more Forms of our Human sense-consciousness, and to have no relation to Things in Themselves. The unknowable real world without us exists therefore neither in space nor in time. We know not how this world exists at all; we only recognize that it exists.

4. But we can nevertheless be sure that our world of seeming things in space and time must conform to rigid laws, such as the law of causation. For our active understanding, in thinking our world, is bound by its own nature, in order to preserve as it were our very sanity (or, as Kant would say, the Unity of our self-consciousness), to regard all observed facts as conforming to laws. Yet these laws of Nature, which science studies, are the very creation of our own understanding acting upon the data of our senses. Such laws are not the laws of an unknowable real world at all. They hold only for the show-world of our experience. Our own understanding is therefore the source for us of all knowable rational truth.

5. Yet, ignorant as we are of all absolute truth, confined as we are for all theoretical knowledge to the seeming world of sense and understanding in space and time, we are yet morally bound to postulate that the real world of the things in themselves is a Divine Moral Order; i. e., we are and absolute Moral Order were known to us to exist.

6. In this why we are theoretically certain that the seeming world is a world of orderly law, such as common sense and science believe in; and we are practically certain that the unknow real world is a divine and moral world, because it is our duty to treat that unknown world as if it were divine and moral.

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