#1 The Three Elements of Philosophy

Chapter 1

Introduction to Philosophy

#1 The Three Elements of Philosophy

According to both Plato and Aristotle the origin of philosophical thought lies in our ability to be amazed. Plato states that there is no other origin or principle in philosophy than just the pathos of being amazed. And according to Aristotle it is because of their amazement that people began to practice philosophy.

When we consider these statements we will soon find that they imply three elements of philosophy.

First of all, there is this inner experience that accompanies our perception of the world. It is truly a pathos in the sense that it is elicited from the outside. Nature around us, the tides of the sea, the movement of the stars in the sky make us wonder. It is this experience that interrupts our indifference. What seemed to be self evident and natural, turns out to be a miracle, a secret that invites us to investigate. Also according to Aristotle it is our senses, primarily our sight, that give us the urge to understand.

Secondly, we find ourselves in awe of this wondrous world, that appears to us as a secret. Our intuitions tell us that in this miraculous world of our perceptions, there is a cosmic order that hides itself in secrecy and yet reveals itself to our inquiring minds. The experience of awe that is connected to this amazement brings us to the persuasion that the world ultimately is a single coherent whole, in which essence and apparition are to be distinguished. The apparition of the many objects of our perception is somehow connected to the essence of the inner order of all things. That cosmic essence and order is not easily understood. Amazement and awe motivate us to do what is required here, i.e. the activity of reflection, of thought. It is not within our perception that this hidden cosmic order reveals itself, but only within thought.

The distinction between the manifold world of perception and the unified world of thought is also a distinction between the inner and the outer, the internal and the external. The inner essence of the world, the truth of the world, can only be found within the internal mind. The essence of the world corresponds to the inner world of the mind. The apparition of the world, with its almost infinite series of phenomena, corresponds to the external perception. In the history of philosophy the truth of this external world, was the primary objective of philosophy; in its history philosophy ultimately also discovered the inner world of the human mind.

Thirdly, one of the elements of philosophical amazement is the presupposition that the essence of the world is twofold, fixed and determined on the one hand, and moving and changing on the other hand. Change was obvious within the experience of nature, as was the determined character of thought, especially when written down. This basic experience of an opposition between being and becoming led to the third basic question of all philosophy.

So this is how amazement leads to philosophy: the essence of the world beyond mere perception is one coherent whole; the essence of the world is expressed within human rationality; there is some connection between the eternal concepts of the human mind and the diversity and transience of nature. These are the three basic questions that at first Greek philosophy try to answer.

All of this would have led nowhere if the answer to these questions would have been taken from mythology. Philosophy also requires the notion that these questions are to be posed in a critical manner, that is that answers can only be found by applying some rational method. This principle not only refutes and transcends the domain of mythology, but it also represents a basic humility, because the answers that philosophy can give us, can never be considered to be complete and exhaustive, they can never become “divine wisdom.” The method of philosophy is truly a path, a road that is determined in its direction, but never completed by reaching its goal. It is therefore truly philo-sophy, a love for wisdom that can never be fully satisfied.

Philosophy is therefore also different from the sciences. The interest behind the sciences is the urge to explain a particular set of phenomena. It requires a focus on particular objects and events. It poses questions about specific movements. Sciences are always striving for a particular knowledge and are therefore analytic. Philosophy however asks the question what phenomena are in general; it focuses on the objective world as a whole and asks the question about the essence of all events; it poses questions about movement as such. Sciences are focused on the particular; philosophy is focused on the universal. It is Aristotle that defined philosophy as the search for the answer to the question about that which truly is, about being as such, that is, the essence.

All of these three elements including the critical and rational method, can be found in what we usually accept to be the first true philosopher: Thales of Miletus. And indeed the scarce fragments of his philosophy speak about essence, the external world and the meaning of change. Because he is a true philosopher, our interest in him cannot be just historical interest. Thales discusses the three elements of philosophy that are truly universal. That is why we must say that as a philosopher he is a contemporary while in a historical sense he is separated from us by 2500 years.

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Recap of Hegel’s Teaching on Freedom in the Philosophy of Right

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The Three Moments of Logic

Logic has three different moments:

a) the abstract or intellectual moment
b) the dialectical or negative-reasonable moment
c) the speculative or positive-reasonable moment

I am not talking about three parts of logic, but indeed about moments. Every concept and everything that is true in general has these three sides to it. If we were to speak about the concept of “being”, then it would be possible to discover an abstract, a dialectic and a speculative side.

We can be brief about finite reason, the rational mind. The mind takes every concept as a fixed and in itself resting determination. The mind assesses the difference between this determination and others. In this way it achieves a limited and abstract determination that is conceived as something that exists for itself.

Such finite determinations, however, pass into their opposite, or rather they sublate themselves. That is the dialectical moment in the logical.

When we take the dialectical moment in a rational way, that is to say, as a definite determination, we end up in skepticism. We then see in the dialectical only the negation, as the only result of the thought process. The mind sets a fixed determination: “being” for example. The simple negation of that concept is dialectic in its skeptical form: non-being, nothing. In its most abstract form, this is the reurring negation of every claim to truth, the constant transition between a positive being and denying that positive being.

The true dialectical moment in all logic, however, is to surpass the isolated determination and also the isolated negation. The determination is maintained, but it is also expressed in relation to something else. Not from the outside, but as an immanent movement, so by itself transcending itself. After all, every determination of the mind has a certain one-sidedness and limitation. That one-sidedness and limitation are the definite negation of this isolated determination. But this negation is also exactly what is needed, to give this intellectual determination this content. Instead of opposing being and nothing unilaterally and abstractly, we now learn that the definite nature of the concept of being depends, for example, on pure denial, that is, of nothingness. It is, after all, being because it is not nothing. Being is, or better, means not being nothing. Just as nothing means non-being, that is, the negation of being. In order to be able to think specifically, that is to say concretely, we need the opposite. In that opposite however what was stated at first does not disappear, but it is also confirmed in it. Nothing as the denial of being only has meaning if what is being denied is assumed and remains valid.

The speculative or positive-reasonable moment expresses the unity of the determinations in their opposition. There is something enclosed in the movement between the positive and its opposite that can be confirmed. This affirmation is locked up in the transition from one to the other, is locked up in their contradiction itself. The movement from being to nothing, which is the reversal of the movement from nothing to being, can be expressed as a positive result. The dialectical relationship of both concepts is not the contradiction in which one or the other disappears, but is a certainty that encompasses both movements. Nothing is not empty or abstract, but concrete, because it is the denial of something, namely of being; being is also not empty and abstract, for it is the condition that is negative to its opposite, the nothing, as non-nothing.

The reasonable unity that is expressed in the speculative concept is a unity of these various mutually exclusive determinations. In the speculative concept, the movement of thought between the two contradictory determinations is presented as a definite determination. In this case, we move towards the concept if “becoming”. After all, “becoming” is the movement from being to nothing, and from nothing to being, thus from one determination to its opposite, resulting in a simple and fixed determination. With this concept the result of the dialectical movement is thus established, and something has been achieved that can now become the new starting point of a subsequent dialectical movement.

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Idea, Concept and Reality (2)

The result of our previous considerations and the principle that we constantly have to address here is the idea that reality is determined by the concept. This does not mean that reality is fully experienced by us in accordance with the concept. It is not claimed here that the “reality” can simply be understood as perfect in our experience. Continue reading

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Idea, Concept and Reality (1)

What Hegel means with the Idea must be clearly distinguished from the Concept, without separating both of them completely. The Idea is the Concept and the reality of the Concept, that is, the unity of both. Although concept and idea are used interchangeably, we must say that the concept as such is not the idea yet. Only when we see the concept as present in its own reality, the concept as it is itself set in unity with its reality, we speak of Idea. Continue reading

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Hegel’s Understanding of Philosophy

What is the task of philosophy? How does Hegel describe this task?

A brief description goes as as follows: the task of philosophy is to understand what is, because what is, is reasonable, and is reason itself.

What people imagine as the boundary between the self-conscious mind and the rational reality is usually an abstract term, an assumption without foundation or understanding. The self-conscious mind is defined by this opposition between consciousness and  the external reality. Two separate realities that in a miraculous way go together in human knowledge. The true reasonable insight, however, is that philosophyis about the reconciliation of the concept with reality. By recognizing the inner unity of human reason as a self-conscious spirit on the one hand, and the same reason as objective reality on the other, philosophy comes to its full development.

The assumption of this boundary or gap between spirit and reality is motivated by our daily consciousness. After all, the human spirit is also feeling and contemplating and has as its object sensory and imagined images. In the same manner the practical spirit as free will, has certain goals as objects. In all of these cases there is a distinction or contrast between the form of the mind and its objects. This contrast is also necessary at this level of spiritual development. It is in the understanding of thinking, the highest in the equality of man, that thinking itself is made into an object. This is how the human spirit ultimately comes to itself itself. After all, the beginning and the principle of the human spirit is thinking.

In the first stage of this “thinking of thinking” the spirit as finite reason (Verstand, intellect) becomes entangled in contradictions. Contradictions that are not yet understood as such, but remain trapped in the form in which they exist only as a reference to reality. It is the finite reason that loses itself in this domain of  contradictions.

When thinking does not shy away from these contradictions, but remains true to itself, it comes to a victory over finite intellectual thinking. In thinking itself, the solution to these contradictions is unlocked. The result of intellectual thinking without this urge to move beyond it, would only be skepticism. However, true philosophy is the victory over this intellectual skepticism that sees the simple contradiction as the highest result.

Thinking that has moved beyond this skepticism and has rid itself of the intellectual contradictions is the Idea, the Spirit, or mind or the absolute. The philosophy of the Idea is essentially System. After all, the truth is concrete. (Concrete as from the ;latin concrescere, growing together.) That is to say, it is a totality that unfolds in itself, bringing everything together in a unity that makes distinctions that do not stand side by side, but differ from one another as organic growth phases of the whole.

The true philosophical system contains all the special principles in themselves in an organic development. Generally speaking, a philosophical system is defined as an attempt to understand the world on the basis of a limited principle that is distinct from others. So one can develop an empirical or idealistic system, or a sceptical or metaphysical system. True philosophy, as Hegel sees it, includes all these particular principles within itself and determines their mutual relationship.

All the stipulations that we have given up to now of philosophy have at most the value of a provisional anticipation of the real concept of philosophy. Only the totality of the systematic development and unfolding of the Idea is the real concept of philosophy. Only the whole of philosophy is the concept of philosophy. In anticipation of this whole, it may be said that the Idea is thinking that is identical to being. That it is the activity to set oneself against itself in order to be so for oneself, and in this respect, in its other being with itself. This suggests the general classification of philosophy:

  • The concept of the Idea in itself and for itself is carried out in the Science of Logic.
  • The Idea as an opposite reality or the Idea in her being different is carried out in Natural Philosophy.
  • The Idea as in returning from being different – being with oneself in the other of itself – is the Philosophy of the Spirit.

The philosophy of nature is not a science of something other than the Idea. Nature is the Idea, but then as being in itself, and becoming for itself. Nature is the Idea in the form of the externality of the concept. Now that is not an absolute determination, but a fleeting moment. The philosophy of nature not only comprehends nature, but also undergoes a transition to a higher method of understanding. In this view of the three sciences that make up philosophy, it seems that these sciences exist side by side, while in reality they are three different stages of growth of one and the same science. Logic moves itself tot externalization in Nature, in which the Spirit moves back toward itself to ultimately express itself as philosophy proper.

(Free rendition of the Preface of the Philosophy of Right, Encyclopedia par. 11, 14 Zusatz, and par 18.)

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Philosophy and Experience

When Kant concludes that the objects of our experience are only phenomena, our spontaneous consciousness protests against that view. In our daily awareness, the objects in our experience are independent “things” that rest in themselves. When they are seen as interdependent, as being connected, then that relation is regarded as something external, which comes to things from the outside. The independent things are not substantially interconnected. It seems obvious. The chair is next to the stove and this “next to” does not belong to the things themselves. Continue reading

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