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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August 1, 2018 · 7:01 am

WiZiQ lecture on Hegel’s Social Philosophy part 1-3 (complete) – July 17th 2018

Lecture on the concepts of Freedom and Liberty. We have been reading par. 4-9 of the Introduction to the Grundlinien der Philosophie des Rechts (Outline of the Philosophy of Right), published in 1820.
Next lecture is scheduled for Tuesday, July 24th, 7.30 PM CEST, at





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Law and Social Custom – the Rational Universality of Freedom Actualized – Remarks on #485 Encyclopedia

Basic Notes in the analysis of Enc. #485

Paragraph 485

1. This unity of the rational will with the single will (this being the peculiar and immediate medium in which the former is actualized) constitutes the simple actuality of liberty.
Even though the single will experiences the limitations on the exercise of his freedom, and even though it has to obey authorities that are set above it, it is truly free. It may be difficult to understand, that the single will is not an absolute given, but a result, a product of the Rational organization of Society. The first and most immediate form of Liberty, therefore, is the connection between the free will of an individual, and the whole of the institutions that govern it. Liberty without limitations has no actuality, it is merely a phantasm. But this state of affairs is not a mystery. This is precisely the way the rationality of freedom appears. Universal an absolute constraint would be as irrational, as the notion of unlimited freedom.
2. As it (and its content) belongs to thought, and is the virtual universal, the content has its right and true character only in the form of universality.
The Liberty that we are talking about, as Hegel explained before,” belongs to thought”, i.e. is thoroughly rational. Freedom is not exercised within our needs, urges, drives or in general our search for happiness. (In this context Hegel speaks about the “mixedness and fortuitousness attaching to it in practical feeling and in impulse”) True freedom rests on our understanding of the truth of freedom. Precisely for that reason, it becomes important that we take freedom as a universal. Every human being is free in principle, the actuality of freedom must allow for the universality of freedom.
3. When invested with this character for the intelligent consciousness, or instituted as an authoritative power, it is a Law.
The limitations of freedom do not appear as random obstacles, but they are themselves expressions of rationality. The obedience required by free subjects – and notice in passing that only free subjects can obey – is obedience to the universality of freedom expressed as law. Certainly, the law also has this side of “authoritative power” when it is enforced against our will. When our will acts against the universal freedom of others, it is the law that demands compliance with the Universal. The question can then be raised, whether a will that opposes universal freedom is itself rational. By forcing the irrational will into compliance with the rational and universal freedom of everyone, freedom is actualized.
4. When, on the other hand, the content is freed from the mixedness and fortuitousness, attaching to it in the practical feeling and in impulse, and is set and grafted in the individual will, not in the form of impulse, but in its universality, so as to become its habit, temper, and character, it exists as manner and custom, or Usage.
A free individual, however, also experiences this universal rationality of freedom in the form of habit, temper, and character. The principles of freedom do not appear only as an external authority, but also as an internal habit, as self-evident and natural ways of doing things. Hegel is thinking of the way we are raised and grow up in the natural habitat of the family, in which our character and instinctive behaviors are formed. This immediate social morality is experienced as custom, or in Hegel’s German “Sitte”. That is also the original meaning of the Greek word ήθος, ethos, from which the modern English word “ethics” is derived.

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A Conversation about Hegel’s Philosophy of Right – par 41 and Miscellanea.


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July 6, 2018 · 6:05 am