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Menahan Street Band “Make the Road by Walking”

Sly and the Family Stone “Runnin’ Away”

It’s been a while since I posted anything, so I will put up some thoughts about Hegel that I have been kicking around. I recently re-read the Phenomenology of Spirit (the fifth or sixth time) and the role of Absolute Knowledge in relationship to Hegel’s ‘logical’ works seems clear to me, if counter-intuitive for the contemporary mind. Quine approvingly quotes the slogan “Ontology recapitulates philology” in Word and Object, and this is apt for considering the Hegelian doctrine that logical theory works in the metier of “absolute knowledge”. Brandom for one spends very little time talking about absolute knowledge, but the Hegel journeymen out there surely remember the sections where Hegel connects his metaphysical logic to absolute knowledge, and have wondered what this really meant.

I think what this means is that logic displays the tools the individual mind has for ‘taking over’ thought of the past and present. And, courtesy of the Phenomenology, there is a lot of ground to cover. I used to wonder what differentiated the material covered in the section on “Spirit” from that covered in “Reason”: and, for a couple of years, my answer has been (variously formulated) that the chapter on spirit introduces, in its meditations on the metaphysics of morals, the “Great Moral Fact”: the space opened up by a morality of intersubjective recognition includes all of humanity’s rational conduct, all the wonders of the ancient world and all the terrors of the modern world.

“Spirit” is the “Great Moral Fact” of the holistic importance of all literature for descrying moral prospects in the present. Whereas it remains controversial whether the Quine-Duhem thesis that ‘the unit of empirical significance is the whole of science’ really portrays scientific research correctly, Gadamer’s unpacking of Hegel’s account of Bildung should make us comfortable with Hegel’s gigantic span of world-history considered under the heading of Spirit, “The I that is a we and the we that is an I”. The roots of literature in the historical experience of peoples really offer the ultra-modernist no escape from an historical depth to complement and counter-act the spurting excitement of a collected present. (Dante and Jonathan Franzen are together on this track.)

Purifying the “natural” approach of religion to this whole of humanity’s doings, Hegel’s logic, in its ‘absolute’ character which merely reflects self into self, takes its myriad forms and topics addressed because the individual’s experience of the Great Moral Fact of world culture and literature necessarily takes the form of individual cogitations and velleities. In a Kantian spirit, Hegel’s logic “projects” world-history (which it cannot be innocent of) onto modernity (which it cannot escape). The secondary efforts at elucidating this connection, the “moral” or social sciences, require that this encounter between Man and Civilization be kept in mind more or less whole. (I do not think any of this ought to be too shocking to experienced Hegel hands, but it goes some of the way towards explaining seemingly baroque features of the Science of Logic).