Hegel’s Thoughts on Reason


Hegel’s contribution to philosophy, especially the German philosophers, is unprecedented and incomparable, yet his thought and writing is equally difficult to penetrate. In this post, my dear friend Benjamin has put together a wonderful presentation of his thoughts on reason in his great work the Phenomenology of Spirit (which you can purchase here).

For the video:

Like always, this lecture/ introduction was given on my YouTube channel Philosophy for All, so if you would like to watch it there, definitely go check it out! But of course, the transcript to that video is attached below, so feel free to read it here as well or return here to digest the content in more depth.

Hegel on Reason on My YouTube channel.

This is the primary focus of next section of the Phenomenology of Spirit and reason becomes necessary so that the different recognitions of the self through the other beyond fail, and Hegel famously said that all of world history is a rational process, and hence, guided by reason unfolds towards a certain purpose. And this is why Hegel is sometimes referred to as a TV logical view of history. And that is why he believes that Spirit moves in a very purposeful way, and a very rational way. And self conscious beings use reason to give moral laws. And you can see this is very similar to Kant’s theory of the categorical imperative. And the idea of reason as morality. However, these moral laws are never complete, because Hegel thinks that reason is still too subjective, as it must originate in a single mind. So it cannot describe something objective. And if you think about it, this makes sense, because if there is an idea, then that idea must first begin in a single mind, because two people cannot have the same idea at the exact same time. And even if they did, they would not be aware of the other person also having the idea at the same time. And so each idea in the history of ideas must have originated in a single person in their mind. So because moral laws are themselves ideas, moral laws are still subjective, and confined to a single subject, even if they are existent within multiple subjects. And he goes, thinks that real morality would be the ethical order, which is a set of unspoken rules about the world and the ways we should act. And this is why Hegel famously said that philosophy should not be edifying, which means that philosophy should not be like some cheap self help book, which tells you how to act correctly or morally, and then said that morality should be unspoken. morality should be something that’s tacit, and implicit within the order for universe. But the problem with the ethical order is that it’s outside of human reason. And when we try to fit it into our frameworks of reason, the ethical order itself disappears. So it’s better to just acknowledge the unknowability of the ethical order, and within that, not develop anything further, and just acknowledge that morality is never a describable system, and we must just acknowledge its indescribable ability. And Gravander who was was a postmodern phenomenologist and famous scholar of Hegel argues that laws ultimately result in their own self negation, and can accurately describe the world of appearances. And this adds on to Hegel’s ideas that laws will always fail, because they describe the ethical order, but they can never describe it completely, because it is contained within the very definition of the ethical order that it can never be described. And this makes an individual an unhappy consciousness, where you believe simultaneously and contradictory ideas, and then oscillate between the two. And for example, Hegel said that all scepticism was the product of unhappy consciousness, because to be sceptic, would be to partly believe and partly disbelieve in something, questioning the nature of absolute vacation. And you might think this is wrong, because if you’re sceptical of something, then you would disbelieve in it entirely. But for Hegel, if you’re, if you’re disbelieving in something, then you must at least acknowledge the existence of the thing you’re disbelieving in and agreeing that the thing exists, would be believing in the parts of the thing. So even if you’re absolutely sceptical of something, you would still partly believe in it, and also partly disbelieve it. And this is what causes the unhappy consciousness. And another example of the unhappy consciousness is that of stoicism, where you try to accept things as they go, and embracing fate embracing whatever happens without showing too much emotion. And Hegel argues that for the stoic, they’re also an unhappy consciousness because they would be partly believing in the idea that things can never be changed or at least things outside of them stoics control our will outside of their control. But then they would also be partly disbelieving in that because they’re choosing how they respond to the different changes around them. And they will also be acknowledging the existence of the change in the first place, and acknowledging the idea that there is a way to try and change things outside of their control, but that way ultimately fails. So, scepticism and stoicism are both examples of the unhappy consciousness.

Joshua Yen

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And recent then develops and cultivates itself through culture and religion. Because as referenced earlier, reason, as single ideas can only exist subjectively, but with the progression of spirit, spirit tries to become as all encompassing as possible. So to make spirit, all encompassing, there must be more objective truths in the world. And so through culture, people are inclined to believe in certain ideas than others, or follow certain rules more than others. And this means that certain ideas become more powerful and dominant than other ideas. And this is where reason is developed. And some rational ideas are considered better than others. And religion sort of links different rational ideas together, and provides an overarching framework, which allows for reason to be developed even more. So reason, is developed through culture and religion because culture and religion sort of changes the subjectivity of reason into something that’s more objective. And here Hegel can be thought of as a pluralist, because he thinks that all religions are equally as valid, and are just different stages in the progression of absolute spirit. And so there’s the traditional analogy of religions as going up the same mountain, but just different paths, and ultimately describing the same truth. But for Hegel is pluralism. It’s less about different paths up the same mountain, but rather different parts of the same path. So for Hegel, some religions are more advanced than others in their movement up a certain path. So a religion might be closer to the peak than another religion. And absolute spirit is the driving force behind world history that is unknowable to humans, in absolute means that it is the collection of both subjectivity and objectivity. And in spinosus, terms, thought and extension creates substance, which is roughly synonymous with Hague alien idea of the Absolute, which is everything that is conceivable, possible or actual. And this is why most people believe Hegel to be a monistic philosopher, which is the belief that everything in the world is parts of or made up of a single substance or quality. And you can see this in the pre Socratics, with feelies believing that everything’s made of water, and Heraclitus thinking everything’s on fire. But for Hegel, everything’s part of the Absolute. And this is where Hegel often gets a lot of criticism. And Theodore Adorno critiques this Hague alien idea of the absolute by arguing that it’s totalitarian, because the ultimate goal of Hague alien philosophy is to make everything parts of a single hole, or a totality, and Adorno strongly dislikes totalitarianism, and thinks it’s the groundwork for a political totalitarianism. So that’s where he critiques this Hegelian idea of the absolute

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