Hegel's Speculative Philosophy
While some famous phrases from G. W. F. Hegel (1770-1831) are still quoted on sundry occasions these days, his speculative philosophy itself has utterly become obsolete. People even do not blame it for its irrationality and unrealism. Nor do opportunities arise to consult his metaphysics by Marxists, who, after the collapse of U.S.S.R., are endangered species except in a few countries.
On the other hand, Hegel's name has always shone as one of the greatest
philosophers in the history of Western philosophy. Its brightness is greater
than that of seemingly more rational (in an ordinary sense) Neo-Kantians
in these modern days as well and would keep its position after, for instance,
Sartre and post-modernists buried in oblivion. If Hegelian speculations
had been hollow fundamentally and a kind of fanfaronade, though his remarks
on specific matters sometimes came to the point, then he could live in
our memory merely as a local mystic, not a world-wide figure.
have not, in fine, got a proper understanding of the kernel of Hegelianism, i.e., Hegel's
speculative philosophy or his metaphysics, until today. He once wrote with
no presentiment of his own fate, "Lessing said in those days that
the public treated Spinoza like a dead dog." (1) We should not, however, be satisfied with taking Hegel as something dead
or obsolete, but rather try to understand him and intelligibly interpret
his metaphysics in today's world.
Fortunately, we can do this task by the help of three viewpoints:
Those viewpoints, which all have their own ontology or, to put it
up to date, pertain to semantics, entered only in the 20th century. (2) Just in our time their notions have been accepted broadly. Naturally,
Hegel's thoughts were so unusual in the early 19th century that they could
not have matured expressions sometimes, in spite of his effort to coin
new ones. And it is quite understandable that his readers have often been
thrown into confusion.
Being helped by the three viewpoints, I think that Hegelian
speculative philosophy opened the meta-world,
or a world- view of the pluri-worlds,
which supposes that there exists not a single, self-identical world, even
if it can changes; but that the world layers itself into numerosity and
then they, the worlds, again contract into one. Or rather the world is the
circular movement itself of layering and contracting.
The Hegelian View of Substance as Subject
"In my view, . . . everything depends on grasping and expressing the
truth not merely as substance, but also the subject." (1)
So declared Hegel in the preface of his first book, The Phenomenology
of Spirit, published in 1807.
it might be helpful to explain a few words in that quotation. The "truth" (das
Wahre) means a being that truly exists; therefore not a state of the accordance between objective
reality and our conception, with which the word, truth, is ordinarily associated
"Substance" then is used a la Spinoza, who meant "that which
is in itself, and is conceived through itself: in other words, that of which a conception can be formed independently
of any other conception." (2)
There is, after Spinoza, only one substance in effect, God. (3)
Our intellect can perceive merely its two attributes as constituting the
essence of substance: thought [i.e., internal ideas] and extension
[external things]. (4) Since substance has these two attributes, it essentially includes "the
totality of reality," from our standpoint, as Fichte's Ich does. (5)
So we could take "substance" as the whole world for the present.
Concerning the meaning of the "subject," there are lots of discussions.
Everyone would, however, agree that the "subject" above at least
has the ordinary sense, that is, an autonomously thinking and acting being.
According to Hegel, substance as the subject is "the unmoved [by others,
but] self-moving," (6) or "the movement of positing itself." (7)
has the subjective moment, thought, from the first, and Hegel himself called our attention
in the same place: "It should be noted here that substantiality includes
the universal or the immediacy of
knowledge itself as well as being or the immediacy for knowledge." (9)
So it would be pointless to take substance, which is also inherently subjective,
as the subject again.
II. Sometimes the interpretation of the "subject" at issue is
biased by the later argument about the relation between the subject and
the predicate in the same preface of The Phenomenology of Spirit. Hegel
"The need of people for imagining the absolute as the subject [i.e., as an autonomous, self-moving being; italics--Hegel] made use of
statements like 'God is the eternal, or the moral order, or love etc. In such statements the
truth is merely posited as the subject [in the grammatical sense,] but
not set forth as a movement of its reflecting into itself [i.e., as the
subject of self-movement]. A statement like those is commenced with the
word 'God.' This is, by itself, a meaningless sound and only a name. The
predicate alone says what it is and gives it content and significance. . . . As far as it goes, it is
not understandable why they do not begin with the eternal, the moral order,
etc. or, like the ancients did, pure concepts, being, the One, etc., that
is, what has meaning, without attaching a meaningless sound." (10)
Evidently it is useless for Hegel to put the absolute or the truth, which
is subjective or self-moving according to him, into the place of the grammatical
subject. The Hegelian subject, i.e., "substance as the subject,"
therefore, does not implicate the grammatical one.
We suppose that the reason why he opened up argument on the subject in
the grammatical sense in his first book was, for one thing, his refusal
of Fichte's Ich. J. G. Fichte, his elder by eight years, wrote on the absolute
I, which is the basis of Fichteanism, in Foundations of the Science of Knowledge (1794): "The absolute I has no predicates, nor can it have any,"
but "it is simply what it is. And this can not be explained."
(11) While the Fichtean I, which is the equivalent of the Spinozistic substance
for the young Hegel and his friends, e.g., J. C. F. Hölderlin (12)
and F. W. J. Schelling, should be detached from
predicates, if placed in the subject of a sentence, the Hegelian substance
or absolute, on the contrary, should be combined with them. We shall
consider this in the framework of Hegelian idealism later.
"Substance as the subject" is the basic structure of the Hegelian
philosophy. Now, two questions would arise:
(1) Such substance
is called spirit (Geist) as well and its direct existence is consciousness,
according to Hegel. (13)
Then what is this consciousness, which, of course, we should not take in
the ordinary sense, i.e., as our awareness or perception?
(2) Is there really any Hegelian movement of substance, which must be "self-moving"
or "the movement of positing itself," at all? This activity goes
by the alias of dialectic movement. It is neither in physical space-time
nor in our psyche; by the same movement develops also Hegelian Logic, which is "the description of God as he is in his eternal essence
before the creation of nature and a finite mind." (14)
Though movement in real space-time, e.g., Zeno's arrow, sometimes appears
in Hegel's writings by way of illustration of dialectic movement (15),
yet such sensory and external movement, as well as imaginary and internal
one, is merely a natural or psychological phenomenon of spirit. So
we should first keep our eyes on metaphysical, or semantic a la
contemporary style, movement of spirit, where Hegel originally got
his idea of movement. If we otherwise observed an apple fall from a
tree carefully, we could not find any dialectical truth.
Let's investigate the first question.
The word, metalanguage, first
appeared in 1936 on the authority of Random House Dictionary. Course in General linguistics, which was a reconstruction of F. Saussure's lecture notes and marked
the starting point of structural
linguistics, was posthumously published
in 1916. W. Hiromatsu's The
Horizon of Marxism was issued in
Hegel, Phänomenologie des Geistes
(Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag, Werke in zwanzig Bänden) Bd. 3, S. 22-23 (Return)
(5) Vgl.: Insofern gesagt wird: das Ich bestimmt sich selbst, wird
dem Ich absolute Totalität
zugeschrieben." J. G. Fichte,
der Gesamten Wissenschaftslehre (1794), (Hamburg: Felix Meiner Verlag, 1997) S. 50 (Return)
S. Friedrich Hölderlin's letter to Hegel dated 26 January in 1795: "His
[Fichte's] absolute I (=Spinoza's substance) includes all reality;"
The complete works of Hölderlin, ed. Tomio Tezuka, trans. Kojima, 10th ed., vol. 4 (Tokyo: Kawaide Shobo
Shinsha, 1991) 201. (Return)
and suggestions are always welcomed.