Understanding and Reason On the Development of Logical Self-Consciousness in Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit

Pirmin Stekeler-Weithofer

There is no immediate knowledge, neither empirical nor conceptual. Hegel shows this in his Phenomenology of Spirit. He develops this most important insight in his writings on logic. Science is the project of developing situation-independent generic sentences – which are not to be confused with universally quantified empirical statements. Rather, the sentences articulate law sor rules of default inference and proper judgment in a generic way. They are set as “conceptually valid” not only on merely verbal or conventional grounds, but are “material” in their world-relation. In other words, science develops “the (material) concept” which, in turn, enables us to understand, i.e. to use languages and to think about reality and possibilities more or less correctly. “The concept” is, therefore, the system of generic conditions of all “meaning” and “truth” and is, as such, presupposed in empirical judgments of the category of singularity. “Reason” is the subjective side of “spirit”, which, in turn, is nothing but our practice of scientific development. If we look at this practice from within, spirit is the “self-development” of conceptual contents. Moreover, any causal explanation and any appeal to forces or dispositions rest on conceptual constructions of generic models. This is the core claim of Hegel’s idealism with respect to causes and grounds by which we “explain” appearances: The underlying “Wirklichkeit” is our own scientific construction suited to our joint experiences.


Keywords: understanding · reason · self-development · Hegel · concept · Phenomenology of Spirit · appearance · German Idealism

Pirmin Stekeler-Weithofer – Prof. Dr., studies, research and teaching in philosophy, linguistics and mathematics in Konstanz, Berlin, Prague/CZ, Berkeley/CA, Campinas/Sao Paolo and Pitts burgh/PA. Since 1992 Professor for Philosophy at the University of Leipzig, Visiting Professor in Swansea (University of Wales, 1997/98), New York (New School University, 2002), and Pittsburgh (2006/7). Since 2008 President of the Saxonian Academy of Science. Main research interests: philosophical logic, philosophy of language, philosophy of mathematics, Plato, Kant, Hegel, Wittgenstein.   »  

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