Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Houlgate on Kantian and Hegelian approaches to logical thought...

Unlike Kant, says Houlgate, who attempted to show that through the use of analytic judgments we "do not proceed to a new and different determination, we simply gain greater clarity about what we began with" (whereas with synthetic judgments we really do discover new determinations), Hegel seems to think that new determinations CAN be found analytically -- that is, "the concepts of becoming and determinate being are derived by Hegel simply by considering what is involved in thinking pure being... by 'analysing' that initial determinate concept." (p. 37)

So, in contrast to Kantian thinking, which concerns itself with developing the relations of identity or equivalence between things and/or ideas, Houlgate explains that "Hegelian logic is 'analytic' to the extent that it merely renders explicit what is implicit or unthought in an initial category. However, by explicating the indeterminate category of being, we do not merely restate in different words what is obviously 'contained' in it; we watch a new category emerge." (p. 38, emphasis in original) Thus, "we are required by Hegel's method of 'analysis' to undertake constant and subtle revisions of the way we think." (p. 38) It is this approach, I think, which is a great strength of Hegelian logic. But it also contains an inherent weakness since, to the extent that it is wedded to an historical or material ontology, it results in an inevitable incompleteness that can never be resolved. (I think this is something of what Derrida tries to say vis-a-vis Hegelian thought.)

Houlgate explains that "The dialectical principle, for Hegel, is the principle whereby apparently stable thoughts reveal their inherent instability by turning into their opposites and then into new, more complex thoughts." (p. 38) Hegel believes that a system built upon this principle creates freedom for thought, as thought is no longer forced into the mold cast for it by certain logical necessities that have been dictated by various philosophers. Rather, the only 'necessity' is the logic of thought itself, which is such that there is vast dialectical space for freedom. The question, however, is whether such 'freedom' will truly make one free. It is perhaps instead the case that such openness will leave one actually trapped by the very dialectic that promised to make one free; after all, to have endless possibility for development and the inability to achieve it can very easily become a kind of existential bondage.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Hegel... Arrghh...

In case any of you are wondering what I'm working on these days, well, I've been reading a lot of Hegel, and trying to figure out what he's saying... This is not easy. Here's a sample of what I'm looking at (from Hegel's Science of Logic). I am developing my own interpretation of what he means, but if anyone wants to chime in with their own take on it, go ahead! :-)  (There are, of course, already many commentaries on Hegel and a plethora of varying opinions...)

"Being, pure being – without further determination. In its indeterminate immediacy it is equal only to itself and also not unequal with respect to another; it has no difference within it, nor any outwardly. If any determination or content were posited in it as distinct, or if it were posited by this determination or content as distinct from an other, it would thereby fail to hold fast to its purity. It is pure indeterminateness and emptiness. – There is nothing to be intuited in it, if one can speak here of intuiting; or, it is only this pure empty intuiting itself. Just as little is anything to be thought in it, or, it is equally only this empty thinking. Being, the indeterminate immediate is in fact nothing, and neither more nor less than nothing.

Nothing, pure nothingness; it is simple equality with itself, complete emptiness, complete absence of determination and content; lack of all distinction within. – In so far as mention can be made here of intuiting and thinking, it makes a difference whether something or nothing is being intuited or thought. To intuit or to think nothing has therefore a meaning; the two are distinguished and so nothing is (concretely exists) in our intuiting or thinking; or rather it is the empty intuiting and thinking itself, like pure being. – Nothing is therefore the same determination or rather absence of determination, and thus altogether the same as what pure being is.

Pure being and pure nothing are therefore the same. The truth is neither being nor nothing, but rather that being has passed over into nothing and nothing into being – 'has passed over', not passes over. But the truth is just as much that they are not without distinction; it is rather that they are not the same, that they are absolutely distinct yet equally unseparated and inseparable, and that each immediately vanishes in its opposite. Their truth is therefore this movement of the immediate vanishing of the one into the other: becoming, a movement in which the two are distinguished, but by a distinction which has just as immediately dissolved itself."