Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Quoting the Philosopher

"The history of the world is none other than
the progress of the consciousness of freedom."

"When individuals and nations have once got in their heads
the abstract concept of full-blown liberty,
there is nothing like it in its uncontrollable strength."

"I am daily ever more convinced that theoretical work accomplishes more in the world than practical work. Once the realm of ideas is revolutionized, actuality will not hold out."

- G.W.F. Hegel


This is an interesting digression into Hegel that you are making. A lot of philosophers considered Hegel something of a dimwit, but I am not familiar enough with his writings to comment beyond that awareness. I tend to doubt the comment juxtaposing theoretical and experimental/empirical work. Hegel was not much of a scientist, so he probably had only a hazy notion of what was involved and required.

By Blogger al fin, at 13/12/05 19:30  

I don't know what to say to that Al. Hegel was perhaps the most penetrating mind that ever lived. Those who may consider him a 'dimwit' reveal somethng of their own understanding. Also you must understand that for Hegel, and indeed even for most modern Germans, Science is not as narrow of a practice as it is in the anglophonic world. For Hegel Science is systematic knowledge of the whole. His philosophy is an attempt to reconcile all past knowledge and place it into system. One cannot, however, merely sum up Hegel. If you are interested I suggest you study him yourself. Be prepared to be challenged. One cannot simply pick up a little book about Hegel and walk away with an understanding. In fact one cannot understand Hegel without first comming to grips with the Greeks and the rest of the history of philosophy. This is perhaps the reason that so many have a low opinion of him - because they cannot even begin to understand what he is saying. I'm afraid that this is a big part of the problem in education. Too many think that philosophy is no longer something worth studying at all, much less with the kind of discipline and commitment that is required.

By Blogger Micah J. Glasser, at 13/12/05 23:49  

Thanks for clarifying your position. Philosophers are much like food dishes. If one acquires an early distaste for a food, it requires a lot of effort to overcome the initial opinion in order to develop a taste for the food. The question becomes whether the food is worth the effort.

Sometimes it is a struggle to distinguish between an idea with depth, and an idea that is merely obscure, simulating depth. The test is whether the idea leads to worthwhile developments and outcomes. That test is still open for Hegel, for me. Since you vouch for him so highly, I will look into it more deeply.

Can you read Hegel in German? I understand that sometimes bad translations can prevent one from understanding what a writer is trying to say.

By Blogger al fin, at 14/12/05 05:36  

Hi Al,
I'm flattered that you take my recommendation seriously. Alow me to point you in the direction of some good resources. First you can find all of Hegel's texts on line and hyperlinked at this site: http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/hegel/
Also there is a cool little interactive thing at this site that tries to explain the system: http://www.hegel.net/en/e0.htm
And I reccomend a good book that introduces German idealism in general. This book is very good and very understandable in plain English - I highly recomend it, it will change the way you think of German philosophy and is essential for understanding the thought of the 20th century. The book is called "German Philosophy 1760-1860: The Legacy of Idealism". You can review it here at Google book search:
Mind you that I don't agree with everything that Hegel says, but I do think that he is one of the most important philosophers and that he must be understood to be truly a student of the history of thought. Also I realize that Hegel's writing style can a quite off putish and is a little bit extravagent. But I assure that through all of flowery, sometimes bewildering, prose is a kernal of extradinary philosophical depth. At any rate a serious trist with Hegel is a worth while challenge. To answer your question about German - I do read German but I prefer to read him in english because my German is terrible and besides half of the words Hegel uses have their own meaning as ascribed by the system.
Have fun.

By Blogger Micah J. Glasser, at 14/12/05 16:41  

Micah writes the thesis, then Al's antithesis. Now synthesis.


By Blogger Stephen Gordon, at 17/12/05 08:46  

I concluded some time ago that the continental philosophers bring forward some fascinating concepts, but the essential ideas are actually few in number considering the amount of effort involved. For intros to Hegel, I like Kainz's "G.W.F. Hegel : Philosophical System" and Hartnack's "An Introduction to Hegel's Logic"

There is something there, even for anarcho-capitalists. Worth the time for non-philosophers? Maybe not. Over on my blog some of the discussion on prediction markets is compatible with dialectics, e.g. reality and representation.. though insofar as ideas may influence actuality, they do so because they are informed by actuality in the first place.

I also think that some of the more contemporary French thinkers like Derrida or Deleuze tended to exaggerate their advances over Hegelian dialectics for what it's worth.

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