Hegel's phenomenology of spirit as an argument for a monistic ontology

Inquiry 49 (1):103 – 118 (2006)
This paper tries to show that one of the main objectives of Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit is to give an epistemological argument for his monistic metaphysics. In its first part, it outlines a traditional, Kant-oriented approach to the question of how we can make sense of our ability to cognize objects. It focuses on the distinction between subjective and objective conditions of cognition and argues that this distinction, understood in the traditional (Kantian) way, is much too poor to do justice to our very elaborated conception of kinds of objects. The second part deals with the Phenomenology. Here it is claimed that Hegel reacts in a sophisticated way to the shortcomings of the traditional epistemological view in presenting a theory which allows us to understand why we have to distinguish between different kinds of objects and how these kinds are related to conditions of cognition. This epistemological doctrine, however, is not developed by Hegel for its own sake. Rather, it has the function of a "transcendentalistic" (not "transcendental") argument for a monistic ontology. Thus, one can make sense of Hegel's claim that the Phenomenology is to be understood as an introduction into his (monistic) System.
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DOI 10.1080/00201740500497530
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