Review of Metaphysics 57 (4):787 - 822 (2004)

OVER THE PAST FEW DECADES many attempts have been made to defend Hegel’s philosophy against those who denounce it as crypto-theological, dogmatic metaphysics. This was done first of all by foregrounding Hegel’s indebtedness to Kant, that is, by interpreting speculative science as a radicalization of Kant’s critical project. This emphasis on Hegel’s Kantian roots has resulted in a shift from the Phenomenology of Spirit to the Science of Logic. Robert Pippin’s Hegel’s Idealism: The Satisfactions of Self-Consciousness can be considered as having made one of the most influential contributions to this shift. Pippin’s “nonmetaphysical” interpretation of Hegel rightly contends that the Science of Logic does not pertain to a reality existing independently of thought, but to “thought’s attempt to determine a priori what can be a possible thought of anything at all.” For Pippin this entails that Hegel should be regarded as appropriating “Kant’s claim about the ‘self-conscious,’ ultimately the ‘spontaneously’ self-conscious, character of all possible experience.” I agree with Pippin that one cannot understand Hegel unless “one understands the Hegelian investment, the original engagement with Kant’s critical philosophy.” I would hold, however, that Pippin’s interpretation of this engagement threatens to lose sight of the proper achievement of Hegel’s philosophy. By arguing that the unity of self-consciousness constitutes the “original source of Hegel’s hermetic claim about thought’s self-determination,” Pippin to my mind ignores, first, that Hegel takes the Kantian notion of self-consciousness to be nothing more than the concrete manifestation of the pure concept and, second, that Kant’s transcendental philosophy, though radically critical of the dogmatic metaphysics of his day, does all but abandon the possibility of a critical ontology. Defending Hegel against his antimetaphysical critics, Pippin is right in taking Hegel into the Kantian camp, but he does this by sacrificing the question as to the possibility of ontology, a question I believe to be pivotal for both Kant and Hegel.
Keywords Catholic Tradition  Contemporary Philosophy  General Interest
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ISBN(s) 0034-6632
DOI revmetaph200457442
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