Hegel's Developmental Epistemology

Dissertation, Purdue University (1997)

Hegel is often taken to have been uninterested in or dismissive of epistemological concerns. This conception stems mainly from Hegel's critical remarks concerning Kant's epistemologically-oriented critical philosophy. Yet, throughout his writings, he stresses the indispensability of justifying what he calls "absolute knowledge." If he rejects as futile the epistemological endeavors which animate Kant's critique of reason, on what basis can Hegel hope to justify knowledge? I argue that Hegel's criticisms of Kantian epistemology are directed at the philosophical strategy of foundationalism evinced by Kant. Hegel's approach breaks with the foundationalist strategy and proposes that knowledge be justified through a systematic exposition of the process of its own development. Following an exposition of the central features of Hegel's developmental account of knowledge , I propose some criticisms of Hegel's project drawn from genealogical approaches to the study of ideas and institutions. I argue that Hegel's conception of the developmental process undercuts its ability to avoid the problems of foundationalism. In its stress on the autonomy and self-determination of the reason, Hegel's project reveals a fundamental drive toward closure and self-comprehension. Insofar as it is this drive toward self-transparency which renders discourse intelligible, it is presupposed by Hegel's account but can never itself be justified by it. Thus, in the debate between those who hold that reason is determined by its "other" and those who adhere to the autonomy of reason , there can be no final resolution
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