The Doctrine of Negativity in Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit

Dissertation, The American University (1982)

Abstract
The aim of this dissertation is to explicate Hegel's doctrine of negativity in the Phenomenology of Spirit as a transcendental journey. We know that for Hegel the reconciliation of finite spirit and infinite spirit takes place through the concept of negativity in absolute knowledge, a knowledge which is simultaneously the knowledge that the absolute has of itself and that of this finite spirit which raises itself to universal self-consciousness. This encounter between a nontemporal infinite spirit and temporal humanity in the "I = I", an encounter which alone makes spirit absolute, is the central problem of the Phenomenology of Spirit. It contains the problem of the relation between religion and philosophy, since religion also presents this reconciliation, but in the form of the in-itself. This is why in religion this reconciliation is the object of a faith; in philosophy it is an act, an act that is simultaneously a knowledge, which is why in philosophy this reconciliation has become in-and-for-itself. But how can a knowledge which of itself is atemporal, an absolute knowledge, have temporal conditions in the existence and development of a humanity? There is not in Hegelianism a clear solution to these problems. Our task here consists in catching these problems in their genesis in order to comprehend them to some extent. ;We begin in as simple a matter as possible, with an interpretation of the meaning and function of Hegel's doctrine of negativity in the introduction to the Phenomenology. Next we examine the method of phenomenological development. We then show this movement of negativity at work in a variety of special topics in the Phenomenology, such as, the inverted-perverted world, the dialectic of self-consciousness, the Enlightenment, absolute freedom and terror, morality, revealed religion, and absolute knowledge itself. Only in a creative interpretation which takes Hegel's positions more seriously than he himself took them, can "we" hope to make progress beyond him
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