Hegel on Irrationality: A Critical Examination of the Hegel Myth

Dissertation, The University of New Mexico (1982)

An overview of the Hegelian System is presented, upon which is based an analysis of the roles of reason in the System. Reason plays three roles: the role of an epistemological attitude affirming the unity of subject and object; the role of culminating factor in cognition; the role of absolute subject and substance. Reason is portrayed as arising out of prerational conditions, and as subsuming these within itself. Irrationality is interpreted as fixation in a prerational phase. Irrationality exists subjectively in attitude and cognition, and objectively as external nature. The synthesis of reason and unreason is mind which exists as reason's return from its opposite. ;Analysis of Hegel's usage of the word "irrational" reinforces the interpretation derived from reflection on the System's general structure. ;Hegel's metaphysical vision portrays unreason as a necessary element in the spiritual-cosmic order. He attempts to demonstrate his views by exhibiting the incomprehensibility of views holding to the existence of a pure reason unadulterated by connection with unreason. ;The many particular phenomena most commonly held to manifest irrationality are examined as they appear in the System. Hegel's treatments of the unconscious, insanity, evil, superstition, etc. are expounded, along with an account of the nature and extent of the irrationality present in each. ;Hegel's views are assessed by examining the cogency of his doctrine concerning opposites. His view that opposites exist as identities in difference is investigated. Reason and unreason, as opposites, must be seen as mutually exclusive yet inseparable. It is concluded that Hegel's efforts were aimed at comprehending and justifying the real existence of irrationality, not at rationalizing it away
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