Southern Journal of Philosophy 27 (1):135-156 (1989)
In the conceptual preliminaries of his philosophical Encyclopedia Hegel discusses three approaches to epistemology under the headings of three ‘Attitudes of Thought Toward Objectivity’. The third of these is Jacobi’s doctrine of ‘immediate’ or intuitive knowledge. Hegel’s discussion presumes great familiarity with Jacobi’s highly polemical and now seldom read texts. In this essay I disambiguate and reconstruct Hegel’s discussion of Jacobi, in close consideration of Jacobi’s texts, showing why Hegel finds him important and what Hegel’s objections to his doctrines are. Jacobi’s importance for Hegel lies in three points. First, Hegel agrees with Jacobi’s claim, against Kant, that God and the world are themselves knowable. Second, Hegel must answer Jacobi’s charge that discursive thinking ineluctably leads to determinism and ultimately to nihilism. Third, Hegel’s analysis of Jacobi’s doctrine of ‘immediate knowledge’ reveals some points that are important to Hegel’s metaphysics. Hegel mounts five objections to Jacobi’s doctrine. First, Jacobi’s key term ‘immediacy’ illicitly equivocates among the rejection of three different kinds of ‘mediation’: syllogistic inference, the application of concepts, and representational accounts of perception. Second, Jacobi’s doctrine of a-conceptual knowledge is untenable because one must apply concepts to objects in order identify objects and thus to know what kinds of things known objects are. Third, if a fundamental point of Hegel’s holistic ontology (explained in the essay) is correct, then the identity conditions of things are interdependent, and this interdependence would render ‘immediate’ knowledge impossible. Fourth, Jacobi’s doctrine is self-referentially inconsistent: it is possible on his doctrine to prove that his doctrine is false. Finally, Jacobi’s doctrine licenses question-begging and is in principle unable to address or to settle disagreements among divergent intuitions.
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