HEGEL AND CONTEMPORARY SCEPTICISM ABOUT FAMILIAR OBJECTS
Contemporary metaphysicians are deeply sceptical of the familiar objects recognized by common sense and by many empirical sciences. What explains the scepticism? I shall begin this chapter by suggesting that contemporary metaphysics is dominated by the style of thought which Hegel – using the nineteenth-century vocabulary of faculties – called “the Understanding,” and that “the Understanding” is constitutionally antipathetic to familiar objects. But first a few words about the style of thought that finds familiar objects congenial – the style of thought which Hegel identified under the title “Reason.”
A prime characteristic of “Reason” is that it is willing to recognize what Hegel called “identity in difference.” “Identity in difference” is a form of sameness which articulates itself in difference. One example is the sort of persistence that seems to characterize familiar objects. Typically, a familiar object goes on being itself while passing through different phases or properties, that is, while differing from itself. Indeed in many cases – and especially if we count such properties as age among the relevant ones – a familiar object can go on being numerically the same object only by differing more and more from its earlier self. Another example is the relation of a familiar object to its parts. One and the same familiar object comprises different parts at different times; in the particular case of organisms, a familiar object can go on being itself only by expelling former parts and adding new ones.