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Concept, Individuality and Truth

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 June 2015

Richard Dien Winfield*
Affiliation:
University of Georgia
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Extract

Philosophers may disagree with unmatched zeal, but no philosophical controversy can free them from their common dependence upon the concept as a privileged vehicle of truth. Even when embracing the most radical empiricism or the most unyielding scepticism, philosophers cannot help but make conceptual arguments. All their efforts may aim at curing themselves of addiction to the concept, but so long as they reason on behalf of experience or the suspension of judgment, thinking remains the element in which their claims live and die.

Philosophers' perennial use of conceptual argument might seem a double curse, subverting all of philosophy's equally perennial aspirations to seize the truth. To begin with, if philosophical investigation constitutively employs concepts, how can it possibly establish the validity of conceptual determination? If philosophy cannot fail to use concepts to legitimate reason as a midwife of truth, will philosophical investigation not fall into the vicious circularity of relying upon an instrument that can never be certified without taking its reliability for granted? Secondly, if philosophy must always utilize concepts to arrive at truth, must philosophers not presuppose that the object of true knowledge is what is conceptually determinate? Besides being beyond philosophical justification, will this assumption not limit objectivity to a mortuary of changeless universals from which all becoming, all particulars, and indeed, all actual existence are excluded as some inconceivable illusions? Will the only objectivity that philosophy can conceive be a phantom realm of ideas that can never correspond to genuine reality?

Type
Hegel's Logic and Metaphysics
Copyright
Copyright © The Hegel Society of Great Britain 1999

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References

1 Nietzsche raises both of these objections to philosophy in his Twilight of The Idols.

2 As Robert Berman has pointed out in conversation, this formality does not require the universal to be given independently of the particulars to which it applies. As an abstraction, the formal universal depends upon the particulars from which it is extracted even if it leaves them otherwise undetermined

3 Plato sketches dialectic in his famous account of the Divided Line in the Republic, Book VI, 511c.

4 In particular, Plato roots all ideas in the Good, whose given content is immediately intuited, but never shows how specific ideas arise from this foundation, whose own determinacy remains problematic.

5 Hegel makes this point in the Science of Logic. See Hegel, G.W.F., Gesammelte Werke: Band 12, Wissenschaft der Logik - Zweiter Band: Die Subjektive Logik (1816), ed. Hogemann, Friedrich & Jaeschke, Walter (Hamburg: Felix Meiner Verlag, 1981), 22 Google Scholar.

6 Ibid., 19.

7 See Hegel, G. W. F., Werke in zwanzig Bänden, ed. Moldenhauer, E. and Michel, K.M. (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag, 1970), Vol. 8 Google Scholar: Enzyklopädie der philosophischen Wissenschaften im Grundrisse (1830) - Erster Teil: Die Wissenschaft der Logik, Zusatz to §160.

8 See Hegel, , Gesammelte Werke: Band 12, 12, 1415 Google Scholar.

9 Ibid., 132.

10 Ibid., 173-4, 176.

11 Ibid., 31.

12 Ibid., 132.

13 Ibid., 237 ff.

14 Ibid., 239 ff.

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