Hegel's Justification of Hegel (Part I)
Hegel tells us in Elements of the Philosophy of Right that he has ‘fully developed the nature of speculative knowledge in [his] Science of Logic,’ which is to say he has different plans for this book.¹ He tells us ‘[this work] is based on the logical spirit. It is also chiefly from the point of view that I would wish this treatise to be understood and judged. For what it deals with is science, and in science, the content is essentially inseparable from the form.’² What does Hegel mean? Admittedly, I find this assertion mystifying, but I take Hegel here not to be discussing literary genre, but instead to be alluding mainly to two points:
1. The method and process which has arisen to philosophical reflection. (Mainly, the developments of the State.)
2. The universal and general character of his work.
Science isn’t bound to individual experience like say phenomenology more so is, but at its best science is the discovery of noncontingent facts that we have “good reason” to believe in with confidence. Now, I understand that science can be corrupted and doesn’t provide us with certainty — these are all points explored in Kindly Inquisitors by Jonathan Rauch and “On Certainty” by O.G. Rose — but the point is that I believe Hegel is claiming Philosophy of Right (as I’ll say for short) is a work following an argument which applies “generally” and “non-contingently.”
“Non-contingent” is a dangerous word to use with Hegel, for his thinking radically honors “contingency,” but all the same Hegel argues that if the State continues through history, it necessarily entails and means x, y, and z (though it is not guaranteed the State will so advance). This degree of reliability is necessary to establish, for Hegel hopes to legitimize and justify the State, which is necessary if “the clearing” (as I’ll explain) it provides for us (subjects) is likewise justified. All this must be elaborated on in the paper, but the point I’m trying to make is that Hegel is doing something different in Philosophy of Right than what he has done in prior works (like Phenomenology of Spirit and Science of Logic). Mainly, I see Hegel in the business of “justifying philosophy” itself, which includes justifying his own work.
Hegel explores the possibility of thinking without presuppositions, and if philosophy cannot “ground” itself, why is it a justified practice? Is there any “reason to think” (with confidence) that it is worth attempting? In the development of the State through the tensions discussed in “Abstract Right,” I believe Hegel indeed provides this argument, and also please note that the State is legitimized more intersuppositionally than presuppositionally (terms discussed throughout The Absolute Choice), which is to say “in the space between people” versus “thanks to the ‘ground’ on which they stand.” The State is justified by a process of arising and emerging, and Hegel will find in that development a justification for philosophy as well. If Hegel succeeds in this, then he has similarly provided justification for philosophy itself, which is to say that Hegel was justified, in Science of Logic, to even inquire into the negation of “pure being” into “nothing” into “(be)coming” in the first place. Likewise, Hegel may succeed at justifying the very time we spend reading this very sentence — but we will.
The following is a reading of Elements of Philosophy of Right that attempts to see ontoepistemological consequences and justification in the text, which is to say that I do not read it has only a work of political science. Yes, the political implications are present, but I think it is possible to read the book as more closely aligned with Hegel’s thinking in Phenomenology of Spirit and Science of Logic then what I sense is usually supposed. Perhaps I am wrong about this, and perhaps I have failed to read the text properly, but all the same I hope the ideas themselves prove valuable even if improperly attributed to Elements of Philosophy of Right — I will leave that judgment to others.
If x method emerges out of y and y is justified, then there is reason to believe x reflects that justification. No, we cannot assume that all conclusions reached by x are therefore right, but we can at least assume that we are “in the ballpark,” that we aren’t playing on the entirely wrong field. Yes, it’s possible to reach right conclusions through an unjustified and wrong method, as it is possible to reach wrong conclusions through a justified and legitimate method, so nothing “necessarily” following from Hegel’s effort to “justify philosophy.” However, the same points can be made about science, but we wouldn’t say that therefore the fact x conclusion was reached through “the scientific method” didn’t mean anything at all. The very use of “the scientific method” suggests something, even if we cannot say for sure what it suggests. At the very least, it adds an air of seriousness and trust.
Hegel wants us to trust philosophy, but how in the world can that be accomplished? If philosophy isn’t trusted and gives us no reason to trust it, why should anyone care about it? Thus, Hegel turns to fields external to philosophy, such as Politics, Law, Contract Theory, Family, and the like: if these enterprises are justified, and these enterprises gave rise to Philosophy, then there would be reason to think that Philosophy is justified too (we could consider Kurt Gödel here and the need for a system to ascribe to something outside of it to complete it). Better yet, if Hegel can show that the justification of these enterprises are “philosophical in nature” and/or require philosophy to understand, then Hegel will provide reason for us to see Philosophy as important. And I think we should note how Hegel starts Philosophy of Right focusing on the ways Philosophy seems to be a waste of time…(Please note that I will capitalize terms like State, Philosophy, Family, etc. in this paper in hopes of reflecting Hegel’s own thought, though might not do so elsewhere.)
I understand Philosophy of Right as epistemic justification for Hegel’s work, which is to say that it provides “reason to think” that philosophical speculations are not mere rationalizations. Without this justification, why should we care to read Phenomenology of Spirit or Science of Logic? Hegel starts Philosophy of Right lamenting how easily philosophy is ignored as superfluous, as some elitist expression of decadence:
‘[E]veryone, whatever his condition, is convinced that he knows all about philosophy in general and can pass judgment upon it. No other art or science is treated with this ultimate degree of contempt, namely the assumption that one can take possession of it outright.’³
And Hegel famously tells us that philosophy cannot instruct the world how to change:
‘A further word on the subject of issuing instructions on how the world ought to be: philosophy, at any rate, always comes too late to perform this function. As the thought of the world, it appears only at a time when actuality has gone through its formative process and attained its completed state […] the owl of Minerva begins its flight only with the onset of dusk.’⁴
So why bother? What reason is there to think that philosophy is a justified enterprise that actually accomplishes anything? Well, because the development of the State, which has made a “clearing” for philosophy, is justified, and furthermore the State needs philosophy to realize its justification and legitimization: the two exist in a feedback loop with one another. Or at least they do now: perhaps the State, in lower stages of development, could legitimize itself on grounds of “necessity,” of providing defense, food, trade, and the like. And for a long time that was plenty, but now Humanity (or perhaps “Spirit”) begins asking new questions, questions which previously did not bother it and thus did not need to be addressed. We can perhaps say that “The Age Not Requiring Philosophy” has undergone “negation,” which means we are risk of either “sublation” or “effacement,” depending on how we respond to our historic moment.
Now, it could be argued that “some remnant” of Humanity will survive (unless we literally undergo the total Apocalypse, which we could), and hence we will ultimately undergo a “sublation,” but I still think every individual and individual group must decide if they will be philosophical or not. Thus, in this case, we could say that this development will ultimately prove to be a sublation, though it might particularly prove to be an effacement (and even prove to be an effacement for the majority). But this point deserves focus on, for here we might start to see where the more “progressive interpretations” of Hegel might come from: assuming we don’t all die, some percent of humanity will rise to the occasion, after which that small percent will shape the future, and hence all of humanity will likely inherit the fruits of the group which “negated/sublated” versus underwent effacement. Fair enough, but Hegel is not arguing that “any given” group will “negate/sublate,” so we must understand his “progress” as contingent (and, indeed, we could all destroy ourselves). Even if the world is a better place a thousand years from now, our world might collapse next year. Also, if the world is a better place because humans are extinct — is the world a better place?
Digression aside, the point I want to focus on is the idea we have entered an age for Hegel where Philosophy is necessary to consider directly and own. Philosophy has always been with us, but we are in a stage of the development of World Spirit where our relationship to Philosophy must change. We all must take it seriously, not just academics. Why exactly I think can be understood if we connect Hegel with Freud, as Dr. Todd McGowan does in his magnificent book, Emancipation After Hegel. Chapter 2 is titled “Hegel After Freud,” where Dr. McGowan notes that ‘neither his opponents nor his champions agree among themselves’ regarding Hegel’s meanings.⁵ Dr. McGowan argues that Hegel attempted to discuss psychoanalytical topics before there was language for it (or even a name for the field), and this is a considerable reason for why Hegel ended up so hard to read and understand. More can be said on this, but the point I want to make is something Freud noted on how developed nations would end up having more problems in mental health than undeveloped nations.⁶ As wealth accumulates, humans have more free time, and thus more time to think about themselves, why they use their freedom like they do, and so on. Thus, the movement from poverty to modernization entails a movement into existential and psychological difficulty. To deal with this, “first world nations” would require psychoanalysis and philosophy.
Belonging Again is my attempt to show how nations have developed against “givens,” which in turn requires us all to become more philosophical, a main reason for which is that we must all learn to live with becoming aware of “The Value Circle” and “The Conflict of Society” (but what I mean by this will have to be elaborated on in the book). If we connect Hegel and Freud, and we accept the idea that nations with time increasingly require philosophy, then we can understand why Hegel sees a need to “justify philosophy”: if philosophy remains “unjustified” to us, we easily might not engage in what we must engage in to make this age one of negation/sublation versus effacement. But we have already highlighted how it will not prove adequate for philosophy to justify itself: it’s justification (“reason to think it has something meaningful to say”) must come from something external to philosophy (again, think Gödel). How will Hegel do this? As already noted, I think Hegel argues that the development of the State (which we have reason to trust) has made a “clearing” for philosophy, which means we by extension have reason to trust that this “clearing” is important, as is that which might arise from out of it.
Okay, fine, but who cares? Hegel has told us that Philosophy always comes too late to change historic development, and Hegel has told us that most people will think we’re just wasting our time — so why bother? Well, because we are in what Dr. Vervaeke calls “The Meaning Crisis” now — History has arrived at today. No, Philosophy cannot instruct, but it can provide us ways for us to become “Absolute Knowers” and Nietzsche’s “children,” and hence it could increase the chance that we become part of that remnant of humanity which negates/sublates our age as opposed to undergo effacement with it.
We must bother with Philosophy because we are part of Humanity and alive now, and the future for us in particular is not guaranteed. We might be effaced. We might negate/sublate. Without Philosophy, effacement seems unavoidable, but to really believe in Philosophy versus see it as a meaningless distraction and way to avoid facing reality, we need to see reason to trust “the process” from which Philosophy has arisen and which Philosophy seeks to understand. And this is where Elements of the Philosophy of Right fits into Hegel’s vision.
Again, as we’ve already discussed, Hegel included his famous phrase on “the owl of Minerva” because he wants to remove from Philosophy the temptation to be involved in politics (similar to Julien Benda), and Hegel wants to keep Philosophy from measuring if it is “effective” in terms of its political influence. But I would like to add that I think we can also use the famous section to take Hegel as telling us to not worry that much about Philosophy of Right as a whole. Hegel could be telling us that this is a book he had to write in order to provide justification for the enterprise of Philosophy, which required justifying the State and merging intellectual and ethical “rightness.” For those who already accept the premise though that “Philosophy matters” and isn’t elitist or unjustified, they can simply focus on Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit and Science of Logic. The Philosophy of Right exists for the doubters, for those who must be convinced that Philosophy has anything important to say. But not everyone doubts.
Indeed, Hegel seems to be saying that Philosophy doesn’t ultimately matter with his “owl of Minerva” reflection, but really Hegel is saying that his justification will not rest upon “practical results.” Instead, Hegel will justify Philosophy “from the ground up,” from Abstract Freedom to Ethics to Property to Contract — all the way to “Now.” Hegel does not seek justification “the easy way,” we could say, in practical consequences, but through the rigorous work of Philosophy itself. To justify this effort (which otherwise might be deconstructed by Gödel), Hegel turned to studying the State, but at the same time he wants us readers to know that Philosophy of Right simply points back to the need to engage in “The Phenomenological Journey” found in Phenomenology of Spirit. For those who have already taken that journey and accepted the legitimacy of Philosophy, Philosophy of Right is perhaps as good as read.
“Feel free to focus on your own Phenomenology Journey,” Hegel seems to tell us. “Because of Philosophy of Right, you can trust it is the right thing to do. We cannot change the world now, but if we do the work as subjects to become Absolute Knowers, those who make ‘a real choice’ and ‘return to common life,’ we might be ready for the world that arrives. Philosophy is righteous.”
What do I mean when I say that Hegel seeks to “justify Philosophy” through the State? By this, I don’t mean to say that Hegel provides an “objective ground” to Philosophy or something like that; rather, I mean that Hegel wants us “to have reason to believe” that Philosophy matters. Science, because of its “scientific method,” is unique in providing us “reason to think” x, y, and z — the method itself provides a unique sense of reliability. X, y, and z could be things we believed “by chance,” and hence “by chance” we could be entirely right, and yet all the same our relationship to x, y, and z will be different from someone who believes x, y, and z through “the scientific method.” Both people are equally “right,” and yet they do not have the same relationship to x, y, and z. The first person’s relationship is much more tentative and likely lacks emotional support, while the second’s person’s relationship will feel much more grounded (and probably indirectly entail more “emotional support”). Thus, though method doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll believe truths we otherwise wouldn’t believe, method does impact the nature of our relationship to those truths. Where method is lacking, everything feels more tentative.
(Moving forward, please note I will sometimes capitalize-Philosophy to suggest “the movement of philosophical consideration as a whole,” which is what Hegel seeks to justify more than a given philosophical notion.)
Now, by “State,” it should be noted here that we don’t mean mere government or bureaucracy. “State” suggests “The State of Nature” found in Hobbes and Rousseau, and we can see Hegel as arguing that “The State of Nature” is not something we left behind but something we are always “bringing with us” (we are “The State of Nature,” per se, which suggests that we “determine how nature is doing,” suggesting a connection between Nature and Notion). Both Hobbes and Rousseau attempted to use “The State of Nature” to justify their respected philosophies, but Hegel places “The State of Nature” as a process in us, and so “The State of Nature” doesn’t so much justify a philosophy but “is” what unfolds through History. This “State of Nature” develops in individuals (living with the tension of desiring Abstract Freedom but stuck in Determinates), moves into Ethics, Family, Law — and eventually the governmental State, which is to say there is a clear line from “The State of Nature” in us to “The State” which organizes our society. Nothing then is justified from “The State of Nature,” for “The State of Nature” “is” justification in its very movement and development (“self-justifying,” like the “true infinity” of a circle). The State “is” — the justification is in the fact that what “is” is what “be-came” now. (Looking ahead, if the State “be-comes” Philosophy, per se, then Philosophy “is” the State somehow, suggesting that the lack of Philosophy will risk pathology and effacement for the State.)
Rousseau and Hobbes used their “States of Nature” to try to axiomatically ground their philosophies, whereas Hegel attempts to make the State “justified in itself.” This move has proven easy to misread and dangerous where “The State” is seen as purely bureaucratic and “over” the people, versus the State be seen as “A State of Nature” in which the average citizenry is just as much a part. The legitimacy of Hegel’s State must be “intersuppositional,” as that which is justified “between” the people, organizations, bureaucracies, etc. (“between the parts of the whole”), versus the State be presuppositionally justified over or “in contrast to” the rest of the social order, as seems likely to occur when the State is not viewed as the whole “State of Nature” but only the “State of Government.”
If Hegel can succeed to justify the State intersuppositionally and in and through its own “unfolding,” Hegel can then make the case that Philosophy emerges out of the “reliable” State, which in turn also makes Philosophy “reliable” (and even “necessary,” as suggested by “The Meaning Crisis”). Hegel wants Philosophy to strike us as a reliable method, which is to say he wants our philosophical conclusions to feel concrete, reliable, and actualize. Only as such will our philosophical positions have any chance of helping us stabilize ourselves psychologically, existentially, and emotionally, and without that stability the likelihood we’ll be able to handle the inherent instability of life (“becoming,” contradiction, etc.) is very low: we’ll simply be overwhelmed. Life is already unstable enough — we don’t need additional instability “in” our philosophy. Feeling mistakenly as if philosophy must be unstable, it’s tempting for people to flee from philosophy and cling to “givens” (a move described throughout Belonging Again), but this is a move that has us fall into either totalitarianism or “The Meaning Crisis.” Both are not optimal, but we have little other choice if we don’t trust philosophy, which is to say we don’t trust or see value in self-examination, psychoanalysis, or the like.
Hegel wants us to have reason to value and trust Philosophy as a historic development; if we don’t, our age will end up effaced. We have arguably not trusted Philosophy for a century, but fortunately the consequences of this mistake do not happen all at once: the flower has withered slowly, gradually enough in fact that we may still have time to water it. We won’t though if we don’t trust Philosophy, and trusting Philosophy will require “justification” which is external to Philosophy — hence Hegel’s turn to Politics, Sociology, Law, and the like.
As a framework, let us list out what I believe are the main steps in Hegel’s line of thought:
1. Without the State (Individuals, Ethics, Families, Property, Contracts, etc.) there would be no Philosophy. Philosophy arises in, with, and thanks to the State.
Poverty is a hard state in which to think, as is a world where our safety is not guaranteed, where we cannot own a home, no contracts are defended, and the like. The more citizens find themselves in a First World Nation versus a State of Adjunct Poverty though, the more philosophical reasoning becomes possible (there is time and energy for it). Indeed, this hints at why the Humanities and Culture have often been associated with Elitism and Leisure, but critically this isn’t evidence that Philosophy is a waste of time, but in fact a necessary undertaking to “handle” Leisure and Wealth. The fact Philosophy accompanies enrichment is because enrichment needs Philosophy to not become a force which causes effacement (as happening now with “The Meaning Crisis”), not because Philosophy is irrelevant. Hegel seems to be writing in response to at least some people who think this way about Philosophy as privilege (which is a line of thought I personally have encountered), hence his effort to “justify” Philosophy by justifying “the process” in which it arose.
If “the process” of State development arose to Philosophy, and “State process” can be argued to be rational and justified, then there would be “reason to think” Philosophy is not a waste of time or expression of privilege, but rather a necessary enterprise to engage in for this moment of Humanity, “Spirit,” and/or “Geist” (though I hesitate to use these last two, loaded terms). Hegel seeks to give us “reason to think” Philosophy is what we need, not because we can instruct the State on how to change its course “now,” but so that we might be “Absolute Knowers” who can respond to our current age in a manner that leads to negation/sublation versus effacement (interpretation changes the world).
2. If the State is unjustified, we cannot be sure that Philosophy is justified versus a rationalization (of the State, of Upper Classes wanting to believe they are doing real work, etc.).
The mind is more interested in survival, saving energy, and “feeling right” than it is at discovering truth. We like to think our brains desire truth, but that itself is part of its trickery so that we don’t suspect we are deceived. “Rationalization” is a terrible problem, and every thought we have might be a product of self-deception — how can we be sure the thought, “We need Philosophy,” isn’t itself a product of falsity? It certainly seems like nothing more than an entitled expression of privilege, and does not Philosophy arise with wealth?
These are strong accusations against Philosophy, and indeed Philosophy seems guilty until proven innocent. It tends to start with the wealthy and spread in the upper classes, while the lower classes and poor don’t have time to philosophize. Why, then, shouldn’t we think Philosophy isn’t just entertainment for the privileged? Against this charge, Hegel writes, attempting to show that Philosophy is a necessary and logical step in the development of State. However, while Marx interpreted Hegel as completing the work of Philosophy, Hegel rather “completes the case that we need Philosophy now.” Far from “completing Philosophy,” Hegel suggests that “we are completely in need of Philosophy” if we are to avoid effacement in this current step of State development. Unfortunately, we have generally sided with Marx’s understanding that Hegel finished Philosophy versus show that we are finished thinking we can progress without Philosophy. Philosophy has only finished unveiling that Philosophy is “completely necessary”: it has only finished “proving the need for it.”
3. If the State is justified and the State arose to Philosophy by creating “a clearing” in which Philosophy can be practiced (through geopolitical and socioeconomic developments), then there is reason to think practicing Philosophy is justified too.
As the fact x was generated by “the scientific method” gives us unique “reason to think” x is true (versus if someone just tells us that, “x is true”), so the fact the State “arose” to Philosophy gives us unique “reason to think” that Philosophy is a valid and even necessary undertaking. Now, this isn’t “given,” so Hegel must make the argument that the State is a justified and rational process which develops through time in a rational and justified manner, so that when it arises to Philosophy, we have “reason to think” Philosophy itself is rational and justified. Without this justification, we have little defense to the charge Philosophy is privileged and a waste of time, which means for Hegel we will not have a way to defend the practice we need to avoid “The Meaning Crisis.” We will lose it and thus lose the capacity to identify what we lost.
In turning to the State, Hegel’s justification comes to Philosophy from outside of it, hence why there is “good reason to suspect” it is not mere rationalization or an expression of a siloed, internal logical. Additionally, if Philosophy is influenced by the State, that does not mean it is necessarily misguided, for the State is justified. Regardless the direction of influence or involvement, there can be trust.
4. The method and process which arose to Philosophy is trustable, and so our relationship to Philosophy should prove strong, as “the scientific method” strengthens our relationship to the facts it produces.
5. If we can trust Philosophy, we can then use it to avoid “The Meaning Crisis” and effacement.
Now, which Philosophy must be decided on to decide which will indeed help us find hope in “The Meaning Crisis,” a case taken on throughout O.G. Rose. But none of that case can even be made if we don’t have reason to trust in Philosophy in the first place, hence why Hegel’s project matters.
6. Humanity can undergo negation/sublation.
And so on — these are the steps according to which I understand Philosophy of Right. Personally, I see this line of thought aligning well with the work of Robert Brandom, author of A Spirit of Trust. Brandom presents Hegel as a pragmatist, mainly one like C.S. Peirce. Similarly, Hegel strikes me as a “Phenomenological Pragmatist,” which ultimately means that he argues that, “If the State develops x way ‘in practice,’ then there ‘is reason to think’ x is best.” Indeed, x might not be best, but the very “successful practicing” of x gives us “reason to think” x is valid (similar to how “the scientific method” provides us justification even though it doesn’t provide certainty). All this would require a lot to elaborate on, but I simply wanted to note that I do not see “Hegelian Pragmaticism” in conflict with my interpretation, though thinkers like Brandom may disagree.
To focus on the idea that Hegel is interested in the development of a certain “justified relation” to Philosophy and its products, consider what Hegel wrote (which also suggests the necessity of “conceptual meditation” and “dialectically working through negativity,” as I often discuss regarding Hegel’s other works):
‘What it needs is to be comprehended as well, so that the content which is already rational in itself may also gain a rational form and thereby appear justified to free thinking. For such thinking does not stop at what is given, whether the latter is supported by the external positive authority of the state or of mutual agreement among human beings, or by the authority of inner feelings and the heart and by the testimony of the spirit which immediately concurs with this, but starts out from itself and thereby demands to know itself as united in its innermost being with the truth.’⁷
If x is the truth, what makes us arrive at and stop on x? A feeling? An idea? What? Obviously, we never know “with certainty” if “x is the truth,” so our situation is hard. So what in the world do we do? Well, this is why we need to have “reason to think” the development of the State is “justified” and hence rational to trust. If we cannot trust the State, we have nowhere to start our thinking but from the start of History (and we must begin somewhere), and how in the world do we access that or any point in the past (is it not forever cut off from us)? And won’t we have to restart Philosophy with every notion? If so, Philosophy could never get off the ground (as couldn’t science without its method or law without stare decisis): philosophy must trust its “now” or it will never advance (and if we need Philosophy to handle “The Meaning Crisis,” that means we are in trouble). We need a foundation for Philosophy to function, and Hegel wants to make that foundation “our very now.” Please note this last point: I didn’t say “the government” or “the political State”; rather, the real State which Hegel is focused on is “Our Very Now.” Yes, our government and society are a manifestation of “Now,” but we cannot treat them as interchangeable. More precisely and essentially, “Now” is our foundation (which means that thinking the future cuts us off from the possibility of justified thinking, do note).
Society is a product of “Now” and its development evidence our “Now” is worth trusting in, but we should not confuse the effects with the cause: to say “Now” is trustable is not the same as saying, “Everything society does is right.” The overall form of society is what interests Hegel, and the progress of that form is what suggests “Now” is trustable. Because society is advancing, there is reason to trust in “Now,” and thus reason to think we do not need to restart Philosophy with every notion. No, we cannot assume that everything about the world today is good, and certainly we will need to look to the past and tradition for ideas and guidance, but that is very different from letting ourselves think that we need to “throw out” the “Now” (say as can occur with escapists desires, like depicted in Midnight In Paris, directed by Woody Allen). “Now” might need correcting, but “correcting” and “disposing” are different. By justifying its development through and as History, Hegel will not let us dispose of “Now,” and if Hegel can succeed at this move, he can also justify Philosophy. A double win.
1. Justify “Now” (“our/the State”)
2. Justify Philosophy.
3. Thus, we can trust Philosophy to help us deal with “Now” (“The Meaning Crisis”).
“Now” arose to Philosophy, and thus there is “reason to think” we need Philosophy “Now.”
For me, though Hegel speaks of his process of justification in “rational” terms, I align Hegel’s thinking with David Hume and Benjamin Fondane (with “nonrationality,” as discussed throughout O.G. Rose), which for me means Hegel, Hume, and Fondane are linked through “Phenomenological Pragmaticism” — but that is another story for another time. However, the point is that we must comprehend the truth through the rational, but if we understand everything through the rational, how can we be sure when rationality corresponds with “truth?” Without a (nonrational) “background” or “back-up support” we can trust, we can always question where we “are’ and where we “land.” Thus, we need something like a State that we believe is justified and that we can trust: otherwise, every line of thought will have to restart from the very start. Given our time is limited and that we can only think but so much ourselves without help from others, if Philosophy can never trust anything “given,” the growth and progress of Philosophy is capped: it can only get so far. And if Philosophy is somehow necessary for us to advance, especially “Now,” that means trouble.
It is not “given” that we should trust the State/Now (I will go back to using the language of “State” over “Now,” though please keep in mind their linkage), and hence we need Philosophy to determine that we should trust the State, which in turn gives us reason to trust Philosophy. This reasoning might seem circular, but that is why it is important Hegel seeks justification between so many different fields. It is not “just” the State which Hegel investigates, but the development of Ethics, Family, Law, Property, and the like — no, we cannot ultimately say “with certainty” that Hegel succeeds, but in exploring so many topics through time, there is “good reason to think” Hegel is onto something to argue that Philosophy is a justified undertaking. And remember, Hegel does not need “certainty,” only “confidence,” in order to realize a process which is like “the scientific method” for and in Philosophy. In a sense, perhaps we could say that Hegel is like Descartes, searching for what we have “reason to trust,” but while Descartes locates his confidence in the individual, Hegel locates it and through the State (though this is a comparison I will not push any further).
But how does the State reflect a justified process from which justification can be extended to Philosophy? How does any of this follow? Indeed, these are considerations and details we must consider next.
¹Hegel, G.W.F. Elements of the Philosophy of Right. Translated by H.B. Nisbet. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2008: 10.
²Hegel, G.W.F. Elements of the Philosophy of Right. Translated by H.B. Nisbet. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2008: 10.
³Hegel, G.W.F. Elements of the Philosophy of Right. Translated by H.B. Nisbet. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2008: 15.
⁴Hegel, G.W.F. Elements of the Philosophy of Right. Translated by H.B. Nisbet. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2008: 23.
⁵McGowan, Todd. Emancipation After Hegel. New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 2021: 38.
⁶For elaborations on this point and others, please see the magnificent series by Dr. Cadell Last, “Return to Freud.”
⁷Hegel, G.W.F. Elements of the Philosophy of Right. Translated by H.B. Nisbet. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2008: 11.
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