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Hegel's Primary Approach to the Dialectical Methodology

Hegel's Primary Approach to the Dialectical Methodology

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HEGEL'S PRIMARY APPROACH TO THE DIALECTICALMETHODOLOGY—A REAPPRAISAL
FRANCIS BAUMLI
Philosophical Forum, Vol 7, 1975-6
IBoth the casual and the discerning reader, when poring through the pagesof Hegel's
Logic,
are likely to be enamored by the systematic unity andelegance of the triadic dialectical scheme. But more than one commentator has found it difficult to explain the subtleties of that scheme. Thenegativity that characterizes dialectical reason, as well as the necessity ofresolving initially incompatible opposites through the positive work ofspeculative reason, has stymied many a student of Hegel's, and perhapshas required a good deal of patience from the more critical reader. Butregardless of whether one endorses or rejects the dialectical format of the
Logic
, it at least is apparent that
in
this work the progressive movement ofdialectic has for its task the resolution or the suspension of contradictoryideas in a unified synthesis which cancels the opposition. This willingnessto cancel opposites and thereby limit the law of contradiction has longbeen a tendency of Eastern philosophy. But, perhaps because of theemphasis on formal logic that has prevailed since Aristotle, the Westernthinker has usually been more skeptical about such reasoning. Hence, it isnot surprising that some of Hegel's readers cast such a skeptical eye onthe methodology of his
Logic.
Given this uneasiness about the methodology of the
Logic,
and given that it is so often assumed that themethodologies of both the
Logic
and the
Phenomenology of Mind
arealike, it is easy to see why many a reader approaches the
Phenomenology
with the same qualms. But, while it has long been customary for philosophers to understand the
Phenomenology
'by applying the clear scheme ofdialectic that is so explicitly set forth in the
Logic,
this may be a mistake.After all, the
Phenomenology
was published several years earlier than the
Logic,
and the direction or unfolding of thought is very different in the
225
 
FRANCIS BAUMLÎ
two works. It is my opinion that if the blinders that we so quickly assumewhen reading the
Logic
are removed, we will find that the earlier dialecticmust be approached differently. This different approach will, I believe,facilitate an understanding of Hegel's very difficult work, and perhaps willalso evade some of the prejudices that the more radical dialectic of the
Logic
causes. The purpose of this paper is then two-fold: to give astatement about some of the more general methodological assumptions ofthe
Phenomenology of
Mind,
and to outlipe a specific approach to thedialectical scheme of the work. The further problem of reconciling themethodology of the
Phenomenology
with that of the
Logic
is a temptingone, but is far beyond the scope of this paper.IIHegel's process philosophy, unlike the dualism of Whitehead'smetaphysic, entails a unity of both the process, or generative principle,and the content, or logical stages, of change and growth. One mayabstract the logical description of process and call it dialectic, and onemay, from a slightly different perspective, refer to absolute spirit as theultimate and abiding determinateness of that process; but any suchabstraction must defer to the basic unity. The dialectical process ofmovement occurs within the absolute, but the absolute is the processinsofar as it
defines
itself;
i.e., attains consciousness of
itself,
by that verymovement.
The
movement, or attainment of consciousness, is embodiedin individual persons and cultures which are finite elements of absolutespirit moving toward fuller consciousness; but this is an immanentmovement and may only be described as spirit moving
itself.
Finite levelsof consciousness may for a time halt their movement and endure a longperiod of stasis, but such periods of stasis, no matter how long they mightpersist in time, and no matter how great the fear and anxiety may beregarding change, yet will loosen their temporal ties and will follow ahigher logic: "Should that anxious fearfulness wish to remain always inunthinking indolence, thought will agitate the thoughtlessness, its restlessness will disturb that indolence."
1
I.e. it is the nature of consciousness to speculate, no matter how limited this speculation may be. Hence,the temporal span of stasis itself
is
a finite thing which reflects the finitudeof the static consciousness. It follows from this that Hegel does notemphasize the temporal order of cultural development. Rather, his emphasis is on the logical, or dialectical order which describes the realmof appearances without referring to their logical continuity. Yet,
226
 
HEGEL'S PRIMARY APPROACH TO THE DIALECTICAL METHODOLOGY
consciousness continually clamors for direction and logical purposive-ness. Consciousness, then, confronts time because
Time therefore appears as spirit's destiny and necessity, where spirit is not yetcomplete within
itself;
it is the necessity compelling spirit to enrich the share
self-
consciousness has in consciousness, to put into motion the immediacy of the inherentnature (which is the form in which the substance is present in consciousness); or,conversely, to realize and make manifest what is inherent, regarded as inward andimmanent, to make manifest that which is at
 first
 within—i.e. to vindicate it for spirit'scertainty of
self.
2
Which is to say that "It is only spirit in its entirety that is in time, and theshapes assumed, which are specific embodiments of the whole of spirit assuch, present themselves in a sequence one after the other/'
3
In otherwords, no logical order can ever be had in the temporal domain. Thegestation of spirit at its temporal levels, may only be rationally understoodfrom the ultimate perspective, and will only be completed therein. Thisultimate understanding is identical to the ultimate completion, andthereby involves both the epistcmic and ontological fulfillment of spirit.This fulfillment does not imply that the diversity of knowledge
qua
spirit
collapses into
*\ .. the night in which, as we say, all cows arc black. . . ".
4
Rather, absolute
spirit is fulfilled because its completed self-consciousness contains the plurality of all logical moments while yet involving atransformation of perspective—a transformation from the limited perspective of finite appearances to the singular and unified perspective oflogical continuity.Since finite consciousness is defined as the initial and continuingmovement of attention, it would be a mistake to say that consciousness isinactive. But nevertheless, there are varying intensities of commitment togrowth in different individual persons. Many persons are more or lesssatisfied with the caprice of feeling, or empty intuition. They affirm theirstate of consciousness by a mere claim to consciousness, withoutaffirming any content for that consciousness. Hence, they do not immersethemselves in the mainstream and rigor of philosophical inquiry. This laxattitude is apparent at the various levels of cultural and individual stasis,and can only be overcome by the intangible and perhaps indefinableupsurge of interest or desire. But this upsurge, which injects a vitalisticfervor into one's approach to knowledge, serves to demolish the distancebetween consciousness and its potential dimensions by moving it towardthe transcendental horizon of speculative reason. In this way, consciousness moves toward an embodiment with philosophy, vigorously conjoining its own intellectual existence with the rational system of spirit.
5
227

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