Superphysics Superphysics


by Hegel Icon
5 minutes  • 874 words

Our topic is the succession of the manifestations of thought.

This is the first and, therefore, the most superficial way in which the history of philosophy appears.

Following immediately on this comes the need to become acquainted with its purpose, with the universal through which the diversified plurality manifested in the succession is bound together in such a way that the multiplicity is so related to its own unity as to be formed into a whole, a totality. It is this unity which first of all constitutes the purpose or concept.

We want to know a purpose or concept in a determinate way before going into detail.

We want first of all an overall view of the woods and only after that to know the individual trees.

One who looks first at the trees and sticks only to them does not get an overall view of the woods and becomes lost and confused. The same is true of philosophies; they are infinite in number and are conflictingly opposed to each other.

One would be confused, then, if one wanted to know first individual philosophies. It would mean failing to see the woods for the trees, failing to see philosophy for philosophies. Nowhere does this happen more readily and more frequently than in the history of philosophy. The multiplicity of philosophies frequently occasions a failure to know and esteem philosophy itself.

On an acquaintance such as this is built the sort of shallow know-it-all claim to show that nothing comes of the history of philosophy. One philosophy contradicts another; the very multiplicity of philosophies proves the inanity of the philosophical endeavor. This is said, presumably in the interests of truth or of what one thinks is the truth: the one thing to be sought is unity, i.e., truth, since truth is one, and the multitude of philosophies, each one claiming to be the true one, contradicts the principle which says that the true is in unity.

Thus, the chief consideration in this Introduction centers on the question: what is the situation here in regard to the contradiction between the unity of truth and the multiplicity of philosophies? What is the result of this long labor of the human spirit, and how is it to be comprehended? What sense do we want to give to our treatment of the history of philosophy?

The history of philosophy is the history of free, concrete thought – which is to say, of reason. Free concrete thought is concerned only with itself. Nothing can be called reason which is not the result of thinking – not, however, of abstract thinking, for that is the thinking proper to understanding, but of concrete thinking, which is reason.

In what sense should the history of thinking reason be considered? What meaning is to be given to it?

To this we can answer that no other meaning can be given to it than what is found in the sense of thought itself – or we can say that the question itself does not make sense.

We can ask with regard to any thing whatever what its sense or meaning is. Thus, with regard to a work of art we can ask what the picture means, with regard to language what a word means, with regard to religion what a symbol or a ceremony means, with regard to other kinds of activity we can ask about their moral value, etc.

The meaning or sense of which we speak is none other than the essential or the universal, the substantial in an object, which is the object concretely thought.

Herein we always have a double aspect, an exterior and an interior, an external appearance which is intuitively perceptible and a meaning which, precisely, is thought. Now, because the object with which we are concerned is thought, there is here no double aspect; it is thought itself which does the meaning. Here the object is the universal; so we cannot ask about a meaning which is separate or separable from the object. The only meaning or determination which the history of philosophy has, then, is thought itself.

Herein thought is the innermost, the highest, and one cannot, therefore, settle on a thought about it. With regard to a work of art we can reflect on it, advance considerations whether the form corresponds to its meaning; which means we can have a position regarding it. The history of free thought can have no other sense or meaning than that of speaking about the thought itself. The character which here takes the place of sense and meaning is simply the thought.

It is our task now to provide the more precise viewpoints which come into consideration when there is question of thought.

Here we must propose a series of thought-determinations, i.e., we must preface the whole thing with some thoroughly general, abstract concepts, which we shall come back to later, and by applying them get a more precise notion of the concept of history of philosophy.

At this point, however, the abstract concepts in question are merely presuppositions; they are not to be treated logically, philosophically, or speculatively, nor are they to be proved. Here it should be sufficient to present these concepts historically and in a provisional way.

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