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Hegel and Aristotle (review)
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Journal of the History of Philosophy 40.4 (2002) 550-551



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Book Review

Hegel and Aristotle


Alfredo Ferrarin. Hegel and Aristotle. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001. Pp. xxii + 442. Cloth, $64.95.

This is an important book which should be read by anyone interested in either of the two philosophers. Ferrarin demonstrates that the structure and detail of Hegel's executed project owe more to Aristotle than to Kant or any other philosopher. He also shows that Hegel's interpretation of Aristotle is profound and worth careful study, even if it is in some ways mistaken. With the exception of the Poetics and Aesthetics, Ferrarin discusses all the relevant primary texts, and he judiciously uses secondary literature. To my knowledge, aside from his Italian dissertation (published in 1990 and here revised and greatly expanded), this is the first monograph which is exclusively devoted to comparing the executed projects of the two philosophers. He most thoroughly compares the Metaphysics with the Science of Logic and On the Soul with the Organics and Subjective Spirit sections of the Encyclopedia. This latter comparison forms the center of the book, and all scholars of Aristotle and Hegel will benefit from it. Ferrarin does not simply present and praise or criticize Hegel's interpretations of Aristotle; he also investigates Hegel's appropriation of Aristotle for the execution of his own project. Quite significant effort and insight went into the writing of this book, which is densely argued but only very rarely unclear.

Ferrarin bases all comparisons on the understanding of energeia. Aside from God, all processes for Aristotle involve not only energeia but also dunamis. For Aristotle, the ends of processes are energeiai, but a process is either an activity (exercising a habit whose end is this exercising) or a motion (expending a power whose end is other than the expending) (cf. 22-5, 266, 270). Accomplishment of the end terminates the motile expending of power but not the active exercise of habit. For both philosophers, activity and motion are the two main types of intelligible. Ferrarin shows that Hegel, in part because of his accurate reliance on Erasmus's superseded edition, misinterprets Aristotle's God as involving both energeia and dunamis.

Ferrarin excellently shows that for Aristotle nous (mediated by a dialectical consideration of endoxa) attains a noetic (rather than dianoetic) identity with an intelligible. Ferrarin also asserts that Hegel (supposedly following Leibniz) "efface[s] all notion of rest and coming to a stand from Aristotelian energeia" (229; cf. 20, 399) and "does not see . . . that . . . [the exercised habit of] nous finds rest in the discontinuous intellection of indivisibles" (320). However, Aristotle claims that "not everything which is motionless may be at rest but only that which is deprived of motion but can by nature be moved" (Physics 221b12-13, Apostle translation), so since habits cannot be moved by nature, neither unexercised nor exercised habits can be said to be at rest (even though the natural body without which the habits could not be can in some respects be said to be at rest). Therefore, Hegel does not diverge from but rather advances Aristotle's insight when he treats that noetic identity [End Page 550] as a moment of energizing the otherwise static intelligible to entail a further intelligible, so that these intelligibles and this entailing are part of a continuously intellected logos (but cf. 51, 318-9). Contra Ferrarin (98, 194), this is not to assert that some sort of supposedly hubristic modern nous thereby produces the further intelligible.

Analogously to how a compulsion to examine one's past can lead one to enact a different future, Hegel claims that some already entailed, posterior intelligibles of this logos are sufficient (once energized by nous) to entail the prior intelligibles which entailed them and that by entailing these prior intelligibles the posterior intelligibles thereby also entail previously unentailed, posterior intelligibles of the logos. Ferrarin erroneously (albeit not without some textual basis) interprets this claim as the assertion that some as yet unentailed posterior intelligibles entail prior intelligibles (77, 251-3)—as the analog of...