restricted access Hegel's Metaphysics and the Problem of Contradiction
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Hegel's Metaphysics and the Problem of Contradiction ROBERT PIPPIN HEGEL'S CONTRIBUTIONS tO social and political philosophy and to the philosophy of history, his lectures on the history of philosophy, and his comprehensive analysis of the details of human history are all fairly well known and often discussed. Many of his most original and provocative claims in these areas are found in his remarkable Phenomenology of Spirit, a work that has benefited from numerous, detailed commentaries . Much less noticed, especially in the twentieth century, 1 is that other of Hegel's only two real books, his Science of Logic. 2 This neglect is all the more remarkable since Hegel himself regularly claimed that the foundation for all other parts of his system were to be found only in the Logic, that its "metaphysical" arguments alone could establish finally much of what he wanted to say elsewhere. 3 However, as even Hegelians sometimes complain, such neglect may be benign, given that work's often impenetrable terminology and the fact that much of Hegel's case in the Logic owes its peculiar form of expression to his comrades in German Idealism, Fichte and Schelling. Further, at times the Logic, like the Phenomenology (if one takes one's impressions from the commentaries), reads like an arcane roman d clef, requiring that subtle allusions to Greek metaphysics and nineteenth-century science and mathematics be revealed and discussed in detail if the work is ever to be understood. Indeed, even more problems await anyone interested in interpreting any one section, or idea, or topic. Such a topic would seem incapable of receiving a fair hearing on its own, given the constant Hegelian insistence on seeing any "part" only in terms of the "whole." If we are to accept Hegel's claim that, in logic as in everything else, "das Wahre ist das Ganze," no modest commentary on a single issue could hope to do justice to his intentions. Detailed connections with other, previous and subsequent "moments" in the movement of the whole must apparently be established, It remains true that many of the most detailed studies of the Logic are by such nineteenth-century scholars as A. Trendelenburg, Logische Untersuchungen(Berlin, 1840); E. V. Hartmann, Die dialektische Methode (Berlin, 1868); K. Werder, Logik (Berlin, 1841); H. Ulrici, OberPrinzip und Methode der Hegelschen Philosophie (Halle, 1841); and K. Fischer, Spekulative Charakteristik und Kritik des Hegelschen Systems (Erlangen, 1845). See Dieter Henrich's account of these interpretations in Hegel im Kontext (Frankfurt: Surhkamp Verlag, 1971), pp. 73-94. 2 Wissenschaft der Logic (Hamburg: Felix Meiner Verlag, 1971), hereafter cited as WL; trans. A. V. Miller, Hegel's Science of Logic (New York: Humanities Press, 1969), hereafter cited at SL. 3Some of the most prominent references to the priorityof the Logic occur in: Lectures on the Philosophy of WorldHistory, Introduction: Reason in History, trans. H. B. Nisbet (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1975), pp. 28, 130, 132-139; Hegel's Philosophy of Right, trans. T. M. Knox (Oxford University Press, 1967), pp. 4, 14; The Phenomenology of Mind, trans. J. B. Baillie(New York; Harper Torchbooks, 1967), pp. 805-808; and the claims made for logic in the WL itself, pp. 23-47 (SL, pp. 43-64). [3011 302 HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY requiring a commentary at least as long as the Logic itself. Or, if one wants to do strict justice to Hegel's thought on some particular issue without such unextended analysis, one seems condemned, judging by many examples, to an opaque, brief, reshuffling of his own terms. These problems, of course, reflect large, very difficult problems at stake in all Hegel interpretation and they certainly cannot be resolved here. However, I think some progress can be made in interpreting Hegel's "metaphysics" on a particular point if some, albeit minimal, attention is paid to the structure and intention of the work as a whole, and if the problem Hegel is addressing is discussed, at least to an extent fair to his case, in less systematically specific language. Indeed, there is one metaphysical issue in particular most in need of such isolated attention--Hegel's doctrine of contradiction. Hegel is well known, but often little understood, for...