- Hegel and the Problem of Multiplicity, and: The Unity of Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit : A Systematic Interpretation (review)
- Journal of the History of Philosophy
- Johns Hopkins University Press
- Volume 39, Number 4, October 2001
- pp. 597-600
- View Citation
- Additional Information
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Journal of the History of Philosophy 39.4 (2001) 597-600
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Andrew Haas. Hegel and the Problem of Multiplicity. SPEP Studies in Historical Philosophy. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 2000. Pp. xxxii + 355. Paper, $29.95.
Jon Stewart. The Unity of Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit: A Systematic Interpretation. SPEP Studies in Historical Philosophy. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 2000. Pp. xv + 556. Cloth, $69.95.
In his study, The Unity of Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit: A Systematic Interpretation, Jon Stewart not only analyzes Hegel's Phenomenology in chapter-by-chapter fashion but he also provides a compelling argument as to why even individual sections of the book can only be interpreted in the context of the unity of the work as a whole. [End Page 597]
Stewart views the Phenomenology as a continuation of Kant's project in the first Critique, claiming that Kant did not go far enough in uncovering and justifying the necessary conditions of understanding. Thus, Stewart sees the Phenomenology as a transcendental argument. Like Kant, Hegel is concerned with truth and objectivity but in each subsequent chapter of the Phenomenology, according to Stewart, Hegel takes the reader through a different determination of objectivity.
Perhaps most important is Stewart's view of Hegel's notion of "Absolute Knowing," the last section of the Phenomenology. Eschewing theological or metaphysical interpretations or interpretations according to which history comes to an end or some type of divine knowledge is attained, Stewart impressively argues that, for Hegel, absolute knowing means that self-consciousness has finally arrived at the point at which all of the conditions for cognition have been unpacked and that self-consciousness sees these conditions in their necessary systematic and developmental unity. As such, "Absolute Knowing" is merely backward looking; self-consciousness comes to realize all of the forms that knowledge has taken in the past and how this past relates to the way in which self-consciousness cognizes at present. Thus, the Phenomenology, on Stewart's view, is a ladder from common sense to science; it completes a deduction of the categories of thought—universality, particularity, and individuality—that are present in all forms of human thinking in all time periods.
At the beginning of this work, Stewart summarizes Hegel's life and works, as well as discusses the Kantian background of Hegel's project as a whole. The subsequent chapters of his book parallel the major divisions in the Phenomenology. Each chapter and each of the various subsections within the chapters—again always paralleling Hegel's work—begins with a brief overview of what Stewart sees as the goal toward which Hegel is progressing in the particular section of the Phenomenology. He then provides an account of the "Notion" or paradigm of truth that Hegel presently criticizes. Accordingly, the author addresses the dialectic by which the particular Notion is sublated or overcome. It is in this section that Stewart explicitly sets out whenever possible the In-Itself, the For-Itself, and the In-Itself-For-Itself moments of the dialectic. Stewart always makes an explicit attempt at discussing what is at issue in the dialectical moment, say, either an irreconcilable split between immediacy and mediacy or between universal and particular. Finally, he ends each chapter or subsequent section with a review of what Hegel has done and how this, then, leads into the next section of the work.
In the course of this study, Stewart admirably argues for why the Phenomenology should not be regarded as a "patchwork," by convincingly demonstrating the intricate unity of Hegel's Phenomenology. He shows how Hegel always returns to a similar structure—using, in fact, the very same categories—even in some of the parts of the book that scholars or certain schools of interpretation have tended to dismiss. In the chapter of his book that addresses the first formal chapter of the Phenomenology, "Consciousness," Stewart argues that each of the three subdivisions in the chapter focuses on, respectively, 1) being, 2) the one and the many, and...