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Fr. 399

September 24, 2013

From this exposition of science, it becomes clear that foundationalism in science is of a different nature than one had believed for ground and result stand in seemingly variable relations to one another. To this end, Hegel strives to show that, as in the case of the first science, the ground depends on the result as much as the result depends on the ground. For, in the science of spirit in its appearance, the ground of empirical sensuous consciousness holds within itself as a sort of potentiality or foreshadowing all that which is to be exposed in the unfolding of spirit as subjectivity slowly dilates so as to encompass all of the world or being in the result of absolute knowing. Although, in this way, absolute subjectivity can be said to depend on the empirical consciousness for the orientation and shape of its unfolding, as its presupposition, the case reveals itself to be  more complicated when attention shifts to a different manner of posing the question.

In fact, this manner is itself the inverse formulation whereby empirical consciousness depends on absolute subjectivity insofar as consciousness only achieves those shapes latently contained within it (in indeterminate form) through the subsequent manifestation and sublation of these forms in absolute subjectivity. Furthermore, this end attained, absolute subjectivity qua mediated immediacy lapses back into that original unity and can itself be seen as lending empirical consciousness the precise form and latent content that will be developed on the path. Thus, not only can empirical consciousness be seen to depend on absolute subjectivity in a weak version of this inverse thesis, but, on a strong version, absolute subjectivity can also be seen as depending only on itself as an self-grounding activity without recourse to any external ground.

Accordingly, science can be seen to have a circular form in that ground depends on result as much as result depends on ground where the beginning is an “ever present self-preserving ground” perpetuated in both beginning and end, which proves to be the justification of the truth presupposed in that beginning. This movement from immediate or abstract through mediated to the concrete is precisely that which comes to be identified as “dialectic” in Hegel. That said, Hegel is quick to distinguish his method from that of other contemporaries. Although both he and his contemporaries (notably Reinhold) are in agreement that justification of a beginning or ground is not to be found through maintaining it dogmatically, Hegel distances himself from the latter in holding that one cannot simply set out from any beginning and arrive at an end by which the preceding is justified. If this is, in general, the shape of the dialectic method in both Reinhold and certain of the Platonic dialogues, for Hegel, this method must unfold in accordance with necessity, and, so, a contingent starting point is not guaranteed to come to proper justification.

Certainly, one could set out from any point and arrive at some justifying, but this end is unlikely to entertain some larger explanatory relation to the whole such that the status of necessary might be accorded to it in virtue of this relation. To this end, Hegel deems that the only truly necessary development and end are those that set out from an immediate beginning, which disqualifies the starting points of his philosophical brethren, such as Reinhold and his philosophy of the elements and Fichte and his account of the pure “I”. The reasoning behind their disqualification proves quite simple: in these grounds or beginnings, there is already at work an impressive mediation. Whereas Reinhold’s account escapes direct critique, Hegel draws specific attention to Fichte’s “I” and demonstrates the extent to which this pure “I” is anything but immediate. On one hand, the content of this pure “I” already draws on a network of mediated terms in that this “I” is drawn up along the subject-object divide. On the other, while the pure “I” is held to be known to every individual in its most immediate, Hegel claims that each individual, when confronted with this “I” abstracts from it or ascribes to it different qualities, showing that, on an individual basis, there is already another level of mediation at work therein.

These conclusions made, Hegel then challenges his opponents to find another immediate beginning other than the one he himself proposes, i.e. being. Lacking an immediate response, Hegel himself proposes a final candidate: pure beginning or beginning itself. In the end, does it come to the same thing to start from beginning or being?


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