First, thanks Jon for the chart. At one point, I toyed with the idea of making a “centerfold” chart of where each thinker falls along the various theses, but it didn’t come to anything. If I’m reading it correctly, it looks like columns d & e are flip sides of each other, where d prepares the ground for and motivates the move to e. And great Safranski quote—I haven’t read the book, but that quote sums up the ideas I was trying to express very nicely. I know nothing about Fitch’s Paradox, including what it is and why it’s paradoxical, so I’ll just sidestep that discussion, shelving it for later investigation.
I agree that the move Hegel, Nietzsche, and early Heidegger make in rejecting noumena (R1) somewhat resembles Berkeley’s claim that we have to examine what we really mean when we say that something exists, & that if we do, what we will find is much closer to their views than to realism, despite realism’s appearance of holding a monopoly on common sense. In effect, it’s a matter of shifting the burden from defending the reduction of reality to mere appearance (a realist’s view of idealism/anti-realism) to justifying the postulation of a world behind the world, one we can never see, hear, smell, touch, or taste, can never have any knowledge of, and which, qua noumena, can never impact us in any way (focusing on the theoretical for now), and yet which not only exists but constitutes the really real reality. Then, without a noumenal realm providing an invidious contrast with the world we experience, the “mere” attached to “mere appearance” or “merely apparent reality” drops away, and we are just left with the world. Hegel allows for reality unknown, but not in principle unknowable, arguing that all we mean by unknown reality is what we will eventually run across at some point in human inquiry. Like Peirce, the only sense we can make of an absolutely true account of the world is what we find at the ideal end of inquiry. The division between noumenon and phenomenon is not ontological, but temporal, historical.
One of Hegel’s criticisms is that Kant leaves this gap forever gaping: rather than solving skepticism, Kant actually seals it into place (this is what I take Alexei to mean when he says, “they remain subjective, rather than objective”). The other criticism has to do with the categories, and here the criticism is rather complex. Kant argues, particularly in his moral work, that any factors merely given to us, what we find ourselves “thrown” into in Heidegger’s term, compromise our autonomy. Kant attributes the categorical imperative to our “true and proper self,” but this self itself is something I am thrown into as well. Asserting my identity with this command-issuing self doesn’t escape the problem; I must have chosen it for it to come from me, for my obedience not to be heteronomous. Instead of simply being issued these particular categories & imperative at birth, they must somehow come from me, a conundrum Hegel solves through history. Over the course of generations, various conceptions of how to understand the world have arisen, grown to the point of exposing internal flaws, and then fallen before new ideas, which go on to suffer the same fate. This has been the long self-education/formation (Bildung) of Geist, ie, us qua collectively thinking species. And this millennia-long conversation has finally come to self-awareness with Hegel’s discovery of the process, ontogeny recapitulating phylogeny in its entirety, which we then do by reading PS (as Alexei says).
Hegel preserves Kant’s great insight of A5 Active Knower, as Mikhail suggests, but discards R1 noumena and R3 a single way of organizing the world. By ED paying attention to the concepts people have used to capture experience at different times in history, we discover a panoply of categories. As someone said, Kant has some trouble explaining why so many people got so much science wrong when every normal human ever born has Euclidean geometry and Newtonian physics hardwired into them. Similarly, why the relatively early discovery of the former when it took so long to reach the latter? Figuring out these bodies of knowledge is no snap on Kant’s system since ED we have no direct intuition of them, but must follow the tracks they leave on phenomena, but it does imply that physicists before Newton ignored what was right before their eyes. I think Kant would respond as Mikhail does, that the categories he names are so basic that all scientific, as well as mundane explanations, employ them. We’re all talking about things causing other things to happen, even if one person sees the gods taking revenge where another sees atmospheric electrical discharge. I believe that Hegel’s response would be that that very fact shows Kant’s categories to be abstract to the point of virtual contentlessness. Hegel takes ED deeper and further than Kant (the crack about Scholasticus learning to swim outside the water), insisting that we examine the categories actually employed by specific sciences (fore-shadowing Foucault’s method).
Gary Williams writes, “Historical evolution was “necessary” because if it had been any different, we would either not be here or would be talking about things very differently and furthermore, we can’t accept bivalence because we need to approach earlier cultures with the linguistic relativism of Sapir-Whorf.”
I don’t think I’m following you here. The course of intellectual evolution was necessary for Hegel because it obeys the internal logic of the ideas; no matter where you begin, your tributary of thought will eventually run into this stream, ending up at the self-awareness of the course itself. Nor is he a relativist. His rejection of bivalence is precisely due to the fact that every historical instantiation of attempts to know the world is partially successful, tho none (until him) entirely so. Each perspective gets part of the story, but none gets it all, hence each has a mixture of truth and falsity. Rather than the relativist who refuses to judge the validity of other ways of knowing from the outside, Hegel feels fully entitled to evaluate the degree of truth each achieves by seeing how close it comes to the end result. While the teleological element is rather troubling, I find the idea that categories solidify out of the conversations of generations (as Gadamer & Popper later say) a very persuasive account of knowledge. I think the end-point just happening to arrive with Hegel’s thought is universally rejected, esp. by the post-modernists, so I disagree with Mikhail’s claim that it is widely accepted, or did I misunderstand your point? Gadamer gets it right when he proclaims himself a fan of the bad infinity, of Hegel with his head cut off. Just as Hegel takes some elements from Kant & leaves others, so later thinkers do the same with Hegel, as the rest of my book tries to show.
Jon Cogburn writes, “I wonder if Heidegger’s epochs are really different conceptual schemes. Heidegger does take himself to be able to describe what he takes to be the Greek way of thinking of being, the medieval way, and the Cartesian way. So difference in conceptual scheme can’t be incommensurability here. Or can it?”
The last section of my chapter on early Heidegger tries to address this issue by setting up a dialogue between him & Davidson, who frames the issue of alternate conceptual schemes in terms of untranslatability. Of course, once these ideas are identified, the notion of a meaning that we can’t get at becomes a semantic noumenon, which is hardly palatable. In order to talk about differences, we must be able to talk about them. However, Davidson wants to identify talking about someone’s ideas with simply translating them into one’s own language, using already existing terms in their standard sense and without remainder of any kind, a very uncharitable and unrealistic conception of translation (Forster’s great on this). The middle path accepts alternate meanings that we can grasp & translate, but only with a great deal of work and with holistic repercussions on our words used to translate. For a very brief example, think of Aristotle’s arête. Excellence and/or virtue don’t capture it. The only way to grasp the idea is by learning a lot of Aristotle and using aspects of a bunch of English words to build a parallel idea where their connotations overlap. We don’t have to fall into Davidson’s dilemma where either you can’t talk about alternative ideas or, if you talk about them, then they aren’t genuinely alternative.
On the issue of religion, I’m rather hard-nosed & immanent in my reading of Hegel (I can’t remember if this makes me a left or right or young or old Hegelian). He says that religion gets the ideas right, but puts them in the wrong format, in particular in the immature format of stories. Philosophy takes the correct ideas but dusts them off of all anthropomorphic pictures. The second coming/going to heaven represents the union of known & unknown, phenomenon & noumenon that comes at the ideal end of history. At this point, humanity becomes God since there will be nothing beyond us (absolute literally means ab solus, by itself), which is the true meaning of the incarnation. But this really isn’t my area of expertise.