On Obscenity of Public Philosophical “Errors”


Commenter (“Happeh Kemp”) brings up an interesting point regarding the obscenity of Schelling’s philosophical systems:

Hegel actually commented on Schelling that he has “has undergone his philosophical education before the public”. He thought, that the constant publishing of a thinking system “in process” was kind of obscene… Showing the process, like maybe Schelling did, is like a kind of practical critique on the genius idea and showing that philosophy is also just a kind of craftsmanship and therefore delegitimizing a lot of the status and power the philosophers think of possessing rightfully.

I both agree and disagree with the sentiment. As we saw from some recent attempts to create a new philosophy, blogging has been proposed as a kind of “philosophical laboratory” for new ideas to be discussed and worked-out. People were posting about their new “ontologies” (the word “ontology” – like the term “system” – should never really be in plural since it purports to encompass everything; and, needless to say, it should never have possessive pronoun added to it, i.e. “my” ontology or “our” ontology – I think it works for “system” as well – it’s not Hegel’s system, it’s the system). But there is a reason these “experiments” are not ready, so why share them with the world? My own intuition is that it is just to show “the world” you have ideas to share, i.e. to establish some sort of credibility with the big other who is judging it all…

Think about the obscenity of Fichte’s “systems”? Which one is the definitive Wissenschaftslehre? I have a Russian addition that puts all the major ones together. It looks and reads like a philosophical wreck, like someone who constantly starts and stops. It sure would not have looked like that if all we had was one final definitive, Fichte-approved version.

Kant took a while to articulate his ideas for the first critique, and even then we had to redo it for the second edition. There was a reason he took a while – he needed to articulate it and it took him decades.

So Hegel had ideas to publish but did not publish them. And we do know that Hegel was absolutely desperate to publish at the time of Jena lectures. His “Logic and Metaphysics” lectures of 1805-06 are, from what I recall, in clear prepared-for-publication form and this is where the argument is that he decided not to publish because he was about to discover “his” logic.

He did in fact publish very little during his life. Again, I forget the source but I saw it in several introductions – Hegel only published two books (PhG and Logic), the rest was based on lectures. I might again be misremembering.

Final thought: no one wants to see anyone else’s “thoughts in the making” – the only reason we tolerate it in Hegel’s case is because he is Hegel, so we do so retrospectively. I think we do know very well that thoughts don’t just pop us out of the blue, that they have history, that they go into dead ends and so on. I say work it out, articulate it clearly, take some time and then share them…

2 thoughts on “On Obscenity of Public Philosophical “Errors”

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