Thursday, June 9, 2011

Notes on Hegel: A VeryShort Introduction

The following are notes I took while reading Hegel: A Very Short Introduction.

Kant - we know the world through a framework of space and time which does not exist outside of ourselves. We never know the “thing-in-itself.” Hegel does not believe there is a thing-in-itself. Anything that is can be known by the mind. In fact, mind, or spirit, is all that truly exists.

For Hegel, history is not a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing - history means something and is the development of the consciousness of freedom.

“In the face of the demands of the state for outward conformity, freedom can only be found by retreating into oneself, by taking refuge in a philosophy such as Stoicism or Skepticism. The details of these philosophies is not important; what is important is their common tendency to pooh-pooh everything that the real world has to offer - riches, political power, worldly glory - and to substitute an ideal of living which makes the adherent absolutely indifferent to anything the outside world can do.”

Isaiah Berlin - negative freedom - the ability to do what one please. Hegel questions where we get these desires, this will to do things. We may be free in that we can act on our desires, but if we do not control our desires, are we free?

Liberal Economists - an economic system is good to the extent that it allows people to satisfy their preferences

Radical Economists - must analyze people's preferences to understand how they got them and try to develop preferences that truly benefit man and his potential

Hegel - “The need for greater comfort does not exactly arise within you directly; it is suggested to you by those who hope to make a profit from its creation.”

History is the development of the mind, and what happens happens necessarily.

Modern western idea of mind - Descartes - I think therefore I exist - I can doubt everything about the external world, but I can’t doubt there is an I that doubts - created distinction between mind and world.

Hegel’s phenomenology of mind/spirit - study of how the mind appears to itself, for when we seek to study the mind, we are still studying appearances. “The aim of philosophy is the actual knowledge of what truly is.” If knowledge is an instrument through which we connect with the world, does the instrument alter the object or how we can experience or use it? Knowledge appears to be a medium through which we observe “reality.” One possible way out of this problem is to discover the distortion effect of the instrument (knowledge) and subtract the difference, for instance, looking at a stick through water, knowing the law of refraction; however this cannot be done with knowing the world. Kant said that we must know the instrument before knowing the world, but Hegel says this is like trying to learn to swim while standing in dry land before going into the ocean.

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