Hegel's Dialectic and Its Criticism

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Cambridge University Press, 1984 - Philosophy - 190 pages
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Hegel's philosophy has often been compared to a circle of circles: an ascending spiral to its admirers, but a vortex to its critics. The metaphor reflects Hegel's claim to offer a conception of philosophical reason so comprehensive as to include all others as partial forms of itself. It is a claim which faces the writer on Hegel with peculiar difficulties. Criticism, it would appear, can always be outflanked; criticism of the system can be turned back into criticism within the system. Michael Rosen discusses the philosophical issues involved in historical interpretation before presenting a novel and challenging solution to the problem of Hegel's openness to criticism. Contrary to received opinion, Hegel's philosophy does not, he argues, draw upon a universal and pre-suppositionless conception of rationality. Rather, Hegel's originality lies in founding his system upon a particular, avowedly mystical conception of philosophical experience. This experience - Hegel calls it 'pure Thought' - is fundamental. Pure Thought makes speculative reasoning intelligible and, hence, underpins the claim to rationality of the entire system. Dr Rosen's conclusion is that all attempts at rehabilitation of Hegel are based on misunderstanding. When restored to their speculative-mystical shell the irrational kernel of Hegel's concepts becomes apparent.

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I read this book soon after it first appeared having recently finished a philosophy degree and it helped me to approach Hegel using the tools of the then current linguistic/analytic philosophy. The author compares Hegel and Theodor Adorno in terms of their departures from so-called ordinary language, regarding them as ultimately defective in method, but far from meaningless, as the positivist and some later accounts of metaphysical prose would have it. The work may be a little dated now in terms of philosophy of language, but served me well as an introduction to and commentary on an important and many-sided thinker. 


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The Dialectical Movement
Imageless Truth
From Being to Nothingness and Back Again
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