The Standpoint (teleology or causa finalis) and the Method of Hegel’s Philosophy

i) Hegel adopted a new principle of philosophy = Spirit. Hegel’s Geist (Spirit) does develop itself in the perspective of time such that it will completely actualize itself through a variety of stages. Of this notion of spirit Hegel conceived perhaps from Schelling’s intuition, although Hegel severely criticized Schelling’s intuition itself. This Spirit, therefore, has the purpose (telos) and meaning to be actualized. In this sense, his basic conception came from Leibniz and Fichte, or even from Aristotle. Now reality according to Hegel, is to be understood not by means of the principle of the mechanical efficient causality, but teleological causality. This is a great leap in the development of the Western philosophy.

It is generally said that in Hegel’s philosophy, Intellectualism had risen once again with full strength, which, however, must be understood that Hegel often talked about Reason synonymous with Spirit as the principle of philosophy, but Hegel’s Spirit is no longer the same Reason as that of Enlightenment or even as Kant’s notion. The notion of reason according to Enlightenment is understood to be the cognitive faculty of things. How was Hegel overcome the narrow, dogmatic, self-deceptive reason of Enlightenment? Finally in his Phenomenology of Spirit, Hegel completely discarded the principle of the linear, mechanical causality (causa efficiens) in reality and tried to see rather the meaning and purpose in reality in itself. The most important thing here is that Hegel discovered the telos of reason and called this telos of reason the Spirit or the absolute Idea.

The first edition of the Phenomenology of Spirit bore the title, Phenomenology of Experience of Spirit (Phänomenologie der Erfahrung des Geistes). Spirit develops itself in and through Experience! This will be discussed later more in detail.

Hegel’s most fundamental radical approach is to grasp reality as such not by means of a simple intuition or mere empty concepts (like the reason of Enlightenment). In contrast, in Hegel’s philosophy, it is the Spirit that, in and through Experience, organically unifies the various elements of reality in the process of development through articulating their relationships which both distinguish and relate of its element to each other to the unity at the same time.

Why and how was this accomplished? Here is an important departure of Hegel’s philosophy from its predecessors. Namely, he saw much more clearly the meaning and purpose in reality than any other predecessors. Instead of the linear, mechanical efficient causality (to view a sequence of events as a real mechanical event of the purposeless nature), Hegel replaced it by the principle of the teleological causality. To Hegel, it was his task to overcome and liberate philosophy from the tyranny of the liner, mechanical, efficient causality (with the reason of Enlightenment in reality) and rediscover the significance of teleology and the purposeful, meaningful developments in the nature of reality. It is interesting to note that this has been long forgotten or not noticed despite his obvious endeavors.

This was accomplished by his extremely extended meaning of Reason (which is a result of the synthesis of Schelling’s intuition (which is the basis of the philosophy of identity) and Leibniz’ notion of “la raison” as principle and then Fichte’s use of “Vernunft” as volition) and his pregnant notion and function of Negation. To be sure, Hegel’s method, in comparison to Schelling for example, definitely “intellectualistic” (in the sense in which Logic seemed to become more dominant than intuition and creative imagination) and yet Hegel’s reflections on and elaborations of the new logic are serious, well-thought-out responses to the complexity and the totality of the human reality in the temporal sequence.

By extensively working out the meaning of negation, Hegel was successfully elucidating reality and its principle of Spirit as a gradual, historical process with the series of steps in which Spirit evolves as self-actualizing. Reality is now understood not by either-or, but by the perpetual motion between the contradictories as from one to the other.

It is the traditional opinion that Hegel and Leibniz are the two classic representatives of Intellectualistic Worldview with encyclopedic knowledge. In the midst of “rationalism” in the narrow sense, Leibniz also the philosopher who saw the purpose and meaning of the being and reality.

Despite their similarity of motivation of philosophy, in Leibniz, the ontologically pluralistic viewpoint is more prominent, while in Hegel the objective-cosmological viewpoint seems dominant. Leibniz wanted to see reality in terms of the unique, finite individual spirit. Hegel wanted to see reality in terms of the entire history of humankind as well as the history of intellectual development in terms of philosophy (the pursuit of wisdom).According to Leibniz, the ultimate reality, the monad, was conceived and understood from the viewpoint to the infinite number of the individualistic-unique entities. In contrast, Hegel’s philosophical inquiry was directed toward comprehending reality as the comprehensive, entire process of development in the universe and its variety of expression of the absolute spirit as a whole with its own purpose. This reality was understood as the cosmos in the historical evolution by Hegel.

While Leibniz inferred the nature of representation in all the things from the nature of representation in the individual mind, Hegel attempted to draw from reality the universal, absolute Spirit itself which endeavors to fulfill the purpose and meaning of becoming the expression of Spirit (= Geist) that each individual spirit (= Geist) has its own task at its own stage to actualize itself through the series of thought’s objectification.(In this, we recognize Schelling’s influences)
According to Hegel, what is rational is real (=the full actualization of the potential, implicit nature of Spirit), and what is real is rational (=the reality understood as the pregnant self-expression of Spirit).

Hegel was trying to see reality and its principle by means of the synthesis of two different ideas: The one of the philosophy of identity (from Schelling) and this identical articulates itself in the process of history as the totality of inevitable self-expressions of the identical Spirit.

Was vernunftig ist, das ist wirklich, während was wirklich ist, das ist vernunftig. (Grundlinien der Philosophie des Rechts, Vorrede §. 17)

a) At first, the Absolute (=the absolute Spirit) – das Absolute oder die logische Idee – exists as the abstract system of concepts prior to the concrete, actual world.
b) Next, this Absolute comes down to or reveals itself at the level of Nature and the unconscious,
c) The Absolute then further actualizes itself and is awaken as Consciousness through the lower stage of cognition to the higher ones such as in the form of Sensation, Perception, Consciousness to Self-Consciousness – Selbstbewußtsein– in the human,

d) It actualizes Itself as the content of that absolute Idea in the social institution,

e) Finally It enriches Itself in Philosophy, Religion and Arts and returns to Itself as the completely actualized and articulated Absolute (Spirit).
Thus, the Idea (the abstract Notion of Spirit) attained the higher, highest Absoluteness than at first.
This, the Highest Product of Philosophy, cannot be expressed in religion, morality, arts as they are pre-stages to that of philosophy.
What is meant by the concept of the Absolute (=Spirit) can only be adequately expressed by Philosophy (Philosophical Analyses and Presentations). This contention has lead many Hegel scholars to the belief that Hegel’s approach was indeed intellectual.

ii) The Three Basic Characteristics

The following three propositions as being contained in the development of the most fundamental theme of Hegel’s philosophy, which purports that all the beings are beings by being thought (gedacht sein) and that all the generations are developments of thought (= Denken or Reason):

a) Idealism

The object of philosophical inquiry and knowledge is the idea (= die Idee, the absolute Idea=Spirit).
Philosophy aims at clarifying the concepts, the purposes and the meanings of various phenomena and further at revealing the places of those phenomena in the system of sciences (= philosophy) as well as in the locations of the universe.
Main concern is directed to elucidate which of the value hierarchy and which stage of the development a certain thing belongs to.

Its method is teleological and critical (evaluative).

The conceptual, teleological explanation is attained in philosophy, instead of mechanical causal explanation.

In short, Hegel’s approach is Idealism.

b) Philosophy of Identity

Everything real is an expression of one and the same absolute, live Spirit, and

if everything is one of the stages of development of or Spirit or thought (Denken),
then thought (Denken= Spirit) and being is one and the same.

In short, Hegel’s philosophy is also ultimately Philosophy of Identity.

To stipulate the differences between Schelling’s and Hegel’s philosophy of identity, there are many. Hegel’s identity is a complex, well articulated whole.

c) The Actualization of Parmenides’ Identity of Being and Thought in the Teleological Development

If the world is thought’s generating process of itself, and philosophy is the expression of this process, then philosophy is the Scientific Doctrine of the Development of the Thought (= Reason or Spirit). Or It is the theory of progress or self-actualization of Spirit.
If any one thing actualizes itself as a certain stage of thought, everything real is rational (as an essential moment of Reason), and if the World Process attains its highest in Philosophy and Philosophy attains the System of the Absolute in Idealism, then what is Rational obtains the actualized form in the Absolute Idealism through the various stages of development.

So What is real is rational and What is rational is real. (“Was vernünftig ist, das ist wirklich; und was wirklich ist, das is vernünftig.” Vorrede zu Grundlinien der Philosophie des Rechts, S. 17>).

Thus Parmenides claim of the absolute Identity of Being and Thought (Reason) is, according to Hegel, ultimately realized in the process of the world history.

iii) The Differences from Hegel’s Predecessors.The three fundamental characteristics of Hegel’s philosophical approach:

1) Idealism of Spirit,
2) Sophisticated Philosophy of Identity,
3) Optimistic, Teleological Progressivism
4) The Further Expansion of the Meaning of Reason beyond the Limit of Tradition

Then, how does Hegel differ from his predecessors, from Schelling in particular?

a) Uniqueness of Hegel’s Idealism of Spirit.

In Schelling’s philosophy the subject of development is Nature, and its ultimate stage is Arts (a clear influence from the Romantic Movements).
Schelling’s Idealism is in a sense physical(=physisch), mystical and aesthetic dynamism.

Fichte’s Idealism is ethical fundamentalism.

In contrast to those two predecessors of Hegel’s philosophy, Hegel’s idealism is the Logicalization of the world (die Logizierung der Welt), i.e., It is often called a Panlogismus. It is an attempt to comprehend reality by means of the totality developed by logical structure.
However, Kroner views Hegel’s philosophy as Philosophy of Life (die Lebensphilosophie) and Irrationalism. Kojièv also took a different view of Hegel’s philosophy such that in the post WWII France, phenomenological movements and existential philosophies arose from Kojièv’s influence.

b) Die Identitätsphilosophie – Sophisticated Philosophy of Identity-

The Philosophy of Identity is a philosophical system which purports that Spirit and Nature, the Ideal and the Real, or subjectivity and objectivity, are ultimately one and the same (in their essence) and they are mere two distinct appearances of the Absolute above and beyond the two.

i) Predominance of Spirit over Nature
During the period of his philosophy of identity, Schelling dealt with the Real and the Ideal as the equals in their rights.
Hegel somewhat revived Fichte’s thought and subordinated Nature to Spirit, the Real to the Ideal, or objectivity to subjectivity, whereby the former is less developed than the latter in a certain sense.
Hegel disagrees with Fichte, however, by insisting on that Fichte “disdained” Nature.
According to Hegel, Nature is neither equal to Spirit, nor a mere means or instrument –das Mittel.
On the contrary, Nature is one of the essential and inevitable stages of the process in which the Absolute (Spirit) goes through in actualizing itself.

ii) Nature as The Idea in other being
Nature is, according to Hegel, the Notion or mere Idea of the Absolute or Spirit which is undeveloped, thus a being or an idea in other being – die Idee im Anderssein.
In this self-alienated mode of being, Spirit itself becomes Nature as one of its necessary stages of development in order to become the conscious, actual Spirit. The Absolute (Spirit) was a mere Notion before it becomes Nature. The Absolute there was der Geist an sich, the Spirit being itself or in its potency, but not yet der Geist für sich, the Spirit being for itself, i.e., being actualized.

The Absolute was the Idea or Spirit. What is idealistic is the dawn of the Real’s night and is the evening prior to the Real’s night. The Absolute in concept begins to develop itself from the stage of das Ansichsein (the being in-self = the being in potency) through the stage of the being-in-other – das Aussersichsein = das Anderssein – to the total self actualization stage of das an und für sich Sein. Reason or Spirit, according to Hegel, develops Itself through three stages and first exists as the logical system of concepts, then exists as Nature (the-being-in-other or for itself), and finally exists in and for Itself as the live Spirit –der lebendige Geist.

Hegel’s Philosophy of Identity differs from Schelling’s in the following three points:

a) Hegel subordinates Nature to Spirit
b) Hegel construes the Absolute at the beginning not as undifferentiated between the Real and the Ideal like in Schelling’s philosophy. On the contrary, according to Hegel, the Absolute reveals Itself explicitly primarily as the Ideal, as the civita de contemplatio aeternitatis.
c) The optimistic progressivism

It is contended that Hegel conceived the process of Reality’s development as modelling after the Judeo-Christian Eschatology, the view by which the history had the beginning and made progress and would come to an end in the sense of perfection. The process of development of the Absolute is such that in that process, the succeeding stage is always higher and more comprehensive than the preceding one. In this sense, Hegel’s standpoint is often called the optimistic progressivism. This characterization is rather superficial and needs more careful examination later.

iv) About Dialectic

Hegel exploited the Principle of Development of Thesis-Antithesis-Synthesis originated by Fichte, explored further by Schelling. This Principle of Development Hegel called die dialektische Methode – dialectical method – or die Dialektik – dialectic.

a) Socrates used hé dialektikéin the sense that the two souls would pick one tentative definition for what is, and discuss, examine its faults, then further examine various definitions of a universal concept one after another until the two who are participating in the dialogue would ultimately come to a clear understanding of something real, such as truth, justice, good, beauty, etc. It’s process was taken mutually step by step correcting the error(s) at each stage of the definition in the search of the ultimate arrival at the objective true understanding of what it really is.

b) Plato employed the term, hé dialektiké, in the context of the theory of ideas such that it refers to the highest philosophical method to start with a lower, narrower concept, gradually climbing up higher and higher, ultimately to attain the first principle or the highest idea of agathon ‹Good‹ (See The Republic Bk 7 and 8).
Plato rather faithfully followed the way of Socrates, although Plato developed it in accordance with his doctrine of ideas. Thus in Socrates-Plato ‘s use of dialectics had a very positive meaning as the method essential to pursuing their philosophical inquiries into truth.

c) Aristotle used the dialectics in a negative sense. In opposition to analytics or a syllogism, he used hé dialektikéin one sense as synonymous with his notion of induction. In other context, Aristotle even meant by the dialectic to often connote the sophistry, while the analytic’s object is the deduction of the argument from the true premisses (particularly in syllogism). Sometimes in Metaphysics for example, however, Aristotle used the dialectic in the Socratic-Platonic sense in that we would recourse to the most fundamental principle by dialectics.

d) In the Middle Ages, the dialectics meant the Formal Logic. In the similar use may be found in Henri Bergson in 19th Century/20th Century, according to whom la dialectique and l’intuitionas philosophical method are put in opposition.

e) Kant accepted Aristotelian distinction of analytics and dialectics and used the dialectic in the negative sense following Aristotle. Contrary to the transcendental analytics which reveals the conditions for possibility of sciences as the critique of understanding, Kant employed the transcendental dialectics to refer to the critique of the transcendental illusion (Schein), namely the critique of the misuses of Reason beyond the scope of our possible experience. Soul, the world, and God are the three transcendental illusion.

f) Hegel used the dialectics in the positive sense that the dialectics is the scientific application of the universal law rooted in the nature of our thinking.
To Hegel, the law of thinking is at the same time further the principle of reality. This principle or the law – die Gesetzlichkeit-has the three stages of development,

the Thesis,
Antithesis, and
This law itself and its scientific applications are called die Dialektik.

Why Hegel considered that the dialectics was the authentic way of speculative thinking dealing with the Absolute Reason is mainly because Hegel derived the conception of dialectics from his “critical comparison” between the three forms of philosophies dominant at his preceding time: Namely, the one was the philosophy of enlightenment which culminated in Kant, another was Fichte’s activity of Self through dialectic, and the last was Schelling’s philosophy of identity. Both did not satisfied Hegel.

Hegel agreed with Schelling in terms of the content and the materials of philosophy because the object of philosophical knowledge is one and same reality, accepted from the philosophy of Enlightenment the concepts of philosophy which articulate themselves in reality, and finally the principle of reality is, as Fichte considered, is an active Self, which teleological develops itself through dialectic.
Hegel followed Schelling in that philosophy must be a metaphysics, i.e., the Science of the Absolute and its being in the world (das Innersein des Absoluten in der Welt) and Philosophy is the Science of Identity of the Opposites and the Science not only of the Phenomenal World but also of the Thing in Itself.

However, to Hegel, the forms Schelling provided for philosophy seemed to be unscientific, unsystematic. For Schelling founded the scientific knowledge on the genius’ Intuition. However, according to Hegel, no science is possible by Intuition.
On the other hand, what Hegel was in accord with the Philosophy of Enlightenment is its respect for the Formal Rigor (Logic) of Philosophy (the concepts with its system) as The Science.

Science (= Philosophy) must consist of concrete concepts, not of abstract concepts.
However, Kant, together with the other Philosophers of Enlightenment, stood on the basis of Reflection as the philosophical method.
In reflection, the opposition between the being and thinking, the dichotomy between the finite and infinite, may never be resolved.
Therefore, the Absolute is transcendent and the human reason can not recognize the authentic nature of the things.

Hegel would like to synthesize

1) the strength of Schelling’s Philosophy of Identity

2) the advantage of the Philosophy of Enlightenment (the concepts and their articulations)


3) dynamic development and teleological evolution of the live Subject (from Fichte)

Shchelling was right, according to Hegel, that he proposes the reality is an evolution of self-identical primary Ground. Although Schelling’s intuition as the philosophical method can only grasp the concrete, particular, immediate or unmediated (unvermittelt – unmittelbar) knowledge, what Schelling was gazing at as the genuine reality as self identical was the so-called live Spirit according to Hegel.
Reason of the Enlightenment was the cognitive faculty of things. The concepts of the Philosophy of Enlightenment can deal only with the knowledge of the empty, the abstract and the universal.
What is to be done is to eliminate the unmidiatedness in Schelling’s intuitive knowledge and at the same time is to overcome the non-intuitive, empty abstractness of the concepts in the Philosophy of Enlightenment.

Thus, the concrete being which is mediated by the universal concepts, namely the concrete concepts (konkrete Begriffe) in the sense of Kantian intuitive understanding, are to be achieved, according to Hegel, in order to truly establish the System of Science (the genuine System of Philosophy).

What we need is, maintained Hegel, the concept which seeks not the empty, mere universal abstracted from the particular, but the very universal which is multiply mediated by and actually related to the concrete particular with articulation in itself.
It would be the concept which does not place the infinite unreachably transcendent from the finite world, nor places and expresses the essence of the infinite behind the phenomena, but reveals itself as it actually is in the concrete phenomena themselves.

This is called the concrete concept.

The philosophy of reflection in which their concepts are abstract and “dead” merely reveals the partial, fragmentary unrelated fraction of reality. Thus such philosophy of reflection looks at the opposition as the irreconcilable, while Schelling’s Philosophy of Identity viewed the opposites as unmidiatedly (immediately) identical and does not see the articulateness and conceptual interrelationship of reality.
In other words, either one of the two positions are by themselves insufficient, as they do not deal with reality as a whole and as it actually is.
The concrete concept transposes the opposite by mediation into the identity and teaches us to recognize the identity as the consequence of a developing process whose universal law purports the three stages of being, the stage of the immediate identity, secondly that of the disruption or the self-alienation of itself from itself and finally that of the reconciliation and the mediated unification of the articulated totality. This process of development and its principle is called dialectics.

4) The Theory of Dialectics.

The universal principle of development and its development itself is called die Dialektik. This is the central operative concept in Hegel’s philosophy. Hegel attempted to eliminate the opposition between the philosophy of reflection and the philosophy of intuition by his conceptual and well articulated concrete speculative thinking.
There are three aspects in this opposition:

i) The Faculty of Philosophical Knowledge

When we look back the history of Western philosophy, there are three elements which may influence Hegel to develop his own Spirit as Subject: a) the reflective understanding (Kant’s philosophy of reflection): b) the mysterious intuition by the genius (Schelling’s philosophy of identity): c) the negating Reason (Fichte’s Science of Knowledge). In addition to these, Hegel inherited from Aristotle-Leibniz-Fichte’s teleological causality as the principle of reality. Thus, the faculty of philosophical knowledge is the live Spirit as the Subject which mediates the other through itself. Although Hegel called it also REason, the meaning of cognitive Reason in the Enlightenment philosophy has been greatly modified that it was not only the practical reason, but also the self-developing reason.

ii) The Object of Philosophical Knowledge:

From Hegel’s point of view, the object of philosophical knowledge may be divided into three: a) the phenomenal world which is relative:b) the Absolute which is static substance-like: c) The Absolute as the live Subject

Hegel chose the c), namely the absolute as the live Subject, which starts with the conceptual identity through the disruption (self alienation of itself from itself) into the opposition and then finally returning from the discrimination to the mediated, concrete identity as the totality of the genuine reality. The Absolute is a dynamic process of development. The genuine reality is no other than this dynamic process Itself. So the philosophical system is the expression of this dynamic process. Indeed philosophy must also be a process of the dynamic thinking itself. Philosophy is a system of concepts each of which proceeds from other and moves into another. The dynamic process of thinking itself of itself is the philosophical system.

iii) The Meaning of Contradiction (which is the same as Das Aufheben)

a) excluding contradiction as meaningless
b) arguing for the sheer identity of the contradictories

c) contradiction is the propulsive energy, the source of the dynamic process of the live reality.
Reality is, according to Hegel, the development of the live Subject Itself. It is called the Subject, because it is not a dead reality, but is a constantly active in the life force. Its driving force is no other than the very contradiction, the dynamic relation (and reconciling each other) between the mutually negative opposite. Without contradiction (and its negative force), reality is without life and change.

The genuine reality is full of contradictions.
Contradiction is a propelling power of philosophical thinking.

Contradiction must not be uprooted, but must be aufgehobenabolished – regarding its limitations and elevated-preserved of its essentials: This aufheben is often translated into “sublate”. However, it communicates its only one side of the meaning.).
The opposition must be denied in the way that the opposite are negated and abolished regarding their limitations and the higher unity with the richer, more concrete, better articulate content, whereby the preceding two (opposing) moments constitute the necessary elements of the third. Thus contradiction is overcome.
Any concept, being abstract and one-sided, is by nature limited and this limitation is to be overcome by the dialectical motion of aufheben by negation.
In Hegel’s thought the concept of negation accordingly obtains an extremely significant meaning. The negation is the very driving force of the development (which is the same thing as contradiction).


In this synthesis all the process and its essential elements are contained as its necessary moments. They are articulate, mutually related, distinguished and brought in an organic unity. This is the live Reality and is also called das lebendige Subject als der Geist(Spirit). The world (=Reality) is only known adequately as this process of dialectical movement. In reality as a whole we distinguish die Idee , die Welt und den Geist, (The Idea, The World and The Spirit), but they are one and the same in the primordial way of this process.

die Idee – The Idea –
die Natur – Nature –
der Geist – Spirit –
der subjective Geist– the subjective Spirit
der objective Geist – the objective Spirit
der absolute Geist

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