A summary of the preface to the phenomenology of spirit (100-136)
Prior to my reading today, we have come across the various views and opinions possessed by Hegel on various concepts. He is strongly against the view of Fichte that I and NOT I are two different entities. In Hegel's view they are one and the same, and that one needs the other to progress. He also criticizes Schelling and the romantics claim that to attain the absolute they destroyed all forms of existence and thus their position is baseless. He says they failed to clarify the intent of their work which was to create a system based on an absolute principle.
My reading begins after he has declared the true is becoming of its own self, he argues that based on that concept the life of God and divine knowledge could be considered to be a joke. He introduces the theme of self-alienation and that life in itself is an undisturbed which does not take into consideration any opposition to its movements. He points out the God is necessary, and that he exists to help us overcome this opposition. In other words, he exists to help us reach and transcend this opposition to our movement towards the absolute.
He then argues that form is essential to essence as essence is to form and only when this concept is grasped can essence be expressed as the actual. He argues that true is the subject, absolute is true and the true is the whole. He believes becoming includes being and being entails becoming, a view that runs contrary to that of Aristotle who he claims he is following.
He continues by saying that something learnt in the past ultimately becomes a simple concept to grasp in the present. We are not aware of all the pitfalls that were encountered in coming to such a conclusion. He argues that one cannot understand a concept without actually going back in history to understand the difficulties in coming to a conclusion. He argues that the beginning is an abstract concept and that the end is ultimately the beginning in an actualized way. He argues that self is attained only when one goes through a spiral (i.e. conflicts, oppositions) only to come back to the start which is also self but which is now actualized.
Hegel further argues that propositional concepts like love cannot grasp the concept of absolute knowledge, and the word God itself is meaningless. He says the word is senseless, but the idea behind it and the idea itself being self reflecting give it meaning. But he has to make do with the limitations of grammar and be pragmatic about it.
He then goes on to talk about previous concepts about philosophy. He argues that as long as they don’t have a ground (referring to Fichte and the rest) then they can be easily refuted. However the refutation helps more than it hurts, as it addresses a problem and ultimately puts forward a solution. He goes on to disagree with Spinoza that substance was free and self-sufficient. In Hegel’s view it depends on scrutiny from an external source. He argues that pure self knowledge is the foundation and territory of science. Furthermore, reflection is a part of being, and being itself is as a result of past reflections.
He believes that the phenomenology is a sort of ladder that allows the individual to grasp all this concepts. It starts from certainty and ends with truth. He argues that the phenomenology addresses all this issues not by ignoring all the issues that have plagued us in the past but by embracing them and bringing them to better light. He believes the individual in the phenomenology is not just one individual and his quest to the absolute knowledge, but the whole human race. He believes the phenomenology to the story of human race’s self education.
The last few pages are a critique of the other philosopher’s views on understanding the absolute. He criticizes them for ignoring the past and jumping the gun. They just jump into the concept of the absolute without addressing how they got there. He uses the metaphor death to show the power of negativity. He argues that death is necessary for the constitution of life the movement of spirit. He likens their views to that of powerless beauty which is wary of criticism. He thus says that we should embrace the negative so that we can proceed in spirit.