Method of philosophy and the fate of Hegel’s philosophy: to the 250th anniversary

Table of contents: The Kazakh-American Free University Academic Journal №12 - 2020

Author: Gusseva Nina, The “Kazakhstan Philosophy Congress” Association of Philosophers, D. Serikbayev East-Kazakhstan State Technical University, Kazakhstan

Hegel's great merit in the history of philosophy and the history of culture is in the creation of a dialectical method. In the preface to the first edition of “The Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences”, Hegel wrote that “a deep inner need for a rational understanding which is the only thing that informs a man of his dignity" preserves "an open-minded, unsubstantiated philosophical interest and a serious love for higher knowledge”[1]. This is the message of all subsequent philosophy. It retains its great meaning today.

The modern philosophy actively supports views and ideas that ground their constructs and conclusions on the non-dialectical way of thinking. This leads philosophy as a science to a crisis state within itself and to a negative attitude towards it on the part of society. This situation essentially coincides with what Hegel wrote about philosophy and science of his time[2].

Thus, he noted the difference between the dialectical method “from just the external order that other sciences use, and also from the manner that has become common in the philosophical discourse; the latter proceeds from a scheme that is adopted in advance; with the help of this scheme, the material under consideration is placed in parallel series in accordance with the same external manner and even more arbitrarily than in the first method, and, by an extremely strange misunderstanding, this scheme tends to replace the necessary development of the concept with random and arbitrary connections”[3].

The science today, just like in Hegel’s time, responds more readily to the demands of the external order, to the use of an adopted in advance scheme[4].

The dialectical method in science is in extremely low demand, and at the same time, the positivist understanding of methodology as an array of rational matrices, schemes suitable for use is widespread.

Philosophy outside dialectics is engaged in the search for the empirical foundations of problems that are fixed in the immediate superficial approximation. Orientation to the necessary development of the concept is replaced by orientations to the postulation of random and arbitrary connections. It is precisely such connections that are the central material for conclusions when cognition is reduced to the empirical level as a level supposedly strictly independent.

The fate of modern philosophy and culture fully depends on and will be determined by the extent to which the dialectical method will become habitual for the modern humanity. At the same time, it is not the shift in thinking as such, but the shift in reality itself, which is mastered by mankind in the forms of creative, transforming, conscious activity, where thinking is the ideal form of the latter.

The materialistic justification, realization and development of Hegel’s dialectical method can be observed in the philosophical works of K. Marx and F. Engels. Further prospects for the development of a philosophical and scientific world outlook are associated with the realization of dialectical thinking and materialistic dialectics as logic, the theory of knowledge and methodology of cognition.

The leading direction of the development of philosophy is always connected with the study of the processes of formation and development of human social and individual being and consciousness. This characteristic feature in the development of philosophy characterizes its classical branch. At the same time, the study of the functioning of the existing institutionalized forms shows the existence in philosophy of its “ballast” part, the one that falls out of the real processes of cultural development, the quintessence of which is, in fact, philosophy. This “ballast” part becomes a phenomenon of civilizational manipulations, use, etc., in which they retain their identity as certain institutional developed knowledge, matrices, norms, schemes, etc., which are not subject to any forms of development, but accessible for general use with certain consumer purposes, external to any processes of actual development and self-development of both man and society. This situation took place back in the times of Hegel, who wrote in connection with this:

“We saw this arbitrariness master the contents of philosophy, got involved in the most risky adventures of thought and, for some time, impressed honest and conscientious people, while others at that time treated it as something. But the content of this arbitrariness was neither imposing nor insane, more often than not it contained the well-known trivial provisions [...]. On the other hand, we witnessed how superficiality and paucity of thought announced itself prudent skepticism and criticism of an unassuming mind, and saw conceit and vanity increase along with the void of ideas. Both these directions of the spirit for a long time copied German thoroughness, wearing down a deeper philosophical thought and resulted in such indifference and even contempt for the science of philosophy that at the present time, imaginary modesty also considers itself entitled to express its opinion on the deepest philosophical issues, rejecting the possibility of its reasonable learning”[5]. According to Hegel, it is dialectical thinking that allows philosophy to be the true form of rational cognition. “Understanding that dialectics constitutes the nature of thinking itself, that as reason it must fall into the negation of itself, into a contradiction, is one of the main aspects of logic. Thinking, having lost hope to resolve the contradiction into which it put itself on its own, turns to those resolutions and reassurances that the spirit has received in its other forms. However, in this turn, thinking does not necessarily have to fall into a misology[6], which Plato came across; it should not polemically oppose itself, as is done by the so-called immediate knowledge, stating that it is the only form of comprehending the truth”[7].

Here, Hegel emphasizes that the difficulties in the development of philosophy are precisely due to the fact that it involves rational stereotypes leading to dead ends and misunderstandings. At the same time, the existence and development of dialectical thinking from one historical stage to another, from dialectics of the ancients, to the dialectics of German classical philosophy and, further, to the materialist dialectics of Marx and F. Engels is the example of philosophy development. This development reflects philosophy's orientation to disclosure of the fundamental principles and laws of being, the disclosure of essence, integrity, universality, inherent not only in being, but also in cognition, human world-relation, social development.

Philosophy in its “nonclassical” version, as a civilizational phenomenon, is represented by a great variety of concepts in which the choice of their bases is done externally, then formally organized systems of concepts are designed to reflect the interactions of these concepts with respect to the chosen basis. The next step in such model of “development” of philosophy is the introduction of a certain system of statements expressed in the proclaimed concepts and dedicated to certain institutional problems and interests of society that cause wide public resonance and institutional support. All stages beginning with the external choice of the bases, and the subsequent stages of the alleged creation of the philosophical conception of the “civilized type”, are characterized by the same process. Its essence (logic) does not depend on the specificity of a certain concept.

Thus, for example, the external choice can result in recognition as the basis of the supposedly “philosophical” concept of any of the visible, institutionally known, recognized and even ordinary characteristics of the world in which a person exists, and which fill his daily existence. Everyone, especially professionals in the field of philosophy, is familiar with such concepts and the grounds on which they turned out to be built. For example, we can recall the concepts in which the phenomena known to everyone and causing visible associations in each person appear as their grounds: life, will, intuition, utility, phenomenon, consciousness, action, behavior, fear, existence, knowledge, text, language, etc.[8]

In this connection, it is appropriate to mention the following. Each of these phenomena as the basis of a certain concept in philosophy is in fact presented as a result of abstracting it from what characterizes the world of a man, his life in society. At the same time, the authors of these concepts either do not realize the abstractness of the grounds they have chosen, or they take it for granted. In the second case, if there is an abstract approach to the choice of the basis of the philosophical concept as a matter of course, there is deliberate nihilism. The general palette of philosophical knowledge with this approach to understanding the principles of philosophy is represented by unrelated parts, like a patchwork quilt. This has its consequences. One of such consequences is the idea of the non-objectivity of philosophy, its meaninglessness and the need for further strengthening of the abstract approach, in which it is required to choose from a series of abstract grounds one thing and thereby put a point in the vast array of discrepancies with regard to what philosophy is and what it should study.

In connection with this, today, as in Hegel’s time, there is an actual problem, about which Hegel himself wrote: “This is the method of abstract rational reflection: it arbitrarily embraces certain categories that have significance only as certain stages in the development of the idea, and then applies them in such a way that all objects under consideration; this is done, as claimed, in order to explain these subjects, but in fact such a reconciliation contradicts open-minded contemplation and experience”[9].

As a result of the impossibility of solving the problem of incoherence of philosophical knowledge and philosophical concepts by making a choice, a conclusion is drawn about the tragic fate of philosophy as such and even its uselessness. The basis for such “tragic” conclusions is not an analysis of a lack of an abstract approach as would be expected, but an analysis of the inadequacy of the ontological status of each of the many phenomena that appear as the bases of philosophical concepts. The substitution of an analysis of the shortcomings of the abstract approach, of non-dialectical thinking by inference about the inadequacy of the ontological status of each of the identified phenomena, in its turn, leads to new developments of absolutization and sublimation of subjectivism, striving to support its position with methods that are beyond philosophy.

The origins of the use of non-philosophical methods and conclusions in such cases are also known. They characterize the social[10] state of society, the strength of certain social institutions that are interested in using certain mental configurations (primarily rational) and preferences for substantiating their positions. Thus, for example, the position expressed by Nietzsche in his philosophy of life turned out to be completely usable and extremely popular with Hitler. Such a connection between the “civilizational” image of philosophy and the needs of social institutions can be traced back to each of the available philosophical concepts, oriented toward a civilizational choice and distinguished by a rational character.

Modern world philosophy is represented by a great variety of philosophical views, concepts and directions. The scope of its interests includes observing and studying of various forms of human social and individual being and consciousness, which, firstly, are formed and function within the framework of certain civilizational processes and, secondly, which are in a state of continuing evolution in the development of culture.

Institutional consciousness always expresses and fixes the content and meanings of the civilizational functioning of a person in society, in the forms of language, logic schemes or the results of the measured processes. It differs significantly from the non-institutionalized consciousness, which constitutes the living “fabric” of human life, which is the base of culture and a certain world outlook[11].

Schematicism, rationality of institutional consciousness is convenient for any use of its form, including not only the preservation, transmission and replication, but also management of the institutional consciousness. In this respect, schematicism, rationality of institutional consciousness is also a form of world understanding present in such social and civilizational realities as the transformed, “matrix”, ideological, etc., forms existing in social civilization reality.

Dialectical thinking[12] manifests itself as a problem when philosophy as a phenomenon of culture finds itself in the same line of evaluation with philosophy as a civilizational phenomenon. Under conditions of a civilizational choice in the field of philosophical investigation of reality, dialectical thinking appears as alien, becomes unclaimed, incomprehensible, unduly torn from immediate situations. The positivistic ideal of direct empirical research becomes the principle of assessing the need for and demand in what is still called “philosophy”, meaning its “civilizational” image. At the same time, it remains unnoticed that such research loses its most important thing: revealing the essence, integrity, way of forming what is being considered; it, as Hegel would say, loses its dialectics.

A continuous enthusiastic use of this method of “philosophizing” ultimately leads to a situation in philosophy when the question of the state of the world as a whole, of its regularities in general, becomes irrelevant. Instead, chaos, text, language, etc. become the subject of consideration as independent entities prompting a person his place in the world and ways of understanding the world, understanding oneself, one’s historical, value and cognitive landmarks. While thinking with its orientation to dialectics as logic[13], to the disclosure of the laws of the development of the world and man in this case becomes an excess phenomenon. In place of this basic orientation there comes the fashion to reject such concepts as morality, truth, beauty, etc., which always formed the image of a person and a human being. The “civilized” image of philosophy admits for example, that empirical verification is enough to define the scientific matter of knowledge, to consider as sufficient, to consider ugliness as a form of beauty and chaos as a manifestation of a kind of harmony, etc.

The only way out of the impasse in modern philosophy is the return to the bosom of dialectics[14]. On this path the classical tradition of philosophizing opens new possibilities for the development of man, society, and philosophy itself[15]. This is the way to discover new forms of development, not decay. This is the way of raising the human spirit[16] and understanding its purpose. This is the way in which a person does not equate oneself to a thing among other things within the world chaos. This is the way to new dimensions of human life, the path of creativity and creation.

[1] G. W. F. Hegel, Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences, Moscow, 1974, 55.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] G.W.F. Hegel, Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences. Vol. 1, Moscow, 1974, 55.

[6] Hatred of science, aversion to scientific reasoning; the term introduced by Plato and Plutarch (Greek)

[7] Hegel, Encyclopedia, 96.

[8] Here we are talking about concepts such as the philosophy of life, intuitionism, existentialism, behaviorism, phenomenology, hermeneutics, and so on. See also Gusseva N., “On the question of the foundations of Western language concepts: the philosophical and methodological aspect” in: Vestnik of Kazakh-American Free University, Ust-Kamenogorsk (2016), 57-64; See also A.A. Khamidov, “The Rejection of Dialectics by Science as a Problem (Thinking about the Grounds)”, edited by Nina Gusseva, 2017, 261- 322; See also A.A. Khamidov, “Society of Knowledge as a Problem” in: Dialectics and Problems of the Development of Science, edited by Gusseva N., Ust-Kamenogorsk 2017, 159 -187.

[9] Hegel, Encyclopedia, 291.

[10] The social is not identical to the public. It refers to a society in which of a person is alienated from their essence, where the dominant characteristics are disunity and hostility of people to each other, formal relations, and so on.

[11] Gusseva N., “On Specifics of Thought Processes in the Context of Culture and Civilization Choice (Approaches, Tendencies, Programs)”, in: Modern Problems of the Development of Civilization and Culture. Collection of Scientific Articles, Ust-Kamenogorsk (2017), 38 - 57.

[12] Gusseva N., Dialectical Thinking and the Phenomenon of Methodological Research in the Development of Science, Ust-Kamenogorsk 2017, 273.

[13] Abdildin Zh.M., The Logic of Creative Thinking, edited by Gusseva N., Ust-Kamenogorsk 2017, 271, Lobastov G.V., “Introduction into the Logic of Dialectics” in: Dialectics and Problems of Science Development, edited by Gusseva N., Ust-Kamenogorsk 2017, 11-23, Mareev S.N., Mareeva E.V., “On Transfer from the Empirical to Theoretical in Scientific Cognition” in: Dialectics and Problems of Science Development, edited by Gusseva N., Ust-Kamenogorsk 2017, 80-104.

[14] Lobastov G.V., Philosophy in Science and Art, edited by Gusseva N., Ust-Kamenogorsk 2016, 282.

[15] Gusseva N., The Man in the Context of Being: Modern Trends, Problems and Approaches, Ust-Kamenogorsk 2016, 329.

[16] Voznyak V.S., Gusseva N., The Dialectics of Spiritual Reality: Philosophical and Methodological Research of Reminiscence as a Point of Spiritual Perspectives, edited by Nina Gusseva, Ust-Kamenogorsk 2016, 329.

Table of contents: The Kazakh-American Free University Academic Journal №12 - 2020

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