Between Kant and Hegel: Lectures on German Idealism

Heinrich, Dieter. Between Kant and Hegel: Lectures on German Idealism, ed. David S. Pacini, 2003


After his encounter with Hölderlin’s nascent system, Hegel developed his conception of a higher form of moral behavior. His first system of 1800 reflected the structure underlying this form, which he had isolated and generalized. Its highest concept is the notion of “life.” It his analysis, Hegel conceives of life as a structure of two elements: the first is a self-referential totality that disallows any element that is not fully incorporated into it; the second both requires and, according to Hegel, generates individual lives. These elements to exclude one another, but they are also internally organized wholes. And they are capable of reciprocal surrender to each other. The moral aspect is this reciprocal surrendering in which individual lives make exchanges and amalgamations.

The process of life occurs in the generation of the individuals and the withdrawal of life from them. Outside of individual living beings, there is no life. Growth and self-preservation, amalgamation and death, occur within individual living beings.

Hegel states explicitly that this universal world process is beyond the capacity of the understanding of reason. The outcome of thinking further about the method of philosophy and about the implications of criticizing the potentialities of rational discourse, however, was the draft of a new first philosophy. In Hegel’s view, this new philosophy would be able to construct, and to interpret rationally, the structure and the phenomena that he had previously called “life.”

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