Hegel (Charles Taylor)

Charles Taylor, Hegel, Cambridge University Press, 1975.

[…] In fact, our difficulties just begin when we accept the central role of reason; and it was these difficulties which motivated [the Romantics] in turning away from it to fantasy, invention, and art.

For if we abandon the view of spirit as endless creative power and see the synthesis of subject and nature as taking some definitive shape, are we not denying some of the essential properties of free subjectivity? For we seem to be positing a final, static condition, while the life of a subject is continuing activity. And in seeing the solution in one encompassable form, we seem to limit the subject unduly, to make him merely finite where the cosmic subject should be infinite.

The requirements of our synthesis seem to put us in a dilemma. Hegel was not unaware of it. But he claimed to have hammered out a solution which avoided both horns. He was pitiless towards Romantic visions of the power of fantasy and endless creativity. He insisted that the final synthesis be one which reason could encompass.But at the same time he had a conception of the subject as essentially activity, and infinite activity. The solution lay in his conception of infinity, which incorporated the finite, and which returned to itself like a circle[…] only a conception of this kind can resolve the dilemma of confining infinite activity to encompassable form.

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