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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

On-line version ISSN 2224-7912
Print version ISSN 0041-4751

Abstract

BOSHOFF, Hercules. Die verwerwing van absolute wete as louterings-proses in Hegel se Fenomenologie van de GeestComing to absolute knowing as a process of sublimation in Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2021, vol.61, n.3, pp.839-848. ISSN 2224-7912.  http://dx.doi.org/10.17159/2224-7912/2021/v61n3a12.

This article examines the nature and importance of the notion of absolute knowing in Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit. The avoidance, undervaluation and misinterpretation of absolute knowing, especially in 20th-century interpretations of Hegel's work, are challenged on the basis of Hegel's own account of absolute knowing. Three characteristics of absolute knowing stand out: first, absolute knowing is not a ready-made blueprint that can be applied blindly, but is achieved only through a laborious process that has to be completed in person and not at arms length. Second, absolute knowing can only result from the strictest possible proof in the form of complete scepticism or what Hegel termed "sich vollbringende Skeptizismus". Third, that which is criticised by the proof must be sublimated into the absolute as part of the processal nature of absolute knowing. The process reveals that self-negation, indicating shortcomings, and self-attainment, representing self-awareness of the spirit, are two sides of the same coin, namely what Hegel describes as the movement of spirit. Hegel does not avoid the topic of truth and goes so far as to claim that those who do avoid it, in fact make a claim to truth themselves (in so far as they presuppose that the denial of truth is true) and in turn deny others. Some take Hegel's explicit reference to truth, with which his philosophy is preoccupied, to be bold and too arrogant. Consequently, the tendency recently has been to work eclectically with parts of Hegel's philosophy and dialectical approach, but largely to reject his system as a whole. Hegel was sensitive to the claims emanating from a sceptical approach to overarching truth and incorporated the critique expressed by that approach into his account of truth, along with his own critique of scepticism. Hegel's critique of modern scepticism's denial of truth (in this case modern philosophy since Descartes) does not mean he regards it as being without merit. In fact, Hegel not only accepts, but also recommends, that any claim to truth must be subjected to scepticism in the form of science (Wissenschaft). The very essence of science (Wissenschaft) is knowing, and what else is worthy of knowing but truth? Truth, therefore, does not undermine scepticism, but rather leads scepticism to its own limits and therefore its fulfilment. The process of leading scepticism to fulfilment is described in terms of a sublimation. Sublimation (Läuterung) is understood as an arduous process that rectifies, but does not exclude, the parts that it problematises. It is in this sense of sublimation that Hegel's famous statement that "truth is the whole" is to be understood. However, the exacting passage to truth cannot begin with the whole, as the whole has not legitimised itself, which leads Hegel to consider the way towards the whole as just as important as the destination. Natural (immediate) consciousness must therefore be allowed to present its claims to truth, after which scepticism is employed to question the claims. This process of constantly questioning certainty corresponds with the Socratic method and, unsurprisingly, finds expression in a dialectic. The dialectic is more than a mere back-and-forth exchange, but rather an unfolding of truth itself. Without such dynamism a fuller conception of truth would not take shape, and in any case would not be able to legitimise itself. To overcome the presuppositions of every stage, a certain leap over the position is required, a leap away from the position that is to be overcome, but at the same time a leap that recognises that very position. The process therefore involves active participation and expanding awareness, on the one hand, but, on the other, a measure of fate, by which Hegel means that the course of knowing is destined to lead to fulfilment (a "homecoming") in the guise of absolute knowing, a knowing that is in and for itself.

Keywords : absolute knowing; truth; whole; natural consciousness; self-consciousness; scepticism; sublimation; dialectic; science; spirit.

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