David Kolb

Heidegger and Hegel Revisited

I was recently invited to join a discussion of Heidegger and Hegel, and since I have thought long about their connections, I presented five theses. Here I cite them to introduce an overview of my writings about those two philosophers.

Five Theses

  1. Both Hegel and Heidegger stand firmly in the tradition stemming from Kant that refuses to see knowledge, perception, or reality as based on atomic elements each independent in itself and related only externally to other elements.
  2. Heidegger aims important critiques at Hegel. They all miss their target, except for one, and it is crucial.
  3. The most Hegelian-looking parts of Heidegger are the weakest and least convincing of his ideas.
  4. Compared to Heidegger, Hegel provides a more adequate set of tools for dealing with issues about modern selves and society.
  5. Both Hegel and Heidegger are guilty of excessive totalization, lumping together diverse intellectual and cultural movements and practices into a single sending of Being or shape of spirit, but Hegel’s internally complex unities offer more insight into thought and society.

Support for these theses can be found first of all in my CPM book: The Critique of Pure Modernity: Hegel, Heidegger, and After University of Chicago Press where I explain and evaluate Hegel and Heidegger’s approaches to modernity and its problems. Chapter 10 includes a conversation in which each thinker criticizes the other, and the Preface to the book includes a summary of my conclusions and opinions. Ideas from this book are developed and extended in many of my essays. The titles below are linked to copies available on the web; print publication details can be found in my academic CV at dkolb.org.

List 1 – Papers focusing on H and/or H.

Some essays discuss Heidegger in relation to contemporary philosophy.

Heidegger at 100, in America A perspective on what I take to be the main trends and some representative works in Heidegger studies on the American side of the Atlantic

Raising Atlantis: The Later Heidegger and Contemporary Philosophy
Argues that Heidegger’s writings are brought into dialogues which go against his own self-image of what he was about.

Heidegger and Habermas on Criticism and Totality Discussion and partial acceptance of Habermas’ criticism of Heidegger for insulating his claims from critical scrutiny.

Heidegger on the Limits of Science Heidegger confronts analytic philosophy of science. My later thoughts on this can be found in my paper on local ontologies in Hegel and Wittgenstein.

Some essays focus on areas of Hegel’s thought

Hegel in general and his ontology in particular

The Diamond Net: Metaphysics, Grammar, Ontologies A walk in the woods comparing Hegel and Wittgenstein’s treatment of local regional ontologies

Science and Self: Ontological Commitments in Hegel and Heidegger Looks at how H and H both defy Quine’s criterion for ontological commitment, and applies their ideas to ordinary and scientific talk about the self

Exposing an English Speculative Word Shows how English provides a word with a play of multiple meanings similar to those in Hegel’s aufheben.

Hegel on religion

The Final Name of God: Hegel on Determinate Religion How the puzzle of Hegel’s varying ranking of specific religious traditions casts doubts on his claims for closure

Hegel and Religion: Avoiding Double Truth, Twice A comparison with the medieval doctrine of double truth shows how Hegel’s ideas about the relation of philosophy and religion are more subtle than critics think.

Hegel on nature

Darwin Rocks Hegel: Does Nature have a History? Hegel’s views on geology show that despite his claim to the contrary Hegel does find a dimension of history in external nature, and this affects his attitude towards evolution. And, in what senses Darwin causes problems for Hegel.

Outside and In : Hegel on natural history Studies the intricacies of Hegel’s views on the relations and transitions of nature to spirit, the external and internal recapitulations of spirit’s development, and more reflections on Darwin and Hegel.

Hegel on architecture

Hegel’s Architecture Explains and analyzes Hegel’s discussion of architecture and its historical development.

The Spirit of Gravity: Architecture and Externality in Hegel For Hegel, architecture works with brute matter at its most external: heavy and extended, and shown as such. Spirit’s higher transparent self-positing and self-exposition winds around or over this hard stone. I discuss Hegel’s emphasis on weight and the presentation of load-bearing, and ask what happens to Hegel’s strategies today, when architecture is going beyond resisting and expressing weight, going transparent and weightless, loosening its connection with gravity.

Stones, Screens, and Spirits: Opacity and Transparency in Hegel and Beyond Unpublished paper where I study the opacity that remains amid Spirit’s higher transparent self-positing.

My critique of Hegel’s claims for the purity and closure of his system are set out in the CPM book and in several polemical essays.

“What is Open and What is Closed in the Philosophy of Hegel? Studies the kinds of closure in Hegel’s system, and the possibilities for an “open Hegelianism”

The Logic of Language Change How do Hegel’s dialectical transitions among logical categories relate to ordinary empirical language changes?

The Logic of the Critical Process
Unpublished paper prepared for a panel on Hegel and Criticism. Hegel said that his Philosophy of Right “Philosophy always comes on the scene too late to give instruction as to what the world ought to be.” Yet Hegel makes normative statements and critical judgments about current events and political structures. This paper finds the basis for those judgments in the complexities of spirit’s grasp of its own form.

The Necessities of Hegel’s Logics Questions the goal of a pure presuppositions self-developing sequence of logical categories.

The Paths of Essence Differing versions of his Logic of Essence argue against Hegel’s goal of a pure self-evident development of categories.

Still other essays compare Hegel and Heidegger’s conceptual tools for dealing with the problems arising from modern society and selves.

Hegel and Heidegger as Critics in The Monist, 1981, 481-499. This is pre-publication marked up draft. This essay grew into my CPM book.

Circulation Bound: Hegel and Heidegger on the State Have we entered a realm of total exchange, a realm in which all is malleable, open for use and substitution? Is the circulation that surrounds us domesticated or monstrous? This essay examines how Hegel and Heidegger envision the role of the State in binding up the seemingly unlimited flows of modernity.

Circulation and Constitution at the End of History H and H on the culmination (or the exhaustion) of the history of the west.

The Particular Logic of Modernity A discussion of Robert Pippin on Hegel.

Modernity’s Self-Justification A review of Robert Pippin’s Idealism as Modernism.

Authenticity with Teeth: Positing Process Argues for Hegelian rather than Heideggerian criteria for judging the authenticity of personal and social changes.

American Individualism, Does It Exist? Criticizes standard notions of individuality in America and Japan.

Tiger Stripes and Embodied Systems: Hegel on Markets and Models An argument from Hegel, with a second from Wittgenstein, against relying too much on formal descriptions of institutions and individuals.

List 2 – Wider horizons: Essays in which H and/or H are invoked in discussions of diverse other topics

Postmodern Sophistications A collection of essays about postmodern knowledge and architecture, problems of tradition, our embedding in history. It urges us to avoid those who try to force on us a simple choice between earnest Socrates and ironic Sophists, or an architectural choice among clichéd traditional forms, a modernist rejection or a postmodern ironical use of history, the book develops and applies a pragmatic middle position using themes from Heidegger and Dewey. We are neither traditional people totally formed by a given tradition, nor free floating modern or post-modern subjects. We live as Heidegger’s “thrown projects” amid Hegel’s internally divided and mobile shapes of spirit. Published by University of Chicago Press in book form, the fourteen individual essays are available online: enter “chapter” in the search field at the top of any page at dkolb.org.

Borders and Centers in an Age of Mobility In response to formless sprawl, many theorists urge the creation of resistant places. In this essay I contrast and criticize two such strategies, Kenneth Frampton’s bounded enclaves, and Karsten Harries’ Heideggerian centered communities.

Learning Places: Building Dwelling Thinking On-Line I try applying Heidegger’s insights to guidelines for a real place online, where online dwelling and thinking could happen.

Sprawling Places This work discusses contemporary places, and suggests new ways to evaluate them, while questioning some of the common critiques leveled against them. Are contemporary new places as thin and unsatisfying as Heidegger and related critics say? With Heidegger”s phenomenology and Hegelian strategies in mind, I examine the complexity that makes places rich and satisfying, and find clues for hope. Published in a book from University of Georgia Press, and expanded upon in a companion hypertext web site

Hegelian Buddhist Hypertextual Media Inhabitation, or, Criticism in the Age of Electronic Immersion My attempt to articulate a new mode of criticism for new media, this essay finds in both Heidegger and Hegel modes of criticism and intervention that take advantage of the dualities and spacings inherent even in the most immersive virtuality or entertainment.

Universal and Particular Persons and Places Unpublished paper delivered at the Philadelphia Symposium: Is cosmopolitan identity possible in a world of assertive particular identities? Social norms and structures exist in experience over time, which requires an ongoing unity of actively maintained by processes of individual synthesis and social reproduction. There is no pure, universal place or universal “we”. The universal is not one identity among others; it is a component or moment within them. From both Heidegger and Hegel we learn that the real shared identity in all persons and places is in the temporal process of negotiating particular history amid the spacing and self-reflection that makes any identity possible.

Coming Down from the Trees: Metaphysics and the History of Classification This essay develops distinctions among kinds of concepts and how they interact with empirical content, providing a way to domesticate Heidegger’s notions of the “meaning of being” and the “end of metaphysics”.

Both H and H make brief appearances in some of my writings in and about non-linear hypertext.