Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
I here offer a translation of the third or last part of Hegel’s encyclopaedic sketch of philosophy,—the Philosophy of Mind. The volume, like its subject, stands complete in itself. But it may also be regarded as a supplement or continuation of the work begun in my version of his Logic. I have not ventured upon the Philosophy of Nature which lies between these two. That is a province, to penetrate into which would require an equipment of learning I make no claim to,—a province, also, of which the present-day interest would be largely historical, or at least bound up with historical circumstances.
The translation is made from the German text given in the Second Part of the Seventh Volume of Hegel’s Collected Works, occasionally corrected by comparison with that found in the second and third editions (of 1827 and 1830) published by the author. I have reproduced only Hegel’s own paragraphs, and entirely omitted the Zusätze of the editors. These addenda—which are in origin lecture-notes—to the paragraphs are, in the text of the Collected Works, given for the first section only. The psychological part which they accompany has been barely treated elsewhere by Hegel: but a good popular exposition of it will be found in Erdmann’s Psychologische Briefe. The second section was dealt with at greater length by Hegel himself in his Philosophy of Law (1820). The topics of the third section are largely covered by his lectures on Art, Religion, and History of Philosophy.
I do not conceal from myself that the text offers a hard nut to crack. Yet here and there, even through the medium of the translation, I think some light cannot fail to come to an earnest student. Occasionally, too, as, for instance, in §§ 406, 459, 549, and still more in §§ 552, 573, at the close of which might stand the words Liberavi animam meam, the writer really “lets himself go,” and gives his mind freely on questions where speculation comes closely in touch with life.
In the Five Introductory Essays I have tried sometimes to put together, and sometimes to provide with collateral elucidation, some points in the Mental Philosophy. I shall not attempt to justify the selection of subjects for special treatment further than to hope that they form a more or less connected group, and to refer for a study of some general questions of system and method to my Prolegomena to the Study of Hegel’s Philosophy which appear almost simultaneously with this volume.
The art of finding titles, and of striking out headings which catch the eye or ear, and lead the mind by easy paths of association to the subject under exposition, was not one of Hegel’s gifts. A stirring phrase, a vivid or picturesque turn of words, he often has. But his lists of contents, when they cease to be commonplace, are apt to run into the bizarre and the grotesque. Generally, indeed, his rubrics are the old and (as we may be tempted to call them) insignificant terms of the text-books. But, in Hegel’s use of them, these conventional designations are charged with a highly individualised meaning. They may mean more—they may mean less—than they habitually pass for: but they unquestionably specify their meaning with a unique and almost personal flavour. And this can hardly fail to create and to disappoint undue expectations.
Even the main divisions of his system show this conservatism in terminology. The names of the three parts of the Encyclopaedia are, we may say, non-significant of their peculiar contents. And that for a good reason. What Hegel proposes to give is no novel or special doctrine, but the universal philosophy which has passed on from age to age, here narrowed and there widened, but still essentially the same. It is conscious of its continuity and proud of its identity with the teachings of Plato and Aristotle.
The earliest attempts of the Greek philosophers to present philosophy in a complete and articulated order—attempts generally attributed to the Stoics, the schoolmen of antiquity—made it a tripartite whole. These three parts were Logic, Physics, and Ethics. In their entirety they were meant to form a cycle of unified knowledge, satisfying the needs of theory as well as practice. As time went on, however, the situation changed: and if the old names remained, their scope and value suffered many changes. New interests and curiosities, due to altered circumstances, brought other departments of reality under the focus of investigation besides those which had been primarily discussed under the old names. Inquiries became more specialised, and each tended to segregate itself from the rest as an independent field of science. The result was that in modern times the territory still marked by the ancient titles had shrunk to a mere phantom of its former bulk. Almost indeed things had come to such a pass that the time-honoured figures had sunk into the misery of rois fainéants; while the real business of knowledge was discharged by the younger and less conventional lines of research which the needs and fashions of the time had called up. Thus Logic, in the narrow formal sense, was turned into an “art” of argumentation and a system of technical rules for the analysis and synthesis of academical discussion. Physics or Natural Philosophy restricted itself to the elaboration of some metaphysical postulates or hypotheses regarding the general modes of physical operation. And Ethics came to be a very unpractical discussion of subtleties regarding moral faculty and moral standard. Meanwhile a theory of scientific method and of the laws governing the growth of intelligence and formation of ideas grew up, and left the older logic to perish of formality and inanition. The successive departments of physical science, each in turn asserting its independence, finally left Natural Philosophy no alternative between clinging to its outworn hypotheses and abstract generalities, or identifying itself (as Newton in his great book put it) with the Principia Mathematica of the physical sciences. Ethics, in its turn, saw itself, on one hand, replaced by psychological inquiries into the relations between the feelings and the will and the intelligence; while, on the other hand, a host of social, historical, economical, and other researches cut it off from the real facts of human life, and left it no more than the endless debates on the logical and metaphysical issues involved in free-will and conscience, duty and merit.
It has sometimes been said that Kant settled this controversy between the old departments of philosophy and the new branches of science. And the settlement, it is implied, consisted in assigning to the philosopher a sort of police and patrol duty in the commonwealth of science. He was to see that boundaries were duly respected, and that each science kept strictly to its own business. For this purpose each branch of philosophy was bound to convert itself into a department of criticism—an examination of first principles in the several provinces of reality or experience—with a view to get a distinct conception of what they were, and thus define exactly the lines on which the structures of more detailed science could be put up solidly and safely. This plan offered tempting lines to research, and sounded well. But on further reflection there emerge one or two difficulties, hard to get over. Paradoxical though it may seem, one cannot rightly estimate the capacity and range of foundations, before one has had some familiarity with the buildings erected upon them. Thus you are involved in a circle: a circle which is probably inevitable, but which for that reason it is well to recognise at once. Then—what is only another way of saying the same thing—it is impossible to draw an inflexible line between premises of principle and conclusions of detail. There is no spot at which criticism can stop, and, having done its business well, hand on the remaining task to dogmatic system. It was an instinctive feeling of this implication of system in what professed only to be criticism which led the aged Kant to ignore his own previous professions that he offered as yet no system, and when Fichte maintained himself to be erecting the fabric for which Kant had prepared the ground, to reply by the counter-declaration that the criticism was the system—that “the curtain was the picture.”