A Critique of Heidegger’s Interpretation of Hegel in the first of the “Four Seminars”


“Reason reflects the Absolute. Reflecting is a bringing-before-itself, such that it means belonging-together that builds (dwells) together as a setting-together.” – Hegel

“Reason” for Hegel never means the act of rationality, and much less the goal of rationalism. Rather, reason is only achieved after rationality is displaced in favour of its provenance as figurative (speculative) thinking. The common goal of Hegel, Hölderlin and Schelling was first expressed during their belonging-together as the forging of a new mythos that in a certain sense returns to the pre-rational without thereby forgetting the rational-historical-conceptual, but setting it in its place.  Reason has to go beyond the conceptual-historical in order to find its essence, which always remains dependent on mythos, Logos (System)  as the domination of self-consciousness by the measuring facility, as Plato described it.

Despite appearances Hegel is involved in the selfsame task as Holderlin and Schelling, returning to its place the mythos/Logos of the final, developed figuration of the cosmic myth which preceded the birth of the rational-historical-conceptual as accounting-for, placing the rational-historical-conceptual, the accounting-for as “balancing the books” of a reality already experienced as conceptual where it belongs with its provenance in clear view. In Hegel it is couched in the movement of the dialectic rather than the  mythic language of Holderlin and to a certain extent Schelling.

Contrary to Heidegger’s reading, “System” in Hegel cannot be understood as the systematic, since Hegel understands and accepts Kant’s delimitation of the impossibility of the systematic.

Hegel’s “Science of Logic”, a poorly translated title that sounds like a schoolbook treatise of formal-rational logic, must be understood as the “knack-for-understanding through and as figurative (speculative) Logos (System).  At the very least “Science as Logic” would be as short as the usual title but indicate more accurately the essence of the work.

System in Hegel is thus akin to the Logos in Heracleitas (though not identical) as the gathering as absolute spirit that experiencestogether the changes in the determinations of things by being, an experience that by being absolute can never be total. This experience is subjective only in the sense of an absolute and shared subjectivity that already includes the objective and nullifies the distinction, just as the idealism of Hegel already includes materialism, not as physicalism or even productionism (the basic misinterpretation of Heidegger and of Marx) but as the movement of dialectic, which for its part is not rational-historical but figurative and analogical, or speculative Reason.

“Spirit” for Hegwl is nothing mystical, though it refers back to the “holy spirit” or “holy ghost” in the sense that St. Paul describes it, and the sense in which some early Christian communities described themselves as the “holy ghost”. It is not something that transcends the community, hovers over it or is found somehow “with” the community but separate from it, but as the involved transcendence of the being-together as building-dwelling, together with thinking speculatively as well as rational-historically, of the community itself. It is in this regard that the sentence “religion must trnnscend belief” must be understood, along with “Christianity is the true religion but not in its true form.” For Hegel Christianity has the truth but does not have it as the truth, but rather conceals and protects it without understanding it.

What Heidegger calls the onto-theological as the essence of metaphysics could be called for Hegel the mytho-logical, though he does not explicitly name it as such. It is the rational-historical-conceptual-calculative determination of reality in the sense of the past perfect, not as what was but as what still is, retained  in  the present as having-been-recorded and this record “tallied up” or “balanced” in the sense of accounting-for that record, loosely supplemented by a figurative mythic understanding of what cannot be accounted-for (since it is not part of the historical record) that cannot justify nor judge itself by reference to the written record as a reduction of Logos or Ratio.  Though we do not have the Greek present perfect tense, it is implicit as the proper coming-to-itself of the past perfect.

This is precisely the everyday mode of shared self-consciousness which Heidegger names the inauthentic. it is a semblance of understanding and sharing in being-with that has not fathomed either the provenance of the rational-historical-conceptual in the shared figurative understanding as Logos in the full sense or the shared nature of being-with.

“Science” for Hegel doesn’t mean the accounting-for by scission the natural-historical record (as analogous to the explicitly recorded record of bookkeeping that can be fully accounted-for), but must be understood in the literal sense of “wissenschaft”, the “knack for understanding” as system or Logos that Heracleitas bemoans as lacking in the everydayness of public opinion, that Heidegger instead accepts as the precondition for a self-appropriation that can only arise as a modification of this everyday mode rather than its opposition.

The conflict between the rational-conceptual views of modern science and the evolutionary-developmental views of the same, as noted by Nagel in his recent Mind and Cosmos, cannot be overcome by a positing of rationality and consciousness as a priori to reality, not only because it appears as developmental within  the pre-history of humanity as a whole, but in the self-evident development of rationality in the individual as a child becomes an adult. Although Nagel is careful to keep rationality and consciousness separate, though both are considered to be necessarily a priori,  this distinction cannot be sensibly maintained since we have no experience or evidence of rationality outside consciousness. This of course damages his claim to being an atheist and any sense to his search for some sort of “natural law” that would a priori ensure both, since what could a rational consciousness, a priori to all reality, be described as other than some sort of deity?

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