I couldn't find any Solomon lectures on Hegel, but here's one introducing Edmund Husserl, which I think is apt now that we've covered Hegel's "phenomenology," so you can reflect on the difference:
Maybe the only reference to Hegel here is the discussion of Husserl's rejection of historicism, though I think it should be clear that "historicist" is would be an over-simplification when explaining Hegel. Hegel shared what Solomon describes here as Husserl's rejection of "naturalism." Unlike an empiricist, Husserl is explicitly in the business of discovering essential truths, though for Hegel this seems more difficult, as one seeming necessity at one phase of development in the Phenomenology of Spirit can end up being inadequately grasped and in need of improvement. Likewise, though, for Husserl, throughout the course of the Cartesian Meditations, I think you could argue that the phenomenological grasp gets more adequate: the contribution of other people doesn't enter into it until near the end of the work, though that ends up being an essential factor in experience, and certainly one of the primordial ones as far as our non-reflective experience goes. This very same progression shows up in Hegel, where the early part of the book reflects in a Cartesian way on my experience right here-right now, and this works forward, adding more elements to in some way reconstruct/simulate/analyze more fully our actual experience.
David Buchanan says
They say that William James would be considered the father of American phenomenology, if there had been such a thing. I can’t think of a better word for his way of examining experience – as both a psychologist and a philosopher. And yet his worldview was approximately the opposite of Husserl’s. I’m pretty sure James would, to some extent, embrace the four main things that Husserl rejected. (As named by Solomon.) James did not think it was wise to seek absolute certainties, foundations or essences, which was exactly what Husserl was after. I guess “phenomenology” is a very plastic word, because those two are like some kind of philosophical odd couple. James thought the Hegelians were a bunch of prigs. He said the whole thing was too buttoned-up for his tastes. He said he wanted the scalp of the Absolute, he wanted to destroy the Absolute. For me, it’s just baffling more than anything else.
It’s definitely possible that I just don’t get it. But some philosophers just make me scratch my head and wonder what the heck they’re talking about. Literally, like I don’t even know what the topic is. Or sometimes it just sounds like something from an exotic, magical religion. This is the vibe I get every time I hear talk of essences. What the heck is an essence? I understand that bananas are “essential” if you’re making a banana split but when philosophers talk about what’s essential, things get way out of hand. Then the whole business starts to look like some kind of cult wherein abstractions and generalizations are reified and then worshiped, prayed to, etc.. The search for essences strikes me something like the search for the philosopher’s stone, the holy grail, the lost city of Hotlanta and other fictions. But really, maybe I just don’t get it.
Tom McDonald says
The problem with Husserl’s phenomenology of essential truths is the problem that forces Heidegger’s response: Can there be essential natures (natures of entities) apart from their histories? To investigate this question forces one to confront the historicity of one’s own reflection, i.e. that Dasein can only make sense of a present in terms of a past. Thus the metaphysical question whether there are essential natures or entities without histories seems to create only an impasse for inquiry.
Tom McDonald says
BTW, this problem that Heidegger found with Husserl’s transcendental idealism — failing to clarify whether there can be an essential nature without a history — is the same fundamental problem Hegel diagnosed in Kant’s transcendental idealism.
Tom McDonald says
Which, come to speak of it, is always suspiciously similar to Aristotle’s reaction to Plato: to engage the question of the embodied and concrete and situated after the teacher’s more abstract, mathematical, timeless orientation: Plato->Aristotle; Kant->Hegel; Husserl->Heidegger
There cannot be essential natures of all entities (as in objects) — some entities (meanings, pure logic etc…) are, for Husserl at least, a-temporal — they do not come to be and pass away. This concerns, I think, the matter of the act and its relation to objects.
On the other hand, the acts through which these objects are attended to are essentially historical or, in a word, constituted in time. Thus these objects are meant from different theoretical historical shapes.
I think perhaps the confusion comes about because Husserl is not (or at least trying not to) supporting a metaphysical position. By timeless, essential truths, Husserl is trying to account for the univcocal
direction of of meanings towards their objects. This does not mean that these are timeless truths of objective time — it means that these meanings, when they are themselves made objects, are not constituted by the act (if they were, they could not retain their sense over an infinite amount of possible acts and, in the process, rectify themselves as meanings themselves.