Hegel's Concept of Life: Self-Consciousness, Freedom, Logic

October 31, 2020
Hegel's Concept of Life: Self-Consciousness, Freedom, Logic

Karen Ng sheds new light on Hegel's famously impenetrablephilosophy. She does so by offering a new interpretation of Hegel'sidealism and by foregrounding Hegel's Science of Logic, revealingthat Hegel's theory of reason revolves around the concept oforganic life.Beginning with the influence of Kant's Critique of Judgment onHegel, Ng argues that Hegel's key philosophical contributionsconcerning self-consciousness, freedom, and logic all developaround the idea of internal purposiveness, which appealed to Hegeldeeply. She charts the development of the purposiveness theme inKant's third Critique, and argues that the most importantinnovation from that text is the claim that the purposiveness ofnature opens up and enables the operation of the power of judgment.This innovation is essential for understanding Hegel'sphilosophical method in the Differenzschrift (1801) andPhenomenology of Spirit (1807), where Hegel, developing lines ofthought from Fichte and Schelling, argues against Kant thatinternal purposiveness constitutes cognition's activity, shapingits essential relation to both self and world.From there, Ng defends a new and detailed interpretation ofHegel's Science of Logic, arguing that Hegel's Subjective Logic canbe understood as Hegel's version of a critique of judgment, inwhich life comes to be understood as opening up the possibility ofintelligibility. She makes the case that Hegel's theory of judgmentis modelled on reflective and teleological judgments, in whichsomething's species or kind provides the objective context forpredication. The Subjective Logic culminates in the argument thatlife is a primitive or original activity of judgment, one that isthe necessary presupposition for the actualization ofself-conscious cognition.Through bold and ambitious new arguments, Ng demonstrates theongoing dialectic between life and self-conscious cognition,providing ground-breaking ways of understanding Hegel'sphilosophical system.