Logic, Thought, and the Unconditioned: An Essay on Kant and Hegel

Defense Date


Graduation Date

Fall 1-1-2011


Immediate Access

Submission Type


Degree Name





McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts

Committee Chair

Tom Rockmore

Committee Member

James Swindal

Committee Member

Jay Lampert


Logic, Metaphysics, Method, Reason, System


How do the different metaphysical assumptions of Kant and Hegel have consequences for their respective philosophies of logic? For Kant formal logic and metaphysics provide two very different accounts of human thought. I show that Hegel claims to unite metaphysics and logic by giving a single account of human thought that can support all forms of cognition. Thought represents the mediating term whereby the relation of metaphysical assumptions and formal logic can be determined.

Kant in The Critique of Pure Reason (1781) argues that reason can never have objective knowledge of the absolute. Kant's view is that thought naturally strives to raise itself from the series of conditioned appearances to the knowledge of the Absolute, but the Absolute stands outside the realm of possible experience, and thus beyond the boundaries of objective knowledge. This `striving towards the unconditioned' can never be satisfied- it is only an ideal that organizes our knowledge, but not a knowledge itself. Hegel's philosophy offers an other account of the role of the unconditioned in knowledge. Hegel in his early Jena works claims that although Kant's philosophy contains the seeds of German Idealism, it fails to fully develop the standpoint of an authentic idealism. He claims that Kant should be praised for taking philosophy beyond the dogmatism-skepticism impasse, but he also claims that Kant should be criticized for not recognizing that a new philosophical method is necessary for metaphysics. This new method is what Hegel calls speculative dialectic.

In Hegel's Science of Logic (1812-16) the speculative dialectic is the condition for two novelties in the history of philosophy: 1) logic has a determinate content and is capable of a sufficient determination of truth, and 2) logic and metaphysics become part of the same discourse. These two novelties result in a radical new treatment of the traditional elements of formal logic, and mark perhaps the first significant innovation in logic since its inception with Aristotle.





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