Defense Date

4-7-2021

Graduation Date

Spring 5-7-2021

Availability

One-year Embargo

Submission Type

dissertation

Degree Name

PhD

Department

Philosophy

School

McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts

Committee Chair

James Swindal

Committee Member

Tom Rockmore

Committee Member

Anton Friedrich Koch

Committee Member

Jennifer Bates

Committee Member

Christian Martin

Keywords

Hegel, German Idealism, circle, epistemology, metaphysics, idealism, anti-foundationalism, knowledge, truth, systematicity

Abstract

This dissertation’s central thesis is that Hegel’s approach to knowledge and philosophy is “circular”. A “circle of circles”, Kreis von Kreisen, an image Hegel regularly uses throughout his corpus, has sustained a steady wonder in his commentators. Nevertheless, it has not been studied with rigor adequate to its extensive importance, which spans his philosophical career and frames his engagement with the history of philosophy and the philosophy of his time. Due attention to Hegel’s concept of circles provides a robust frame for grasping his philosophical project, idealism, and account of knowledge. The content of each of Hegel’s works is the totality of the historically-determined knowledge specific to the science in question in that work: each a circle that constitutes a whole. The whole is the truth. The circle closes when the end point reaches back to the beginning and becomes one with it, justifying the whole circle. This end point, which Hegel calls an “absolute” in each work, indicates limits. As opposed to the infinite progress of the “spurious” infinite, his “true” infinite found at the closing point of the circle, namely at the absolute, indicates that knowledge is infinitely limited – and that is the truth. Truth is limited to what we can/may know in a given context and development. Recognizing the limits of our current framework by seeing it absolutely, i.e., in its entirety, provides the perspective for us to progress further. Accordingly, I argue Hegel provides an alternative to 1) the epistemologies of his contemporaries, 2) the central historical epistemologies of the Western philosophical tradition, and 3) some epistemologies dominant today. Hegel’s circular epistemology answers, on the one hand, the skeptical worry about justification, and, on the other, concerns regarding foundations raised by German idealist thinkers in the wake of Kant’s critical philosophy – mainly by Reinhold, Schulze, Fichte, and Schelling. Through detailed readings of the Phänomenologie des Geistes, Wissenschaft der Logik, and Enzyklopädie der philosophischen Wissenschaften I argue for a novel way Hegel’s epistemology addresses the perennial philosophical problems of how we, as knowing subjects, begin systematic inquiries, justify what we claim to know, and attain knowledge.

Language

English

Additional Citations

This dissertation’s central thesis is that Hegel’s approach to knowledge and philosophy is “circular”. A “circle of circles”, Kreis von Kreisen, an image Hegel regularly uses throughout his corpus, has sustained a steady wonder in his commentators. Nevertheless, it has not been studied with rigor adequate to its extensive importance, which spans his philosophical career and frames his engagement with the history of philosophy and the philosophy of his time. Due attention to Hegel’s concept of circles provides a robust frame for grasping his philosophical project, idealism, and account of knowledge. The content of each of Hegel’s works is the totality of the historically-determined knowledge specific to the science in question in that work: each a circle that constitutes a whole. The whole is the truth. The circle closes when the end point reaches back to the beginning and becomes one with it, justifying the whole circle. This end point, which Hegel calls an “absolute” in each work, indicates limits. As opposed to the infinite progress of the “spurious” infinite, his “true” infinite found at the closing point of the circle, namely at the absolute, indicates that knowledge is infinitely limited – and that is the truth. Truth is limited to what we can/may know in a given context and development. Recognizing the limits of our current framework by seeing it absolutely, i.e., in its entirety, provides the perspective for us to progress further. Accordingly, I argue Hegel provides an alternative to 1) the epistemologies of his contemporaries, 2) the central historical epistemologies of the Western philosophical tradition, and 3) some epistemologies dominant today. Hegel’s circular epistemology answers, on the one hand, the skeptical worry about justification, and, on the other, concerns regarding foundations raised by German idealist thinkers in the wake of Kant’s critical philosophy – mainly by Reinhold, Schulze, Fichte, and Schelling. Through detailed readings of the Phänomenologie des Geistes, Wissenschaft der Logik, and Enzyklopädie der philosophischen Wissenschaften I argue for a novel way Hegel’s epistemology addresses the perennial philosophical problems of how we, as knowing subjects, begin systematic inquiries, justify what we claim to know, and attain knowledge.

Available for download on Saturday, May 07, 2022

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