The Owl of Minerva

Volume 39, Issue 1/2, Fall/Spring 2007/2008

Kenneth R. Westphal
Pages 95-134

Intelligenz and the Interpretation of Hegel’s Idealism
Some Hermeneutic Pointers

Hegel’s idealism and his epistemology have been seriously misunderstood due to various deep-set preconceptions of Hegel’s expositors. These preconceptions include: Idealism is inherently subjective; Hegel’s epistemology invokes intellectual intuition; Hegel was not much concerned with natural science; Natural science has no basic role to play in Hegel’s Logic. In criticizing these notions, I highlight four key features of Hegel’s account of intelligence: (1) Human cognition is active, and forges genuine cognitive links to objects that exist and have intrinsic characteristics, regardless of what we may think, believe, or say about them; (2) The Denkbestimmungen that structure and thus characterize worldly objects and events can only be grasped by intelligence (not merely by consciousness); (3) Intelligence obtains genuine objectivity by correctly identifying characteristics of a known object; (4) Central to our intelligent comprehension of Denkbestimmungen is natural scientific investigation. These findings show that Hegel’s Logic is much more closely tied with Naturphilosophie and with natural science than is commonly supposed. I conclude with eight hermeneutical pointers for understanding Hegel’s writings.