The Egological: Notes on Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit by Martin Heidegger

A tidy summation – and a new term for me:

Being determines itself logically, but such that the logical proves to be egological. We see this egological determination of being gradually unfolding since its beginning in Descartes, until via Kant and Fichte it receives its comprehensive and explicitly absolvent ((“Absolvent” is Heidegger’s or his translators’ coinage for “viewed from the perspective of the absolute.”)) justification in Hegel’s Phenomenology. Thus, right at this juncture the decisive approaches and lines of inquiry into the problem of being in Western philosophy are gradually gathered in one. The inquiry into the ὄν was onto-logical ever since its beginning with the ancients, but at the same time it as already with Plato and Aristotle onto-theo-logical, even if it was correspondingly not conceptually developed. Since Descartes the line of inquiry becomes above all ego-logical, whereby the the ego is not only crucial for the logos but is also co-determinant for the development of the concept of θεός as it was prepared anew in Christian theology. The question of being as a whole is onto-theo-egological.

Martin Heidegger, Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit ((Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit, Martin Heidegger, Emad and Maly translators, Indiana University Press 1988, p. 126))

The philosophical kinship across the eventual moral and historical chasm with Rosenzweig and Cohen seems clear, though their as it were onto-ontic triad is “World, God, Man,” and though they see it “prepared” by the prophets ahead of the philosophers, or as simply the truth prior to any particular revelation or deduction of its logic.

As for the term “egological” itself and its possible misuses or re-purposings, they may be unavoidable, but to accuse someone of excessive egologicalism or egologicality or of excessively or one-sidedly egological thinking will at least point beyond the ego of accuser and accused alike. The greater problem for the Heideggerian formulation will be its failure to to take account of a second embedding of the self, which embedding neither the ancient onto-theologians nor Hegel and those who followed him under-rate: For Hegel and Aristotle alike the individual exists as a social being and is incomprehensible outside of society. For Aristotle political philosophy or philosophy for the many is a higher and more comprehensive calling than ethical philosophy or philosophy for any one of us. For Cohen or for the prophets according to Cohen, the perfect loneliness and inexpressible smallness of ego realized as suffering and mortal life before being (ὄν) and before the being like no other (θεός) compels the redeeming turn to the “fellowman.” (For their Neo-Judaic successor Levinas and perhaps for Hegel as well the turn to the fellowman is perhaps in that way also a turning toward God, towards the Other always as oracle, while the social or the plurality of egos mediates the relationship of ego and theos concretely: Here the idealizations of Christianity and Judaism meet, as within the both historical and theological figure, and teachings, of Jesus Christ.)

The unredeemed and effectively irredeemable deficit in Heidegger’s philosophy in this relation, realized in his own real, existing, social-political life as disgrace compounding disgrace, defaces and all but erases his accomplishments. Yet, within these lectures, delivered from 1930 to 1931, the book remains exactly what the amateur Neo-Hegelian could desire, a playful and even joyful appreciation of Hegel, and a sort of post-introduction to the Phenomenology of Spirit, annotated cleverly by the translators wherever Heidegger’s trademark play of etymons is lost in English. Early on, the book sent me on a diverting trip through Partridge’s – through variations on “mean,” which in German – at least serendipitously, for Heidegger significantly or signifyingly – links “Meinung” (“opinion,” quasi “meaning”) to “mein” (“my”) as well as to “gemein” (common, as in “Gemeinschaft“). The root travels in English as well as German across the universe, eventually to community and money and even to moist and Mom.

I’ll leave the reproduction and full explication of that itinerary perhaps to some other time or some other writer – or invite the reader to give it a try with whatever resources on hand or on-line, and I’ll close this post at the beginning of the lectures, where Heidegger, as though reaching a hand to his students and inviting them to the philosophical bacchanal, quotes Hegel, in 1816, speaking in a parallel position of inaugurating a series of lectures, on the project of philosophy itself. After introductory remarks that could echo those of any new department head, Hegel addresses the practice of philosophy in terms that are equally and simultaneously religious and erotic:

…[A]t first I wish to make a single request: that you bring with you, above all, a trust in science and a trust in yourselves. The love of truth, faith in the power of spirit, is the first condition for philosophy. Man, because he is spirit, may and should deem himself worthy of the highest; he cannot think too highly of the greatness and the power of his spirit; and with this faith, nothing will be so difficult and hard that it will not reveal itself to him. The essence of the universe, at first hidden and concealed, has no power to offer resistance to the courageous search for knowledge; it must open itself up before the seeker, set its riches and its depths before his eyes to give him pleasure.

One might blush.

One comment on “The Egological: Notes on Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit by Martin Heidegger

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  1. Thanks for sharing the summation, it’s good to see you writing.

    “…[A]t first I wish to make a single request: that you bring with you, above all, a trust in science and a trust in yourselves. The love of truth, faith in the power of spirit, is the first condition for philosophy.”


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