It is stated that Hegel was looking to start his system of logic and philosophy in general with what has absolutely no assumptions, frameworks, or presupposed things whatsoever.

Is this really possible? In my ignorance, I believe intuitively that this may not exactly be possible.

After all, even the idea of a beginning or a foundation is itself something.

Surely in absolute nothingness we cannot do this at all. In absolute nothingness it would not really be possible to distinguish or not distinguish. To be or not to be to be both, neither, what have you. To even say it is not any of these is itself ofcourse a bit odd.

As a matter of fact, if we want to go further, we can say that it is not even a negation.

  • You are right: how can it be? It is enough to start with the first page and parse the individual statements to find them. Commented Dec 24, 2023 at 11:08
  • Of course you absolutely cannot have any system of reasoning that has absolutely no assumptions or presupposed notions... The very first thing one asserts within any system would have to come from some prior assumption or notion... Anyone who says otherwise is either trying to fool others or fooling himself/herself.
    – user21820
    Commented Dec 24, 2023 at 13:02

2 Answers 2


I am pretty sure you are correct.

Although I am not too positive that future histories of philosophy will look at this the same way, there was a major movement of thought in Germany and Austria that appropriated the "rightist", more conservative readings of Hegel (which are closer to his own thought IMHO). This appropriation can be summarised with two concepts:

  1. The historicised a priori (most explicit in Dilthey and much later Foucault)
  2. The hermeneutical (or anthropological) circle (most explicit in Plessner, Wittgenstein, and Heidegger as well as later Gadamer)

This started in the late 19th century with Wilhelm Dilthey, continuing with many thinkers who conversed with one another and, together with the classical pragmatists and their heirs as well as Russel and the positivists, changed philosophical thinking forever.

Basically, it makes clear that not only thought but the whole being of a person is tied to a social and cultural environment, a Lebenswelt, that this person cannot escape. This is antithetic to the Hegelian project that while allowing for different embodiments of truth, still argued for the absolute Geist being eternal and unchanging, yet accessible.

Ultimately, the point of all of those thinkers is that you can only think and be within your human being (which already means a particular access to the world) and your particular upbringing (which is a bit more palatable), both of which you can never fully transcend.

  • Lebenswelt = The Right, Geist = The Left. Interesting take!! +1
    – Rushi
    Commented Dec 24, 2023 at 4:17
  • @PhilipKlöcking Why are you sceptical that a future history of philosophy will agree with your viewpoint? - Why do you nevertheless prefer your point of view? I assume you have good arguments for doing so.
    – Jo Wehler
    Commented Dec 24, 2023 at 11:24
  • @JoWehler Because history is written by the victorious ;) For example, there is few literature on Dilthey/Misch/Scheler/Plessner and an awful lot on Heidegger's Being and Time - which is lacking in various ways and he even admitted that much himself and Wittgenstein, not to speak of the strong pragmatist and analytical traditions in English philosophy, which dominates academia. Only slowly, through pragmatist thought, Lebenswelt and the human organism find their way into systematic epistemical thought there.
    – Philip Klöcking
    Commented Dec 24, 2023 at 12:32
  • History-Victorious is spot on! Also an orthogonal point is the etic-emic distinction applied to the individual. Eminent persons' evaluation of themselves can be very different from the fan-following's. Rachmaninoff's prelude in C# is a well known ex. from music. Likewise Beethoven's moonlight is probably heard thousand fold more than his F# which he himself said was better music.
    – Rushi
    Commented Dec 26, 2023 at 5:31
  • Likewise in philosophy, people apply European-Enlightenment ideas of rationalism to Plato — a 2 millenia anachronism! Even though by today's western standards Socrates-Plato were as religious-mystical as rational.
    – Rushi
    Commented Dec 26, 2023 at 5:41

Yes, I believe you are right. Perhaps it is a contradiction in Hegel's system which stems from him not using dialectics or perhaps it is a goal put on Hegel from outside.

I think Hegel believes in Spinoza's ontology of god (or nature itself): the only single substance from which individual things are a configuration of the substance (For this see Spinoza's Ethics). With dialectics, I believe Hegel tries to give an exaplanation of the specific laws of change in Spinoza's substance.

So it would follow that Hegel understands the chain of causality to be infinite and not have a precise start or end, one first original cause with no cause itself or one final effect that would render no effect itself. But Spinoza says there is actually one original cause that causes itself. It is not an efficient cause but an inmanent one: reality causes itself.

From this perspective, according to Spinoza there is one type of knowledge that comes more or less spontaneously from a reality causing itself: intuition. That, I believe, might be the necessary first assumption of any human knwoledge. Starting a philosophical system outside of this first asumption we call intuition is impossible.

  • Despite Hegel definitely being strongly influenced by Spinoza and allowing for intellectual intuition, ie. insight directly into the fabric of reality, I think it is a bold move to bring ontological and epistemological self-causation together. On the other hand, there is probably no system out there where it would be a better fit to do so, because all there is to reality in Hegel is the Geist coming to itself through intuition.
    – Philip Klöcking
    Commented Dec 24, 2023 at 21:06

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