Is it true that if you deconstruct Hegel's and Heidegger's metaphysical claims into units, they end up becoming absurd statements that don't hold any semblance of truth? I never could finish any of their books, because I found them to be so absurd and ridiculous and left me asking how they could even write such nonsense. Am I crazy to think so?

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    A lot of philosophy seems like that. I'm sure your question is too broad - it's not like everything they ever said is nonsense. Perhaps try again asking people to help make sense of a particular passage. – causative Mar 7 at 3:49
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    No. This is what logical positivists claimed about metaphysics generally, but the idea has since been discredited. It turned out that by the standards they used to declare metaphysics meaningless (not making predictions about possible experience) their own claim was meaningless as well, see SEP, Is Metaphysics Possible? – Conifold Mar 7 at 4:02
  • @Conifold Yes, metaphysics is not necessarily nonsense, but there is also a lot of philosophical nonsense. Certainly there are many pairs of philosophers each of whom would consider the other's main views nonsense. – causative Mar 7 at 4:07
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    @Conifold Maybe so. Anyway, there's no clear consensus. When two philosophers each say the other's views are nonsense, at least one of those views must truly be nonsense. – causative Mar 7 at 4:24
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    @causative Nah, most commonly they are just both flippant about it. – Conifold Mar 7 at 4:26

This is a borderline opinionated question which is quite broad and superficial, but I think it can be properly answered, so here we go.

At the bottom of it, you ask whether it was valid to discard a philosophy, that explicitly (and with good reason) does a methodological turn against formal/purely analytical philosophy, as nonsensical if it is analysed formally with the outcome that it was based on seemingly nonsensical atomic sentences, ie. sentences bereft of their context. Put that way, the answer is clear:

Yes, it is true that taken without context as single statements, many central statements in Heidegger and Hegel seem nonsensical! But it does not tell us anything about how (non)sensical this philosophy is.

That is because this approach violates one of the main principles of philosophical discourse: read your opponent's position charitably and as strong as possible. If you champion the positivist philosophy of atomic statements as the foundations of truth (which can be turned against itself to be shown to be nonsensical according to its own standards), this kind of philosophy is challenging the methodological and theoretical basis of your position.

BUT no matter how analytically inclined you are, discarding two of the most famous philosophers of the last some 200 years as writing nonsense probably means nothing more than that you do not understand them and, therefore, cannot do them justice.

Purely analytical method applied to texts that methodologically turn against analytical philosophy means that one is biased and not willing to engage this kind of philosophy in the first place.

In your case, if you are really willing to gain some access to the texts, I would suggest you do not read them without a university level module or at the very least comments and companions (secondary literature) to help you with it.

They do not explain their method or prove anything with it, they apply their method to demonstrate over the course of a whole book that anything else must lead to biased/onesided outcomes. Hegel's philosophy and to some extent Heidegger's as well is not so much about single sentences that are true, but about applying a particular philosophical method on a given entity. It is not analysing what, of all that is said about it, would be correct to say. It tries to apply a method to express the being (ontic, not ontological) of the subject matter itself (and not assess given statements about the subject matter), ie. they try to circumscribe the way in which something developes itself through time and how this can appear and why it does the way it does. That is why the thought unfolds over the course of whole books and cannot be meaningfully confined to single sentences.

That does not mean that their method was superior. But before you are to judge the texts, you have to understand why the method is the way it is and how the application works first.


I don't think it's true that one can deconstruct anyone's honest metaphysical claims into atoms AND end up with absurd statements. From relativism's perspective, even there's a common truth, but its perceived reflection in everyone's mind is different due to possibly infinitely many factors such as environment, culture, experiences, etc, like there're no two exactly same leaves in the perceived world. So your understanding of anyone's claim always differs from the original author to some degrees, which is also consistent with philosophical qualia conception. So to exactly reduce one's claims to "atoms" by a foundationalist's ambition like yours is extremely hard in practice, impossible in theory. Besides Wittgenstein, historically many people tried to do similar but without much success such as Leibniz's universal characteristics project leveraging some Chinese-like symbols to represent human's atomic ideas. Of course, as technologies advance, there'll be always some projects to pursue such "mind reading and predicting" ambition even approximately in application...

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