Reading Hegel’s Philosophy of Mind I: Drowning in Ideas

Note: I was hesitant to post my old grad school Hegel journal notes, but I thought, “Oh, what the hell. My readers are AWESOME.” So here is the first one. It’s okay to feel like you’re drowning as you read. I certainly did at the time! 

6 September 1999

I have just finished reading the first fifty-four pages of Hegel’s Philosophy of Mind. To say that the reading was dense and overwhelming would be an understatement.

I have a drowning sensation whenever I read philosophers like Hegel. This feeling stems from my mind having an everyday definition of the words that Hegel uses, like “Mind,” “Notion,” “Idea,” et cetera, but realizing that Hegel is using these words in a system with heavy, deep meanings that I only have a vague understanding.

I actually went online to find a “Hegel for Beginners” guide, but I realized that the best way for me to get Hegel is to throw myself into the reading, very much like throwing myself into a pool, and thrash around for a bit until the context of what I am reading builds my vocabulary of the Hegelian system.

This is what I gleaned so far from my reading:

All of Reality is called the Idea. The Mind, also called the Spirit, is the Idea, in and for itself, meaning that the Mind is active Idea (I think), which is not fixed Idea (like Logical Idea).

I’m not quite sure if I have all my terms right – after all, I’m still learning.

But what I glean from Hegel is that he is beholden to Aristotle, who stresses potentiality and actuality, which is part of Being and is Being.

The Mind (and I think Hegel means the human mind) is a manifestation of Idea (all of reality) in humans. The Mind’s Notion (or actuality) is to realize that it is Idea.

Mind is already Idea ontologically (that is, inherently), but the Mind does not realize this. Only in the knowing does the Mind actualize its Notion as being Idea. Until then, Mind is disunited with its Notion.

However, because Mind is already Idea beforehand, Mind is both unified and disunited with Idea, which Mind must also realize in order to be unified with Idea, i.e. realize its Notion.

This sounds contradictory, and Hegel’s system seems to be filled with these contradictions, which thoroughly confused me at first.

A friend of mind asked me that if Idea subsumes all of these contradictions (including good and evil), and if Idea is God, then is God a schizophrenic God?

My answer to him was “Yes, and God is also a unified God. God is both schizophrenic and unified because God subsumes all qualities, all states, is all. God wouldn’t be God is God didn’t.”

I think I answered correctly.

As long as Hegel sticks with ontology, he seems to be on firm ground, even though I have problems understanding him.

I found his sections delineating the races in his Anthropology rather disturbing and offensive, but that’s my problem. However, I also found these sections irrelevant to the subject at hand, and I think that’s Hegel’s problem.


About lizardqueen

If single-mothering were a paid job, I'd be rich. However, it doesn't, so I write (which doesn't pay the bills) and teach (which does). I'm overly-educated in the liberal arts, but that doesn't hinder my ability to be pragmatic and realistic. YAY.
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