Reading Hegel’s Philosophy of Mind V: Thinking in Names

Note: I get pretty religious here.

17 September 1999

Noam Chomsky, thinking

I have read sections 451 to 482.  Again, I shall respond to some passages that I found of interest.

From section 462: “We think in names.” (220)

I once took a linguistics class in which I learned of Chomsky’s theory that spoken language is a human instinct, i.e., human beings are hard-wired for language and can only think – and thus become fully human — in language, whether that be the invented language of toddlers or the highest Queen’s English.

Also, thoughts of Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite and his Divine Names come to my mind, although I never studied this thinker but heard him second-hand from a friend of mine who did study him. From what I gathered, names and naming are also distinctly human, and it is a human action that is like the image of God, a participation in the Creation.

In the second creation story in Genesis, before God formed woman from man’s rib, God presented man all of the animals and plants, and man named them all. Hegel’s phrase “We think in names” has deep philosophical and theological roots, and I suppose that is the point.

From section 472: “Evil is nothing but the incompatibility between what is and what ought to be” (232). Also from section 472: “…in life, and still more in mind, we have this immanent distinction present: hence arises the Ought: and this negativity, subjectivity, ego, freedom are the principles of evil and pain. Jacob Bohme viewed egoity (selfhood) as pain and torment, and as the fountain of nature and of the spirit” (232).

From somewhere in my brain is the phrase “Evil is the lack of good.” I think it is from Augustine, perhaps written down in my undergrad notes somewhere, but this definition of evil is the basis for Satan being not equal to God (unlike a dual theology of a Good God and an Evil God, as in Zoroastrianism).

Satan is evil because he is the spiritually farthest created being from God, who is Good Itself; thus he is the most evil. This rather large space between Satan and God is where the Ought is.

But this gap is also where man, and his mind, play the drama of working out his mind’s will and his mind’s reaching towards What Ought To Be. This gap is dramatic because of man’s will, which is free: this freedom can reach towards great spirit, e.g., God — or great “pain and torment,” e.g., Satan.

I see now that Hegel tries to reason through theology, breaking the Aquinas barrier of Revelation (that is, trying not to refer to biblical texts or past teachers’ lessons). But I think in Names, and most of these Names are Revealed.


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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