Hegel on Pure Thinking

Published on July 1, 2022 at 12:25 PM by Coleman Gariety

Given that the determinacies of feeling, intuition, desire, volition, etc., insofar as we are conscious of them, are usually called representations, it can be said quite generally that philosophy replaces representations with thoughts and categories, but more specifically with concepts. Representations may generally be regarded as metaphors of thoughts and concepts. By merely having representations, however, we are not yet familiar with the meaning they have for thinking, i.e., we are not familiar with their thoughts and concepts. Conversely, it is one thing to have thoughts and concepts, and another to know [wissen] which representations, intuitions, feelings correspond to them. – One aspect of what is called the unintelligibility of philosophy relates to this. In part, the difficulty consists in a certain inability, which is really merely a lack of training, to think abstractly, i.e. to hold on to pure thoughts and to move among them. In our ordinary consciousness, thoughts are clothed in and combined with familiar sensuous and spiritual material, and when we think things over, reflect, or reason about them, we intermingle our feelings, intuitions, and representations with thoughts (in every sentence with a quite sensuous content – as for instance in ‘This leaf is green’ –, categories such as being, singularity are already part of the mix). But it is something else to make the unmixed thoughts themselves our object. - The other aspect of the unintelligibility of philosophy is due to the impatience of wanting to have before oneself in the form of a representation what exists in our consciousness in the form of a thought and a concept. We sometimes hear people say that they do not know [wissen] what they are supposed to think in connection with a concept they have grasped. When it comes to concepts, nothing further needs to be thought than the very concept itself. What those people mean to express, however, is the yearning for some familiar, current representation [of things]; when deprived of its manner of representing, consciousness feels as if it had lost the ground in which it is otherwise so firmly rooted and at home. When it finds itself transposed into the pure region of concepts, it no longer knows [weiß] where in the world it is. – As a result, those writers, preachers, speakers, etc., are regarded as the most intelligible who tell their readers or listeners things which they knew already by heart: things which are familiar to them and self-evident.