Thought and Reality In Hegel’s System. Gustavus Watts Cunningham 1910


Perhaps it would not be an exaggeration to say that there is no system of thought more intimately bound up with one fundamental principle than is the system of Hegel. Even a cursory reading of his works is sufficient to convince one that the doctrine of the Notion, whatever it may be, is basic to the system; and a more detailed study only forces the conviction home. In the Phenomenology, in the Encyclopaedia, in the History of Philosophy, in the Philosophy of Religion, everywhere it is this doctrine of the Notion upon which emphasis is laid. Indeed, if one were to say that the entire system is just the explication of this doctrine, its elaboration by definition and application, one would be well within the bounds of justification. A correct interpretation of the system, consequently, depends upon a thorough comprehension of the doctrine of the Notion; if this doctrine is neglected, the system must remain a sealed book. The aim of the present monograph is to set forth this doctrine of the Notion, to emphasize its importance for a theory of knowledge, and, in the light of it, to give some insight into Hegel’s conception of ultimate reality.

The first chapter of this study was read in part before the meeting of the American Philosophical Association at Cornell University in December, 1907. Subsequently it was published in an expanded form in The Philosophical Review (Vol. XVII, pp. 619-642), under the title “The Significance of the Hegelian Conception of Absolute Knowledge.” My thanks are due to the editor of the Review for his permission to reprint it here substantially as it appeared there.

My very great indebtedness to various books and authors is sufficiently testified to by the footnotes. The references to the larger Logic are to the edition of 1841, published by Duncker and Humblot. The translations of Hegel’s works, to which I have referred for assistance and from which I have freely quoted, are: W. Wallace, The Logic of Hegel (second edition, 1892); W. Wallace, Philosophy of Mind (1894); S. W. Dyde, Philosophy of Right (1896); E. B. Speirs and J. B.

Sanderson, Philosophy of Religion (three volumes, 1895); E. S. Haldane and F. H. Simson, History of Philosophy (three volumes, 1894); J. Sibree, Philosophy of History (reprint of 1902). I have not followed the translations verbatim in every case; but what few changes have been made are, I trust, not less faithful to the original.

To the members of the Sage School of Philosophy I am deeply indebted for many suggestions both consciously and unconsciously given.

Professor G. H. Sabine, of Leland Stanford Jr. University, has read a portion of the study in manuscript and has aided me in the not very pleasant task of proof-reading. My heaviest debt of gratitude is to Professor J. E. Creighton, of Cornell University, at whose suggestion the study was first undertaken and under whose guidance and encouragement it has been brought to completion. The study would be much more imperfect than it now appears, were there not incorporated in it Professor Creighton’s many valuable suggestions and criticisms. For the content of the monograph, however, I myself must alone be held responsible.

G. W. C.
Middlebury College, September, 1910.