Hegel’s Lectures on the History of Philosophy.
Section Two

Second Period: Dogmatism and Scepticism.

IN this second period, which precedes the Alexandrian philosophy, we have to consider Dogmatism and Scepticism — the Dogmatism which separates itself into the two philosophies, the Stoic and the Epicurean; and the third philosophy, of which both partake and which yet differs from them both, Scepticism. Along with this last we would take the New Academy, which has entirely merged in it — while in the Older Academy, Plato’s philosophy indubitably still maintained its purity. We saw at the close of the previous period the consciousness of the Idea, or of the Universal, which is an end in itself — a principle, universal indeed, but at the same time determined in itself, which is thus capable of subsuming the particular, and of being applied thereto. The application of universal to particular is here the relationship that prevails, for the reflection that from the universal itself the separation of the totality is developed, is not yet present. There always is in such a relationship the necessity of a system and of systematization; that is to say, one determinate principle must consistently be applied to the particular, so that the truth of all that is particular should be determined according to this abstract principle, and be at the same time likewise recognized. Now since this is what we have in so-called Dogmatism, it is a philosophizing of the understanding, in which Plato’s and Aristotle’s speculative greatness is no longer present.

In respect of this relationship, the task of Philosophy now comes to be summed up in the two-fold question which we spoke of earlier (Vol. I. pp. 474, 475), and which has regard to a criterion of truth and to the wise man. At this point we may better than before, and also from a different point of view, explain the necessity for this phenomenon. For because truth has now become conceived as the harmony of thought and reality, or rather as the identity of the Notion, as the subjective, with the objective, the first question is what the universal principle for judging and determining this harmony is; but a principle through which the true is judged (krinetai) to be true, is simply the criterion. Yet because this question had only been formally and dogmatically answered, the dialectic of Scepticism, or the knowledge of the one-sidedness of this principle as a dogmatic principle, at once appeared. A further result of this mode of philosophizing is that the principle, as formal, is subjective, and consequently it has taken the real significance of the subjectivity of self-consciousness. Because of the external manner in which the manifold is received, the highest point, that in which thought finds itself in its most determinate form, is self-consciousness. The pure relation of self-consciousness to itself is thus the principle in all these philosophies, since in it alone does the Idea find satisfaction, just as the formalism of the understanding of the present so-called philosophizing seeks to find its fulfilment, the concrete which is opposed to this formalism, in the subjective heart, in the inward feelings and beliefs. Nature and the political world are certainly also concrete, but externally concrete; the arbitrary concrete is, on the other hand, not in the determinate universal Idea, but only in self-consciousness and as being personal. The second ruling determination is consequently that of the wise men. Not reason alone, but everything must be something thought, that is, subjectively speaking, my thought; that which is thought, on the contrary, is only implicit, that is to say, it is itself objective in so far as it appears in the form of the formal identity of thought with itself. The thought of the criterion as of the one principle is, in its immediate actuality, the subject itself; thought and the thinker are thus immediately connected. Because the principle of this philosophy is not objective but dogmatic, and rests on the impulse of self-consciousness towards self-satisfaction, it is the subject whose interests are to be considered. The subject seeks on its own account a principle for its freedom, namely, immovability in itself; it must be conformable to the criterion, i.e. to this quite universal principle, in order to be able to raise itself into this abstract independence. Self-consciousness lives in the solitude of its thought, and finds therein its satisfaction. These are the fundamental determinations in the following philosophies. the exposition of their main principles will come next, but to go into details is not advisable.

Although, as no doubt is the case, these philosophies, as regards their origin, pertain to Greece, and their great teachers were always Greeks, they were yet transferred to the Roman world; thus Philosophy passed into the Roman world and these systems in particular constituted under Roman rule the philosophy of the Roman world, in opposition to which world., unsuited as it was to the rational practical self-consciousness, this last, driven back into itself from external actuality, could only seek for reason in itself and could only care for its individuality — just as abstract Christians only care for their own salvation. In the bright Grecian world the individual attached himself more to his state or to his world, and was more at home in it. The concrete morality, the impulse towards the introduction of the principle into the world through the constitution of the state, which we see in Plato, the concrete science that we find in Aristotle, here disappear. In the wave of adversity which came across the Roman world, everything beautiful and noble in spiritual individuality was rudely swept away. In this condition of disunion in the world, when man is driven within his inmost self, he has to seek the unity and satisfaction, no longer to be found in the world, in an abstract way. The Roman world is thus the world of abstraction, where one cold rule was extended over all the civilized world. The living individualities of national spirit in the nations have been stifled and killed; a foreign power, as an abstract universal, has pressed hard upon individuals. In such a condition of dismemberment it was necessary to fly to this abstraction as to the thought of an existent subject, that is, to this inward freedom of the subject as such. As what was held in estimation was the abstract will of the individual ruler of the world, the inward principle of thought also had to be an abstraction which could bring forth a formal, subjective reconciliation only. A dogmatism erected on a principle made effectual through the form of the understanding could alone satisfy the Roman mind. These philosophies are thus conformable to the spirit of the Roman world, as indeed Philosophy in general ever stands in close connection with the world in its ordinary aspect (Vol. I. pp. 53, 54). The Roman world has, indeed, produced a formal patriotism and corresponding virtue, as also a developed system of law; but speculative philosophy could not proceed from such dead material — we could only expect good advocates and the morality of a Tacitus. These philosophies, always excepting Stoicism, also arose amongst the Romans in opposition to their ancient superstitions, just as now Philosophy comes forward in the place of religion.

The three principles of Stoicism, Epicureanism and Scepticism are necessary; in the first there is the principle of thought or of universality itself, but yet determined in itself; the abstract thought is here the determining criterion of the truth. There is opposed to thought, in the second place, the determinate as such, the principle of individuality, feeling generally, sensuous perception and observation. These two form the principles of the Stoic and Epicurean philosophies. Both principles are one-sided and, as positive, become sciences of the understanding; just because this thought is not in itself concrete but abstract, the determinateness falls outside of thought and must be made a principle for itself; for it has an absolute right as against abstract thought. Besides Stoicism and Epicureanism, there is, in the third place, Scepticism, the negation of these two one-sided philosophies which must be recognized as such. The principle of Scepticism is thus the active negation of every criterion, of all determinate principles of whatever kind they be, whether knowledge derived from the senses, or from reflection on ordinary conceptions, or from thought. Thus the next result arrived at is that nothing can be known. Yet the imperturbability and uniformity of mind in itself, which suffers through nothing, and which is affected neither by enjoyment, pain, nor any other bond, is the common standpoint and the common end of all these philosophies. Thus however gloomy men may consider Scepticism, and however low a view they take of Epicureanism, all these have in this way been philosophies.


Translated by E.S. Haldane and Frances H. Simson, published by K. Paul Trench, Trübner in 1894.

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