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Martin Heidegger’s writings on Hegel are notoriously difficult but show an essential engagement between two of the foundational thinkers of phenomenology. Joseph Arel and Niels Feuerhahn provide a clear and careful translation of Volume 68 of the Complete Works, which is comprised of two shorter texts—a treatise on negativity, and a penetrating reading of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit. In this volume, Heidegger relates his interpretation of Hegel to his own thought on the event, taking up themes developed in Contributions to Philosophy. While many parts of the text are fragmentary in nature, these interpretations are considered some of the most significant as they bring Hegel into Heidegger’s philosophical trajectory.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780253017574
Publisher: Indiana University Press
Publication date: 08/31/2015
Series: Studies in Continental Thought
Pages: 168
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Joseph Arel teaches philosophy at the Northern Arizona University.

Niels Feuerhahn teaches philosophy at the University of Guelph.

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By Martin Heidegge, Joseph Arel, Niels Feuerhahn

Indiana University Press

Copyright © 2009 Vittorio Klostermann GmbH, Frankfurt am Main
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-253-01757-4



1. On Hegel

The explorations that we are attempting in the form of a discussion should not interrupt the course of your work of interpreting Hegel's Logic. The questions that we are striving toward are also not intended to "intrude on" Hegel's philosophy from the outside with the "impatience of incidental reflection," which is thoroughly contrary to a system of thinking, particularly of the Hegelian type, and must therefore also be fruitless.

It is also true that Hegel does not simply serve us as an arbitrary opportunity and foothold for a philosophical confrontation. His philosophy stands definitively in the history of thinking — or should we say: of beyng — as the singular and not yet comprehended demand for a confrontation with it. This demand holds for any thinking that comes after it or for any thinking that simply wants to — and perhaps must — prepare again for philosophy.

Nietzsche, who freed himself very slowly and rather late from the pathetic slander and disregard for Hegel that he inherited from Schopenhauer, once said that "we Germans are Hegelians, even if there had never been a Hegel."

The singularity of Hegel's philosophy consists primarily in the fact that there is no longer a higher standpoint of self-consciousness of spirit beyond it. Thus any future, still higher standpoint over against it, which would be superordinate to Hegel's system — in the manner by which Hegel's philosophy for its part and in accord with its point of view had to subordinate every previous philosophy — is once and for all impossible.

All the same, if the standpoint of a necessary confrontation with Hegel's philosophy is to be on equal footing with it, and that means of course that it is in an essential respect superior to it, while at the same time not brought to and forced on it from the outside, then this standpoint of the confrontation must in fact lie concealed in Hegel's philosophy — as its own essentially inaccessible and indifferent ground. However, that and why the standpoint of Schelling's late philosophy may in no way be taken up as a standpoint superior to Hegel shall not be dealt with here.

In view of the uniqueness of the standpoint of his philosophy, the confrontation with Hegel is also subject to unique conditions. It has nothing in common with any sort of "critique," that is, an account of what is incorrect, which would be derived from applying the standards of preceding standpoints or of earlier standpoints that, in the meantime, have been revised — for instance, those of Kantianism, Medieval-Scholasticism, or Cartesianism.

The other thing that a fundamental confrontation with Hegel needs to be mindful of originates in something that Hegel claimed as the distinguishing mark of his system very early on, and again and again afterward: that the standpoint of his philosophy is actually elaborated and that the principle of his philosophy across all areas (nature, art, law, state, religion) is pursued and presented throughout. Philosophy that comes after Hegel cannot be content with merely having a "knack" for a new kind of wisdom; the principle must show itself in the totality of beings and must thus validate this totality as actuality. "True thoughts and scientific insight are only to be won in the labor of the concept. The concept alone can bring forth the universality of knowledge, which is neither the common indeterminacy and inadequacy of common sense, but rather well-formed and complete cognition, nor the uncommon universality of the capacity of reason, which corrupts itself through sluggishness and conceit of genius, but rather a truth ripened to its properly matured form so as to be capable of being the property of all self-conscious reason."

Whether in fact the elaboration of the principle of the system, as Hegel demands it, holds for all philosophy in general or only for the kind of systematic philosophy of German Idealism, and also, what this demand means in altered form for another inquiry, cannot be discussed here. But in any case, a fundamental confrontation with Hegel, one that is directed at the principle and standpoint, risks that by grasping merely the principle it grasps precisely that — or not even that — which remains empty and indeterminate and is not the intended philosophy itself.

From this we may infer that a fundamental confrontation with Hegel's philosophy that is adequate to it as a whole can be achieved only in a way that follows every step of Hegel's thinking in every area of his system.

But what would be achieved here other than, generally speaking, always only the presentation of the same principle, albeit in a different penetrability and illuminatory force depending on the area in question (art, religion)? This would certainly not be an insignificant achievement — and yet would never be what is decisive. On the other hand, the detached discussion of the empty principle and of the meager skeleton of the form of the system are prohibited because they do not make manifest the being-principle of the principle.

In line with these considerations, every fundamental confrontation with Hegel stands or falls depending on whether it satisfies, at the same time and in a unified manner, these two demands: first, to occupy a more originary standpoint, one that does not intrude from outside, and on the other hand, to grasp in an originary manner what is fundamental in its determinateness and power of determination, while avoiding both the depletion of the principle of the system and a merely formalistic discussion of it as it can be found in the usual — historiological — expositions, that is, in those that are not guided by an essential question.

Where then does the critical meditation have to begin in order to satisfy this twofold demand? What is that basic determination of Hegel's philosophy that we must think through in order to be led back into a more originary standpoint from which alone we can truly catch sight of it as a basic determination? And what is this basic determination that at the same time does justice to that which the Hegelian system has worked through?

We claim: this basic determination is "negativity." However, before we move on to a closer characterization of Hegelian negativity, some prior questions need to be sorted out.

(1) The clarification of a concern regarding the value of such a confrontation.

(2) The specification of the conceptual language that comes into play in the confrontation.

(3) The preliminary characterization of the standpoint and principle of Hegel's philosophy.

(1) Clarification of a concern regarding the value of such a confrontation

It can be doubted whether Hegel's philosophy still has an impact today, so that it seems that the confrontation with it, regardless of how much it is concerned with what is fundamental, remains after all only a scholarly game of the usual philosophical-historical historicism, one that is, as we say, concerned with the "history of ideas" — a making-present of Hegelian philosophy as a past one in which many curiosities may be noticed and which, if it is conducted thoroughly enough, perhaps contributes to the sharpening of the understanding. This doubt, namely whether such a historicism is and can be more than a scholarly occupation, expresses the opinion that the actual relevance of a philosophy consists in its effects or after-effects. As if Hegel's philosophy would only actually be relevant today if there were a Hegelianism and to the extent that it existed in fact in various forms! That a philosophy produces a school and that this school in turn practices a "philology" and a learnedness about the philosophy in question, this is indeed an effect of the philosophy — and one that is for the most part an irrelevant effect; this effect, however, never contains that which the philosophy in question is historically from itself and in itself.

The actual relevance of Hegelian philosophy also does not lend itself to be measured by what it meant for the "life" of its time through its immediate, contemporary influence. What we encounter here is the common view that Hegel's philosophy and German Idealism in general always remained the extravagant speculation of some fanciful minds and thus stood "outside" of so-called "life." To that one must respond that German Idealism as a whole and Hegel's philosophy in particular unfolds a historically effective force whose extent and limits we today cannot yet fathom because we are flooded by it from all directions without recognizing it. However, one must know that this kind of "impact" of a philosophy precisely does not consist in that its doctrines are adopted, "espoused" as they say, carried over into the so-called praxis of "life," and are thereby confirmed and its validity is upheld. The "impact" of a philosophy has an enigmatic thing about it, that in effecting its "time," it calls forth precisely its opposite and compels it to revolt against it. In short: Without German Idealism and without Hegel's metaphysics in particular, the positivism of the nineteenth century and of our time could never have gained the stability and self-evidence that belongs to it.

The age in which Nietzsche was rooted and caught up is unthinkable without Hegel, not to mention Marx and Marxism, which is, after all, more than just a particular formulation of socialism. But Hegel's metaphysics has a mere semblance of actual relevance, namely, in that today's Hegelians band together in order to make themselves timely in the name of Hegel's "concrete" thinking. Hegel still has an impact everywhere today, yet always in a reversal and disguise or, in turn, in the counter-movement against this reversal and disguise. Christian theology of both denominations is determined by Hegel and even more so by the religious-historical theological counter-movements and formations of the ecclesiastical consciousness that grew out of it.

And nevertheless: Even this actual relevance of his philosophy, understood as the historical impact proper to it, does not constitute what this philosophy as philosophy is, still is, and will be. With this we in no way think of a supertemporal validity of any "correct" propositions that one wants to find in it among many incorrect, flawed, and obsolete things. We mean rather "only" this: that this philosophy is, — that here that which philosophy has to think is thought in a distinctive manner; that something happens here that does not take place outside of "time," but indeed has its own time, to the extent that it originarily grounds the latter. We may not, neither now nor in the future, measure the historical being of a philosophy with the standards of historiology; the impact and effectivity on so-called life is no possible factor for the judgment of a philosophy, and with it also not for the estimation of the worth of a confrontation with it; because all "life" and what is so called "lives" only out of the misrecognition and turning away from philosophy, — this means only that it necessarily and in a very embarrassing way needs philosophy. But philosophy can never consider "life's" turning away from it a deficiency but must rather know it from necessity. What and how Western philosophy is historically cannot be decided by means of historiological considerations but can be experienced only in philosophical thinking.

(2) Specification of the conceptual language that comes into play in the confrontation

Philosophy is Western philosophy; — there is no philosophy other than Western philosophy, inasmuch as the essence of what the West and Western history are is determined by that which is called philosophy. We must abstain from every scholastic conception and every historiological interpretation of philosophy as a cultural phenomenon and instead understand it as the mindfulness of the totality of beings as such, in short — but also again undetermined because ambivalent — asking the question of being.

"Being" is the basic word of philosophy. What we call in this essential, and that means at the same time the initial historical sense, "being," Hegel calls "actuality" (compare below). Why exactly this designation occurs in Hegel is grounded in the innermost essence of the history of Western philosophy; why — this will become apparent in our discussion.

In contrast, that which Hegel designates with "being" we call "objectness," which is a designation that indeed captures what Hegel himself also means. Why Hegel calls "objectness" "being" is, again, not arbitrary. It arises from the necessity of a philosophical standpoint that Hegel himself must traverse and posit in order to ground his philosophy.

Hegel's concept of "actuality"

(According to the preface of the Elements of the Philosophy of Right. In the Logic: "absolute idea"; in the Phenomenology of Spirit: absolute knowledge, but also "being.")

Actuality: beingness as representedness of absolute reason. Reason as absolute knowledge — unconditionally re-presenting representation and its representedness.

What is "rational" and what can be called "actual" will be decided in accordance with this alone. With this in mind, Hegel's proposition, often quoted and just as often misinterpreted, is to be understood:

"What is rational is actual; and what is actual is rational."

This proposition is turned into its opposite if by "actual" one understands what is commonly called "actual," that is, the presence-at-hand of a contingent "present," and by "reason" the contingent understanding of the self-evidence of common thought.

This proposition is not a determination in the sense of an equation concerning things encountered present-at-hand and a momentarily plausible opinion of the "rational" living creature, called man, — but it is the basic proposition [Grundsatz] of the essential determination of being. Being is the representedness of unconditionally representing representation (of thinking) — the perceivedness of reason. The proposition is not a practical rule about the assessment of beings, but conveys the essential ground of the beingness of beings. The proposition can therefore also not be refuted by the fact that many "rational things" (in the usual {?} sense) do not "happen" and are not "actualized," and thus fail to occur, and that many "actual things" are rather "irrational" (in the sense of calculating understanding). This essential proposition cannot be "refuted" whatsoever.

For Hegel, "being" is thus only a one-sided determination of that which philosophy, and also Hegelian philosophy, thinks and interrogates: being, in the sense of the question of being as the mindfulness of the totality of beings as such.


Excerpted from Hegel by Martin Heidegge, Joseph Arel, Niels Feuerhahn. Copyright © 2009 Vittorio Klostermann GmbH, Frankfurt am Main. Excerpted by permission of Indiana University Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents

Translators’ Introduction


I. Negativity. Nothing – abyss – beyng
II. The realm of inquiry of negativity
III. The differentiation of being and beings
IV. Clearing – Abyss – Nothing
V. Hegel
Supplement to the title page
Supplement to section 1


Preliminary consideration. On the various roles and positions of the Phenomenology
• f Spirit within Hegel's metaphysics

I. The grounding of the enactment of the presentation of appearing knowledge
(paragraphs 1-4 of the "Introduction")

II. The self-presentation of appearing knowledge as the course into the truth of its own
essence (paragraphs 5-8 of the "Introduction")

III. The criterion of the examination and the essence of the examination in the course
• f appearing knowledge (paragraphs 9-13 of the "Introduction")

IV. The essence of the experience of consciousness and its presentation
(paragraphs 14-15 of the "Introduction")

V. Absolute metaphysics (sketches for paragraph 16 of the "Introduction")

Appendix. Supplements to I-IV (paragraph 1-15 of the "Introduction")

Editor’s Afterword

German-English Glossary
English-German Glossary

What People are Saying About This

Albert-Ludwigs-Universitat Freiburg - Mark J. Thomas

The fragmentary character of parts of the text and the overall difficulty of the themes Heidegger treats place great demands on the reader. Arel and Feuerhahn have provided a careful translation that highlights Heidegger's reading of Hegel.

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