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Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel: Excerpts from Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences in Outline (1817)

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(2) The beginning of philosophy faces the same embarassment [sic] regarding form, for the beginning as beginning is immediate, but presents itself as mediated. The concept must on the one hand be recognized as necessary and at the same time the cognitive method cannot be presupposed, since its derivation occurs within philosophy itself.

If nothing could be done but to show that representation in itself is the entirely indeterminate topic of philosophy, then one could take refuge in the customary belief that human beings begin with sensory perception and desire, soon feel themselves driven beyond that point to the feeling and intimation of a higher being, an infinite being and infinite will, and then become aware of general concerns: What is the soul, what is the world, what is God? What can I know? On what basis should I act? What should I hope, and so on? Religion and its topics could then be addressed more directly. Yet despite the fact that such questions and issues can themselves be met with doubt and negation, immediate consciousness and even religion in its own way already contain in part the dissolution of such questions and doctrines concerning these topics. But the specific quality that turns these concerns into the contents of philosophy is not expressed in this way.—

Hence one can indeed refer to the topic of philosophy, but neither to its authority nor to a general agreement over what is understood as philosophy. Even the requirement stated earlier, that the knowledge of necessity only occurs through the concept, is not accepted, for there are many who believe that they have grasped philosophy more from immediate feeling and intuition than from the knowledge of necessity, and in fact such immediacy of perception is even called reason. In this sense Newton and the English confuse experimental physics with philosophy, so that electrical machines, magnetic appliances, pumps and the like are called philosophical instruments. But surely it is only thought which should be called the instrument of philosophy, and not a mere assemblage of wood, iron, or other materials.*

Because the topic of philosophy is not immediate, the concept of the topic and the concept of philosophy itself can only be comprehended within philosophy. What is said here of the topic as well as of philosophy is something said prior to philosophy, and is therefore somewhat anticipatory, still ungrounded for itself. It is also, therefore, incontrovertible and intended to provide only an indeterminate, tentative, and historical introduction.

* There is also a journal, published by Thomson, entitled Annals of Philosophy or Magazine of Chemistry, Minerology [sic], Natural History, Agriculture, and the Arts. It is hard to imagine how the materials named in the title could be seen as philosophical.

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