My worldview is not dissimilar from what Hegel articulates in his famous Phenomenology of Spirit. Instead of summarizing the contents of reality at the outset with a set of propositions about a static reality, we should understand that the world to be discovered is a process Spirit’s self-discovery rather than a state of affairs, and that all of our knowledge makes up partial truths that will not ripen into greater truths until subsequent stages take them up and remove what is false in them only to move forward with what is true in them. In this respect, all falsity has some truth and all truth some falsity.
Thus, aberrant philosophical systems are not straightforwardly “false” but self-correcting moments in an Absolute Mind gradually becoming self-aware. The most primitive beginnings of human thought should not be seen as something to be replaced by “real” knowledge but necessary moments of the progression of an Absolute Mind towards final self-realization and self-knowledge. The process, with all its epistemological miscarriages, should be seen as moments to be taken up in a whole rather than mistakes to be replaced and both the humans engaging in this behavior and the “nature” upon which humans act in this manner, are all components of this grand process of the cosmos becoming self-aware. Falsehoods are integrated into its whole rather than merely discarded.
For this reason, we should never content ourselves merely with universal utterances, no matter how full of truth they may be, but should regard them both as necessarily connected with the errors which they have overcome, and as themselves merely partial, full of falsehood to be discarded within the progression and whose truths must subsequently be connected with a newly emerging whole. Philosophical truth emerges within the context of a fully worked out system, in this way, that is the product of an organic process and is itself very much alive, rather than a purely intellectual or mechanical enterprise or product.
This truth, although not the product of a purely formal or mathematical system, is nevertheless very much a conceptual product of the Absolute. For this reason, not only is mere faith arising from subjective intuition is inadequate and is an attempt to restore a primitive past to which we can no longer return, but also, we cannot settle for modern, Western scientism either, and Hegel is very keen to emphasize this as well. I believe we are currently very much in the midst of a transformation that synthesizes the insights accorded to intuition of the “fundamentalist” days with the rigorous empirical examination that characterizes the modern, Western age. But Hegel is dissatisfied with an approach that merely uses intuition to say that “All is one” and be done with that; a view that he associates with his contemporary Schelling.
He critiques Schelling by warning against understanding the absolute as Substance rather than Subject, because he sees the Absolute as a process of self-discovery through differentiation, alienation and re-integration, rather than just settling for the Absolute of an undifferentiated universality. This alienation is predictably painful and the Absolute should not be regarded as a satisfied Substance but has smashed itself into pieces and will only achieve true and final re-integration through the process of building itself back together. The Absolute is in a process of very painful self-discovery and should be understood, not as something that simply exists but is the product of this entire process. One might say that the march of cosmic history is the march of the Absolute Absolutizing itself gradually.
This is nothing but the process of the Absolute engaging in reasoning about itself, and in this respect, Reason is teleological or purposive rather than blind. In this respect, Hegel ought to arguably be seen as very much a panpsychist, as the movement of cosmic history is the Reasoning process of the Absolute about itself as it becomes Absolute.
The Absolute is fundamentally Spirit in itself and for itself but it does not realize this about itself until the dialectical process of cosmic history is complete. For something to be “in itself and for itself” in Hegel refers tot he completion of its development and its tendency to be at home with itself and finding itself in the other. This is the condition, for Hegel, of the fully actualized Absolute Spirit. This, he argues, is the true goal of what he considers “science,” which is not the positivistic and mechanistic conception now popular in the Western world.
Both the human and the Spirit begin with a state of totally vacuous sense-certainty with one trait emphasized and the others undeveloped. The particular individual undergoes a dialectical progression of sublation of its encountered contents and growth that mirrors the very development of the Absolute Spirit itself. This is analogous to the uneducated individual beginning his process of education. For this reason, the philosopher must situate himself in the broader cultural context in which he emerges rather, dictating where we came from to reach this stage, where we are now, and tentatively, where we intend to go rather than simply enunciating what he believes to be the case about reality.
Once properly educated, the philosopher begins unpacking familiar concepts within this particular cultural context, rendering them unfamiliar to those with an unthinking acquaintance with them, and developing them with greater substance. It is the Understanding that is responsible for this process. The ancients went from natural consciousness to the universal and we must proceed from the universal to more fully develop it within our current context and think the universal anew as an organic and dynamic process of unfolding rather than as a static thing.
Thus, when we philosophize, it is always within a specific historical context, and this historical context is a moment within cosmic evolution, and the thinker is himself a moment of this teleological unfolding rather than happenstance contemplation, and this is true whether he realizes this about himself and his relation to the cosmos or not. The existential immediacy of the present is understood by Hegel as “Consciousness,” and it consists of the two opposing factors of knowledge and objectivity. These two poles make up experience and the objective Substance of experience is limited to nothing but its immediate experience. Spirit initially encounters objectivity and initially regards it as alien, in Spirit’s own alienation from components of itself before recognizing objectivity as a part of itself and reintegrating this objectivity back into itself.
Hegel thinks that the ancients were right to postulate the existence of the “void,” and it is this void that is the engine of motion that gradually draws the subjective self towards the initially alien-seeming objective world until the two are reintegrated. Once this reintegration happens, the subject-object distinction vanishes and we move from phenomenology to Logic (not formal logic, but Hegel’s Logic of the progression of Absolute Spirit). This beginning with phenomenology and culminating in logic is a necessary process within a larger process.
Philosophy follows the march of Hegel’s Logic rather than formal logic or mathematics, because these models only represent formal accounts of how relations might be constituted as moments within the progression of the Absolute Spirit to full self-knowledge, but bare enunciation of facts should not be seen as emblematic of the march of knowledge. Hegel sees in Kant the same problem, because he treats philosophy as something that can be articulated as an inert schema rather than as a living, organic, dynamic process of Absolute Spirit discovering itself. We cannot, furthermore, apply the same inert schema to all concrete situations and expect it to algorithmically yield proper results, as each concrete context is a totally novel set of relations with no counterpart at any other moment in space or time. Hegel sees his Logic of this progression of Spirit as the essence of science itself.
Each distinct moment has its own abstracted self identity which annihilates itself in the progression of Absolute Spirit, and preserves elements of itself within the process of growth like a developing brain engaging in pruning of unnecessary brain cells. “Existence,” for Hegel, characterizes these moments, which refers merely to a distinction of quality. All of Existence consists of its own momentary “Existents”, each of which is connected to all others, and the underlying essence of these existences is the movement of Absolute Spirit towards its full self-understanding. Each being is subtended by its own Notion, which Notion is the necessity of its development. Although Hegel does not actually employ the formula of “thesis-antithesis-synthesis,” we may think of a speculative philosopher as a thesis, the object he is studying as antithesis, and the gradual reintegration of subject and object through proper study as the synthesis of both with one another, which may then therefore become a thesis or antithesis for some subsequent dynamic within Absolute Spirit’s progression.
It is in this respect that Hegel opposes representationalist models of knowledge or epistemology, which conceive of scientific investigation as a process of mere representations rather than accounts of subject and object dynamically wrestling with one another only to be integrated with one another and producing new moments of growth. One problem with representationalism in Hegel is that it entails a subject misperceiving its object as totally distinct from it, rather than understanding that this apparent separation is an initial encounter of alienation of the subject from the object destined to be overcome with proper philosophy.
We begin with something like naive empiricism which we think gives us immediate and substantive knowledge, only to wrestle with the phenomena and acquire more substantive knowledge. Hegel describes this as the purification of Soul into Spirit, which is part of a process by which a complete experience of itself comes to understand itself more fully (comes to know what it is in itself). Thus, the philosopher should be skeptical of his results but only with the aim of producing something positive rather than purely negative scepticism that is corrosive and repudiates all knowledge claims.