Harris’s reflections on Hegel’s correspondence theory of truth are rich and suggestive. We agree about many important, if controversial, points: Hegel relied on coherence as an important element in justification, he did not hold a coherence theory of the nature of truth, he is a realist, he holds a correspondence theory of the nature of truth, ‘truth as correspondence’ is crucial to Hegel’s view of philosophical truth, and human beings attain truth as a social and historical enterprise.1


Pure Reason Correspondence Theory Philosophical Significance Philosophical Truth Universal Spirit 
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  1. 1.
    I have argued independently for these views in Hegel’s Epistemological Realism (Dordrecht: Kluwer, 1989; hereafter “HER”). Harris and I thus disagree with Robert Pippin’s Hegel’s Idealism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989). Harris presented his disagreements in “The Problem of Kant” (Bulletin of the Hegel Society of Great Britain 19 [1989], pp. 18–27); I presented mine in “Hegel, Idealism, and Robert Pippin” (International Philosophical Quarterly 33 No. 3 [1993], pp. 263–72). Pippin’s responses are published with our comments. Recently I found another predecessor who recognized Hegel’s realism: J.E. Turner, A Theory of Direct Realism (New York: Macmillan, 1925). In ch. 19, titled “Hegelian Realism,” Turner points out that the question about evidence of Hegel’s realism isn’t whether there is any, but rather where to stop cataloging its bounty (ibid., pp. 256–57). Michael Rosen notes in passing, as if it were obvious, that Hegel was “one of the most epistemologically realistic philosophers who ever drew breath” (“Modernism and the Two Traditions in Philosophy,” in: D. Bell & W. Vossenkuhl, eds., Wissenschaft and Subjektivität: Der Wiener Kreis and die Philosophie 20. Jahrhunderts/Science and Subjectivity: The Vienna Circle and 201h Century Philosophy [Berlin: Akademie, 1992], pp. 258–81; p. 272 note 27). At the 13h Biennial Meeting of the Hegel Society of America (“Hegel and the Philosophy of Nature,” Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C., Sept. 31—Oct. 2, 1994), Errol E. Harris remarked that he has maintained for 60 years that Hegel is a realist. He first presented such an interpretation of Hegel in print in “The Philosophy of Nature in Hegel’s System” (Review of Metaphysics 3 No. 2 [ 1949 ], pp. 213–28), in which he (rightly) argues against the (Bradleian) view that Hegel reduces nature to our experience of it. In separate conversations at that meeting, both he and Henry Harris insisted that the crucial point is to clarify Hegel’s use of the terms “idealism” and “realism,” which would then resolve the controversy. I have attempted the needed documentation and clarification of Hegel’s use of the relevant terms in HER pp. 140–45.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Indianapolis: Hackett, 1997, 2 vols.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    I reconstruct the structure of Hegel’s epistemological argument in HER ch. 11, where I also note that Hegel’s epistemological argument is only one among several important strands of argument in the Phenomenology.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    HER reconstructs in detail Hegel’s aim and method in the Phenomenology. I am writing a second volume which reconstructs in detail the first leg of Hegel’s substantive argument in the Consciousness section, along the lines sketched in HER (pp. 158–60). Part I of that volume reconstructs the internal criticism of Kant’s transcendental idealism which Hegel needs, which he recognized, but which he did not spell out. Hegel’s internal critique and determinate negation of Kant’s idealism provides two independent sources of confirmation of Hegel’s realism. I sketch one of those sources in “On Hegel’s Early Critique of Kant’s Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science” (forthcoming in the proceedings of the 13h Annual Meeting of the Hegel Society of America, Stephen Houlgate, ed., Hegel and the Philosophy of Nature, [Albany: SUNY Press, 1977]).Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Hegel’s Correspondence Theory of Truth,” supra pp. 11–22, p. 11. All subsequent references to Harris are to this article.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Cf. Critique of Pure Reason A58=B82–83.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    The single individual must also pass through the formative stages of universal spirit so far as their content is concerned, but as shapes which spirit has already left behind, as stages on a way that has been made level with toil. Thus, as far as factual information is concerned, we find that what in former ages engaged the attention of men of mature mind, has been reduced to the level of facts, exercises, and even games for children…” (Hegel: Gesammelte Werke [Frankfurt/M: Meiner, 1968—; hereafter “GW”] IX p. 25.1–5; Miller, tr., Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit [Oxford: Clarendon, 1977], p. 16). (Line numbers of GW are indicated by decimals.) On the value of the correspondence definition of truth, see Wissenschaft der Logik II (GWXII p. 26.4–9; Miller, tr., Hegel’s Science of Logic [London: George Allen & Unwin, 1969 ], p. 593 ).Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Metaphysics 1011b26f., cf. Categories 4a10–4619, 14b12–23, De Interpretatione 16a10–19; Aquinas, De Veritate Ql Al, Summa Contra Gentiles Bk. I Ch. 59.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Plato, Theatetus 188e-189a, Sophist 240d, 260c - 263d.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    See P. Horwich, Truth ( Oxford: Blackwell, 1990 ).Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Here I recast some points from HER, pp. 62–64, 67.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Geraets, Suchting, & Harris, trs., (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1991); emended. The whole Zusatz deserves careful reading, especially in regard to the current influence of Richard Rorty.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Hegel raises these same issues when discussing the metaphors of knowledge as an “instrument” or a “medium” in his Introduction to the Phenomenology (GW IX pp. 53.1–54.20; Miller, pp. 46–47). See HER ch. 1.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Critique of Pure Reason, A83=B109, A314=B370–71, A352; Prolegomena §§30, 39 (Kants Gesammelte Schriften [Berlin: G. Reimer, now DeGruyter, 1902—], IV pp. 312, 323 ).Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    See F.C. Beiser, The Fate of Reason (Cambridge, Ma.: Harvard University Press, 1987), ch$11, and Robert Butts, “The Grammar of Reason: Hamann’s Challenge to Kant ” (Synthese 75 [ 1988 ], pp. 251–83 ).Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    See Beiser, op. cit., ch. 5.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    See, e.g., Brand Blanchard, The Nature of Thought (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1940), vol. II ch. 25 §21, ch. 26 §§2, 8, 13, 16 (excerpted in: E. Nagel & R. Brandt, eds., Meaning and Knowledge [New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1965 ], pp. 139–52 ).Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    I discuss this development in the paradigm case of Catnap in HER ch. 4.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Hegel insists on this point again in the very important remark, “Vom Begriff im Allgemein,” in the Wissenschaft der Logik (G W XII pp. 23.29–24.20; Miller, pp. 590–91), and in the 1825 Berlin Phänomenologie (M.J. Petry, ed., Hegel’s Philosophy of Subjective Spirit [Dordrecht: Reidel, 1978] III, pp. 286–91). The significance of Hegel’s point was brought into focus for my by F.L. Will, “The Concern About Truth” (in: G.W. Roberts, ed., The Bertrand Russell Memorial Volume [London: George Allen & Unwin, New York: Humanities Press, 1979], pp. 264–84.) Will’s recent book, Beyond Deduction (London: Routledge, 1988), is indispensable, especially for hegelians interested in epistemology.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    For a brief account, see my “Hegel’s Solution to the Dilemma of the Criterion” (The History of Philosophy Quarterly 5 No. 2 [1988], pp. 173–88). The full account, including a reconstruction of Hegel’s doctrine of “determinate negation,” is given in HER.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    We begin with the peasant wife, and with Thomas Reid, her commonsensical champion in Hegel’s time” (Harris, p. 14).Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Starting with the pre-philosophical certainties of G. E. Moore” (Harris, p. 12).Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    The evolution of Hegel’s concept of Truth as correspondence begins with the simple experience that Russell called “knowledge by acquaintance” (Harris, p. 12).Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    B. Brody, ed., Essays on the Intellectual Powers of Man (Cambridge, Ma.: MIT Press, 1969), Essay II §XIV (p. 212) and §XXI (p. 302). Reid’s view wouldn’t face skeptical problems about correctly identifying objects of knowledge until confronted with semantic and evidential holism.Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    This must be his initial target because at the outset of Hegel’s phenomenological investigation of the reality of knowledge, there are no reasons to warrant any noetically complex or mediated form of knowledge (GW IX p. 63.4–5; Miller, p. 58). Unfortunately, Harris not only shifts indiscriminately from Reid’s, Moore’s, and the peasant wife’s common sense to Russell’s (et al) philosophically pristine “knowledge by acquaintance,” at one point he conflates them: “She [the peasant wife] must actually use ‘thing’ and ‘property’ words to identify her Sachen: my ‘house,’ your ‘tree’… etc.. This knowledge by acquaintance…” (Harris, p. 14). I discuss Jacobi’s views in “Hegel’s Attitude Toward Jacobi in the ‘Third Attitude of Thought Toward Objectivity’ ” (The Southern Journal of Philosophy 27 No. 1 [ 1989 ], pp. 135–156 ).Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Though Harris states that “‘knowledge by acquaintance’ is pre-philosophical and even preliterate,..” (Harris, p. 13), this is a mis-statement. In correspondence he assures me that he meant that knowledge by acquaintance can be pre-literate, not that it necessarily is.Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Pace Harris, who states that the final form of consciousness “is necessarily comprehended in a moment of sense-certainty [sic] that can still stretch out a hand just as Moore did” (Harris, p. 12); reach out a hand, yes, just as Moore did, no. In the final chapter Hegel explicitly mentions something like sense-certainty only twice. The first time he plainly does not endorse it, he only indicates that the object of knowledge has a moment “corresponding to immediate knowledge,” viz., the moment of determinate being at a particular time and place (GW IX p. 422.29–30; Miller, p. 480). The second time may sound like he endorses “sense-certainty”: “Science contains within itself the necessity to externalize [entäussern] from itself the form of the pure concept, and the transition of the concept into consciousness. Thus the self-knowing spirit, because it grasps its concept, is the immediate identity with itself that, in its difference, is the certainty of the immediate, or the sense-consciousness, - the beginning from which we started; this release of itself from the form of itself is the highest freedom and certainty of its knowledge of itself” (GW IX p. 432.31–37, my tr.; Miller, p. 491). However, Hegel explicitly states that this sense-consciousness involves “certainty of the immediate.” This is not necessarily the same as the “immediate certainty” of some object. Hegel in fact begins by distinguishing the noetic and ontological versions of “immediate knowledge,” viz., “… immediate knowledge, knowledge of the immediate or of what is” (GW IX p. 63.5–6, my tr.; Miller, p. 58). The ontological “immediacy” initially at issue concerns the object as a particular thing at a particular time and place. This is consonant with Hegel’s stress throughout the final chapter on the “being here and now” of sensible things which makes the transition to the Logic possible. Hegel’s concern there is ontological; he doesn’t revert to the naive and mistaken epistemological view he so soundly refuted in Sense Certainty. (This also holds of 11558; cf. Harris, note 6.)Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Harris, pp. 12, 13. Hegel the speculative philosopher must have transcended aconceptual sense-certainty or else he couldn’t compose his analysis or write his book. However, the question is whether “we” not-yet-Hegelian readers must begin there, too. If so, then Hegel commits the cardinal hegelian sin of begging the question. Harris refers to we readers cum phenomenological observers when he states, “We must move on, because the consciousness that is satisfied with ‘knowledge by acquaintance’ is pre-philosophical..” (Harris, p. 2). The advocates of “knowledge by acquaintance” intended precisely thereby to dispense with everything Hegel regarded as “philosophical” Hegel must show that this verificationist device for clearing supposed metaphysical slums is in principle untenable on its own grounds; he can’t justify his — or our — moving on simply because he won’t get what he wants on that basis.Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    Harris, pp. 13–14.Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    the individual has the right to demand that science should at least provide him with the ladder to this standpoint, should show him this standpoint within himself. His right is based on his absolute independence, which he is conscious of possessing in every phase of his knowledge…” (GW IX p. 23.3–5; Miller, pp. 14–15). On the crucial role of the issue of question-begging in Hegel’s shift away from Schelling’s intuitionism and in his method in the Phenomenology, see HER p. 10f. and ch. 7.Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    I wish to thank Professor Harris for inviting this comment; we have corresponded sufficiently for my remarks not to surprise him. I wish also to correct a couple misimpressions. I did not say that Hegel’s discussion of life is irrelevant to Hegel’s main epistemological argument in the Phenomenology (Harris, pp. 20–21). On the contrary, my reconstruction stresses Hegel’s theses (defended in “Lord and Bondsman”) that biological needs involve classification and entail realism about objects meeting those needs, that the natural world is not constituted at will (also a lesson in realism), and that self-consciousness is dependent upon, though not reducible to, organic life (HER pp. 157, 160–61). I do maintain that Hegel is not entitled to provide an extended positive account of biological explanation prior to his justification of absolute knowledge. (Harris disagrees with me about this more specific point.) Second, the “false alternative” concerning whether Hegel’s account of the transitions between forms of consciousness “applies to consciousness as simple, or to consciousness as reflexive” is not to be found in HER, ch. 7, which he cites in this connection (Harris, p. 13). I stress Hegel’s view that consciousness is inherently reflexive. Hegel’s account of the transitions between forms of consciousness must hold within observed forms of consciousness for Hegel’s internal criticism to be effective, and it must also hold from the vantage of “our” observation for it to be informative. Harris also mistook my denial of the “serial” character of the Phenomenology (in his review of HER in Philosophy of the Social Sciences 22 No 4 [1992], pp. 512–34, p. 513). I agree with him entirely that there must be a single over-arching argument in the Phenomenology in order for Hegel’s book to succeed; there must be a single cumulative, if complex, argument presented “for us” observers if Hegel’s book is to be a proof or justification of anything. What I denied (or meant to deny) was that there is a single cumulative series within the observed forms of consciousness, whereby each turns into its successor. (I think Harris disagrees with me about this, too.) Once misunderstandings and a few genuine differences are cleared up, I think it will emerge that our interpretations of Hegel complement, far more than they compete with, each other.Google Scholar

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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1997

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  • Kenneth R. Westphal

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