Our plucky hero gives a Johnsonian refutation of subjective idealism:
Not even the animals are so stupid as these metaphysicians, for they fall on the things, take hold of them, seize them, and consume them.
– Hegel, Encylopedia §246
For a slightly more developed account, see Terry Pinkard’s ‘Inside, Outside and Forms of Life: Hegel and Wittgenstein’, which is where I came across the quote.
This is from one of Kant’s pre-Critical works, published in 1764, Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and Sublime:
A profound feeling for the beauty and dignity of human nature and a firmness and determination of the mind to refer all one’s actions to this as to a universal ground is earnest, and does not at all join with a changeable gaiety nor with the inconstancy of a frivolous person. It even approaches melancholy, a gentle and noble feeling so far as it is grounded upon the awe that a hard-pressed soul feels when, full of some great purpose, he sees the danger he will have to overcome, and has before his eyes the difficult but great victory of self-conquest. Thus genuine virtue based upon principles has something about it which seems to harmonize most with the melancholy frame of mind in the moderated understanding.
– Beobachtungen über das Gefühl des Schönen und Erhabenen (trans. Goldthwait) p. 62-3.
I’m very fond of Hegel’s early anti-theological writings; there’s something just so, er, zesty about them. Here’s a representative passage:
I think there is no better sign of our time than the fact that mankind portrays itself as being so worthy of respect. It is proof that the aura surrounding the oppressors and gods of this earth is fading. The philosopher will demonstrate this dignity and the peoples will learn to feel and not merely demand the rights that have been so trampled under foot, but to receive them and take possession of them for themselves. Religion and politics have conspired together. The former has taught what the latter wanted: contempt for mankind, man’s inability to achieve good, to become something through his own efforts. With the propagation of the idea of how things should be, the indolence of people settled in their ways, their willingness to accept everything as it is for evermore, will disappear.
Hegel, Letter to Schelling
In my recent post on Kant’s idealism, I noted that part of Kant’s strategy was to give a critique of our powers of cognition so as to identify the conditions for epistemic access to appearances. According to Hegel, insofar as this critique must be prior to the exercise of cognition, so as to determine how our cognitive capacities are to be applied (e.g. only to sensible objects, conforming to the forms of intuition and a fixed set of general conceptual categories) then he thinks Kant has got himself in a bind. With somewhat uncharacteristic perspicuity, Hegel sets out his objection like so:
A very important step was undoubtedly made, when the terms of the old metaphysic were subjected to scrutiny. The plain thinker pursued his unsuspecting way in those categories which had offered themselves naturally. It never occurred to him to ask to what extent these categories had a value and authority of their own. If, as has been said, it is characteristic of free thought to allow no assumptions to pass unquestioned, the old metaphysicians were not free thinkers. They accepted their categories as they were, without further trouble, as an a priori datum, not yet tested by reflection. The Critical philosophy reversed this. Kant undertook to examine how far the forms of thought were capable of leading to the knowledge of truth. In particular he demanded a criticism of the faculty of cognition as preliminary to its exercise. That is a fair demand, if it mean that even the forms of thought must be made an object of investigation. Unfortunately there soon creeps in the misconception of already knowing before you know — the error of refusing to enter the water until you have learnt to swim. True, indeed, the forms of thought should be subjected to a scrutiny before they are used: yet what is this scrutiny but ipso facto a cognition?
Hegel, Shorter Logic, s.41
As with most things Kantian, I think the ‘Kantian Gloom-Watch’ section might be improved by a Hegelian supplement. So, here’s Hegel sticking the boot in:
The esoteric teaching of the Kantian philosophy — that the understanding ought not to go beyond experience, else the cognitive faculty will become a theoretical reason which by itself generates nothing but fancies of the brain — this was a justification from a philosophical quarter for the renunciation of speculative thought. In support of this popular teaching came the cry of modern educationists that the needs of the time demanded attention to immediate requirements, that just as experience was the primary factor for knowledge, so for skill in public and private life, practice and practical training generally were essential and alone necessary, theoretical insight being harmful even. Philosophy and ordinary common sense thus co-operating to bring about the downfall of metaphysics, there was seen the strange spectacle of a cultured nation without a metaphysics — like a temple richly ornamented in other respects without a holy of holies.
Hegel, Science of Logic, 25-6