Appropriating Hegel

Idealistic Studies 14 (2):178-178 (1984)


Elder is a Hegel scholar who is well versed in analytic philosophy. His distinctive style is more reminiscent of G. E. Moore than Hegel. Yet the book’s title fails to direct the reader’s attention to the true subject matter. The author’s stated intention is to demonstrate Hegel’s contribution to current discussion of the mind/body problem. The antimaterialist thrust of Hegel’s philosophy is exhibited by showing that conceptual schemes employing materialistic concepts cannot be coherently employed, according to Hegel, without also drawing upon mentalistic concepts. However, the bulk of Elder’s text is an original recreation of the dialectic of Hegel’s Logic. Although this reenactment is undertaken to serve the stated purpose of the book, it has value in its own right as an introduction to the Logic. The distinction between two interpretations of the categories of essence is particularly useful. Elder’s underlying thesis—namely, that concepts of matter arising in the dialectic of Being and Essence transmute themselves within the dialectic of the Notion into concepts of mind—will surely be accepted by anyone adopting a Hegelian standpoint. His real achievement is to have helped make that thesis more understandable and plausible by suggesting as a translation that concepts of matter implicitly function as role players in the goal directed activity of rational agents, that their use conditions the possibility of such activity and is functionless unless embraced within such activity. Matter is resolved into obstacles, raw materials, instruments, products, etc.—all relative to rational activity. Granting that this is a Hegelian thesis, historically it is more distinctively Fichtean than Hegelian, just as in contemporary philosophy it is Sartrean. Elder gives the thesis Hegelian pedigree, in effect highlighting a frequently unnoticed Fichtean theme in the Logic.

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Clark Wade Butler
Purdue University

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