Hegel, Russell, and the foundations of philosophy

In Angelica Nuzzo (ed.), Hegel and the Analytic Tradition. Continuum (2009)
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Though philosophical antipodes, Hegel and Russell were profound philosophical revolutionaries. They both subjected contemporaneous philosophy to searching critique, and they addressed many important issues about the character of philosophy itself. Examining their disagreements is enormously fruitful. Here I focus on one central issue raised in Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit: the tenability of the foundationalist model of rational justification. I consider both the general question of the tenability of the foundationalist model itself, and the specific question of the tenability of Russell’s preferred foundations of empirical knowledge, namely sense data. The stage is set by briefly considering Russell’s philosophical revolt (§2). I examine Russell’s neglect of the Pyrrhonian Dilemma of the Criterion (§3), and then consider Russell’s appeal to “knowledge by acquaintance”—the very view Hegel criticized under the banner of “Sense Certainty” (§4). I argue that Hegel’s internal critique of “Sense Certainty” refutes Russell’s “knowledge by acquaintance” and undermines Russell’s ahistorical approach to philosophy. (This article supercedes ‘“Sense Certainty”, or Why Russell had no “Knowledge by Acquaintance”’. The Bulletin of the Hegel Society of Great Britain 45/46 (2002):110–23.)



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Kenneth R. Westphal
Bogazici University

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