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The role of experiential learning in Hegel's Phenomenology

  • Dec 30, 1999
Simpson's book provides a provocative and interesting reading of several important sections of the Phenomenology of Spirit, that treats this text as a whole as a study in the "logic" of induction. He does not consider Hegel's work to be "inductive" in the modern (Lockeian) sense of adding facts upon facts in order to arrive at general conclusions. Rather, Simpson claims that Hegel's argument in the Phenomenology progresses as we (the readers) come to learn from experience what it means to learn from experience. In other words, Simpson aims to show that within Hegel's Phenomenology the concept of induction itself develops inductively. Simpson concludes by indicating briefly the way in which the "inductive" argument that he traces throughout Hegel's text both supports and coincides with the "deductive" side of Hegel's argument that is more often the focus of commentators.

Simpson's thesis - that Hegel's text traces a pathway whereby the capacity for conscious experiencing is shown to develop in response to progressively more sophisticated attempts to articulate and unify experience - receives a capable and insightful defense here. In addition, his study as a whole provides a worthwhile and interesting perspective from which to reexamine Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit. His focus on the way in which Hegel's philosophy responds to and develops out of an active concern with actual experience should also provide a strong theoretical basis from which to approach the question of the way in which Hegel's other systematic writings on nature, history, art, religion and politics were informed by and developed in response to Hegel's own scientific, cultural, religious and political experiences. Above all, it is only in light of such investigations that, as it seems to me, we can address adequately the question of the ways in which Hegel's philosophy is relevant today.

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Nathan Andersen ()
Ranked #68
I teach philosophy at Eckerd College, in Saint Petersburg, Florida.      I run an award-winning International Cinema series in Tampa Bay (www.eckerd.edu/ic), and am co-director of … more
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Hegel's Transcendental Induction challenges the orthodox account of Hegelian phenomenology as a hyper-rationalism, arguing that Hegel's insistence on the primacy of experience in the development of scientific knowledge amounts to a kind of empiricism, or inductive epistemology. While the inductive element does not exclude an emphasis on deductive demonstration as well, Hegel's phenomenological description of knowledge demonstrates why knowing becomes scientific only to the extent that it recognizes its dependence on experience.

Simpson's argument closely parallels Hegel's own in the Phenomenology of Spirit, highlighting those sections, like Hegel's analysis of mastery and slavery, that contribute to the argument that knowing is both vulnerable and responsive to the way in which experience resists our attempts to make sense of things. Simpson's argument connects his account of Hegelian phenomenology with traditional accounts of induction, and with a number of other commentators.

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ISBN-10: 0791432750
ISBN-13: 978-0791432754
Author: Peter Simpson
Publisher: State University of New York Press

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