Hegel On Particular vs. Universal

From Hegel’s Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences

Nature shows us a countless number of individual forms and phenomena. Into this variety we feel a need of introducing unity: we compare, consequently, and try to find the universal of each single case. Individuals are born and perish: the species abides and recurs in them all: and its existence is only visible to reflection. Under the same head fall such laws as those regulating the motion of the heavenly bodies. To-day we see the stars here, and tomorrow there; and our mind finds something incongruous in this chaos — something in which it can put no faith, because it believes in order and in a simple, constant, and universal law. Inspired by this belief, the mind has directed its reflection towards the phenomena, and learnt their laws. In other words, it has established the movement of the heavenly bodies to be in accordance with a universal law from which every change of position may be known and predicted. The case is the same with the influences which make themselves felt in the infinite complexity of human conduct. There, too, man has the belief in the sway of a general principle. From all these examples it may be gathered how reflection is always seeking for something fixed and permanent, definite in itself and governing the particulars. This universal which cannot be apprehended by the senses counts as the true and essential…
In thus characterising the universal, we become aware of its antithesis to something else. This something else is the merely immediate, outward and individual, as opposed to the mediate, inward, and universal. The universal does not exist externally to the outward eye as a universal. The kind as kind cannot be perceived: the laws of the celestial motions are not written on the sky. The universal is neither seen nor heard, its existence is only for the mind.

3 thoughts on “Hegel On Particular vs. Universal

  1. “The universal is neither seen nor heard, its existence is only for the mind.” Is that a universal statement? How does Hagel get at the noumenal? Why presume antithesis of universal and particular rather than ontological analogy? Why ground the unifying principle in human autonomy? Why not ground it ontologically? i.e. in the triune God as unifying principle. Hegel can’t just jump to antithesis without considering analogy. Why assume the Kantian split uncritically? A properly formed transcendental argument needs to account not just for morality, but for the possibility of inquiry into it, I would argue that the sufficient presuposition for understanding particulars and universals needs to be ontological, accounting for a disctinction between Creator and creature.

    1. Hegel does not assume a split between noumena and phenomena. For Hegel, human autonomy is identical to the triune God as unifying principle. Man and God are identical. Man is both creator and created; man creates God. Man dies and God remains. God creates man. Man is God.

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