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Philosophy against Misosophy



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My only excuse for posting this paper from my stu-dent days, in spite of its flabby style, is that I still struggle with the fact and meaning of philosophical plurality.  I am willing to push past the pain that its sentences induce to see whether the questions it raises, however inelegantly, are still worth raising forty years after I began to take philosophy serious-ly.  The course, held at the New School for Social Research, was “Hegel and the History of Philosophy,” the teacher the late Albert Hofstadter, and the date of submission January 19, 1978. 

For more mature reflections on this topic, please see Joseph Owens Aquinas and Philosophical Pluralism and Jacques Maritains Can Philosophers Cooperate? on this site.

Anthony Flood

March 27, 2010


Philosophic Diversity and Skeptical Possibility: A Confrontation with Hegel

Anthony Flood

How can philosophers persist in their inquiries in the face of both historical displacement of one philosophical position by another and the diversity of philosophical positions at any present moment? Surely they recognize the probability that their hard work will not receive general approval from their colleagues or from future philosophers, who may look back upon the work and judge it, if they notice it at all, more as a cultural artifact than a piece of reasoning.  Yet philosophers fervently believe in the intrinsic rationality of their diverse—to understate things—efforts.  I submit that diversity of philosophic position, and ultimately of all “rational opinion,” is unsettling to the belief in universal reason, the presupposition of all philosophical undertaking, and consequently in objective truth. One philosopher, Hegel, offered a very suggestive, but I believe ultimately flawed, solution to the problem of philo-sophic diversity, viz., that such diversity is constitu-tive of the very development of Philosophy in History.  Hence a discussion of Hegel’s attempted solution balances my generally skeptical essay. Some of the consequences I believe follow from a failure to solve the diversity problem will conclude this paper.

As with all problems that pose the threat of skep-ticism, the present one ensnares the very philosopher who tries to lay the issue on the table, such as the present writer.  This danger of self-implication seems to me to be a major reason why most philosophers dismiss the question of skep-ticism, as if it were merely on the order of philosophic “interest,” or treat it only historically, i.e., as an intellectual and cultural oddity that occasionally raises its head to distract serious philosophers from their productive work.  But it must be stressed here circumscribed epistemological position which is derived from a certain analysis of the concept of knowledge.1  The skepticism here considered is rather a kind of “frustrated consciousness,” a attitude conceded after a survey of the staggeringly varied terrain of philosophy, whereupon one questions the very meaningfulness of taking another step in one direction rather than another.  It is a skepticism which turns the very belief in philosophy against itself.  It is on the order of the kind of skepticism toward common opinion that leads one to philosophy in the first place.

I do not deny that serious philosophical work is being conducted in all branches of the field, work which, when grappled with, compels assent or inspires constructive criticism.  I could not list all the thinkers who have convinced me through their work that philosophical inquiry is not only worthwhile, but even indispensible to the rational conduct of all human affairs, scientific, political, and cultural.  But what is my “conviction” worth?  These latter endeavors may often be rightfully criticized by philosophers for not giving sufficient attention to the ontological and epistemological presuppositions of their work.  But who are philosophers to criticize when their own field gathers under its umbrella a staggering multiplicity of intensely rational, self-consciously justifiable activities whose authors are at loggerheads over the very meaning of the rubric which wins their devotion, not to mention the substantive issues which divide them?

Few philosophers are bold enough to express their doubts when they ponder this embarrassing but stubborn fact, assuming they are alive to it (and I assume that most philosophers of many years’ engagement are even more attuned to this issue and the pertinent data than I).  Professor Charles F. Bigger is one of the few, and he opens his essay of Platonic philosophy with a scathing remark about the absence of agreement within the profession over such a foundational figure as Plato, which “positive scandal” compels him to offer the following generalization:

Philosophers seem to agree on nothing, not even on what philosophy is; and yet they insist on teaching it and inform entire curricula, perhaps even historic epochs, with their confusion.  They prate of unity and order and everywhere produce chaos.  Perhaps Socrates’ fate was ironically a measure of the integrity of the Athenean polis, and the prevalence of philosophers today a condemnation of our own.2

Is such harshness justified?  Certainly Professor Bigger’s book, from which I believe I benefited, has only added to the existing “confusion” unless there is unanimity of positive appraisal of his interpretation of Plato.  Professor John Wisdom, in a book which examines philosophic diversity without underscoring the skeptical possibility which I believe lurks beneath his subject matter’s rational veneer, tells his students that

. . . for every philosophical statement I make or subscribe to, I can name a highly distinguished, intelligent and competent philosopher within a few hours’ distance who would think it false and perhaps even stupid.3

Add to the list of Professor Wisdom’s critics the philo-sophers he cannot name, and consider that there is a similar list for every other philosopher, and that every philosopher is, at least potentially, some other philosopher’s critic, and perhaps some sense of skeptical possibility emerges.

That this negative circumstance obtains, I believe there is general agreement.  Philosophers tend to manifest their recognition of this otherwise unnerving state of affairs by good-naturedly conveying the sentiment that, “Of course, I could be wrong.”  (Even Professor Bigger, midway in his attempt to undo the “positive scandal” in Platonic studies, admits that access to Plato’s “real view” of time, pertinent to an accurate account of participation, is probably impossible and hence all we may hope for is “interesting error” in the remainder of his book.4)  Such an attitude betrays an epistemological relativism that, I hold, no philosopher can consciously accept and continues his work.  For every philosopher—and this assumption is central to my argument—must presume that when he or she is engaging in philosophical inquiry and exposition, he or she is pursuing some universal and accessible truth and that this pursuit is not necessarily bound to failure (granting that it may fail in a particular attempt).  But—and this is my central claim—if the state of affairs described in the preceding paragraph obtains, then the possibility of a successful pursuit of truth, assumed by all philosophers, can only be formally assented to, but never concretely grasped.  And this is more a “positive scandal” for philosophers to suffer than is any discord in Platonic studies.  Before turning to the philosopher who offered a solution that commands attention in the absence of more satisfactory and less demanding ones, I would like to elaborate upon my “existence postulate,” my assumption, and my skeptical claim.

“Existence Postulate.”  If we consider nominalism and realism; materialism and idealism; metaphysics and linguistic analysis; and all attempted syntheses of these antithetical conceptions, we may note that each of these positions has some difficulty that can be exploited by some interested thinker.  Even within any of these “schools” or traditions there is dis-agreement over interpretation.  One of the unfor-tunate consequences of this diversity of views and interpretations is that we learn to appreciate philosophers by the lights of any number of criteria—historical, sociological, psychological, ideological—other than the one by which they must be judged: their agreement with the truth (more on this in the following paragraph).  In other words, for any philo-sophic position, however forcefully argued for, by however “distinguished, intelligent and competent,” and perhaps even influential a thinker, there exist thinkers who, upon considering the position and the arguments, are inclined to and capable of reducing that position to problematic status, if not of “de-molishing” it.  This obtains across philosophic periods as well as within such a period.  This is the essence of philosophic diversity, which may indicate that the conditions of free inquiry obtain, but also indicates that the results of such inquiry never lead to the universal recognition of the truth.  (This is, of course, not to be taken as an argument against free inquiry or for enforced dogmatism; such conditions only underscore the present difficulty.)  Every philosophic effort, including this paper and responses to it, is a thread in the fabric of diversity.  Therefore, even disagreement with this paper, while not proving its thesis, unavoidably corroborates it.

Assumption.  Every philosopher, from the miserly skeptic to the ambitious metaphysician, attempts to say what is the case, whatever that may be, and however little he can say about it; in a word, he seeks truth.  To refute a philosopher is to say that what he or she says is false, that his or her attempt to get at the truth has failed.  No philosopher can be indifferent to such a judgement.  Now while I expect disagreement over my definition of truth (in cor-roboration of my existence postulate, of course), I can only hope that it is acceptable for the purposes at hand.  In other words, even if two philosophers cannot agree on a definition of truth, the work of every philosopher presupposes some notion of it and evinces a drive to get at it and express it.  I would challenge a philosopher to show that his philo-sophical endeavors do not in any way consist in an attempt to get at the truth of something.

Claim.  If there is but one totality of states of affairs to be known and explained, i.e., one ultimate Truth, and if it is the job of philosophy to explicate that Truth, but if it is also the case that philosophers never reach agreement as to what Truth is, or even what its formal definition is, then philosophy has been, is, and forseeably will be a failure on its own terms, an interesting cultural phenomenon at best, a standing historical joke of great pretense at worst. There may be objective Truth, and pursuing it may be man’s noblest venture.  But if individual claims of success in its pursuit are perennially met with damaging criticism and even derision from other philosophers whose own claims are met with the same, then persistence in philosophy in the face of such a situation indicates a dogmatism incompatible with the philosopher’s claim to objective, reasonable thought.  The dogmatism either takes the form of conceit in the superiority of one’s own philosophical efforts such that those who disagree must of necessity be blind, incompetent, or under the spell of some allegedly discredited tradition (in other words, diversity implies error—someone else’s); or it takes the more common form of annoyance with any critical effort that tends to call into question the very activity of philosophizing itself.  These words may be harsh, but unless the problem of genuine philosophic diversity is seriously addressed and successfully handled, the chances that those whom we refer to as philosophers are doing philosophy is slim: the probability is that they are rather doing the history of ideas or semantic-logical analysis, or achieving edification and other personal satisfactions—anything but elaborating a science of Truth.


Before proceeding with an examination of Hegel’s view of philosophy, I would like to make my purpose clear.  While Hegel may be the greatest of the philosophers who have consciously dealt with the problem of diversity, the use of Hegel here is strictly illustrative.  Any error Hegel may have committed in any other aspect of his philosophy is a separate question.  For my purpose, the philosophical acceptability of Hegel’s thought as a whole becomes a question when and if one has first decided to opt for Hegel’s solution to the diversity problem.  If one has so decided, one may then accept Hegel whole, modify him slightly or drastically or some measure in between, or reject Hegel’s own philosophy of Spirit and replace it with one’s own, thereby sharing with Hegel only the generalities of a solution to the diversity problem.  Of course, the possibility remains that even as a type of solution, Hegel’s attempt fails.

Philosophy is, for Hegel, the highest realization of Spirit, which is the actualization of the Absolute Idea or Truth, which in turn is the systematic totality of all thought determinations.  Thought is Hegel’s Absolute, his definition of Being, which, in order to be Absolute or unlimited, must externalize itself as nature and then, with the appearance of man, as Spirit.  The Idea is Spirit in itself (an sich), or potentially; Spirit is the Idea for itself (fur sich), or actually, concretely.  The fullest expression of Spirit, Absolute Spirit, through which man attempts to relate consciously to all there is, comprises Art, Religion, and Philosophy.  Philosophy specifically is the attempt to grasp the totality of what-is in thought.  The highest form of this spiritual activity is the philosophy which expresses itself as the actuality of self-thinking thought, namely, Hegel’s own philosophy.  The Absolute thus relates itself to itself through philosophy.  Prior to philosophy’s having achieved this perfection, its story, and Spirit’s, is incomplete.

Human history, the medium within which this perfection or actualization occurs, is thus a diachronic show of a timeless logos whose telos is absolute philosophy.  As Hegel expounds it in his Lectures on the Philosophy of History5: “. . . the History of the World with all the changing scenes which its annals present, is this process of the development and the realization of Spirit . . . .” (457)  Philosophy, as the meaning which can only come at the end of the story, “concerns itself only with the glory of the Idea mirroring itself in the History of the World.” (457)  Freedom, the state of having over-come all externalization, the achievement of autonomy, is the sole truth of Spirit. (7)  Philosophy is the expression of this truth.  Spirit’s consciousness of its own absolute, autonomous, free nature—which self-consciousness can only find its way in philosophy—is the “destiny of the spiritual world and . . . the final cause of the world at large. . . .” (19)

What Hegel has to say about philosophy, it should be stressed, is not relevant only to his own philosophy.  He is not saying that when he alone is doing philosophy, he alone is doing the work of Spirit while his colleagues serve different ends.  There is but one Absolute Idea or Truth striving to get itself expressed in order to be actually what it is potentially, i.e., in order to be free.  The succession of human philosophic attempts in time are only stages of this one great effort.  Hegel writes:

The history we have before us [i.e., the history of PhilosophyA.F.] is the history of thought finding itself, and it is the case with Thought that it only finds itself in producing itself.  The productions are the philosophic systems; and the series of discoveries on which Thought sets out in order to discover itself, forms a work which has lasted twenty-five hundred years.6

The history of philosophy, the highest vantage point from which to view human history in general, is a development of a single subject, Philosophy, from its barest abstractions in Thales to its full concretiza-tion, Hegel modestly suggests, in his own system. Hegel is thus claiming to consummate a single development, not set himself apart from others who have devoted themselves to Philosophy have done. The procession of “noble minds, [the] gallery of heroes of thought,” which is the history of Philosophy, have “by the power of Reason, . . . penetrated into the being of things, of nature and of spirit, into the Being of God, and have won for us by their labors the highest treasure, the treasure of reasoned knowledge.” (1)

Begging forgiveness for the necessarily rushed quality of the above exposition, I will now present Hegel’s words on our specific topic, philosophic diversity.  Where others see a battlefield, Hegel saw a developing quasi-organic unity, replete with the nearly destructive internal conflicts that beset all living developments.  Philosophy, in order to develop, must put itself forward in the form of particular positions.  As particular positions, incapable of encompassing the Absolute Truth, they must be overcome; but they can only be overcome through philosophical opposition, which itself takes the form of particular positions.  Thus what appears irrational—the accumulation and conflict or irrecon-cilable positions—is actually the very work of Reason itself.  The view that diversity in Philosophy’s history argues for skepticism is treated as merely one of the “reflections most likely to occur in one’s first crude thoughts” on the subject. (11)

Another such “crude thought,” related imme-diately to our topic and in conflict with the assump-tion of this paper’s argument, is that the history of Philosophy merely represents “various opinions in array,” and what “can be more useless than to learn a string of bald opinions, and what more unim-portant?” (12)  Mere opinion is the worst characterization of a philosophy.  For “Philosophy is the objective science of truth, it is the science of necessity, conceiving knowledge, and [is] neither opinion nor the spinning out of opinions.” (12)  Opinion is only “a subjective conception, an uncontrolled thought, an idea which may occur to me in one direction or in another: an opinion is mine [Meinung ist mein].” (12)  The “Platonic opposition between opinion (doxa) and Science (episteme)” (14) must be maintained, because otherwise truth disappears as unknowable.  While this latter conclusion may still be possible, and may be defended by conscious skeptics,7 we must remember whom Hegel is criticizing here, viz., philosophic novices and historians of philosophy alike, who carelessly commit the above error and thereby vitiate their efforts.

Of course, the skeptical position is still a possibility.  It is quite possible that all that is the case in the history of Philosophy is that “each opinion asserts falsely in its turn that it has found the truth.” (15)  How to choose from “such manifold opinions and philosophic systems so numerous”? (15)  And if the “greatest minds,” Hegel’s among them, we might note, have erred, what hope do I have in producing an “objective science of truth”? (16)  This Hegel treats with utmost seriousness, because Hegel does not want philosophers to choose between dogmatic acceptance of his own philosophy and skeptical rejection of Philosophy on account of its manifest diversity.  For while not sufficient for philosophic achievement, “personal conviction is the ultimate and absolute essential which reason and its philosophy, from a subjective point of view, demand in knowledge.” (14)  Unless I genuinely “see” the truth in a given philosophic system, I am fraudulent in expounding it as if I do.  Therefore, “this diversity in philosophic systems is far from being an evasive plea.” Hegel’s appreciation of this difficulty is acute.  Allow me to quote at length.

It has far more weight as a genuine serious ground of argument against the zeal which Philosophy requires.  It justifies its neglect and demonstrates conclusively the powerlessness of the endeavor to attain to philosophic know-ledge of the truth.  When it is admitted that Philosophy ought to be a real science, and one Philosophy must certainly be the true, the question arises as to which it is, and when it can be knowm.  Each one asserts its genuineness, each even gives signs and tokens by which the Truth can be discovered; sober reflective thought must therefore hesitate to give, its judgement. .  .  .

The whole of the history of Philosophy be-comes a battlefield covered with the bones of the dead not merely formed of dead and lifeless individuals, but of refuted and spiritually dead systems, since each has killed and buried the other. (16, 17)

What “solution” does Hegel propose for this difficulty he appears to grasp so well?  First, Hegel denies that one can remain satisfied with one’s skepticism, or at least bewilderment in the face of philosophic diversity, and that intellectual life, like physical life, will press on to overcome its hunger for knowledge of the truth.  (Presumably, a need is dependent for its own existence upon the existence of the object of need; hardly a compelling argument, though suggestive.)  Secondly, the common bond all these diverse instances share is their being Philosophy.  To regard diversity alone in treating a subject matter is as erroneous in Philosophy as it is anywhere else. (18)  If it is a category mistake to ask “Where’s the fruit?” when looking through the contents of a bowl of cherries, plums, and grapes, so it is if one asks, “Where’s Philosophy?” when con-fronted with the writings of Edmund Husserl, Alfred North Whitehead, and Martin Heidegger.

Of course, experience with cherries, plums, and grapes helps to fill out one’s understanding of the generic universal “fruit”; likewise, the study of different philosophers fleshes out one’s notion of Philosophy.  To read but one philosopher’s work is to become acquainted with Philosophy, although one’s knowledge of it will be as limited as knowledge of fruit for one whose acquaintance with fruit is limited to plums. (18-19)  Thus, as we’ve noted earlier,

We must make the fact conceivable, that the diversity and number of philosophies not only does not prejudice Philosophy itself, that is to say the possibility of Philosophy, but that such diversity is, and has been, absolutely necessary to the existence of a science of Philosophy that is essential to it.  (19)


But Hegel has, throughout his treatment of the diversity problem, committed an error which, while not refuting his interpretation of the history of philosophy, creates difficulties for accepting it.  The error is simply one of begging the question: Hegel has asked the open-minded philosopher to accept his philosophy of Spirit in order to avoid the diversity problem.  In other words, the problem of how to choose from “such manifold opinions, and philo-sophic systems so numerous” (15) disappears once you’ve chosen Hegel’s system with its view of history.  Hegel asserts that the facts of history “are not a mere collection of chance events, of expedi-tions of wandering knights, each going about fighting, struggling purposelessly, leaving no results for all his efforts.”  Rather, “in the activity of thinking mind there is real connection, and what there takes place is rational.  It is with this belief in the spirit of the world that we must proceed to history, and in particular to the history of Philosophy.” (19; my stress)

Why “must” we?  The identification of Being with Spirit—which is what Hegel’s deductive system amounts to—may help make everything else intelligible, but it cannot ground itself; the “argument” for it is necessarily pre-systematic: it is, as Hegel himself terms it, a “belief.”  The diversity problem must in some way be overcome if we are to seriously pursue philosophy; yet, paradoxically, such a solution itself always involves a philosophical position which, in its turn, generates philosophical opposition and diversity—opposition which may, for all we know, be right.


At least Hegel was aware of the problem and “solved” it in good faith in the context of elaborating his system.  But if for any reason we reject Hegel’s philosophy of Spirit—there’s no need to enumerate possible reasons here—his solution to the diversity problem remains unsupported, and his philosophy becomes merely one more instance of diversity. More bothersome to me has been the willingness on the part of many Anglo-American linguistic and positivistic thinkers to skirt the present issue by adopting—in the name of philosophy, of course—a skepticism toward everything philosophy has attempted to be, viz., an “objective science of truth,” and engaging in philosophy for the worst of reasons.  For I agree with Hegel when he wrote that philosophy is not justifiable as an “erudite investigation” from which one profits from others’ opinions; nor as that which merely “stimulates the powers of thought and . . . leads to many excellent reflections.” (12) Indeed, if philosophy is justifiable only as something which gives those who pursue it pleasure, then the presumed objective importance of each piece of philosophizing is undercut.  On the other hand, if philosophy is to be more than merely personally satisfying, we are back in the muddle of diverse claims to objective science.  My only complaint against the linguistic writers is that they have made a virtue of skeptical vice, and they have labeled the products of this transvaluation “philosophy.”  If philosophy as an objective science of truth is a myth, or, if already attained, unknowable as such for the reasons offered in this paper, so be it.  But let us not muddy an already complex issue by including techniques and concerns external, if not also hostile, to the possibility of such science under the rubric of “philosophy.”

Is a pre-philosophic theory of philosophic diver-sity possible?  Hegel’s theory, for one, is not pre-philosophic; and the philosophy which grounds his theory—even if I’m wrong in taking his identification of Being and Spirit as pre-systematic—is at the very least controversial.  In his essay, “Hegel as an Historian of Philosophy,” Quentin Lauer remarks that the “perennial problem . . . has been the univer-salizing of a reason whose activity takes place in individuals, but whose validity transcends the limits of individual reason.”8 I believe it is a problem with the force of a paradox.  Unless we assume the possible universality of what we say, more particularly, unless I assume that what I say in this paper is more than a personal statement, why should we bother to expound and criticize?  Yet if we can never prove that this assumption is not on the order of myth—and the existence of profound and manifold disagreement argues for its mythic character—what is the assumption worth?   We cannot, it seems, to do without philosophy, and yet we can do pitifully little with it, not ever agree on its definition and office.  We turn to philosophy out of dissatisfaction with “common reflections,” yet it is hard to say that such notions are held in greater contempt than is the painstaking work of a philosopher with whom we happen to fundamentally disagree.

I happen to believe that philosophy’s office is to explain the world as a whole, note merely to describe parts of it accurately or advise others on how to talk right.  I believe that efforts to so explain lead logical-ly to a systematic ontology which is in principle capa-ble of systematically relating all phenomena and ideas.  I therefore find myself in sympathy with the work of, among others, Plato, Hegel, and Brand Blan-shard.  But for all I know, the neo-positivist and linguistic critiques of metaphysics may be essentially correct.  I believe Blanshard demolished the preten-sions of the Anglo-American analytic tradition in his Reason and Analysis, but work in that tradition has not ceased during the quarter-century since Blanshard’s Carus lectures, upon which his book was based, were delivered.  Is Blanshard wrong or are the linguistic philosophers thick?  I shrink from choosing here.  And I don’t believe I’m dragging innocents into my swamp when I suggest that philosophers who are enamored of, say, Wittgenstein or Austin, and who also have a sense of the diversity problem, can reproduce for themselves the form of my dilemma with the allegiances and criticisms reversed.

In sum, I can tell you my beliefs, orientation, and sympathies, but probably never convince you of the truth of any of my philosophical positions.  The more I consider possible and actual opposition to my way of thinking, the more self-deceptive do I consider my “objective” pretensions to be.  I therefore must conclude that, until I’ve solved the diversity problem, I also do philosophy for the worst of reasons: I enjoy it, it stimulates my mind, and affords me many “excellent reflections,” to recall Hegel’s derision of dilettantes such as myself.  I do everything but know the truth.

In closing, I would suggest that we either face up to this problem and solve it, or admit the skeptical conclusion that follows from our failure to do so, viz., that no philosopher ever knows his philosophy to express objective, universal truth.  How close this is to Professor Unger’s radically skeptical position that nobody ever knows anything to be the case, I have not fully reflected upon.9  But if philosophy, despite its rational appearances, is a battlefield of pre-philosophical “bents,” “posits,” or pre-systematic identifications, how much more troubled are those intellectual disciplines, which are just as wracked by internal feuding and whose students are generally less concerned with epistemological rigor?  If philosophers cannot agree about epistemology, can, for example, political scientists justify their methodology?  If they really can, they belong in the philosophy departments, and those who are presently designated “philosophers” should take their courses.  But I suspect that this is not the case, and I suggest that the skepticism that threatens philosophy threatens much of what is done in the social sciences and the humanities.10  The longer we remain merely amused or annoyed over the possibility of skepticism, the longer the logic of reasoned, but unremitting, disagreement works behind our backs.  In a world where rational discourse is too often subordinated to ideological imperatives and mocked by irrationalists as inconsequential when compared with the presumed “real world” values of power, wealth, and physical gratification, those who are concerned with the possibilities as well as the limits of such discourse, and believe—for what that belief is worth—in the integrity of reason to freedom, ought to seek an explanation of our vast and skepticism-inducing disagreements.  For if disagreement is truly a “fact of life” and shatters even the vindication of reason, then, even if we dogmatically entrench ourselves in our particular positions to hide from the conse-quences, reason unavoidably deceives us by its presumptions.  Even to speak of “rational” disagreement is such a context is presumptuous.


1 See, e. g., Peter Unger, Ignorance: The Case for Scepticism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1975), the general treatment of which the profession conforms, I contend, to the above-mentioned pattern.

2 Charles P. Bigger, Participation: A Platonic Inguiry (Baton Rouge, La.: Louisiana University Press, 1968), p. 3.

3 John Oulton Wisdom, Philosophy and Its Place in Our Culture (New York: Gordon & Breach, 1975), p. 3n.

4 Bigger, op. cit., p. 123.

5 G. W. F. Hegel, Lectures on the Philosophy of History, trans. J. Sibree (New York: Dover, 1955); all parenthetical page references in this paragraph only are to this edition.

6 G. W. F. Hegel, Lectures on the History of Philosophy, trans. E. S. Haldane (New York: Humanities Press, 1963), I, p. 5, my stress; all parenthetical page references through the rest of this paper are to this edition.

7 Cf. Unger, op. cit., last chapter, “The Impossibility of Truth.”

8 This essay appears in J. J. O’Malley, et. al., eds., Hegel and the History of Philosophy, Proceedings of the 1972 Hegel Society of America Conference (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1974).  The quote is from p. 46.

9 The only hope I hold out against Unger’s skepticism is that since it is a product of the linguistic philosophical tradition, it may suffer from the defects of that tradition.  Indeed, I’m hoping that Unger’s skepticism is the reductio ad absurdum of that tradition, rather than of natural language, as Unger would have it.  But my hope, of course is cognitively worthless.

10 Physics, which enables us to do so many things, seems less subject to skeptical attack.  Unger’s skepticism would deny even this.