Monthly Archives: February 2015

More Powerful Than You Can Possibly Imagine

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Perception of a Dress

A recent picture of a dress has taken the internet by storm. Someone posted a picture of a dress online and many people view the dress as blue and gold and a comparable amount of people view the dress as white and black. This simple dress sparked hot disputes all over the world. Although this discussion of the optical illusion dress seems totally irrelevant to our discussion of knowledge, as Megan Garber points out in her article in the Atlantic, it creates a point of discussion where people discuss where they fit into the world.  Continue reading

Reflections of Sense-Certainty

Hegel’s concept of sense-certainty in Phenomenology of Spirit reminds me of many others concepts, including experience and embodied cognition (psychology). “Certainty as a connection is an immediate pure connection: consciousness is “I”, nothing more, a pure “This” (91), Hegel emphasizes the importance of direct connection to something in order to verify its own truth. For experience, we are sure that we see what actually happens. In Hegel’s terminology, we sense this “Now”, and our “I” confirm that the truth is “Here”. Beside experience, embodied cognition somewhat illustrates Hegel’s point.  Embodied cognition focuses on human behaviors and thoughts based on the environments. Let’s consider Hegel’s usage of the tree falling into the woods. The noise does not exist when there is no one around it, for we cannot certainly say that it is there without being there. One condition of hearing the truthful sound is being there in the woods. Our body has to show our mind that we hear (sense) the sound (certainty).

“But what has been, is not; I set aside the second truth, its having been, its supersession, and thereby negate the negation of the “Now”, and thus return the first assertion, that the “Now” is” (107) Does the truth change? Answer: Yes, it does. We experience and see changes every day. Our body changes in many small ways, and we can say that we are physically not the same person we were yesterday, or even a minute ago. Yet, there are many things that make up the truth of one thing as Hegel would argue. A truth is not simple, but contains many other things. For example, one person reads for five hours straight. What is the absolute truth? In this case, he tells himself that it is him cramming for his exam. His body (embodied cognition once again) assigns this intense condition as cramming for an exam. However, after the exam, he reads books for eight hours straight. Does it mean that he still studies according to his experience/embodied cognition? In a way, he does. In a way, he does not. The truth is not what it seems. Did you just read all I wrote? Are you sure that you did not imagine hearing what I just wrote?

Addressing Sense-Certainty

A common theme among the readings is the concept of the senses and how they relate to knowledge.  In Phenomenology of Spirit, Hegel coins the term sense-certainty as something that “immediately appears as the richest kind of knowledge” and as “a knowledge of infinite wealth for which no bounds can be found,” (I.91).  The way I interpreted this statement was by noting how important our senses are in determining what things are and therefore gaining knowledge.  Knowledge gained through the senses (i.e., sight, smell, touch, taste, feel) provides the most natural and most hands-on experience in an attempt to identity and later understand an object.

Another quote that stands out to me is the one when Hegel says “But, in the event, this very certainly proves itself the most abstract and poorest truth” (I.91).  I think this means that within the known factors, such as what we feel or see, we still have yet to delve into the true meaning of the object beyond merely identifying the object alone.  It seems to be that sense-certainty is very important in the eyes of Hegel as the “richest knowledge” because it enhances our deductive reasoning.  It forces us to use our senses to determine what we might think we know.

The idea of sense-certainty is still very complex in its meaning and by the way it encapsulates other sub-forms of knowledge and thought such as consciousness for example.  Its perplexity makes sense in a complicated way by the way that the acquisition of knowledge can be reached in a multitude of ways, including how some knowledge is taught and how some is developed through the use of our senses.

Hegel and Sense-certainty

I didn’t really understand what Hegel meant by sense-certainty until I read about what he meant when he said “Here” in the later paragraphs of our reading. In paragraph 101, he says,

“But in this relationship sense-certainty experiences the same dialectic acting upon itself as in the previous one. I, this ‘1’, see the tree and assert that ‘Here’ is a tree; but another ‘I’ sees the house and maintains that ‘Here’ is not a tree but a house instead. Both truths have the same authentication, viz. the immediacy ofseeing, and the certainty and assurance that both have about their knowing; but the one truth vanishes in the other.”

By this, I think that he means that how we sense, or perceive things to be in that moment is how things are, and if we are certain that what we are seeing is really what we are seeing, then that is how we are “certain” and we can say that that is a truth. With this example, he demonstrates that our sense-certianty can change.  This is what he means when he says “the one truth vanishes in the other”. When you are currently seeing a tree, you can say, with certainty, that what you are seeing then is a tree. However, if you see a house right after you see the tree, you cannot say that you are still, currently, seeing the tree; you are now seeing a different object. This is what he means when he says, right in the beginning of paragraph 99, that

“The knowledge or knowing which is at the start or is immediately our object cannot be anything else but immediate knowledge itself, acknowledge of the immediate or of what simply is. Our approach to the object must also be immediate or receptive; we must alter nothing in the object as it presents itself. ”

He is saying that you immediately can see one object and tell yourself what it is. However, if the object alters, then we must alter our knowledge on what the object is. This is what I think he means when he says that we must be “immediate and receptive”. So, our senses have to change, they have to adjust to our surroundings. What to you guys think?

Certainty vs. Truth

In the first chapter of his Phenomenology of Spirit Hegel discusses the concept of sense certainty.  Like Kant, Hegel maintains that the process of obtaining knowledge is not purely sensory (Empirical) nor purely in our minds (Rational) but instead a cooperative act between mind and matter, one always mediating the other. Unlike Kant, Hegel discusses the implications of this duality and thus makes the distinction between certainty and the truth. Continue reading

If a tree falls in the woods…

Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit is definitely one of the harder pieces we have read so far. However, reading it aloud in my room alone has helped me understand the gist of his arguments of Here, Now, and I. One thing I found interesting is that he uses the tree example, and this made me think of the common philosophical question “If a tree falls in the woods and no one is around to here it, does it still make a sound?” And I argue that if Hegel was asked this question, he would have said no.  Continue reading

Now You Know

What are you doing at this moment? Well, of course, you’re reading my blog post. But, what were you doing yesterday at this time? Were you watching Netflix, reading a book? What will you be doing tomorrow at this time? Will you be eating some Easy Mac, doing homework? I’ll go out on a whim here and say your answers to each of these questions will be different. And even if I’m wrong, and you’ll be doing the same thing three days in a row, you’d agree that each of the instances of what you’re doing are different, right? Well, Hegel would sure have some things to say to you.

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Hegel on Identity

Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit explores his views of identity. Like previous philosophers such as Kant and Descartes, he forms his own definition of what identity consists of. He deduces that the first knowledge we obtain is immediate and therefore the attempt to describe its identity is also immediate (90). He defines “sense-certainty” as the genuine feeling that comes from sensory experience. In Hegel’s view, sense-certainty seems to be the most certain form of gaining information because it provides the most truth to the individual. However, he attacks this “certainty” in the next sentence because he knows that out of this certainty, it makes it impossible to determine a deviance from this certainty. From this, Hegel also deduces that “consciousness, for its part, is in this certainty only as a pure ‘I’” (91), which means that the ability of self-consciousness is the purest form of knowing oneself. When you know yourself, you can place qualities on yourself. As you find out about the world around you, the objects in the environment can also contain qualities that you first learned by knowing yourself. He concludes his paragraph that “on the contrary, the thing is, and it is, merely because it is” (91). This statement sounds rather amusing and oversimplified but it provides a thought-provoking idea that the qualities of an object are present and that the reason the qualities are present is irrelevant.

Later in his philosophy paper, Hegel proposes a simple thought experiment to examine if qualities are universal. Suppose it is night time right now and “we write down this truth; a truth cannot lose anything by being written down, any more than it can lose anything through our preserving it. If now, this noon, we look again at the written truth we shall have to say that it has become stale” (95). In this thought experiment, Hegel proves that not every quality is everlasting or universal. Some things we label as qualities are not what someone else would consider. While it may be nighttime right now in this side of the world, it is bright and sunny on the other half of earth. Based on the perspective of the person, the qualities we give to objects around us can be contrary to the qualities based off of a different person’s perspective. Ultimately, this provides some relativism and uncertainty when we set out to define the qualities of the world around us.

Censoring AP

After reading the article about cutting funding to the AP US History program in Oklahoma, I did not know what to think. On the one hand, I was not surprised. As a native Georgian (where education is not a top priority), bills and laws like this seem to come up a lot. On the other, the justification for this law seemed to be particularly flimsy and transparent. Continue reading