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.

3 responses to “Addressing Sense-Certainty

  1. I like what you said in the first paragraph, when you interpreted what you thought sense-certainty was and what you thought Hegel meant by it. That is also the conclusion that I drew, that he was talking about using our senses to gain knowledge. I kind of see where you are going in the second paragraph when you talk about what he means about certainty being the most abstract and poorest truth. Before he says this statement, he says that sense-certainty is the richest and truest kind of knowledge. But then he says that this type of certainty is the poorest truth, simply because “all that it says about what it knows is just that it is” (I, 91) Of course, this sounds contradictory to what he is said before, but I think that he is saying that obtaining knowledge by relying solely on our feelings or “senses” is unreliable, not necessarily that we have to find the true meaning of the object, though you could be correct as well. What do you think?

  2. I see where you’re coming from when you said that you think Hegel means that “relying solely on our feelings or ‘senses’ is unreliable.” I definitely agree with this statement but I think I was just trying to convey how the idea of certainty is questionable when based solely on senses. Then when I thought about the identity of the object besides it physical presence alone, I was trying to explain how the senses only contribute to a portion of the knowledgeability of said object. I’m not saying that defining the object in all facets is necessary but just that the senses do not provide a complete approach, or as you said, are unreliable, when identifying an object.

  3. I feel that Hegel gives contradicting ideas of sense-certainty. At first, he was describing it to be “the richest type of knowledge”. Afterwards, he describes it to be the “poorest truth”. Hegel’s writing is hard to read and understand. His usage of contradicting ideas makes his writing even further puzzling. I think that Hegel is arguing that sense-certainty is the ultimate source of knowledge; however, in order to discover universal truths sense-certainty alone is not reliable.

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