Hegel's Truth: A Property of Things?

Hegel Bulletin 43 (2):267-277 (2022)
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In his Encyclopaedia Logic, Hegel affirms that truth is ‘usually’ understood as the agreement of thought with the object, but that in the ‘deeper, i.e. philosophical sense’, truth is the agreement of a content with itself or of an object with its concept. Hegel then provides illustrations of this second sort of truth: a ‘true friend’, a ‘true state’, a ‘true work of art’. Robert Stern has argued that Hegel's ‘deeper’ or ‘philosophical’ truth is close to what Heidegger labelled ‘material’ truth, namely a property attributed to a thing on the basis of the accordance of that thing with its essence. It has since been common to think of Hegel's concept of ‘philosophical’ truth as ‘ontological’, ‘objective’ or ‘material’ in contrast to ‘epistemological’ or ‘propositional’ definitions. In this paper, I wish to add an important nuance to the existing literature on this subject: even though things have a truth-value for Hegel, the latter is always negative. I argue that Hegel's criterion of ‘philosophical’ truth, which is best formulated as ‘agreement with self’, is first and foremost intended to examine the truth-value of thought-determinations. I then argue that even though this criterion may also be applied to examine the truth-value of things (namely, even though things have a truth-value), things never fall under this definition. After reviewing several of Hegel's explicit remarks on the matter, I provide an alternative explanation to those features of Hegel's ‘philosophical’ truth which have led scholars to view it as a truth in things. Especially, I argue that what are generally seen as Hegel's examples (‘true friend’, ‘true state’, ‘true work of art’) are not intended as examples but only as imperfect illustrations of ‘philosophical’ truth.

Author's Profile

Tal Meir Giladi
University Paris Nanterre


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