The paradox of beginning: Hegel, Kierkegaard and philosophical inquiry

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Abstract
This paper reconsiders certain of Kierkegaard's criticisms of Hegel's theoretical philosophy in the light of recent interpretations of the latter. The paper seeks to show how these criticisms, far from being merely parochial or rhetorical, turn on central issues concerning the nature of thought and what it is to think. I begin by introducing Hegel's conception of "pure thought" as this is distinguished by his commitment to certain general requirements on a properly philosophical form of inquiry. I then outline Hegel's strategy for resolving a crucial problem he takes himself to face. For his account of the nature of thought depends upon the idea of a form of inquiry in which nothing whatsoever is presupposed; but this idea appears basically paradoxical inasmuch as the mere act of beginning to inquire in a certain way embodies an assumption about how it is appropriate to begin. Turning to Kierkegaard, I consider a key objection to the effect that Hegel's strategy for resolving this paradox depends on the incoherent idea of a purely reflexive act of thinking. Finally, I draw out some central features of the alternative account of "situated" thought and inquiry which Kierkegaard presents as distinctively Socratic
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Archival date: 2015-11-21
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