Department of Philosophy

Alexander Berg: Absolute Knowledge and Ungrounded Certainty in Hegel and Wittgenstein – What Wittgenstein thought of Hegel's philosophy

Alexander Berg from the Department of Philosophy at the University of Dresden is guest researcher at WAB through the Leonardo da Vinci mobility project, and will give a guest lecture while here.

Picture of Alexander Berg surrounded by mountains and with a beautiful view
Alexander Berg
Alexander Berg

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"Hegel seems to me to be always wanting to say that things which look different are really the same. Whereas my interest is in showing that things which look the same are really different." (Rush Rhees (Ed.), Recollections of Wittg., Oxford 1981, 157, Monk, R., London 1990, 536-37 )
Dublin 1948: Autumn In Phoenix Park. During an afternoon walk with Maurice O’Connor Drury Ludwig Wittgenstein recapitulates his relationship with the great names of philosophy. He quit his professorship in Cambridge at the beginning of the year. Two and a half years before his death he is now writing his last will.
While walking with Drury Wittgenstein delineates his own thinking from that of Hegel. He draws up a contrast between his own and Hegel’s philosophy, a contrast that differentiates and draws them together at the same time. Wittgenstein characterizes Hegel's thinking as a philosophy of unity or identity and his own as philosophy of difference.
In this paper I present the first part of a project that investigates the systematic relation between the philosophies of Hegel and Wittgenstein hermeneutically. I aim at a dialogue between the two thinkers’ central questions and methods. In short, I want to translate Wittgenstein into Hegel and the other way round. To do this I follow the path of the signpost that Wittgenstein erected with the quote from the walk in Phoenix Park, both in the direction it indicates but also paying attention to the specific characterization of the path. Wittgenstein defines his own thinking as diametrically opposed to Hegel’s. My investigative journey will be successful if I can systematically show where we can follow the path and where we come to a stop.
My aim is to gain a deeper understanding of the relation between Wittgenstein’s and Hegel’s thinking as well as of the respective conceptions of their thought.
As the introductory part to my project this paper is both a historical and a philological investigation that will guide us towards an overall systematic hermeneutic project. As such the form of the first part will be anticipating certain results of the second part. My talk will be guided by three questions:
1. What exactly has Wittgenstein said about Hegel's philosophy?
2. What were the sources of his knowledge of Hegel?
3. What exactly did this knowledge consist in?"