Hegels Begriff der Erfahrung

Hegel's Concept of Experience

This 1950 essay is based on Heidegger’s Winter Semester 1942–43 seminar on Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and Aristotle. It is both a detailed interpretation of the introduction to Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit and a critique of Hegel’s philosophy.

The starting point of Heidegger’s interpretation is René Descartes’ discovery of subjectivity and its absolute self-certainty. If Descartes sighted new land, Hegel takes full possession of it. He elevates philosophy to the level of absolute knowing. Absolute knowing is freed from its dependence upon objects. The process consists of three steps: (1) Absolvence, that is, the tendency of knowing to release itself from its dependency on objects; (2) absolve, that is, the striving to make this release complete; and (3) absolution, that is, the actual freedom from objects which is achieved in the process of knowing. Knowing is presentation as a form of presence or the self-consciousness of the knowing subject. Self-consciousness expresses its nature as the self-manifestation of the being of the subject, which Heidegger defines as subjectity.

The heart of Heidegger’s interpretation is his analysis of Hegel’s concept of experience. The process of absolvence, which constitutes absolute knowing as self-consciousness, is governed by three principles: (1) Consciousness is for itself its own concept; (2) consciousness supplies of itself its own norm; and (3) consciousness examines itself. Experience is the process by which absolute consciousness comes to presence as itself. Consciousness or thinking determines the being of entities.

In his implicit critique, Heidegger shows the limits of Hegel’s philosophy. Because Hegel expands the absolute certainty of consciousness into being itself, the subjectivity of modern philosophy culminates in his absolute idealism. Hegel could not disclose truth, ἀλήθεια, as the process by which entities emerge into unconcealment. In the history of philosophy, the truth of being remains unthought.