Historical Types of Philosophical AbsolutismJune 5, 2019
Since there’s no unity in philosophy concerning the very possibility of the absolute knowledge, a type of philosophy that supports “philosophical absolutism” may be called metaphysical.
The content of the concept of metaphysics is a topic for a separate investigation, but some key points in the history of metaphysics that played an important role in validating the right of philosophy on absolutism should be pointed out – it will be helpful for further consideration.
As we know, the first historical form of metaphysics was connected with the corpus of works of Aristotle that deals with questions of the First philosophy when the concept of metaphysics completely coincided with its term: what goes after physics was the content of ontology that covered the First principles (causes) of existing things. But the evolution of metaphysics showed a new approach to it when metaphysics turned to be the theory of knowledge rather than the theory of being in the 17th century.
On the wave of scientific development we received a new key philosophical problem – the problem of validity of knowledge, and a new metaphysics, metaphysics of method advanced to the forefront as the most important one, regardless of philosophical movements and forms of method that Bacon and Descartes searched for. Anyway, at this point metaphysics seemed to lose an immediate tie with its term. Growing strength of methodological reflection led, as we know, to skepticism and agnosticism in the 18th century in the face of David Hume as the culmination of this trend. At this time metaphysics of method became autonomous, lost connection with ontology and even opposed itself to it: development results in independence and leads to separation.
The figure of Kant is of utmost importance in this respect as well but, which is more significant, we’d like to draw attention to the fact that he definitely contributed to development of the new time trend of autonomation – this time in regard to practical life and rationalization of morality. The foregoing practical philosophy oriented towards empirical analysis and description of ethical issues whereas Kant got down to defining pure principles of morals.
Here’s what Kant writes about it in his “Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysic of Morals”: “The present treatise is, however, nothing more than the investigation and establishment of the supreme principle of morality, and this alone constitutes a study complete in itself”. In fact, completeness of the study of morals led him to the idea of its independence and selfsufficiency, and even opposition of metaphysics of morals to that of being: it is the “ought-tobe” that matters. Furthermore, according to Kant, it is exclusively metaphysics of morals that may claim to be metaphysical: “metaphysics as science”… becomes what it is only on the grounds of practical reason” (see Kalinnikov, 2010: 26).
So, by the beginning of the 19th century the inner relations between the main philosophical areas became obscure. Differentiation of main metaphysical spheres initially contributed to gradual emancipation of the theory of knowledge and of morals from the theory of being. In the above-mentioned treatise Kant further writes: “Where the different kinds of work are not distinguished and divided, where everyone is a jack-of-all-trades, there manufactures remain still in the greatest barbarism”, which is not unequivocal.
We can’t just rule out a kind of barbarism marked by immeasurability, unbalance between division and connection. No wonder that immeasurable and boundless differentiation and specialization in the sphere of knowledge eventually brought philosophy to, in Hegel’s words, abstractness and onesidedness of determinations of knowledge, which doesn’t conform to the centuries-long classical philosophical tradition. In this respect, Fichte and Hegel appeared to be the thinkers who tried to “render unto Caesar what was Caesar’s” through uniting all corpus of philosophical knowledge.
Contemporary Russian philosophers Kasavin and Shavelev nostalgically noted concerning the variety of forms and interpretations of the phenomenon of daily life that nowadays we need a new Hegel to bring this motley diversity to order (Kasavin & Shavelev, 2004), whereas Hegel of the XIX century presented a new form of metaphysics – metaphysics of logic.
Kant admired at inalterability of the science of logic since the time of Aristotle but for Hegel it was a ground for its cardinal revision: “logic coincides with metaphysics as a consequence of expansion of bounds of the discipline” (Demin, 2011: 175). It’s not merely a study of inference with formal content any longer.