Connecting Hegel's "Sense Certainty" and Kaplan's "Demonstratives"

Hausarbeit, 2012

21 Seiten, Note: 1,3


Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Hegel

3. Kaplan
3.1 Building on Frege
3.2 Building along Kripke

4. Bridging the Divide
4.1 Certainty and Necessity
4.2 Hegel, Frege and Kaplan - Discourse and Critique

5. Conclusion


1. Introduction

With the advancement in logic made it the late 19th century and the subsequent integration of propositional logic into philosophy due in large part to the work of Bertrand Russell there has been a great divide concerning how philosophy should be done. The words idealism, speculation and holism have become frowned upon as the venacular of a mystic insight that has its pinnacle in the philosophy of Hegel.[1] Subsequently anyone daring to research Hegel must either reject this expansion of logic altogether or deal with the backlash and resulting ostracism. Only recently has something started to give. With Richard Rorty's book Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature travel passes have begun to be issued for the Trans-Atlantic voyage with many ports showing signs of a framework bridging the continental divide.

In this essay I will be attempting to hammer together some of the boards of that framework. As many of these conflicts have their sourse in Russell's departure from idealism and his use of Fregean methods in philosophy, I'll be attempting to get at the source of this rift by collecting my lumber from Hegel's bough and from the crotch of the analytic branch. I won't need to climb so far up the tree of wisdom, though. Analytic philosophers have begun to critique Frege and Russell, thus extending their surculi within reach of an essay on the Phenomenology of Mind.

In the Phenomenology in the chapter Sense Certainty, Hegel bases the empistemic failure of particulars on the paradoxical nature of demonstratives and uses this to support a holistic world view. Russell went on to tackle this problem with his essay On Denoting, with which he defends the logic of Frege and promotes an atomic view of epistemology. Building upon this notion as well as being opposed to some certain conclusions that are drawn thereform is David Kaplan who has written extensively on the subject of demonstratives some 150 years after Hegel. With the first read of Kaplan's essay Demonstratives, it would not occur to many to relate it to any Hegelian conception. This is in part due to the fact that the two schools are taught to the same pupil as often as there is a night when all cows are black.

In this essay I would like to present where Kaplan and Hegel converge as well as diverge. Kaplan refers to and differentiates himself from both the theories of Russell and Frege and in doing so builds upon them by adjusting for mistakes and shortcomings; I will argue that some shortcomings were pointed out by Hegel. It appears to my mind then that as Rorty would say, the Kantian phase of analytic philosophy is over and the Hegelian phase is arriving. Therefore all this sawing and hammering should not be in vain. I hope that this essay will serve as one of many good examples as to how this Entzweiung may be aufgehoben.

The burning question as to just how we are best to bring Hegel's philosophy over to the analytic shores arises. In order to address this conundrum we must first have a good understanding of what is essential to his philosophy For after all, we haven't succeeded in preserving the Mona Lisa if we have only retained her smile. Well argued are the points made by Horstmann in his article What is Hegel's Legacy and What Should We Do With It? In it he claims the systematic holism of the philosophy of Hegel to be essential and emphasiszes that a disection would invalidate any attempt at preservation.[2] On the other side of this debate stands Robert Brandom who claims that Horstmann's argument for a swallow it whole approach is what precludes answering the question as to how to deal with the semantically monolithic system.[3] 1 will return briefly to this debate between Horstmann and Brandom later in the conclusion.

In this essay I will be concentratng heavily on one particular piece of Hegel's work namely his argument concerning demonstratives in Sense Certainty. It takes a large precedence in his philosophy for two reasons. With the argument presented therein he is able to reinforce and begin his overall epistemology that objects of experience are conceptual. To put this in a modem notion, he uses it as an protoexample that the idea of the empricially given is a myth. Futhemiore, Hegel in Sense Certainity demonstrates the failure of an atomic approach to epistemology due to the impossiblity of certain knowledge of particulars and the mediation on the part of universals. Thereupon, he bases his argument that philosophy must be expressed in a holistic system. I will be supporting the first of readings, i.e. objects of experience are conceptual, and will not be addressing the second concerning atomism and holism, as paying this debate its due would simply go beyond the scope of this essay.

It is well know that analytic philosophy has a rift of its own. There are the formalist such as the early Wittgenstein and non-formalists such as the late Wittgenstein. Kaplan being the grandstudent of Frege has worked to bridge the gaps between these two schools. One thing that should become evident in this essay is how Kaplan's theory combines these two in such a way that it preserves what is essential in both of them. Relevant to this essay is Kaplan's model of direct reference and his theory of indexicals; particularly, how it overcomes dilemmas that arise in Frege's theory of demonstratives. In section four before the conclusion I will be using the epistemological commitments of Kaplan's models and theories to help build the bridge over to Hegel.

2. Hegel

Beginning Phenomenology of Mind with the chapter Sense Certainty, Hegel sets out to examine the relationship between the content of knowledge derived from the senses and the concept consciousness has of it as immediate certain knowledge of the particular. The examination consists of the comparison between the content of the object[4] and the concept[5] of consciousness and seeks to determine whether they correspond to one another. This is done twofold. On the one hand, the concept is compared to the content, and on the other hand the content is compared to the concept. He emphasizes that this examination does not require anything other than a simple reception of the two comparisons for reasons explained in the Introduction to the Phenomenology.[6] He highlights further that we must abjure conceptualizing what this level of knowledge has to offer, because the examination will offer up its own conceptual schemata.[7]

The content at the level of the senses appears to be the richest due to its lack of temporal and spatial limits while having at the same time the most corresponding concept as it refrains from witholding anything thereof. Alas the conceptual side is the most abstract as it can only disclose the sheer being of its content.[8] Obtaining anything such as properties or distinct qualities would demand more from Sense Certainty than it is conceptually able to deliver. The concept would need to be expanded to include complex relations in order to access a manifold of diversity such as color, form, etc.[9] Here certain knowledge is to be found soley in an immediate relation between a mere T and a mere 'this'.[10]

With these initial conditions Hegel observes that the certainty derived from the senses is in effect[11] but an instance of this apparent immediacy and contains solely a sample among a simple diversity of other 'thises'. From this diversity he discerns a principal schism that affects both content and concept. The additional conceptualization of subjectivity and objectivity is at work in Sense Certainty, there is an T which senses a 'this' and a 'this' whose existence appears to be immediately known.[12] That being said, Hegel gestures to fellow philosophers that the certainty of the knowledge of both the T and the 'this', being mutually dependent on one another, is in fact mediated; but this cannot be discerned at of the level of Sense Certainty-[13] Continuing on, Sense Certainty is split into two concepts, one whose content is mediated and the other which apparently has an inmiediate content. The mediated T exists in virtue of the existence of a 'this' as there would be no T had it not any knowledge of some object. The 'this', however, exists whether it is known or not. Thus Hegel argues that 'this' is the essence of Seme Certainty because it is the one of the two subconcepts[14] that appears to have an existence independent of the other, and thus perhaps possesses an immediate content like the main-concept of Seme Certainty demands.[15]

Hegel observes whether 'this' does in fact correspond to the concept of sense certainty, i.e. whether the knowledge derived from it is immediate, certain and particular.[16] Thus we see what Hegel means when he says that consciousness creates its own standard.[17] Moving on, he inquires into the content of'this' and finds it to be split into an dichotomy of'here' and 'now'; further sub­conceptualization has emerged. Hegel pursues further after the content of 'now' and finds it to be the case that 'now is night'. However the truth of this statement, i.e. how it corresponds to the world, fails upon sunrise.[18] At this point, Hegel seeks to argue that the content of Seme Certainty is mediated, and thus counter to the concept of Seme Certainity.

His argument works as follows. Imagine the รนท has set, if it hasn't already. 'Now' as night corresponds to the world because it is the case that it is night; i.e. the statement 'now is night' is true. That said, it is only the case that this statement is true because the statement 'now is day' is not true.[19] The certainty of each statement containing 'now' is known in virtue of something else that is not the case; viz that something else, e.g. 'day', does not correspond the world at the time of the utterance. The certainty of the knowledge that 'now is night' is not immediate but mediated as it is known to be certain in virtue of the knowledge that the statement 'now is day' is false. That is how dependence upon another demands the disqualification of epistemic immediacy.

All this implies threefold. Firstly, all knowledge that lies beyond sheer presence is mediated, but even the epistemic immediacy of being as presence will shortly be shown to be impossible. Secondly, the content of Seme Certainty does not correspond to the concept of Seme Certainty because the former is not immediate and, as we will see below, fails to capture the particular. Thus Hegel must eventually move on to test the inverse, viz the correspondence of concept to content. Thirdly, the medium through which this certainty emerges is, as in the example above, the concept 'now' and 'this'.[20]

At this point, Hegel argues that the medium of'now', 'this', and we can assume other demonstratives, are universal by nature. He describes a universal as a concept that is equivocal to its contextual content.[21] Thus in the above example 'now' can be used in varying contexts to imply either night or day. He thus argues that the knowledge of Seme Certainty is not of particulars, as the concept held it to be, but of the universal. Through language we intend to communicate a particular 'this' but are only capable of saying the universal, or rather communicating the content of mere presence. Here Hegel introduces interesting arguments in the philosophy of language. Language, he claims, is only able to express the world as it corresponds to the knowledge of sense certainty and thus cannot express the particular. It cannot express what we envision, what we actually intend it to.[22]

Hegel now considers what the relationship between the essential 'this' and the inessential T has become in light of the knowlege of Seme Certainty failing to be particular and its content falling short of immediacy. The result is that the relationship has reversed.[23] As the knowledge based upon objectivity has been shown to be indicitive of a universal, the knowledge of the particular must be found in what the T intends. The essential of Seme Certainity has become in light of its conceputal disappoitments that which was before the inessential. Thus Hegel argues that the certainty of the concept as referring to a particular has retreated from objectivity and has returned to the concept within subjectivity.[24] That implies that 'this' as particular is such because T knows it to be the case.[25] Thus now Hegel needs to compare the concept to its content.

The source of subjectivity's certainty is in the immediacy of the senses, viz. that T sees, hears, etc. However, Hegel discovers the same universality at work within subjectivity. One T sees a night and another T sees a day.[26] While both are equally certain, they also report different contradicting circumstances. As both are equally valid it cannot be established which of the two is true, thus the concept of certain knowledge cannot be shown to correspond epistemically to the data derived from the senses.[27] Hegel points out then that T is likewise equivocal to its contextual content and as such is a universal. Therefore the knowledge established within subjectivity is likewise found to be mediated.[28] This further emphasizes the rejection of a epistemic immediacy of the senses, or as it is referred to today The Myth of the Given. The words T, 'here', 'now', and 'this' will be later referred to as indexicals by Kaplan. Hegel emphasizes that all such words are universals as defined above and fail to capture the original intent of expressing the particular.

In summation, Hegel emphasizes two major points. Firstly, the essence of Sense Certainty lies not in its concept nor in its content, because therein we merely express the universal and not what was intended, the particular. Secondly, the universal acts as a medium from which knowledge is obtained. I understand him to mean that all knowledge is derived through a medium of a universal character. Hegel draws the conclusion that only the whole, both the concept and content, of Seme Certainty has immediacy and excludes all juxtaposing of subject and object.[29] Immediacy is thus equivocal toward all difference and its structure is that of the isomorphism.[30] Hegel highlights that those who argue that sense data is of a particular nature have only ended up saying the opposite of what they've intend as language is unable to reach the particular.[31]

3. Kaplan

Kaplan's work on demonstratives spans many essays and has changed over the years. I will be drawing on his later work in Themes from Kaplan, Demonstratives. I will not be using Kaplan's formal logic because doing so would go beyond the scope of this essay. Instead I will be looking at the how his theory builds upon Frege's by solving the dilemmas that arise in that theory once it handles demonstratives. In the main, Kaplan's solution is to use a model that refers directly to individuals instead of having them mediated through the Fregean notion of sense, or one of its many equivalents. Kaplan also builds upon Kripke's theory and it will be helpful to understand Kaplan's own theory by showing how it relates to his. In this section it is my goal to merely explicate Kaplan's work.

Before I begin I would like to quickly introduce some basic terminology. Kaplan differentiates between demonstratives and, what he calls, indexicals. What sets demonstratives apart is that they require demonstration.[32] An example of a pure indexical that does not require demonstration is the pronoun T because the mere utterance of the word is a sufficient enough demonstration. The set of indexicals is the main class to which demonstratives belong.

3,1 Building upon Frege

Frege's theory of demonstration differentiates betwen the notion of sense[33] as the mode of presentation and the referent[34] as that to which the sense refers. This theory works well when we have a proposition[35] that does not contain an indexical. Dilemmas emerge once we enter the territory of here/now, he/she, I/you, this/that, etc. That being said, Church has expanded upon Frege to include an explanation of demonstratives without rejecting the relationship betwee sense and referent; but this model will not be covered in this essay.[36] Instead I will be concentrating on Kaplan's argument against Frege's theory and how he builds his theory to respond to the inadequacies thereof.

The main problem that Frege's theory seeks to solve is to understand how a = ß , when true, can come to have congnitive significance beyond a = a -[37] In order to show this, Frege develops the notion of sense as that which is different in such cases and the referent as that which remains the same across both identities.[38] The famous example of the morning and the evening star having a different sense and yet having the same referent, Venus, immediatly comes to mind.

The point that Kaplan wishes for US to see at the outset of his essay is that due to the manner of Frege's model in indirectly expressing individuals it fails to correctly correspond to the concept of indexicals.[39] For when indexicals appear two main dilemmas arise. The first dilemma concerns the conflation of a proposition with an utterance.[40] In other words, Frege's model fails to differentiate what is meant from what is said. The second dilemma emerges out of sense and this notion's failure to account for the difference in cognitive significance between the use of indexicals.[41] Kaplan argues that both of these dilemmas will be ovecome by a model of direct reference, viz. a model that refers directly to individuals.

Beginning with the first dilemma, let US consider the case of wanting to evaluate the truth of the proposition “He lives in Tübingen.“[42] In this case we happen to be pointing at our friend Matthias who does indeed live in Tübingen. As it is thus far understood this proposition is true and there isn't any dilemma. According to Frege's model, sense is combined with the proposition to produce knowledge of the referent, i.e. the individual Matthias. Now let US have the same proposition with one twist. Imagine that unbeknowst to US Matthais has switched places with his brother Manfred who does not live in Tübingen. In this latter case one of two conclusions can be drawn.


[1] Russell pg.730.

[2] Horstmann pg.284.

[3] Brandom pg.276.

[4] Translation: Gegenstand.

[5] Translation: Begriff.

[6] Hegel pg.64 31-34.

[7] Hegel pg.65 15-24.

[8] Hegel pg.69 20-25.

[9] Hegel pg.69 27-35.

[10] Hegel pg.70 1-5.

[11] Translation: wirklich.

[12] Hegel pg. 70 8-15.

[13] Hegel pg. 70 15-20.

[14] The idea of subconcepts and mainconcepts are my words and not Hegel's.

[15] Hegel pg.70 15-35.

[16] Hegel pg.70 35-38.

[17] Hegel pg.64 31-34.

[18] 1 am cursorily endorsing a reading of Hegel with a correspondence theory of truth: Gegenstand und Begriff. I will not be supporting this thesis.

[19] Hegel pp'71 15-26.

[20] Hegel pg.71 20-24.

[21] Hegel pg.71 29-24. My translation of gleichgültig is equivocal.

[22] Hegel pg.72 1-5.

[23] Hegel pg.72 25-28.

[24] Hegel pg.72 35-39.

[25] Hegel pg.72 28-35.

[26] I think Hegel means the same speaker for each T. This reading connects well with the move to self-consciousness. See Hegel pg. 118, 1-5. This reading is in conflict with Tom Rockmore's reading. See Rockmore pg. 47.

[27] Hegel pg.73 9-12.

[28] Hegel pg.73 15-26.

[29] Hegel pg.74 5-9.

[30] Hegel pg.74 10-16.

[31] Hegel pg.77 21-33.

[32] Kaplan pg.490.

[33] Translation: Sinn

[34] Translation: Bedeutung

[35] Translation: Gedanke

[36] Kaplan pg. 484.

[37] Frege pg.26.

[38] Frege pg.27.

[39] Kaplan pg.484.

[40] Kaplan pg.513.

[41] Kaplan pg.530.

[42] For Kaplan's example, see pg. 512.

Ende der Leseprobe aus 21 Seiten


Connecting Hegel's "Sense Certainty" and Kaplan's "Demonstratives"
Eberhard-Karls-Universität Tübingen
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Hegel, Kaplan, Logik, Phänomenologie des Geistes
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John Dorsch (Autor), 2012, Connecting Hegel's "Sense Certainty" and Kaplan's "Demonstratives", München, GRIN Verlag,


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