Hegel and the absolute truth

Essay, 2005

11 Pages, Grade: A (1,3)



A: Introduction: Quid est veritas? – a short review

B: The knowledge of the absolute truth
I. What means “absolute knowledge”?
II. How can we know the absolute?

C: Critical discuss of Hegel’s knowledge of the absolute

D: Conclusion

A: Introduction: Quid est veritas? – a short review

“Quid est veritas?” It was not a philosopher who asked this important question. Pontius Pilatus, a roman prefect inquired one of the most important questions in philosophy. From the gospel of St. John, we can see that he was not really interested in the answer. But before and after him philosophers attempted to find an answer. For Plato, a sentence is true if it says from whom it exists, that it exists. After Aristotle something becomes true not because we are thinking about it, we are thinking about it because it is true. For Augustine truth is, “quod ita est, ut videtur“(De vera relig. 36). The truth is eternal, timeless, non versatile and absolute. In the Scholastic, philosophers defined the truth as: adaequatio rerum et intellectuum. In the summa contra gentiles (I, 59.), Thomas Aquinas tells us: ” Veritas intellectus est adaequatio intellectus et rei, secundum quod intellectus dicit esse quod est, vel non esse quod non est.” For Descartes, the eternal truths of the mathematicians are given us by God, the truths are timeless and absolute but they can not exist outside our thoughts: “Aeternas veritates - nullam existentiam extra cogitationem nostram habentes” (Pr.ph. I, 48). Leibnitz tells us that the truth exists out of correspondence between the propositions with the things. The truth for Kant is a correspondence among the thoughts which correspond with the regulars of the mind. The eternal truth is turned into an a priority judgment. Now, we can not talk anymore of adaequatio rerum et intellectum, because the thing in itself can not be perceived anymore. Kant drew out the limits of our mind and because of this we can not have a knowledge of the absolute truth. Goethe now gives us a relative point of view: everyone can have his own truth: “Kenne ich mein Verhältnis zu mir selbst und zur Außenwelt, so heiße ich's Wahrheit. Und so kann jeder seine eigene Wahrheit haben, und es ist doch immer dieselbige“( WW. XIX, 53). Since Kant, the knowledge of the absolute truth is not available anymore, but there is a well known Philosopher, who wants to teach us that we can have a knowledge of the absolute truth. For Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, to seek the truth, to come to a knowledge of the absolute truth is the duty of a philosopher. In his first lecture at the University of Berlin, Hegel laments: “So ist das, was von jeher für das Schmählichste und Unwürdigste gegolten hat, der Erkenntnis der Wahrheit entsagen, vor unsern Zeiten zum höchsten Triumphe des Geistes erhoben worden.[1],[2]

In this essay, I will try to show why Hegel believes that we can have knowledge of the absolute truth.

B: The knowledge of the absolute truth

I. What does “absolute knowledge” mean?

“… das absolute Wissen; es ist der sich in Geistsgestalt wissende Geist oder das be-

greifende Wissen.“[3] Hegel says that absolute knowledge is apprehended (begreifende) knowledge. What kind of knowledge are we talking about? Knowledge in the phenomenology is not a theoretical one, “das absolute Wissen, das Hegel in Anspruch nimmt, [ist] nicht gleichzusetzen mit dem gewöhnlich gemeinten theoretischen Wissen.”[4] Absolute knowledge is about the speculation of reason; it is a speculative knowledge of things. The difference between a theoretical knowledge or theoretical truth and a speculative one is that in the first one there is a known result expressed in an statement. The second one has a philosophical truth, it is conceived thinking, expressed in a speculative sentence which should express the essence (when Hegel speaks about the essence [ Wesen ] then it is not identical with the substance or the medieval essentia. The Wesen is the basis of all existence/being: it stays always the same, stabile during all time variation.) and destroys the difference between the subject and predicate.

“Formell kann das Gesagte so ausgedrückt werden, daß die Natur des Urteils oder Satzes überhaupt, die den Unterschied des Subjekts und Prädikats in sich schließt, durch den spekulativen Satz zerstört wird und der identische Satz, zu dem der erstere wird, den Gegenstoß zu jenem Verhältnisse enthält.“[5]


[1] follows the article about the truth out of Rudolf Eisler: Wörterbuch der philosophischen Begriffe; Digitale Bibliothek Band 3

[2] G.W.F. Hegel; Berliner Antrittsrede (1818), in: Berliner Schriften (1818-1831); p.46

[3] Hegel; Phänomenologie des Geistes; p. 868; (cf. Hegel-W Bd. 3, S. 582)

[4] Martin Heidegger; Hegel´s Phänomenologie des Geistes; p.158

[5] Hegel; Phänomenologie des Geistes; p.69; (cf. Hegel-W Bd. 3, S. 59)

Excerpt out of 11 pages


Hegel and the absolute truth
University of Auckland  (Department of Philosophy)
A (1,3)
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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491 KB
Critically discuss why Hegel believes that we can have knowledge of the absolute truth
Hegel, Lecutre, absolute Wahrheit
Quote paper
Thomas Bauer (Author), 2005, Hegel and the absolute truth, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/66093


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