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(1994) Hegel reconsidered, Dordrecht, Springer.

The logic of contingency

Deborah Chaffin

pp. 143-161

Toward the beginning of both The Phenomenology of Spirit and The Encyclopaedia of the Philosophical Sciences, Hegel observes that philosophy is not shoemaking, adding, in one of his characteristically tongue-in-cheek comments, that "... when it comes to philosophy, ... everyone nevertheless immediately understands how to philosophize, and how to evaluate philosophy, since he possesses the criterion for doing so in his natural reason — as if he did not likewise possess the measure for a shoe in his own foot."1 In passages such as this, Hegel means to call attention not only to the disanalogy between philosophy and shoemaking, but even more importantly to those traits which constitute an affinity between philosophy and the craft of the shoemaker. According to the presentation in the Encyclopaedia, both philosophy and shoemaking require skill, study and application, in spite of the fact that almost no one seems to recognize this! And while one has no problem recognizing the requisite craft and important practical consequences of shoemaking, Hegel laments the fact that this same status and respect aren't accorded philosophy. Thus, Hegel's persistent commitment to the underlying affinity between philosophy and shoemaking cannot but appear a bit strange to us; having grown accustomed to a conception of philosophy as a labor of luxury, it is difficult to conceive of it as bearing immediate practical utility. We can only wonder what the polemical occasion would have been for Hegel to have framed his analogy with the craft of the shoemaker. Whatever model of philosophy it was such that the skill, study and application involved in shoemaking should have been an equivalent and, perhaps, obviously appropriate basis for the analogy, it has long since disappeared from philosophical consciousness. The reconstitution of a possible context in which Hegel's model could even begin to look plausible and something someone might be tempted to endorse belongs to a kind of conceptual archeology, the very possibility of which suggests that the history of the Western philosophical tradition is discontinuous, that far from exhibiting one gradual development of, say, the sovereignty of reason, this history rather shows us not to have made progress, but to have simply changed the subject.2

Publication details

DOI: 10.1007/978-94-015-8378-7_8

Full citation:

Chaffin, (1994)., The logic of contingency, in T. Engelhardt & T. Pinkard (eds.), Hegel reconsidered, Dordrecht, Springer, pp. 143-161.

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