Thinking and the I

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Publication Date
March 2019
Page Count
256 pages
Trim Size
6 x 9

Thinking and the I

Hegel and the Critique of Kant
Alfredo Ferrarin

What is the relation between thinking and the I that thinks? And what is the relation between thought and reality? The ordinary view shared by modern philosophers from Descartes to Kant, as well as by common sense, is that there is only thought when someone thinks something, and thoughts and concepts are mental acts that refer to objects outside us.

In Thinking and the I: Hegel and the Critique of Kant, Alfredo Ferrarin shows that Hegel’s philosophy entails a radical criticism of this ordinary conception of thinking. Breaking with the habitual presuppositions of both modern philosophy and common sense, Ferrarin explains that thought, negation, truth, reflection, and dialectic for Hegel are not properties of an I and cannot be reduced to the subjective activity of a self-conscious subject. Rather, he elucidates, thought is objective for Hegel in different senses. Reality as a whole is animated by a movement of thought and an unconscious logic as a spontaneity that reifies itself in determinate forms. Ferrarin concludes the book with a comprehensive comparison of Hegel’s and Kant’s concepts of reason.

While it mainly focuses on Hegel’s Phenomenology, Science of Logic, and Encyclopaedia, this ambitious book covers all aspects of Hegel’s philosophy. Its originality and strength lie in its recovery of the original core of Hegel’s dialectic over and above its currently predominant transcendental, neopragmatist, or realist appropriations. It will be essential reading for all students of Hegel, Kant, and German idealism in general for years to come.
About the Author

ALFREDO FERRARIN is a professor of philosophy at the University of Pisa. He is the author of seven books, including Hegel and Aristotle and The Powers of Pure Reason: Kant and the Idea of Cosmic Philosophy.

"Ferrarin’s book is a clear and persuasive explanation of the meaning of Hegel’s surprising phrase 'objective thought.' Thanks to a comparison of Kant’s and Hegel’s conceptions of thinking and reason, Ferrarin shows that Hegel develops a totally new concept of subjectivity and deconstructs the usual 'logic of the I.'" —Jean-François Kervégan, University Paris 1-Sorbonne

“This book is an original, intelligent and impressively erudite study of Hegel’s conception of thought. Ferrarin argues persuasively that thought, for Hegel, is not just an activity of the I, but is ‘the logic animating the world’ that comes to know itself through the I. He also challenges current orthodoxy by arguing that Hegel’s conception of thought is much closer to Kant’s conception of reason than Hegel recognized. This deeply thought-provoking book is a refreshing and very welcome contribution to the scholarship on Hegel and Kant and to philosophy more broadly.” —Stephen Houlgate, author of Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit

“Ferrarin's much discussed book promises to enrich our views on Hegel's concept of thinking and the relationship with Kant in fundamentally new ways." —Angelica Nuzzo, author of Approaching Hegel's Logic, Obliquely. Melville, Molière, Beckett

“If we are willing to jettison our ordinary conception of thinking and adopt Hegel's philosophic perspective, we discover that ‘rationality is in the world, not in our sciences alone.’ Ferrarin's remarkable book is thus ultimately in service of that quintessentially Hegelian aim of being-at-home in the world. Yet, as Ferrarin reminds us, to comprehend that there is, in fact, nothing ‘thoroughly other’, nothing wholly alien to mind requires ascending to the heights of absolute spirit, to the thought of thought thinking itself.” —Paul T. Wilford, Kantian Review

"[Ferrarin] explores what it might look like to put Kant and Hegel in deeper conversation with each other with regard to reason and the nature of subjectivity. This move has the effect of making room for a productive, critical reevaluation of Hegel’s handling (and occasional mishandling) of some of Kant’s arguments about reason and for using that reevaluation as a starting point for a fresh understanding of Hegel’s conception of thought." —L. Bernhardt, University of Southern Indiana for CHOICE 

"It seems inconceivable that Kant had read the Phenomenology, or the Science of Logic, and would then afterwards have been able to have a philosophical discussion with Hegel about it. This inconceivability is not due to our lack of imagination but has a fundamentum in re, which needs explanation. One of the things I liked very much about Ferrarin’s book is that he takes on the challenge to give such an explanation. The first part of this explanation . . . is an exposition of one element of Hegel’s philosophy that sets him radically apart from the Kantian and pre-Kantian tradition, namely his account of thought as something that is 'objective' in a sense that is incompatible with its traditional description as an activity of the self-conscious subject. The other part is a diagnosis and criticism of Hegel’s own engagement with Kant’s philosophy . . . Ferrarin shows in great detail and with admirable exegetical subtlety how many of Hegel’s characterizations of Kant’s system are based on a rather superficial, uncharitable, and simplistic reading of Kant’s writings. Moreover, Ferrarin argues that surprisingly many of Hegel’s critical responses and alleged alternatives to what he sees in Kant can already be found in Kant himself. Given the resulting more charitable understanding of Kant, the differences between their philosophies are less insurmountable and a meaningful dialogue can begin—if not between Kant and Hegel, then between contemporary inhabitants of planet Kant and planet Hegel." —Tobias Rosefeldt, SGIR Review 

"It is a great merit of Ferrarin's book to blend systematic argument with careful attention to philological detail. Moreover, its procedure is truly dialectical insofar as crucial concepts are not taken as fixed at the outset, but their content is developed in the course of the argument. This alone makes the book deeply rewarding for anyone interested in a Hegelian take on thinking and the I." —Christian Martin, European Journal of Philosophy