“Logic… cannot say what it is in advance, rather does this knowledge of itself only emerge as the final result and completion of its whole movement” (Hegel, Science of Logic, di Giovanni trans., introduction, p. 23).
From either an Aristotelian or a Kantian perspective, it seems to me this is true of any sort of “self-knowledge”. We don’t just look within and see the truth; it takes a long detour to get there.
Hegel here stresses the radically presuppositionless character of this thing that he calls “logic”. This results in a far more ambitious project than Aristotle’s “tool rather than knowledge” approach to logic, which is also primarily geared toward more ordinary contexts, in which we do not aim to be radically presuppositionless.
I’m still inclined toward a middle position that what is at stake here is better called a kind of hermeneutic wisdom than knowledge. I agree with Pippin that Hegel is engaging in a kind of what Aristotle would call first philosophy here, but I take first philosophy itself to be a kind of meta-level interpretation, and thus again to be wisdom more than knowledge.
“The concept of logic has hitherto rested on a separation, presupposed once and for all in ordinary consciousness, of the content of knowledge from its form, or of truth and certainty. Presupposed from the start is that the material of knowledge is present in and for itself as a ready-made world outside thinking; that thinking is by itself empty, that it comes to this material from outside” (p. 24).
Here he is both saying that the more ordinary concept of logic has not yet learned the lessons of Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, and implicitly criticizing the dualistic appearance of some of Kant’s formulations.
“These views on the relation of subject and object to each other express the determinations that constitute the nature of our ordinary, phenomenal consciousness. However, when these prejudices are carried over to reason, as if in reason the same relation obtained, as if this relation had any truth in and for itself, then they are errors, and the refutation of them in every part of the spiritual and natural universe is what philosophy is” (p. 25).
This is a very strong statement. Hegel has a very positive view of life in the world, but he strongly distrusts our ordinary consciousness of it. Philosophy is what teaches us to move beyond common sense, toward something higher.
“The older metaphysics had in this respect a higher concept of thinking than now passes as the accepted opinion. For it presupposed as its principle that only what is known of things and in things by thought is really true in them, that is, what is known in them not in their immediacy but as first elevated to the form of thinking, as things of thought. This metaphysics thus held that thinking and the determination of thinking are not something alien to the subject matters, but rather are their essence, or that things and the thinking of them agree in and for themselves (also our language expresses a kinship between them); that thinking in its immanent determinations, and the true nature of things, are one and the same content” (ibid).
Here he is clearly referring to Aristotle, and endorsing Aristotle’s point of view as in a way even superior to that of Kant. For Aristotle, thought and things meet on the middle ground of the “what-it-is” or essence of things, which is what allows the ultimate identification of thought with what it thinks.
He mentions the shallow “external” reflection he associates with Locke’s notion of human understanding, then the much more substantive kind of reflection discussed by Kant in the Critique of Judgment, which will be a major theme of this whole work.
“The [Kantian] reflection already mentioned consists in transcending the concrete immediate, in determining and parting it. But this reflection must equally transcend its separating determinations and above all connect them. The conflict of determinations breaks out precisely at the point of connection. This reflective activity of connection belongs in itself to reason, and to rise above the determinations and attain insight into their discord is the great negative step on the way to the true concept of reason. But, when not carried through, this insight runs into the misconception that reason is the one that contradicts itself” (p. 26).
Contrary to Kant’s pessimistic conclusion in the antinomies of the first Critique, reason does not contradict itself; it is rather the determinations in things and situations that are subject to conflicting objective evaluations. Hegel’s more optimistic view of reason is accompanied by a very honest recognition of the existence of genuinely hard problems for thought about life in the world.