Three of the major schools of contemporary continental thought — critical theory, poststructuralism and philosophical hermeneutics — are alike, despite the manifold differences which distinguish them, in criticizing and rejecting the traditional aim of modern philosophy: Our Cartesian legacy as defined by the ideal of an autonomous, fully transparent, self-legitimating standpoint of reason as a standpoint attainable by the reflective ego, consciousness or thinking self. To a degree, this common point also marks the importance, for them, of Hegel. All can be said to be involved in a love/hate relationship with him. Both the negative and positive impact of Hegel on critical theory is clearly acknowledged, at least by Habermas. More intriguing is the self-understanding of Hegel's influence on post-structuralism as expressed by Foucault: "… our age, whether through logic or epistemology, whether through Marx or Nietzsche, is attempting to flee Hegel. … But truly to escape Hegel involves an exact appreciation of the price we have to pay to detach ourselves from him. It assumes that we are aware of the extent to which Hegel, insidiously perhaps, is close to us; it implies a knowledge, in that which permits us to think against Hegel, of that which remains Hegelian. We have to determine the extent to which our anti-Hegelianism is possibly one of his tricks directed against us, at the end of which he stands, motionless, waiting for us."


Presented at the 11th Annual Philosophy Colloquium of the Department of Philosophy of the University of Dayton, held in March 1982.



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