Project Overview

The aim of the research group Hegel in Interdisciplinary Perspective (HIP) is to clarify the concept of development, historicity, and formation (Bildung) as related to the mind, art, religion, and social structures. This should result in a better understanding of the principle of historicity first in Hegel’s philosophy itself, second in disciplines that have been profoundly influenced by Hegel’s work (like aesthetics, sociology and religious studies), and third on how the idea of historicity and the Hegelian concept of Bildung might prove productive for contemporary disciplines and their mutual interrelation.

In his concept of Bildung, Hegel captures the insight that new phenomena and revolutionary structures originate in and through the development itself. No longer taking the present and its phenomena to be a mere replica of a pristine origin lying either in the past or outside of history, Hegel translates philosophy into an activity aiming to capture “one’s time in thought.” With this, philosophy’s agenda changes; philosophers turn away from an otherworldly realm and start reflecting on “mundane” phenomena. Even cognition and rationality itself is now understood to be a mundane process in need of down-to-earth empirical material. Most importantly, under the catchword of “otherworldly” Hegel classes not only religious or metaphysical ideas but also more exact structures such as mathematical relations as considered to be the essence of physical phenomena, or the genes taken to be the “inner” of our action. In all of these instances, Hegel points to a severe problem: We assume a truth outside of the phenomenon itself. Hegel objects that the very process of reflection on these phenomena is constitutive of their essence. The subject’s dynamic thus enters into the nature of the object, this insight marking the birth of modernity.

With this, Hegel introduces movement into concepts traditionally understood as immutable, even eternal, and thus shows that the realm of the phenomena and the reality “behind” these are enlivened by one and the same dynamical bond he calls “dialectics”. This dialectical bond is the foundation of the idealistic claim that being, i.e. the immediate reality, and thought are one. Here, Hegel does not formulate a thoroughly new understanding but tries to reflect how and why philosophy transforms profoundly in modernity, taking the insight into historicity and with this the insight that the human mind is creative of society to be the key dynamic ushering in this change.

The idealistic standpoint, far from being an enemy of the present, founds modern disciplines as the study of religion, sociology, aesthetics, or pedagogy. Now philosophers thematise political events like the French Revolution, social upheavals as the Jacobin terror, natural disasters as the earthquake in Lisbon, the economic market, concrete artworks along with their effect on the public (Goethe’s Faust or Schiller’s Robbers) or education as in Rousseau’s Emil. In turning to the question of Bildung in the individual disciplines mentioned, Hegel formulated a concept of interdisciplinarity in the form of a system. In this sense, the topic of HIP is essentially linked to the question of interdisciplinary perspectives in Hegel and its relevance to contemporary discussions on the nature of interdisciplinarity.