Hegel the consummate Neoplatonist

Plotinus (204/5-270), Anonymous, white marble, Ostiense Museum, Ostia Antica, Rome

Plotinus (204/5-270), Anonymous, white marble, Ostiense Museum, Ostia Antica, Rome

Progress of my thesis 18.11.15

In my thesis I will argue that Hegel’s philosophy was clearly the result of his overlay of Christianity on Neoplatonism, that it embodies the highest development of Neoplatonism and that the connections between his philosophy and Neoplatonism are so numerous, consistent and profound, it should be a test of philosophers to argue not that Hegel was a Neoplatonist but that he wasn’t.

The diremption (God’s) that Magee makes so much of in his claim that Hegel was an Hermeticist draws on the second hypostasis of The Enneads.

Where for Plotinus it was the initial requirement for Intellectual-Principle in order to have knowledge – self-knowledge – it was but a metaphorical step (with which steps Hegel’s philosophy is replete) from this for Christians to make that a requirement for God to achieve his self-knowledge, via Christ’s diremption in the world.

The same fundamental error that Hegel made, twice, in his discussion of the philosophies of Plotinus and Proclus in his Lectures on the History of Philosophy point to what he himself did with Neoplatonism – not least so that he could argue that God can be cognised.

In a nutshell, he conflated the hypostases – not the first time this has been done.

While both Plotinus and Proclus referred to the One as God, for both the One was unparticipated, distinct. Neither referred to the One as ‘being’ or as having multiplicity as Hegel both wrote they did and did in his own philosophy. For Plotinus and Proclus, being and multiplicity arise in the second hypostasis, Intellect.

Jakob Schlesinger, ‘Bildnis des Philosophen Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel’, Berlin 1831, Alte Nationalgalerie Berlin

Jakob Schlesinger, ‘Bildnis des Philosophen Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel’, Berlin 1831, Alte Nationalgalerie Berlin

Hegel, beyond ‘left’ and ‘right’ Hegelianism, is a Trojan horse in capitalist ideology – a mystic who took Neoplatonism to its highest development prior to Marx’s standing it on materialist feet and making it, in the form of dialectical materialism, the epistemology of the future.

In my thesis I will be discussing the time-serving, career-building intellectual cowardice of generations of academics who have parroted Hegel’s claim to non-mystical ‘reason’ – the ‘reason’ of Plotinus – thus maintaining the patriarchy and Western white-supremacism of capitalist ideology.

This is, fundamentally, not a matter of refined philosophical discussion in wood-panelled rooms but of the power of and continued domination by the bourgeoisie.

As a materialist, I will be defending the worth and cultural impact of the revolutionary philosophy of Plotinus, who is every bit the equal of Plato and Aristotle, upon both of whom he drew.

Some of those academics who previously would not touch mysticism with a barge-pole and are now teaching it as though it was ever thus make a mockery of philosophy and of the intellectual integrity they claim to uphold. They are without shame. These, too, should be held to account.

They exemplify that ideologues, like nature, abhor a vacuum.


Images: top/bottom

2 thoughts on “Hegel the consummate Neoplatonist

  1. This is truly fascinating. I love struggling along with you, dictionary in hand, trying to keep up! Fortunately, what I lack in formal education in Philosophy I make up in practical Hermetic study. As a practical Hermeticist, I can can only say that my cosmological view (which comes from Hermetic Qabalah) agrees with your presentation of the view of Plotinus and Proclus that, “the One was unparticipated, distinct,” never “being” nor “having multiplicity.” The One is, like the sun, a source of emanation. This emanation, this Light, is what divides and becomes. The One does not itself divide or do anything but shine; the bending, reflection, or splitting of its light has no affect upon the One which is the source. To conceive of the One as itself being or dividing, as you say Hegel did, has tremendous implications indeed.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Robert,

      thank you for your comment.

      In his discussion of Plotinus’ philosophy in his Lectures on the History of Philosophy, having written of nothing other than the One and unity with it, Hegel wrote:

      ‘The main thing is to raise oneself up to the representation of pure being, for that is the simplifying of the soul through which it is transposed into blissful stillness, because its object too is simple and at rest. …In general, and according to its principal moments, this content is that what is first is essential unity, is essential being [Wesen] as such, as primary. The principle is not things as subsisting, not the apparent multiplicity of existence; on the contrary, it is strictly their unity. …The defining of the One is what matters most. …The first being [Sein] overflows…Plotinus designates this bringing forth as a going-forth, a procession. …God or the Good is what engenders…So what is first is what we call the absolute being [Wesen].’

      He continued ‘Understanding, nous, or thinking consists then in the fact that by returning to itself the primary being beholds itself…’

      Another fundamental ‘error’ by Hegel (I’m being generous in calling these ‘errors’ because I think Hegel distorted, either consciously or unconsciously, key aspect of the philosophies of Plotinus and Proclus to suit his purpose – how he himself used Neoplatonism). For Plotinus, the One does no thinking because thinking requires an object – i.e. division. Thinking for Plotinus takes place in the second hypostasis.

      Of Proclus, Hegel wrote: ‘He finds it necessary to show the Many as One and the One as Many – to lead back to unity the forms that the Many assumes.’

      Another clear, fundamental ‘error’ by Hegel.

      G.W.F. Hegel, Lectures on the History of Philosophy 1825-6 Volume II: Greek Philosophy, Trans. Robert F. Brown and J.M. Stewart, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 2011, 335-336, 341-342

      On being Plotinus wrote:
      ‘…we know the divine Mind within, that which gives Being and all else of that order: but we know too, that other, know that it is none of these, but a nobler principle than anything we know as Being; fuller and greater; above reason, mind, and feeling; conferring these powers, not to be confounded with them.’
      The Enneads V.3.14

      On many and the One Proclus wrote:
      ‘…the one is beyond multitude, and is the cause of being to the many’
      ‘The many, however, do not participate of the one.’
      ‘And the one itself will not be different from itself; for it would be many and not one.’

      The Theology of Plato/Book II/Chapter I
      Best regards, Phil


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