Learning from Hegel what philosophy is all about: for the metaphysics of reason and against the priority of semantics


I argue that recent debates about Hegel divide over an issue concerning metaphilosophy. So-called “non-metaphysical” interpretations are distinguished not in seeing Hegel as rejecting metaphysics entirely, but rather in seeing Hegel as holding a metaphilosophy according to which problems in epistemology and semantics are inescapably fundamental to philosophy. I defend an alternative, arguing that Hegel takes metaphysics as fundamental.
But not in the sense most prominent in Hegel debates, according to which metaphysics would be concerned with absolute perspective-independence, or a  God’s eye view of the world. Metaphysics, in the relevant sense, is concerned with what is a reason for what; it is “the metaphysics of reason.” This is the target of the Kantian critique of metaphysics, from the Transcendental Dialectic, that is most important for Hegel. And we can understand in these terms how Hegel hopes to engage philosophically with Kant’s critique, but also to provide a metaphysically constructive response. Finally, Hegel himself provides powerful arguments against the idea that philosophy is fundamentally about, and must begin with, reflection on our own cognition and the conditions of the possibility of knowledge or meaningful thought.