Section 1.4 Preliminary
1.4 Philosophical encyclopedia The science of ontology is today reduced to the surveying of differing viewpoints on the nature of reality, while at the same time, it is commonly implied that there is not one view better than all the other views. All viewpoints are equal in that they are thoughts, but that is not the same to suggest that all forms of thought are equally viable in being true. Just because there are many viewpoints does not mean they are all equally the same. The post-modern tradition has recently reduced the quality of thoughts to the mere fact that they exist. Each viewpoint is seen as an equal constituent by virtue of the view being present. The mere presence of an argument renders it true for the post modernist. This is not the same as the truth of a thing being self-evident because for a truth to be self-evident it must have proved itself against all other oppositions. To say that something is true because it is present still requires an explanation into how it is self-evident because we cannot just simply presuppose the presence of a thing is what makes it true because during its present it could be something that it is not. The study of ontology looks for more than a set of already present opinions, but looks for the nature that enables such differing conceptions to exists. It is oxymoronic to say that science is the survey of different opinions without there being a true thing the opinions are based on. There may be many beliefs about the nature of reality, but there can only be relatively few true conceptions about what it actually is. Conversely knowledge cannot be established prior to the presence of a thought, which is the activity of going through the thought process. Reasoning is not a function independent from time and so judgment of true and false are made after a thought process needs to necessarily happen. Hegel critiques any method that tries to establish some knowledge before the activity of knowing, as in the case of methodological skepticism, he likens it to the act of “learning to swim before jumping in the water”, he writes:
“It is natural to suppose that, before philosophy enters upon its subject proper — namely, the actual knowledge of what truly is — it is necessary to come first to an understanding concerning knowledge, which is looked upon as the instrument by which to take possession of the Absolute, or as the means through which to get a sight of it. The apprehension seems legitimate, on the one hand that there may be various kinds of knowledge, among which one might be better adapted than another for the attainment of our purpose — and thus a wrong choice is possible: on the other hand again that, since knowing is a faculty of a definite kind and with a determinate range, without the more precise determination of its nature and limits we might take hold on clouds of error instead of the heaven of truth.” (Philosophy of mind 73)
If you are trying to first converse with what it even means to know, as if only then you can proceed to know the first set of things, you already proceeded to know your object before establishing the knowledge that you said needed to come before knowing it. In other words you have committed the very thing you are trying to establish before needing to do the thing you claim to be the thing necessary for it to happen. In this way the method is made separate from the content so that one does not have to be completely accountable for the other. When the thought fails the method can still remain in order to derive more thought, and this is a safe gate way to allow many different ways of arriving at the same answer to be simultaneously present. But for Hegel if the method is made to be thought itself, then it is the same all along both at the beginning when there were many different views distinguished from each other, and the same at the end during the selection of the few best ways from the bunch. For example as in the case of mathematics there are many ways of arriving at the same answer but the best way is the fastest and shortest route to the answer.
The way ordinary encyclopedia selects information is more accidental than principled because it compiles a set of viewpoint and in doing so invariably exclude other views. It gathers all the information relevant to a general topic and just offers the convenience of the information being there when the topic is searched. But it makes no effort to negate or critically question the particular facts to construct a general picture about the whole topic. A medical encyclopedia for instance tells you all about the different types of medical diseases, symptoms, treatments and prognosis, but it does not go into the deeper topic of why certain human behaviour result in health issues. Psychoanalysis for instance goes into these deeper questions and therefore it can be an ontological science. Normal encyclopedias stay away from the reason why things happen, they only offer the description of what happens. For example a doctor does not ask the patient why they smoke, he just simply reviews the case of disorder in front of him and hopes to do the necessary operations to alleviate it, like a mechanic fixes a broken car, he does not ask why it was in an accident because that is not relevant to the task at hand. In philosophy all facts are relevant because this forms part of what logic means to be a comprehension, or in other words, comprehensive. A philosophical encyclopedia operates on the prejudice that there is right and wrong knowledge. Now as to whether there is true or false knowledge is a subject matter that becomes clearer throughout the duration of the inquiry, but it is nevertheless an assumption adopted in the onset of an ontological study in order to collect information. To differentiate between true or false knowledge is by no means an easy task, but one thing is for sure in a system where all possibilities must be ascertained, is that the first wrong move is to assume there are no wrong moves. These are truths in the first set of assumptions the philosopher must initially adapt before selecting information he or she judges to be true. Hegel says; “In the form of an Encyclopaedia, the science has no room for a detailed exposition of particulars, and must be limited to setting forth the commencement of the special sciences and the notions of cardinal importance in them.” (Encyclopedia 16) A philosophical encyclopedia is a mechanism of selecting in and filtering out certain truths within a body of knowledge and in this way it is a system of thought not just “a collection of bits of information”. Hegel distinguishes a philosophical encyclopedia from an ordinary encyclopedia: “The encyclopaedia of philosophy must not be confounded with ordinary encyclopaedias. An ordinary encyclopaedia does not pretend to be more than an aggregation of sciences, regulated by no principle, and merely as experience offers them. Sometimes it even includes what merely bear the name of sciences, while they are nothing more than a collection of bits of information. In an aggregate like this, the several branches of knowledge owe their place in the encyclopaedia to extrinsic reasons, and their unity is therefore artificial: they are arranged, but we cannot say they form a system. For the same reason, especially as the materials to be combined also depend upon no one rule or principle, the arrangement is at best an experiment, and will always exhibit inequalities. [Hegel encyclopedia 16)
A philosophical encyclopedia is always premised on a fundamental principle. Ontology tells the reader a definite worldview and so it is not only here to offer differing viewpoints to let the reader decide for themselves which one is true. Whether the reader agrees or disagrees will naturally follow from their own self thinking. Ontology is not meant to offer an environment for the reader where they can decide and have an opinion on what is presented because that that happens naturally in Metaphysics, which is meant to discover truths they did not know exits and prove those to be true or not. The driving principle is to prove and demonstrate truth and so it is necessary to assume there is truth, or at least there is truth in the task of trying to demonstrate knowledge. The way the content of Metaphysics is ordered cannot be limited to a certain period of time in history but maintains a common principle prevalent across all traditions across the ages. This does not mean that all traditions postulate the exact same ideas, but contained within each unique notion of a tradition are the same disagreements about the same fundamental issues. Unlike other specialized studies like the history of philosophy, we do not focus on certain time periods over others because we are only interested in finding knowledge that is consistent with our principle from traditions at any time in history.
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