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Access Type

Open Access Thesis

Document Type


Degree Program

Germanic Languages & Literatures

Degree Type

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded



This thesis presents Hegel’s account of abstract ‘understanding’ (Verstand) and asserts that his thought is to be read as primarily presenting a critique of abstract understanding. Verstand involves the methodological supposition of a self-subsistent fundament of what it speaks of, and hence the critique of understanding is the critique of the supposition of self-subsistent fundaments. Grasping his account and reading him in its critical light yields a very different image of Hegel than the caricature of ‘totalizing systems’. The dimension of the Verstandeskritik has been relatively neglected in Hegel-reception and misunderstandings result from trying to ‘understand’ Hegel, by overlooking the topic of ‘understanding’ in his work as critique. Many caricatures result from understanding Hegel as a proponent of what he actually critiques (‘absolute knowing’ is often understood as a mega-understanding). The thesis then addresses the historically influential criticisms raised by his contemporary, F.J.W. Schelling, to give a voice to a Hegel that has been hitherto drowned out by caricatures that began with Schelling.


First Advisor

Jonathan Skolnik

Second Advisor

Robert G. Sullivan