Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy, Vol 1, No 1 (2005)

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On the Systemic Meaning of Meaningless Utterances: The Place of Language in Hegel's Speculative Philosophy

Toula Nicolacopoulos, George Vassilacopoulos


The aim of our paper is to offer a reading of the systemic significance of Hegel’s inclusion of the concept of the sign in the ‘Psychology’ of his Philosophy of Mind. We hope to explain why it is that the Hegelian system positions a specific form of sign, the meaningless utterance, at the point of Mind’s transition from ‘mechanical memory’ to ‘Thinking’. Rather than analyse the subtle advancements in the unfolding of the self-determining activity of ‘Theoretical Mind’, our strategy will be to focus attention on what we take to be some central aspects of the philosophical system’s wider developmental logic and of the general treatment of language in speculative philosophy. We do this by arguing that, according to Hegel’s Logic, language provides the element in which persons are drawn together out of their independent subjectivity into a unity that gives expression to their universal nature as in process and, ultimately, as a project to be realized. This argument is supplemented by a reading of the general nature of the movement of Spirit within Hegel’s system that draws attention to the significance of what we call ‘the absolute potentiality’ of Spirit. We argue that the transition from Mechanical Memory to ‘Thinking’ relies upon the activity of producing the meaningless utterance because this product of Mind reveals its universal nature to be its essential unity with its object. This transition allows us to show how Mind must be understood to return to itself out of its self-loss in Mechanical Memory. Finally we argue that the production of the meaningless utterance fulfils the requirement of reformulating the elementary idea of Spirit through an incorporation of the naturalness of the natural.

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