Front Page Titles (by Subject) Self-Knowledge: Goethe, Kant, and Hegel - Literature of Liberty, Summer 1980, vol. 3, No. 2
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Self-Knowledge: Goethe, Kant, and Hegel - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, Summer 1980, vol. 3, No. 2 
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
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Self-Knowledge: Goethe, Kant, and Hegel
Discovering the Mind: Goethe, Kant, and Hegel. Volume I of a Trilogy. McGraw-Hill: New York 1980.
How has the discovery of the mind been furthered or impeded by major modern intellectuals? Goethe and Kant can be seen as symbolic alternatives in the modern quest towards greater self-knowledge. Hegel, in turn, represents an attempt to reconcile Geothe and Kant, and fails to be either clear or convincing to the degree he follows Kant rather than Goethe. This suggests that Kant's influence on some subsequent thinkers is largely “a disaster,” while Goethe is a continuing source for a deeper grasp of human consciousness.
Goethe's major contributions to our greater self-knowledge include: (1) a new model of “autonomy”—the creative and independent use of all human passions; (2) the view that a man's mind has no essence apart from his deeds; (3) the need for the mind to be understood through all its stages of development; and (4) the view that a proper scientific method can require multiple hypotheses founded on a rich sensory experience (a “poetic science”). In addition, the force of Goethe's own character and living example inspired others to discover their own minds.
In contrast to Goethe, Kant fallaciously assumed that: (1) “autonomy” means acting in accordance with rules or “laws” we have given ourselves, (which could be obsessive rather than creative or independent); (2) man has an essentially unknowable self behind the realm of his speech and arts; (3) the mind does not develop but has the same necessary structures everywhere; and (4) philosophy can prosper from merely examining the necessary presuppositions of scientific certainties, without the need of rich sensory experience, multiple hypotheses, or unceasing questioning of assumptions. In addition, Kant's character was no model of courage of rich experience; his prejudices and obscure writing style kept him and hers from discovering their own minds.
Hegel had a conception for a phenomenology of the spirit (or “mind”) that echoed and fruitfully developed Goethe's four contributions. Unfortunately, he also accepted Kant's insistence on certainty, completeness, and necessity. Hegel's contributions can be summarized by five points: (1) that views and positions have to be seen as a whole; (2) that each view must be seen in relation to the person holding it; (3) that each position should be seen as a stage in the development of mind or spirit; (4) that a position needs to be seen in relation to fundamentally opposing views; and (5) that men's creativity in art, religion, and philosophy are illuminated by these methods. Unfortunately Hegel's feigned rigor hid these contributions behind a vague Kantian writing style, but this makes the subservient contributions of Nietzsche and Kierkegaard understandable—if not strictly “necessary.”