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The ThreeStage Failure of SenseCertainty

In beginning his lengthy phenomenology for identifying the pathway in which Geist will realize itself as Absolute Knowledge, Hegel begins at what many considered the most basic source of all epistemological claims: sensual apprehension or Sense-Certainty. Though the skeptical tradition took this realm as a jumping-off point for making defensible epistemological claims, Hegel sees in the sensual a type of knowledge so general and abstract as to be entirely vacuous. Focusing on the principle that anything known in the Scientific sense must be communicable, through language or its approximations, Hegel shows that whatever the sensual purports to know is inherently incommunicable and therefore cannot represent true knowledge. An important precondition for Hegel's examination of the sensual is his caveat that sense-certainty must not use complex concepts of any kind to express that which it knows. In this sense, Hegel treats sense-certainty as the realm whose truth is expressed as pure being or ISNESS, as opposed to mediated forms that understand ISNESS in a wider context of meaning (Hegel, 91). By insisting on this limitation, Hegel treats sense-certainty as stripped down to bare assertions of sensual experience, allowing the phenomenologist to examine the sensual based solely on what it is capable of showing us on its own. Indeed, it is this litmus test of self-sufficient communication that sets the stage for Hegel to return sensuality to the universal conceptual framework that supports it once it has been seen to fail in its own right. In the first stage of his examination of what the sensual might offer in the way of knowledge, Hegel examines the object apprehended by a sensing consciousness. This is not to say that Hegel neglects the mediating role that the subject plays in this process but only that he examines the case where the mediating subject is inessential in that even if it were not to know the object, the object would still h...

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