On the Significance of Feeling for Belief and Knowledge in the Late Writings of G.W.F. Hegel

How do we know whether we really know something or whether we "merely" believe something? Must we consider belief and knowledge as strictly rational phenomena or do we have to recognize that feeling might play some significant role in them? How does certainty occur?

Project No. G 207

Dorothea Katharina Ritter

Current research on emotions is moving away from pure rationality-focused approaches to the understanding of cognitive processes. Instead, it sets out to study the interplay of these processes with emotional or affective ones. However, the nature of the relationship between rationality and feeling, or between conceptual thought and feeling remains an open and controversial question.

My doctoral thesis in philosophy investigates the significance of feeling for processes of belief and knowledge within the framework of a systematic approach, which also takes into account historical aspects. My research project revolves around the following central question: Must an explanation of belief and knowledge, in order to be exhaustive, include emotional criteria in addition to rational ones?

My hypothesis is that such an integration of emotional aspects seems indeed to be required as soon as the relation between belief and knowledge is no longer conceived as a static one, but as one that is inherently dynamic.

Such a dynamic understanding of the relation between belief and knowledge not only brings to light their intrinsic processual interrelation, but also allows us, according to my thesis, to identify a double function of feeling, as a regulator and a motive, in belief-knowledge processes. As for 'certainty', it appears to have two regulators: feeling and knowledge - and to be at the same time the striking moment of fusion between these two.

Hegel's late writings provide precious tools to conceptually grasp the questions outlined above, in particular his concept of "self-feeling", which I hope to further define and refine. The late works also supply very helpful tools to discuss problems, which arise from a "corrected" epistemic logic of belief and knowledge which integrates feeling. To mention only an example of such problems: What does this "correction" imply from a normative point of view? And more precisely: Can we hold on to consider knowledge to deliver objective validity claims if we include feeling into the explanation of knowledge processes? Is certainty a subjective or an objective phenomenon?




Prof. Dr. Hilge Landweer

Prof. Dr. Axel Honneth (Frankfurt a.M.)