College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences Theses and Dissertations

Full Title of Thesis or Dissertation

Modality and Method in Hegel's Logic

Graduation Date


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Department/Program Conferring Degree



Hegel, logic, metaphysics, modality, method


Traditionally, it is assumed that necessity and contingency are opposed to one another, and that, if there is such a thing as “pure thinking,” that it follows necessary, rigid, and eternal logical laws, whose application is affected negatively by things that are external to them, such as individual perspectives, traditions, and histories. My dissertation undermines these assumptions and makes several novel claims about modality and thought. First, while Hegel is often characterized as a strict necessitarian who bans all contingency and open possibilities from his “system,” I show that, far from claiming that contingency is illusory or incomprehensible (as other thinkers in the tradition do) Hegel contends that necessity itself is nothing other than contingency. Second, in developing Hegel’s conception of freedom as a process of self-determination and self-differentiation, I show that Hegel’s normative philosophy is grounded in his logical account of the good, and that this overcomes the problems of unrealizability and relativity that other conceptions of normativity are traditionally susceptible to. Moreover, this also demonstrates why common charges of conservatism and quietism against Hegel fail. For Hegel, the good is not merely an “ought” that may or may not be realized, but, like freedom itself, a process of development that operates on the basis of its own realization. Emphasizing this developmental, rather than deductive, account of the good also opens up the necessity of seeing norms as concepts that necessarily change. My dissertation shows that Hegel’s logic does not give us an a priori metaphysics that is then “impurified” by the finite, contingent world. Rather, thought itself demonstrates that it cannot be what it is unless it is finite and contingent.

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