Ted Sadler on the problem with Hegel.
Hegel had stated his intentions clearly enough in the Preface to the first edition: it was a matter of metaphysics reacquiring the dignity it had lost through the criticisms of Kantian philosophy. In Kant, metaphysical truths had become nothing more than those 'phantoms of the brain' vouchsafed by the concepts of pure reason. For Hegel, this had only been regarded as a satisfactory status for what was previously philosophy's 'holy of holies' because the metaphysical instinct, the spiritual need for metaphysics, had been weakened in modem culture. In the Preface to the second edition, Hegel quotes with approval from Book I of Aristotle's Metaphysics: 'In many respects man is in bondage, but this science, which is not sought for the sake of advantage, is the only truly free science, and for this reason appears not to be a human possession'. In the Metaphysics, Aristotle identifies this 'science of free men' as 'first philosophy' (prote philosophia), the chief subject of which is being qua being. Aristotle investigates being qua being as substance (ousia), eventually concluding that the 'first substance' is the non-sensible theos, 'self-thinking thought' (noesis noeseos).
The Science of Logic develops an 'objective logic' which steps into the place formerly occupied by ontology. Hegelian 'logic' becomes ontological by no longer confining itself to the rules of thinking but determining the nature of being, by again taking up being qua being as the first of all questions. For Hegel, this was a question not to be conjured away by the at bottom lax and popular Kantianism of his day. As he pursued this question, Hegel became more attracted to Aristotle's supremely 'speculative' thoughts on the noesis noeseos. In the Encyclopedia, Hegel equates the 'Absolute Idea' (his own highest reality and truth), with 'the noesis noeseos which Aristotle long ago termed the supreme form of the idea'. The Encyclopedia itself closes on a Aristotelian note. Hegel's last words read: 'The eternal Idea, in full fruition of its essence, eternally sets itself to work, engenders and enjoys itself as absolute Mind', and the book ends with a quotation in Greek, from Metaphysics XII, where Aristotle equates the noesis noeseos with theos. For Hegel, not only was this Aristotle's most profound answer to the question of being qua being, but it was his own answer to essentially the same question. Hegel had not, so he considered, answered this question differently, but had clarified both question and answer at a higher level of consciousness, more 'dialectically' than had been possible for Aristotle.
Was Hegel an untimely philosopher to whom Heidegger could have recourse in his own untimely Seinsfrage? Was Hegel one philosopher who had not 'forgotten' this question? In any case, Hegel himself had not been forgotten in Heidegger's spiritual home, Catholicism. Many years later, Heidegger testifies to the decisive influence on his career exerted by 'Karl Braig, professor of systematic theology, and the last in the tradition of the speculative school of Tübingen which gave signifiance and scope to Catholic Theology through its dialogue with Hegel and Schelling'. Heidegger had already known Braig's 1896 book Of Being: An Outline of Ontology at the gymnasium, and was still occupied with it after taking up theological studies at Freiburg, where he attended (around 1911) Braig's lectures: 'My interest in speculative theology led me to do this . . . . On a few walks when I was allowed to accompany him, I first heard of Schelling's and Hegel's significance for speculative theology as distinguished from the dogmatic system of Scholasticism'. Heidegger was certainly not untouched by Hegelianism during his theological years. But although, like Braig, Heidegger saw Hegelianism as a way of modernizing Catholic theology and of making it more philosophically rigorous, there is no sign that Heidegger found in Hegel the germ of his own Seinsfrage. By the mid-1920's it was already clear to Heidegger that Hegel too, along with Kantianism, Husserlianism and Lebensphilosophie, along with Catholicism, was part of the problem.