This thesis examines the problem of identity and difference in Hegel and Heidegger and thereby attempts to shed light on the relationship between the critique of metaphysics and the critique of modernity. Both Hegel and Heidegger, it is argued, investigate identity and difference in relation to the problem of self-consciousness or subjectivity within the historical context of modernity. Their respective critiques of modern subject-metaphysics can for this reason also be viewed as critiques of the philosophical foundations of modernity. Two paths or lines of inquiry can be identified: Hegel’s dialectical-speculative path, which attempts to supersede modern subject-metaphysics in favour of speculative philosophy, the form of thought adequate to the experience of freedom in modernity; and Heidegger’s ontopoetic path, which attempts to detach itself from metaphysics in order to usher in a ‘non-metaphysical’ experience of technological modernity. These two paths are explored through a critical dialogue between Hegel and Heidegger as a way of showing the relationship between the critique of metaphysics and the critique of modernity.
Part I of the thesis considers the philosophical background to the identity/difference problem and its relation to the principle of self-consciousness within modern philosophy. The early Hegel’s encounter with Kant and Fichte is explored as an attempt to criticise the (theoretical and practical) deficiencies of the philosophy of reflection. Part II considers Hegel’s positive project in the Phenomenology of Spirit, in particular the theme of intersubjective recognition and its significance for theorising self-consciousness in modernity. Hegel’s critique of substance- and subject-metaphysics is examined in the Science of Logic, which integrates the logic of identity and difference within the threefold Conceptual unity of universal, particular, and individual. Part III then turns to Heidegger’s explicit confrontation with Hegel, discussing Heidegger’s project of posing anew the question of Being, and examining in detail Heidegger’s “Cartesian-egological” reading of the Phenomenology. The later Heidegger’s “non-metaphysical” or ontopoetic evocation of identity and difference is further explored in light of Heidegger’s critical engagement with the nihilism of technological modernity. In conclusion, it is suggested that the critical dialogue between Hegel and Heidegger can open up new paths for exploring the problem of freedom in modernity.