Hegel's Conscience

Hegel's Conscience

Hegel's Conscience

Hegel's Conscience

Synopsis

This book provides a new interpretation of the ethical theory of G.W.F. Hegel. The aim is not only to give a new interpretation for specialists in German Idealism, but also to provide an analysis that makes Hegel's ethics accessible for all scholars working in ethical and political philosophy. While Hegel's political philosophy has received a good deal of attention in the literature, the core of his ethics has eluded careful exposition, in large part because it is contained in his claimsabout conscience. This book shows that, contrary to accepted wisdom, conscience is the central concept for understanding Hegel's view of practical reason and therefore for understanding his ethics as a whole. The argument combines careful exegesis of key passages in Hegel's texts with detailed treatments of problems in contemporary ethics and reconstructions of Hegel's answers to those problems. The main goals are to render comprehensible Hegel's notoriously difficult texts by framing arguments with debates in contemporary ethics, and to show that Hegel still has much to teach us about the issues that matter to us most. Central topics covered in the book are the connection of self-consciousness and agency, the relation of motivating and justifying reasons, moral deliberation and the holism of moral reasoning, mutual recognition, and the rationality of social institutions.

Excerpt

There is no subfield of contemporary ethical theory known as “Hegelian ethics.” By contrast to the other acknowledged titans of practical philosophy, Aristotle, Hume, Kant, and Mill, no distinctively Hegelian program has taken root. This fact is all the more surprising given the revival of interest in Hegel over the last thirty years and the expansive body of secondary literature that this revival has produced. There has indeed been a great deal of progress in understanding Hegel’s writings and situating them in relation to his predecessors. Some of the best recent work has actually focused on Hegel’s conception of freedom and the alternative understanding of practical philosophy that his conception makes possible. Yet his influence on contemporary ethical theory remains largely negative. His thought is most often invoked to critique Kantian moral philosophy in order to move autonomy-based ethics in a more historical and social direction. One could also cite Hegel’s influence on the movement toward “antitheory” by philosophers such as Bernard Williams, since Hegel is a leading critic of the abstract “ethical point of view” as the exclusive mode of moral assessment. Given the scope and ambitions of Hegel’s own project, however, this mainly critical character of his influence is surprising.

Works focusing explicitly on freedom include Dudley (2002), Franco (1999), Lewis (2005), Neuhouser (2000), and Patten (1999). Several articles by Robert Pippin, following upon his groundbreaking Hegel’s Idealism (Pippin [1989]), have also been very influential in shaping the discussions about Hegel’s theory of freedom. Hegel’s Practical Philosophy: Rational Agency as Ethical Life (2008) brings together Pippin’s work on Hegel’s practical philosophy, and is sure to be central to ongoing debates. Any list of books in the English-language literature required for coming to terms with Hegel’s practical philosophy would also have to include Brooks (2007), Hardimon (1994), Peperzak (2001), Pinkard (1994), Quante (2004), Speight (2001), Williams (1997), and Wood (1990). the works of Avineri (1972) and Taylor (1975), which were pivotal in drawing increased attention to Hegel’s practical philosophy, are still good starting points, but their insights have been incorporated and eclipsed by more recent work.

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.