Academic journal article The Review of Metaphysics

A Case of Bad Judgment: The Logical Failure of the Moral Will

Academic journal article The Review of Metaphysics

A Case of Bad Judgment: The Logical Failure of the Moral Will

Article excerpt


In this paper I attempt to understand Hegel's claim that the moral will is finite, or incompletely free, as a consequence of the moral will being structured by the logical concept of judgment. Section 2 begins with a brief discussion of judgment. It then identifies the defining features of the moral will and compares them to those of judgment, enabling us to conclude that judgment is the logical structure of the moral will. Section 3 considers the limitations that plague judgment and produce the finitude of the moral will. Section 4 examines three separate attempts of the moral will to overcome this finitude, all of which fail in virtue of their own logical structures. This allows us to conclude that the moral will is insuperably finite, and that the will must be reconceived as having a different logical structure in ethical life if it is to be free.(1)


Judgment appears in the last of the three main sections of Hegel's Logic, the subjective logic, or the doctrine of the Concept The subjective logic is itself divided into three sections--subjectivity, objectivity, and the Idea--each of which is further subdivided. Our concern is with subjectivity, of which the judgment (das Urteil) is the second moment The first moment of subjectivity is the concept (der Begriff), and the third moment is the syllogism (der Schluss).

The concept, the judgment, and the syllogism are similar in that each is composed of the three moments of universality, particularity, and individuality. They are differentiated because in each of them these three moments are interrelated in a unique way.

In the concept, universality, particularity, and individuality are understood as being immediately identical to each other. This means that none of the three is understood to have an existence or character independently of the others. On the contrary, "since in the concept their identity is posited, each of its moments can only be grasped immediately on the basis of and together with the others."(2) Consequently, "the moments of the concept cannot be separated," but must be thought as a single unity.(3)

The interrelation of universality, particularity, and individuality is otherwise in judgment Hegel calls judgment the particular moment of subjectivity, by which he means two things. First, in judgment universality, particularity, and individuality are understood to be separate from each other. Each of the three is now understood to exist and be what it is independently of the existence and character of the others; they are not understood to be identical.(4) Second, and at the same time, the three moments are understood to be related to each other in judgment in such a way that they are inseparable; they are understood to be implicitly identical.(5)

The contradiction between these two distinctive features--the fact that the moments of judgment are understood to be both separated and inseparable--is evident in the form Of judgment itself: "the subject is the predicate." In such an expression it is clear that the subject and the predicate are separated from and independent of each other.

[S]ubject and predicate are considered to be complete, each on its own

account, apart from the other the subject as an object that would exist

even if it did not possess this predicate; the predicate as a universal

determination that would exist even if it did not belong to this


At the same time, however, the expression also makes clear that the one is the other, that the subject and predicate of a judgment are inseparable and identical.

The link between discussing judgment in terms of subject and predicate, and discussing it in terms of universality, particularity, and individuality, lies in the fact that the subject of a judgment is an individual and the predicate is a universal. More specifically, the subject is a concrete unity of particular determinations (which makes it an individual), and the predicate is a universal determinacy that defines the nature, essence, concept, or in-itself of the subject, in virtue of which their identity is posited in the copula, the is. …

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