Thursday, June 25, 2015

Outline of Hegel and Modern Society

Analytical outline of Charles Taylor's Hegel and Modern Society.

Cambridge Press, 1979.

  1. Freedom, Reason, and Nature
    1. Expression and Freedom.  Hegel sought to synthesize the Romantic desire for freedom and expression with the Rationalist desire for Reason.  The Romantics saw Enlightenment science severing man’s unity.  
    2. Man can only be self-conscious when he abstracts himself from the world.  But when he does that, he severs himself from the organic unity of life.  Reason and Life are thus opposites.  But they are opposites which can’t exist without the other.
    3. The Embodied Subject
      1. each term (subject/object; nature/freedom; God/man) is identical with its opposite.
      2. Opposition arises out of circular identity.  
      3. Hegel and the Subject
        1. Followed Herder in seeing the subject as an expressive unity.
        2. All of a subject’s functions are necessarily embodied.  On a human level this makes sense.  You usually can’t have a thought without a mind thinking it.  
        3. Man is not an animal with rationality added, but a new kind of totality.  
        4. There is a hierarchy of consciousness. The higher enfolds and negates the lower.
      4. There is a hierarchy of forms of life and a hierarchy of modes of consciousness.  Each negates and gives rise to a new one.  This is why man progresses from art to religion to philosophy.  As his rational self-consciousness grows, so does his mode of that self-consciousness.
      5. A rational subject must be embodied because their must be an opposite pole in which it may flourish
    4. The Absolute as Subject
      1. The universe is the embodiment of the totality of the life-functions of God (24).
      2. Geist is understood teleologically.  
      3. If Geist, then there are also finite spirits.  
      4. There is a limit between Geist and not-itself.  
        1. If Geist is somewhere, it is not somewhere else.
        2. Thus, there must be many finite spirits.
      5. With Kant and Fichte, Hegel agreed that consciousness is bi-polar within the individual.
        1. The ego posits the non-ego.
        2. The subject must be set against the object.
    5. Rational Necessity
      1. A conceptual necessity.  We are not speaking with causal im/possibilities, but with conceptual limits.  
      2. Analytical necessity deals more with the meaning of terms.  Conceptual with the structure of things.
      3. I think Hegel runs into a contradiction.  He says every subject must have an object, which means Geist must necessarily posit finite objects to inhabit.  So far, consistent.  He then says Geist is pure rationality (perhaps), but Geist is not determined.  Its rationality is pure rationality because….--I don’t follow.  
        1. Perhaps we can try this way:  finite things are necessarily dependent on God/Geist.  So far, so good.
    6. A Self-Positing God
      1. Hegel rejects both Christian theism (God independent of the world) and naturalism (God as not absolute).
      2. Self-positing:  God eternally creates the conditions of his existence.  Hegel is not so much arguing for an existent reality, but for the conditions that Geist be.
      3. He isn’t identical to Plotinus, since everything else is a falling away from the One and not necessary to the One’s existence; whereas, for Hegel it is necessary.
    7. Division
      1. The cosmic Subject (Geist) is identical and not-identical to the world
        1. identical: Geist cannot exist without the world.
        2. not-identical: the world’s externality represents a dispersal which Geist must overcome.
        3. Geist exists by overcoming its opposite.  By negating its own negation.
    8. The oppositions overcome
      1. Undoes Kant’s ding an sich because there is no gap between phenomena and noumena, since we are all vehicles of Geist.
      2. Our knowledge of the world turns out to be Geist’s self-knowledge.
      3. Aufhebung: dialectical transition in which a lower stage is both annulled and preserved in a higher stage
      4. Versohnung: reconciliation; overcoming dualities.
    9. Dialectical ways
      1. we start with the most elementary notion of what consciousness is, “to show that this cannot stand up, that it is riven with inner contradiction and must give way to a higher one, which is also in turn shown to be contradictory” (55).
      2. “dialectical” is not a method or approach, but a descriptive fact.
      3. Being and Nothing: the concept of being without any determination, turns out to be empty, nothing.  Being thus reveals a contradiction.
    10. A faulty proof
  2. Politics and Alienation
    1. The continuing conflict
      1. Modern society has seen the proliferation of Romantic views of life along with the rationalization and bureaucratization of collective structures and an exploitive stance toward nature (71).
      2. The New Left reaction: 1968 Paris was decloisonnement; an expressivist reaction against late capitalism.  
    2. The demands of reason
      1. The adequate form of Spirit (remember, Spirit must be embodied) is social.  Man has to be part of something larger than himself, since man cannot exist by himself.
      2. the state is the real expression of this life.
      3. The fully adequate State must be the rational one.
      4. The problem with Kant’s ethics: he purchased radical autonomy at the price of emptiness.
      5. The problem of politics is to limit negative freedom. Hegel’s problem with Rousseau and Kant is both defined freedom as human freedom, the will as human will.  If we define freedom as thought or reason, then the question of freedom doesn’t reduce to man alone, but to all of us.
      6. Sittlichkeit:  the moral obligations I have to an ongoing community of which I am a part.
    3. Ethical Substance
      1. alienation: this happens whenever the public existence no longer has meaning for me.
        1. e.g., the perceived futility of voting; nominal religious belief in Church-States.
        2. Individuals then strike out on their own to define their individuality
    4. The Goals of History
      1. The march of history is the succession of rational communities, the earlier ones embodying imperfect expressions of the later ones.
    5. Absolute History
      1. The French Revolution was the attempt to remake society according to reason and negative freedom.
      2. (Taylor is somewhat reticent about Hegel’s criticisms of the French Revolution).
      3. How to move forward
        1. everything in society (however that term is defined) must be the fruit of all.  
        2. In other words, all must share in ruling (cf. John Wyclif, John Milbank, John Ruskin).
        3. His society must be different from traditionalism because there cannot be structures insulated from the reach of decision.  On the other hand, it can’t be a liberal society, since the Form of Government will permeate everything.
      4. Negative freedom would require that the whole outcome be decided by me.  Yet, the whole outcome is a social one, so it cannot be decided by me alone.  Thus, negative freedom is impossible.  
      5. The society must be a homogenous one.  This might seem unfortunate, but it does have echoes in Augustine’s Book 19.  
      6. Social Estates and Differentiation
        1. the modern state aims at universal citizenship.
        2. The practical problem is universal participation is impossible in a state of any real size.  This leads to representation.  
    6. The Modern Dilemma
      1. Taylor appears somewhat concerned that Hegel’s politics would reject modern democracy.  
      2. However, it does raise the important question:  what kind of differentiation can modern society admit of (111)?  
        1. Ancient man knew he could only be himself in light of some cosmic order.
        2. the revolution of modern subjectivity justified society in what it achieved for man’s needs.   Utilitarianism.
          1. Utilitarianism, ironically, leaves no place for myth, myth of the new beginning, and so cannot justify the vision of its society (112-113).
          2. Absolute freedom, therefore, is seen to fill this “gap.”
        3. Here is why modern liberal society is doomed: radical participation in civic structures is only possible if there is a ground of agreement, or underlying common purpose (Augustine’s common objects of love).  Democracy and participation cannot create this; they merely presuppose it.  The demand for absolute freedom by itself is empty.
        4. Modern ideology and equality leads to homogenization of society.  It is an acid drip on traditional structures, yet it cannot replace them.
  3. Hegel Today
    1. Marx’s take on reconciliation is that it will come via social transformation.
    2. Weakness in Marx’s synthesis
      1. The Soviet view sees the proletarian party as “engineers of building in conformity with the laws of history…[combining] two opposed pictures of the human predicament.  It shows us man,  on one hand, imposing his will on the course of history...On the other hand dialectical materialism sets out the laws which govern man and history with an iron necessity” (151).  
      2. “The laws of history cannot be the basis of social engineering and reveal the inevitable trend of events” (152).
    3. Situating Freedom
    4. Hegel Today

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