Pippin, Hegel’s Practical Philosophy: Ch. 3

This is the reading for June 24th’s meeting.  You can get the location and other details at our meetup.com page.

1. In chapters 1 and 2, Pippin argued that Hegel’s practical philosophy—which Hegel would have called a philosophy of spirit—is primarily a theory of freedom.  His idea of freedom is quite far from our usual notions of freedom, which tend to revolve around abstract questions of free will and political questions of what we ought to be free from or to do.  To some degree, Hegel combines these two sides of freedom when he says that a free act is not necessarily one freely caused by me, but rather an act which I can, on reflection, fully endorse.  Further, this sort of reflective endorsement is only possible when one understands one self and others in particular ways and stands in rule-governed institutional relations.

2. Pippin also introduced the claim that “spirit is a product of itself.”  Spirit is the industry-standard translation of the German word Geist, and for our purposes, we can basically define it as both the development and actual existence of a given historical period’s package set of fundamental concepts and practices.  

3. This claim that spirit is a product of itself is important for two reasons.  First, it both connects Hegel to, and differentiates him from, earlier German idealists like Kant and Fichte.  Second, it is one of the main points in his social, collective idea of freedom.  These two points are connected: for Kant and Fichte, cognitive and practical normativity (how we ought to think, what we ought to do) find their origins in the (either logically or practically necessary) cognitive acts of individuals, while for Hegel, both kinds of normativity are the result of collective, historical development.  

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Terry Pinkard on Normativity in Fichte

This was the reading for October 2nd’s meeting.

In Terry Pinkard’s German Philosophy 1760-1860: The Legacy of Idealism, he initially situates Fichte’s as a response to a specific issue in Kant: the paradox that we are only subject to those norms for which we can regard ourselves as the author.  This paradox arises arises out of two elements in Kant.  First, there is the subject/object dichotomy: we encounter ourselves as subjects making judgments about objects (i.e. substances interacting in space and time) and those judgments, if true, answer to the objects.  Second, there is the Kantian turn away from the question of what hold does the world have on us? to the question of what reasons do we impose on ourselves?

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The Background of German Idealism and The Preface to the Phenomenology of Spirit

Some Background to German Idealism and The Preface to Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit

People who have even basic familiarity with 19th Century philosophy have heard a variety of claims that are not immediately obvious. For example, “Kant is a major turning point in modern philosophy,” or “Kant is the father of German Idealism,” or “Hegel completes Kant’s project” or–conversely–“Hegel is betraying Kant’s project.” All of these claims are elusive unless one has read both widely and deeply in modern philosophy. Therefore, my goal in the first part of this discussion is to provide some context in which to understand these and similar claims. This summary is necessarily brief and very likely lacking in total accuracy, so I encourage you to jump in whenever you think I’m missing something or getting something wrong.

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