This will be our reading for July 22. You can find the details at our Meetup page.
1. The previous chapter argued that freedom is fundamentally the capacity to “give oneself the law,” to legislate norms and bind ourselves to them. This self-legislation is not the ratification of passing desires or opinions, some sort of pure subjectivism, but a strange combination of self-creation and self-limitation. These self-created norms create and sustain social roles and reasons which we can use to justify or criticize behaviour. We looked at two different models of self-legislation: Kant’s deductive model, which begins with the generic, ahistorical individual, and Hegel’s historical/developmental model, which begins with actually-existing groups.
2. For both Kant and Hegel, a key motivating factor in ethical behaviour is respect for the life-leading capacity of humans, which eventually cashes out in the claim that all value depends on recognizing the value of humanity as an ultimate moral identity. As Korsgaard says, “A good soldier obeys orders, but a good human being does not massacre the innocent.” Pippin thinks the Kantian framework cannot establish this value of humanity, but the Hegelian one can.
3. This self-legislation is not only about practical norms, but cognitive norms as well; all of this is attached to a much larger account of rationality in general. Chapter 4 is about Hegel’s account of concept-formation, and is relevant here because it helps respond to a common criticism of Hegel: that he is an anti-individualist authoritarian.
Here is the reading for Saturday, February 27. We will meet here at 4:30. A printable copy can be found here. Try to print your own copy or bring a mobile device.
This chapter of The Origins of Totalitarianism describes how millions of Europeans in the 20th century lost all semblance of human rights, and more so, how the concept of human rights became hollowed out. Stateless, rightless people are basically homeless people, except on a global scale; they are accepted no where and protected only by laws of exception, which typically proved ineffective. They have lost any identity beyond merely human; they have no nationality, no culture, no community to fall back on—and unfortunately for these people, the bare human is the most contemptible human.
This was a reading earlier in the year. It is being posted now because I forgot to do so back then.
Manuel DeLanda’s A Thousand Years of Nonlinear History is divided into three parts, each covering mainly European history from 1000 to 2000 AD. The first part is an account of urban development, the second is a genetic history of Europe, and the third is a history of language. Three basic theses tie each part together. First, DeLanda argues that the historical processes in each case are entirely material; cities, genetics and language can all be described in terms of matter-energy flows. Second, there is an connection between human institutions and natural structures (such as geological strata) that is not merely metaphorical. Third, the processes are nonlinear—that is, there are no successive stages, but apparently successive moments that can coexist and affect one another.