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Hegel. 1 October 2008. Hegel. History as the unfolding of “spirit” (Geist) in human cultural forms Philosophy as the retrospective description of the rationality of this unfolding. Progress?. Is there moral progress? Rousseau: There is moral decline

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1 October 2008

  • History as the unfolding of “spirit” (Geist) in human cultural forms
  • Philosophy as the retrospective description of the rationality of this unfolding
  • Is there moral progress?
    • Rousseau: There is moral decline
    • Kant: we cannot prove that there is, but the assumption of moral progress makes sense of our duties towards perpetual peace
    • Mill: we cannot prove it, but there are strong grounds for assuming some form of moral progress
  • Spirit unfolds towards greater rationality and freedom : there is moral progress for Hegel
    • In the movement from family to state
    • In the movement from ancient forms of the state to modern forms of the state
  • The historical process unfolds dialectically, through the tensions among contradictory ideas and the resolution of these tensions in higher forms
  • Personal and cultural growth, in particular, depends in part on the struggle for recognition: people define themselves in opposition to others
the forms of community
The forms of community
  • The family: the realm of unconditional love
    • No struggle for recognition within the family: the individual is absorbed within the family
  • Civil society: the realm of self-interested individual interactions
    • The struggle for recognition in civil society gives rise to the free but disconnected individual (he is alienated, as Marx says later)
  • The state: the ethical realm
    • The individual is reconciled to the community in the state, while maintaining his status as a free being
the family
The Family
  • Human beings are members of families unconditionally; membership does not depend on free activity
  • Individuality requires the possibility of negation, and is sustained by struggle
  • Hence the family cannot provide a context of recognition necessary for a person to become a free and rational individual
civil society
Civil Society
  • In civil society, human beings appear as possessors of individual rights which they can assert against others
  • Civil society makes possible individuality through the mutual recognition that conflict and opposition bring; membership depends on free activity, and can be negated
civil society1
Civil society
  • Is civil society enough?
    • The social contract tradition says yes: the state is simply the agency that protects these individual rights
the state
The State
  • What is the essence of the state?
    • It can ask you to die for it
    • Because it embodies the shared values of a people in a rational form (law): it gives rational shape to a cultural identity
    • The state reconciles the individual to the community without destroying his/her individuality, and gives ethical content to his/her freedom
the state as an ethical community
The state as an ethical community
  • An “organic” community composed of classes with a specific purpose
    • The monarch: represents the “unity” and “individuality” of the state
    • The military: sacrifices itself for the state
    • The civil servants: embody the “universality” of the values of the state in their concern for the rule of law
    • The bourgeoisie
the nation state
The nation-state
  • The nation-state is the self-conscious form of the “spirit” as a purposely cultivated cultural life in rational form
    • Hegel makes no assumption that there must be one state per nation, however
    • Each nation-state a distinct manifestation of spirit and so a form of right: each state is sovereign with respect to every other
    • Some states are “higher” manifestations of spirit than others, and have the right to treat the lower manifestations as “barbarians”
the nation state1
The nation-state
  • Like individuals, the state requires recognition by other states in order to attain its self-consciousness and individuality, its “identity”
    • Recognition demands plurality and conflict
hegel s critique of kant
Hegel’s critique of Kant
  • War is part of the rational process of history
  • The “purpose” of war is not to lead to perpetual peace, but to preserve and enhance a particular manifestation of spirit, a cultural identity in rational form
  • Without the possibility of war (of existential conflict), the state would disintegrate into civil society
hegel s critique of kant1
Hegel’s Critique of Kant
  • The possibility of war is preserved by the sovereignty of states
  • A federation of states could not eliminate this possibility without also eliminating sovereignty
war and the state
War and the state
  • War results from the concern of each state for its own welfare and recognition
  • War enhances shared values – the unity of the state
    • Lifts people out of their concern with material possessions characteristic of civil society: promotes civic virtue (as “selflessness”)
    • Enhances the unity of the state which is likely to fragment by prolonged peace
limits on war
Limits on war
  • War should be limited by the fact of mutual recognition: it ought to come to an end in a way that preserves the possibility of peace
    • Hostility in modern war should be abstract, not individualized
    • War is a conflict between states, and hence militaries as the class of people who have the function of warmaking in the state and embody its courage
    • Yet war can always devolve into a war of survival; this is necessary for war to serve its function
limits on war1
Limits on war
  • The treatment of soldiers, etc. depends merely on customs, but these customs embody valid conceptions of right in a historical time period
    • In modern times war is limited in the European context through common customs, etc.
limits on war2
Limits on war
  • War is not to be justified with reference to its general salutary effects in any particular case
    • The justification of any particular war will always have to do with the specific “welfare” of a state, but not with the abstract preservation of a state’s unity
the historical process
The historical process
  • War is the World’s Court of Judgment: the rise and fall of states in history reveals the judgment of spirit
    • In every age, certain states rise to be the representatives of dominant cultural forms that embody certain moments of the historical process
    • Hegel identifies “Oriental” states, Greece, Rome, and the German states as important stages
some problems
Some problems
  • Hegel predicts that modern warfare will be more “rational” because more abstract and less individualized
  • The “individuality” or “sovereignty” of the state is in tension with the idea that war must, and can, be limited
  • The idea of a historical unfolding of the spirit leading to the ethical state seems to lead to perpetual peace anyway (“The End of History”)
  • Marx “inverts” Hegel
    • Existing states do not embody any special values; they represent dominant classes
    • History unfolds in a rational process towards greater freedom and rationality, but through a conflict of classes over resources rather than a conflict of ideas over recognition
the individual and society
The individual and society
  • In all hitherto existing forms of society (including Hegel’s rational state), the individual is alienated from his social existence
  • Only in communist society can the individual be reconciled to the community without losing his or her individuality