talking hegel


Robert Pippin: Hegel is the first to argue that philosophy has an historical and a diagnostic task. A traditional understanding of philosophy is distinguished by two central, normative questions, and its conviction that these questions can be answered by the exercise of pure human reason: What ought we to think, and what ought we to do? To Hegel, this conception of philosophy is insufficient and, in the Kantian sense, un-critical—that is, not aware of the conditions of its own possibility. Instead, Hegel argues that philosophy’s task is the comprehension of its own time in thought. That’s an extremely powerful and influential formulation, although it is not at all clear exactly what it means. Certainly, Hegel has in mind the self-justification of the use of coercive violence by a single authority in the state against all other members, otherwise known as politics. Under what justification could the coercive power of law, the ability to take away one’s freedom, operate? Hegel was skeptical of the “pure,” practically rational inquiry into this problem undertaken, say, by Plato’s Republic or Hobbes’s Leviathan. Human rationality, to Hegel, is not a faculty possessed by human beings, like sensibility or the imagination, which they exercise in isolation as monadic units. He thinks of rationality as the considerations we offer each other when our actions affect what others would otherwise be able to do. Rationality is a social practice and it has a history, as do the elements connected with it, such as the concept of subject or agent.

more from a discussion between Robert Pippin and Omair Hussain at nonsite here.