POL320Y1 Lecture Notes - Lecture 19: Napoleonic Code, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Negative Liberty

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February 15th Lecture
Hegel
Philosophy of Right
One of the schools of thought that Hegel is engaging with in his writing is liberal individualists
(JSM) that have a negative conception of liberty. Despite the fact that Hegel is often called a
German idealist, a series of thinkers that in terms of learning and how we perceive the world it is
more about the mind than the world.
Hegel really makes an attempt to move beyond this notion that it is all about these categories in
the mind and it is about how reason perceives the world bridge the divide between the mind
and the world. Marx who is also a materialist will also look at the concrete nature of the world
and build a political theory from there.
II. Life and Times
One way we can understand Hegel is to think about the people and the schools of thought that he
is arguing against.
Born 1770, died 1831. Historically time of great change and upheaval and because of this Hegel
was concentrated on understand the movement of history. Hegel was sometimes said to be the
first person who became concerned about modernity.
Part of the tension of when Hegel was growing up was the dynamic political experiment in
France while Germany was mired in political system that harked back to medieval times. All of
his acquaintances were very impressed with the French Revolution, saw it as modernizing and
liberalizing France from the old regime.
Hegel begins to rethink what freedom might mean in the modern context (a preliminary
account!):
Hegel recognized the importance and beauty of self-determination and the individual, but on the
other hand his reading of Rousseau Hegel had the sense of the tension of Rousseau between the
individual and the community. He saw that being the modern individual was isolating.
This could be seen as the challenge that Hegel attempted to reconcile. What does it mean to be
free in JSM more of a negative conception of liberty. Rousseau in an important way disagrees
with this idea of negative liberty, how does obeying a law that you prescribed to yourself differ?
It differs because even if the social and civil restrictions are removed, a person can still be unfree
by being unrealized. You can act as your own jailor.
The obstacles to being free are not found in government or society but in the individual by their
internal psychology. For Mill largely the barriers to freedom are outside of the individual.
What about Hegel? Broad discussion of his ideal of freedom.
Hegel disagreed with the negative conception of liberty because it was only a partial account of
what it meant to be free. The problem with Rousseau/Kant positive liberty is that it did not fully
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capture what it mean to be free in an individual sense. Social reality precedes our social
commitment, if we think about the development of the self through time in the Mill or Rousseau
view where the individual has to have a sense of what their commitments are and how they are
going to regulate themselves to reach them this does not tell us about the underlying reality that
helps to shape an individual.
Freedom then for Hegel means becoming aware of the principles and commitments that inform
our identity each person has a narrative. These stories are ways which we come to understand
how we come to our values, which is not independently. These principles are only something
that we discover in ourselves rather than form ourselves.
Hegel does not think freedom in the Kantian sense that involves a repression of the individual
who acts in a rational way or a struggle. For Hegel while freedom did require in some sense that
the individual regulate their actions but that a notion of the autonomous self is not sufficient.
Freedom is not just a subjective moment but also an objective one.
For Hegel individuals must understand that they identify with the reasons that they are acting. It
is not necessary that the individual create the principles by which they’re acting but
recognize/identify themselves with their actions. Freedom involves your subjective choice but it
is not just you willing or desiring something loop between the individual, their rational choices
and the social context. How freedom is achieved by internalizing social norms.
Hegel’s method – phenomenology, a deep descriptive account of what is going on when we
perceive the world. Whether it is really accurate to say that I learn about the world from only raw
data cannot account for the different categories we have of the world. These philosophers
suggested that there was things in the world that rendered themselves important to us not because
of the categories of the mind but rather our deep primordial relationship with the world.
How is it that a person becomes a conscious person that a person becomes aware of the “I”.
The master/slave account of how a person becomes an “I” through accounts with others. We can
only become an individual through being imbedded in a social context.
Hegel also argues that the modern world is deficient in becoming allowing the individual to
realize themselves.
What does it mean to live in the modern state?
III. Current’s informing Hegel’s thought
(1) Romanticism
Involves several key features (Pinkard): tendency to think about knowledge in a broad
comprehensive way instead of a narrow analytic approach. All forms of experience were
relevant. Emphasis placed on the experience of the subject, that an individual could not
understand that they are. Seeking broader theories of meaning
(2) The French Revolution
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Document Summary

One of the schools of thought that hegel is engaging with in his writing is liberal individualists (jsm) that have a negative conception of liberty. Despite the fact that hegel is often called a. German idealist, a series of thinkers that in terms of learning and how we perceive the world it is more about the mind than the world. Hegel really makes an attempt to move beyond this notion that it is all about these categories in the mind and it is about how reason perceives the world bridge the divide between the mind and the world. Marx who is also a materialist will also look at the concrete nature of the world and build a political theory from there. One way we can understand hegel is to think about the people and the schools of thought that he is arguing against.

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