POL320Y1 Lecture Notes - Lecture 17: Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Negative Liberty, German Idealism

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February 15 Lecture Hegel 1
prof understands our trepidation about reading Hegel
we may acknowledge that its not that hard at the end
chronology this semester is not ordered, but there is a logic to the order
o helps us tackle Hegel
o we can grasp Hegel when we understand the types of position he is engaging with
school of liberal individualists, people like Mill
interesting comparison between how Marx takes up Hegel and seeks to
refute him
Hegel is often called a German idealist
o idealism means a series of thinkers who think that learning, receiving world,
knowledge its more about the mind than the world
o things need to be concrete and actual, attempt to bridge divide between mind and
world (vs. Marx materialist understanding of the world)
Chronology
Life and Times
thinking about the people and the context he is writing in
1770-1831
o times, historically, of great transition and upheaval, politically and industrially
o trying to make philosophical sense of modernity
o part of tension in Hegel is growing up dynamic political experiment in France
(ultra-modern) vs. south west Germany (medieval structure)
o holy roman empire broke up early in Hegel’s life, had a tragic youth
father was a legal administrator for lutherans
o schooling was liberal, studied theology
o friends were very enthusiastic about the french revolution
o he worked as a tutor after graduating
at age 30 he decided to be an academic, at age 46 gets a position as a german academic
believed that education/learning made people authors of their own fate
was faced with a challenge
o champion of autonomy (Rousseau, Kant) and saw individualism as key to modern
development, thought about deliberate and chosen action as important
(demonstrated in his fascination with the french revolution)
o BUT reading of Rousseau’s understanding of autonomy and existing in
community, and saw that modern individualism can be isolating and can
undermine a strong sense of community
how to take most noble features of modern autonomy without losing noble
features of an integrated community
Rousseau’s idea of freedom:
o individual’s are autonomous and self-legislating, not just a freedom from
oppression, but ability to self-determine
ex. society with government that only protects property right, but no rules
about freedom of speech
in a Millian sense, this is traditionally identified as negative liberty
but those who see freedom otherwise may disagree that this is
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liberty
o Rousseau disagrees with negative liberty because you need
to obey a law that you prescribe for yourself, internal moral
psychology needs to be free (free from compulsions and
character flaws)
o so negative liberty doesn’t mean freedom because obstacles
to being free are not found in government or laws, but in
the individual
o ideal of moral freedom: conscious identification of what
one stands for, and ability to follow through on one’s own
commitments
the law one makes for oneself can change, but there
needs to be self-awareness about one’s basic
commitments and moral identity
in short: Mill thinks barriers to freedom are external, Rousseau thinks
barriers to freedom comes from self-legislation and barriers from internal
freedom
What about Hegel? different from Mill and Rousseau
o these views are only partial notions of freedom, and is critical of Rousseau’s idea
of positive liberty
o Rousseau’s idea is confined within the individual, doesn’t offer a full picture of
how freedom actually functions in a modern context
people only have meaning in a social context
thinking about the development of the self, not just the self in an
individual moment
cultivation of the self has to be social, this comes before the idea of
individuals self-legislating
embedded in a pre-reflective background we don’t think about
how we develop our passions, but there is a lot going around us
that helps us shape our passions
FREEDOM MEANS BECOMING AWARE of the commitments that
form our narratives
freedom requires to some extent that the self generates own actions
(autonomy of choices) BUT we have to also look at the broader
picture, we need to look past the subjective moment, we need to
look at the objective moment (what brought us to the present
moment of wants and will this is an institutional question)
people need to identify for the reasons for which they are acting
individual must see their action as flowing from a deep sense of
their own identity
o ex. I can stand for LGBT rights, but this is not my idea, this
idea flows in cultural context, my commitments are
reflected in a broader political moment, by something that
has already influences and informed you (its a circular
process or osmosis of self and rational choices, recognizing
we haven’t created our own choices)
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