Thursday, December 10, 2009

Political theory: Hegel

No one really understand Hegel - except Hegel. So here are some notes to try and help those of you who are as confused as I am about Hegel.

What’s compendium? Takes existing knowledge and organizes it – Hegel says it “has as its subject matter the entire compass of a science” (everything important).
Hegel says that there is a form to the compendium – what is a form? All the subject matter is the ideas on the subject – how you arrange it in pages is all set down in a “form” – common form is “alphabetical” but every book has a form – it’s in the Table of Contents – sometimes in time-order – sometimes by concepts (small to big; basic to complex; the idea you start on to build other things) – this is the way that someone who is a theorist/scientist might be inherently used to.
He wants to say that philosophy is the only true science – but that isn’t true because there is nothing that builds on each other and then supersedes it (like physics and math do; they progress). Philosophy doesn’t progress like science – they are opposites.

Hegel is interested in making philosophy scientific.
He doesn’t want things to be arbitrary – we are going to want some kind of speculative way of determining ideas.
Will is about determination; right is about some kind of standard
Right – starts with seeming like an abstract concept – what does it need to do to have any kind of meaning? It’s abstract- has no content. So it needs to have content and context – definition –
The Will – he says is completely negative
Can free will really be free if it is bounded/determined by something external? This is what Hegel thinks that “thinking” is – and he wants to try and structure this. Will starts as choosing, then goes to choosing among desires, then choosing among the orders of desires, then whether choosing is arbitrary or a free choosing.
Who am I? An abstract concept….I externalize my internal feelings……so there is a relationship between the abstract concept and the externalization of that concept (like a tattoo of an individual’s name)
There is also a connection between the external and the individual (Hegel sometimes call this the negative)
- This is like a 2 year-old, teenager, or 18 year old child…. When the standard of right becomes “I” and not the “external” – when they want to do what they want when they are testing their boundaries …
- Home d├ęcor is all about expressing yourself in the external world – finding the individual personality in the external world – giving you content.
- So we need some kind of development where things get resolved (at least for a moment, because Hegel is saying things are only resolved for a moment because the resolution is simply the next step of the externality).
- Hegel wants you to say “no” and then move to the next step in the argument and argue with it rather than be like a 2-year old and take a “no” and have that be the end of it.
Hegel says that thinking isn’t the adding together of facts, but like the development of a plant out of a seed.
Right is what should be done – and we want to know, what is that.
So, go to will – will is what I want to do – I is the absolute abstract, capable of negating anything and can look at any external standard and negate it whenever it wants to say no – so the problem becomes the “I” because it is the absolute abstract.
Hegel is very circular – like a spiral staircase – you go back over and over the same point, but they go higher and higher in thought quality
So if I want to make choices based completely in free will – my choices are going to be arbitrary because you are not choosing based on any standards or guidelines – but is that freedom? No, because that doesn’t mean that you are choosing freely
-Choosing arbitrarily means that you are determining based completely on the externalities; you are choosing depending on what it around you when you are choosing – there is no rhyme or reason to things
- It isn’t really freedom if you are choosing without thinking (rationalization) then it is just arbitrary and animal, not thinking and freedom. It’s not freedom, its reaction.(Free will and determinacy) – there are problems with these abstract concepts – because these are formal – the way in which these appear (free will and determinacy) [by appears, he means the way it takes shape/form/external] – this shows up as a dialectic [ type of argument with many voices] of these desires
- what does it mean to be ”good” – that you desire the right thing, because you desire the right which is what is truly you
- if man is “evil” means that the immediate desires of man is bad.
- so what do you have to do to determine which of these is true – you have to determine the impulses.
SO we are not simply going to rely on the internal desires, but we are going to order them according to which grants us the most happiness (an abstract concept) –
Hegel says that in some way, everything is true, and everything is simply not right.
This is called a reflective equilibrium

Justice Consent
Aristotle Locke/Hobbes
External standard Internal standard
Right Will

Add these (or subtract them) and you get Hegel

· Abstract concept – What is it?
o No definition (content)
§ Coherent understanding of the term
o Not real (context)
o Not true: Is it not true? Can abstract be true? If truth relates to definition and reality, and abstract concepts don’t have definition and reality, then there can be no truth to it.
o Concepts are leading to ideas which have these three things.
· What about true and false concepts?
o Can there be false concepts? False ideas about this world? It’s when the idea in the head doesn’t match up with the reality – the internal doesn’t match up with the external.
o So for something to be a true concept – the idea must match up with the external world. The idea must sync with reality – it’s not a deliberate process because you cannot will reality to match with your ideas.
§ Understanding the way the world is – this can be a true concept –
§ So what does it mean for someone to “know” something – to be a true concept?
· It means, at some level that what is going on in their head and what is going on in the world are in sync.
o But you are supposed to know yourself.
· Free will is an abstract concept
o This is where we start talking about right – it is abstract
o “I” exist in and for itself: Self-conscious (for itself), being conscious (existing in): I exist and I know I exist
§ Be a subject – doing the acting
§ And an object – acted upon
· So what is a person?
o An individual will – not just a “will.”
o Someone who is self-conscious is a person because they know themselves
o If you are simply externally driven, you are a thing/object
§ You can have a good object, but a good object gets its goodness and badness externally – not from internal decisions
o A human being has a conception of itself as a person, that is connected to its conception of choosing between right and wrong
§ So what makes the difference between an 8 year old reason and an 18 year olds perception of right and wrong?
· Experience – the thing that helps the abstract concept become a concrete concept and match up with reality
o A human being has a drive
§ Going from the conceptual world to a tangible one – to exist
§ It means making plans a reality – this is the drive
§ Possession – owning things, making the dreams a reality
· What is the “stuff” of possessions – it is yourself
· What is your first possession – your body
· What is the second possession – things you grab
· What is the more adult way of possessing things – having your brain recognize that the object is yours whether it is in your hand or not
o Why is this a better form of possession? The body < mind
§ Possession: ping something of yourself into something else: Putting an idea into the marble to create a sculpture
· Because something is not a person, you can own it/possess it; bend it to your will; put yourself into it
o Kind of like, mixing your labor with the land to create ownership
o You have to produce things in the outside world – you are not real until you make something real in the external world.
· Contract is the way of knowing that other people recognize that you possess things
§ Why do people want headstones, to have kids etc: To express yourself as a person, to put your mark on the outside world – kind of like dogs peeing on trees.
· This is where we need property – the will needs to become real (section 41)
· And we do this through things – which are the opposite of a person
o Things don’t have self-consciousness
o You can mold things to your own will
· Person/Thing
o I/Objects
o Which is more real – it depends on how you are feeling
o Things are real – they have substance
o Things are merely things – what is he “mere” aspect? Why don’t you want to refer to people as things- because people are not things that you should just mold.
§ Hegel is upset that the Romans thought that people could possess children like they were things. Hegel thinks that children are people too
o Because things do not have rights, what can you do to them? Anything you want.
§ You cannot do that to a person because that would be doing something illegitimate.
§ You would be violating people’s rights/violating a person if you did whatever you wanted to do with them.
· What does it mean that a human being has the concept of “mine?”
o It means that a human can develop the concept of “mine” from being physically attached to it, to owning t with the mind to…..
o There are three ways to develop “mine”
§ (p.84) physical seizure
§ Giving it form
§ Designating ownership
§ Section 55 – from the point o view of the sense, physical seizure is the immediate way of taking possession – but it is limited in scope and temporary
· Use of things – possession
· Abstract I: seizure, use, body (you aren’t really in it yet)
o The realness is: Marking, value, mind
o This is when you penetrate matter with thoughts – taking abstraction and adding thought to make it in an external form and making it real – giving it meaning
§ Meaning is an idea
· What does it mean for something to be alienable –alienability of property
o You can take your will out of it
o Simplest meaning – you can throw it away
· Property – because it is an external thing – exists for external things
· The relationship of will to will is where freedom has its existence
· Wrong (Section 82)
o You don’t know what is right (unintentional)
o Deception
o Crime
· Why is purpose important?
o I act, so what am I responsible for?
o If I was responsible for every consequence, then that would absurd
o Your purpose defines the limits of your responsibility
o What you are intending to do
· What is intent important for?
o Welfare – what you want to achieve
o You have to have a link between the action and what the welfare is
o Intention matters
o But you cannot completely absolve things even if the intention isn’t there
o Part of the problem for morality is trying to determine what it is that you should intend, or count as intention, in actions.
· What does conscious matter for?
o Anything you like
o Believing in good and evil
o Relates to good/duty – what you should do.

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