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PHIL 424
PHIL 424 49449R
Nineteenth Century Philosophy
Fall 2015
MW 2:00 – 3:15
THH 213
John Dreher, instructor
Office: MHP 211
[email protected]
Hours: Aug 24 – Dec 2
Mon 11:30 – 12:30
Wed 9:45 – 10:45
and by appointment
Final Examination: Fri, Dec 11 2:00 - 4:00
Baird and Kaufmann, Philosophic Classics Volume IV: Nineteenth-Century
Philosophy, third edition, New Jersey, Prentice-Hall ISBN 978-0-130-48550-2
Hegel, The Hegel Translation Group, trans, Daniel Shannon, editor, Chapter Six of
Hegel‘s Phenomenology of Spirit, Indianapolis, Cambridge, Hackett Publishing
Company Publishing Company, ISBN 978-0-872-205697
Kant, James Ellington, trans., Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals,
Indianapolis/Cambridge, Hackett Publishing Company, 1993
This course is an introduction to nineteenth century philosophy, which is interpreted as
the century of ideological responses to the post-Enlightenment predicament. The
eighteenth century, the Enlightenment, was terminated by the French Revolution and the
Napoleonic wars. Ironically, the Enlightenment ended in war and social chaos not
because natural science failed to inspire ideals of truth and truthfulness but rather because
it succeeded. The natural science of the Enlightenment suggested that God has no role in
human affairs save perhaps to have set the universe in motion (deism). Some
Enlightenment figures even argued that there could be not be a rational basis for belief in
God. (agnosticism or atheism). Philosophers of the Enlightenment period struggled to
find ways to replace the role religion played during the early modern period that preceded
the Enlightenment. The post-Enlightenment period naturally developed into an age of
competing ideologies, all seeking schemes of personal and social values that would reconfigure social structures, locate the proper role of religion in society, and validate new
This version of the syllabus is subject to change during the semester. Also, the schedule of lectures,
although firm, may be varied somewhat to accommodate interests as they arise.
systems of political and economic organization that were designed to replace serfdom and
to respond to accelerating industrialization.
Obviously, not all these issues can be addressed in a single course; it is necessary to
pick and to choose. To be sure, the course will deal with value, but it will focus on social
ethics and in particular the role of society in the life of the individual. Primary writers to
be considered include Hegel, Schopenhauer, Kierkegaard, Mill, and Nietzsche. The
course will conclude with an intensive study of the sixth chapter of Hegel’s
Phenomenology of Spirit.
There will be one paper, approximately 15 pages in length. (Recommended topics will
be suggested during the course of instruction.) There will also be a midterm examination,
covering the material from Kant through Hegel. The final examination will cover
material from Schopenhauer to Nietzsche and back to the sixth chapter of Hegel’s
Phenomenology of Spirit. The final exam will also include a comprehensive question.
Grades will be calculated as follows:
Midterm – 1/4
Term Paper – 1/2
Final Exam – 1/4
Format and Lecture Notes:
The format of the class will be ‘mixed;’ some sessions will be conducted in lecture
format; others as seminars. Lecture notes for each class dealing will be distributed by email and posted on Blackboard, ideally before class. Lecture notes are meant to
summarize the essentials in a relatively non-technical, easily accessible form. They are
not a substitute for class attendance. Involved, detailed analyses of texts will be
conducted in seminar format.
Policies Concerning Integrity and Timeliness:
Please remember that the University strictly prohibits plagiarism, which can be the
mere failure to acknowledge the work of another as well as the deliberate
misrepresentation of the work of another as your own. You must acknowledge your
indebtedness not only to the ideas of others but also to their words.
In general, excuses for late papers or missed examinations will be accepted only in
extraordinary circumstances, including illness or genuine family emergency. Please
remember that it is impossible accommodate a special request by a single individual
unless the same opportunity is extended to everyone in the class. This makes it
virtually impossible to accommodate extensions of due dates for reasons other than
those indicated above.
What do grades mean?
In general, a grade of ‘B,’ in a 400-evel course indicates a solid knowledge of the
material covered pertaining to the term paper(s). Higher grades of ‘B+,’ ‘A-’ and
‘A’ indicate knowledge that goes beyond the basics. In order of importance, those
indicators are:
1. demonstrated capacity to analyze the logical structures of arguments in detail,
viz., to identify their premises and conclusions and to determine their strengths and
2. demonstrated knowledge of primary texts by apt and accurate references to
3. a clearly articulated thesis that is plausibly defended and frankly acknowledges
its possible shortcomings
4. apt comparisons of primary texts to those of other philosophers;
5. tracing the development of a philosophical issue; e.g., the concept of freedom
from Kant to Mill to Nietzsche or the concept of God from Kant to Hegel to
6. explaining the relation of arguments in one sub-area of philosophy to those of
another sub-area; e.g., metaphysics/philosophical psychology
7. explaining how fields other than philosophy have influenced and been influenced
by philosophy, e.g., the influence of religion on ethics or of cultural studies on
metaphysics during the modern period.
Schedule of Readings, Assignments and Examinations:
1. Mon Aug 24: Introduction: Background of 17th and 18th century philosophy,
influence of the scientific revolution on epistemology and ethics; introduction to the
philosophy of Kant; the attempt to avoid Humean skepticism without relying upon the
critical excesses of metaphysics; the strategy of critical philosophy the distinction
between the phenomenal and the noumenal. Readings: Handout: “Introduction to
Kant’s Critical Philosophy”
2. Wed Aug 26: Kant on the transition from ordinary rational knowledge of the moral
to the philosophical. Background of 19th century philosophy conceptions of God and
self. Kant’s distinctions between the phenomena and noumenal ‘realms;’ between the
empirical (phenomenal) and noumenal selves; between theoretical and practical reason;
the necessity for God as a postulate of pure practical reason. Readings: Kant, GMM
Preface and I, pp. 1 - 18
3. Mon Aug 31: Kant’s analysis of the transition from popular morality to a
metaphysics of morals: On the Supposed Right to Lie out of Philanthropic Concerns:
Key principles of morality: An action has moral worth only if it is done from duty; an
action done from duty derives its moral worth not according to the purpose for which it is
done but rather from the maxim from which it is done; duty is the necessity of an action
that is done out of respect for law. The moral law must bind all rational creatures;
otherwise its necessity would be rooted in human nature. The only thing good in itself is
a good will; nevertheless the virtues should be cultivated because they make it easier for
us to resist temptation and to act in accordance with moral law. Readings: GMM II , 19
– 48
4. Wed Sep 2: Kant’s Analysis of the transition from a metaphysics of morals to a
critique of pure reason. Freedom and autonomy of the will rest on the foundation of pure
practical reason, but still there is an issue about moral motivation: Why I should subject
myself to the C.I. when I would at times rather act straightway to satisfy my desires?
There is an apparent circle: In the ‘order of efficient causes’ we suppose our actions (and
even decisions) to be determined by antecedent events, but in the ‘order of ends’ we
think of ourselves as subject to moral laws, which we freely choose to accept or to reject.
Indeed, we think of ourselves as subject to those laws because we think of ourselves as
free or autonomous. Even so, there may not really be a “circle” in our reasoning, because
there may be “two points of view,” one when we conceive of our will as an “a priori”
efficient cause and another when we represent ourselves (to ourselves) as effects of
efficient causes. The categorical imperative is possible because the idea of freedom
makes us parts of the “intelligible realm.” Respect for the law arises when competitors
(sensuous motivations) are swept out of the way to make room for the motivational force
of the moral law.
The transcendental freedom that makes the moral law possible does not actually
conflict with natural necessity. However, it is wrong to think of freedom as a kind of
necessity where the causes of free actions are internal. Whether or not they are internal,
causes take things out of one’s control and cannot therefore be counted as free.
Transcendental freedom does not conflict with natural necessity because natural necessity
is temporal and transcendental freedom is not. (CPR2 p. 23) I believe it follows that a
morally good action will be explicable by reference to the subjective determination of the
good will and by reference to the transcendental determination of the will be freedom.
This is the heart of Kantian compatibilism. We must resist the temptation to moral
fanaticism, which arises when we posit the ‘subjective determining basis of actions
conforming to duty to anything other than the moral law itself.’ (CPR, p. 110) Thus
conforming to the demands for morality out of love of God or of country is actually a
form of self-love rather than moral discipline. It is duty only that links us to the
‘suprasensible’ world and liberates us from the world of sense. (CPR p. 111) Readings:
Kant: GMM, III
5. Mon Sep 7: Labor Day University Holiday
6. Wed Sep 9: Fichte on Divine Governance: Kant thinks that the business of philosophy
is to explain how knowledge is possible of the ‘phenomenal realm,’ and he took the
template of that knowledge to be Newtonian physics. Fichte’s conception of the role of
philosophy is broader. As we shall see, the root of his differences with Kant stem from
Kant/Thomas Abbott, trans. and ed., Critique of Practical Reason/Kant’s Critique of Practical Reason
and Other Works on The Theory of Ethics, London, Longmans, Green and Co, Ltd., sixth edition,
Fichte’s critical analysis of Kant’s view of the relation of the phenomenal and noumenal
realms. Our experience of ‘choosing’ involves a feeling of freedom; whereas ordinary
perception involves the feeling of necessity. Ordinary perception forces itself upon us.
We can choose not to pay attention to the heat on a hot day, but we cannot choose not to
feel hot. The former involves the feeling of freedom; the latter the feeling of necessity.
Note that Fichte here reduces Kant’s distinction between the phenomenal and the
noumenal to a distinction between types of feelings. This implies that it will be the ego
itself that is the category underlying free choice and responsibility, and the subsequent
existentialist doctrine that the ego does not discover value but rather creates it. As we
shall soon see, however, Fichte is not an existentialist, but rather like Kant himself, Fichte
is profoundly religious and sees his doctrine a validation of faith. In the Vocation of Man
he writes: ‘All my conviction is but faith; and proceeds from the character, not the
understanding.” Readings: B & K, pp. 21 - 38
7. Mon Sep 14: Hegel’s Model of Philosophical Reflection, Hegel’s (1770 – 1831) main
idea is that the material world can come to know itself, and it can develop its thought
freely. Coming to know is achieved through the finite sprit. In other words, Hegel is
focused on the fact that human beings, who are material things, can come to know the
world in which they live and, more importantly, come to know themselves. The principal
achievement of human beings is culture, and it is through culture that human beings
define themselves and come to have knowledge of themselves. Hegel’s basic strategy is
the reconciliation of opposites, or the extraction of a synthetic unity out of a ‘thesis’ and
‘anti-thesis. The basic duality, for Hegel, is between existence and non-existence,
following, I conjecture, Parmenides. The synthesis of this ‘thesis/anti-thesis’ dualism is
‘becoming.’ However, Hegel’s analysis differs from Aristotle in that Hegel does not
believe that the biological process of becoming gets to the heart of an analysis of change.
According to Hegel, the ‘synthesis’ derives from and transcends its ‘thesis’ and ‘antithesis.’ This model of philosophical analysis permeates Hegel’s philosophy and
structures his account of conceptions of God and self. Readings: B & K, pp. 39 - 48
9. Wed Sep 16: Hegel on Thought and Feeling: Can There Be Religious Belief?
According to Hegel, Western ethics began as an attempt to reconcile two conflicting sets
of principles about how people should live. On the one hand, there are the conventions of
society and the rules of the state. This means that when we condemn behavior we simply
mean that it contravenes the requirements of the state or more broadly of society. Ethics
began as a discipline when people realized that they could intelligibly ask whether or not
the requirements of society or the state really are good or bad. This process started,
Hegel thought, when people noticed that the requirements of divine or religious law
could come into conflict with the expectations of the world. According to Hegel, the
tragedy of Sophocles’ Antigone is a conflict between the positive law of the state and
natural law that purports to be revealed in religious experience and by religious teaching.
In Hegel’s view the positive law represents the masculine in human nature, presumably
because it is imposed and enforced by strength of will. Antigone herself represents
feminine strength because of her fidelity to divine and familial laws, which later are reconstrued as “natural laws.” For Hegel, the ethic of a society, its social ethic, is defined
by its unique resolution of the two opposing forces of positive and natural law, or more
abstractly, of will and reason. Antigone was divided by the conflicting demands of the
religious requirement of a proper burial for her slain brother, Polyneices, and the demand
of her uncle and king, Creon, that as retribution for treason, Polyneices’ body should be
left unattended, that he should neither be mourned nor wrapped in burial clothes, but
rather that his remains should be left as food for dogs and birds. Ethics, Hegel opined in
the sixth chapter of his great work, Phenomenology of Spirit, is an attempt to find
principles to sort out conflicting intuitions about what to do when grand systems
governing behavior conflict. Readings: B&K, pp. 48 – 61
9. Mon Sep 21: Hegel: The Idea of History and the Paradox Individual Realization,
Hegel supposed that Enlightenment philosophers sought to legitimize government by
appealing to God for validation of liberal democracy. Hegel, however, thought that this
new synthesis of the ethical had run into an insurmountable problem, a problem that
would forever mark a turn in the development of Spirit – that is the self-consciousness of
the material world; through self-conscious human activity. The problem Hegel argued is
that the new science does not validate philosophical schemes that seek to establish
political legitimacy or ethical rules by appealing to the will of God. All agreed that Kant
had seen this, but the problem with Kant’s view of the world is that it depends upon the
implausible hypostatization of the noumenal reality. As we have seen, Fichte had
rejected that central tenet of Kantian philosophy. Fichte’s view was that Kantian
philosophy assigns an explanatory role to the noumenal world that cannot possibly be
understood in Kantian terms. Thus Kant’s entire philosophy depends upon an
unfathomable assumption. Hegel agreed with Fichte. How then to proceed? Readings:
B & K, pp. 62 – 91
10. Wed Sep 23: Hegel: Spirit and the End of History, For Hegel, the human self in
the post-Enlightenment era is bound to be conflicted and unhappy. Reason for Hegel is
the synthesis of objectivity and subjectivity; human thought is actually the universe’s
knowledge of itself, where nature is the objective manifestation of the Absolute, viz.
reality that is self-thinking and comes to know itself. Or viewing the matter in more
traditional categories, the logos (form) becomes objective and is synthesized with the
matter of into and by Spirit, which is the material world understanding itself. The self,
however, is not solitary and contrasts its own consciousness with others. This leads to the
recognition of dissatisfaction and even self-hatred, which in turn gives rise to yet another
synthesis, the continual effort to change the self into its ideal. Indeed, the self is seen by
Hegel to be both the master and slave of itself. It is involved in the process of defining an
ideal that will ultimately give rise to a new synthesis that will reconcile conventional
ethical life with the reflective ethical life that judges conventional morality. What in
previous syntheses was public has now become private; it is the internal struggle between
the demands of conventional society and the self-imposed ideals of self-conscious life.
In the tension between the actual and ideal self we find the roots of twentieth century
French existentialism. The self is a force continually attempting to create an ideal of
itself from the mere fact that it is reflective self-consciousness. Its freedom lies in the
fact that there are multiple versions of the ideal of the conventional self. But the exercise
of that freedom appears to be something like irrational existentialist commitment.
Readings: B & K, pp. 92 – 96
11. Mon Sep 28:
Midterm Examination
12. Wed Sep 30: Schopenhauer: The primacy of the Will: Schopenhauer’s main idea
is that contrary to the teaching of most Western philosophy, the will is ‘primarily in selfconsciousness.’ Schopenhauer’s use of ‘will’ is considerably broader than similar uses
that are typical of contemporary philosophy. The will pertains to everything that affects
“our weal and woe, desire and aversion;” and therefore pertains to wanting, wishing,
fearing loving and so on. In short the will is the primary motive force, and it defines the
ends of our action and of our lives.
Although the will pertains to the “noumenal realm” as the origin of consciousness
and is for Schopenhauer the driving force of life, it is hardly connected to morality it the
way Kant envisions. In fact, the will always functions in opposition to morality because
the will is completely egocentric. The claims of morality, contrary to Kant and Plato,
cannot motivate. It is possible to shrug off “the call to duty,” but the drive for existence,
well-being and propagation is irresistible. Readings: B & K, pp. 101 -06
13. Mon Oct 5: Schopenhauer: Intellect and Will: According to Schopenhauer the
will, as the thing-in-itself exists ‘completely’ in itself and hence ‘every act of will is all
that it can be.’ That the will is completed, lacking nothing, at every time, means that
the does not come in degrees. This may not appear to be true, because the will can
be excited to various degrees. Surely this must at first seem to be a distinction
without a difference. What is the difference between the ideas that the will is
intrinsically more intense when it comes to immediate survival than it is to eating
ice cream for dessert and that the will has been excited to a greater degree by an
exogenous force when it comes to immediate survival than to eating ice cream for
The answer for Schopenhauer is that the “function [of the will] is of the utmost
simplicity,” meaning that its function consists in willing and not willing. Unlike the
intellect, which affirms and denies with varying degrees of confidence, the will
simply accepts or rejects. It is true that if one has reasons for choosing one course
over another, the reasons can be relatively stronger or weaker, but that is not a
matter of the will but rather of the intellect. It is also true that a decision can be
implemented with varying degrees of determination, but that is a function of the
degree to which the will is excited – the decision cannot be partially implemented
(although the object of the decision could be fragmented (divided into parts) and
only some parts could be implemented). This, however, is not a case of partial
willing (which is incoherent for Schopenhauer); it is rather a case of completed
willing, but only of a part of its apparent object. Readings: B & K, pp. 106 – 124
14. Wed Oct 7: Kierkegaard: Religion and Ethics: In Fear and Trembling Kierkegaard
is primarily concerned with the relation between the ethical and religious, and in
particular, whether or not there can be a rational basis for religion that has transcended
the ethical. His answer to the question is that there cannot be a rational basis for
transcendent religion. His argument is not that transcendent religion doesn’t make sense
because it doesn’t comport well with science or even because it based upon flawed
arguments for the existence of God. Rather, Kierkegaard reasons that there cannot be a
rational basis for the conception of the ethical that derives from religion. In this, of
course, he stands in opposition to the teachings of virtually all religious institutions. It is
perhaps for this reason that he distanced himself from religious institutions. Kierkegaard
rejected the institutional demand for acquiescence in (and even the affirmation of) of
dogmatic religious ethical doctrine. Readings: B & K, pp. 267 – 75
15. Mon Oct 12: Kierkegaard, Truth and Subjectivity: For Kierkegaard choosing how
to live is a frightening prospect that involves both faith and dread. One dreads the
future precisely because it is becoming. It is not yet and hence is beyond our
control. So many of our devices, both psychological and technological, are attempts
to control what really cannot be controlled, or more precisely, can be controlled
only to a minimal degree. In this way choice pretends to be rational, (viz. validated
by the wisdom of a culture) and therefore is said to make sense, for better or worse,
However, authentic choice, which derives from the self and not the impositions of
principle or more broadly of culture, is always a ‘leap of faith.’ It is always a matter
of placing confidence in something that is inherently uncertain, whether religion or,
as it has turned out, other ideologies. Readings: B & K pp. 275 – 99
16. Wed Oct 14: Kierkegaard, Reflections on the 19th Century: Leveling: We cannot
have a direct relationship with God, spirit to spirit, because that would involve the
objectification of God, turning God and facts about God into objective truths. In that
way subjective ‘truth,’ the authentic search for a relationship with God, would be
turned into untruth, that is, something inauthentic. Rather, the longing and search
for God is perpetual, from moment to moment. The search for God is essentially the
search for the infinite, for what cannot be divided up into objects of analysis.
Therefore, to claim to have ‘found’ God would be to have turned God into something
that can be objectified. Although God can never be contained in the intellect or
imagination, God can ‘embrace’ us. Kierkegaard at his most passionate writes:
Then it will be said ‘Look, everything is ready; look, the cruelty of abstraction
exposes the vanity of the finite in itself, look, the abyss of the infinite is
opening up; look, the sharp scythe of leveling permits all, everything single
one, to leap over the blade – look, God is waiting! Leap then into the embrace
of God. (K & B, p. 307)
But what is leveling? It also has two meanings for Kierkegaard. On the one hand,
Kierkegaard sees leveling as a social, cultural artifact. (As a matter of fact, in the
English-speaking world it certainly dates all the way back to the Protectorate.)
However, as a feature or perhaps consequence of democracy, Kierkegaard regards
leveling as a process of objectification, culminating in the destruction of the soul. He
thinks that leveling is a modern phenomenon and, like Nietzsche, contrasts the
modern period unfavorably with the ancient era. Essentially leveling is the process
of turning human spirits in to ‘nobodies,’ indistinguishable from others by any
significant difference; lacking the heroism that is found in ancient cultures. In
another sense, however, leveling is the process by which one comes to see that one
cannot have an authentic life merely by objectively distinguishing oneself from
others;3 in other words, that the distinctions among by people drawn by the world
are irrelevant to the authentic life. Readings: B & K, pp. 300 – 07
17. Mon Oct 19 Mill, Utilitarianism I: Origin of Epicureanism; influence of the French
Revolution on the Development of Utilitarianism in the 19th century; brief introduction to
Bentham’s hedonic utilitarianism;
Introduction to Mill’s version of utilitarianism;
distinction between the inductive and intuitive methods; Mill’s famous criticism of
Kantian moral philosophy; Can the conception of “higher” pleasures be saved by
appealing to “elevated faculties”? Is utilitarianism compatible with religious values?
Readings: B & K, pp. 148 - 67
18. Wed Oct 21: Mill, Utilitarianism II: What motive can there be for putting the
general happiness above one’s own happiness? Comparison of Mill and Hume on the
topic of benevolence; habit and the cultivation of virtue; the love of virtue; the utilitarian
view of justice; characteristics of justice, especially concerning good faith, impartiality
and reciprocity; problems concerning the utilitarian view of punishment; Rawls’s
suggestions from “Two Concepts of Rules;” issues concerning applicability of the
principles of justice; equality of opportunity v. equality of outcomes (that is of
pleasure/pain). Readings: B & K, pp. 167 – 89
19. Mon Oct 26: Mill, On Liberty I: The Meaning of “Liberty:” Origin of political
rights and the development of democracy; that coercive power can be legitimately used
only to prevent harm from others; Liberty of conscience, of thought, feeling and of belief;
liberty of tastes and pursuits; liberty of association; truth, truthfulness and freedom;
censorship, repressions and the marketplace of ideas; commitment to free open and civil
debate Readings: B & K, pp. 190 – 222
20. Wed Oct 28: Mill, On Liberty: Individuality, Mill’s sympathetic response to
Wilhelm von Humboldt’s view of personal integrity and the end of human life; what
individuals owe the whole; limitations on the right to judge; that some painful experience
is unavoidable; freedom is inalienable and cannot surrounded or gambled away; Mill’s
view on public education;’ the duty of parents; that there are limitations on the rights of
government to do more to promote happiness than guarantee liberty. Readings: B & K,
pp. 222 – 244
21. Mon Nov 2: Nietzsche, The Tragic and the Ethical: In the Genealogy of Morals
Nietzsche presents his moral philosophy through a reconstruction of the history of the
development of morals. He beings by identify the good with the noble. Here he is not
talking about identifying good character qualities with noble qualities. On the contrary
he is contrasting classes of people: those who are noble, that is who have triumphed over
Perhaps in Kierkegaard’s discussion of leveling, we may find a contradiction, for is not the distinction
between religiously making a religious choice and a non-religious choice really a matter of choosing which
‘god’ to worship? If so, doesn’t that re-introduce objectivity into our conception of authenticity?
others by force of will and physical prowess, with those who are weak, conquered and
therefore servile. The force of will, or will to power, is the central idea in Nietzsche’s
philosophy as he thinks it reveals the nature of living things, but just what is the will to
According to Nietzsche:
“Exploitation” does not belong to a depraved, or imperfect and primitive society:
it belongs to the nature of the living being as a primary organic function; it is a
consequence of the Will to Power, which is precisely the Will to Life – Granting
that as a theory this is a novelty – as a reality it is the fundamental fact of all
history; let us be honest with ourselves. 1886, ¶159, in (Nietzsche, Beyond Good
and Evil (in: Zimmern, Helen, trans, The Philosophy of Nietzsche, New York, The
Modern Library, Random House, 1937; reprinted: Prometheus, 1989).
This is an especially hardline view of Nietzsche, because it interprets the will to power as
essentially predacious. This seems to me to be the correct view, and it is not only
compatible but also seems to be a logical development of earlier views that influenced
Nietzsche. However, other commentators and translators (e.g. Walter Kaufmann) have
chosen more benign readings of Nietzsche, in which they emphasize that the power that
Nietzsche is talking about is power over oneself, which turns the will to power into a kind
of self-control. This makes Nietzsche read almost like Aristotle; it is a happy thought but
I think one that is incorrect. Nietzsche is primarily concerned with the mastery of one’s
own domain, which of course includes not only oneself but also one’s immediate
environment and one’s destiny. Readings: B & K, pp. 451 – 76.
22. Wed Nov 4: Nietzsche, Individuals and Idols, Having argued in the first treatise of
Genealogy of Morals that traditional religious and philosophical ethical systems fail to
notice that nobility is fundamentally a matter of individual prowess rather than nobility of
character, Nietzsche theorizes that the weak are assembled and led by priests to construct
a morality of the ‘herd’ that is then imposed upon the individually strong. The purpose of
the conformist herd morality is not only to throttle the will to power of the strong but also
to regiment the herd mentality of the weak by inculcating feeling of guilt over nonconformist behavior. But just how is priestly domination engineered?
In the second treatise of Genealogy of Morals Nietzsche begins his analysis of the
domination of the weak (via priests and others with moral or intellectual authority). The key
concept in Nietzsche’s analysis is the creditor/debtor relationship. Nietzsche was hardly the first
to attach importance to dependencies created by economic relations. In the Phenomenology of
Spirit (trans A.V. Miller, Oxford, 1977 (B,IV,A/ p117f) Hegel writes:
However, the feeling of absolute power both in general, and in
the particular form of service, is only implicitly this dissolution,
and although the fear of the lord is indeed the beginning of
wisdom, consciousness is not herein aware that it is a being-foritself. Work, however, the bondsman becomes conscious of what
he truly is. … through this rediscovery of himself by himself, the
bondsman realizes that it is precisely his work wherein he seemed
to have only an alienated existence that he acquits a mind of his
Readings: B & K, pp. 476 – 495
23. Mon Nov 9: Nietzsche, The Will to Power/Spinoza’s Conception of the Conatus,
The ascetic life at one level is a life of withdrawal. Nietzsche thinks that this sort of life
is favored in Eastern as well as Western religions. It may seem that asceticism is a
refusal to engage life and that it is simply for that reason that Nietzsche finds it unworthy.
However, as one might expect, Nietzsche’s analysis runs deeper. It is something
deeper because it is not a renunciation of the will to power but rather a perversion of it:
Furthermore, to say again at the end what I said in the beginning: “Man would much
rather will nothingness than not will ... “
Nietzsche views all values that seek quasi-moral or religious justification to be
essentially degraded forms of consciousness. The purpose and passion that religion and
quasi-religion appear to inspire are merely ways of refusing to confront life authentically
and to substitute something manageable for a life that would actually define oneself,
where ‘oneself’ is always conceived as something essentially physical, something animal,
that ultimately must compete for space with other things that are essentially physical,
something animal.) Readings: B & K, pp. 495 – 98
24. Wed Nov 11: Kierkegaard, Mill and Nietzsche on the 19th Century:
Having considered Hegel’s analysis of the structure of history, it is interesting to ask
whether or not his analysis can successfully interpret both the latter parts of the 19th
century and the twentieth century. Here, we are trying to identify broad cultural change,
focusing on the Western cultures at the beginning of the period, but taking a global
perspective towards the end of the period. Hegel thought that the unfolding of history
(revelation of the Absolute, the objectification of Spirit) essentially depends upon nationstates. His argument for that is essentially that nation-states are the entities that run
through history and bind it together. However, the development of technology and the
industrialization the late 19th and early 20th centuries surely altered culture, and the
revolutions in biology and informational technology of the mid and late 20th centuries
have also play a critical role in the development of alternative cultures. But in what
ways, and just how? Is Hegelian analysis still relevant in any way? Or could it be that
the ultimate gift of Hegelian analysis is to explain itself away? Suggested Background
Readings and Review for Hegel. Spirit, Shannon, pp. 1 – 111
25. Mon Nov 16: Discussion: Subjectivity and Individuality
26. Wed Nov 18: Hegel, The Ethical Life, Phenomenology of Spirit, Ch. 6, pp. 159 – 77
On Substance and Self, The Psychological Ideas, For Kant the moral known is known a
priori by pure practical reason. But for Hegel the apprehension of the moral law is
possible only through the belief that the moral law will require us to overcome our own
facticity, which presupposes that we are free, that we ought to defer to God and in that
way hope to become deserving of blessedness. For Hegel, Kant’s view is essentially a
religious view couched in secular terms. This, of course, is not the end of the matter.
That is because for Kant there is a tension between the apprehension of the moral law and
human nature itself (our facticity). In other words, our acceptance of the moral law never
frees us from the desire to act in ways that are contrary to it. The question for Hegel,
then, is how to achieve the unity of self that seems to elude Kant? Readings: Hegel,
Phenomenology of Spirit, HPS, Ch. 6, pp. 112 - 122; 200 - 05
27. Mon Nov 23: Hegel, Culture and its misrepresentation, For Hegel the idea that selfdefinition resulting from the moral law automatically frees us from the bonds of facticity
is a misrepresentation of our condition. Hegel helps us understand his concern by
considering an option that appears to work but does not. In his essay ‘On the Sublime’
Schiller offers the idea that overcoming facticity is not merely a matter of apprehension
of the moral law (as Kant argues) but also must be views as a subjective judgment rooted
in feeling and sentiment. This happy union is most likely to be found within a
commitment to art (perhaps as Goethe argued, being at-one with the Absolute itself or
perhaps more intelligibly with God); in other words the imagination of the artistic genius
may experience sublime unity with the divine.4 But according to Hegel, even this will
not take us where we need to go, because the absorption in art is essentially an attempt to
unite both the public and the private by embracing the aesthetic as the paradigm, but the
aesthetic is not the ethical or moral. In other words, the sought-after release from self and
mystical union may turn out to be sensual or even carnal. Readings: Hegel,
Phenomenology of Spirit, Ch. 6, pp. 177 – 200, HPS Ch. 6, pp. 123 – 33; 206 - 10.
28. Wed Nov 25: University Holiday Pre-Thanksgiving
29. Mon Nov 30 Hegel, The Beautiful Soul, , Hegel finds his hero in Novalis, who,
for example in his ‘Hymn to the Night’, presents a vision of the beautiful soul that is all
love, in which there is no longer self-interest and hence no longer a self at all. This is the
artistic depiction of the religious teaching that finds oneself only by losing oneself, and it
is this way the other-regarding definition of (and acquiescence in) the moral law becomes
easy and natural, for there is no longer the self-absorption, the calculation of interest, that
creates the tension (as Kant himself acknowledges) in the Kantian account of submission
to pure practical reason. The loss of self is what makes forgiveness of self (and others)
possible and even easy.
This is how the unhappy self-consciousness of the
Enlightenment is transformed into the Hegelian ‘beautiful soul,’ which is itself a part of
the objectified divine, since it is the complete internalization of the divine will in the
“unfolding” of the Spirit. Indeed, Hegel concludes, the beautiful soul is itself resurrected
in each life that successfully loses itself. Readings: Phenomenology of Spirit, Ch. 6,
HPS pp. 210 – 18
30. Wed Dec 2: Preparation for Final Examination
Here we find a doctrine that Kant would have abhorred, as though the imagination, tied to the world as it
is, could possibly involve access to the noumenal realm. Hegel responds to this objection, arguing that
Kant himself failed to appreciate the significance of his discussion of the beautiful and sublime in the third
Critique, Critique of Judgment.
31 Fri Dec 11 2 – 4: