Phil A301

William Jamison


Lecture on Hegel’s Impact

The self-actualization of freedom

While Kant is important for giving us an answer to the question posed by Hume and this gives us the ground for modern approaches to psychology a postmodern person should feel concern that a categorical imperative is ever possible. A categorical imperative, for Kant, is a maxim that I could will to be universal law. That is, should everyone follow a principle or maxim under precisely the same kind of circumstances? For Kant, based on his view of how we could know what was moral we would be able to have categorical imperatives. (Moralitat) Reflection today on this issue should show that we are unable to determine categorical imperatives. We no longer think knowledge works this way.

Instead, following Hegel, knowledge changes as part of a dialectical process. In Dewey’s terms, we can make warranted assertions, not true conclusions. So we cannot determine that a maxim could be a universal law. We do not accept the basis for categorical imperatives.

But Kant’s point that doing your duty for the sake of duty is an advance on the Aristotelian view that individual happiness over the course of a complete life is the way to lead a moral life. Instead, the connection with our obligation to civil society is stronger. This is necessary for a pluralistic society to remain stable.

Hegel solves the last problem faced by Kant in his answer to Hume by historicizing our view of consciousness. Consciousness evolves and this evolution has been progressive. We now know more than our predecessors. This does not mean they were wrong, only that we are more correct. Those that follow us will be more correct. The goal of this evolutionary process is freedom. More freedom is better than less.

A person can only achieve freedom (autonomy for Kant) by acting in social roles that fully actualize reason in a civil society. (Sittlichkeit). Those roles change with the times.

To find out what those roles should be we need a consensus!

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