Hegelianisms without Metaphysics?

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Author: David James
Date: Mar. 2020
Publisher: Berghahn Books, Inc.
Document Type: Article
Length: 1,245 words

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The Actual and the Rational: Hegel and Objective Spirit, by Jean-Francois Kervegan. Translated by Daniela Ginsburg and Martin Shuster. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2018. xxiii + 384 pp.

In this comprehensive study of Hegel's ethical, legal, social and political philosophy, or 'philosophy of right', the original French edition of which appeared in 2008, Jean-Francois Kervegan focusses on Hegel's idea of 'objective spirit', that is to say, the idea that rational freedom achieves its actualisation (or realisation) through its objectification in ethical, legal, social and political norms and the institutions that embody these norms. Hegel's philosophy of objective spirit has been classed as reactionary because of his claim in the preface to his Elements of the Philosophy of Right that what is rational is actual (or real) and what is actual (or real) is rational, a claim which is here interpreted to mean that whatever happens to exist is rational and possesses unquestionable authority merely by virtue of the fact that it exists. Kervegan, who is, I would say, in this regard in agreement with the consensus view in Anglophone interpretations of Hegel's philosophy of right over the past few decades, argues against this kind of interpretation.

Central to the book's argument is its emphasis on how legal norms that are broadly consistent with liberal constitutionalism form an essential moment of objective spirit because they are one of the fundamental ways in which freedom actualises itself in modernity, and its claim that Hegel advocates a 'weak' institutionalism. This is a form of institutionalism which concerns the conditions of subjectivity, in the sense of institutionalised norms that structure the agency of modern subjects but do not thereby reduce individuals to mere instances of these norms. In this way, Kervegan's reading of Hegel's theory of objective spirit seeks to do justice to the unique structure of the argument of the Elements of the...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A653458382