Argumenta – Journal of Analytic Philosophy

Most contemporary accounts of naturalism specify, as one of its necessary conditions, a community within which agents can take themselves to be adequately answerable for and responsible to the norms of autonomous practical reason. But what would it mean to succeed in giving an account of naturalism, absent such social conditions? What does it mean to think about naturalism from a position of relative alienation? My contention is that this incongruity between philosophy and the form of life sustaining it is already present within Hegel’s thought, and that it should prompt us to reconsider the meaning that philosophy itself has for him. Philosophical science—along with a proper understanding of naturalism—is, on the one hand, a historical achievement for him, one that only becomes possible within modern practices and institutions. But he also views modernity’s forms of subjectivity as fragmented, incomplete, and alienated, on the other. In order to understand how he reconciles the theoretical possibilities with the practical limitations of modernity, I argue that we need to attend to two features of Hegel’s philosophical account. First, that the Phenomenology of Spirit (and Hegel’s systematic thought generally) has been patterned after a specifically aesthetic mode of intelligibility. Second, that Hegel’s philosophy is intended to effect a transformation on its readers, analogous to the transformation that works of art are supposed to effect on their audiences (as understood by Schiller, Schelling, and other post-Kantian thinkers).

John McDowell (1996: 93-94) observes that “modern philosophy has taken itself to be called on to bridge dualistic gulfs, between subject and object, thought and world […] what is debatable is how we ought to respond to the deeper dualism”.


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