Sunday, February 8, 2009

Notes on "Freedom, Individual, and State"

Hegel's reasoning, although it is a bit hard to follow at times, appears to be sound. He begins the third chapter by stating that there are two considerations of the "final goal" of the world. First, the content, and secondly, it's actualization. This is very similar to his assertion that we should look at both the intention, and the activity, when it comes to human actions. Hegel equates Spirit with freedom. This is ambiguous to me. Is having freedom, preforming acts of free will, or merely being able to think freely, Spirit? Freedom as a term encompasses a number of beliefs, theories, and actions. However, this is a minor point. The importance lies in Spirit's ability to be self-conscious: for freedom to know itself and to produce freedom. How this is related to Providence is yet to be revealed. As actors who hold passions in align with furthering Spirit's self-consciousness (those with "inner Spirit) step onto the world's stage, Spirit is manifested in the actions of these actors and the world progresses. Hegel notes that there have been 3 eras - the oriental (where only the ruler is free), the Greek (where some are free), and the Germanic (all are free). Thus, all humans are ends to themselves only insofar as they are "used" (poor word choice) by Reason.

Question: If there are actors with passions aligned with Spirit's, and further Spirit, can't there also be actors whose passions are the antithesis of Spirit, and thus detract from universal freedom? In other words, are all actions, in the long run, progressive, or can we "go back in time" in regards to Spirit being self-conscious and manifested in the form of freedom, in the world? Does the Final Goal have a set date, or can we go back and forth between eras?

Hegel's perception of the state is growing on me, although I find it a bit problematic. First, people are morally dissatisfied when the state does not fulfill what they feel is right or good (per Hegel). And this causes, in the course of world history rebellions. But Hegel goes on to say that these are merely "ideals raised by fantasy". So people rebel in order that they may create a new state-structure or government, and this (I presume) is in accord with the Spirit, but it's based on hopeless idealism...

I enjoyed Hegel's depiction of finding consciousness of the Spirit in both Religion and Art (I was strongly reminded of Heidegger; simply replace Spirit with Being). It seems logical that consciousness of Spirit would be found in Religion and art - interestingly Hegel doesn't say that Christianity is the only way to come to know Spirit (yet), merely that Christianity is what lead Europe to further the self-consciousness. This is important because to say that Christianity is a path among a few to knowing Reason and Spirit paints quite a different picture of God, Spirit and Reason than if one were to say that it is the only way.

Finally, I'm not sold on Hegel's notion of a "National Spirit" - sure, at times of panic or crisis (9/11, for example), there does seem to be a sense of coming together, but in peace times, it seems rare for there to be no internal descent among the population of any country. Many nations, as well, don't have a "national culture", but rather different cultures flourish in different parts of the country - "New England Culture" is very different from "Southern Culture", etc. Perhaps I'm misunderstanding what he means.

No comments:

Post a Comment