Duchesne On Hegel's Reason For Western Uniqueness

–“What drew Hegel’s attention was the seemingly restless desire of Western reason to become fully conscious of itself as **free activity**.”–

Ok. so you know, this is what I mean. Translate that into operational language and tell me what the hell it means. I mean, I know what it *should* mean.

–“According to Hegel, individuals become what they are potentially – rationally self-conscious agents – when they recognized themselves as free in their institutions and laws. …. the effort of human reason to become what it is intrinsically: the free author of its own concepts, values, and practices. “–

–“The Phenomenology thus exhibits the ways in which diverse but interrelated outlooks held sway and conviction for some time only to be seen as limited in their inability to provide answers consistent with the demands of beings that are becoming more aware of themselves as the free creators of their own beliefs, laws, and institutions”–

You are free when you think freely. But what is the cause? Why isn’t the cause property? The taste for property and status, and the distaste for losing one’s property and status to an authority.

–“The Phenomenology, however, should not be viewed as a strictly
chronological history of the development of consciousness”–

Well, you know, I view intellectual history outside of the sciences as reactive and justificationary. Those justifications are later used as causes, but I don’t see much evidence that our thinkers all that innovative. It seems like we justify as a means of mitigating conflicts. Justifications solve problems for current and later generations. But the problem exists prior to its solution.

So what was the problem or cause? I think that it’s not complicated, that it’s just the warrior tactics and private property. Gimbutas doesn’t reduce it to property, but that’s just because she wasn’t interested in economic institutions.

And I really don’t know a lot of thinkers that have connected instinctual evolutionary morality and property other than myself. But if we start out with that instinctual prohibition against free riding and therefore in favor of some form of property, and we add voluntary associations of men who conduct cattle raiding, who because of risk, retain their stolen assets, and from that we get property and warriors who covet status and property, then we get heroism and individualism from that point forward. I think all intellectual activity is simply an effort to maintain that relationship of sovereignty in the context of current circumstances. It’s certainly the most simplistic explanation. It satisfies occam’s razor.

If we add to the preference for private property, the fact that europe is riddled with waterways that make trade possible and relatively less expensive. If we add to that observation that our economic development was also aided by four seas: the Aegean, the Mediterranean, the North Sea and the Atlantic that both facilitate trade and form barriers to conflict – then we do not have to really account for intellectual history for western character as other than justificationary.

The greeks then are merely improving means of exchanging property. Exchanging property requires objective truth to avoid conflict between sovereigns. And Aristotle (etc) invents science as a consequence of objective truth. (Greeks aren’t actually individualistic but familial but it’s close enough to produce the same outcome: property.)

–“What Hegel suggests to me, albeit in a very general way, is that there
were already in Greece – before the polis – characters unwilling to
submit to despotic rule.”–

–“let me state for now that the polis was created by a pre-existing aristocratic culture whose values were physical prowess, courage, fi erce protection of one’s family, friends, and property, and above all, one’s personal honor and reputation.”–

–“The polis grew out of a peculiar social landscape of tribal republics
in which individual rivalry for prestige and victory had the highest
value, and in which hatred of monarchical government was the norm.
Before citizenship was expanded to include independent farmers and
hoplite soldiers, the Greek mainland was dominated by a warrior aristocracy. This expansive and aggressive aristocracy was the original persona of Western civilization.”–

–“What Hegel criticized was the liberal contractual argument that there
was an “original state of nature” in which man “was in the possession
of his natural rights and the unlimited exercise and enjoyment of his
freedom” (1978: 54). He rejected the assumption that, if all the products
of culture and history were somehow stripped away, one would
find humans living in a state of natural freedom, or in a condition in
which each was the possessor of individual rights. The concept of
right, for Hegel, was not “negative” in the sense that it was free from all
“positive” content, from the weight of social norms and history. Man
“in his immediate and natural way of existence” – that is, in the state of
nature – was not the possessor of natural rights. The freedoms of men
were “acquired and won…only through an infinite process of the discipline
of knowledge and will power” (54). Humans had to acquire the
capacity for self-control to achieve freedom, which was rather difficult
in the state of nature (1971: 175). Hegel thus spoke of the state of nature
in terms of the “primitive conditions” of human existence, as a time
when human relations were “marked by brute passions and acts of

*The state of nature, therefore, is rather the state of injustice, violence,
untamed natural impulses, of inhuman deeds and emotions (54).”

Hegel wrote elsewhere, in fact, that “the fight for recognition…can only
occur in the natural state, where men exist only as single, separate individuals”

(1971: 172). The struggle for recognition ceases to be a violent engagement when civil society proper is consolidated. In civil society individuals can achieve recognition peacefully, or in a less capricious manner, by obeying the law and doing what is socially acceptable, pursuing a profession or following a trade.

The state tries to achieve prestige by fighting other states but the state no longer condones violent feuding between citizens.”–

CURT: The struggle for status. The universal availability of status. Limited to organizing or participating in production. (and by consequence the lesser status, and envy of status, of those who cannot engage in production).

–“self consciousness makes its appearance in the decision “of Man” to fight to the death for the sake of recognition. Kojeve explains that “Man” starts to become “truly” self-conscious only to the extent that he “actively”
engages in a fight where he risks his life “for something that does not
exist really” – that is, “solely ‘for glory’ or for the sake of his ‘vanity’
alone (which by this risk, ceases to be ‘vain’ and becomes the specifi –
cally human value of honor” (1999: 226).”–

Leave a Reply