Vol. 17, No. 1 (Spring 2013)
NORMATIVITY AND FREEDOM (Guest Editor: Iain Macdonald)
IAIN MACDONALD, Between Normativity and Freedom
CHRISTOPH MENKE, Hegel’s Theory of Liberation: Law, Freedom, History, Society [abstract]
The freedom of spirit, Hegel claims, consists in “the emancipation of spirit from all those forms of being that do not conform to its concepts.” That is, freedom must be understood as “liberation [Befreiung].” The paper explores this claim by starting with Hegel’s critique of the (Kantian) understanding of freedom as autonomy. In this critique Hegel shows that norms or “laws” have to be thought of as “being”—not as “posited.” This is convincing, but it leaves open the question of the relation between law and freedom (i.e., the very question that the concept of autonomy was meant to solve). In its second part the paper claims that Hegel’s solution to this problem consists in the analysis of freedom as the “historical” process of “social” transformation. While social norms ordinarily or habitually exist in the form of a second nature—according to Hegel, this is the form they necessarily take on in their social reality—, the act of liberation radically changes their mode of being: liberation is the momentary and transitory act of the ontological transformation of social norms from nature into freedom.
CHRISTOPH MENKE, Hegel’s Theory of Second Nature: The « Lapse » of Spirit [abstract]
While in neo-Aristotelian conceptions of virtue and Bildung the concept of “second nature” describes the successful completion of human education, Hegel uses this term in order to analyze the irresolvably ambiguous, even conflictive nature of spirit. Spirit can only realize itself, in creating (1) a second nature as an order of freedom, by losing itself, in creating (2) a second nature—an order of externality, ruled by the unconscious automatisms of habit. In the second meaning of the term, “second nature” refers to spirit’s inversion of itself: the free enactment of spirit produces an objective, uncontrollable order; “second nature” is here a critical term. On the other hand, the very same inversion of free positing into objective existence is the moment of the success of (“absolute”) spirit. The paper exposes this undecidable ambiguity of second nature and claims that its acceptance and development are the conditions of an adequate understanding of the constitution and forms of second nature.
THOMAS KHURANA, Paradoxes of Autonomy: On the Dialectics of Freedom and Normativity [abstract]
This paper revisits the concept of autonomy and tries to elucidate the fundamental insight that freedom and law cannot be under-stood through their opposition, but rather have to be conceived of as conditions of one another. The paper investigates the paradig-matic Kantian formulation of this insight and discusses the diagno-sis that the Kantian idea might give rise to a paradox in which au-tonomy reverts to arbitrariness or heteronomy. The paper argues that the fatal version of the paradox can be defused if we avoid the legalistic model of autonomy and rather turn to the model of par-ticipation in a practice. This leads to a dialectical understanding of the idea of autonomy that preserves the insight that freedom and law are mutually conditioning and simultaneously reveals that they remain in irresolvable tension with one another.
DIRK SETTON, Absolute Spontaneity of Choice: The Other Side of Kant’s Theory of Freedom [abstract]
Kant’s concept of autonomy promises to solve the problem of the actuality of freedom. The latter has actuality as a practical capacity insofar as the will is objectively determined through the form of law. In later writings, however, Kant situates the actuality of freedom in the “absolute spontaneity” of choice, and connects the reality of autonomy itself to the condition of a “radical” act of free choice. The reason for this resides in the fact that his first solution is marked by a certain defect: it does not contain a sufficient concept of the actuality of a practical capacity. This essay elaborates a revised account of Kant’s concept of freedom in light of this insight. The argument is that we need to distinguish force and faculty in order to understand the actuality of a capacity. Only on this basis can we introduce the idea of imagination as a pre-reflexive force of practical reason and the idea of reflective judgment as a power of practical judgment in order to realize how free choice is capable of generating a maxim that has the form of a law spontaneously and of its own accord. In this way, we see that the actuality of freedom necessarily includes the spontaneity of choice, and that human freedom manifests a certain paradoxicality: the universality of the will is bound to a subjective ground of determination, to a pre-reflexive act of “radical” choice.
JULIANE REBENTISCH, The Morality of Irony: Hegel and Modernity [abstract]
This essay reconsiders the role of irony in the Hegelian project of developing a theory of modern ethical life. It recognizes in Socratic irony the traces of an alternative concept of morality that leads both to an acknowledgement of Hegel’s convincing critique of the Kantian moral principle and to a rejection of Hegel’s misconception of Socratic and Romantic irony. Arguing against Hegel that irony cannot be reduced to a form of alienation from the normative dimension of ethical life as a whole, but should instead be understood as a necessary component of a dynamic mediation between subjective freedom and ethical universality, the author further claims that irony, thus conceived, takes on the productive function that it should actually have had within the Hegelian system. That is, irony is a phenomenon that, from the standpoint of morality, refers us to a form of ethical life in which subjective freedom and difference are respected.
DIRK QUADFLIEG, On the Dialectics of Reification and Freedom: From Lukács to Honneth—and Back to Hegel [abstract]
This paper addresses the question of the extent to which the process of reification is identical with domination and thus opposed to freedom. While this is clearly the case in Lukács’s famous essay “Reification and the Consciousness of the Proletariat,” the first generation of the Frankfurt School, especially Adorno, rejects such a criticism of reification as still too closely tied to a false understanding of subjective freedom. Rather, as Adorno suggests in his later works, one has to take into account that any relation to oneself is fundamentally dependent upon a relation to the object. Unfortunately, this insight into the dialectic of subject and object, freedom and reification, is overlooked in Habermas and Honneth’s redefinition of reification in terms of intersubjectivity. To bring out the importance of Adorno’s thesis, I refer to the notion of “making oneself into a thing” (Sich-zum-Ding-Machen), as developed in Hegel’s early Jena Writings, and argue that a fundamental form of reification is a condition for a specific kind of social freedom.
FRANCESCA RAIMONDI, The Presumption of Political Freedom: Deconstructing the Origins of Democracy [abstract]
This paper first presents two prominent and antagonistic accounts of political freedom that identify the latter either with the expression of a collective, sovereign will, or with an open process of mutual recognition and consent-based association in action. In the paradigmatic formulations that Carl Schmitt and Hannah Arendt give of these two models of freedom, one can detect, however, a common methodological assumption. In both cases political freedom is conceived as actualizing itself in some original or founding act or acts. Challenging this assumption by means of a deconstructive perspective on the supposed origin of modern political freedom and democracy, the paper then goes on to formulate an alternative conception of political freedom, starting from the assumption that freedom does not have the character of a present act or a property but of a process characterized by a constitutive futurity. Understanding political freedom in this way shows that democratic freedom, though it may already be in place, has constantly to actualize itself in a self-determining process.
SOPHIE BOURGAULT, Friedrich Nietzsche’s Musical Aesthetics: A Reassessment [abstract]
It is well known that Friedrich Nietzsche loved to refer to himself as the “last disciple of Dionysus.” On the basis of this famous self-characterization, it would seem warranted to describe Nietzsche’s ideal as Dionysian—as Tracy Strong, Bruce Detwiler, and Daniel Conway have done. This paper seeks to reassess the extent of Nietzsche’s Dionysianism via an examination of what the philosopher had to say about music—in particular, Richard Wagner’s music. What the paper argues is that Nietzsche’s musical aesthetics is remarkably Apollonian (or classical), and that elements of this aesthetics can be detected in every period of Nietzsche’s intellectual life. While some scholars have acknowledged the classicism in Nietzsche’s middle-period, I go further and argue that Nietzsche’s early works already indicate that the philosopher was not an entirely loyal disciple of Dionysus.
CARLOS PRADO, Vision-Centred Religion [abstract]
The contemporary inclination is to interpret religion in personal terms. This inclination may be legitimate, but raises two troubling questions: one about the content of such interpretations and one about the conduct such interpretations sanction. In the 20th century, interaction between ideology and politics was dominant; in the 21st century, the interaction between religion and politics dominates. Personal interpretation of religion makes this interaction hazardous. In this paper I consider personally interpreted religion with the help of an unlikely pair: Ludwig Wittgenstein and Michel Foucault.
JAMES MENSCH, The Question of Naturalizing Phenomenology [abstract]
The attempt to use the results of phenomenology in cognitive and neural science has in the past decade become increasingly wide-spread. It is, however, open to the objection that phenomenology does not concern itself with the embodied, empirical subject, but rather with the non-causally determined “transcendental” subject. If this is true, then the attempt to employ its results is bound to come to grief on the opposition of two different accounts of con-sciousness: the non-causal, transcendental paradigm put forward by phenomenology and the causal paradigm assumed by cognitive and neural science. In what follows, I shall analyze this objection in terms of the conception of subjectivity the objection presupposes. By employing a different conception, I shall then show how it can be met. My aim will be to explain how we can empirically use the insights of phenomenology without denaturing the consciousness it studies.
ALISTAIR WELCHMAN, Heidegger among the Robots [abstract]
Cognitive science and artificial intelligence have undergone some revolutionary changes in the past two decades. From an emphasis on disembodied cognitive functions like chess and logic, they now foreground the embodied and environmentally embedded nature of intelligent action. Some—both philosophers of cognitive science and practitioners—have sought to explain this shift in terms of a Heideggerian critique of the residually Cartesian assumptions of the traditional picture of disembodied cognition. I support the opening up of new areas of research practice formally closed off by tacit and unjustified theoretical presuppositions, but argue that these changes are and have been warranted by biological and in-formation-theoretic concerns and not phenomenological ones de-rived from Heidegger’s thought.
GABRIEL ROCKHILL, La différence est-elle une valeur en soi? Critique d’une axiologie métaphilosophique [abstract]
L’objectif principal de cet article est de mettre en évidence l’axiologie métaphilosophique et la logique normative binaire – la valorisation de la différence par rapport à l’identité – qui a dominé « la philosophie de la différence » en France, et qui a trouvé un ter-rain d’accueil relativement favorable dans « la politique de la diffé-rence » en Amérique du Nord. En détaillant une série d’opérations conceptuelles liées à cette axiologie fondamentale, il s’agira de re-mettre en question la sacralisation de la différence en nous interro-geant notamment sur ses conséquences politiques.
RACHEL JONES, Kant, Irigaray, and Earthquakes: Adventures in the Abyss [abstract]
In 1755, Lisbon was destroyed by an earthquake whose aftershocks were felt across Europe. One of the less well-known responses to this abyssal event is that offered by Kant in his three essays on earthquakes and their causes. According to Irigaray, Kant’s concern with an earth that moves is not incidental, but central to the emergence of his critical project. The goal of this paper is to trace a line from Kant’s earthquake essays, through his later writings on the sublime, to Irigaray’s critique of the Kantian project and her positive re-appropriation of a matter that moves, as well as the sublime figure of the abyss. I will suggest that, in her work, the abyss is transformed from a rupturing cleft into a shelter for sexuate difference, and from a site of terror into a space for wonder.
Études critiques / Review Essays
Thomas H. Ford, By the Numbers: Meillassoux as a Reader of Mallarmé