Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit I

Term: Fall 2009

Subject Code: GPHI

Course Number: 6018

This is the first part of a year-long course. The course commences with a reading of "The Spirit of Christianity and Its Fate," in which Hegel first articulates the core components of his ethical vision: the critique of Kantian moralism; the postulation of "fate" in which the denial of the other yields the destruction of the self; consciousness formation through criminal action–the original statement of the work of "the negative." All these are set within an implausible metaphysics of life. The Phenomenology of Spirit is the attempt to salvage the insights of the early program without its metaphysics. During the semester we carefully read Hegel's "Introduction," the accounts of "Consciousness" and "Self-Consciousness," and, at least, the first half of the chapter on "Reason." As we proceed, fundamental objections to Hegel are considered: Heidegger's critique of Hegel's phenomenological method; Feuerbach's contention that consciousness need never leave the world of sense-certainty; Derrida/Bataille's argument that the dialectic of master and slave involves an illegitimate transfiguration of the negativity of death into a moment of development and growth. At stake throughout is an interrogation of Hegel's conception of idealism, and its governing premise: subjectivity is grounded in (at least) intersubjectively; it is that thesis which installs sociality and ethical normativity into the heart of Hegel's project.

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