From Socrates To Sartre; #20; The Owl of Minerva
Were. The. Protesters against the United States in its Vietnam War policy justified in their opposition do you believe that you can be justified in taking a stand against your nation and its institutions and its actions. What do you think justifies such opposition. Appeal to universal moral principles appeal to universal legal principles appealed to religious beliefs against can only appeal to your own private conscience. Appeal to God Himself. The philosophy of Hago will shock you by cutting off any appeals to anything outside your nation and its institutions in the philosophy of Hagele there is no moral authority above the state. There are no moral or legal or religious principles that transcend the state beyond the state. There is no higher court of appeal. Does this claim which is central to Hegel's philosophy run counter to all your beliefs. Then it is time for us to
take a look at Hagels moral and political philosophy. Hagels approach to moral philosophy has its source in his organism his view that nothing human can be understood that nothing human can function in isolation but rather only as a part of the organic totality to which it belongs and which it serves for Hagele the nation state which includes the government of the nation and also its culture. Is this great organism to which everything human belongs. This organic totality which is the nation state is the source of all our culture including all morality the ethical life for the individual member of society is provided according to haggle by the culture itself by the spirit of the people as it is embodied in the institutions of society. In the legal political economic religious and educational institutions of the society you can live a moral life says Hagel. Only by acting in accordance with the moral
principles expressed by your own society in all its own institutions in your moral life as well as in your beliefs your personal goals your philosophy. You are a culture of carea a receptacle for the moral values which are embodied in the political and economic way of life and in the religious and educational institutions of your society the moral values that are embodied in your nation and your culture provide the only morality you have. Your only moral ideals your only moral obligation moral life has its source only in the nation and can be fulfilled only in the nation. In the writings of Hagele as he says despite much of lofty talk about universal principles or religious ethics Hegel's point is that all ethics in social ethics the ethics of a particular society the moral life is the life we live in accordance with the moral standards of your own
society in Hagel's own words in reason in history. He says everything that man is he owes to the state only in it. Can he find his essence all value that a man has. All spiritual reality he has only through the states and again in recent history. Hagel says no individual can step beyond the state. He can separate himself certainly from other particularly individuals but not from the spirit of the people. You cannot he says separate yourself from the beliefs and values of your own society in your own time. But do you not find yourself rejecting Hagele social ethics ethics which has no other ground than the values of articular society goes against the grain. I you know I'm thinking that the spirit of the people may go wrong may become immoral even demonically evil. For example in periods of witch hunts as in
the witch hunts of Salem Massachusetts in the 17th century and in the witch hunts of McCarthyism in the 1950s and the United States government and surely a government can go wrong as the Watergate episode in the United States government clearly shows. How then can Hagele claim that our culture and our government are as he says the very substance of ethics. Hagel has an answer. It is that very criticism of Watergate as a moral and legal scandal is based upon the moral and legal ideals of our own United States culture. Hagel has never argued he will tell you that actual cultures or governments are perfect. Rather his point is that our ideals are those that our own culture has produced and these are the ideals to which we appeal when we criticize our government. And so for example when we criticize the government for denying voting rights to blacks on the grounds of the government
was not living up to its own constitution and the 15th Amendment which states that the rights of citizens to vote shall not be denied or abridged on account of race color or previous condition of servitude. This is the Democratic ideal that has shaped the legal and political and educational institutions of our society and in appealing to this we have shaped our own lives. But we have internalized these ideals and moral beliefs of our society. We have made them part of our inner lives as our own ideals. And moreover Hagel has a trump card to play and that is from Hagel's viewpoint. There is something sacred something divine about the state for in incorporating the totality of culture and government the state he says embodies and manifests the absolute in Hagel's words the nation state is the divine idea as it exists on Earth. Hagel is here trying to express something close to the Old
Testament utterance that God will deliver his judgment to the nations for Hagel. God manifests one stage of his truth to each of the key nations of history and each in its historical turn becomes a carrier of His divine truth. We are now able to probe more deeply into Hagels theory that ethics is social ethics. If you as an individual live as a contributing member of the nation state you are participating in the life of the absolute which the culture expresses. You are participating in a larger life than that of your personal individual desires and concerns. The moral center of your life as an individual is then not merely yourself as an isolated home but this larger life of the spirit of the whole people. The spirit of the unfolding absolute in participating in the life of our nation and its culture. We live beyond ourselves in the larger life of developing truth and we live this a larger spiritual life
by taking part in the public life and the public process of our time in which all the standards values moral and political beliefs and the aspirations of the culture come to the surface are debated thought through and undergo dialectical developments by participating in the ongoing public life. You enter into the truth for your time into the life of the absolute as it is manifested in your culture. This is what Hagels moral philosophy means by its insistence that ethics is social ethics. In total opposition to the Enlightenment and its idealising of the single autonomic individual as rational autonomous and independent with his own rights and freedom. Hagel has discovered that the greatest of all the needs of the human being is not to be independent and autonomous but to participate in a larger purpose than his own and to become part of the social whole. You cannot help feeling the power of what Hegel is saying here here he is touching a sore
and sensitive spot with us. Our sense of living in isolation our sense of living in a world which has become fragmented and atomized our sense that there is no larger totality to which we belong. Hagel speaks to our present need for wholeness. Our need to sense that we are part of a larger meaningful totality and we know that at the time that he was writing he was speaking to the needs of the German people for wholeness their need to form into a unified and strong nation. How then. According to Hagel do I acquire the moral beliefs of my culture and thus a sense of belonging. Hagel's answer is that you acquire the beliefs of your culture by the process of internalizing them by making them a part of yourself by incorporating them by appropriating them to yourself. You incorporate the ethical substance the morality of your cultures as Hago as you develop as a person from early childhood into maturity.
This development this growth process in your personal history takes a dialectical form in which there are three stages three important moments which constitute the ethical life of an individual in society. These three stages of first the family second as antithesis to the family is civil society. And thirdly is the synthesis of these in the state. The family says hangel is the first way in which the self enters into the Maaro life of the community. The family is the initial social group which one experiences in the family there was a sense of unity a unity of feeling a bond of love unites the family members the members of the family do not relate to each others as Hegel as persons with individual rights as against the other members of the family but as members of a unity. When however he says it happens that family members relate to each other there were insisting upon their individual rights the rights of children against their parents or husbands and wives
against each other rather than through their unity of feeling. That family he says is in process of dissolution and decay. Is he saying something about the contemporary American family or about a family that you know but Hagel next points out that the child outgrows the family and passes over into a new stage of life which is that of the larger civil society. But in the transition to the new stage of life the young adult becomes a self-conscious individual in his own personality with his or her own will his aspirations life plans and social connections in these ways the person becomes individuated separated from the family and Andrew's civil society by civil society Hago means the economic aspect of society the society from the standpoint of the ways in which human individuals relate to each other in terms of their economic needs and interests in terms of their relationship to work. Hagel had studied very carefully the writings of the
economist Adam Smith and the books of other British economists before he himself writing on civil society. Karl Marx will soon be bending over the same books. Civil society Hegel says is a scene in which individuals are striving to fulfill their own economic needs but in order to do so they must require the work of others. They require that they be a division of labor so that there can be more efficient production of goods to satisfy the needs of an ongoing and growing society. Hagel sees the economic relations within a society the working of the coming of reason which we saw already at work with in history as human individuals he says work for their own personal needs and gains. They are in actuality although they do not intend this themselves. They are actually fulfilling the interests of the economy as a whole. They are making the wheels of the economy go around. But Hagel sees that the economy of every society
can run into problems as production increases to meet the needs of the increase in population. Some individuals will achieve great wealth but at the same time there arises a working class and urban proletariat which may suffer both economic and spiritual poverty. As this urban proletariat finds itself tied to boring mechanical work and increasingly suffers from unemployment they lose their sense of identity with the society and they becomes as Hagele a discontented and alienated mass while at the opposite pole there has been created great wealth for a few members of society. Hagels description of the polarization within industrial society of two groups the small wealthy capitalist class and the constantly enlarging proletarian class of laborers. His description is almost identical with the picture of civil society which Karl Marx will paint a generation later. But there is one crucial difference between Hegel and Marx on this point.
Hagel sees the inner conflicts of the industrial economy as clearly as Marx does but Hegel sees that the state can hold these conflicts in check. While Hagel accordingly places the state in political and moral control of the entire industrial economy in order to maximize its positive functions and to minimize its internal tensions. Marx on the other hand totally rejects Hago conception that the state can effectively control civil society and Marx calls for a revolutionary overthrow of the entire capitalist economy as the only solution to its problems. And as the next and necessary and the last page of human history what then does Hagele finally say about the state. First and foremost through the concrete actual functions of its social institutions the state provides the ethical substance of a society and thus is Hago the state makes freedom
possible. At this point Pay-Go contributes what has become a famous distinction between two kinds of freedom for both freedom and substantial freedom. There is he says the freedom which was pursued by the Enlightenment. This was the formal abstract rational freedom which is the individual gains by the natural rights of life liberty and property. These freedoms as Hagel were essentially negative freedoms they protect the individual and his rights to his life liberty and possessions from the absolute power of the king to seize them from him. But what is now needed says Hago is not negative freedom but a positive concrete sense of freedom. What is now needed is not an empty form or negative freedom from oppressors but substantial positive freedom to live and act as a free spiritual being. What does substantial freedom mean. You have substantial freedom says HAGO.
When the ideals of your nation become your own ideals for directing your own life you are substantially free. When you see that the ideals by which the state and the culture define themselves are also the ideals by which you define yourself for example as a United States citizen committed to civil rights you see that the state that is the government of the United States defines itself as committed to civil rights in this way it comes about that the laws of the United States no longer appeal alien or oppressive to you. They appear instead as identical to your own laws for yourself. And just there comes to an end as Hagel the opposition between your individual freedom and the power of social laws that comes to an end. You're sensing that the laws of your state are coercive upon you and are a heavy yoke for you to bear. And again says Hagel in this way there disappears the opposition between your personal
will and the will of the state since you have now identified your own will with the larger will which is that of the state. This then is the meaning of substantial freedom substantial freedom consists in the identification of the personal will with the Ethical ideals of the culture and the states. And Hagel adds substantial freedom is the condition of human happiness. Human happiness is to live in a state in which you can freely identify with its laws and all the institutions and in which you can will freely through your own will what the state wills. Happiness as Hagel is the reward of identifying with the ideals of your society. It is the happiness that comes from the ending of conflict. It is the happiness of the sense of belonging a feeling at one with the group to which one belongs. And this substantial freedom is what Hago thought was emerging into being for his own German nation. But what if you do not identify with your
society. What if you were not reconciled to the ideals and institutions of your society. What if you still harbor suspicions and hatreds toward the culture and government of the United States which many people felt during the civil rights movement and Vietnam War. You exist then says Hagel in a state of alienation and Hagel has a theory of alienation a concept which we think of as very contemporary with us. We will see Marx picking up the theory of alienation from Hagel and in time the entire Western world learned about alienation from Hago and from Marx. So that in the 20th century Sartre will find the theme of alienation present everywhere in contemporary culture. What is the meaning of alienation and what specifically does Hagele mean by it. Alienation is in general the sense of being a strange the sense of feeling alone shut out of the common life the sense of being an outsider. Do you find it meaningless to vote. Does your
job have no significance for you. Are you bored by the social and political issues of the day that other people get violently passionate about. Do you feel that your life is meaningless powerless and empty. These are the symptoms of alienation. Alienation is the failure of the will of the individual to identify with the larger will of the society. And just as substantial freedom which is identification with the will of society just as substantial freedom is a necessary condition of happiness. So alienation from society is a necessary condition of unhappiness for the individual. Alienation exists when you find that the ideals and institutions by which your society defines itself appear to you to be meaningless. And they form no part of you. Alienation is the condition in which you no longer identify yourself with the public morality and values and institutions of your society. And lastly it is of great significance that Hagel finds
political and social individualism as a serious form of alienation individualism on Hagel's view is a solvent. It is a destroyer of national and community unity. How then does Hago define individualism individualism as it is usually defined in political terms. Is the view that the state is subordinate to the individual politically and morally for political individualism. The state is made for man not man for the state. But as we have seen just the opposite is Hagel's view Hagel has consistently argued that the state is superior to the individual. In fact that the state is the only true individual of history and that the human individual is no better than a part of the organism which is the states. It is furthermore Hagel's view that the individual has no inalienable natural rights such as John Locke and Thomas Jefferson claimed Hegel argues that the individual has
only those rights and liberty which the state prescribes for him as serving the institutions of society and as we have seen the moral value and the very meaning of a human being's life are derived from the organic totality of the culture of which he is a apart according to Hagel haggles political philosophy must therefore be called statism or political absolutism political absolutism affirms the subordination of the individual to the state and claims for the state absolute political power and moral authority over the individual for political absolutism the individual exists for the state not the state for the individual. In Hagel's own words the state has to preach right against the individual who is supreme duty it is to be a member of the state. Hagel has here taken his firm stand against the fundamental principle of democracy universal voting
privileges the direct suffrage for all in place of universal voting. Hagel calls for the people to be represented in the legislature but their representatives will in no case be elected by the people. Finally what is Feagles view of the power of philosophy to direct the political future of a nation or of the world. We saw that the French Enlightenment philosophy had given them a true theory to put into practice in order to change the world. Hago disagrees. Hagel denies that philosophy has the power to change the course of a nation or of the world. The philosopher he says is concerned only with understanding what is actual and is not concerned with offering predictions or utopias for the future and for the philosopher to understand the actual society. It is necessary for the philosopher to go to the roots of that society in order to see the rational concept which the absolute has revealed to it and which
has been coming to consciousness over the years. In the life of the nation. Philosophy can grasp the truth of a culture. Only when the culture has matured enough so that what the absolute has revealed to it has finally become clear. But by this time says Hago it is too late for the society to change. Hegel makes this point in a famous line in which you refers to the owl which was a symbol of Minerva the Roman goddess of wisdom. Hagel expresses the thought that philosophic wisdom comes too late within any society to be able to transform this but can only instead make it possible for the society to understand itself to grasp the meaning of its own culture and the truth of the absolute which it embodies. But this understanding is only inside interpretation. Wisdom it comes too late to change things.
This is Hagels famous line the owl of Minerva spreads its wings and takes flight only when the shades of night are falling. But this is exactly what Karl Marx will challenge philosophy he says has so far only interpreted the world. The point however is to change it. And Marx believed that we now have the philosophy to put into practice in order to change the world. The power of Hegel as a master builder of philosophy cannot be denied. Yet serious criticisms of him can be made. Thus Hagels idealistic philosophy in which reality is only the reality of the concept. The idea does this give us an adequate grasp of the material side of reality. The problems of the human body in its material environment. The problem of economic production the problems of technology and its impact and the problem of the exhaustion of the material resources of the material environment and again with regard to God. If Hagels absolute which he calls God exists
only as he is externalized or embodied in human consciousness. Then how can this legitimately be called God or absolute. Is this not a sin a deception and equivocation. Is this not what we would call double talk. Also what kind of method is dialectic. Clearly it is not a rationalistic a logical or mathematical method. Clearly it is not empirical and scientific. Is this then to be called a method of interpretation and insight into the development of human consciousness. But how can Hagels own insights be proven. How can Hago prove that the laws of dialectical history govern the world and are necessary. How does he know what each stage of the dialectic is. For example how can he prove that Germany is the final synthesis and the very pinnacle of history rather than England or France or Hagels dialectical insights rational truthes
or other perhaps cultural prejudices is Hagels abstract philosophy a mosque which conceals a defense of German nationalism. A fear of revolution. A hatred for individualism and democracy has not Hagels dialectical philosophy cunningly used the cunning of reason in order to justify whatever exists in the status quo. Even evil is within it as serving the purpose of the Absolute. But on the other hand Hagel is a great source of wisdom and his philosophy gave to the world many concepts of the greatest profundity. The spirit of the people. The concept of culture organic cism and historicism the dialectical tendency of thought the master slave concept. A new theory of the relation of the individual to society. The theory of ethics as culturally rooted. A theory of labor a theory of leadership a theory of the human need for wholeness through social identification and a theory of
alienation. These concepts and theories which originated in haggles philosophy are to be found throughout the social sciences today in social anthropology sociology social psychology political theory psychoanalysis and clinical psychology. But Hagels influence is not only a part of the sciences which study men but also upon philosophy itself. One French philosopher recently stated Hagels influence with these words. All the great philosophical ideas of the past century the philosophies of Marx of nature of existentialism and psychoanalysis had their beginning in Hegel. Of all these influences Hagels greatest influence was upon Karl Marx and his impact upon the entire world. East and West to Marx. We now turn. Now.
Recorded. In the studios of the Maryland Center for Public Broadcasting.
- From Socrates To Sartre
- Episode Number
- The Owl of Minerva
- Producing Organization
- Maryland Public Television
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- Maryland Public Television (Owings Mills, Maryland)
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- Episode Description
- Hegel V: Influence on Marx, Freud and Sartre - Hegel's Political Philosophy and Ethics. The State and not the individual embodies the Absolute and its rationality, reality and morality. Statism. The state has "supreme right against the individual whose supreme duty it is to be a member of the State." It is ridiculous to compare different political systems, or to plan ideal societies. "Every nation has the constitution appropriate to it and suitable for it." The relations between states not governed by law. Within states formal freedom (achieve by the English, American and French revolutions) must be distinguished from substantial freedom. This is the heart of Hegel's conservatism. Ethics can only be social ethics, the value system of the society. There is not universal ethics or private ethics to which an individual might appeal. Internalization and alienation. Overview, criticism, influence. Perhaps the most brilliant metaphysical totalization of reality ever achieved.
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- "From Socrates to Sartre is an educational show hosted by Dr. Thelma Z. Lavine, who teaches viewers about the theories and history of philosophy."
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Copyright Holder: MPT
Host: Thelma Z. Lavine, Ph.D.
Producing Organization: Maryland Public Television
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Maryland Public Television
Identifier: 36588.0 (MPT)
Format: Digital Betacam
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- Chicago: “From Socrates To Sartre; #20; The Owl of Minerva,” 1978-12-01, Maryland Public Television, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed December 4, 2023, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-394-79v15s9t.
- MLA: “From Socrates To Sartre; #20; The Owl of Minerva.” 1978-12-01. Maryland Public Television, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. December 4, 2023. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-394-79v15s9t>.
- APA: From Socrates To Sartre; #20; The Owl of Minerva. Boston, MA: Maryland Public Television, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-394-79v15s9t