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were, a view of an object from a position in its surrounding space, taking
into account the laws of perspective for that space, and such that the information contained in different perspectives from different positions in the
same space can be pieced together to work out the properties of the object.
But precisely what we cannot do is to piece together the two points of
view into one uniﬁed theoretical account of the world. At this point, Kant
breaks with the long tradition of Western metaphysics and theology. When
Kant says that the postulate of freedom, say, is afﬁrmed from the practical
point of view, he means that it has no role in the unifying theories of high
science. None of the postulates extends in the least our theoretical understanding (KP :, ff., ). The reasonable belief in God has no role in
physics, and the God of physics, the God of the physico-teleological proof
(KP :–; KU §), has no role in practical faith.
. But if the two points of view are not related as perspectives of one
and the same world, how are they related? The answer, I think, lies in how
Kant understands the unity of reason: he holds that the points of view of
both forms of reason articulate the point of view of an interest of pure
reason, and that the unity of reason is established by a constitution that in
effect orders these interests and secures for each all of its legitimate claims.
The key idea is that no legitimate interest of one form of reason is sacriﬁced
to an interest of the other; all the interests of reason, properly identiﬁed,
can be and are fully guaranteed. He writes (KP :f.): “To every power
of mind an interest can be ascribed, that is, a principle that contains the
conditions under which alone its exercise is advanced. Reason, as the faculty
of principles, determines the interest of all the powers of mind including
its own. The interest of its speculative use consists in the knowledge of
objects up to the highest a priori principles; that of its practical use lies in
the determination of the will with respect to the ﬁnal and perfect end.”
Thus, while theoretical and practical reason have different interests, the
unity of reason fully validates their proper claims so that they are met without balancing or compromise or loss within the one constitution of reason.
The space, as it were, that practical reason occupies by the postulates, theoretical reason denies to itself once the antinomies are revealed.
. To illustrate: it is illegitimate, on Kant’s view, for theoretical reason
to claim the right to reject all beliefs that cannot be established by manifest
examples in experience, even though they should be necessary for the integ[ ]
rity of the practical use of reason and not in the least contradictory to the
interests of theoretical reason (KP :Af.). Theoretical reason has two legitimate interests: one is the positive interest in regulating the understanding
and unifying into the highest possible systematic unity the low-level empirical knowledge it provides; the other is the negative interest in restricting
speculative folly. So long as the postulates of practical faith do not trespass
on these interests, theoretical reason has no grounds to object.
On the other hand, it is also illegitimate for empirical practical reason,
which merely serves the inclinations, to be the basis of postulates. For in
that case Mohammed’s paradise and the fantasies of theosophists would
press their monstrosities on reason to reason’s destruction (KP :f.). But
the postulates of pure practical reason depend on the a priori object constructed by pure reason itself, and against these postulates theoretical reason
has nothing to say, as they occupy a space it abdicates.
Thus the unity of reason is established not by the points of view of the
two forms of reason being ordered by their perspectival relations to the
(one) world, but by the harmony and full satisfaction of the legitimate
claims of theoretical and practical reason as articulated in the form and
structure of the two points of view. Reason supplies its own unity through
a critique of itself: the aim of critique is precisely to establish this unity.
. Many will ﬁnd this view unsatisfactory. It may appear to give a merely
pragmatic order of adjustment, almost a judicial settlement, as if the unity
of reason is established by the court of reason—the supreme court of critique—arranging a peace between the disputing interests of reason itself.
To say this would be a mistake, for there is no balancing of conﬂicting
interests, and all of the legitimate claims of reason are fully met. Of course,
many will have hoped for a unity modeled on the structure of the world
itself, a unity already given for reason to discover. That is not the kind of
unity Kant provides. As I have said, it is at this point that he breaks with
the tradition of philosophy and theology up to his day.
Kant views philosophy as defense, not as apology in the traditional sense
of Leibniz, but as the defense of our faith in reason and of the reasonable
faith that sustains it. While we cannot give a theoretical proof of the possibility of freedom, it sufﬁces to assure ourselves that there is no such proof
of its impossibility; and the fact of reason then allows us to assume it (KP
:). If the legitimate claims of theoretical and practical reason are both
reconciled in one constitution of reason, and if that constitution allows due
place for mathematics and science, for morality and practical faith, and for
our other fundamental interests as reasonable and rational persons, then,
for Kant, the aims of the critique of reason are achieved.
It is essential to see that Kant is not presenting an argument that the
beliefs of reasonable faith (in either form) are true by the criteria of empirical
and scientiﬁc truth; it is not his intention to lay out evidence aimed at
making a convincing theoretical case. He presents instead considerations
showing why we are entitled to afﬁrm those beliefs and why our doing so
does not infringe the legitimate claims of theoretical reason, although, to
be sure, the pretensions of the dogmatisms of empiricism and of pure reason
are humbled, and both must give way to the intellectual virtues of modesty
and tolerance.7 Our afﬁrming these beliefs springs from our moral sensibility, our devotion to the moral law, and answers to the needs of our practical
reason. Kant’s doctrine is a defense of reasonable faith, and, more generally,
of what he sees as the fundamental interests of humanity.
7. See, for example, section of Chapter of Book of the Dialectic (KR B–).
. I begin by recalling how we have proceeded. With each writer—Hume,
Leibniz, and Kant—I have tried to bring out what is distinctive in their
approach to moral philosophy, why they were moved to write the texts
we read, and what they hoped to accomplish. These texts have much to
teach us, and knowing these works puts before us possibilities of thought
vastly different from those we would normally be aware of. We don’t study
them in the hope of ﬁnding some philosophical argument, some analytic
idea that will be directly useful for our present-day philosophical questions
in the way they arise for us. No, we study Hume, Leibniz, and Kant because
they express deep and distinctive philosophical doctrines.
. In discussing Hegel (–), I have much the same aim.1 I focus
1. Of Hegel’s works, some of the main ones are Hegel’s Logic, trans. William Wallace (Oxford:
Oxford University Press, ), a translation of Part I of the Encyclopedia of , revised and ;
Hegel’s Philosophy of Mind, trans. William Wallace and A. V. Miller (Oxford: Oxford University Press,
), a translation of Part III of the Encyclopedia; Lectures on the Philosophy of World History, Introduction,
trans. H. B. Nisbet (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, ); The Phenomenology of Spirit (Geist)
(), trans. A. V. Miller (Oxford: Oxford University Press, ); The Philosophy of Right (), trans.
H. B. Nisbet, ed. Allen Wood (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, ); Science of Logic (–
), trans. A. V. Miller (London: Unwin, ); Hegel’s Political Writings, trans. T. M. Knox, with an
introductory essay by Z. A. Pelczynski (Oxford: Oxford University Press, ). The following secondary texts are valuable among others: Michael Inwood, A Hegel Dictionary (Oxford: Blackwell, );
Frederick Beiser, ed., The Cambridge Companion to Hegel (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
); Allen Wood, Hegel’s Ethical Thought (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, ); Michael
Hardimon, Hegel’s Social Philosophy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, ); Shlomo Avineri,
Hegel’s Theory of the Modern State (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, ).
on what Hegel added and on what is special about his contribution. With
this in mind, I look, all too brieﬂy, at his Philosophy of Right () (hereafter
PR). This work contains his moral philosophy and his distinctively institutional idea of ethical life (Sittlichkeit), and explains how it connects with his
view of persons as rooted in and fashioned by the system of political and
social institutions under which they live. These are among Hegel’s important contributions to moral philosophy. Regrettably, I say almost nothing
about his metaphysics. I believe that most of his moral and political philosophy can stand on its own. Undeniably much is lost; at places in PR, and
in the Lectures on the Philosophy of World History, the metaphysics comes
to the fore. Hegel’s ultimate explanation of the course of the world, and
of the historical transitions from one epoch to another, is found in what
he calls Spirit or Mind (Geist). A true metaphysician, he believes that reality
is fully intelligible—which is the thesis of absolute idealism—and so it must
answer to the ideas and concepts of a reasonable and coherent categorial
system. This system is laid out step by step in the Science of Logic (–
). These fundamental matters I leave aside.
I interpret Hegel as a moderately progressive reform-minded liberal,2
and I see his liberalism as an important exemplar in the history of moral
and political philosophy of the liberalism of freedom.3 Other such exemplars
are Kant and, less obviously, J. S. Mill. (A Theory of Justice is also a liberalism
of freedom and learns much from them.) I shall look at how Hegel thought
the concept of freedom was actually realized in the social world through
political and social institutions at a particular historical moment. In this,
Hegel rejects Kant’s account of transcendental freedom, and with it Kant’s
understanding of both ethics and the role of moral philosophy. As we will
see, many of the traditional ambitions of moral philosophy are to be
brought within those of political philosophy, as Hegel understands it.
Today I am particularly concerned to explain what Hegel means in saying that “[t]he free will is the will that wills itself as the free will.” This
combines PR §§ and , but I hope does not distort the sense. And what
2. Although not a radical, Hegel always regarded the French Revolution as a colossal and
progressive historical event. A student reported in that a year never went by that he didn’t
drink a toast celebrating the anniversary of Bastille Day. See Wood, in his note to the translation
by Nisbet, p. .
3. By this I mean that its ﬁrst principles are principles of political and civic freedoms, and these
principles have a priority over other principles that may also be invoked.
does Hegel mean by saying that this free will is incorporated and made
manifest in the political and social institutions of the modern state? Without
knowing exactly how and why, we can already see that this account of free
will is going to be very different from Kant’s, which we have just considered. Hegel’s views on this matter constitute one of his most important
contributions to moral and political philosophy.
§. Philosophy as Reconciliation
. I begin by noting Hegel’s view of philosophy as reconciliation.4 To see
what that might mean, consider the ﬁfth paragraph of the Preface (ﬁfth
counting Nisbet paragraphs in Allen Wood’s edition): “The truth about right,
ethics, and the state is as old as its public exposition and promulgation in
public laws, and in public morality and religion. What more does this truth
require inasmuch as thinking is not content to possess it in this proximate
manner? What it needs is to be comprehended so that the content which
is already rational in itself may also gain a rational form and thereby appear
justiﬁed to free thinking. For such thinking does not stop at what is given
. . . but starts out from itself and thereby demands to know itself as united
in its innermost being with the truth.
The term reconciliationthe German Versoăhnungts here because
Hegel thinks that the most appropriate scheme of institutions for the expression of freedom already exists. It stands before our eyes. The task of philosophy, especially political philosophy, is to comprehend this scheme in
thought. And once we do this, Hegel thinks, we will become reconciled to
our social world. Now, to become reconciled to our social world does not
mean to become resigned to it. Versoăhnung and not Entsagungresignation.
It is not as if the existing social world is the best among a number of unhappy alternatives. Rather, reconciliation means that we have come to see
our social world as a form of life in political and social institutions that
realizes our essence—that is, the basis of our dignity as persons who are
free. It will “thereby appear justiﬁed to free thinking.”
. So the role of political philosophy, as Hegel sees it, is to grasp the social
world in thought and to express it in a form in which it can be seen by us to
4. Michael Hardimon, Hegel’s Social Philosophy: The Project of Reconciliation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, ), p. . I have learned much from this book and draw from it here.
be rational. The word Hegel uses for rational here is vernuănftig. As I have
said in discussing Kant, this is an important term in German philosophy. It
must not be mistaken for instrumental, or means-ends, or economic rationality. Often the English word “reasonable” is better. When in our reﬂections
we understand our social world as expressing our freedom and enabling us
to achieve it as we lead our daily life, we become reconciled to it. Philosophy
in this role is not merely an academic exercise. It tells us something about
ourselves; it shows us our freedom of will—that we have it through institutions, not in other ways. This understanding in turn makes a form of life real.
The explanation is that a form of life is not fully made real or actual (wirklich)
until it is made self-conscious. Geist only fully realizes itself in human thought
and self-consciousness. So the form of the modern state, which in its political
and social institutions expresses the freedom of persons, is not fully actual
until its citizens understand how and why they are free in it. The work of
political philosophy is to help them to understand that. It looks not to a world
that ought to be that lies beyond the world (as Hegel thought Kant’s philosophy did), but to a world before their eyes that actualizes their freedom.
Here Hegel is attacking Kant’s idea of freedom at the deepest level. He
takes Kant to think that our freedom raises us above all the contingencies
of our human nature (our inclinations and needs), and above all the contingencies of our society and its history, and therefore that it is possible for us
always to act from the moral law and to achieve a good will, albeit gradually, once we fully resolve to do so. This alleged transcendental freedom
implies that all persons have an equal chance to attain the ideal of a person
of good moral character (a good will), whatever their more particular fortunes in the world. We might say that Kant thinks God has arranged things
so that we all equally have the power (or capacity) to work for our salvation.
Hegel will deny that human freedom can be fully actualized apart from the
appropriate social framework. It is only within a rational (reasonable) social
world, one that by the structure of its institutions guarantees our freedom,
that we can lead lives that are fully rational and good. And although no
social world can guarantee our happiness, it is only within such a world
that full happiness can be attained. Thus Hegel endorses the Pythagorean’s
advice: “When a father asked him for advice about the best way of educating his son in ethical matters, a Pythagorean replied, ‘Make him the citizen
of a state with good laws’ ” (PR §).