Saturday, September 27, 2008

Brandom on Hegel

Thanks to SOH-Dan for posting about Brandom's current work on Hegel. I remembering hearing maybe five or so years ago Brandom was writing a book on Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit. It was believable since he had already published some articles on Hegel and sections of the Tales of the Mighty Dead dealt directly with Hegel.

I've wondered what form Brandom's book would take. Many works on Hegel's Phenomenology are fairly straight forward commentaries. H. S. Harris's Hegel's Ladder goes far beyond any of the many commentaries in terms of its detail and comprehensiveness. Pinkard's is an interesting Sellarsian take (with some serious Barndomian influences). But I could not imagine Brandom taking the time or interest in this kind of scholarly and reconstructive work. Now after seeing what he's done with Kant and Hegel in his Woodbridge Lectures, it became clearer there was no chance of this. But how does one write on Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit without getting caught in commentary mode. One option is the general Heideggerian approach: by writing about a historical figure you write a commentary on yourself. Well, after a brief perusal through Chapter 8 of Brandom's A Spirit of Trust, the title of what apparently is the long-awaited Hegel book, it seems to be somewhere between the traditional commentary and the Heideggerian approach (though this is a fairly speculative comment). There are lots of long quotations interpreted through Brandom's philosophical framework.

The chapter is itself long (256 pages in Word), so, as SOH-Dan points out, this will likely rival Maxing it Explicit in size, but I wonder to what extent it will influence how people understand Hegel. My bet is that Brandom's own philosophical work on inferentialism, semantics and normativity will have a greater influence on Idealism studies than his own commentaries on Hegel or Kant. There is some historical precedence for this. Look at the influence Sellars has had on Kant studies or even McDowell. Strawson's work on Kant might be an exception but the debate over transcendental arguments, one of his greatest legacies, stems originally from Individuals and not the Bounds of Sense. But maybe I'm overstating things in the case of Strawson, he did after all make it permissible, along with Bennett, for Anglo-American philosophers to take Kant seriously. Anyway, these are just some cursory half-thoughts.

You should checkout Brandom's very funny "Untimely Review of Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit." Brandom's so-called review can be found here on his webpage, and his chapter along with other Hegel papers here.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Hegel and German Idealism (CFP)



Graduate Student Conference
University of Notre Dame
March 6-8, 2009

Deadline for Submission: December 15, 2008

Robert Brandom, University of Pittsburgh
Paul Franks, University of Toronto

Graduate students of the Notre Dame philosophy department invite papers relating to the philosophy of Hegel and the tradition of German Idealism. This conference, sponsored by the Nanovic Institute for European Studies, is designed to provide graduate students in philosophy and all areas of the humanities the opportunity to present research on issues related to the philosophical and historical roots, development, and impact of Hegel's philosophy and German Idealism.

Possible topics include, but are not limited to:

• The philosophical origins of German Idealism (in Kant, the post-Kantians, the Romantics, etc…).
• 19th century critiques of Hegel and German Idealism.
• Influence of Hegel/ German Idealism on 19th and/or 20th century political developments.
• The impact of Hegel/ German Idealism on contemporary philosophy.
• The revival of interest in Hegel and German Idealism in contemporary analytic philosophy.

Papers should be suitable for 20-minute presentation (10-12 pages) and should be submitted in blind review format. Deadline for submission is
December 15, 2008. Please include author's name, title, and institutional affiliation in email. Notifications will be made no later than February 1, 2009. Selected presenters will be provided with meals and campus hotel accommodations for the conference. Submissions and questions should be emailed to

Please see website for more details:

Sponsored by the Nanovic Institute for European Studies and the University of Notre Dame Graduate School.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Rousseau, Self-Love and Recognition

Frederick Neuhouser, who is well-known for his work on Fichte and Hegel, published this week Rousseau's Theodicy of Self-Love: Evil, Rationality, and the Drive for Recognition. I expect that the many of us who work on Fichte and Hegel's theory of recognition will find much of interest in this work. Here is the publisher's book description:
This book is the first comprehensive study of Rousseau's rich and complex theory of the type of self-love (amour proper ) that, for him, marks the central difference between humans and the beasts. Amour proper is the passion that drives human individuals to seek the esteem, approval, admiration, or love--the recognition --of their fellow beings. Neuhouser reconstructs Rousseau's understanding of what the drive for recognition is, why it is so problematic, and how its presence opens up far-reaching developmental possibilities for creatures that possess it. One of Rousseau's central theses is that amour proper in its corrupted, manifestations--pride or vanity--is the principal source of an array of evils so widespread that they can easily appear to be necessary features of the human condition: enslavement, conflict, vice, misery, and self-estrangement. Yet Rousseau also argues that solving these problems depends not on suppressing or overcoming the drive for recognition but on cultivating it so that it contributes positively to the achievement of freedom, peace, virtue, happiness, and unalienated selfhood. Indeed, Rousseau goes so far as to claim that, despite its many dangers, the need for recognition is a condition of nearly everything that makes human life valuable and that elevates it above mere animal existence: rationality, morality, freedom--subjectivity itself--would be impossible for humans if it were not for amour properand the relations to others it impels us to establish.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Some Kant Links

Here are a few Kant links:

James Conant on on "John McDowell's Kant", a recording of a lecture given at the University of Bergen.

A new Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on "Kant's Account of Reason."

A review of Paul Guyer's new book Knowledge, Reason, and Taste: Kant's Response to Hume.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

German Idealism Workshop

For those of you in the New York area, we are holding the first German Idealism Workshop on September 19 at the New School.

Kristina Engelhard (University of Cologne) will deliver a paper titled “Hegel on/in Contradiction” and Angelica Nuzzo (Brooklyn College) will respond.

The workshop will be at the New School for Social Research, 65 5th Ave, Machinist Conference Room (Mezzanine level), 4:30 pm. Please email me if you plan to attend and would like a copy of the paper.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Novalis Review

An interesting review appeared today in NDPR by Jane Kneller. She is reviewing the new translation by David Wood of Novalis's Notes for a Romantic Encyclopaedia: Das Allgemeine Brouillon. Her review is very positive, but what I find interesting is that she sets up Wood's translation and introduction as a challenge to the work of Manfred Frank. Frank has defended the thesis that Novalis's Fichte-Studies are his most important and philosophical work, and against Dieter Henrich, Frank has claimed that the Fichte-Studies are also the most thorough critique of Fichte's foundationalism presented in the 1790s. What is interesting about the Fichte-Studies is that as Novalis moves away from Fichte, he appears to become more Kantian.

Novalis's Romantic Encyclopaedia is much more than a critique of Fichte or an investigation of the Critical Philosophy--it is in the words of Kneller "an important set of short essays, aphorisms, fragments and musings on the sciences and the nature of systematic knowledge. In true early romantic fashion it is wide-ranging in content and style, touching on topics from art to experimental method in the sciences, from philosophy and religion to butter softening, colic, gout, fever and the symbolism of human dress."

Both of these works are significant and essential to understanding Novalis's thought. Frank spends little time writing about Novalis's more poetic and wide ranging fragments like those found in the Encyclopaedia, which is unfortunate and to some extent might limit his understanding of the Fichte-Studies. As far as I can tell, the two projects continue a similar like of investigation that is focused on understanding the limits of science and systematization. Maybe they should be even read together, as a single project. In that case, the question of which is more important or more mature looses some of its allure.