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'Constant revolutionizing of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainity and agitation distinquish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones ... All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned.' Marx

freedom, bildung, Hegel « Previous | |Next »
February 09, 2006

As we have noted in the post below Tim Dunlop over at Road to Surfdom raises the issue of competing goods:

Drawing a line between such clashing goods is probably the fundamental test that liberal democracies set themselves. And the current climate of war, invasion, terrorism is constantly throwing up instances where we have to draw lines between competing notions of "the good".... I don't have any pat answers as to how to deal with these issues, but I think it helps to realise that conflicting good ends can be just as problematic as any conflict of opposites.

One pathway opened by the category of intersubjective recognition of others is that of Bildung or the process of cultural education. It is an idea that is rarely mentioned in Australian debates.Vasiliki Karavakou in his paper Hegel on culture and globalization gives a good description of the philosophical ethos associated with Bildung.

Karavakou says that:

Hegel shaped his understanding of culture under the weight of the Kantian legacy. Therefore, he incorporated in it the idea of sharing the clustering of cultural values by which we live. With this step he was also able to avoid the strictly individualistic understanding suggested by German romanticism. The Kantian idea of a struggling human reason enabled him to appreciate the significance of a project in which both individuals and cultures try to come to terms with their internal imperfections and inadequacies. He deviates from the Kantian prescriptions, when he determines to view this struggle not as a predicament of poverty and incorrigible deficiency, but as the richness typical of humanity.

Kant introuduces the idea of freedom as autonomy that can be traced back to Rousseau, which is usually understood as self-determination and is contrasted with the negative freedom of market liberalism; or the the naturalistic understanding of freedom of Hobbes and the utilitariians that understands freedom as the unimpeded pursuit of one's empirically given desires.

Karavakou says

The essence of the Kantian view of culture comes down to the idea of our being able to legislate for ourselves spontaneously. At its best, this idea amounts to the exercise of the capacity to self-compulsion and the subsequent triumph of reason over nature. For Hegel, the problem is that because such an ideal of culture presupposes the endorsement of dualism, it is bound to be unrealistic and impossible to live up to for actual, living human beings. That was precisely the challenge to which Hegel had to respond, i.e. how to steer the middle theoretical way between rational universalism and cultural diversity, between rational abstraction and historical relativity. What the Hegelian notion of Bildung allows us to do is “to settle for a second-rate naturally constrained spontaneity” to use John McDowell’s phrase (1994, p.96).

Bildung is associated with ethical life that initially appears as custom, habit and second nature and is the art of making human beings ethical. Unlike Roussau's conception of education as taking place individualistically (as outlined in Emile), Hegel's ethical education is a living within the ethical order and so its linked to being a citizen of a state.

Karavakou says that Bildung as ethical education means that:

We are not mere transcendental possibilities or members of the Kingdom of Ends, but living organisms sharing a world of language, custom and social norms. In the Hegelian light, the life of somebody capable of achieving the ideals of a cultured way of life, of moral autonomy and political freedom can be represented as a process of training oneself in mental, emotional and volitional terms by sharing the world's most significant objective dimensions. In the Philosophy of Right, the road to culture is the road to reason and anyone who “travels on that high road” must learn to appreciate the universal significance of Geist and avoid being conspicuous (para.15A, p.230; Werke 7, p.67).

Although Hegel's emphasis on ethical life is on the unreflective character of custom and habit, ethical education in modernity gives rise to educated insight, self-awareness, subjective freedom in civil society and the culture of a people.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 11:16 AM | | Comments (0)