Theses Doctoral

Personal Freedom and Its Discontents: Hegel on the Ethical Basis of Modern Skepticism

Katz, Gal

Can an error be rational? Hegel traces modern skepticism to the mistaken idea that the object of knowledge is ontologically separate from our rational, subjective minds. Once we subscribe to this idea—which John McDowell has called “the basic misconception of modern philosophy”—we can only represent reality as it appears to us, as subjects, rather than know it in-itself, as it is independently of us. However, and contrary to McDowell and other prominent commentators, I argue that Hegel takes this mistake to be ethically rational; it is grounded in basic and enduring features of the modern socio-political order, features that are necessary for individual freedom and for economic and cultural development. And yet, while it is neither possible nor desirable to eliminate modern skepticism, I argue that Hegel’s social theory offers ethical arrangements that are meant to mitigate its potentially nihilistic effects. I reconstruct his account of the modern (nuclear) family as a case of what I call an “ethical remedy” to skepticism.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Neuhouser, Frederick
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
October 10, 2017