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This essay is a very belated response to a " part 1 " published in February 2015. The gist of that essay was a response to a corre...

Tuesday, September 17, 2013


Prior to writing Part 2 of my ETHIC, I reviewed the "Lordship and Bondage" chapter of Hegel's PHENOMENOLOGY OF SPIRIT (trans, A.V. Miller).  I read the entire work years ago, made many copious notes in the margins, but have almost never found myself going back to check out isolated passages of the work, as I frequently do with the major works of Kant and Schopenhauer.

I've tried to analyze, as best I can, why Hegel does not compel me.  I'll freely admit that Hegel's main objective, to show how "Spirit" evolves from the *telos* of History as a whole, does not resonate with me.  In addition, I don't find that Hegel justifies his propositions as thoroughly as do Kant and Schopenhauer. Instead he resorts to stating his propositions as self-evident truths, rather than attempting to prove them.  And finally, he's way too abstract for me.  In this essay I critiqued Jung slightly for having insisted on "superordinate concepts," but he's a piker next to George W.F.

What appeals to me about the Kojeve and Fukuyama readings of Hegel-- and what makes me find in them a greater relevance to the way concepts such as "power" and "validation" work out in art-- is that they seem far more grounded in the ways in which actual humans negotiate their quests for meaning.  Marx, much though I loathe his interpretation, did the same when he made Hegel's concept of alienation central to his philosophy:

...although the fear of the lord is indeed the beginning of wisdom, consciousness is not therein aware that it is a being-for-self.  Through work, however, the bondsman becomes conscious of what he truly is.
And about a page later, we get the germ of Marx's "alienated labor" idea:

Through this rediscovery of himself by himself, the bondsman realizes that it is precisely in his work wherein he seemed to have only an alienated existence that he acquires a mind of his own... Without the discipline of service and obedience, fear remains at the formal stage, and does not extend to the known real world of existence.

The lord, even though he has successfully subjugated the bondsman, forcing the latter to perform labor under the threat of death, is actually in a metaphysically inferior position: his fear "remains at the formal stage" only.  Which probably came as a horrible comedown for Richie Rich, to realize how inferior he was to butler Cadbury.

What I find more interesting than Hegel's pratings-- particularly about the effects of the "fear of death" on "being-for-self"-- is the Hegel-derived idea that the positions of both the "lord" and the "bondsman" give rise to different species of validation, which Fukuyama terms *megalothymia* and *isothymia.*  Fukuyama arguably owes more to Nietzsche than to Hegel, given that Nietzsche is best known for having repeatedly pushed a philosophy that celebrated lordship over servility.  Fukuyama attempts, however successfully, to show the appeal of the affects of both mental attitudes, and this proves useful for understanding how the same validations appear in art and literature.

As I will show in Part 2 of THE ETHIC, I'm far more preoccupied with the nature of freedom than that of "being-for-self." 

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