Mon Sep 19, 2016
Howison Library, 4–6 PM
Robert Pippin (University of Chicago)
Hegel on the Political Significance of Collective Self-Deceit
Hegel famously claimed that philosophy “is its own time comprehended in thought.” Yet our own time of mass consumer societies, globalized economies, pervasive social media, and the end of the defensibility of gender-based division of labor, would seem to bear little resemblance to Prussia in the 1820’s. But Hegel also argued for formal characteristics of human sociality that would seem to transcend these differences, and which could still serve some contemporary diagnostic purpose. The most important and controversial of these formal claims concerns the nature of social subjectivity, a form of collective like-mindedness Hegel calls Geist, or “spirit.” He argues that Geist, properly understood, can be said to act much like a “group agent,” can set and pursue ends, form reliable representations of reality, be responsive to challenges to such representations, and to act to realize those purposes in the light of such representations. By far his most controversial attribution to such a collective agent is the possibility of collective self-deceit. In this lecture, I clarify and defend such a claim, its presuppositions, and argue for its continuing political significance.