Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Brownlee, Timothy. Review of Robert Pippin's HEGEL'S PRACTICAL PHILOSOPHY. NDPR (May 2009).

Pippin, Robert P. Hegel’s Practical Philosophy: Rational Agency and Ethical Life. Cambridge: CUP, 2008. Robert Pippin's Hegel's Practical Philosophy is a book-length investigation of Hegel's conception of action and agency. Pippin claims that the distinguishing feature of actions for Hegel is that they are "the distinct sorts of events for which we may appropriately demand reasons or justifications from subjects whom we take to be responsible for such events occurring" (3). He goes on to argue that this conception of practical reason rests on a specific account of freedom, and the primary task of the book is to spell out the elements of Hegel's conception of freedom. In this sense, Hegel's Practical Philosophy provides a practical complement to the largely theoretical investigations of Pippin's earlier Hegel's Idealism, and has the potential to be of equal importance for our understanding of Hegel. The book should prove to be a significant one not only for scholars of Hegel's practical philosophy, but also for those interested in German idealism more generally, the history of ethics and political philosophy, as well as philosophers interested in issues related to action and agency and contemporary political thought. Indeed, one of the merits of Pippin's work is that, unlike some other treatments of the work of German idealists, and Hegel in particular, the book should prove accessible to non-specialists and those not initiated into the often perplexing vocabulary engineered in the wake of Kant's critical revolution in philosophy. At the same time, the work is not simply a narrative restatement of the central elements of Hegel's conception of freedom. Pippin indicates an admirable sensitivity to the argumentative significance of Hegel's stance, and he does much to situate that stance in relation to contemporary issues in the philosophy of action. He clearly intends the work to be not only of antiquarian interest, but actually to constitute something like a defense of Hegel's position. Of course, readers should not expect lengthy discussions of many questions central to mainstream discussions of the freedom of the will. While Pippin claims that Hegel rejects voluntarism, incompatibilism, and dualism in favor of a form of compatibilism, he also argues that Hegel takes issue with many of the ontological presuppositions at work in modern treatments of action ("the isolation of subjects as ontologically distinct individuals and of a subject's reasons as episodic or dispositional and perhaps uniquely causal mental states") and, for that reason, elements of the argument will no doubt appear to be heterodox (9). . . . Read the rest here:

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