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Freedom and Institutional Life

A Critique of Recent Hegelian Practical Philosophy

Lecture by Brian O'Connor (University College Dublin), organised by the Department of the History of Philosophy

The institutional theory of freedom developed by Hegel has been advanced and championed recently as an answer to the problem of indeterminacy associated with abstract, especially Kantian, conceptions of freedom.

Locating the practical identity of the individual within formative institutions indeed allows us to understand practical reason as the effort to make sense of one’s options from within a determinate perspective. I want to argue, however, that this theory actually undermines a vital component of freedom. In its binarial concentration on either institutions or indeterminacy it fails to recognize the operations of practical reason that have no institutional basis. It thereby saturates the individual’s exercise of freedom with institutional identity. In this paper I will challenge this theory through an examination of some recent Hegelian works, particularly by Robert Pippin and Axel Honneth. I shall draw on Adorno’s conception of resistance in order to articulate a notion of practical reason that is neither indeterminate nor institutional but which is, at the same time, contextually sensitive.

Brian O’Connor is Associate Professor of Philosophy at University College Dublin.
He is the author of Adorno’s Negative Dialectic (MIT Press, 2004), Adorno: The Routledge Philosophers (Routledge, 2011) and of papers on German Idealism and Critical Theory. He is the editor of The Adorno Reader (Blackwells, 2000) and (with Georg Mohr) of German Idealism: An Anthology and Guide (Edinburgh / Chicago, 2007).

Laatst gewijzigd:30 oktober 2012 20:39