Merold Westphal


History and Truth in Hegel’s Phenomenology (1979)Edit

  • Hegel’s lack of charity toward the instrument metaphor is not arbitrary. It represents his disenchantment with the assumption that knowledge is power and that method is the means to this end. ... Descartes’ conception of method, like Bacon’s, is linked to this idea of knowledge as an instrument of power. ... The same could be said of Locke. Hegel can rightly claim that the instrument metaphor pervades the epistemological tradition he is seeking to transcend.
    • pp. 3-4
  • Hegel’s ... deepest objections to the view of knowledge as method and power, as “controlling knowledge” (Scheler, Tillich) or “the logic of domination” (Marcuse), are moral. He agrees with Schiller that “utility is the great idol of the times.”
    • p. 4
  • Knowledge conceived as an instrument is a means to the end of power. The goal of philosophy, however, is not to gain power over the Absolute but to know it as it truly is.
    • p. 4

Kierkegaard’s Critique of Reason and Society (1992)Edit

  • Kierkegaard seeks to un-socialize the individual in order to un-deify society.
    • p. 34
  • To assume that one’s existential task is completed when the individual is brought into right relation with society, that is, when the individual has been socialized, is to absolutize society and confuse society with God.
    • p. 35
  • The question concerns the texture of daily life. Does the individual live with the assurance, conscious or unconscious, that We are absolute—or with the challenge of being, both as I and as We, finite and human?
    • p. 38
  • To a society that inarticulately and thoughtlessly takes itself to be divine, Hegel says, Yes, we are indeed divine, and philosophy can show how this is both possible and necessary.
    • p. 38
  • [For Hegel] it is the ethical task of the individual to transcend particularity and conform to the universal, to exhibit as a matter of character and behavior the values expressed in the laws and customs of his or her people. The problem is that the universal … is itself without moral obligations as soon as it has been absolutized. As divine, its will is law and its deeds are good.
    • pp. 39-40
  • In a revolutionary age talk of equality may well have represented a passion to provide full human dignity to those who had previously been denied it by systems of political and economic domination; but in the present age it softens the spiritual requirements that are an essential ingredient in human dignity. Thus the slogans of equality serve not so much to elevate individuals to the dignity of being human as to free them from the responsibility of rising to this vocation.
    • p. 49
  • It is the shared bad faith by which individuals help each other sustain the illusion that they can shirk their spiritual destiny by joining the public.
    • p. 49
  • For the amoral herd that fears boredom above all else, everything becomes entertainment. Sex and sport, politics and the arts are transformed into entertainment. … Nothing is immune from the demand that boredom be relieved (but without personal involvement, for mass society is a spectator society).
    • p. 50

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