A Doctrine of Unfreedom: Hegel’s Critique of Empiricist Indifference

Gene Flenady

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ABSTRACT: This paper considers the epistemological bases of Hegel’s claim in the Encyclopedia Logic that historical empiricism is a “doctrine of unfreedom.” Hegel argues this claim in two ways. Firstly, empiricism for Hegel is unable to account for its own cognitive activity, and this inability necessitates some form of idealism. In arguing that “Humans are always thinking, even if they are only perceiving,” Hegel’s idealism accounts for freedom by articulating the irreducibility of judgment in experience. This first argument is seen in deflationary Hegel scholarship to bring Kantian and Hegelian idealisms together. While valid to an extent, this reading does not explain Hegel’s grouping of Kantianism with empiricism. This paper thus turns to a reconstruction of Hegel’s second argument: for Hegel, empiricism illegitimately holds to an indifferentist account of the relations between givens, indicated by Hume’s reduction of causality to contiguity and succession. Despite Kant’s opposition to Hume, Hegel considers this empiricist form of relationality to persist within Kant’s critical project. This indifferent, external or ‘side-by-side’ relation between givens will be shown to be addressed in the dialectic of something and other in the Science of Logic.


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