Hegels’s doctrine of institutions. Politics, ethical life, and the philosophy of spirit1

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This essay explicates Hegel’s doctrine of institutions, rooted in his account of ethical life (Sittlichkeit) and his broader theory of spirit or Geist, and directed to an interdependent view of the relationship of subjective sentiment and objective arrange-ments. Part 1 critically reviews the “dependency thesis” (variously associated with Robert Pippin, Dieter Henrich, and Jean-François Kervégan) and its asymmetrical view of the relationship of institutions and individuals, arguing that for Hegel, for their meaning and reality institutions also depend on the knowledge and will of relevant individuals. Part 2 considers the role played by intersubjective relations in Hegel’s account of institutions, contesting the view of those (e.g., Axel Honneth) who dispute or minimize that role. Part 3 presents Hegel’s theory of institutions in line with the account of second nature proper to objective spirit, and thus as a theory of embodied sociality and an instantiation of the reflexivity specific to a theory of Geist and its animating concept of freedom. Part 4 considers the place of institutions in Hegel’s account of ethical life, itself divided into the sub-spheres of family, civil society (bürgerliche Gesellschaft), and the state. Part 5 examines the specific account of institutions Hegel presents in his doctrine of civil society, focusing particularly on the concluding discussion of corporations. Part 6 examines the specific account of institutions that Hegel presents in the doctrine of state and its associated constitutional theory, focusing on the last of the three constitutional powers: the legislature and the public sphere enabling it. Part 7 briefly considers the normativity of Hegel’s institutional theory.

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Argumenta Philosophica



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