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Title page for ETD etd-03152015-113252

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Matocha, Johanna Martha
URN etd-03152015-113252
Title The living system: Life, ideation and freedom in Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit
Degree PhD
Department Philosophy
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Gregg Horowitz Committee Co-Chair
John Lachs Committee Co-Chair
Fred Rush Committee Member
Idit Dobbs-Weinstein Committee Member
  • Hegel
  • Phenomenology of Spirit
  • Kant
  • critique
  • freedom
  • judgment
Date of Defense 2015-03-14
Availability unrestricted
This dissertation engages the question of the relation between nature and rationality, and the conditions of our freedom, through the lens of the concept of Life. It begins by analyzing biological life in Kant’s Critique of Judgment as a form of judgment bridging theoretical and practical reason. Kant’s argument is limited, however, because it returns us to ourselves with new insight only about our judgment, but not about natural life. Hegel, by contrast, begins his treatment of self-consciousness in the Phenomenology of Spirit in Life, showing how rationality develops out of a mutually constitutive relation with objects in their independence. Hegel’s dialectical relation of subject and object develops into a world increasingly worked over as social structures, norms and institutions that provide the conditions for our situated freedom. Contra the reading that positive liberty entails that we are fully determined by our social conditions, my contention is that Hegel provides a robust theory of our freedom as socially and historically situated. Through a dialectical process of alienation from and interaction with norms and institutions, both we and these external conditions are changed, giving meaning to our agency as the ability to interact with, rather than merely react to, our lifeworld. In the Phenomenology, this interaction first appears as work, through which we create the social structures that come to stand against us in culture. By recognizing the role that work plays in the creation and reinforcement of these institutions, we also realize our own activity as a tool for reforming these social conditions towards an increasingly free and just society.
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