The metaphysics of eating: Jewish dietary law and Hegel's social theory

Philosophy and Social Criticism 27 (5):59-88 (2001)
This paper analyzes how 'Jewishness' functions as a scapegoat for the apparently unbridgeable gap between spirit and matter in Hegel's social and aesthetic theory. If Hegel accuses 'the Jews' and 'Judaism' of inhabiting a radical divide between the empirical and the spiritual - a divide that coincides with the one between body and body politic - he follows the trajectory of Kant's opposition between autonomy and heteronomy. Kant's notion of freedom describes reason's transcendence of the material world, but this state of autonomy paradoxically depends on the heteronomous force of legal power that enforces a 'Mine and Yours' ownership and property distinction. In Kant's account 'Jewishness' embodies a social way of life founded on superstition (Aberglaube) that enacts the opposite of autonomy and is heteronomously bound to objects of empirical reality, whereas the 'Mine and Yours' ownership and property distinction of a Kantian civil society teaches the foregoing of material goods, if contact with them violates positive law. Developing Kant's idealism, Hegel accuses 'the Jews' of making immediate being absolute. By conflating 'Jewishness' and materialism, Hegel excludes 'the Jews' from his idealist conception of the body politic. Key Words: anti-Semitism • autonomy • body • culture • dialectics • German idealism • Hegel • heteronomy • immutability • Kant.
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