Hegel Bulletin 32 (1-2):163-186 (2011)

Fabian Freyenhagen
University of Essex
Like two heavyweight boxers exchanging punches, but neither landing the knock-out blow, Kantians and Hegelians seem to be in a stand-off on what in contemporary parlance is known as the Empty Formalism Objection. Kant's ethics is charged with being merely formal and thereby failing to provide the kind of specific guidance that any defensible ethical system should have the resources to provide. Hegel is often credited with having formulated this objection in its most incisive way, and a wealth of Kantian responses has been deployed to answer it. In this paper, I take up the objection as it appears in §135R ofElements of the Philosophy of Rightin order to scrutinise the contemporary debate between the two camps. I propose that there are, in fact, three different, albeit connected objections and examine the best Kantian replies to them. I will not adjudicate which of these replies is the most accurate interpretation of Kant's texts, nor trace the particular historical context in which Hegel takes up Kant's ethics, nor the way the Empty Formalism Objection fits into Hegel's wider system. This is partly because of constraints of space, and partly because many of the contemporary Kantian replies — for better or for worse — treat the Empty Formalism Objection as a self-standing philosophical problem, irrespective of its historical context or systematic place in Hegel's theory. My limited aim here is to show that, even if one grants — for argument's sake — the legitimacy of such a non-contextual approach, significant difficulties remain.
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DOI 10.1017/s0263523200000215
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References found in this work BETA

Phenomenology of Spirit.G. W. F. Hegel & A. V. Miller - 1977 - International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 10 (4):268-271.
The Practice of Moral Judgment.Paul Guyer - 1993 - Ethics 106 (2):404-423.
Lectures on the History of Moral Philosophy.John Rawls & Barbara Herman - 2002 - Tijdschrift Voor Filosofie 64 (1):178-179.
The Practice of Moral Judgment.Thomas E. Hill - 1995 - Journal of Philosophy 92 (1):47.

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Logical Form and Ethical Content.Songsuk Susan Hahn - 2011 - Hegel Bulletin 32 (1-2):143-162.

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