Hegel's Speculative Theory of Political Life: Community and Tragedy in the "Phenomenology of Spirit"

Dissertation, Villanova University (2000)

Authors
Theodore George
Texas A&M University
Abstract
This dissertation provides a careful interpretation of Hegel's conception of political community in the Phenomenology of Spirit. It is often accepted by commentators that for Hegel in this text the highest achievements of community life are to be associated with the realization of 'absolute spirit' and 'the concept.' The author of this dissertation, however, develops a conception of political community based not upon this view, but instead upon a number of crucial, if somewhat oblique, passages within the Phenomenology dedicated to the poetic genera of tragic drama. In light of these remarks, Hegel, perhaps contrary to his own thematic position, suggests that tragic drama can serve as a schema or model for the accomplishment of political community itself. The determination of community exhibited in this view entails a sense of political togetherness which, though a form of unity, nevertheless works to embrace forms of irreconcilable conflict, otherness and difference which lie at the heart of all political affiliation. ;Although the dissertation focuses ultimately on the conception of tragic community elaborated in Chapter VII of the Phenomenology, "Religion in the Form of Art," the author interprets this conception of tragic political unity in conjunction with two other crucial discussions in the text imbued with allusions to tragedy: one found in Hegel's oblique reference to the Antigone of Sophocles in Chapter VI of the Phenomenology on Sittlichkeit, or ethical life, the other indicated by Hegel's reference to 'reversal' in his discussion of mastery and servitude in Chapter IV. In contrast with the Philosophy of Right where Hegel's account is concerned with the establishment of right in the institutions and practices of the modern state, the form of community achieved in tragic drama in the Phenomenology is constituted by means of a communally shared, aesthetic experience. In this dissertation, the author turns not only to the Phenomenology , but relies upon the Philosophy of Right, Lectures on Aesthetics , and interpreters of Hegel in the continental tradition, such as Heidegger, Gadamer and Derrida
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