Logical Form and Ethical Content

Hegel Bulletin 32 (1-2):143-162 (2011)
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Hegel's empty formalism charge is taken, virtually without exception, as a serious objection to Kant's categorical imperative and a powerful refutation of his formalist ethics. The dominant interpretation is represented by Bradley, Paton, Mill, Korsgaard, Guyer, Wood, Schneewind, Sedgwick, more recently, Freyenhagen, and others. So far, the dominant interpretation has remained powerfully influential and virtually unchallenged.However, the dominant interpretation tends to take Hegel's empty formalism in isolation from other texts in the corpus, his holistic system, and dialectical method in general. What makes this non-contextualised approach problematic is that it ignores his remarks on formalism in other texts where his use of dialectical and sceptical method is more in evidence. Hegel's emptiness remarks span his entire career, from their appearance in Jena right up to the end of his career in Berlin. In Jena, his views on formal thinking in a logical sense developed alongside his views on formalism in ethics. Prima facie, the arguments bring together two subject matters that seem to have nothing to do with one another. This may explain why no one has given an interpretation that brings the two domains together. But it is worth noting that Kant himself brings logical considerations to bear on his conception of the moral principle. His distinction between the form of a moral principle and its empirical content recalls his characterisation of logical laws in the firstCritique.



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References found in this work

Science of Logic.M. J. Petry, G. W. F. Hegel, A. V. Miller & J. N. Findlay - 1970 - Philosophical Quarterly 20 (80):273.
The phenomenology of spirit.G. W. F. Hegel, H. C. Brockmeyer & W. T. Harris - 1868 - Journal of Speculative Philosophy 2 (3):165 - 171.
The Practice of Moral Judgment.Paul Guyer - 1993 - Ethics 106 (2):404-423.
The Categorical Imperative.Stuart M. Brown & H. J. Paton - 1949 - Philosophical Review 58 (6):599 - 611.
Kant's formula of universal law.Christine M. Korsgaard - 1985 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 66 (1-2):24-47.

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