A passion for justice

Philosophy and Social Criticism 43 (2):187-207 (2017)
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In this article, I explicate Martin Luther King, Jr.’s account of emancipatory history and activism by examining the influence of G. W. F. Hegel’s account of world-historical individuals on his thought. Both thinkers, I argue, affirm that history’s spiritual destiny works through individuals who are driven by the contingencies of their subjective character and given situation to undertake particular actions, and yet who nevertheless freely and decisively break the new from the old by forsaking subjective satisfaction to spur events forward to a more rational state of affairs. This synthetic unity of abstract freedom and concrete embodiment reflects the ‘civil war’ between the universal and infinite essence, and particular and finite passions, that King and Hegel identify as equally constitutive of human will. Through an examination of King’s account of Rosa Parks’ pivotal arrest, I develop the consequences of this ‘Hegelian’ view for our understanding of political action and historical progress.



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Jim Vernon
York University

Citations of this work

Erratum.David M. Rasmussen, Volker Kaul & Alessandro Ferrara - 2017 - Philosophy and Social Criticism 43 (4-5):548-548.

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References found in this work

The philosophy of history.Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel & John Sibree - 1899 - New York: Dover Publications. Edited by J. Sibree.
Hegel, Edward Sanders, and Emancipatory History.Jim Vernon - 2012 - Clio: A Journal of Literature, History, and the Philosophy of History 42 (1):27-52.
The Moral Necessity of Moral Conflict in Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit.Jim Vernon - 2008 - Epoché: A Journal for the History of Philosophy 13 (1):67-80.

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