Beyond Kant and Hegel: The Struggle to Think Genealogically

Dissertation, The Pennsylvania State University (1994)

Shannon Winnubst
Ohio State University
My dissertation is a genealogical examination of the question of history and historical experience in post-Enlightenment thinking. I examine Kant, Hegel and Foucault to determine both how the Kantian-Hegelian tradition has framed the question of history for us and whether, through the genealogical method of Foucault, philosophical thinking can step outside of that structure. My central argument is against the objectification of history that is performed in Kant and then carried to its fruition in the work of Hegel. I turn to the genealogical method, as developed by Foucault out of the work of Nietzsche, for the possibilities of breaking from this post-Enlightenment Reason and its claims of transcendence to historical experience. ;The social, political and ethical ramifications of these developments frame my dissertation. An examination of post-Enlightenment thinking about history necessarily leads to the questions of historicism, relativism and essentialism in post-Enlightenment ethics. I argue that the genealogical method of Foucault opens a way of thinking about historicism that does not reduce it to the ethical chaos of a pure subjectivism or a solipsistic relativism. This kind of swift dismissal of historicism derives from a post-Kantian objectification of history that places historical phenomena in strict opposition to the "universal and necessary" bases of ethical practices. The genealogical method opens the possibility of escaping these reductions: it enacts a different kind of thinking through its engagement with plural, historical discourses. Showing different performances of reason, many of which do not operate through universal, necessary or formal criteria, genealogical thinking opens the possibility of thinking differently about human reason and its ethical enactments in the world. Both the ethical and epistemic implications of this kind of opening can then lead to ways of re-thinking problems currently facing the work of feminists and social-political philosophers
Keywords Kant, Immanuel   Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich
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