This fresh and original book argues that the central questions in Hegel's practical philosophy are the central questions in modern accounts of freedom: What is freedom, or what would it be to act freely? Is it possible so to act? And how important is leading a free life? Robert Pippin argues that the core of Hegel's answers is a social theory of agency, the view that agency is not exclusively a matter of the self-relation and self-determination of an individual but (...) requires the right sort of engagement with and recognition by others. Using a detailed analysis of key Hegelian texts, he develops this interpretation to reveal the bearing of Hegel's claims on many contemporary issues, including much-discussed core problems in the liberal democratic tradition. His important study will be valuable for all readers who are interested in Hegel's philosophy and in the modern problems of agency and freedom. (shrink)
This is the most important book on Hegel to have appeared in the past ten years. Robert Pippin offers a completely new interpretation of Hegel's idealism, which focuses on Hegel's appropriation and development of kant's theoretical project. Hegel is presented neither as a precritical metaphysician nor as a social theorist, but as a critical philosopher whose disagreements with Kant, especially on the issue of intuitions, enrich the idealist arguments against empiricism, realism and naturalism. In the face of the dismissal of (...) absolute idealism as either unintelligible or implausible, Pippin explains and defends an original account of the philosophical basis for Hegel's claims about the historical and social nature of selfconsciousness, and so of knowledge itself. (shrink)
With the rise of review sites and social media, films today, as soon as they are shown, immediately become the topic of debates on their merits not only as entertainment, but also as serious forms of artistic expression. Philosopher Robert B. Pippin, however, wants us to consider a more radical proposition: film as thought, as a reflective form. Pippin explores this idea through a series of perceptive analyses of cinematic masterpieces, revealing how films can illuminate, in a concrete manner, core (...) features and problems of shared human life. Filmed Thought examines questions of morality in Almodóvar’s Talk to Her, goodness and naïveté in Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt, love and fantasy in Sirk’s All That Heaven Allows, politics and society in Polanski’s Chinatown and Malick’s The Thin Red Line, and self-understanding and understanding others in Nicholas Ray’s In a Lonely Place and in the Dardennes brothers' oeuvre. In each reading, Pippin pays close attention to what makes these films exceptional as technical works of art and as intellectual and philosophical achievements. Throughout, he shows how films offer a view of basic problems of human agency from the inside and allow viewers to think with and through them. Captivating and insightful, Filmed Thought shows us what it means to take cinema seriously not just as art, but as thought, and how this medium provides a singular form of reflection on what it is to be human. (shrink)
'Modernity' has come to refer both to a contested historical category and to an even more contested philosophical and civilisational ideal. In this important collection of essays Robert Pippin takes issue with some prominent assessments of what is or is not philosophically at stake in the idea of a modern revolution in Western civilisation, and presents an alternative view. Professor Pippin disputes many traditional characterisations of the distinctiveness of modern philosophy. In their place he defends claims about agency, freedom, ethical (...) life and modernity itself, all of which are central to the German idealist philosophical tradition, and in particular, to the writings of Hegel. Having considered the Hegelian version of these issues the author explores other accounts as found in Habermas, Strauss, Blumenberg, Nietzsche, and Heidegger. (shrink)
In the most influential chapter of his most important philosophical work, the Phenomenology of Spirit, Hegel makes the central and disarming assertions that "self-consciousness is desire itself" and that it attains its "satisfaction" only in another self-consciousness. Hegel on Self-Consciousness presents a groundbreaking new interpretation of these revolutionary claims, tracing their roots to Kant's philosophy and demonstrating their continued relevance for contemporary thought. As Robert Pippin shows, Hegel argues that we must understand Kant's account of the self-conscious nature of consciousness (...) as a claim in practical philosophy, and that therefore we need radically different views of human sentience, the conditions of our knowledge of the world, and the social nature of subjectivity and normativity. Pippin explains why this chapter of Hegel's Phenomenology should be seen as the basis of much later continental philosophy and the Marxist, neo-Marxist, and critical-theory traditions. He also contrasts his own interpretation of Hegel's assertions with influential interpretations of the chapter put forward by philosophers John McDowell and Robert Brandom. (shrink)
The Persistence of Subjectivity examines several approaches to, and critiques of, the core notion in the self-understanding and legitimation of the modern, 'bourgeois' form of life: the free, reflective, self-determining subject. Since it is a relatively recent historical development that human beings think of themselves as individual centers of agency, and that one's entitlement to such a self-determining life is absolutely valuable, the issue at stake also involves the question of the historical location of philosophy. What might it mean to (...) take seriously Hegel's claim that philosophical reflection is always reflection on the historical 'actuality' of its own age? Discussing Heidegger, Gadamer, Adorno, Leo Strauss, Manfred Frank, and John McDowell, Robert Pippin attempts to understand how subjectivity arises in contemporary institutional practices such as medicine, as well as in other contexts such as modernism in the visual arts and in the novels of Marcel Proust. (shrink)
_Modernism as a Philosophical Problem, 2e_ presents a new interpretation of the negative and critical self-understanding characteristic of much European high culture since romanticism and especially since Nietzsche, and answers the question of why the issue of modernity became a philosophical problem in European tradition.
In the Critique of Pure Reason, Kant refers often and with no apparent hesitation or sense of ambiguity to the mind. He does so not only in his justly famous destruction of rationalist proofs of immaterialism, but throughout his own, positive, ‘transcendental’ account in the Transcendental Aesthetic and Transcendental Analytic. In the first edition of the Critique, he even proposed what he adventurously called a ‘transcendental psychology’ and, although this strange discipline seemed to disappear in the second edition, he left (...) in that edition all his frequent references to forms ‘lying in the mind,’ and to the mind, or the self, or the subject of experience, or the ego, doing this or that. Curiously, though, despite an extensive secondary literature, there is in that literature relatively little discussion of what these expressions, in a proper, strictly Kantian sense, are supposed to refer to. There are two imaginative, extremely suggestive articles by Sellars, some hints at connections with eighteenth century psychology offered by Weldon, a tenebrous book by Heidemann, and some recent attention to the general issue of ‘Kant's theory of mind’ by Ameriks and Kitcher. (shrink)
Friedrich Nietzsche is one of the most elusive thinkers in the philosophical tradition. His highly unusual style and insistence on what remains hidden or unsaid in his writing make pinning him to a particular position tricky. Nonetheless, certain readings of his work have become standard and influential. In this major new interpretation of Nietzsche’s work, Robert B. Pippin challenges various traditional views of Nietzsche, taking him at his word when he says that his writing can best be understood as a (...) kind of psychology. Pippin traces this idea of Nietzsche as a psychologist to his admiration for the French moralists: La Rochefoucauld, Pascal, Stendhal, and especially Montaigne. In distinction from philosophers, Pippin shows, these writers avoided grand metaphysical theories in favor of reflections on life as lived and experienced. Aligning himself with this project, Nietzsche sought to make psychology “the queen of the sciences” and the “path to the fundamental problems.” Pippin contends that Nietzsche’s singular prose was an essential part of this goal, and so he organizes the book around four of Nietzsche’s most important images and metaphors: that truth could be a woman, that a science could be gay, that God could have died, and that an agent is as much one with his act as lightning is with its flash. Expanded from a series of lectures Pippin delivered at the Collège de France, _Nietzsche, Psychology, and First Philosophy_ offers a brilliant, novel, and accessible reading of this seminal thinker. (shrink)
In his Berlin lectures on fine art, Hegel argued that art involves a unique form of aesthetic intelligibility—the expression of a distinct collective self-understanding that develops through historical time. Hegel’s approach to art has been influential in a number of different contexts, but in a twist of historical irony Hegel would die just before the most radical artistic revolution in history: modernism. In _After the Beautiful_, Robert B. Pippin, looking at modernist paintings by artists such as Édouard Manet and Paul (...) Cézanne through Hegel’s lens, does what Hegel never had the chance to do. While Hegel could never engage modernist painting, he did have an understanding of modernity, and in it, art—he famously asserted—was “a thing of the past,” no longer an important vehicle of self-understanding and no longer an indispensable expression of human meaning. Pippin offers a sophisticated exploration of Hegel’s position and its implications. He also shows that had Hegel known how the social institutions of his day would ultimately fail to achieve his own version of genuine equality, a mutuality of recognition, he would have had to explore a different, new role for art in modernity. After laying this groundwork, Pippin goes on to illuminate the dimensions of Hegel’s aesthetic approach in the path-breaking works of Manet, the “grandfather of modernism,” drawing on art historians T. J. Clark and Michael Fried to do so. He concludes with a look at Cézanne, the “father of modernism,” this time as his works illuminate the relationship between Hegel and the philosopher who would challenge Hegel’s account of both modernity and art—Martin Heidegger. Elegantly inter-weaving philosophy and art history, _After the Beautiful_ is a stunning reassessment of the modernist project. It gets at the core of the significance of modernism itself and what it means in general for art to have a history. Ultimately, it is a testament, via Hegel, to the distinctive philosophical achievements of modernist art in the unsettled, tumultuous era we have inherited. (shrink)
Hegel frequently claimed that the heart of his entire system was a book widely regarded as among the most difficult in the history of philosophy, The Science of Logic. This is the book that presents his metaphysics, an enterprise that he insists can only be properly understood as a “logic,” or a “science of pure thinking.” Since he also wrote that the proper object of any such logic is pure thinking itself, it has always been unclear in just what sense (...) such a science could be a “metaphysics.” -/- Robert B. Pippin offers here a bold, original interpretation of Hegel’s claim that only now, after Kant’s critical breakthrough in philosophy, can we understand how logic can be a metaphysics. Pippin addresses Hegel’s deep, constant reliance on Aristotle’s conception of metaphysics, the difference between Hegel’s project and modern rationalist metaphysics, and the links between the “logic as metaphysics” claim and modern developments in the philosophy of logic. Pippin goes on to explore many other facets of Hegel’s thought, including the significance for a philosophical logic of the self-conscious character of thought, the dynamism of reason in Kant and Hegel, life as a logical category, and what Hegel might mean by the unity of the idea of the true and the idea of the good in the “Absolute Idea.” The culmination of Pippin’s work on Hegel and German idealism, no Hegel scholar or historian of philosophy will want to miss this book. (shrink)
In this latest book, renowned philosopher and scholar Robert B. Pippin offers the thought-provoking argument that the study of historical figures is not only an interpretation and explication of their views, but can be understood as a form of philosophy itself. In doing so, he reconceives philosophical scholarship as a kind of network of philosophical interanimations, one in which major positions in the history of philosophy, when they are themselves properly understood within their own historical context, form philosophy’s lingua franca. (...) Examining a number of philosophers to explore the nature of this interanimation, he presents an illuminating assortment of especially thoughtful examples of historical commentary that powerfully enact philosophy. After opening up his territory with an initial discussion of contemporary revisionist readings of Kant’s moral theory, Pippin sets his sights on his main objects of interest: Hegel and Nietzsche. Through them, however, he offers what few others could: an astonishing synthesis of an immense and diverse set of thinkers and traditions. Deploying an almost dialogical, conversational approach, he pursues patterns of thought that both shape and, importantly, connect the major traditions: neo-Aristotelian, analytic, continental, and postmodern, bringing the likes of Heidegger, Honneth, MacIntyre, McDowell, Brandom, Strauss, Williams, and Žižek—not to mention Hegel and Nietzsche— into the same philosophical conversation. By means of these case studies, Pippin mounts an impressive argument about a relatively under discussed issue in professional philosophy—the bearing of work in the history of philosophy on philosophy itself—and thereby he argues for the controversial thesis that no strict separation between the domains is defensible. (shrink)
Introduction -- Trapped by oneself in Jacques Tourneur's Out of the past -- "A deliberate, intentional fool" in Orson Welles's The lady from Shanghai -- Sexual agency in Fritz Lang's Scarlet Street -- "Why didn't you shoot again, baby?": concluding remarks.
In this pathbreaking book one of America’s most distinguished philosophers brilliantly explores the status and authority of law and the nature of political allegiance through close readings of three classic Hollywood Westerns: Howard Hawks’ _Red River_ and John Ford’s _The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance_ and _The Searchers._ Robert Pippin treats these films as sophisticated mythic accounts of a key moment in American history: its “second founding,” or the western expansion. His central question concerns how these films explore classical problems (...) in political psychology, especially how the virtues of a commercial republic gained some hold on individuals at a time when the heroic and martial virtues were so important. Westerns, Pippin shows, raise central questions about the difference between private violence and revenge and the state’s claim to a legitimate monopoly on violence, and they show how these claims come to be experienced and accepted or rejected. Pippin’s account of the best Hollywood Westerns brings this genre into the center of the tradition of political thought, and his readings raise questions about political psychology and the political passions that have been neglected in contemporary political thought in favor of a limited concern with the question of legitimacy. (shrink)
THE IDEA OF A "PHILOSOPHICAL SCIENCE," something of a Fata Morgana in the West for several centuries, underwent a well-known revolutionary change when Kant argued that in all philosophical speculation about the nature of things, reason is really "occupied only with itself." Indeed, Kant argued convincingly that the possibility of any cognitive relation to objects presupposed an original and constitutive "relation to self." Thereafter, instead of an a priori science of substance, a science of "how the world must be", a (...) putative philosophical science was directed to the topic of how any subject must "for itself" take or construe or judge the world to be. The nature and forms of such a self-conscious or even self-determining activity assumed center stage in later German philosophy, and, as many commentators have noted, was the decisive presupposition for Hegel's central, deeply obscure position on "the Absolute" as some sort of complete "self-consciousness.". (shrink)
In his inaugural lecture at Cambridge as Regius Professor of Modern History in 1895, Lord Acton urged that the historian deliver moral judgments on the figures of his research. Acton declaimed: I exhort you never to debase the moral currency or to lower the standard of rectitude, but to try others by the final maxim that governs your own lives and to suffer no man and no cause to escape the undying penalty which history has the power to inflict on (...) wrong.1 In 1902, the year after Acton died, the president of the American Historical Association, Henry Lea, in dubious celebration of his British colleague, responded to the exordium with a contrary claim about the historian’s obligation, namely to render the facts of history objectively without subjective moralizing. Referring to Acton’s lecture, Lea declared: I must confess that to me all this seems to be based on false premises and to lead to unfortunate conclusions as to the objects and purposes of history, however much it may serve to give point and piquancy to a narrative, to stimulate the interests of the casual reader by heightening lights and deepening shadows, and to subserve the purpose of propagating the opinions of the writer.2 As our colleague Peter Novick has detailed in his great account of the American historical profession, by the turn of the century historians in the United States had begun their quest for scientific status, which for most seemed to preclude the leakage of moral opinion into the objective recovery of the past—at least in an overt way. Peter also catalogues the stumbling failures of this noble dream, when political partisanship and rampant nationalism sullied the ideal.3 Historians in our own time continue to be wary of rendering explicit moral pronouncements, thinking it a derogation of their obligations. On occasion, some historians have been moved to embrace the opposite attitude, especially when considering the horrendous events of the twentieth century—the Holocaust, for instance.. (shrink)
The Significance of Taste: Kant, Aesthetic and Reflective Judgment ROBERT B. PIPPIN 1? THE FUNDAMENTAL QUESTION of the "Analytic of the Beautiful" in the "Critique of Aesthetic Judgment" is easy enough to identify. On what basis, if any, could one claim some sort of universal a priori validity for judgments of the form, "This is beautiful"? In Kant's well-known analysis of this question, the issue is reformulated as: By what right could one claim that another person ought to feel pleasure (...) in the presence of certain objects? Let us call this the "basic question."' There is controversy enough about what Kant means by this basic question and how a deduction of the validity of such judgments is supposed to work. However, shortly after Kant began serious work on a "Critique of Taste" in ~787, the whole issue became even more complicated when the proposed work became a full-blown Critique of Judgment. The question of aesthetic judg- ment was presented within the new, larger topic of reflective judgment, was presumably thereby linked to the problem of teleological judgments, and so to the great general theme of the whole of the third Critique: the purposiveness I am grateful, for comments and criticisms, to Henry Allison, Volker Gerhardt, Rudolf Makkreel, Miles Rind, and to two anonymous referees for this journal. ' Kant's own formulation: "How is a judgment possible in which the subject, merely on the basis of his own feeling of pleasure in an object,.. (shrink)
The problem of freedom in modern philosophy has three basic components: (i) what is freedom, or what would it be to act freely? (ii) Is it possible so to act? (iii) And how important is leading a free life?1 Hegel proposed unprecedented and highly controversial answers to these questions.
Kant on Freedom, Law, and Happiness. BY PAUL GUYER. (Cambridge UP, 2000. Pp. xii + 440. Price £12.95 or $19.95.) At the beginning of his Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, Kant claims that an ordinary view of morality would have it that moral experience is essentially the experience of obligation. There are clearly occasions, he notes, when our own and others’ interests would be greatly damaged were we to do what is morally required, and when no gain in satisfaction, (...) happiness, well-being or ﬂourishing can be imagined a consequence of the act, yet we understand that we are obliged anyway, unconditionally. We also reserve our highest approval for agents who do what is required just because it is required, who act ‘from duty alone’. (shrink)
As McDowell makes clear in ‘On Pippin’s Postscript’ and in many other works, the interpretive question at issue in this exchange—how to understand the relation between Kant and Hegel, especially as that concerns Kant’s central ‘Deduction’ argument in the Critique of Pure Reason1—brings into the foreground an even larger problem on which all the others depend: the right way to understand at the highest level of generality the relation between active or spontaneous thought and our receptive and corporeal sensibility and (...) bodily embodiment. From Mind and World on, McDowell has indicated that this is in fact a problem so inclusive as to be common to theoretical and practical philosophy; that the issue of how thought informs our sensibility is at bottom the same (raises the same logical or conceptual issue) as the issue of how thought could be said to inform, to be active ‘in’, bodily action; that we can be in the grip of the same bad, misleading picture in accounting for executing an intention as in accounting for acquiring perceptual knowledge.2 I agree with, and follow his lead in, setting the basic framework for the particular issues in just this way. With matters so set out, there are two main areas of disagreement: (i) how to state the role of concepts and especially conceptual activity in the sensible uptake of the world and (ii) what to make of Hegel’s claim for a speculative ‘identity’ between inner and outer in action, or how to state the role of intentions ‘in’ bodily activity. In both cases, McDowell thinks I go too far; too far in terms of what is philosophically correct, and too far in attributing those positions to Hegel. It is the former topic that is in play in this exchange, although elements of the latter arise as well. There is first an issue lingering from the first exchange in Reading McDowell. (shrink)
On the surface, The Philosophical Hitchcock: Vertigo and the Anxieties of Unknowingness, is a close reading of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1958 masterpiece Vertigo. This, however, is a book by Robert B. Pippin, one of our most penetrating and creative philosophers, and so it is also much more. Even as he provides detailed readings of each scene in the film, and its story of obsession and fantasy, Pippin reflects more broadly on the modern world depicted in Hitchcock’s films. Hitchcock’s characters, Pippin shows (...) us, repeatedly face problems and dangers rooted in our general failure to understand others—or even ourselves—very well, or to make effective use of what little we do understand. Vertigo, with its impersonations, deceptions, and fantasies, embodies a general, common struggle for mutual understanding in the late modern social world of ever more complex dependencies. By treating this problem through a filmed fictional narrative, rather than discursively, Pippin argues, Hitchcock is able to help us see the systematic and deep mutual misunderstanding and self-deceit that we are subject to when we try to establish the knowledge necessary for love, trust, and commitment, and what it might be to live in such a state of unknowingness. A bold, brilliant exploration of one of the most admired works of cinema, The Philosophical Hitchcock will lead philosophers and cinephiles alike to a new appreciation of Vertigo and its meanings. (shrink)
In the long aftermath of such modernist suspicions about the still dominant "official" Enlightenment culture, the very title of the recently translated book by Hans Blumenberg is a bluntly direct invitation to controversy--The Legitimacy of the Modern Age. For Blumenberg, when Giordano Bruno, condemned to burn at the stake in 1600, defiantly turned his face from a crucifix offered him as a last chance at redemption, the heroic gesture should be seen as just that, heroic and historically decisive, a rejection (...) of the reality of the Incarnation, and the expression of a decisively new form of thought. "The Nolan" did cross a real threshold that separates modernity from pre-modernity. The new, for Blumenberg is new, not belated, and what's more heretical still in our post-Nietzschean, post-Heideggerean world, better than the old. The "self-assertion" of modernity is, in a simple word, "legitimate.". (shrink)
This important book argues that Henry James reveals in his fiction a sophisticated theory of moral understanding and moral motivation. The claim is that in his novels and short stories James is engaged in a distinctive kind of original thinking and reflecting on modern moral life. Sensitive to the precarious and extremely confusing situation of moral understanding in modern societies, James avoids skepticism and presents powerfully the full nature of moral claims and moral dependence. The book is written by one (...) of the pre-eminent interpreters of the modern European philosophical tradition and will interest both philosophers and literary critics. However, the style is completely non-technical with no reliance on terms from contemporary literary or philosophical theory and will therefore be accessible to students and general readers of James. (shrink)