In my dissertation, I defend an interpretation of Hegel’s central objection to Kant’s practical philosophy, namely that the Kantian will is subjective. The target of this objection is generally understood to be Kant’s exclusion of sensuous particularity from moral motivation. My interpretation shifts the focus of the debate: I argue that the subjectivity of the will refers to its essentially imperfective aspect, i.e. to the exclusion of accomplishment from the purview of practical knowledge. I trace subjectivism about the will to Hume and Adam Smith, who argue, respectively, that the will is not a power to know its effects, and the merit of actions lies in willing alone. I show that Kant challenges subjectivism in important ways, but retains the idea that willing is not a way of knowing the external actuality of one’s accomplishments. My interpretation is also distinguished by my textual focus: whereas most commentators focus on Hegel’s discussion of morality, I focus on his accounts of instrumental teleology and ethical action in the Science of Logic (commentators on the Logic, meanwhile, tend to neglect action and ethics). I take these two chapters to argue against the subjectivist thesis that accomplishment is beyond the ken of practical knowledge. Hegel argues, first, that instrumentally practical knowledge cannot be essentially imperfective. I elucidate this by putting him into conversation with Anscombe, who understands practical knowledge through her famous progressive-imperfective I know what I am doing. Second, Hegel argues that knowledge of goodness-in-itself must include the perfective aspect, or knowledge of the goodness-in-itself of what has been done. Kant thinks this is impossible for finite beings like us, for it would require perfect transparency of motive as well as deserved happiness. Hegel thinks our practical knowledge attains the perfective aspect insofar as what is known is not one’s own (subjective) will but the world insofar as it has been made good-in-itself through action—which significantly does not take place alone but in community. I conclude the dissertation by giving an account of Hegel’s idea of the objectivity of the will as the really existing institutions of freedom, such as the family and the state, which we do not merely find before us but which we know practically as made by freedom. The inclusion of sensuous particularity in ethical action takes the form of trust and habit, in contrast to the introspective and unresolvable self-scrutiny of moral action.




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