From Kant’s Highest Good to Hegel’s Absolute Knowing

In Michael Baur & Stephen Houlgate (eds.), The Blackwell Companion to Hegel. Malden, MA, USA: pp. 452-473 (2011)
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Hegel’s most abiding aspiration was to be a volkserzieher (an educator of the people) in the tradition of thinkers of Moses Mendelssohn (1729-1786), Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729-1781), and Friedrich Schiller (159-1786). No doubt, he was also deeply interested in epistemology and metaphysics, but this interest stemmed at least in part from his belief (which Kant also shared) that human beings could become truly liberated to fulfill their vocations as human beings, only if they were also liberated from the illusions and contradictions that plagued uncritical thinking about self, world, and God. Thus to appreciate Hegel’s work in epistemology and metaphysics, one must first appreciate how he (following Kant) sought to think beyond the “special metaphysics” of self, world, and God as developed by Descartes and other pre-critical philosophers. The aim of this chapter is to analyze aspects of Hegel’s critical appropriation and transformation of Kantian thought, shedding light not only on Hegel’s own understanding of his move beyond Kant, but also on the philosophical reasons that might justify such a move.

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Michael Baur
Fordham University


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