Hegel and the Ethics of Brandom’s Metaphysics

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In order to develop his pragmatist and inferentialist framework, Robert Brandom appropriates, reconstructs and revises key themes in German Idealism such as the self-legislation of norms, the social institution of concepts and facts, a norm-oriented account of being and the critique of representationalist accounts of meaning and truth. However, these themes have an essential ethical dimension, one that Brandom has not explicitly acknowledged. For Hegel, the determination of norms and facts and the institution of normative statuses take place in the context of Sittlichkeit (‘ethical life’). By engaging with some of the more ontologically and ethically substantive points raised by Hegel, I argue that, from a Hegelian perspective, Brandom’s project regarding the social determination of truth and meaning cannot be divorced from ethics, specifically, the ethical dimension of social recognition. Furthermore, I argue that, in real situations (as opposed to ideal ones), claims to normative authority cannot be considered independently from the legitimacy of those claims, a legitimacy that Brandom is unable to reasonably explain. Finally, I argue that a Hegelian solution to the problems facing Brandom’s framework calls into question the unity of reason that is at the core of Brandom’s normative pragmatics and inferential semantics.
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Archival date: 2019-01-11
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