Thursday, 25 September 2008

Hegel's Sittlichkeit vs Kant's abstract morality

Sittlichkeit: it would seem that it was Hegel who gave coin to this word, by placing it against the pure abstract 'morality' of Kant, what Caputo calls "the formal universality of doing yourself only what can be universalized into a rule for everyone." Caputo translates Sittlichkeit as 'ethical life,' talks about it in terms of concrete universality, and describes it as "the real rules and rich customs and concrete practices of cultural and social life in which rational morals are actually embodied.

So that just might be the context against which to understand Droysen's Sittlichkeit, translated by Grondin and others as the 'moral life'. Caputo's description brings out the meaning better, also by its contrast to the abstract and universal morality of Kant. (Caputo, Philosophy and Theology 39)

Note that Caputo upholds Hegel as the first great philosopher of history, the philosopher who put history on philosophy's map:
Hegel insisted against the Enlightenment that the ideas and ideals of 'pure reason' have a coefficient in time and history where they are embodied in the flesh and blood, the sweat and tears, of concrete peoples. So Hegel introduced a distinction beetween what he called Verstand, abstract understanding, and Vernunft, the more concrete embrace of a robustly historical reason. Abstract understanding is one-sided, purely formal and ahistorical, and how right he was. (Ibid. 38-39)

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