Sentiment Without System: An Hegelian Reconsideration of the Communitarian Critique of Liberalism

Open Access
Author:
Schleeter, Michael Thomas
Graduate Program:
Philosophy
Degree:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Dissertation
Date of Defense:
November 17, 2010
Committee Members:
  • Dennis Schmidt, Dissertation Advisor
  • Dennis Schmidt, Committee Chair
  • John Philip Christman, Committee Member
  • Robert Lambert Bernasconi, Committee Member
  • Barry Richard Page Jr., Committee Member
  • Daniel Joseph Conway, Committee Member
Keywords:
  • Hegel
  • liberalism
  • communitarianism
Abstract:
This dissertation presents an Hegelian reconsideration of the communitarian critique of liberalism. It is motivated by two related concerns. The first is a concern about the ideal of individualism, which seems to be an ideal that is of importance to many Americans, and the variety of liberalism that appeals to this ideal, which, I argue, finds one of its best representatives in John Rawls’ liberalism as it is developed in his A Theory of Justice. For this ideal and this variety of liberalism would seem to have the potential to give rise to unhappy social consequences—in particular, the inability of many in our age to experience their lives as meaningful. The second is a concern about even the most promising contemporary attempts to confront the ideal of individualism and the variety of liberalism that appeals to this ideal in their potential to give rise to unhappy social consequences, which, I argue, find one of their best representatives in the communitarian critique of liberalism in general and in Charles Taylor’s critique as it is developed in his The Ethics of Authenticity in specific. For even these attempts would seem not to propose solutions that could prevent these consequences from arising—in particular, the inability of many in our age to experience their lives as meaningful. Now, if Taylor’s critique is problematic in this way, I suggest that it might be because his critique has strayed from its philosophical roots in G.W.F. Hegel’s thought—in particular, Hegel’s method of immanent critique and concept of recognition as they are developed in his Phenomenology of Spirit. Thus, in the first half of the present work, I attempt to thematize the first concern through a reconsideration especially of Taylor’s critique as it is developed in The Ethics of Authenticity and especially in relation to Rawls’ liberalism as it is developed in A Theory of Justice (although Michael Sandel’s critique as it is developed in Liberalism and the Limits of Justice, Rawls’ liberalism as it is developed in Political Liberalism, and Will Kymlicka’s liberalism as it is developed in Liberalism, Community, and Culture are also discussed at length). And, in the second half of the present work, I attempt to thematize the second concern through a reconsideration of Taylor’s critique as it is developed in The Ethics of Authenticity with reference to Hegel’s thought as it is developed in his Phenomenology of Spirit. Ultimately, I suggest that Taylor’s critique might be able to propose solutions that could prevent what he calls “a loss of meaning” from arising if his method of critique and concept of recognition were more strictly Hegelian and I suggest what one such solution might be.