Hegel’s Social Ethics offers a fresh and accessible interpretation of G. W. F. Hegel’s most famous book, the Phenomenology of Spirit. Drawing on important recent work on the social dimensions of Hegel’s theory of knowledge, Molly Farneth shows how his account of how we know rests on his account of how we ought to live.
Farneth argues that Hegel views conflict as an unavoidable part of living together, and that his social ethics involves relationships and social practices that allow people to cope with conflict and sustain hope for reconciliation. Communities create, contest, and transform their norms through these relationships and practices, and Hegel’s model for them are often the interactions and rituals of the members of religious communities.
The book’s close readings reveal the ethical implications of Hegel’s discussions of slavery, Greek tragedy, early modern culture wars, and confession and forgiveness. The book also illuminates how contemporary democratic thought and practice can benefit from Hegelian insights.
Through its sustained engagement with Hegel’s ideas about conflict and reconciliation, Hegel’s Social Ethics makes an important contribution to debates about how to live well with religious and ethical disagreement.
Reviews and Endorsements
“Engaging and humane.” –Robert Stern, Mind
“In this elegant meditation on the ethics of reciprocal recognition, Molly Farneth journeys with Hegel into the enduring heart of democracy in the making. While respecting Hegel’s distinction between representational thinking and fully liberated dialectic, which is roughly the distinction between religion and philosophy, she finds matter there, not for yet another domineering form of pseudorationality, but a self-emptying reason, where we have room to enter into one another’s keeping and become reconciled. In these precarious times for democracy, Farneth’s generously reasoned grassroots religiosity is especially welcome.” —James Wetzel, Villanova University
“Molly Farneth has brought Hegel to the people. Her excellent book presents a fresh interpretation of one of the most important works in the history of philosophy, overcomes impasses in political theory and religious studies, makes a major contribution to the study of democracy, and initiates readers into the dialogic relationship that is the key to Hegel’s social ethics. This book will command wide audiences in the humanities and social sciences for a long time.” —Ian Ward, McMaster University
“This impressive book makes a timely contribution to the debate about Hegel’s view of religion. It promises to broaden his readership by freeing his philosophy from misconceptions and giving it a contemporary relevance.” —Paul Redding, University of Sydney