Morality, Politics and Mytho-Poetic Discourse in the Oldest System-Programme for German Idealism: The Rousseauian Answer to a Contemporary Question [Book Review]

Sophia 50 (4):625-640 (2011)
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Abstract

This paper considers the relation between mytho-poetic narrative and practical philosophy in an Idealist/Romantic fragment, usually attributed to Hegel, known as the ‘System-programme’. Like many works of the young Hegel, the text seeks political reform through a reform of religion and suggests that for politics to be truly motivating reason must be embedded in mytho-poetic discourse. This Hegelian ‘reform’ is in the service of a new, sensuous, practical rationality and a motivating political praxis. The paper places these issues in the context of the religious thought of J.J. Rousseau, particularly his religious themes, as presented in The Social Contract . The paper also connects these issues to a political problem identified in recent work by Simon Critchley, the problem of practical or moral motivation. Critchley claims that while citizens of secular, liberal, democratic societies experience the political norms that shape their lives as externally binding, these norms are not internally compelling. Against this he claims that what are motivating are frameworks of belief that call the secular project into question. At least one of Critchley’s solutions to this problem is connected to the sphere of the religious. While accepting the idea that connecting social and political problems to religion can render them motivating, this paper will withhold from endorsing either the solution offered by the young Hegel in the ‘System-programme’ or Critchley’s, and raises doubts also about the Rousseauian response . It argues that these solutions fail to adequately address the problem they face: how to render contemporary political life internally compelling for modern political subjects?

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Philip Andrew Quadrio
University of New South Wales

References found in this work

Leviathan.Thomas Hobbes - 1651 - Harmondsworth,: Penguin Books. Edited by C. B. Macpherson.
Critique of Pure Reason.I. Kant - 1787/1998 - Philosophy 59 (230):555-557.
Critique of pure reason.Immanuel Kant - 2007 - In Elizabeth Schmidt Radcliffe, Richard McCarty, Fritz Allhoff & Anand Vaidya (eds.), Late modern philosophy: essential readings with commentary. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 449-451.
Elements of the philosophy of right.Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel - 1991 - New York: Cambridge University Press. Edited by Allen W. Wood & Hugh Barr Nisbet.
The social contract.Jean-Jacques Rousseau - 1905 - Harmondsworth,: Penguin Books. Edited by Charles Frankel.

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