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BOOK REVIEWS 361 Judith N. Shklar. Freedom and Independence: A Study of the Political Ideas of Hegel's "Phenomenology of Mind." Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1976. Pp. xv + 216. $14.95. This book is designed, the author tells us, "for students of political theory, both undergraduate and graduate, who have found Hegel's Phenomenology of Mind incomprehensible, and who might with the help of a guidebook such as this, manage to understand it more readily." Such students, and others too, will indeed find much valuable guidance in Professor Shklar's account of the Phenomenology and especially in what she has to say about Hegel's treatment of the concepts of freedom and independence which give the book its title. At the same time, one might well infer from such a definition of the author's intention that she proposes to abstract those elements in the Phenomenology which are most likely to be of interest to students of political theory; and this in turn might lead one to wonder whether the larger philosophical issues raised by the Phenomenology are to be correspondingly neglected. This surmise in fact proves to be broadly correct. There is no real attempt to characterize the place of the Phenomenology among Hegel's other major philosophical works and no account of the relationship in which it stands to the "system" to which it was to provide an avenue of entry. There is a review of the organization of the book as a whole in the first chapter, which is entitled "A Topography of the Phenomenology of Mind"; but the main outcome of that review is an interpretation of the Phenomenology in historical and psychological terms, and there is little clarification of the standpoint from which "we" are to conduct these inquiries or of the principle that governs the sequence of stages through which the latter are to pass. So strongly in fact is the historical and psychological character of the book emphasized that the author can declare that "the Phenomenology is devoted to remembrances" and claim that "Proust's remembering was.., very much like Hegel's in design, a going inward to create a new image out of the past." An author has, of course, the right to concentrate his attention on one aspect of his topic even at the risk of doing less than full justice to its position within some larger systematic whole; and it is arguable that ShEar has legitimately availed herself of that right. Certainly her choice of a narrower theme within the Phenomenology is unexceptionable since the contrast of freedom and independence is of focal importance to the whole section devoted to "Spirit," with which her book is primarily concerned. Freedom here signifies a state in which "the rules of society would not only be 'things' out there for us because we would also identify ourselves with them; . . . we would see ourselves in them and the law in ourselves." By contrast, independence denotes the spirit of individualistic self-sufficiency which implicitly denies all the broader social presuppositions of its own powers both in the domain of knowledge and in that of action. Hegel's great achievement as a social philosopher was in fact his analysis of just these presuppositions and of the way language and the element of intersubjectivity and universality introduces form the matrix within which a "separate" personal identity is possible. This side of Hegel's thought is brought out very successfully in Shklar's account, which thus offers a useful antidote to the more familiar interpretation of the holistic character of Hegel's social and political thought. One could wish perhaps that the analysis of Hegel's conception of "social rationality" were a little more fully developed so as to secure it more fully against the multiple misunderstandings to which it is still subject, especially when it is approached with fixed political preconceptions; but in the case of so brief a work this is probably asking for more than it is reasonable to expect. Unfortunately, the full import of this very persuasive interpretation is substantially weakened by the way Shklar proceeds to develop it. The great paradigm of freedom in the Phenomenology is said to be Greece and more...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1538-4586
Print ISSN
0022-5053
Pages
pp. 361-362
Launched on MUSE
2008-01-01
Open Access
No
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