Los vasallos acríticos / Eduardo Vásquez

Acritical Vassals

There is no doubt that in Europe and the United States they consider us inferior. It seems to us this would explain why they are patient and sympathetic with governments they wouldn’t tolerate in their own countries, even for an instant. We, on the other hand, take up an inferior attitude in regards to that culture.

In philosophy, at least, it happens that way. We think a book elaborated by someone trained at a famous university has to be of great value. There are professors who continue to cite The Open Society and Its Enemies as a valid text. He situates Hegel as an enemy of an open and democratic society who, following Plato, expels individual liberty from the heart of society.

This is not true. Hegel critiques Plato for this expulsion, although he sees that fact as an effort by Plato to save the Greek state from the corrosive and subversive power of the free subjectivity that had appeared with Socrates.

In § 185 of Philosophy of Law there is a resounding critique against Plato. He not only expelled infinite autonomous personality, but he “even excluded it completely in its origin, which is found in private property and in the family, and then, in its subsequent development, regarding one’s own arbitrage and the choice of a profession.”

In § 206 Hegel posits how subjective freedom appeared in ancient States as a principle of corruption for the institutions and laws but in the modern State, where it is maintained within objective order and also within its laws, that subjective particularity becomes the beginning of any vitality in civil society.

There are at least six paragraphs in the Philosophy of Law where Hegel posits that same thesis. The free personality is the beginning of corruption in ancient States, but in the modern State it is the beginning of well-being and development. How could professor Karl Popper commit such a misinterpretation?

His great prestige gave him enormous authority to influence readers of Hegel. And there are still those who without reading Hegel follow Karl Popper’s interpretation. But there are many others who launch their nonsense to the four winds. One of them is the professor of philosophy at Princeton, Walter Kaufmann.

Isaiah Berlin writes that “he is one of the few philosophers of our time who understands, in tandem, Hegel’s thought and the world in which he lived.” W. Kaufmann writes the following: “I don’t so much reject the dialectic, as I say it does not exist.” (Hegel, Alianza Editorial, page 234, 1968).

We allow ourselves to doubt that professor Kaufmann read the Philosophy of Law. In § 31 Hegel very clearly describes what he calls the dialectic: “as in science (that is, logic) the concept develops from itself and is merely an immanent progression and a production of its determinations” (Spanish translation by Eduardo Vásquez).

It is true the term dialectic does not appear there, but “development of the determinations of the concept, immanent progress” are characteristics of the dialectic. In a book as well known by Hegelians as the Phenomenology we can read: “This dialectical movement of consciousness achieves within itself, both in its knowledge as in its object, as the new authentic object surges within it, exactly what would be called experience” (p. 58, Fondo de Cultura Económica).

{ Eduardo Vásquez, Tal Cual, 11 December 2008 }

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