On Hegel

by Caleb Roberts

The three fundamental concepts in Hegel are “self-estrangement” or “alienation” (Selbst-Entfremdung), “objectification” (Vergegenständlichung), and “coming to one’s own” (Aneignung).  “Self-estrangement” is a description of man in his fallen state.  Men are divided against themselves and their fellows.  This division is seen both in the conflicts within a man’s thought and in the conflicts between man and man.  Man does not obey the moral law that he makes for himself.  He has a bad conscience as a result of this failure.  He sees the moral law — the product of his own mind and will — set over against him, external to him.  Man is at odds with to society of which he is a member, which indeed would not exist but for his participation.  Because man does not live up to the standards of the society that he has made, he has a bad conscience with regard to it also.  So he sees a conflict between himself and the society which he, and others like him, have created by their common participation.  Society, created by individual men, is seen as set over against the individual man, in opposition to him.  Society is external to him, just as law is.  It is this externalization of what man has produced, this regarding as external objects what are in fact part of man’s own being, that Hegel calls “objectification.”  To understand the world men must envisage what they perceive and try to comprehend as a set of objects.  But in doing this they falsely reify their experience of the human world and treat people and social institutions as if they were “things.”  This reification of the human world is a symptom of the estrangement of subject and object. (7-9)

Alasdair MacIntyre | Marxism and Christianity

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