Duty and Hypocrisy in Hegel’s ‘Phenomenology of Mind’ combines a general discussion of Hegelian themes with the first loose commentary, explication, and testing of Hegel’s discussion of morality in the Phenomenology of Mind. In this work Hegel analyses a life ordered around the idea of duty and concludes that it must inevitably end in hypocrisy. The reasons for Hegel’s conclusions are complex, and his discussion is conducted in a way which is relatively unfamiliar to English-speaking readers. His analysis of the moral consciousness is neither an inquiry into the various sorts of ethical concepts and the logical relations between them nor merely a description of how different people behave. Nor, again is it hortatory or prescriptive. Unlike Aristotle he does not instruct ‘in order to become good.’ Rather, he adopted a kind of middle ground between analysis and description and seeks to show how the faulty logic of duty brings terrible consequences to a person actually trying to build his life around such notions as ‘principle,’ ‘the categorical imperative,’ or ‘being true to one’s conscience.’
Professor Robinson’s paragraph-by-paragraph reading of an extremely important part of Phenomenology is not only a significant contribution to the understanding of Hegel’s moral philosophy but also a stimulating analysis of a topic that is relevant to much contemporary philosophical discussion.
About the author
JONATHAN ROBINSON is a member of the Department of Philosophy at McGill University.