Hegel’s Refutation of Rational Egoism, in True Infinity and the Idea
In the history of moral and political philosophy, the apparent rationality of egoism – of a lack of interest in the needs and the rights of other individuals, as such – is a challenge to which major thinkers feel called upon to respond. Plato does so at length in the Republic and the Symposium, Aristotle does so in his account of ‘friendship’ (philia), in his Ethics, Hobbes does so in his response to the so-called ‘fool,’ in chapter 15 of Leviathan, and Kant does so in his argument, in the Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals and elsewhere, that autonomy can only take the form of being guided by morality’s Categorical Imperative. I am going to suggest in this chapter that Hegel’s response to the challenge of rational egoism extends throughout his philosophical system, beginning in his treatment of ‘atomism’ in the Logic’s Doctrine of Being, continuing through his treatments of ‘reflection’ and ‘diversity’ in the Doctrine of Essence, and of Objectivity, Life, and Cognition, in the Doctrine of the Concept, and concluding in his famous account of Master and Bondsman and mutual recognition, in the Encyclopedia’s Philosophy of Spirit and the Phenomenology of Spirit.
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