Zeke Goggin on Selfhood in Hegel’s PhG

Zeke Goggin (Div School, Philosophy of Religions PhD Student)

“Selfhood and Sacrifice in Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit

Wed, Nov 19th, 4:30 PM

Swift 208


In this paper I argue that Hegel’s account of self-consciousness marks a break in the phenomenological method of “immanent” criticism, and that this is instructive for the self/no-self debate in that it points the way to a concept of socially achieved selfhood which would not constitute an exclusive disjunction between conceptions of the self as real, substantial, and enduring self-identity on the one hand, and the self as transient, contingent, and epiphenomenal on the other. Both “self” and “no-self” would be moments of the concept in the process of adjudicating claims about what selves are as well as shaping them in concrete social practices –particularly those which have a renunciative character, and which Hegel describes in terms of sacrifice. I then consider possible criticisms of Hegel’s position, namely those which we might draw from Heidegger’s analysis of temporality and those explicitly given in Derrida’s account of mechanical memory and dialectical “conservation.” I will finally argue that Hegel’s account of ritual and repetition provides a rejoinder to their critiques which may serve to reconcile their objections to a Hegelian intention. I conclude by suggesting that the “sacrificial” and ritualistic character of these social processes –which performatively resist an exclusive disjunction between the positive and negative assessments of the epistemic and ontological status of selfhood –serve to locate Philosophy of Religions, specifically, in a unique and privileged position with regard to the question of selfhood.

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