Self-Knowledge: The Key to Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit

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Great Hall, Peterson Student Center
Robert Berman, professor of philosophy, Xavier University of Louisiana


Given the desirability of self-knowledge so natural to philosophy, it should come as no surprise that it plays a role in a philosophic book such as Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit.  Yet self-knowledge does not appear in the nearly comprehensive catalogue of topics covered by the Phenomenology, which ranges from perception to the search for explanatory scientific laws, from the struggle of life and death and the lord-servant relation to the misery of asceticism, from observation of nature to membership in political, moral, and religious community. Instead, as this lecture proposes, self-knowledge stands out as the key to understanding why Hegel’s phenomenological investigation encompasses such a broad range of topics and what unites them as parts of the argument as a whole.  Appreciating this proposal depends upon addressing several interrelated questions, and doing so will be the main focus of this lecture: Exactly what conception of self-knowledge is at work in the Phenomenology?  How does it come to be so central to the argument, and why should it play the crucial role it does?
Robert Berman, who received his doctorate in philosophy from the New School for Social Research in 1982, taught for several years in the New School’s Lang College and in the Graduate Faculty.   He is professor of philosophy at Xavier University in New Orleans, where he has been teaching since 1988.  Berman is the author of numerous papers on Hegel and is currently completing a book on Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit.

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