Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Defending a liberalism of freedom: John Rawls's use of Hegel
by Lange, Margaret Meek, Ph.D., Columbia University, 2009, 264; 3388468
Abstract (Summary)

My dissertation examines Hegel's influence on John Rawls' treatment of freedom in a liberal state. This reading of Rawls draws on two major sources: first, Rawls' own political theory, and second, his commentary on Hegel found in the 2000 Lectures on the History of Moral Philosophy and in some unpublished notes. The dissertation begins with the claim that, for both Rawls and Hegel, an ideal social world is one that realizes freedom. Through the lens of Rawls, Hegel, and Rawls' writing on Hegel, I then address the following questions: How should we understand the aspiration that the social world realize freedom? Is this aspiration practicable?

Both Rawls and Hegel understand freedom in an overarching sense as rational self-determination. Based on that understanding, I argue, the requirement that the social world realize freedom breaks down into two parts, one objective and one subjective. Borrowing from Frederick Neuhouser's recent work, Foundations of Hegel's Social Theory: Actualizing Freedom, I construct the following definitions of objective and subjective freedom. A society realizes objective freedom only if its major institutions enable the individual freedom of all of its citizens. A society realizes subjective freedom if and only if all citizens affirm these same institutions as their own and act from their affirmation.

Given these preliminaries, the dissertation first summarizes the conceptions of subjective and objective freedom of each author. Then, the dissertation argues that Rawls' political theory implicitly entertains an immanent critique of the very liberalism of freedom that he proposes. The immanent critique states that a liberal social world that realizes objective freedom will not realize subjective freedom. The dissertation finds this critique in Rawls' political theory and shows its debts to Hegel. It reconstructs Rawls' defense and establishes that Hegel influences Rawls here as well. I demonstrate that Rawls' refutation of the immanent critique borrows from Hegel's political theory and includes a strategic misreading of Hegel's concept of reconciliation through philosophy. Finally, I claim that Rawls' defended liberalism of freedom is superior to Hegel's along two dimensions: it is more individualistic and it is more egalitarian.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Johnston, David
School: Columbia University
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 70/12, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Philosophy, Political science
Keywords: Freedom, Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich, Liberalism, Rawls, John, Reconciliation
Publication Number: 3388468
ISBN: 978-1-109-54818-1
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