Tags

, , , , ,

In so far as we speak of judging and pronouncing a verdict on an action, this principle requires that the agent should be judged only in terms of his intention and conviction, or of his faith – not in the sense in which Christ requires faith in objective truth (so that the judgment passed on a person of bad faith, i.e., on one whose conviction is bad in its content, must also be negative, in keeping with this evil content), but in the sense of loyalty to one’s conviction (in so far as a person, in his action, remains true to his conviction), i.e., in the sense of formal, subjective loyalty, which is alone in keeping with duty… For in the first instance, conviction is supposed to be the basis of ethics and of man’s supreme worth, and is thereby declared to be a supreme and sacred value; and in the second case, all that we are concerned with is error, and my conviction is insignificant and contingent, in fact a purely external circumstance which I may encounter in one way or another. And my conviction is an extremely insignificant thing if I cannot recognize the truth; for it is a matter of indifference how I think, and all that remains for me to think about is that empty good as an abstraction of the understanding.

That’s Hegel from the Philosophy of Right. And yes, it sounds exactly like he’s critiquing none other than his own greatest critic, Kierkegaard, even though that’s impossible. Hegel addresses what he calls the “law of the heart” in the section Morality, a reference to the realm of the individual conscience that is, in this context, set against the rational objectivity of the ethical life (Sittlichkeit).

What’s really amazing about this passage is that it almost proleptically anticipates Kierkegaard’s doctrines of religious interiorization. For Hegel, the “law of the heart” when set in Christian religious garb, is founded upon loyalty to oneself, to one’s own conviction and faith (or you could substitute “experience” as well). What Hegel implies in the first part of the above quote is that there is an alternative, objective measure to be found within Christianity: namely, a system where Christ/God/Whatever acts as judge, some objective truth acts as measure, and the law of the heart is found wanting, or as “bad faith.” Hegel’s bad faith is negated simply because it doesn’t line up with or express the content of objective truth. Instead, it removes the objective truth and replaces it with loyalty to conviction or subjective faith.

Now, I’ll go out on a limb and say that the Barthian “analogy of event” is a nice corollary to this point since it requires any and all subjective notions of faith to line up with or express the object of divine action in the world. It has an ethical world of acts as its foundation, not a personal conviction. This is obviously still a sticky point, as these acts are in need of interpretation (or in the Kierkegaardian sense, “redoubling”), but it seems to me to be more falsifiable, and therefore preferable, than the pure Kierkegaardian position (i.e. it’s easier to argue against and eventually refute a system of actions full of narrative content than an often one-time internal conviction).

Advertisements