Hegel and Modern Society

Taylor, Charles. Hegel and Modern Society. Cambridge, 1979.


Against [expressivism], Herder and others developed an alternative notion of man whose dominant image was rather tha of an expressive object. Human life was seen as having a unity rather analogous to that of a work of art, where every part or aspect only found its proper meaning in relation to all the others. Human life unfolded from some central core – a guiding theme or inspiration – or should do so, if it were not so often blocked and distorted.

From this point of view the Enlightenment analytic science of man was not only a travesty of human self-understanding, but one of the most grievous modes of self-distortion. To see a human being as in some way compounded of different elements: faculties of reason and sensibility, or soul and body, or reason and feeling, was to lose sight of the living, expressive unity; and in so far as men tried to live according to these dichotomies, they must suppress, mutilate or severely distort that unified expression which they have it in them to realize.

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