This chapter examines Hegel’s complex relation to pragmatism. After a short review of the extant literature on their relation, deVries focuses on their shared rejection of the Cartesian tradition, which assumes that minds are immaterial, self-contained substances that are (1) transparent to themselves, (2) known directly or immediately to themselves, (3) prior to and independently of any knowledge of any other created substance, e.g., the external world. Hegel and the pragmatists rejected this view for at least three reasons. (1) The Cartesians employ an impoverished conception of experience that does not do justice to the complex interplay of the sensory and the conceptual nor to the fact that experience is not a screen separating us from external reality, but a mode in which we inhabit the world we live in. (2) Humans are agents, and human agency makes sense only if humans are embodied beings in an external, material world. (3) Both Hegel and the pragmatists recognized that rationality and its constitutive normativity are social achievements (both phylogenetically and ontogenetically) built on the mutual acknowledgement of the value and authority of persons as such. Still, Hegel cannot be called a pragmatist himself. Hegel does not accord the same value to the sensory as the pragmatists: he talks of freeing ourselves from the sensory, whereas the pragmatists want to better orchestrate and interpret it. More important, Hegel abjures the notion of a regulative ideal, an ideal the final achievement of which may always lie ahead. For Hegel, the ideal is the real. But in pragmatism, the real is itself an ideal. Finally, the case of Josiah Royce, deeply influenced by pragmatism, yet remaining throughout his career an absolute idealist, shows how complex the relationship between Hegelianism and pragmatism is.



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The Palgrave Hegel Handbook



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Book Chapter


© The Author(s) 2020


This is a pre-print of a book chapter published by Springer in The Palgrave Hegel Handbook in 2020, available online: