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The concept of the drives in Hegel's philosophy

posted on 14.02.2017, 00:35 by Muldoon, James Michael
This thesis analyses the concept of the drives in Hegel's philosophy and seeks to demonstrate the importance and centrality of the concept to Hegel's thought and the ways in which a focus on this concept transforms our understanding of the Hegelian project. The central argument of this thesis is that, contrary to Kojeve's influential reading, Hegel's dialectic involves the ceaseless continuation of the drives and not their final reconciliation and conclusion. His primary lesson is not how all forms of difference and otherness can be reconciled but how subjects could learn to live in a modem condition of alienation, fragmentation and loss. Hegel's central philosophical problem of overcoming the divisions of modern life becomes a question of how one can live with a continuation of the drives. This thesis demonstrates how the drives can be rendered intelligible in a double register: the moral and the metaphysical. In the first instance, the drives can be understood in the moral sphere, as the basic sensuous inclinations, impulses and desires of human beings. On the other hand, Hegel's dialectic philosophy itself is moved by a certain drive that is internal to the structure of his thinking. There is a dynamism and movement to Hegel's philosophy that appears in different ways throughout his work, but always in a sense that is traceable back to an idea of force, compulsion or drive. Chapter one analyses the drives in the moral sense in Hegel's pre-Jena writing, while chapter two analyses the drives in the metaphysical sense in the Phenomenology. The final chapter of this thesis will trace Hegel's combination of these two separate instances of the drives into a single schema. In the Philosophy of Right, the metaphysical drive, considered in the Phenomenology as an attribute of Spirit, is embodied in the concept of the will. There is a metaphysical drive towards freedom in the will as it attempts to actualise itself in concrete form. However, its realisation and actualisation in the institutions and practices of modem life only comes about through what Hegel refers to as a "purification of the drives." This is a process of the transformation of the anthropological drives as they are rationalised and denatured through the development of habit in the individual. Hegel provides a highly developed analysis of the education, development and integration of individuals through a mixture of ideology, work and institutional learning that runs parallel with his account of a metaphysical drive for freedom. The realisation and institutionalisation of freedom in modem societies is shown to be intimately connected to a process of "re-naturing" human beings and transforming their immediate and natural drives into fully mediated cultural ones.


Principal supervisor

Andrew Benjamin

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre

School of English, Communications and Performance Studies

Degree Type


Campus location



Faculty of Arts