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Wrong Wrongness: The Vagaries of the Ought and the Quandary of 'Progress' between Hyperkantianism and Historical Materialism

Bremner, David (2019) Wrong Wrongness: The Vagaries of the Ought and the Quandary of 'Progress' between Hyperkantianism and Historical Materialism. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent,. (KAR id:82084)

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This thesis investigates the philosophies of G.W.F. Hegel and Wilfrid Sellars, towards the recasting of two problems:

(a) The thesis examines a post-Hegelian insistence that the "ought" - understood as the disjunction of thought-acts from direct tutelage to the "is", to the way things are in nature or in society - must be retained and attributed with full effectivity. This is the problem of normativity. One reason for insisting upon its importance is that, after Kant, the rejection of the correspondence-by-resemblance theory of representation introduces an epistemic opacity between knowledge and known object.

(b) In line with the elaboration of the logical form of qualitative difference which Hegel proposes near the beginning of his Science of Logic, the thesis investigates a conception of novel supersession as the contradiction via "determinate negation" of the Old. It is argued that the New - in art and elsewhere - which effectuates what Hegel calls a "good infinity" must be figured as the fruit of a "torsion".

The thesis demonstrates that the two problems are inherently linked because practice (what we do) can surpass fortuitous constraints only if theory determines contradictions between cognitive obligation (what we ought to think) and extant descriptions of the world. To constructively flout such a contradiction can only be to negate it with a qualitatively new determination of what should be thought as well as of what is. Since the causal modalities of possibility, actuality and necessity are entwined with the 'oughts' of inference, quantifying gauges of success ('more of x') are vitiated by the quietism of merely reaffirming the currently actual state of affairs.

Crucially, the idea found in Sellars's reading of Kant that "concepts are rules" (that is, that concepts are functional roles), demands (rather than excluding) strong qualitative differences among concepts. This allows for the metaphysical de-calcification of concepts, without severing them from objectivity. Concepts are properties of an activity.

Such a stance serves to carry forward Imre Lakatos's best insights regarding the imperative to surpass in the natural sciences, while refuting the "whiggish" linearity of this process. This pointedly neo-Hegelian move is motivated by an Adornian survey of commodity fetishism which pinpoints the reification of an abstract notion of production as in thrall to what Sellars calls the "myth of the given". Concordantly, Alexandre Koyré is read as challenging the paradigm of incommensurability claiming his influence with a historiography of qualitative antagonism.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: MacKenzie, Iain
Thesis advisor: Cassou-Noguès, Pierre
Uncontrolled keywords: Contradiction; Time and temporality; Infinity; Desubstantialisation; Innovation and creativity; Inference; The myth of the given; Nature; The Hegelian absolute
Subjects: J Political Science
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Politics and International Relations
SWORD Depositor: System Moodle
Depositing User: System Moodle
Date Deposited: 14 Jul 2020 10:34 UTC
Last Modified: 01 Oct 2022 23:00 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Bremner, David.

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