‘Freedom and Reflection: Hegel and the Logic of Agency’ by Christopher Yeomans

Published by Oxford University Press in 2011.


Hegel’s Logic reveals an insightful and subtle engagement with the traditional problem of free will as it emerges from our basic commitment to the explicability of the world. While the dominant current interpretations of Hegel’s theory of agency find little of significance in the Logic and suggest that Hegel avoided the traditional problem, Yeomans argues both that the problem is unavoidable, and that the two versions of the Logic fruitfully engage the tensions between explicability and both the control and alternate possibilities constitutive of free agency.

In particular, Yeomans examines Hegel’s response to three different versions of the principle of sufficient reason that have historically seemed to make free will problematic. The central three chapters take up each of these versions in turn. For each, Yeomans first explores the nature of its challenge to free will with glances both at Hegel’s precursors and contemporaries and at the philosophy of action of our own time. Then Yeomans delves into the arguments of Hegel’s Logic to see how he construed the problematic concepts in question. Finally, Yeomans returns to the issue of free will to bring Hegel’s interpretations of the concepts in the Logic together with elements of his moral psychology from his practical philosophy both to show how the problem of free will can be resolved, and to trace in outline the shape of free will that such a resolution produces.

The key connection between the Logic’s reflections on the form of explanation and the practical philosophy’s theory of the will is that both attempt to do justice to the mutual necessity of self-determination and external influence.

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