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Phenomenology and De Re Interpretation: A Critique of Brandom's Reading of Hegel

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 June 2015

Stephen Houlgate*
Affiliation:
Department of Philosophy, University of Warwick, Stephen.Houlgate@warwick.ac.uk
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Extract

At first sight Robert Brandom's two essays on Hegel in his book Tales of the Mighty Dead appear barely to be about Hegel at all. The first essay on holism and idealism, for example, talks of ‘sense dependence’ and ‘reference dependence’, and even invokes a point in logic made by Gilbert Harman (TMD 191-2, 194). Scarcely normal fare for the average commentator on Hegel. Brandom himself is acutely conscious of the impression his work on Hegel (and on the other philosophers discussed in Tales of the Mighty Dead) might have on his readers. ‘I am aware’, he writes, ’that the relations between the stories told here and my own philosophical views [ … ] may seem to some particularly problematic’ (TMD 90). In the section of his book called ‘Pretexts’, however, Brandom provides a subtle defence of his approach and makes it clear that he is by no means simply ‘foisting’ his ideas on the helpless dead (TMD 91; see also 389). He does so by distinguishing between two different modes of interpretation: de dicto and de re.

Brandom states that interpretation of a philosophical text seeks to establish the claims made in it and to determine what follows from them. This task, however, presupposes a ‘context’ of interpretation (TMD 95).

When a text is given a de dicto interpretation, the context is supplied by the author's own commitments. The aim is thus to determine what the author himself would have said in response to questions of clarification, given those commitments (TMD 99).

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Copyright
Copyright © The Hegel Society of Great Britain 2008

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References

Brandom, Robert B. (2002), Tales of the Mighty Dead. Historical Essays in the Metaphysics of Intentionality Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
Hegel, G.W.F (1970), Phänomenologie des Geistes. Moldenhauer, E. and Michel, K.M. eds., Werke in zwanzig Bänden, vol. 3, Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag.Google Scholar
Hegel, G.W.F (1977), Phenomenology of Spirit. Miller, A.V. tr., Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Hegel, G.W.F. (1991), The Encyclopaedia Logic. Part 1 of the Encyclopaedia of Philosophical Sciences with the Zusätze. Geraets, T.F., Suchting, W.A and Harris, H.S. trans., Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing.Google Scholar
Hegel, G.W.F (1999), Science of Logic. Miller, A.V. trans., Amherst, NY: Humanity Books Google Scholar
Houlgate, S. (2005), An Introduction to Hegel. Freedom, Truth and History. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
Houlgate, S. (2007) ‘Hegel and Brandom on Norms, Concepts and Logical Categories’, in Hammer, E. ed., German Idealism. Contemporary Perspectives. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
O'Connor, Brian (20062007), ‘Hegel's Phenomenology and the Question of Semantic Pragmatism’, The Owl of Minerva 38, 1–2: 127–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Pippin, Robert B. (2007), “Brandom's Hegel’ in Hammer, E. ed., German Idealism. Contemporary Perspectives. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
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