Brandom and Brassier: Hegel Redivivus

In my previous post on Whitehead Leon made an acute observation, saying:

Brandom is definitely overlooked.  His sort of Hegelianism is the “least offensive” to those who are all out materialists – but what interests me the most is the cross-over between that sort of Hegelian idealism/realism, and contemporary “speculative idealism.”  It is the latter that Brassier’s current thinking seems to be nearing: through Hegel, through Plato, through naturalism, through pragmatism, through Sellars, and so on (and I should emphasize that the Plato/naturalism re-connection is just brilliant).  If there is one figure in addition to Whitehead that speculative philosophers must “work through” today – or encounter, or engage and appropriate in some way – it is Hegel.  There is no doubt in my mind about that.

And, yes, Robert Brandom offers a glimpse onto certain unresolved issues. Brandom felt that Hegel resolved some of the issues of Kant concerning certain unresolved dualisms, such as that between ontology and deontology. To quote Brandom:

Kant… punted many hard questions about the nature and origins of normativity, of the blindingness of concepts, out of the familiar phenomenol realm of experience into the noumenal realm. Hegel brought these back to earth by understanding normative statuses as social statuses – by developing a view according to which … all transcendental constitution is social institution. The background against which the conceptual activity of making things explicit is intelligible is taken to be implicitly normative essentially social practice. (Brandom, 2000 Making it Explicit: 33-34)

It’s this dependence on the normative which aligns Brandom and Brassier in that both push the justification of normative practices into the social. For Brassier this would be the social practices of scientists as they endlessly debate and revise their knowledge and claims about the world. The whole point of this is to move conceptual practices from a conceptual idealism and into a “space of reasons” or conceptual reasoning. If it is a social practice that entails continuous negotiation of conceptual clarity through progressive elaboration or making explicit that which is implicit in conceptual content then we see how both Brandom and Brassier endorse such a community of normativity about such claims. Instead of relying on subjective appeal we enter into sociality of knowledge.

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