ABSTRACT. The orthodox interpretation of the famous “Lordship and Bondage” dialectic (LBD) of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit (PhG) maintains that the LBD consists in a struggle for recognition between two distinct individuals. John McDowell has provided a heterodox interpretation according to which the LBD consists in a dialectic obtaining between two elements of the self-consciousness of a single individual. This paper will seek to develop McDowell’s heterodox interpretation. Part 1 will establish the often neglected or misunderstood Fichtean backdrop to the LBD. Part 2 will unpack the parts of Hegel’s analysis of self-consciousness in the PhG which are illuminated by the previous examination of the Fichtean backdrop to the LBD, with special attention paid to Hegel’s analysis of the Hauptmoment of consciousness. Part 3 will work out the fuller implications of McDowell’s argument that a heterodox interpretation of the LBD compels the conclusion that, for Hegel, empirical consciousness becomes apperceptive consciousness. Part 4 will respond to some objections that have been raised against McDowell’s heterodox interpretation. Part 5 will offer some tentative suggestions as to how the orthodox and heterodox interpretations of the LBD might be sublated into a higher viewpoint.

Keywords: Hegel; Fichte; McDowell; lordship; bondage; self-consciousness

How to cite: Peters, Matthew (2018). “The Self-Sublation of Empirical Consciousness: Developing McDowell’s Heterodox Interpretation of Hegel’s Lord/Bondsman Dialectic,” Review of Contemporary Philosophy 17: 56–92.

Received 31 March 2018 • Received in revised form 1 June 2018
Accepted 6 June 2018 • Available online 29 June 2018


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