This is part 1 of 4 parts of the bit on Hegel from my course on Introduction to Philosophy. (Apologies: there is a technical glitch from about 1:43 to 2:10 in the video, in which the talking head loses his voice; but one can follow well enough from the written text on the slide.)
My lecture on the dialectic of Lordship & Bondage from Hegel’s Phenomenology owes much to the seminar on the early Hegel offered in the Religion Department at Florida State by Richard L. Rubenstein in Winter 1975. It was Prof. Rubenstein’s second seminar on early Hegel; if memory serves, while he himself was a grad student at Harvard in the 1950’s he had in turn attended the second such seminar offered by Paul Tillich (who was the first one to teach Hegel’s Phenomenology in North America). Rubenstein’s explication de texte was a sight to behold; break time every night meant breaking a sweat and palpably our teacher was wrung out. I’ve never been able to rise to that level of lecturing but I try to live up to the example at least in some way.
Why call to mind a single seminar nearly half a century ago at a state university down South? Here is why: of the best commentaries on Hegel, Rubenstein’s explication clearly was influenced by Walter Kaufmann and Alexandre Kojève but he added something distinct to their readings: Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann (and Freud & Sartre). (Not neglecting Löwith & Hyppolite.) I have yet to find any other commentary which does this.
It helps to understand Hegel if one also understands sociological theory. (Vice-versa too.) Too few people understand both.
Rubenstein stressed a key point I try to develop also in my lectures: that this one short passage on mastery and slavery, published in 1807, exerted a major multiplier effect. Hegel’s account is a precursor not only of philosophers such as Feuerbach, Marx, Nietzsche and Sartre (as is well-known) but also of key developments in 20th-century social science. Whether or not Hegel was a direct influence (mostly he was not), it is remarkable that Hegel manages to say some of the most interesting things that would be said later and independently by Freud, Durkheim, Weber, Mead, Cooley, Merton, Riesman, Galbraith, Marcuse and others.
That is one of the main things I learned from Prof. Rubenstein and so I want to acknowledge this debt as in turn I pass these things along to my own students in Philosophy class (as instanced in the lectures here offered on YouTube).
I would be remiss not to mention one of the other life-long things I learned from Dick Rubenstein. Members of the FSU Religion faculty each had their own left-field sub-specialty: thus one of the Biblical scholars was a minor expert in Mark Twain; the self-described last Puritan in America could go on about Georges Bataille on death and the erotic; and so forth. One of the several reasons why students never wanted to miss a Rubenstein class was one never knew when he might launch into: The Famous Wine Lecture. Part of Bildung is having a care for what comes out of one’s mouth; another part, for what goes in.
Not only FSU students can testify that he was nonpareil as a teacher. Susan Berman, The Underground Guide to the College of Your Choice (1970), p. 423, notes of Pitt (where he taught before FSU): “The most popular course is ‘Existentialism’ taught by Rabbi Rubenstein. He ‘makes things real’ and ‘talks in today’s language’.” Far out. (Still.)
Date Added: 2020-12-18
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