Date of Award
Open Access Dissertation
School of Arts and Humanities
Anselm K. Min
Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member
Ingolf U. Dalferth
Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member
© 2020 Yun Kwon Yoo
Globalization, Hegel, Postmodernism, Subjectivity, The Phenomenology of Spirit, Zizek
Philosophy | Religion | Religious Thought, Theology and Philosophy of Religion
My major argument in this dissertation is that Hegelian spiritual subjectivity can and should serve as a philosophical basis for envisioning a new conception of human subjectivity for the age of globalization. Why, then, does globalization demand a new conception of human subjectivity at all? What constitutes the Hegelian spiritual subjectivity such that it is not only relevant and but also necessary to the contemporary, postmodern context of globalization? My dissertation largely addresses these two questions. As for the first question, it requires my critical analysis of the context in which we are living. We are living in an era of globalization whose primary driving force is globalizing capitalism. Among many challenges posed by capitalist globalization today, I claim, it most importantly challenges us to reflect deeply upon the anthropological question of “what it means to be authentically human.” The human being that capitalist globalization is eager to promote and produce is none other than a faithful global consumer who, without critical thinking, simply succumbs to one’s sensuous inclinations or desires in their sheer particularity, contingency, and arbitrariness, who is easily attracted to the external appearances and sensible images of commodities endlessly released onto the market, and who thus is always ready to buy them both online and offline. And I suspect that this anthropology of capitalist globalization seems to be justified philosophically by the contemporary intellectual movement known as postmodernism, particularly by its thesis of the “death of the subject” which argues that human subjectivity is merely an after-effect of the pre-subjective, extrinsic processes of language, culture, power, ideology, the unconscious, etc. In other words, postmodernist anthropology (the death of the subject), regardless of its real intent, may function as a philosophical basis and ideological justification for capitalist globalization’s disgraceful reduction of human beings to mere consumers who are, without subjectivity, subjected to the imperialism of a globalizing market. And this erosion of human subjectivity is all the more serious given that the contemporary globalizing world imperatively calls for our more ethical and political thoughts, sensibilities, and actions than ever before to orient it toward peaceful co-existence and co-prosperity for all. In this regard, I insist that we need a new conception of human subjectivity for this postmodern context of globalization, which includes following three important elements in their internal relations: self-transcending drive toward universality, self-determined or autonomous action, and solidaristic relationship with others—that is, a sort of cosmopolitan or global citizen who is constantly universalizing oneself through self-transcending, self-determined ethico-political actions in solidarity with others to advance the common good for all members of the global community. I argue that this new perspective and conception of human subjectivity for the age of globalization finds its philosophical archetype par excellence in Hegel’s philosophy of subjectivity as spiritual subjectivity. Here my second question is addressed: What constitutes the Hegelian spiritual subjectivity? Historically, Hegel’s philosophy of spiritual subjectivity is his critical response to the so-called modern turn to the subject. In opposition to the post-Cartesian tendency to characterize subjectivity as a self-identical, self-sufficient substance, defining itself from itself without reference to things other than itself, which is already given once and for all, Hegel puts forth a developmental view on the human subject that could, in turn, transcend the dualism of subjectivity and objectivity operative in the modern project. Namely, for Hegel, the human subject must be conceived not just as a substance but essentially as a “spirit,” i.e., as a dialectical movement of being-for-itself (self-conscious identity with itself; substantiality) and being-for-others (socio-historical relation to others; relationality) toward the Absolute (absolute universality; telos). And I find paradigmatically in Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit how such Hegelian spiritual subjectivity actually emerges and develops gradually—from subjectivity-in-itself (subjectivity in the womb) through subjectivity-for-itself (the birth of subjectivity) to subjectivity-in-and-for-itself (the growth of subjectivity with its ultimate culmination in absolute subjectivity). By “absolute subjectivity” here Hegel means precisely the final stage in which the implicit, immanent telos of human subjectivity that has been present throughout all developmental forms of human consciousness becomes explicit and fulfilled, namely, in which the human subject becomes fully broadened or universalized and sees all beings as intrinsically interrelated in their distinctive otherness. Importantly, according to Hegel, this can be made possible only when the human subject conceives of God as Absolute Spirit, as absolute universality per se and thereby conceives of all beings as self-expressive moments of God in his trinitarian movement. In short, the Hegelian spiritual subjectivity can be defined as the dialectical movement of its three constitutive moments, i.e., the Absolute or God as absolute universality (the immanent telos), self-conscious identity (being-for-itself), and concrete historical relatedness (being-for-others), each of which is homologous with the above-mentioned three constitutive elements of my proposed new conception of subjectivity for the age of globalization respectively, i.e., self-transcending drive toward universality, self-determined or autonomous action, and solidaristic relationship with others. It is in this sense that I argue the current context of globalization crucially needs as a new anthropological vision the Hegelian spiritual subject that intrinsically thinks, wills, and acts for something greater than itself as it constantly relates itself to others not in a monological way but in a dialectical way.
Yoo, Yun Kwon. (2020). Toward a New Conception of Human Subjectivity for the Age of Globalization: Revisiting the Hegelian Vision of “Spiritual Subjectivity”. CGU Theses & Dissertations, 711. https://scholarship.claremont.edu/cgu_etd/711.