Pinkard on Spirit of Trust

Terry Pinkard’s contribution to the recent, rather negatively skewed collection Reading Brandom offers a judicious and measured critique of Brandom’s reading of Hegel in A Spirit of Trust. I previously commented on Pinkard’s separate book review, which was a bit more sharply worded, and covers some of the same points in more detail. I’ll focus here on a couple of further matters.

Pinkard nicely develops the contrast between Fichtean and Hegelian accounts of mutual recognition. For Fichte, a denial of the need for mutual recognition would simply be a philosophical error. Hegel went further, in maintaining that the slave society that institutionalized such a denial was ultimately unable to make sense of itself by its own criteria.

Somewhat my surprise, Pinkard objects to what he takes to be Brandom’s reading of the Spirit chapter of the Phenomenology in terms of Kantian or Fichtean transcendental philosophy. He takes this to mean that Hegel’s apparent historical references must on Brandom’s reading be taken to have only an allegorical significance. It is true that the transcendental has no historical dimension in Kant or Fichte. But according to Brandom, “Hegel brings the normative down to earth by explaining discursive norms as the products of social practices…. the diachronic historical dimension of recognitive communities is at the center of Hegel’s story” (Spirit of Trust, pp. 12, 14). Brandom’s Hegel’s transcendental is linguistic, social, and historical.

Pinkard correctly points out that historical development does not follow the principles of what Brandom calls a forgiving Hegelian genealogy, which Brandom likes to explain by analogy with the retrospective evaluations of case law in jurisprudence. I don’t think Brandom meant this as an account of the objective sequence of historical development, but rather as a guiding ideal for the retrospective interpretations we use in understanding cumulative results embodied in the present.