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Rahel Jaeggi

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780231151986

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231151986.001.0001

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Having Oneself at One’s Command

Having Oneself at One’s Command

Reconstructing the Concept of Alienation

(p.32) 4 Having Oneself at One’s Command

Rahel Jaeggi

, Frederick Neuhouser, Alan E. Smith
Columbia University Press

This chapter offers suggestions for reconstructing the concept of alienation based on the argument that alienation critique today cannot—but also need not—be grounded in strongly essentialist or metaphysical presuppositions, nor rely on perfectionist or paternalistic arguments. It contends that precisely the point of the concept of alienation is to mediate between unsatisfying alternatives: between ethical subjectivism and objectivism, between refraining from and espousing substantial moral conceptions of the good life, between abandoning the idea of autonomy and holding onto illusory conceptions of subjectivity. The chapter first examines Ernst Tugendhat's reflections on the problem of grounding a modern ethical theory, using it to reconstruct a theory of alienation that overcomes the charges of essentialism and perfectionism. It then proposes the thesis that alienation can be understood as a particular form of the loss of freedom, and that the problem domain of freedom and alienation is centrally concerned with ways of appropriating one's own life. It also expounds on the concept of appropriation and concludes by calling for a reconstruction of the concept of alienation based on a qualified subjectivism.

Keywords:   alienation, subjectivism, objectivism, good life, subjectivity, Ernst Tugendhat, essentialism, perfectionism, freedom, appropriation

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