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Is Hegel's Master–Slave Dialectic a Refutation of Solipsism?

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This paper considers whether Hegel's master/slave dialectic in the Phenomenology of Spirit should be considered as a refutation of solipsism. It focuses on a recent and detailed attempt to argue for this sort of reading that has been proposed by Frederick Beiser – but it argues that this reading is unconvincing, both in the historical motivations given for it in the work of Jacobi and Fichte, and as an interpretation of the text itself. An alternative reading of the dialectic is proposed, where it is argued that the central problem Hegel is concerned with is not solipsism, but the sociality of freedom.

Keywords: F. H. Jacobi; Frederick Beiser; G. W. F. Hegel; J. G. Fichte; idealism; master–slave dialectic; nihilism; scepticism; solipsism

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of Sheffield,

Publication date: 2012-03-01

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