Practical Necessity, Freedom, and History: From Hobbes to Marx

ISBN : 9780198847885

David James
256 Pages
160 x 240 mm
Pub date
Mar 2021
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By means of careful analysis of relevant writings by Hobbes, Rousseau, Kant, Hegel, and Marx, David James argues that the concept of practical necessity is key to understanding the nature and extent of human freedom. Practical necessity means being, or believing oneself to be, constrained to perform certain actions in the absence (whether real or imagined) of other, more attractive options, or by the high costs involved in pursuing other options. Agents become subject to practical necessity as a result of economic, social, and historical forces over which they have, or appear to have, no effective control, and the extent to which they are subject to it varies according to the amount of economic and social power that one agent possesses relative to other agents. The concept of practical necessity is also shown to take into account how the beliefs and attitudes of social agents are in large part determined by social and historical processes in which they are caught up, and that the type of motivation that we attribute to agents must recognize this. Practical Necessity, Freedom, and History: From Hobbes to Marx shows how Rousseau, Kant, Hegel, and Marx, in contrast to Hobbes, explain the emergence of the conditions of a free society in terms of a historical process that is initially governed by practical necessity. The role that this form of necessity plays in explaining history necessity invites the following question: to what extent are historical agents genuinely subject to both practical and historical necessity?


1 Hobbes's Argument for the Practical Necessity of Colonization
2 Practical Necessity and History I: Rousseau's Second Discourse
3 Practical Necessity and History II: Kant on Universal History
4 Hegel and Marx on the Necessity of the Terror
5 Practical Necessity, Ethical Freedom, and History: Hegel's Philosophy of Right
6 The Compatibility of Freedom and Necessity in Marx's Idea of Communist Society
7 Practical Necessity and Historical Necessity in Historical Materialism

About the author: 

David James is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Warwick. His publications include Fichte's Republic: Idealism, History and Nationalism (Cambridge University Press, 2015), Rousseau and German Idealism: Freedom, Dependence and Necessity (Cambridge University Press, 2013), and Fichte's Social and Political Philosophy: Property and Virtue (Cambridge University Press, 2011).

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