Robert B. Pippin
is an American philosopher. He is the Evelyn Stefansson Nef Distinguished Service Professor in the John U. Nef Committee on Social Thought
The Committee on Social Thought is one of several PhD-granting committees at the University of Chicago. It was started in 1941 by historian John Ulric Nef along with economist Frank Knight, anthropologist Robert Redfield, and University President Robert Maynard Hutchins.The committee is...
, the Department of Philosophy, and the College at the University of Chicago
The University of Chicago is a private research university in Chicago, Illinois, USA. It was founded by the American Baptist Education Society with a donation from oil magnate and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller and incorporated in 1890...
Pippin earned his BA in English from Trinity College in Hartford CT. and his Ph.D. in philosophy from Penn State under the direction of Stanley Rosen
Stanley Rosen is an American philosopher. Born in Cleveland, Ohio, he is currently Professor Emeritus at Boston University. His wide range of research includes metaphysics, political philosophy, and history of western philosophy....
. Before moving to Chicago, he taught for a number of years in the department of philosophy at UCSD, where he counted Henry Allison and Herbert Marcuse among his colleagues. He currently resides in Chicago with his wife Joan.
Pippin is best known for his work on Hegel, although has also published articles and books on Kant
KANT is a computer algebra system for mathematicians interested in algebraic number theory, performing sophisticated computations in algebraic number fields, in global function fields, and in local fields. KASH is the associated command line interface...
, Nietzsche, Proust, Hannah Arendt
Hannah Arendt was a German American political theorist. She has often been described as a philosopher, although she refused that label on the grounds that philosophy is concerned with "man in the singular." She described herself instead as a political theorist because her work centers on the fact...
, Leo Strauss
Leo Strauss was a political philosopher and classicist who specialized in classical political philosophy. He was born in Germany to Jewish parents and later emigrated to the United States...
and Henry James
Henry James, OM was an American-born writer, regarded as one of the key figures of 19th-century literary realism. He was the son of Henry James, Sr., a clergyman, and the brother of philosopher and psychologist William James and diarist Alice James....
His 1989 book Hegel's Idealism: The Satisfactions of Self-Consciousness
was a major contribution to Hegel studies. In it Pippin portrays Hegel as a thinker with fewer metaphysical commitments than are traditionally attributed. Hegel's claims about the "Absolute" and "Spirit" are interpreted in a vein more epistemological than ontological. Much of Hegel's project, in Pippin's reading, is a continuation rather than a reversal of the Kantian critique of dogmatic metaphysics.
Such a revisionist reading of Hegel has gained a following recently, inspiring important works by Terry Pinkard, Paul Redding and others, as well as influencing less historically-oriented philosophers of mind such as John McDowell
John Henry McDowell is a South African philosopher, formerly a fellow of University College, Oxford and now University Professor at the University of Pittsburgh. Although he has written extensively on metaphysics, epistemology, ancient philosophy, and meta-ethics, McDowell's most influential work...
and Robert Brandom
. A similar movement to interpret Hegel as a "category-theorist" has been inspired in Germany by Klaus Hartmann.
In Pippin's 1991 Modernism as a Philosophical Problem: On the Dissatisfactions of European High Culture
, he develops what he calls a socio-cultural corollary to his 1989 work. He enters the debate on the legitimacy of the modernist project and the possibility of post-modernity. Still claiming to be interpreting Hegel, Pippin tries to defend modern, prosaic bourgeois society. Nonetheless he admits that, and attempts to explore why, the dominant high culture of that society has been one of what might be termed self-hatred: he ranges from Flaubert and later modernist avant-gardes to the intellectual trends of New Historicism
New Historicism is a school of literary theory, grounded in critical theory, that developed in the 1980s, primarily through the work of the critic Stephen Greenblatt, and gained widespread influence in the 1990s....
and Derridean deconstructive thought. Generally speaking, Pippin's argument is that modernity is "never-ending", that it is an attempt to bring greater rational transparency to all of our social practices and that much of the self-hatred of modern high culture is motivated by attempts to bring such transparency to areas where it had previously not existed. This process may never be completed but once it is begun, it cannot be stopped.