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Gender and the Ethical Given

Human and Divine Law in Hegel's Reading of the Antigone


  • Molly Farneth

Molly Farneth, Princeton University, Department of Religion, 1879 Hall, Princeton, NJ 08544,


G. W. F. Hegel's discussion of the Antigone in the Phenomenology of Spirit has provoked ongoing debate about his views on gender. This essay offers an interpretation of Hegel as condemning social arrangements that take the authoritativeness of identities and obligations to be natural or merely given. Hegel criticizes the ancient Greeks' understanding of both the human law and the divine law; in so doing, he provides resources for a critique of essentialist approaches to sex and gender. On this interpretation, Hegel views the conflict between Antigone and Creon as tragic because the gendered identities and obligations inherent to Greek Sittlichkeit are naturalized and withheld from scrutiny and revision. In the conclusion, I suggest how Hegel's criticisms pose a challenge to certain approaches to religious ethics.

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