• Charlotte Nora Szász

Working title: Eternal Irony: Feminity and Knowledge in Hegel


In the tradition of European Enlightenment after Immanuel Kant, there is one philosopher in particular who stands for a pathbreaking new method for grasping social inequality: G. W. F. Hegel. Thanks to Hegel, a new social criticism emerges that allows for understanding the world from the perspective of domination and oppression. A standpoint of critique has emerged that includes a critical ontology of the standpoint, a method that allows for questioning our own standpoint on the one hand and for preventing an identity-ontological standpoint on the other.

My study seeks to disrupt the long tradition of metamorphoses of patriarchal Hegel research by inverting the widely held view that humans have gender but not knowledge. In the detour via irony—the interface of knowledge and situatedness—it seeks to establish the basis for a different conception of gender difference and to provide critique with a concept. It is an attempt at shifting gender from the social context in which it was produced to a hypostasized nexus of object properties and the necessity of natural laws.

A transverse analysis of Hegel’s work allows me to show that his association of the epistemic figure of irony with the status of the feminine is both relative to his system and promotes knowledge. A comparative perspective on Hegel’s notions of irony, femininity, and knowledge and a qualitative methodology of developing the concept of irony, moreover, shows that the question of gender is a major starting point, especially in the current ontological turn of philosophy.

The first part of the study is devoted to Hegel’s reflections on irony in the tension between subjective universality and the reference to the Idea, that is, between Romanticism and Socratic method. The second part sets up the relation between irony and the genderedness of knowledge. In Hegel, femininity is a figure of knowledge that is not fully reducible to the finite. This part consists in a detailed reading of two sentences in the Phenomenology of Spirit that, despite being famous, have received little exegetical attention. There, Hegel speaks of femininity as the “eternal irony of the community.” The third part seeks to establish the problem of the genderedness of knowledge as a central moment in Hegel’s thinking.