I’ve been reading Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit for a class.
Hegel seems to respond to a particular view of Kant’s, that I have been thinking about. If someone has a particular talent, then that person ought to pursue that talent to the fullest of their capacity, according to Kant. The reason this follows for Kant is that it can be universalized.
Hegel’s criticism in the section on the ‘Animal Kingdom of Spirit’ is focused on how one could know one’s talent. In other words, if I am supposed to strive to do well with my talents, then I obviously must know what my talents are. Therein lies the problem for Hegel. How can I know my talents? Suppose I have a strong desire to play music because I am a huge appreciator of music. I might have the desire, and yet I might not have any ability to play music. Hegel’s view is that the person is realized in action, not desire. I am not a musician because I have the desire to play music; I can only become a musician when I actually play music.
I think Hegel’s criticism stands: I can only perfect my talents, only after I know what they are. I can only discover my talents through action.
Of course, I might begin to pursue some course of action on the basis of desire, but that is not enough to say that I have talent.