Mr Austin Gross

Research project: From Authority: Hegel's Political Epistemology


In the Preface and the Introduction to the Phenomenology of Spirit, ‘authority' is a pseudo-problem. The alternative between ‘foreign authority' and one's ‘own authority' is indifferent. What is philosophically relevant about skepticism has nothing to do with questioning the authority of others, but only with the ‘content'. Entering into the content is a third way between dogma and certainty, and of authority there's nothing left to say. Just three months later, ranting and raving about the backwardness of the Bavarians in a private letter to his friend Niethammer, Hegel insisted on the need for a state journal, after the fashion of the Napoleonic Moniteur universelle, whose ‘aura [Schein] of authority' would give public influence to science and put ‘adolescent insolence in its place.' In the middle of this tirade, he changes registers to add: ‘From authority, in any case, we must begin; that is, from the belief that, by virtue of their fame – as in other cases by virtue of their eminence in a state – Plato and Aristotle, when we don't understand them, that is, when we find what they say to be junk […] deserve more trust than our own thoughts; etc.' Then he goes immediately back to his Moniteur. Commentators like Gérard Lebrun, in The Patience of the Concept, have tried to understand this ‘seeming argument from authority, Aristoteles dixit' not only in light of Hegel's critique of epistemological individualism (which defined the scope of the pseudo-problem of authority in the Preface and Introduction to the Phenomenology) but as a consequence of his critique of separation: ‘there is no more (separated) spirit, all is letter.' this thesis will engage with Lebrun's way of posing the problem, but I suspect that Hegel's ‘appeal to authority' has stakes beyond the critique of separation. Perhaps it's a problem about beginnings: science (the Logic) makes a beginning without presupposition, but ‘we' must begin from authority. The question is, above all, how to begin with authority. The thesis will turn to Hegel's mature philosophy of spirit (in particular, his remarks on the reign of spirit and the cult in the Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion), as well as his pedagogical writings from the 1810–30, where he discusses the concept of authority positively, to return, finally, to the speculative function of authority.


I am a PhD candidate at the Center for Research in Modern European Philosophy (London). My research concentrates on returns to authority in philosophy, and on philosophers who claim to rely on "tradition" in a philosophical manner. Rather than turning back to scholasticism, these philosophers borrowed sidelong from jurisprudence and theology to articulate their position. I have also written on Lacan, Sade, and contemporary theater poetics.

Areas of research interest

  • Philosophy of history
  • Ontology
  • Psychoanalysis


  • MA in Philosophy

Funding or awards received

  • Kingston University Studentship