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The Owl of Minerva

Volume 39, Issue 1/2, Fall/Spring 2007/2008

Thomas A. Lewis
Pages 25-53

Speaking of Habits
The Role of Language in Moving from Habit to Freedom

Hegel’s account of habit plays a vital, though often overlooked, role in his philosophical anthropology as well as his ethical thought. Although first introduced in relation to basic physical capacities, habituation reappears in his account of language and in the unconscious appropriation of ethical life. Because acting out of habit is not acting freely, our freedom depends upon the abilit y to reflect consciously on our habits—which for Hegel requires articulating them in language. Contrasting Hegel with Bourdieu on the expressibilit y of practices, I argue that Hegel’s view is more optimistic than Bourdieu’s yet more sober than it first appears.

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