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Hegel’s “Objective Spirit”, extended mind, and the institutional nature of economic action


  • Ivan Boldyrev


  • Carsten Herrmann-Pillath



This paper explores the implications of the recent revival of Hegel studies for the philosophy of economics. We argue that Hegel’s theory of Objective Spirit anticipates many elements of modern approaches in cognitive sciences and of the philosophy of mind, which adopt an externalist framework. In particular, Hegel pre-empts the theories of social and distributed cognition. The pivotal elements of Hegelian social ontology are the continuity thesis, the performativity thesis, and the recognition thesis, which, when taken together, imply that all mental processes are essentially dependent on externalizations, with the underlying pattern of actions being performative. In turn, performative action is impossible without mutual recognition in an intersubjective domain. We demonstrate the implications for economic theory in sketching an externalist approach to institutions and preferences. Copyright Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Suggested Citation

  • Ivan Boldyrev & Carsten Herrmann-Pillath, 2013. "Hegel’s “Objective Spirit”, extended mind, and the institutional nature of economic action," Mind & Society: Cognitive Studies in Economics and Social Sciences, Springer;Fondazione Rosselli, vol. 12(2), pages 177-202, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:minsoc:v:12:y:2013:i:2:p:177-202 DOI: 10.1007/s11299-012-0111-3

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. John B. Davis, 2007. "Akerlof and Kranton on identity in economics: inverting the analysis," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 31(3), pages 349-362, May.
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    4. Boldyrev, Ivan A. & Herrmann-Pillath, Carsten, 2012. "Moral sentiments, institutions, and civil society: Exploiting family resemblances between Smith and Hegel to resolve some conceptual issues in Sen's recent contributions to the theory of justice," Frankfurt School - Working Paper Series 193, Frankfurt School of Finance and Management.
    5. Harrison, Glenn W., 2008. "Neuroeconomics: A Critical Reconsideration," Economics and Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, vol. 24(03), pages 303-344, November.
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    Cited by:

    1. Herrmann-Pillath Carsten, 2014. "Naturalizing Institutions: Evolutionary Principles and Application on the Case of Money," Journal of Economics and Statistics (Jahrbuecher fuer Nationaloekonomie und Statistik), De Gruyter, vol. 234(2-3), pages 388-421, April.

    More about this item


    Hegel; Performativity; Extended mind; Recognition; Institutional economics; Preferences; B40; B49; B52; D03;

    JEL classification:

    • B40 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Economic Methodology - - - General
    • B49 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Economic Methodology - - - Other
    • B52 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Current Heterodox Approaches - - - Historical; Institutional; Evolutionary
    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles


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