Are we in control? Hegel’s Lordship & Bondage

Posted by: Scott Henstrand & Jonathan Ficaro - Lesson Plan created during an NEH Summer Seminar on Existentialism
Designed for: High School
Topics Covered: existentialism, slavery, control, film
Estimated Time Necessary: 5 days
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Learning Objectives

  • For the students to determine an alternative way to overcome a time that they felt controlled. -
Attached PDF

Tool Text

Quite often we find ourselves in situations where we know we are not in control, such as being a student, or having a job, or being bullied. The most important factor in this is the perspective you as an individual bring to the situation. In this lesson, we are not discussing the merits of any social situation, though this is of course a fundamental part in any situation. The purpose is for the student to discover ways to understand what roles are possible in situations involving control/being controlled and choosing how to act in the situation.

This lesson unfolds over multiple sections to engage in a deep reading of Hegel and the real world applications of his thought. Each section will take one or more days, depending on the educator’s approach and the engagement of the students. It is strongly urged that if the students are particularly engaged in a specific section, do not cut the lesson short.

(It is also recommended that the educator discuss beforehand with guidance that this lesson series is occurring for support if this topic brings forth intense reactions in some students.)

Text: Hegel’s Lordship/Bondage paragraphs 178, & 186-196

Glossary of Terms


Schedule

Section 1: Control and response

This first day is to lay the groundwork for the week’s work.

  • Introduce the Guiding Question.
  • Free write: Ask each student to describe a situation that they felt controlled and what they felt/did about it. Discuss an example, such as bullying.
  • Students reflect in writing on a situation involving a moment in their own life.
  • Have students partner up to share their writing for feedback. Pairs give feedback in the form of questions.
  • Group reflection on the day. This can be a cold call of a few students or a quick response from each student.

Section 2: Master/Slave

This day is to introduce the concept of master/slave as a way to analyze situations of control.

  • Quick review of the previous day before by eliciting a summary from the students.
  • View the clip from “12 Years a Slave” with the lens of the relationship between the persons represented in the film, stating briefly that the film is about the American South before the Civil War, but that it has important messages about humans beyond the historical context..
  • Discussion questions (chart answers in the form of a T-chart with Master- Slave as titles for the two columns):
    • What is happening in this situation shown?
    • Who is the master? How do you know?
    • Who is the slave? How do you know?
    • What role does the third person play?
    • How do these three relate to each other?
  • Introduce the concept of master/slave- 178 & 186- 189 (see below). This is writing by a philosopher, GWF Hegel in 1809 describing what he thinks happens in situations of control. He called it Lordship and Bondage, but we are going to refer to his writing as Master/Slave.
  • These exercises are intended to position the students to understand the power dynamic relationship between the master and slave, highlighting the juxtaposition of which self-consciousness is ultimately essential in the Hegelian dialectic for the slave rather than the master.
  • Questions to guide the reading and the discussion (add to charts any responses that fit):
    • What does it mean to be self-conscious?
    • Why do we need others in our life?
    • Why do we need as humans to feel like we are better or more important than others?
  • Group reflection on the day. This can be a cold call of a few students or a quick response from each student.

Note about sections 3 and 4 below: an alternative approach is, instead of guiding whole class in each of the master/slave reactions, divide the class in two; one group takes on analyzing the master, the other group analyses the slave. The share would be a discussion (possibly fishbowl, debate- see Brookfield and Preskill. Discussion as a Way of Teaching for methods in developing a democratic classroom through discussion).


Section 3: Looking at the relationship from the perspective of the master

In section three, students focus on the “master”, looking for clues on the relationship the master has to the others in the situation.

  • Quick review of the previous day before by eliciting a summary from the students.
  • Replay the film clip asking the students to focus on the master.
  • Discussion questions (further chart these answers on chart paper):
    • How does the master act?
    • What kind of person is he?
    • What does he want?
    • What does he hope for?
  • Continued shared reading of Hegel passages 191-193.
  • Questions for guiding the reading and discussion (further chart answers on chart paper):
    • What is Hegel saying about the master? Is he really in control?
  • Group reflection on the day. This can be a cold call of a few students or a quick response from each student.

Section 4: Looking at the relationship from the perspective of the slave

In section four, students focus on the “slave”, looking for clues on the relationship the slave has to the others in the situation

  • Quick review of the previous day before by eliciting a summary from the students.
  • Replay the film clip asking the students to focus on the slave.
  • Discussion questions (further chart these answers on chart paper):
    • How does the slave act?
    • What kind of person is he?
    • What does he want?
    • What does he hope for?
  • Continued shared reading of Hegel passages 194-196.
  • Questions for guiding the reading and discussion (further chart answers on chart paper):
    • What is Hegel saying about the slave?
    • How does the slave become aware of their power?
  • Addition: add reading by Lisa Vox to give historical perspective on slave resistance. This could be a way into looking at student reaction to schooling.
  • Group reflection on the day. This can be a cold call of a few students or a quick response from each student.

Section 5: Who is the “Middle person”?

In section five, students focus on the “middle man”, the Brad Pitt character, looking for how this middle person relates to both the master and the slave.

  • Quick review of the previous day before by eliciting a summary from the students.
  • Replay the film clip asking the students to focus on the “middle man”.
  • Discussion questions (further chart these answers on chart paper):
    • How does the middle man act?
    • What kind of person is he?
    • What does he want?
    • What does he hope for?
  • Student written reflection: Have you ever been a middle person? Describe a time when you were in the middle in a situation.

Section 6: Free write

Essay-

In the situation you initially described, would you react differently now that we have looked at the master/slave relation? Use evidence from our lesson.

Questions to guide your writing:

  • What do you think the controlling person wanted in this situation?
  • What did you want?
  • What would you hope for now if the situation happened again?

In the writing, be sure to show the movements of:

  • The desire of the master
  • The work or labor of the slave
  • The moment of the slave realizing independent self-consciousness
  • How the master is denied independent self-consciousness?

Students can share their essays in a culminating event*.

*The students are to evaluate the situation in which they shared “a situation that they felt controlled and what they felt/did about it”. These evaluations are to be based on their new understanding of the master/slave dialectic, using the terms discussed, mapping out the dialectic for their particular situation.


Further study of social relations:

Any social relationship can be viewed from the lens of the master/slave. Have the class generate an issue that is near to them to study with this lens (an example is below)!

If your class is ready for more independent research, have groups of four students decide on a social relationship that they want to research, present to the class and facilitate a discussion.

 

Here is a sample:

Where are the women?: The fundamental issue of women controlling their bodies and lives is of extremely significant concern (pair with videos found in “Additional Resources”

  • Questions for the student’s perceptions of our current culture:
    • How are women treated in our culture now?
    • Do women have full freedom to choose their destiny?
    • Do you think this is fair?
  • Share: have the women in the class facilitate the discussion
Are we in control? Hegel’s Lordship & Bondage

Possible Discussion Questions
  1. How can a person take responsibility for their role in a situation of control/being controlled?

Resources for Further Study
  • Hegel's Lordship & Bondage - For grades 8-10: Modified Hegel’s Lordship and Bondage from pages 520-523 in Phenomenology of Spirit translated by AV Miller, 1977.For grades 11-12: Modified Hegel’s Lordship and Bondage from sections 191-196 in Phenomenology of Spirit translated by AV Miller, 1977.
  • “12 years a slave” - Brad Pitt works with Platt and confronts the Master- 3+ minutes-
  • 3 Major Ways Slaves Showed Resistance to Slavery - Lisa Vox: summary of points on resistance of slave- focus should be on the day-to-day methods of resistance
  • "Soap" - Pats disappears from the plantation and is brought back- this is Pats explanation to the master for leaving the plantation
  • “Where are you from, Platt?" - The master’s wife questions Platt about his education
  • "Auction" - This is a disturbing scene (that is right) and should be carefully discussed- nudity and emotional violence where Eliza, a mother, is separated from her children-