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A Manual for Hegel's Philosophy of Right

Jeffrey Wattles, 1991         



            This manual is designed to render a neglected classic in ethics accessible for classroom use.  The Philosophy of Right is the text Hegel created for his course at the University of Berlin in 1821.  In German it has a double title: Natural Law and Political Science in Outline and Elements of the Philosophy of Right.  The text, in the translation of T. M. Knox (Oxford University Press, 1952), has much to offer students today.  It is unused in most courses in ethics, however, because the student finds that, despite its flights of intelligibility and rhetorical momentum, it remains embedded in turgid conceptual vocabulary developed in Hegel's other systematic works.  Even the explanatory notes provided within the text and those added later ("Additions") based upon notes taken in Hegel's lectures often fail to alleviate the beginner's burden.

            Faced with a great but partly unintelligible text, many flatly refuse to embark upon the work.  Others skim for the nuggets of readily accessible insight.  A few undertake in full detail Hegel's haunting project--to unfold the logic according to which the nuggets are not merely happy noticings but, most of all, moments in an ordered system.  We should mention the ideal of a commentary, not aimed at here, implicit in a remark of H. S. Harris, who once characterized a book on Hegel as having culled the obvious things and having clarified none of the difficult things in the text.

            There has been a pervasive ambivalence toward Hegel.  His writing has been so impressive that many a philosopher has been both perennially frustrated by Hegel's philosophic inadequacies and perennially intrigued with the prospect of valuable new discoveries that await one's continued attention to Hegel.  How many philosophers have labored through the stage of regarding him as master or as enemy (or both: master because he is enemy, enemy because he is master)!  To lay this ghost aright will be to begin to understand and evolve beyond social systems as they are actualized in our modern, secular age.  Hegel even in some respects points beyond ethical institutions as they have evolved today.  We have begun to realize that the revolutionary conjunction of idealism and violence is not the pattern of progress.  To evolve a better way includes rethinking--and to rethink Hegel is to rethink the tangled system of historical tradition which is largely still our own.



            The philosophy of right finds its place in the broad circle of Hegel's articulation of the system of reality, presented in his Encyclopedia (The Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences, whose final version was done in 1830).  In order to get part of the context for the philosophy of right, it is helpful to review the sections from the Encyclopedia, specifically from the third part, the Philosophy of Mind.  This part is presented in three sections--"subjective mind" dealing with psychology, including feelings and drives and inclinations; "objective mind" dealing with the matter unfolded in the Philosophy of Right; and "absolute mind," dealing with art, religion, and philosophy as ultimate realizations of all-encompassing mind.

            It will be useful to pick up the narrative of the Encyclopedia at the point where will is first introduced (#468).  There are many kinds of mental activity; one standard distinction is between theoretical and practical intelligence.  We break into the narrative right at the transition between these two functions.  Mind is functioning as intelligence--using categories (or general terms) to explain what it is thinking about--its contents.  Thus mind is subjectively determining its contents for itself.  The point is not that any old category will do equally well--that is not the notion of "subjectivity" Hegel has in mind.  The point is that mind makes these determinations for itself.  In this sense it is free; i.e., its determining activity is not something done as a service to any principle outside itself.  When mind realizes that it is doing this, that its contents are its own property which it possesses by its application of categories, it realizes itself as will.  Hegel is not inviting cynicism along the lines that personal interests always do (or should lucidly be allowed to) dominate our way of construing our experience (thus there would be no truth of any situation in the light of which we could criticize particular interpretations); the possibility of interest determining what is to count as knowledge, however, is clear from this paragraph.  Hegel is saying that there is an intrinsic freedom, indeed, a will in play as soon as the mind begins to regard its own domain--the contents of thought--as a realm in which it exercises determination (and hence, we may add, the potential for responsible creativity).

            The realm of practical mind is the realm in which mind determines itself and achieves its own fulfillment in reality.

            The leading thought of Hegel's philosophy is that neither the natural nor the social realm is an uncoordinated heap of particular, material facts, without any interconnections or intelligibility.  Rather, as understanding progresses, the "logic" in each of these realms is gradually disclosed; insights are gained.  Sometimes we can put these insights into the language of mathematical formulas; sometimes we need other ways of language.  To find intelligibility is to find the meaning in the facts, the concept inherent in the phenomena.  To find the concept inherent in the phenomena is to become aware of mind implicit in the phenomena.  This does not mean that each phenomenon is conscious (or implicitly conscious).  It does mean that intelligibility is the kin of mind itself--and mind embraces both of these kin.  Mind goes forth to understand, to find the concept in the phenomena, to find itself in the phenomena.  In the social sphere, mind's effort to find itself is especially rewarded, in that the objects of study are persons (minded individuals) and their social structures (the product of mind operating more or less consciously).



            One good place to begin The Philosophy of Right is with the table of contents.  Look first at the Third Part: family, (civil) society, and the state.  If we keep in mind Hegel's thought that in these modern institutions rational free will finds its fulfillment, then we will have a better grasp of the long development that is designed to explain the conceptual development of this result.

            The first two parts are subordinate aspects or moments of the social and political totality.  What is the first part, Abstract Right, doing?  The discussion of abstract right occupies the logical place assigned to it in Kant's doctrine of right.  Striving for internal moral rectitude presupposes an external order in which basic rights, such as the security of the person, are guaranteed.  In Hegel, Abstract Right is the skeletal system of legal ideas, generated by the concept of will functioning "immediately," i.e., regarding external things.  "Abstract" is from the Latin which means to draw away from; here it means "taken out of context."  The ethical context is the set of nested institutions that comprise the mature state.  In this sense of "abstract," morality, too, is abstract.

            Part Two, Morality, considers concepts about what ought to be.  Moral thinking, for example, with the categorical imperative, conceives of persons without any necessary regard for their institutional context, e.g., spouse, employee, citizen.

            Part Three, Ethical Life, presents the logic of the family, society, the state, and world history.  Duty becomes concrete, and the individual becomes fulfilled in his freedom by participating in these institutions.

            A note on language: I will use the terms "man" and "he," etc. following Hegel's usage because the gender implications of these terms fits the Hegelian understanding of the sexes and their role in the family, economy, and state.



            The Preface trumpets Hegel's most ambitious claims for philosophy.  The Philosophy of Right is to be is a textbook which covers in a rigorous ("scientific") way a closed circle of thoughts which have been familiar and accepted for a long time.  What distinguishes this book is that it shows the inner connection of these thoughts, following a philosophic method, which does not ape the rigor of quasi-mathematical deduction, but rather illustrates the method set out in the Science of Logic.  The rigorous form of this exposition is rooted in the content itself; it is not enough energetically to proclaim the edifying truths of religion and the heart.  Truth may be realized in a certain way in social life both in practice and in intuition--but it still needs to be comprehended in thought.  It will not do to begin with what one assumes (without demonstration) to be universally accepted and to make deductions from that.  The freedom of thought is betrayed if it merely offers opinions or, in the name of creativity, diverges from what is universally recognized and valid.  Such false freedom in "thinking" has brought philosophy a terrible reputation for being capricious and easy, and it betrays the truth that we find our satisfaction in the state.  A romantic, religious, "intuitive," emotional, and anti-intellectual approach to political understanding ought to mature to the recognition of the objective principles of law and right.  Some err in clinging to private feeling and "vitality" and scorning duty and law, the rational form of right.  Philosophy is better exercised as public responsibility than as private art.  To present the foundations of politics as so many subjective aims and opinions invites the ruin of the inner ethical life, of love and relations between persons outside the public sphere, and of law and the state as well.  Even though governments are beginning to accord more importance to the work of philosophers [1821!], philosophy is attacked from many sides, especially from those who regard the knowledge of truth as "a wild goose-chase," reducing all thoughts--those of criminals or judges--to the same level.  It is good and actually inevitable that superficial philosophy, developed in seclusion, has now come into open clash with public realities.  Philosophy is essentially political, as we can see from the case of Plato, whose Republic was an account of Greek ethical life in rational terms (whence the apparent utopia); and he put his finger on the crucial issue of his time, even though he suppressed the revolutionary truth that was beginning to break through: "free infinite personality."  "What is rational is actual and what is actual is rational."  What is really rational and what is really actual are the same.  Philosophy's exploration is to uncover this conceptual reality in its diverse appearances; philosophy is unsuited to giving detailed recommendations about practical matters, though it does not disdain them.  "Philosophy . . . is its own time apprehended in thoughts."  It is an account of the reality of what has come to be; it cannot remove itself from its own time; it should not construct a (necessarily empty) ideal of what ought to be.  So the philosophical form of the exposition in this text follows the rationality of the content, ethical structures themselves--hence we have a reconciliation between knowledge and the world.  Philosophy as a reflection on experience can always only follow, not anticipate, the essential developments of actuality.  (Recall that the owl of Minerva was the symbol of wisdom:) "The owl of Minerva spreads its wings only with the falling of the dusk."  This preface, not being itself developed in a rigorous way, is no substitute for a truly philosophic account; and any criticisms which are not so developed are to be discounted.



            The Introduction characterizes will, describes some forms of immature willing that might be termed "false freedom," and anticipates the fulfillment of freedom in the social and political institutions of the modern state.

            The first four paragraphs characterize the enterprise of this book in the broadest terms: a philosophical treatment (#2) of that part of the life of the mind, the will (#4), whose concept of right is actualized (#1) in the legal systems of particular nation states (#3).

            Let us look at these opening paragraphs more closely.  We will not merely study a concept or theory of the right, but "the concept together with its actualization"; the two together form the "Idea" of Right (Hegel's technical term).(#1)[1]

            A concept here, a concept there, unconnected--can a mature philosophy can be content with an apparently arbitrary gathering?  Rather, there is a connection between concepts.  The connection can be traced.  A conceptual narrative can be told.  It is possible to move from simpler to more advanced and complete concepts.(#2)

            A couple of extended comments are relevant here.  Hegel's method is always to begin with the most elementary "thin" concepts, devoid of rich, mature significance and to draw out the implications of these one-sided concepts to show how they lead to the downfall of their own initially apparent self-sufficiency and stability.  At the close of each conceptual suicide, it is possible to exit the rubble by advancing to a higher conceptual level.  Moreover, each concept is part of the whole; it is not to be discarded into some cosmic garbage can, but rather reinserted in its rightful place in the eventually understood totality.  Concepts form a coherent system, which cannot be exhibited all at once; therefore, the conceptual narrative is needed.  Such a narrative is all the more appropriate since so much of modern "thought" is attached to the illusions that the dialectical process of Hegel's critical unfolding lays to rest.

            We may think of Hegel's text as a story of a path through conceptual terrain.   Sometimes the path is steep and difficult.  Sometimes Hegel moves off the main path momentarily and returns to it.  Sometimes he doubles back and rehearses part of the path again.  Sometimes the switchbacks are such that one can realize that the present stretch of the path is analogous to a stretch traversed earlier on a lower level.  There are repeated views of the Alpine meadow of fulfillment: the mature state, its role in world history, and its component institutions.  There are also repeated lookout posts where we review segments of our journey thus far.  Sometimes, after ascending a certain distance, we descend to take up further adventure along a lower level.  Philosophic adequacy, not "height," is the criterion governing our sequence of topics.  Keep in mind that although it is much easier to understand the earlier steps of the conceptual journey in terms of their goal in mature institutions, Hegel insists that philosophy does not operate by presupposing these institutions as goals to be appreciated and accounted for; rather he proposes to show strictly that the concept of the will develops, with logical necessity, into these forms of fulfillment.

            Now to resume the summary.  Positive law is that law which is enacted by a particular governing body, as opposed to law in the sense of general principles which are supposed to underlie positive law.  The general principles of law have their own rationality; positive law has is the result, not only of considerations of principle, but also of diverse historical forces operating at the time.  It is important to keep the study of the logic of law free from the e.g., considerations of struggle for economic and political power, etc. that may play a role in positive law.  It is also important to realize that philosophy cannot be expected to provide deductions that adapt principles to particular situations (#3).  The general preparation for the detailed discussion of will culminates with the thought that Right is an affair of mind, specifically of the will (See Enc 468ff).  Will becomes conscious as mind recognizes its freedom (in determining its own contents by its own concepts, or, put less subjectivistically, in finding its own concepts inherent in what it thinks about) (#4).

             Next we have three paragraphs that set forth a pattern of complementary onesidedness and fulfillment in willing.

            Paragraph #5 presents the side that, on the one hand, the will is indeterminate--without inherent determinations, predicates, characteristics.  To speak of the will which "returns to itself" presupposes a previous engagement of will in some impulse or purpose.  Example: You are feeling awful about yourself because of a professor's humiliating criticism; your friend reminds you that you are not just that failure or that injustice.  Or you have workaholic tendencies, and your friend reminds you that your basic identity is not riding on your performance in this course.  You see the point.  You realize, "I'm me, not this course."  Or consider Gandhi, going on a fast, perhaps unto death, to protest oppressive policies.  He showed that the will can say no to anything, any external pressure, any internal motivation.  If you can't say no, you don't have a choice.  If you don't have a choice, you're not free.  This capacity for negation can be put into practice in extreme and destructive ways.  Hegel speaks about "infinite" negativity and "universality" of the will because it can negate anything and everything.[2] 

            Paragraph #6 presents the complementary side that the will also has the capacity to choose a particular, determinate action ("determinate" means "having specific characteristics").  You drive to Cleveland; you buy a hamburger.  If you can't achieve decision-action, you're not free either.

            Paragraph #7 calls for the union of these two sides.  Often these two sides of the will fall apart; they are not integrated in a single action.  (I'm especially conscious of interpreting here, of saying more than Hegel says in order to get at what I take to be his thought.)  For example, often we just muddle through, we plump or this, we opt for that, we paddle through the habitual waters of our days, without a radical exercise of our freedom.  We do not gather ourselves, mobilize our resources as free agents, and invest our freedom in our decisions.  Lacking resoluteness, we obscure to ourselves the truth of our negative capacity of freedom as we sheepishly follow along the way of inclination.  But this paragraph points beyond onesided rebellion and thoughtless opting to an integrated function of will.  There is a sense of autonomy here, (which is not bound up, as for Kant, with moral rationality): there is self-determination--I invest my freedom in this.     Both these capacities, the inner negativity and the outer positivity, must be preserved and conjoined in order for freedom to be realized.  Dostoevski's Notes from Underground illustrates this problem and its solution.  The underground man lives in an abyss of negativity, so able to criticize the premisses for any conclusion or decision, that he is incapable of decision-action.  He rails against the naivete of the "direct man," who plunks down his sturdy deeds without any awareness of freedom whatsoever.  Liza, however, shows the way of resolution.  She is not naive, knowing evil; but she can act--to bring her love and to depart when she is abused.   

             There are different ways in which will may make a particular commitment (#8); one of these ways concerns external things; I realize my purpose by dealing with external things.  The will acquires content (determinations of itself, qualities) through its purposes, whether they are objectively realized or not (#9).  Example: acquiring a house (an external thing) I acquire "content"; I am not merely myself (the "I=I" of #6), I am a homeowner.  Development is occurring.

             Paragraphs 10-18 describe false freedom, the immature will, choosing arbitrarily among its desires.  The will at this stage operates on the level of "immediacy"; immediacy is complacent satisfaction with intuitive grasp of things, meanings, or values.

            The will in its immediacy relates to objects of consciousness without being aware of their institutional context (#10).  Example: I may go forth to satisfy a sexual interest in sex, or I may buy a hamburger, or I may drive to Cleveland.  But I do not appreciate my partner in the context of the institution of marriage; I do not think of the economic relations that are involved in my buying the hamburger; I do not experience driving as a citizen on the road with other free citizens, whose political will is reflected in the laws I obey, etc.  At the lower levels, the freedom of the will is not realized by the agent.

            At a less philosophically mature stage, will gets its ends (goals, objectives) from immediate impulses, desires, inclinations.  It seems determined by these "givens," and its true character as freedom is hidden from itself.  There does not seem to be any underlying reason behind these diverse desires (#11).[3] 

            Think of the person who can't make up her mind.  Prior to decision, she has a multiplicity of desires, each of which is oriented to an indefinite number of objects (#12).

            In decision, the will resolves the competition and establish itself as an individual.  Once an individual establishes himself or herself by a decision, the individual becomes separate from every other will; competition and conflict is possible, mutual respect is possible, cooperation is possible--but individuals are distinct and separate (#13).[4]

            There is no integration at this level between will and what it resolves upon (#14).  It chooses . . .

. . . arbitrarily; some people mistake this non-rational manifestation for true freedom; it could rather be called false freedom (#15).

            Each choice, of course, is limited, and will can uproot any decision, reverse any commitment (#16).

            The will subordinates and sacrifices some desires to others to resolve conflicts between impulses--in order to maximize happiness or according to some other (equally arbitrary) criterion (#17).

            Human nature encompasses these drives, desires, and inclinations which provide content to the will.  They may be equally be regarded as inherent and thus good or as in opposition to the will and hence needing to be uprooted, as evil (#18).  Life at the level of false freedom spawns a certain kind of relativism," the view that philosophical commitments are "relative" to the individual in such a way that rational adjudication of differences between them is impossible.  When ideas are consigned to such a status, arbitrariness has (for the moment) overcome the true as well as the good.

             The next two paragraphs leads to a vision of the meadow of maturity--the Idea of right.  The medieval (especially monastic) enterprise of purification of desire (as actually or potentially evil) is fulfilled not in some ascetic transcendence, but in the modern light of intelligence which discloses the implicit rationality in the desires.(#19)[5]  Education should teach us how better to gratify our desires.  What education offers are general teachings, "universal" propositions.  They concern the process of reflecting on, comparing, and weighing groups of satisfactions (#20).

            Here comes a vision of the meadow.  The universals that education offers do not have the "concrete universality" of the Idea (the concept of freedom actualized in the institutions of a mature state (#21).  The will is actual, and its object is not some external object (obstacle) but itself (its own inner life as comprehended) (#22).  The will now does not depend on anything outside of itself and is therefore free (#23).  What is at work in the individual will is the Idea, which may be called "the concrete universal," because it is all-encompassing (#24).  This implies that even in the most immature moments of will, the Idea is at work, as the totality which is working itself out, coming to self-realization, through the process of what is partial (all are lost as separate individuals; all are saved in the whole).

            Hegel next explains what meanings he will attach to the terms "subjective" and "objective" when discussing the will.  The first meaning of "subjective" derives from the sense operative when we say each person is a subject, i.e., each person is conscious.  In an experience of consciousness, the subject relates to an object.  Note that "subjective" does not mean mistaken, and "objective" does not mean true; both sides, insofar as they are conceived in isolation from the other are incomplete and in this sense false.  Now for Hegel, our subjective experience of willing, generally in one-sided ignorance of larger truth, has three features: the individual has (1) "self-certainty" (not the same as truth)--the intuitive conviction of being a willing self (without a sense of any necessary involvement with others, with nature, or with institutions), (2) the sense of exercising arbitrary choice regarding various goals that the individual happens to entertain, and (3) the tendency to regard the individual's purposes as merely personal and as longing for fulfillment (#25).  When we say that the will is objective, we may mean that it is self-determining, or that it is true to its concept.  Moreover, the will also can only exist within the objective situation of the individual's particular limitations; finally, will can see itself objectively realized when its goals are accomplished (#26). 

            Again, freedom drives toward self-realization when it has itself as its object: relating to things and persons in terms of the ethical institutions evolved by rational will (#27).  The process of overcoming the alienation between subjective and objective will develops a systematized, substantive, independent whole, (#28) to actually exist as right, as the Idea (#29).  Much traditional philosophy of law, including Kant's, speaks of restrictions on individual liberty so that each person may have equal liberty; but this approach errs in assuming that will is basically private self-will to which external constraints must be applied!  This philosophy aims to transcend that standpoint.

            Right, therefore, is inherent in mind (and hence is); at the same time, right indicates what ought to be.  The concept of right is a product of the freedom of mind.  And the freedom is what ought to be actualized.  This is the bond and the creative tension between what is and what ought to be that drives the unfolding of the various moments that Hegel will narrate.  The philosophy of right narrates the drama of the actualization of freedom (a logical, not, primarily, an historical narrative).  In the concrete actualization of freedom, mind produces the institutions of freedom as a second nature--like itself, derived from itself.  The term "second nature" also connotes that the institutions of freedom's self-actualization have an objectivity comparable to the objectivity of nature.

            There are levels of actualization of will: the formal or abstract rights of personality, moral self-determination, and the familial, economic, and political spheres, and, ultimately, the "world-mind" (Hegel's God, not equivalent to humankind as a whole, but not a transcendent Deity either).  Correspondingly there are higher and lower levels of rights.  They can clash only because they are all rights of the will.  But only one level is absolutely overriding--the level of world-mind (#30).

            Philosophical method, for Hegel, does not presuppose that freedom is fulfilled in the institutions of the mature state: that must be shown.  Nor will this be "applied philosophy" in the sense that previously developed abstractions (i.e., those of the Science of Logic) are merely being applied to some foreign material (#31).  What emerges in logical exposition is a series of concepts--and at the same time a series of experiences (#32).  The stages which we will see unfolding are, first the right of the individual abstracted from every ethical context--the right of personality, abstract right; next the level of the individual's (subjective) moral conception of the good, which faces the world without regard for the actualization of right in ethical institutions; finally, the ethical realm in which the will has objective realization while preserving its subjective freedom--in family, civil society, and the state (in its national, international, and world-historical life).  Note that these divisions are not drawn from historical sources but will be shown to be conceptually required.

            Comment.  Every modern ethical philosophy labors to interpret the key relation between what is and what ought to be.  Most ethical philosophies since David Hume have avoided trying to derive value conclusions simply from factual premises; they have realized that in order to derive conclusions about what ought to be the case, it is necessary to begin with some premise about value (or obligation).  Hegel differs from Aquinas in this respect.  For Aquinas the will is inherently directed (though it may err) toward its good.  This fact about human nature records a value orientation in human nature itself.  Hegel's concept of the will has no such inherent value orientation.  His concept of the will is involved with negating and affirming and in finding full actualization.  Aquinas's doctrine of the will could become richly concrete as specific goods are furnished to the will by our God-given natural tendencies.  For Hegel's radical, modern position, the only value inherent in will is the drive to actualize freedom.  It is on this thin basis that he proposes to derive norms pertaining to law, morality, and the institutions of ethical life.


6.  ABSTRACT RIGHT (##34-103)

            Hegel's concept of proof requires him not to begin by directly positing a substantive concept of right--this would be the way of dogmatic, traditional philosophy.  Rather, he must begin with the emptiest form of willing and show that it develops "necessarily" into more mature forms.  The primary experience of will at this level is to realize that, even though it begins immediately to appropriate the things of the external world, it involves itself nevertheless in relations with others (through contracts) contracts; and that the universal will expressed in a contract is not satisfactorily enforced simply by vengeance, but only by a commitment which carries will to the next higher level: morality.

            The development of the concept of will in Part One can be illustrated by a story.  Sandy, walking by the beach, finds a lovely sea shell and picks it up.  She wants to keep it.  It becomes hers, her property.  Perhaps she collects many such shells . . . and sells them to Big Al.  She and Big Al make an agreement for her to furnish shells to him.  Their agreement constitutes a "universal will."  They are assumed to be motivated merely by arbitrariness in willing, and by a relation to things characterized by immediacy.  Their contract, however, is one that either may renounce.  The same arbitrary will that formed the agreement can assert its separate independence over against their universal will.  Suppose Big Al refuses to pay Sandy after she has delivered a load of shells.  This is wrong, as a violation of their contract.  Sandy contemplates revenge: she could torch Big Al's truck.  Then she thinks that he could torch her truck.  The cycle of revenge could go on and on.  She sickens of the prospect.  Now she has arrived at the moment where she can take the step forward to the moral standpoint.  She goes forward and affirms, first, that justice should be done in this case, not merely revenge; and, second, that she will uphold the universal will.

            Let's now summarize leading points from some of the key paragraphs and add a few comments.  Observe the key move at the beginning of Part One: the will is characterized from the outset as operating on the level of immediacy (#34).  The single individual is assumed to confront an external world; i.e., consciousness is relating to things in terms of their naive appeal.  This is the Achilles' heel that will show the vulnerability of right outside a proper social and political context.  The acquisition of property, the entering into contract, and the breaking of contract are all conducted on the level of arbitrariness (false freedom).  The story that Hegel wants to tell here is one that exploits the weakness he finds in the Kantian attitude toward rights as external constraints on individual liberties.  Remove the tenacious individualism from the foundation of a doctrine of rights and there is no explanation for why the moral standpoint is to be discovered only at the end of Part I.  The categorical imperative cited in #36, "Be a person and respect others as persons," seems to be already a moral principle of right; moreover Part II, Morality, defining the good in terms of the union of right and welfare relies on Part I as having given an adequate account of right.  But when it is embraced by will in a condition of immediacy as part of the logic of property rights outside the institutions within which alone its legitimacy can flourish, trouble is brewing, though it will take quite a while for the harvest of false freedom to become manifest.

            Hegel moreover, does not mean to imply, by choosing this starting point, that people come on the scene as individuals before they are members of groups.  Hegel criticizes the romantic dream of a "state of nature" (p. 128).  He is ironically presenting the view of the "origin" of right shared by some enlightenment thinkers.  The point is not that the notion of individual rights is wrong-headed; only that it comes to its own in the social and political whole.

            The next paragraphs make a second beginning to Part I, introducing the concepts of personality and rights.  Consider what basic individual rights ("human rights") there are outside the context of particular political institutions.  (The Roman legal theorists, under the influence of Stoic concepts of cosmopolitan, rational knowledge of cosmic principles of reason, developed the doctrine of natural rights--that there are certain rights a person has, not because of being a Roman citizen or because of any national citizenship, but just by being a person.)  When we say that the individual is a person, we imply that on the one hand the person is unique, has various particular characteristics--and is in that sense determined--and on the other hand has an identity (remember #5) that transcends these determinations (#35).  To identify someone as a personality is to identify him or her as a bearer of rights.  The basic principle here is: "Be a person and respect others as persons" (#36).[6]  Persons have basic ("abstract") rights (and correlative duties to respect others as persons) regardless of their particular aims, or condition of welfare (#37).  The commands or laws of abstract right are negative prohibitions, i.e., against interfering with the possibilities that pertain to the actualization of freedom, possibilities that the individual is not obliged (at this level) to actualize (#38).  As personality confronts an external reality over against itself, knowing its own inner freedom, it moves to sustain itself above these external realities by somehow appropriating them (#39).

            The most elementary way in which the will moves to establish its own dominion in the face of an external reality . . . is to appropriate things as property.  Walking along the beach, I pick up a shell; the shell becomes my property.  Relations between persons follow from property.  What is mine belongs to no one else.  I can exchange my property and make contracts regarding my property.  Furthermore, since the will can negate all its commitments, it may break contracts, hence crime arises: with this sense of wrong we are

on the threshold of morality (#40).  This paragraph summarizes the rest of the section on Abstract Right.  A crucial move is Hegel's assertion that the primary expression of will is to actualize itself by the taking

of material property.  Relations to other persons are then mediated by property, rather than the other way around.  I.e., will is not, in the first instance, in relation to persons but to things.  And the "external world" is understood as a realm that may be owned before a social realm.  Hegel thus accurately reflects modern law, civil society, and politics which have grown up around the institution of the private ownership of property.  ##41-53, unfolding this notion of property, are especially recommended, but will not be summarized here.  It should be remembered that the concept of right is here discussed in abstraction from the institutions of civil society, its concrete place is found in civil society (cf. ##209, 229).

            The key transition to morality is in #103: responding to crime by revenge perpetuates wrong; but this is a contradiction.  The only way to resolve this contradiction is to seek a justice freed from subjective interests and the contingencies of power.  But such justice must therefore be an expression of a universal will.  Note that the term "universal will" need not imply that everyone agrees; rather, in the simplest contract, two persons establish their wills as identical; this is already a universal will.  The one who breaks the contract asserts his single will explicitly in opposition to the universal will.  In demanding justice, the subjective will comes to will the universal as such--and this is the standpoint of morality, loyalty to the universal will.[7] 

  Let us observe that Hegel's conclusions do not amount to telling the reader what the reader ought are not merely about what ought to be the case; he presents himself as simply describing the evolution that has actually come about.  What is, the true seen philosophically, is the same as what ought to be, what is demanded by freedom's impulse to self-actualization.  Can Hegel succeed in showing that the "mere" drive toward the actualization of freedom requires the norms he derives?  Let us see what we can.


            First a few main points of this section.  The Good is projected by the subjective moral will (conscience) as the union of right and welfare.  And the will in its transition to the moral standpoint is committed to the universal will, not merely to its own interests, the welfare in question is the general welfare, not merely the welfare of the agent.  Morality has no concrete principles from within itself; it lacks the concrete determinations of the ethical life with its structures of family, civil society, and the state.  Moral subjectivity is just that of a single individual, which may or may not correspond to the universal.  Since conscience asserts its right to autonomy--to be itself the judge of what shall count as right--it may end up opposing the universal; it is vulnerable to ending in error, evil, hypocrisy, and sociopathic self-deception.

            Let's put the main points in story form.  Sandy, having become committed to the universal will, reads Kant and Mill and formulates a concept of the good that will, at the culmination of world history, unite the right and the good; indeed all persons rights and interests will be fulfilled, notwithstanding the diversity of personal interests, and the caprice of outward circumstance.  She becomes fanatically dedicated to this moral goal.  She abandons her family, alienates her employer, and disdains the patriotism of the mere citizen.  Though her modern moral theory suffices (pace Hegel) to direct her adequately in a number of moral choices, it gives no concrete direction about the intelligible structures of the world, no definite guidance about what structures must be maintained and which must be constituted in order to evolve her goal.  She carries on a one-person campaign for morality and the good.  Eventually, her isolation begins to take its toll.  She makes a few bad decisions.  She abandons her family, and loses her job, and neglects to pay her taxes--all the while convinced that she is a secular prophet of the moral order, whose conscience is so devoutly consecrated to the final union of right and welfare that she forgets that she can err.  She deteriorates further.  She begins to disguise self-interested actions under the banner of righteousness.  Her hypocrisy progresses to the stage where she no longer realizes how immoral her "morality" has become.  Finally, she has to be taken to the hospital.

            Now a closer exposition.  The moral will emerges from the experience with basic rights with a commitment to the universal will--to the right (at least insofar as that concept was developed in the previous Part).  That commitment is a level of maturity that Hegel calls moral subjectivity (#105), and it is important because freedom can only exist in such terrain (#106).  But note: as soon as we have initially characterized this wonderful step forward into morality, a shadow appears--the partiality and onesidedness of moral subjectivity begins to emerge.  Moral subjectivity is a commitment of merely the single individual, and even though that single individual is committed to the universal will, it may well fail to grasp that universal truly.  Moral subjectivity insists on being shown when moral claims are presented; unwilling to accept authority, modern moral consciousness demands evidence (#107).  But a commitment to morality does not necessarily involve actually knowing (and achieving) what is right.  Rather, the moral stands as a goal to be discerned (and actualized) by moral subjectivity; it is a project.  Morality, therefore, cannot be regarded as something achieved; it is an "ought," something demanded (#108).[8]

            The following paragraphs, ##109-114, characterize moral action in a general way.  Will both determines its own content and strives so that subjective consciousness can express itself objectively.  The purpose of will is what is identical in both the moments of (1) the subjective self-determination of thought--decision--and (2) the objective movement--the process of realization of purpose in outward action (#109).  In other words, the purpose is the same purpose: intended and enacted.  In this content of my action, my moral subjectivity acquires outward existence (#110).  The moral will posits its content as right, but is fallible (#111).  A moral action necessarily affects others--and not merely negatively, as in abstract right (e.g., "You can't take it; it's mine").  The rights to be sought in moral action and the welfare to be realized in moral action are not merely those of the agent (as we shall see), but those of others as well (#112).  (I leave ##113-14 without comment.)

            Now for some remarks defining responsibility (and guilt) in relation to the goal (Zweck, "purpose") of one's action.  Action on the level of immediacy presupposes an external object in a complex environment.[9]  One is responsible for one's action in so far as the resulting state of affairs is one's own (i.e., not brought about by other factors not under my control) (##115-16).  I am not responsible for consequences I could not have foreseen (#117).  Some consequences are precisely what I intend; they belong to the action; changing Hegel's expression slightly, they are the (outer) figure (Gestalt) of the soul or purpose of the purpose of the action.  But beyond that, external factors may contribute to further consequences which cannot be blamed on me (#118).

            Regarding Intention and Welfare, an action may not properly be regarded merely as a momentary, external event, apart from the intention of the agent (#119).              But intentions may not simply be imputed; the agent has a right to disclaim any alleged intention not part of his/her thinking (#120).  The soul of the action is the particular content intended (e.g., the satisfaction of a desire).  A person does not will the evil as such (this assertion is rendered trivially true in the addition to paragraph 121 found on p. 251); rather these universal predicates of judgment are applied from the outside upon an action which was taken, presumably, in order to satisfy some passion, procure some good, rid oneself of some evil, etc.  Thus we can distinguish the inner motive from what is really done.

            But, as the addition remarks, it is possible to live (not just of the level of the effort to externalize one's inner intentions but) on the level of willing the right itself; then the outer action (as valued) and inner motive (as directed to the good) are not separated, opposed, disjunct; in such a happy and truly normal case, there will be no occasion for an external judgment to ascribe a predicate to the action that was not part of the soul of the action.  Our contemporary tendency to inquire about inner motives should pass away as more people come to find satisfaction in the action itself.  (Though there is no right to be successful or to have happiness) there is a right of the subject to find satisfaction through action (#121).[10]

            Since I have a specific intention, my action has subjective value, interest for me.  In any purposive action there is a relation of means ("the immediate in the action") to the end, or purpose.  But any finite purpose can serve as a means to a further purpose, and so on, without limit (#122).

            The subject at this point pursues its interests and seeks for welfare or happiness (#123).[11]  Subjective satisfaction is a legitimate, perhaps tacit, part of one's goal (#124).  That satisfaction is worthy if the actions are worthy.  The infinite value of the individual, in all his particularity, as expressed in Christian civilization, validates personal, particular satisfactions.  It is a mistake to array the universality of the understanding against them.  When I think of the will and subjectivity in general terms, I recognize that there is a right to satisfaction, not only as my own right, but also as the right of others, even of all subjects, whose particular goals may or may not harmonize with the universal (#125).[12]  What is crucial here is that we have made the turn from describing the action of one person to discussing the right of many subjects.

            Next comes the efficient drama of the mutual limitation of right and welfare.  Each subject has rights only because of being free[13]; no intention aiming at welfare (mine or anyone else') can justify an action contrary to right (#126).  (Note: the opposition between right and welfare only arises on the level where abstract right may oppose the welfare of a particular individual.)  Nevertheless, a person whose life is at stake has a legitimate welfare claim against other's normal rights (#127).  Thus we see the onesidedness right and welfare (each of which overrides the other in certain situations) (#128).

            We move to the next section by projecting the good as what conscience intends, namely the integration and fulfillment of these two moments, right and welfare, which we posit as capable of ultimate harmony (#129).  Welfare in this escatological sense is not merely individual, nor is it divorced from right, even as right cannot be right without welfare; rather the right of the whole prevails over the rights of the parts--e.g., property rights and particular welfare aims (#130).  The will initially relates to this projected Good as the essence to which it must measure up, although the Good is dependent upon the will for its actualization (#131).  The subjective will has the legitimate right to recognize for itself the validity of whatever demand may be placed upon it (#132).  The Good projected by will is essentially will itself; thus it is essentially knowable, not some transcendent Reality of which human mind may form merely an approximation; at the same time, the "insight" of this abstractly autonomous rational subject remains formal (not mediated through concrete ethical systems) and may err; the right of autonomy is overridden by the higher right of objectively established systems.

            I have a duty to the Good; but the Good is just essence of will itself, projected as the universal essence of will.  But this essence is abstract and formal; hence duty is to be done simply for the sake of duty (#133).  We may say that duty is to do right and take care for the welfare of self and others (#134); but these contents are not contained within the empty identity of unconditioned duty itself (#135).

            If we think of the Good over against ourselves as being so abstract, then our particularity--those qualities of ourselves that make us unique and that represent our special interests and desires and needs--is consigned to the realm of the subjective.  Conscience is that function of subjectivity which is certain of itself, and which determines and decides upon particular goals (#136).[14]  The will provides itself with basic laws of duty; but these fall short of ethical knowledge (#137).  Conscience, in its self-certainty, calls into question all objective ethical determinations (#138).  (This alienation is understandable when the social sphere enshrines unethical norms.)  When conscience reduces all objective ethical norms to mere appearance, prima facie claims, etc., then it has reverted to the state of the merely arbitrary will (Willkur) which is potentially evil in that it may well raise itself above the objective universal ethical accomplishments of historical reason (#139).  Conscience--which insisted on seeing for itself just what was to be counted as good or evil, right or wrong, a requirement of duty or not--has revealed itself as empty and as arrogant.  Morality, the commitment to the Good without regard for the objective ethical structures of society, has revealed itself as empty and dangerous--as potentially evil.

            Both the subjective conscience and the projected Good are the same in that each is lacking in concrete, definite structure; and their identity is, ironically, what constitutes ethical life (#141).



            The concept of freedom is actually realized in stable, valid laws and institutions (##142-44).  These are substantive structures that endure, even though individuals come and go, regulated by them, and giving them actuality.  The responsible individual finds these institutions to be the very essence of his or her self (as a rational will) (##146-47).  Duties within the context of valid institutions are like duties to oneself; they are liberating, not properly experienced as constraints upon arbitrary impulse (##148-49).  Virtue means the individual appropriation of the qualities required by ethical institutions; when a society is stable, having achieved rational institutions, the opportunity for heroism is reduced and virtue is little noticed (##150-52).  The individual finds fulfillment in the rights and duties of the diverse spheres of the ethical, each of which has its own higher level of mind; i.e., the state is the ethical substance, a mind of a higher order (##153-58).


THE FAMILY.   Paragraphs 158-160 introduce familial love and the following sections.

  Familial love involves felt unity.  Can that feeling of unity be experienced beyond the family (in the socio-biological sense)?  How wide a sphere can it encompass?  The young Hegel hoped for such energies to course through the state; the aging Hegel looks only to an unfeeling order in civil society and the state.  The surrender of one's sense of identity as an individual personality (as a bearer of rights), finding a new identity as a member of the larger group, is essential to the family.

            It is only when the family is dissolving that family members relate to each other in terms of rights (#129).  The coming paragraphs portray a classic Hegelian process of a level of life that contains within itself the "seeds" of its own destruction: the family begins in feeling, it is outwardly embodied in property, and it breaks up when the resulting children are educated and leave home (#160).

            Marriage.  In marriage the biological process is raised to consciousness (#162); in marriage persons freely enter an ethical union superior to the inclination or arrangement that may have led them into the marriage initially (#163).  In the new bond, passion becomes but a moment in a larger mindal reality ("spiritual substance").[15]  The marriage ceremony is not merely a matter of getting "a piece of paper; rather the linguistic and public decision establishes something of a higher order (#164).

            The difference between the sexes is a vital and psychological complementarity of male--knowing, volitional, powerful, active--and female--passive, subjective.  He has the articulate life of politics and economic activity outside the home, which furnishes him a haven of intuitive warmth.  Her destiny is in the home.

. . .

            The family has capital, administered by the husband, as a common property, though each family member has rights in it (##170-72).

            Children represent the unity of a loving marriage; they have a right to be educated--elevated beyond a natural existence into an ethical one.

            What are the goals of parents?  What dispositions are especially important for children to acquire?  What is the relation between the feelings appropriate to children and ethical principles?  (##173-75).

            Why, according to Hegel, should divorce not be available on a whim? (##163-64; 176)

            In what ways can a family be "dissolved"?  (##176-78; 181)

            As families multiply, diversify, separate, they come to treat each other as separate (#181).  The family as the ethical realm of immediacy--feeling--gives way to the next level at which difference, particularity whose universality is merely implicit, emerges:



            The members of civil society are particular individuals, motivated by diverse appetites and drives, who interact to one another's mutual benefit through selfishness, arbitrariness, and accident, who regard the state merely as an external force needed for certain purposes (##182-88). 

            How does Hegel explain that the system of mutual benefit results in such unfairness, ethical degeneration, and poverty?

            We see the self-interested individual, full of wants, arbitrary will, confronting external physical necessities--just the same as the immature will of ##10-18 and the person of abstract right ##34ff except that in this context the individual can only satisfy his own needs by satisfying the needs of others [through market exchange] (#182).  The "livelihood,k happiness, and legal status" of one are interwoven with the "livelihood, happiness and rights of all" (#183).

            From the perspective of civil society, there is no higher (state) reality (#184).  But false freedom in pursuit of self-gratification is suicidal.  Desires multiply without limit.  Luxury and poverty emerge; each degenerate physically and morally (#184).  (Remark on the historical importance of the emergence of individual personality: The principle of the "infinite" personality of the individual, existing on his own in subjective freedom, was recognized and suppressed by Plato; the structures of the ancient world could not accommodate the free individual, and broke as the individual arose.)  In consequence of the conditions produced by false freedom, government is required to step in (and able to step in) with force.

            Through education these self-interested citizens learn to socialize ("universalize") their thinking, willing, and acting (#187).  One grows to live, no longer on the basis of natural inclinations, but, by undergoing the discipline of work, to integrate with universal understandings and practices.  Thus individuals become able to participate in society--and to get what they want and need from it.  Education is clearly not just a matter of schooling, but a thorough cultural upliftment from a natural condition to a truly human participation in common life.

            #188 gives a nice preview of the development of civil society.

The System of Needs

            The key to this sphere of life is that level of thinking that Hegel calls the "understanding" (Verstand ["v" is pronounced "f"; "st" is pronounced "sht"; the "a" is long]); it is inferior to philosophical Reason (Vernunft) in depth, self-awareness, and conceptual flexibility.  Understanding is (1) especially occupied with external things; it is (2) occupied with thinking how to select efficient means to gain its ends [the use of thinking called "instrumental rationality" and charged by J. Habermas et al. as the dominant, if not exclusive function of reason in 20th century society].  In its scientific use, the understanding is (3) devoted to detecting hidden regularities in piles of empirical data that seem unordered.  The understanding also experiences (4) subjective discontent and moral frustration in modern society (#189).

            In society man's needs and means (unlike those of an animal) become multiplied and differentiated without limit; and man can transcend them (#190); and can judge with discrimination which of them are suitable (#191).  As needs and means become more abstract, relations between persons become more abstract (one does not relate as a whole person to a whole person, but as, say, a clerk to a customer).  The Addition explains that one abstracts from one's personal style to conform with (to please) others (#192).  Desire also multiply through vanity and envy (the desire to keep up with the Joneses) (#193).

            In the liberation offered by this society, one is dealing no longer with tigers and foraging for food; rather the struggle for survival is carried out in job interviews, etc.  Social factors become more prominent than physical factors (#195).  But this liberation remains abstract (not concrete, integrated, fulfilled) since its content remains contingent particularity (whatever people happen to desire).  The possibility of luxury arises with the possibility of poverty.  And things are tougher on the poor person: in an earlier age he could go get what he needed from nature.  Now, what he needs is the property of others.  It belongs to them, and so resists his appropriation with the force of law (#195).

            In the work characteristic of modern civil society, raw materials of nature are transformed by labor (#196) through disciplined work (#197) in which the tasks become so subdivided that machines can take over the work (#198).

            #199 sets forth the way the economic system is supposed to work.  There is a universal satisfaction for all participants.  All are capable of drawing on the wealth of society through the contribution of their labor.  But (#200) there are in fact unequal abilities to participate in the economy--for many reasons; classes evolve--agricultural, civil service, and business classes (#201-06).  A person has to specialize in order (to make a contribution and) to make something of himself (#207).

      "            Morality has its proper place in this sphere where the paramount thing is reflection on one's doings, and the quest of happiness and private wants . . . ."  It is uncertain whether the individual will be able to win his satisfaction.  The needs of others arise as external and disconnected to the individual's basic motivation--which makes altruism a duty (#207). 


B.  The administration of justice: for persons as equals according to the principles of abstract right (#209).  Right is made actual by legislation and recognized by all (#211, 215).  It is determined in particular cases--without regard for subjective interests--by the courts (#219).  Hegel notes that the right to a trial and to sue can be abused; better try to settle out of court (#223).  In the courts determination of facts, it is a matter of sensuous intuition and subjective certainty; no higher kind of certainty is available for this kind of question (#227).


C.  "Police and the Corporation" (the role of government for this level).  It is not within the capacity of philosophy to determine how to draw lines regarding e.g., injury, amid the detailed and subtle grey areas in which determinations must be made (#234).

            Civil society tears the individual away from his (and her!) family ties [e.g., as both parents work and pay others to rear the children].

            Several factors make for poverty: wasteful spending, impulsiveness, accidents of various sorts, physical conditions (cf. #200).  The poor are deprived of opportunity, education, public health services, and even religious welcome.  Public authority has to step in regarding not only the physical needs of the poor, but also regarding the vices of poverty--laziness and vices that arise from hostility toward the System (#241).  Morality has a role to play: charity.  But many people who need charity do not receive it.  Society needs to get at the causes of poverty and to coordinate charity and organize relief (#242).  At the very time when the economy is booming, workers are tied to jobs which restrict their participation in the life of the culture (#243).  Then some group falls below subsistence level; and this leads to a moral decline and the origin of an underclass and (2) a concentration of disproportionate wealth in a few hands (#244).  Welfare destroys self-reliance and independence (the principle of civil society).  Artificially created jobs don't solve the problem either; they distort the economy by creating product beyond the level of real demand (#245).  The capitalist society is driven to seek new markets abroad (#246), which leads to world trade and international culture (#247).  Colonies are established, in which some of the society's population returns to the older tradition of family life, which, moreover, creates new demand for the products of industry (#248).


A mini quiz:            Classical economics, representing a certain level of intellectual understanding, has discerned the law-like results of the operations of countless arbitrary and unconnected phenomena.              As society becomes more complex, what happens to human relationships? (#192)

            How do luxury and poverty originate? (#195)

            What is one end result of the division of labor? (#198)

            How do the market operations of particular, selfish persons conduce to universal welfare? (#199)

            What are the three classes of civil society? (##202-205)

The Administration of Justice

            It is through government that the abstract right of persons becomes effective--is known and possess the appropriate power (#209-10)

            What can go wrong in law? (#212)

            Can you "legislate morality"?  Explain.  (#213)

            How can the courts be abused? (#223)

            What kind of certainty is achievable in determining the facts in a case at law? (#227)

            How are particularity and universality operative in the administration of justice? (#229)


The State

            In this section we see Hegel's nationalism and secularism.  It is interesting to think of alternatives to this position.  What if sovereignty were regarded as being located, primarily, on the one hand, in the individual, and, on the other hand, in humankind as a whole?  Do any of Hegel's affirmations about the part and the whole make more sense in this transposed context?  One might even consider the notion of cosmic citizenship; but only a much richer concept of personality (such as Berdyaev's) could sustain such a proposal.

            For Hegel, the state, finally, is where the Idea is consciously and actually enacted (#257).  The state has supreme right over the individual, whose duty it is to be a member of the state (#258).  The state is organized via the constitution, relates to other states via international law, and functions as a moment in world history (#259).


A. Constitutional Law.  The state and the individual find their true fulfillment in each other (#260).  The state cannot be mature if the individual is squished (suppressed); that would be a throw-back to a pre-modern form of political organization.  And, of course, the state needs individuals in order to exist in actuality.  Hegel philosophizes on the family and civil society as essential moments in the overarching unity of the state (##261-67).  There is an important remark to (#261) that helps clarify his concept of abstract (Kantian) duty; see, esp. p. 162.3: "Duty on its abstract side, goes no further than the persistent neglect and proscription of a man's particular interest, on the ground that it is the inessential, even the discreditable, moment in his life."   In the state, by contrast, the individual's satisfaction is to be replete.

            An interesting discussion of patriotism is found in #268 (cf. ##324-28).  Recall from the introduction to Ethical Life that the virtues are simply those qualities pertaining to one's station in ethical institutions.  Since the survival of the individuals is bound up with the survival of the state to which they belong, it is the duty of every citizen to support the state, even at the cost of his life.  The sentiment of patriotism is not classified as an opinion since it is based on truth.  Patriotism involves trust, which is the consciousness that one's interest is contained and preserved in the other.  Such practical identification with the other is freedom.  Recall that freedom for Hegel means self-determination.  If (as in the standpoint of civil society) I see the state as a power over against myself, I do not experience freedom in relation to the state.  From the mature standpoint of citizenship, I identify with the state.  It is not an Other over against me.  I find my freedom precisely as a member within this realm.

            In this connection we have a remarkable and little noticed pillar of Hegelian epistemology: "Action in conformity with these institutions gives rationality its proper proof."  Presumably there are two kinds of proof, the conceptual deduction which Hegel has tried to present in the strict interconnection of concepts in his philosophical system, and a practical, experiential proof.  Presumably without the latter experience, the former, logical connections will seem to lack meaning and hence to lack persuasiveness.  In The Phenomenology of Mind (1807) Hegel had rehearsed the historical experience of western civilization, developing various modes of consciousness and discovering their limitations.  On that basis he had then written The Science of Logic (1816) distilling a conceptual narrative developing from the simplest concept to the fullest Idea (which implies its own actualization [Remember the ontological proof for the existence of God?]).  There is a tendency to obscure the persistent rooting of Hegel's thought in reflection on historical experience.  Not that immediate experience is the foundation for the derived concept; that would be a naive notion of the relation of experience and concept.  The point, again, is that there is a practical proof of what Hegel is asserting.  If we are not as content with Hegel's results, we might say, more generally: Action in accord with evolving ethical institutions gives the rationality attributed to them its proper test.

            The famous organic conception of the state is set forth in #269.  This conception is notorious for its liability to totalitarian distortion.  Hegel may in fact, despite his insistence on the liberty and satisfaction of the individual, have lurched into totalitarian thinking in his doctrine of the absolute right of the state over the individual.  Emmanuel Levinas in Totality and Infinity leaves no doubt about the challenge represented by all such thinking, even the very enterprise of a systematic philosophy in which persons are located within an overarching totality.  Hegel intends with this conception of the state to heal individualistic-competitive civil society and its discontents.              In an organic state, one does not merely have a monarch (or elite government) and a horde of random individuals.  Rather, difference are articulated into a well-formed totality . . . "based on distinct spheres of activity, according to consciously adopted ends, known principles and laws . . . in which the government is supposed to act with precise knowledge of existing conditions" (#270).  One idea that Hegel proposes is that the people may be politically organized into groups according to their different spheres of activity.

            What role is religion to play in the organic state?  In medieval times, the church set itself forth as the agent of the cosmic order, and subordinated the state to itself.  In the modern secular state, the relation is reversed.  The extended remark to (270) may be summarized in the following way.

            Religion at its best achieves the recognition of absolute truth.  The truth it articulates overlaps with that which is known and actualized in the life of the state.  The state does not concern itself with creed, doctrine, ritual, and ecclesiastical organization.  Religion does not concern itself with the (full range of) details of civil society, law, government, and international relations.  But they share a common concern with the ethical.

            Religion presents truth as given (revealed, as a package, from above).  Religion presents truth to feeling, in the form of representation (story-telling, with picturizations of truth, such as God the Father on a throne).  Religion appeals to authority ("This comes from God, from the apostles, from the Church").

            Religion offers an ultimate legitimation for duty.

            Religion inculcates the feeling of unity among human beings (a genuine service to the state).

            Religion develops best when left in independence from the state.

            Religion is a necessary means of education (from living on the basis of naive opinion and natural inclination to living on the basis of discipline to a mature comprehension of truth).  Religion is an end in itself, and religion also has its own proper embodiment within the state: the church.

            Religion at its worst encourages indifference to urgent public matters in times of crisis (seeking heavenly peace when responsible engagement is most needed).

            Religion holds an attitude of superiority toward the state, regarding all matters outside religion as merely accidental, regarding the state as an institution that merely serves as a means to the higher purposes of religion, regarding state activities as inferior, merely material; regarding the state with the condescension of (Roman Catholic) priests toward the laity.  A haughty religious attitude proposes to supervise and direct the activities of state.  It claims a monopoly on the realm of Geist (spirit or mind)--a monopoly which it once had as the patron of learning during the middle ages.  It offers prayer as a substitute for thought.  It promotes a tragically simplistic morality of wholehearted righteousness and thus tends toward fanaticism.

            Or religion submits with ugly resentment to the force of state power.

            Religion at its worst dehumanizes its devotees, leading them to bow down to animals, etc.  The state needs to protect people from dehumanizing religion.

            The church should support the state.  We have to construct what Hegel might have had in mind.  Presumably the common concern for the ethical would supply the content.  Religion exalts the ideals of family life; teaches self-control, honesty, and diligence (all important for participation in civil society; a moral concern for charity toward the unfortunate; contentment in difficult conditions; recognition that "all power comes from God" and hence that citizens should obey their rulers; that faithful citizens should "render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's."

            A strong state should permit a wide variety of churches.  It should be able to provide alternate service to those who object on religious grounds to military service (a fundamental and essential obligation to the state).

            Membership in some church should be required by the state.

            The church holds property; it should not be exempt from taxes.  It needs the protection of the state.  And, as a corporation, it is appropriately subject to public control.

            The state is the divine will in actuality, Mind on earth.  Whenever the state comes into conflict with religion, it is the state that really knows.              It realizes truth, not as given from above, but as rationally self-produced.  The state is allied with study, science, discipline, and work.  The state has the right to maintain itself against challenges from misguided religion, science, and education.  The state must be free of religious control (partly so as to avoid getting caught up in conflicts between sects).

1.  The Constitution (#272-320).  This section, here left without comment, shows the constitutional monarchy and a way of conceiving the division of powers of government as motivated not by fear of usurpation of power by a power elite but rather by conceptual articulation.  Hegel's conceptual articulation, however, does not follow the standard division into legislative, judicial, and executive branches. 

2. Sovereignty vis-a-vis foreign States (##321-29).  Here the absolute power of the state, the sovereignty of the state, is set forth.  #324 and the remark to it present the justification for war: (1) Everything finite and material, property, human life, the things we see and hold dear, all pass away.  They are, in their very nature transient.  War demonstrates the reality of these things as transient.  (2) The state needs to be invigorated after a period of peaceful stagnation.  (3) War unifies the state.  (4) War defends freedom.

            All have a duty to sacrifice for the state, especially the class of soldiers whose special virtue is courage (#325).  If it is necessary to mobilize the entire nation for defense, the state may turn to conquest (#326).  People with a wide spectrum of motives can show courage; but the true value of courage derives from allying with the genuine good of the state (#327-28).  To identify with the state ("the universal") involves not only courage but willingness to cooperate in effective (military) organization (Addendum to #327).  Modern warfare, in accordance with the modern thought of universality, is becoming more impersonal, more directed against groups; the soldier manifests a thorough absence of mind (in renouncing his own opinion or reasoning about when and where to advance, etc.) combined with "the most intense and comprehensive presence of mind and decision in the moment of acting" (Addendum to #328).

            The monarch, who represents the individuality of the state, must represent the state in the conduct of international relations.


B.  International Law.  Thomas Hobbes had envisioned a "state of nature" theoretically preceding the emergence of civil society and the state, in which each individual lived in a "war of all against all"; in the state of nature each could rightfully use all possible means to defend himself; life is "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short."  The problem of the state of nature was resolved for individuals by the compact through which they formed a state and accorded the sovereign (e.g., the monarch) the power to enforce civil order over themselves.  Immanuel Kant was concerned that the several sovereign nations still remained in a state of nature with respect to each other.  The possibility for war and the tendency for war is inherent in such a "world order" (cf. Kant's "Idea for a history from a cosmopolitan point of view" and "Perpetual Peace").  Only through the formation of a federation of nations could international law ever be enforced, ever become a reality.  Hegel objects to Kant's proposal for a new world order that the will of sovereign nations could still disturb the peace.  According to Hegel, there can and should be no political organization higher than the nation; such a notion would compromise the very concept of national sovereignty.

            Because each single state is autonomous, sovereign, the notion of international law remains a mere "ought," contingent upon the will of the parties involved (#330).  Each state should be formally recognized as sovereign, but it is might not have achieved mature inner development (#331).  Hegel's notion of statehood includes an empirical claim about self-sufficiency: Whereas in civil society constant exchange is vital, states to a large extent produce what they need (#332).

            The fundamental law of international relations is contractarian: Treaties ought to be kept (#333).  Hegel remarks that Kant's League of Nations rests on a contingent assumption that some religious or moral or other ground will motivate membership.  Persistent disputes may only be settled by war (and there is no Criterion on the basis of which to measure at what point the actual or threatened injury to a nation's welfare provides a just cause for war) (##334-36).  The state should not be subordinated to abstract moral notions.  The state's principle of conduct is itself "and not only of the many universal thoughts supposed to be moral commands" (#337 Remark).  (Kant had insisted that politicians must restrict their actions in pursuit of even the best ends by the principles of morality. "Perpetual Peace, Appendix 1.)  The fact that states recognize each other during wartime implies, first of all, that the war should end; i.e., the point of war is not annihilation.  This fact also implies a number of important requirements for the just conduct of war: that one avoid fighting in a way which would be so angering that it would make it impossible to agree to stop fighting (e.g., not kill envoys); not make war on civilian populations or against persons except insofar as they are part of the military (#338).  In other matters regarding proper conduct in war, custom (i.e., since the capacity of philosophy to decide matters on principle is limited).  Through all the blundering contingencies of international relations, the universal mind of the world is disclosed (#340).


C.  World History.  It is clear from the remark to #270 to what extent Hegel has secularized the concept of God.  Mind (Geist, spirit) achieves its actuality in the state and its supreme self-realization in philosophy.  There is a function of the old-time God of the Hebrews and their religious successors, however, which is strikingly preserved in Hegel: God as the Lord of history.  While Hegel refuses the notion of a universal will with constitutional power over the Sovereign nations (#333), he does preserve the notion of the universal mind which brings forth its own purpose through the apparently blind sequence of historical events.

            The opening sentence of #341 is summarizes the summit of Hegelian thought that is presented in the encyclopedic system after the philosophy of objective mind (the philosophy of right) is completed.  "The element in which the universal mind exists in art is intuition and imagery, in religion feeling and representative thinking, in philosophy pure freedom of thought.  In world history this element in the actuality of mind in its whole compass of internality and externality alike."  So world history includes the history of art, religion, and philosophy.  This statement of Hegel then puts his philosophy of religion in a new context and makes it more paradoxical.  On the one hand, God turns into a moment within the self-articulation of philosophic mind and a title for the process that is consummated in philosophy.  God is simply the completed harvest of the history of human thought.  On the other hand, God is the real Lord of history.  Such a deity has a chance of cosmic status.  Is Hegel inconsistent?  Is there a wondrous depth for the ongoing contemplation of students?  Or is the Lord of history simply thought (and there is no other thought in question than human thought) on a level that is often unconscious to individuals in the throes of it all?

            It might seem clever, but it would be missing out on the concealed truth to regard human history as merely a chaos of brutal and sometimes not so brutal contingencies.  There is a purpose working itself out: the necessary development of the moments to freedom (#342).  History is the act of mind achieving consciousness of itself (#343).  We must regard its governance as intelligible.  A Providence that was inscrutable would be hardly different from arbitrariness and chaos.  Nations and particular individuals serve destiny without realizing it (#344).  World history is beyond good and evil (#345).  Each stage is necessary.  Happy is the nation which embodies its advance.  History is spread out in the space-time externality of diverse geographical and anthropological (racial) conditions.  In each stage of the development of freedom, one nation carries the ball and has its hour of glory, after which it is unceremoniously plucked from center stage.  After its moment of world-historical greatness/service, the nation can decline or wander about without direction, or do its best to keep up with the nation where the forefront of progress is happening (remark).

            There are two levels of description for important actions.  On the one hand, the deed was done by this individual or group, etc.  On the other hand, the deed was done by World Mind.  It is important to see that Hegel wants to sustain both of these levels of description as legitimate--in particular he does not want to volatilize the first level.  Individuals are not mere sparks fleeting across the face of Infinity; without human individuals the Infinite wouldn't actually exist or be able to figure out what's going on.  On the other hand, the higher truth is to recognize the higher Agent at work in the deeds of history.  Individuals enact the deeds of world mind (for which, as such, they receive no appreciation) (#348).

            Political evolution (from families, clans, tribes . . .) must achieve statehood in order to achieve sovereignty (#349).  It is the right of the Idea to step into history, (e.g., as tough leaders form states by subjecting neighboring tribes, warring factions, etc., under the their own unifying rule; or by making clear cut laws; or by starting up institutions such as agriculture[!]) (#350).  Civilized nations may treat less-developed nations as barbarians, treating their unequal rights as a mere formality (#351).  Hegel draws language from the New Testament book of Revelation to describe the leading nations as executives around the throne of the World Mind (#352).

            The four moments of history are (1) the stage in which the individual is not recognized; (2) the next stage, self-aware, alive, achieving ethical individuality, and fulfilled in beauty; (3) deepening inwardness to the point of opposition to objectivity: "mind-forsaken" [this seems like a poorly edited text in which Hegel, who repeatedly revising his attempt to stuff history into a formula, at times assigned a special place to Jewish history]; (4) the reconciliation of subjectivity [Jewish--or Roman?--inwardness] and [Greek?] objectivity (#353).  Each of these moments is explained further.  They are identified as Oriental, Greek, Roman, and Germanic (#354).  The Oriental state is a patriarchal theocracy (he thinks of Hinduism or Islam as providing the religious conception) in which individual liberties are absent, the rule arbitrary, class ossifies into caste, and a vague restlessness agitates a feeble and exhausted society (#355).  The Greek state achieve the beautiful ethical differentiation of individuality (especially in art, where the infinite and the finite are identified); a multiplicity of city-states, never politically unified, remained until Macedonian autocracy put an end to their independence.  Unlike the modern state, free men never did the essential work of society, leaving that to slaves (#356).  The Roman state presided over the destruction of ethical life through class polarization and degeneration held together by "abstract, insatiable self-will" of the Emperors (#357).  The "Germanic" state grandiosely incorporates the Jewish tragedy of the failure to recognize the unity of the divine and the human (Jesus); it achieves the reconciliation of objective truth [as expounded by science] with subjectivity [the principle of the individual, developed in Hebrew and Christian religion, reasserted by Luther in one way and by Descartes in another] (#358).  From an early devotion to an abstract harmony of faith, hope, and love, the medieval period developed its crude, barbarian actuality, over against which the medievals posited a "higher realm" "beyond" "this" one.  They conceived of this spiritual reality in terms of a Power acting with "compulsive and frightful force" (#359).  Modernity emerged in a struggle against that medieval order.  Heaven was lowered down to earth.  The opposition between the earthly and the heavenly disappeared as rational thought achieved the construction of its universals: thought, law, etc.  The state arose as the "image and actuality" of reason in its two functions, knowing and willing.  Religion continues to represent truth as an ideal essentiality (i.e., as separable from the concrete details of mundane life).  Philosophy finds the same structure in nature and in the state and in the ideal world [of the set of concepts articulated in logic] (#360).

    [1]  Hegel's concept of right (Recht) is hard to translate, and it is fitting that Knox has just taken the cognate in English rather than substituting another term.  Nevertheless, we would like to have a rough equivalent in English to get ourselves started with this new term.  I propose that the right is roughly equivalent to "the ethical" as long as I can emphasize a few special added connotations of this term: (1) duty--the right is what ought to be the case; (2) law--right is a legal concept, roughly equivalent to justice in a broad sense; (3) the right is especially actualized in the state.

               Are there any essentials of social truth that are not actualized to a significant degree in modern society?  Hegel rejoices that the essentials of social truth are actualized in modern society.  For all the imperfections and ominous tendencies of modernity, the essentials of social truth are recognizable in our institutions of property, law, family, business organizations, and the state.

               The term "Idea" was used by Plato to name the transcendent eternal pattern of those shadowy realities which we perceive; by Kant to name a metaphysical hypothesis which was philosophically important but which we could never really know; by Hegel to mean the historically self-actualized totality of mind (especially, here) the state.


    [2]  Are there experiences, e.g., of pain, in which I am unable to recover myself?  Is it sometimes impossible for me to disentangle my identity from the finite body?

    [3]  Note the alternate path taken by Thomas Aquinas: to define will as oriented by God, through our basic desires, toward certain basic goods, which are to be enjoyed in social and political institutional life.  On this account, the will is intrinsically oriented toward the good.

    [4]  Loyalty and comradeship also become possible when decision is made.  Why, as Aaron Gula asked, does Hegel mention the possibility of conflict but not the possibility of cooperation?

    [5]  Those who call for the purification of our desires have in mind the ordered fulfillment of these desires in the institutions of property, family, etc.; they sometimes claim in a facile and misleading way that those institutions are implicit in the desires themselves; this saves them the logical labor of the philosophy of right--they simply leap to the conclusion and attribute the result to the original desires.  Thus Hegel suggests a criticism of previous thinkers (Aquinas?).


    [6]  Hegel's concept of personality as the bearer of (abstract) rights continues Stoic legal tradition and abandons the Christian tradition in which God, the Creator Personality, infinitely loves the individual creature personality, whose meaning and value transcend the legal realm altogether.  Moreover, personality is a concept subordinated in Hegel's philosophy of religion to the category of mind.  It is arguable that the Kantian categorical imperative, here quoted, implies a far deeper concept of personality than Hegel admits.  It is not clear that the imperative to be a person and respect others as persons can be restricted to the domain of abstract right; it appears to be a fundamental moral principle.  If so, why does Hegel need to use such a principle here?  And if a moral principle sponsors such definite concepts as those pertaining to property, is it as empty as Hegel claims in his criticism of Kant in Part Two on morality?

    [7]  What is the character of this demand for justice?  Notice that Hegel is trying to show how the moral ought evolves logically from the self-unfolding of rudimentary will.  If the demand for justice is a demand of frustration, then the demand itself should not be characterized as moral.  The universal might mean merely "what we had agreed upon."  On this minimalist interpretation, we do not have a truly moral perspective emerging here.  Hegel clearly wants more than a contractarian concept of justice and more than an emotivist concept of morality.  It is not clear that he has derived what he wants.  At some point, it would seem, a genuinely moral insight arises, qualitatively different from the frustration over the vicious cycle of revenge over broken agreements.  Perhaps Hegel's logical "proof" of the moral standpoint is simply to lead the mind to that conceptual location from which one could proceed only by making the leap to another level.  The point then would not be that the leap itself was logically derived, but rather that the leap was logically prepared.

    [8]  We should not say that Hegel claims to have deduced an "ought" at this point.  Rather, he is merely pointing to the fact that the goal of moral subjectivity is an ideal, which is altogether unspecified at this point, except (following #104) that it should be something on which various individuals could agree (a universal will).  The very lack of specification of this ought is itself a matter of concern, and points beyond the moral to the ethical stage.

    [9]  This immediacy is analogous to #11 and ##40-43.  The difference is that before we spoke of the will in relation to natural things; now in relation to actions that affect a change in a state of affairs--the two are not mutually exclusive, but the emphasis is importantly different--here the standpoint of morality is assumed.

    [10]  What is "the right of the subject to find his satisfaction in the action"?  Perhaps it means that every person has the right to seek satisfaction in action.  Perhaps the implicit paradigm of action is one in which there is no uncertainty regarding the success of the action.  In that case, Hegel could be asserting the freedom of the individual to act according to his choice.  Hegel may be, in part, asserting the right to the pursuit of happiness.  Alan Gewirth claims that there is a right to whatever (welfare) an agent requires in order to have a meaningful opportunity to engage in action.  Hegel's claim here appears not to overlap with Gewirth's.

    [11]  Welfare translates das Wohl, which could also be rendered well-being.

    [12]  Hegel seems here to use his thought that universal mind (the mind of mature culture) activates the rational thinking of each thinker.  Thus in negating my particularity and returning to the universality of the first moment of freedom (#5), I am returning not just to my own ego but to the universal mind itself.  Thus the question can be meaningfully opened, whether other subject's happiness can be coordinated with the universal.  It surely does not mean that it is a question whether other's goals can be harmonized with my own.  Hegel does not here argue for the connection between the universality of the reflective ego and the universality of the mind of mature civilization.

    [13]  No plurality of rights is spoken of; rendering Hegel's singular Recht is awkward in English; we might say that each subject has the right to be treated with respect.

    [14]  Conscience (Gewissen) and certain (gewiss) are etymologically linked in German.

    [15]  Compare Hegel's with previous concepts of love in the history of western thought.  Can we observe here the Platonic eros which moves from physical passion to the highest level of satisfaction?  Can we see a trace here of the unity called for in John's gospel ("May they be one . . .")?  Why is the infused grace of caritas absent (which Thomas Aquinas regarded as the gift of love that only God can give)?