Hegel's System The New Philosophy Thesis

Excerpt from Thesis :

In fact, development of the idea will be substituted for life (Hegel, 1988).

The article on natural right and the System der Sittlichkeit complete each other. The first is destined to reveal a new way of posing the problem of natural right while the second is an attempt to solve this problem by the method proposed here (Goldstein, 2004). The System der Sittlichkeit, like the Platonic republic, is the conception of ethical life from its lower forms that Hegel considers abstract, such as individual desire, possession, work and family, to those higher forms, such as the integration of the lower forms in ethical totality, by which they truly receive their meaning. What Hegel later calls subjective spirit (psychology, phenomenology) is considered there as a preliminary moment of ethical life so that absolute spirit is presented in the form of political and social community. Religion and art, which at a later point ought to be raised above the history of the world and become absolute spirit transcending objective spirit, are still in the state of vestiges. They make themselves part of this totality that is the ethical life of a people. There, religion is religion of the people. There is nothing higher than the people except possibly the history of peoples (Aristotle 1984, p 785).

Natural Right in a Changing World

The article on natural right, which can be considered as a republic in Fichte Naturrecht, thus elaborates this new conception of right in which right is an organic whole. There is no universal right that could transcend the ethical organism (Peperzak 1960, p 23). Hegel ought to have placed his method in opposition to that of his predecessors and taken a position regarding the two possible ways of empiricism and abstract rationalism, which he calls the method of absolute reflection. On one hand, conceptions of natural right are found in philosophers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries such as Hobbes, Spinoza, and Locke. On the other hand, there is the moral idealism of Kant and Fichte (Peperzak 1960, p 34).

The first two parts of the article on natural right are devoted to an appreciation of these two different conceptions (Harris 1972, p 109). Hegel, following his customary procedure, does justice to both. He analyses them in order to transcend and integrate them to his own point-of-view. The third part of the article is devoted to the original spirit of Hegel's moral philosophy and concludes with some profound remarks on tragedy and comedy, their meaning for human life and for philosophy of history (Dickey, 1987). In a last part Hegel shows the relation that can exist between the theory of natural right and what may be called positive right, between its general conception of ethical totality and history (Harris 1972, p 108). Most comparisons which our philosopher uses are borrowed from life. Doubtless the idea of life already played a principal role in Hegel's meditations at Frankfurt, but one can say that Schelling's philosophy of nature into which Hegel has just been initiated at Jena only reinforces this tendency. Hegel has not yet succeeded in translating his thought into a language that is suitable to him, namely, the language of spirit. If he already affirms in this article that "spirit is higher than nature," because nature is idea only for spirit and because spirit alone is capable of being reflected, he still appears to be Schelling's disciple on many of the points (Crites, 1998; Hegel, 1988).

Chapter Three

Findings and Conclusion

In the modern State a world is necessarily interposed between the individual and the State, which Hegel calls civil society ( Die buirgerliche Gesellschaft) (Hegel, 1991). In the course of 1805-1806 he becomes clearly aware of the existence of this civil society, which is constituted by all private men as they are separated from the natural group, which is the family, and as they do not yet clearly have awareness of directly wanting their substantial unity, the State (Dickey, 1987). But already in earlier works that we have studied, Hegel has noted this opposition between the spiritual world of the State and the economic world, the world of needs and wealth. In the Philosophy of Right of Berlin in 1821, civil society will be more clearly characterized as one of the instances of the idea of the State in the broader sense (Taylor 1975, p 25). (The first instance is the family, the second civil society, the third the State in the restricted sense of the term, that is, the general will conscious of itself.)

Civil society (Gesellschaft and not Gemeinschaft) is none other than the state of economic liberalism (Nohl 1966, p 501). To this State, which is the ideal for theoreticians of political economy, Hegel gives a place in his system, but a subordinated place. "If one confuses the State with civil society, and if one fixes it in the security and protection of property and personal liberty, the interest of individuals as such is the supreme end for which they are gathered together, and the result is that it is optional to be a member of a State. But the State's relation to the individual is completely otherwise (Hegel, 1988). If the State is objective spirit, then the individual himself has objectivity, truth, and morality only if he is a member of it. The association as such is itself true content and true purpose, and the destination of individuals is to lead a collective life. And their other satisfaction, their activity, and the modes of their conduct are that substantial and universal act, both as point of departure and as result" (Dickey, 1987).

From 1805 Hegel is aware of the work of Adam Smith, Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, which Garve has just translated into German (Goldstein, 2004). He incorporates it into his political philosophy, but far from seeing in this economic doctrine a political philosophy that might be sufficient in itself, he sees in it rather a necessary moment, but one that reveals its own insufficiency. In this economic world man believes himself to be free. He works and possesses, has chosen his own profession, and seeks to realize his personal interest. In fact, he clashes everywhere within these limits (Peperzak 1960, p 44). He remains in contingency, and instead of desiring the universal directly, he submits to it as a hard constraint that may be foreign to him. That is why on this level the State appears as the State of understanding and necessity (Hegel, 1991). Civil society is a mediated realization of the universal. Its harmony, as the economists have seen, results from a kind of ruse. Each believes himself to be working for himself and even gives others the opportunity to work.

What is in fact realized (the universal) and what is willed in each case (the particular) are distinct. However, from 1805, Hegel, in distinction from the earliest economists, senses the harshness of this world of wealth. He pursues these inherent contradictions and discredits it almost as a prophet (Crites, 1998). The freedom that man attains in this search for his personal interest is only an empirical freedom. That is why another form of State is necessary above this world of particularity. In civil society man is trained only in the universal; he is prepared to become a citizen and to desire the universal as such. Therefore, let us consider this economic world as Hegel envisions it. Each works for himself or his family. Division of labor allows the exchange of products, and the laws of marketing always restore a harmony at the breaking point (Hegel, 1988). The visible mover of this society is individual interest, but society's inner purpose is the realization of the universal. "There is a mediation of the particular by the universal, a dialectical movement that means that each, by gaining, producing, and enjoying for his own benefit, at the same time gains and produces for the enjoyment of others" (Haering 1963, p 88).

Chapter Four


This is an austere formation of natural man that is necessary in the modern world, and Hegel goes on to say, "As citizens of this State individuals are private individuals who have their own interest as their end. As this is obtained through the universal, which thus appears as a means, this end can be attained by them only if they set their knowledge, will, and action by a universal scheme and are transformed into links of the chain that forms this whole thing (Hegel, 1991). Here the benefit of the idea, which is not as such explicit in the consciousness of the members of civil society, is the process that raises their natural individuality to formal freedom and to formal universality of knowledge and will, both by…

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