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History of Philosophy
Romanticism vs. Enlightenment
(conservatism vs. liberalism):
controversies over the nature of society and
Organic vs. contractual theories of society
(G.W.F. Hegel)
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831)
Major works:
Phenomenology of Spirit
The Science of Logic
Elements of the Philosophy of Right
Lectures on the Philosophy of History
Contractual theories emphasised the rationality of men,
who understood the necessity of an agreement among
themselves to set up a system of protective measures
against the violence. According to these theories society
and a system of political institutions - government/state or
political power are artificially set up. Man is defined as a
rational creature, who can design fundamental institutions
and execute their plan. Any design to be executed is based
on general knowledge, which can explain and predict
events (identify causes and effects). The leading idea is that
man can subordinate the whole reality around him.
Without general well justified theories man would not be
able ‘to subdue the earth’ and make society well ordered.
Hegel’s approach to political philosophy is organic, i.e. it
emphasises the natural development of social and political
institutions, the role of particular nations in history of mankind and
significance of their cultures, and argues in the Aristotelian vein
that both family and state are natural communities.
Hegel tried to combine certain liberal and conservative ideas in his
political theory:
civil society, spontaneous coordination of individual interests
and wills leading to the common will, contract and natural bonds,
abstract morality (universal precepts)
the State – ‘the Divine Idea as it exists on earth’; the State ‘is
the realization of Freedom, i.e., of the absolute final aim, and it
exists for its own sake’.
man can achieve/develop his rationality and freedom in
full only in the State, and in the State only he becomes fully
human; the Sittlichkeit - the ‘ethical life’ determined on the
level of family and fully developed on the level of the State
by mores contrasted with contractual relations of individuals
in the marketplace
the State is an ethical entity
Aristotelian themes in Hegel’s idea of relationships
between individuals and natural communities of family and
law and the state.
“Subjectivity of will, as a complete phase, is in its turn a whole
which, by its very nature, must also have objectivity. Freedom
can at first realize itself only in the subject, as it is the true
material for this realization. But this concrete manifestation of
will, which we have called subjectivity, is different from
absolute will. From this new onesidedness of subjectivity must
the will free itself, in order that it may become absolute will. In
morality the interest peculiar to man is in question, and the
high value of this interest consists in man’s knowing himself to
be absolute, and determining himself. Uncivilized man is
controlled by the forces and occurrences of nature. Children
have no moral will, but are guided by their parents. Civilized
man is determined from within, and wills that he shall be in all
he does.”
“/…/ A duty or obligation appears as a limitation merely
of undetermined subjectivity and abstract freedom, or
of the impulse of the natural will, or of the moral will
which fixes upon its undetermined good capriciously.
But in point of fact the individual finds in duty liberation.
He is freed from subjection to mere natural impulse; he
is freed from the dependence which he as subjective and
particular felt towards moral permission and command;
he is freed, also, from that indefinite subjectivity, which
does not issue in the objective realization implied in
action, but remains wrapped up in its own unreality. In
duty the individual freely enters upon a liberty that is
Addition.—Duty limits only the caprice of
subjectivity, and comes into collision only with
abstract good, with which subjectivity is so
firmly allied. When men say we will to be free,
they have in mind simply that abstract liberty, of
which every definite organization in the state is
regarded as a limitation. But duty is not a
limitation of freedom, but only of the
abstraction of freedom, that is to say, of
servitude. In duty we reach the real essence, and
gain positive freedom.
150. The ethical, in so far as it is reflected simply
in the natural character of the individual, is
virtue. When it contains nothing more than
conformity to the duties of the sphere to which
the individual belongs, it is integrity.
(Philosophy of Right, transl. by S.W. Dyde, Batoche Books: Kitchener