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In point of fact, the words thesis, antithesis and synthesis is more characteristic of Fichte than Hegel who seldom uses these words. At the same time, Hegel is obsessed by triads. Thus, in the construction of the Absolute there are three phases: Idea, Nature, and Spirit. Each phase is in turn divided into three. Moreover, the entire system aims at a necessary development.

That is, for philosophical reflection one stage reveals itself as demanding the next stage by inner necessity.


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Thus in theory at least, if we start with the first category of logic, the inner necessity of dialectical development forces the mind to proceed not simply to the final category of logic but also to the ultimate phase of philosophy of Spirit. This obsession with triads is made even more problematic when Hegel claims that philosophy is necessarily a deductive system of thought not in the sense of a computing machine for then it would be the product of understanding and not reason.

But obviously when he claims that philosophy is concerned with the life of Absolute Spirit philosophy , to discern the unfolding of this life in history , say, apriori deduction is not sufficient, after all the material stuff is not supplied by philosophy but interpreted by philosophy in terms of a teleological pattern which works itself out in the material realm.

At the same time the whole dialectical movement of the Hegelian system should, in theory at least, impose itself on the mind by its own inner necessity — otherwise the system could not be its own justification. Yet it is also clear that Hegel comes to philosophy with certain basic convictions:. Of course Hegel claims that the truth of these convictions must be demonstrated validated in the system but it is also arguable that the system depends on these prior convictions.

But Hegel precludes this procedure since it does not square with his own estimation of his philosophy. The infinite exists in and through the finite and infinite Reason or Spirit knows itself in and through the finite spirit and mind of individual human beings. However, importantly, it is not every sort of finite thinking that develops this self-knowledge of the infinite obviously, otherwise we would never get to the Absolute.

We can therefore speak of the human mind rising to participate in self-knowledge of the Absolute. This can be interpreted along theistic line that is, e. To achieve this, the finite mind has to rise to the level of what Hegel calls absolute knowledge. Summaries of Hegel's works and ideas best read in succession : Hegel - Overview of Philosophy and Summaries. Hegel on Religion, Christianity, Morality and Ethics. Hegel - Fragments of a System. Hegel on Idealism, Fichte and Schelling. Hegel on Master-Slave Dialectic.

Hegel on Universal Consciousness and Reason. Labels: explanation , Hegel , philosophy , summary. No comments:. Newer Post Older Post Home. Subscribe to: Post Comments Atom. Search within my subject: Select Politics Urban Studies U. History Law Linguistics Literature. Music Neuroscience Philosophy Physical Sciences. The Oxford Handbook of Hegel. Read More. Subscriber sign in. Forgot password? Don't have an account? Sign in via your Institution. According to Hegel, if one is committed to the evaluation of actions and one must be if one is postulating a retributivist theory of judgement , then this commitment entails an immanent doctrine of duties, values and meanings; that is, Sittlichkeit.

In justifying this claim it was also hoped that the limits of the moral conscience within the rational state could be delineated and its power described. In order to be recognized as free my action must meet the expectations of my peers, yet this seems to implicitly rule out any abnormal behaviour and protest is, one would assume, always a break from the norm and the expected.

However, if one is to take seriously the role of the moral theory of action which precedes the account of ethical life, then it is clear that subjectivity still has a role to play in the objective freedom of Sittlichkeit. One cannot be coerced into acting freely, for Hegel.


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  • Thus, the right of objectivity requires a subjective will capable of endorsing it; that is, finding it rational for itself. When a child wears a seat-belt he does so to safeguard his personhood, but such a reason is rational only in itself. The child actually acts on another reason: to avoid being shouted at by his mother personhood. He is aware that, not only is he reasonable to his mother and her expectations, but also to himself: this is an act which is rational for him not just his mother.

    Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

    He now has self-knowledge of the reason and it is both in itself rational and also for him rational. Only when objective freedom makes possible the satisfaction of desires which can be freely chosen, known and transparent, is the agent fully responsible. Therefore, the right of intention crucial to free action can be inflated into a form of rational legitimation.

    If I am to save my child from drowning or, on a lesser scale, to provide for the material needs of my family, I cannot truly articulate the reason why I fulfil this role. It is perfectly sensible to demand a justification of a particular law, social duty or more and why I should act in accordance with it. However, agents rarely demand justification and as such express a reflective trust in their state; its laws and institutions are open to legitimation and the state must make scrutiny by the citizen possible, but this need not be carried through every time a demand on the citizen is made.

    Aesthetic Theory of Hegel

    A useful analogy is differentiation in mathematics. The laws of the state are a type of shorthand of the good, but which must remain possible objects of legitimation even when not perpetually legitimated. Modern ethical life makes possible the satisfaction of subjective freedom, rather than—as many commentators hostile to the Hegelian picture suppose— determining the content of subjective freedom. A more subtle challenge to the relationship between the moral conscience and the state would propose that, if reason giving is inherently social as Hegel holds, then surely the tendency will be—in cases of conflict between individual good and social good—to side with the familiar and conventional.

    However, given that this endorsement is a social practice, protest stemming from the moral conscience is ultimately mute since the right of objectivity, that my actions be rational for others, implicitly commits Hegel to conservatism. Endorsement amounts to nothing more than yes-saying: the subject reflects upon his duties and recognizes that they accord with objective determinations.

    The strong challenge pictured Hegel rather unconvincingly as a strong communitarian who believed agents are identical with rather than identified with their roles. The weaker challenge is more persuasive, Hegel appears committed to conservatism which means subjective freedom may be compromised by social pressure because the social nature of reason-giving means the conventional is always by default more persuasive than personal conviction. The first point to make is simply to admit Hegel is a conservative, that much is clear both from his continued critique of the use of abstract right in political theorizing and in his tinkering with—rather than overhaul of—the Prussian state.

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    Furthermore, the reasons for his conservatism, especially in the aftermath of the French Revolution, are perhaps justified. On an idealized liberal model, the standards of positive right would be legitimated by an appeal to external values or natural rights. So, the right to life would trump political obligation since civil obedience rests on a duty to comply with political dictates as long as they protect and secure external rights and values.

    However, for Hegel, there are no external standards of right independent of the social and historical development of ethical life. The example of the impoverished mother, though, undermines such an idle reading. Liberation from immediate needs, independence from irrational authorities, the possibility to be self-willed and certain recognition by others are all requirements of self-determination and if they do not obtain, then the subject is not free.

    The mother is recognized as in the right when she steals because the life of her child ought to be secured and maintained by the objective structures, arrangements and practices of her social existence. Otherwise the world is unfaithful to her better will. The state, for the mother, is irrational because she cannot satisfy her roles as both mother and citizen as she would freely choose to do.

    She has the subjective right—the highest right—to demand that the state make possible rational self-determination. And protest need not be limited to cases of disharmony between the spheres of ethical life. For man to be free—that is, to be at home with himself—the content of his will must be his own. For the existing social world to be actualized, then the underlying rationality of its dictates and obligations has to be known and endorsed by the thinking subject, but such an endorsement cannot be mere yes-saying. Freedom is formal when I am able to satisfy my desires personal freedom , but it is substantial when I satisfy desires which are my good.

    Yet, this does not rule out coercion for my benefit the child. The will is free when it is substantial, able to be satisfied and moral. The two central concepts of the third section of the Philosophy of Right —that is, subjective and objective freedom—originate from the rights of knowledge, intention and objectivity of action which characterize the abstract moral will. Objective freedom is necessary for and supplements—which, is to say, ethical life actualizes —personal and moral freedom.

    Without the categories of ethical life, it would be impossible to form judgements concerning the intentions of others.

    Hegelian Dialectics and Conflict Transformation

    Thus, ethical life is the substantial form of the right of objectivity of an action. Reciprocally, subjective freedom interrogates and justifies objective freedom. If the subject cannot, or is obstructed from, satisfying his rational desires, then he is not free and responsible.

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    He, then, has a legitimate claim against the state arising from his own moral conscience. So long as the claim is unresolved, freedom is unobtainable and the institutions of ethical life are no longer rational. It is this right of knowledge which constitutes the role of the moral will in Sittlichkeit. Morality remains an essential element of modern Sittlichkeit since, to actualize the rationality of existing social structures, this rationality has to be self-consciously known.

    Cultural Reader: Hegel on the Absolute - Summary

    Allison, H. Ameriks, K. Marcia eds. Frankfurt, H. Watson ed. Hardimon, M. Hegel, G. Sibree, New York, Dover Publications, William Wallace and A. Miller, Oxford, Oxford, Miller, New York, Oxford, Theodore F. Geraets, W. Suchting, and H. Harris, Indianapolis, Hackett, Michael Stewart and Peter C. Hodgson, Berkeley, University of California Press,