Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
1. Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel  1770-1831Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
G. W. F. Hegel (1770-1831)
- Author of notoriously obscure works
- Creator of “Absolute Idealism”
- Elements of the Philosophy of Right, 1822
2. Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel  1770-1831
Hegel’s “Absolute Idealism”
- holds that reality is essentially “rational”
[It’s not at all clear what that could mean:
(a) that reality is capable of being understood
(b) that reality is somehow itself a bunch of ideas instead of what it appears to be - a bunch of more
or less solid objects in space, as well as animals etc.
(c) that reality somehow proceeds on a “rational plan”
Hegel appears to be saying (b), rather often.
He certainly affirms (c)
And most of us think (a), more or less...
Hegel may have thought that (a) and (c) are true because (b) is true’
It is not clear that (b) makes any sense at all. Can there be ideas which are not about anything?
That isn’t what our ideas are like! [we hope!]
3. Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel - 1770-1831 
- all Hegelians say that this “method” is basic to everything he does
- even though that’s not obvious in our selections
What it is (supposed to) say:
‘Everything” is “constituted by” a process of affirmation, contradiction, and the resolution of
contradiction (more familiarly known as “thesis, antithesis, and synthesis”
1. The idea is that something or other happens and is (amounts to?) a sort of “assertion” or “thesis”
2. this collides with something, which is the “antithesis” or
3. then somehow a “higher” synthesis fixes it up (for the moment; however, this new thing hen
becomes in turn the occasion for another contradiction and that brings on another synthesis, etc.
* the “everything” in question is reality - not our beliefs or statements about it
4. Hegel Hegel
* As a picture of how inquiry proceeds, dialectic makes a little bit of sense:
We suppose something, we encounter counter-evidence, we amend the original
claim, and hopefully we get closer to the truth of the matter...
* if you import this into the world itself (or: confuse it with the world itself,
maybe?), then you’ll come up with the idea that there’s a sort of “rational
structure” to the world
* AND (maybe?) one that’s heading toward higher and higher stages, and
maybe even a Grand Finale
* (which of course will be identified with the “self-realization of the Absolute
Spirit”) - aka God? -- it is less clear that H. says just this ... )
* Characteristic of this general syndrome is to claim that there’s no “sharp”
(or, any??) distinction between “is” and “ought” - or, one might say, anything
*The big question is whether this is just a big muddle.
5. Hegel 
Propositions are what have logical relations;
things have causal relations.
Causes aren’t logic
* When two armies clash, are they having a discussion?
- and the one that wins - is it thereby shown to be right??
- does Hegel’s method imply that?
(I hope not!)
* Who cares? Does the “theory” really say anything at all?
* The “dialectic” implies nothing about how things will go
- it has no power to explain or predict anything
... (except that one huge army of scholars will be publishing about it forever!)
6. Hegel Hegel
1. The Phenomenology of Spirit: “Lordship and Bondage”
.- Hegel Talks Funny!
“SELF-CONSCIOUSNESS has before it another self-consciousness; it has come outside
itself. This has a double significance.
“First it has lost its own self, since it finds itself as an other being;
secondly, it has thereby sublated that other, for it does not regard the other as essentially
real, but sees its own self in the other.
“It must cancel this its other. To do so is the sublation of that first double meaning,
and is therefore a second double meaning. First, it must set itself to sublate the other
independent being, in order thereby to become certain of itself as true being, secondly, it
thereupon proceeds to sublate its own self, for this other is itself ...”
Can sense be attached to these odd things?
7. Hegel Hegel
We read that
“In Hegel, the term Aufhebung has the apparently contradictory implications of both preserving and
changing ( means both "to cancel" and "to keep").
The tension between these senses suits what Hegel is trying to talk about.
In sublation, a term or concept is both preserved and changed through its dialectical interplay with
another term or concept.
Sublation is the motor by which the dialectic functions.
-> And this is supposed to explain things?
I don’t find it very helpful!
“But just as lordship showed its essential nature to be the reverse of what it
wants to be so, too, bondage will, when completed, pass into the opposite of
what it immediately is ... and change round into real and true independence...”
My comment: Uh, huh. But meanwhile, the slaves are still slaves and the
masters are still masters.
It’s going to take more than “dialectic” to fix that!
Or to put it another way: Oh? Well -- when?
8. Hegel Hegel
Is Hegel saying that slaves will always become free?
If so, When?
- in many cases - obviously - not before they die.....
That doesn’t seem to have mattered to him
- but I imagine it did to the slave - and to us.
He might be saying that slavery as an institution will eventually pass off
the human scene
That would be nice, but - will it happen because of its internal phenomenology
- whatever that is?
-> Or will it be because of more familiar mundane things, such as that it is
inefficient, cruel, and intolerable?
[or is that what he meant after all??]
9. Hegel • “Labour... is the pure self-existence of [the worker’s] consciousness”
• - which in work is “externalized and passes into the condition of
• [note: presumably the point is that production workers create objects
that hang around for awhile after they’ve made them...]
• - “... the bondsman becomes thereby aware of himself as factually and
• “In the master, the bondsman feels self-existence to be something
external, an objective fact; in fear self-existence is present within
• “in fashioning the thing, self-existence comes to be felt explicitly as
his own proper being, and he attains the consciousness that he himself
exists in its own right and on its own account (an und für sich).”
• [Q: is “self-existence” normative? Is it the sense that one matters?
Perhaps. If so, where does that come from? And does work promote it?
10. Hegel • By the fact that the form is objectified, it does not become something
other than the consciousness molding the thing through work; for just
that form is his pure self existence, which therein becomes truly
• Thus precisely in labour where there seemed to be merely some
outsider's mind and ideas involved, the bondsman becomes aware,
through this re-discovery of himself by himself, of having and being a
"mind of his own".
• Does Hegel mean that workers don’t realize that they are people until
they work? What would that mean??
• On the other hand, that work requires some thought, and stimulates it,
he has a point.
• (but just what is the point? Perhaps it’s what explains the previous
• [We leave the phenomenology with more questions than answers...]
11. Hegel • 2. Introduction to the Philosophy of History
• [we do not use this selection this year. Read this for interest, but it is
not required and will not be examined on.
• Skip to slide 27 for continuing with the 2011 selectons.]
H. distinguishes “Original, Reflective, and Philosophical History”
1. ‘Original’ history is from documents and accounts at the time
2. ‘Reflective’ - “whose spirit transcends the present”
Reflective comes in three species:
(1) Universal (to get a broader view, the whole history of one country, say)
(2) Pragmatical: “takes the occurrence out of the category of hte Pat and
makes it virtually Present” - tries to draw morals from it.
[It doesn’t work, because history is too diverse:
“experience and history teach this - that peoples and governments never have
learned anything from history, or acted on principles deduced from it.”
• (3) Critical: “A History of History” - critique of historical narratives
“takes general points of view” - thus a transition to:
3. Philosophical - This is the interesting one . . . . .
12. Hegel 
Philosophical History’s “Philosophical” claim: Reason Governs the World
Reason is “the Substance of the Universe”
“that by which and in which all reality has its being and subsistence”
“It is only an inference from the history of the World, that its development has been a
rational process - the rational necessary course of the World Spirit”
“Reason is ... the Infinite complex of things, their entire Essence and Truth”
Reason has ruled, and is still ruling in the world, and consequently in the world's history;
Nature is an embodiment of Reason - it is unchangeably subordinate to universal laws ...
Universal History belongs to the realm of Spirit
This sounds interesting -- But, is it?
“The movement of the solar system takes place according to unchangeable laws.
“But neither the sun nor the planets, which revolve around it according to these laws,
can be said to have any consciousness of them.”
(whereas, people do - and so a “rational study of history” is possible?)
13. Hegel 
A distinction between two sense of “rational history”:
1 - what the historian says is rational: it makes sense, it’s coherent, and it’s wellevidenced, etc.
2 - what the historian writes about is (somehow) rational: the events he writes about
develop in accordance with rational ideas, etc.
Question: does Hegel trade illegitimately on a confusion of the two?
Note: people are conscious, live lives with histories and “narratives”
Somebody could write a novel about any of our lives. (Perhaps we hope they won’t!)
- Would this show that our lives are “really” plots in a novel??
“in the history of the World, the Individuals we have to do with are Peoples - Totalities
that are States
[Why? We should not expect “peoples” to act rationally, off hand..
for peoples do not have minds; only the indivduals in them do ...]
- A point: there’s way too much history
- to get a handle on it, you need a broad canvas]
14. Hegel Hegel
Connection with religion:
“[there is a] connexion between our thesis - that Reason governs and has governed the
World - and “the question of the possibility of a Knowledge of God”
- Does he mean there’s also an answer to that? Not up-front, anyway...
Hegel says that his project implies a theodicy (i.e., a reconciliation with the fact of evil)
The claim is that “Spirit” displays itself in its most concrete reality” on the Stage of
“ Spirit, [is] that which has its centre in itself ... Spirit is self-contained existence”
“The final cause of the World at large, we allege to be the consciousness of its own
freedom on the part of Spirit
-> But don’t get your hopes up:
“... this term "Freedom," without further qualification, is an indefinite, and incalculable
“In the process before us, the essential nature of freedom - which involves in it absolute
necessity, - is to be displayed as coming to a consciousness of itself (for it is in its very
nature, self-consciousness) and thereby realising its existence.”
15. Hegel 
[question: What does all this about “realising its existence” mean??]
A note on talk about “realization”:
(1) people have hopes and dreams, which are sometimes realized, sometimes not
(2) this implies that at time t, there’s an idea of how we want things to be, and
at time t + n -- where n is some reasonably definite number - either those things have
come about, or not. If they have, we’re satisfied (maybe!); if not, not.
(3) but when it is claimed that it is, not our hopes etc but our existence that is
“realized” - or not? - where is this pre-existing idea that can be compared with how
things turned out?
In Hegel, it’s nowhere!
No matter what happens, existence is “realized”
This is to say that - whatever happens, happens
[yet such talk has been very popular at various times...]
16. Hegel 
The “Science of History” - three parts:
(1) The abstract characteristics of the nature of Spirit.
(2) The means Spirit uses in order to realise its Idea.
(3) The shape which the perfect embodiment of Spirit assumes: the State.
re (1): “As the essence of Matter is Gravity, so ... the essence of Spirit is
“Freedom is the sole truth of Spirit”
Spirit is that which has its centre in itself ... it exists in and with itself.
Matter has its essence out of itself ...
[What is all this supposed to mean??]
17. Hegel 
(2) What means Spirit uses in order to realise its Idea.
[This] conducts us to the phenomenon of History itself.
Although Freedom is, primarily, an undeveloped idea, the means it uses are external and
phenomenal; presenting themselves in History to our sensuous vision.
The first glance at History convinces us that the actions of men proceed from their
needs, their passions, their characters and talents
[which] are the sole springs of action - the efficient agents in this scene of activity.
Among these may, perhaps, be found aims of a liberal or universal kind - benevolence it
may be, or noble patriotism;
but such virtues and general views are but insignificant as compared with the World and
So, we contemplate “the slaughterbench at which the happiness of peoples .. have been
“- to what principles have these enormous sacrifices been offered?”
we “eschew” “moral reflections”
18. Hegel Hegel
“Principle - Plan of Existence - Law - is a hidden, undeveloped essence, which
as such ... is not completely real...
“That which exists for itself only ... has not yet emerged into Existence
A second element must be introduced in order to produce actuality... its motive
power is Will - the activity of man in the widest sense.
Itself is its own object of attainment, and the sole aim of Spirit. This result is
what the World's History has been continually aiming at
This final aim is God's purpose with the world;
but God is the absolutely perfect Being, and can, therefore, will nothing
other than himself
[because (a) the postulation of such a “spirit” seems to be completely arbitrary,
and especially because (b) it has no content. We don’t discover what the “plan”
was until after it’s completed!
19. Hegel Hegel
Two elements of History:
(1) the Idea,
(2) the “complex of human passions”
- the one the warp, the other the woof of the vast arras-web of Universal
The concrete mean and union of the two is Liberty, under the conditions of
morality in a State. [??]
State is well constituted and internally powerful, when the private interest of
its citizens is one with the common interest of the State [that’s cool, anyway!]
... The epoch when a State attains this harmonious condition, marks the period
of its bloom, its virtue, its vigour, and its prosperity.
But the history of mankind does not begin with a conscious aim of any
The mere social instinct implies a conscious purpose of security for life and
- when society has been constituted, this purpose becomes more
“The History of the World is not the theatre of happiness”
20. Hegel 
“an unconscious impulse occasioned the accomplishment of that for which the time was
ripe. Such are all great historical men -”
“They may be called Heroes, inasmuch as they have derived their purposes and their
vocation -- from a concealed fount from that inner Spirit, still hidden beneath the
“Such individuals had no consciousness of the general Idea they were unfolding,
while prosecuting those aims of theirs; on the contrary, they were practical, political
“This was the very Truth for their age, for their world”
If we go on to cast a look at the fate of these World-Historical persons, whose vocation
it was to be the agents of the World-Spirit, - we shall find it to have been no happy one.
... They die early ...
[One of his examples: Napolean. I suppose Hitler would have been another ...]
21. Hegel Hegel
... man is an object of existence in himself only in virtue of the Divine that is in him, that which was designated at the outset as Reason; which, in view of its activity and
power of self-determination, was called Freedom.
we must not ... lament ... that the good and pious often - or for the most part - fare
ill in the world, while the evil-disposed and wicked prosper.
... But in speaking of something which in and for itself constitutes an aim of existence,
the so-called well or ill-faring of these or those isolated individuals cannot be
regarded as an essential element in the rational order of the universe.
“It is the absolute interest of Reason that this moral Whole should exist; and
“herein lies the justification and merit of heroes who have founded states, - however
rude these may have been.
[Our question is: what is the point of all this?
It seems to have no implications for action, of any kind.]
22. Hegel 
(3) The “object to be realised by these means”
Primacy of The State:
• What is the material in which the Ideal of Reason is wrought out?
• The primary answer would be, - Personality itself - human desires Subjectivity generally. In human knowledge and volition, as its
material element, Reason attains positive existence.
• [note this seems to suggest that “reasons” exists prior to thought etc.,
and is then “realized” in our actual thinking ... sort of ...]
• We have considered subjective volition where it has an object which is
the truth and essence of a reality, viz. where it constitutes a great
• As a subjective will, occupied with limited passions, it is dependent,
and can gratify its desires only within the limits of this dependence.
23. Hegel • But the subjective will has also a substantial life - a reality, - in which
it moves in the region of essential being and has the essential itself as
the object of its existence.
• This essential being is the union of the subjective with the rational
Will: it is the moral Whole, the State, which is that form of reality in
which the individual has and enjoys his freedom;
• but on the condition of his recognition, believing in and willing that
which is common to the Whole.
[So - hey! - the State is a lot more than we might have thought!.....]
24. Hegel • In the history of the World, only those peoples can come under our
notice which form a state.
• For it must be understood that this latter is the realization of
• i.e. of the absolute final aim, and that it exists for its own sake.
• [-> ‘must be understood’?]
• Spirit is at war with itself ; it has to overcome itself as its most
formidable obstacle. ...
• What Spirit really strives for is the realization of its Ideal being; but in
doing so, it hides that goal from its own vision
• Universal history - as already demonstrated - shows the development
of the consciousness of Freedom on the part of Spirit, and of the
consequent realization of that Freedom.
• [uh, huh....]
25. Hegel Hegel
III. The course of the World's History.
-> Nature is the same old thing over and over
“only in those changes which take place in the region of Spirit does anything
a real capacity for change, and that for the, better, - an impulse of
The principle of Development involves also the existence of a latent germ of
being - a capacity or potentiality striving to realise itself.
This formal conception finds actual existence in Spirit; which has the
History of the World for its theatre, its possession, and the sphere of its
The goal of attainment we determined at the outset: it is Spirit in its
completeness, in its essential nature, i.e., Freedom. This is the fundamental
object, and therefore also the leading principle of the development,
[and nothing is easy: in various periods, it looks as though we’re going
backward... but nevertheless...!]
26. Hegel Hegel
Three “steps” in this universal development of spirit:
1. the immersion of Spirit in Nature
2. shows it as advancing to the consciousness of its freedom.
- this initial separation from Nature is imperfect and partial, since it is derived
immediately from the merely natural state...
3. elevation of the soul from this still limited and special form of freedom
to its pure universal form;
that state in which the spiritual essence attains the consciousness and feeling of
These grades are the ground-principles of the general process;
but how each of them on the other hand involves within itself a process of
formation, - constituting the links in a dialectic of transition, [- uh, huh!]
[Note how there is no way to have evidence about this kind of thesis ....]
27. Hegel • 3. Hegel: The Philosophy of Right
three “systems”: Ethical; Civil Society; State
1. The Ethical System.
“The ethical system is the idea of freedom.”
But in point of fact the individual finds in duty liberation.
[- this needs explanation!]
He is freed from subjection to mere natural impulse
In duty we reach the real essence, and gain positive freedom.
[Question: just what is ‘positive freedom’?]
28. Hegel 
“Positive” vs. “Negative” freedom - what’s the contrast?
[H. doesn’t say. Here’s my suggestion:]
negative: absence of obstacles to what one wills
positive: presence of “self-determining power”
[maybe this is what he means by claiming that duty liberates: you are
forbidden to do more things, but you are also able to do more... ]
[If this is so, why is it? Hegel doesn’t explain (needless to say)
[the question would also be whether those enabled to do more are so
at other people’s expense. Is that still “positive freedom” for those who pay?]
[On the other hand, other people refraining from murdering you does greatly
enhance your prospects of living (and therefore, of living a decent life!]
29. Hegel Hegel
[here’s one idea to consider (cribbed from Allen Patten):
“To be free, I must stand back from the given command or impulse and
reflect on whether it constitutes a sufficient reason to act in some
[note: that is obviously not true so far as social affairs are concerned, as we
usually think about it. What we think is that if nobody stops you from doing
some fool thing, then you are free to do it...]
[There’s the question whether one’s own impulses, etc., can be said to
Can what we want be an obstacle to doing what we want?
[acting on some wants can certainly prevent others from being fulfilled, yes.
The idea has to be that we count some wants as more important than others.
But even so, it seems that we can still act on the less important ones. (no?)
Then, what measures importance? -- an interesting question.
There’s how much you want to, ex ante; and how much you like it when you
get it, ex post!
- whether you’re better off from doing what you want is another question.
30. Hegel Hegel
Freedom is supposed to have an “objective dimension”
- which is (somehow) provided by “reason” - the idea (seems to be) that Reason wants us to do something.
-> Well, what?
“Hegel dismisses Kant’s Categorical Imperative as an “empty formalism”
[But we have seen, there’s nothing “empty” about it.]
But Kant too claims that we are transcendentally free only under the rule of the
Categorical Imperative .... (which is probably where Hegel got this from ...)
Reason, Will, Desire, Freedom - what’s the relation among them?
Can we be “slaves to our desires”?
Hume: reason “is and ever must be the slave of the passions”
- Can we have a reason for doing something which is in no way desired?
[Kant seems to say that]
- the fact that if we do x, then y will happen, and this will make it impossible for us to
do z, matters if we want to do z.
- But if we don’t?
What if we don’t care about being moral? ...
[That’s where Hobbes comes in. If you don’t care about that, the rest of society will
gang up on you, if it can .. so maybe you’d better care!]
31. Hegel Hegel
Hegel thinks that freedom is necessarily related to other people
[in social philosophy, that’s of course true, by definition - what we’re interested in is
how we are to act in relation to each other
- but we do not assume that an individual simply can’t be anything except in relation to
others (though we don’t deny it either - it may be true....)
Question: Is he saying that to be is to be related to others?
It isn’t clear that that makes sense
But arguably, as social beings, it sort of does...
But what does it imply?
For example, about moral obligations and political relations?
-- by itself, quite possibly - nothing..
“custom [becomes] a second nature, substituted for the merely natural will, and has
become the very soul, meaning, and reality of one’s daily life.
“Substantive ethical reality attains its right ... when the individual in his private will and
conscience drops his self-assertion and antagonism to the ethical.
[So in a Mayan community, we should cheerfully step up to be sacrificed to the gods...?]
32. Hegel • “Autonomy”
• - Suppose that I want to do x because I’ve absorbed this from my
• [e.g., watch a certain TV program...]
• - Am I then unfree? - Why?
• Hegel maybe says just the opposite: my freedom is my total absorption
into the community.
• Comment on Metaphysical Freedom.....
• [This brings up the age-old philosophical question about “Free Will”:
do we have it at all? Does the idea make sense?]
• Suppose I can do what I want
• But can I want whatever I want to want? [not obviously]
• Political and social freedom makes sense: it’s where other people don’t
intervene to prevent you doing what you want.
• You don’t have to be “metaphysically free” for this.
33. Hegel • 2. Civil Society
• The concrete person, who as particular is an end to himself, is a totality
of wants and a mixture of necessity and caprice. As such he is one of
the principles of the civic community.
• But the particular person is essentially connected with others.
• Hence each establishes and satisfies himself by means of others, and so
must call in the assistance of the form of universality.
• [oh, right - er, how d’you do that??]
- [Is he just playing with words??]
34. Hegel Hegel
This universality is the other principle of the civic community.
[translation: communities are groups of people living together...
[comment: no kidding!]
Individuals in the civic community are private persons, who pursue their own
the individual ... seeks to raise his individual natural existence into formal
freedom and the formal universality of knowing and willing
[OK: just what does that consist in?]
A. The recasting of want, and the satisfaction of the individual through his
work, through the work of all others, and through the satisfaction of their
B. Actualization of general freedom required for this: protection of property
C. [Insurance:] Provision against possible mischances, and care for the
particular interest as a common interest, by means of police and the
[Which is restating the familiar liberal view, in more opaque terms...]
35. Hegel Hegel
[I lean quite a bit on Allen Patten, Hegel, in David Boucher and Paul Kelly,
Political Thinkers (Oxford, 2009)]
We get to property as follows:
1. Personality: “the minimal conception of free agency”
2. Property: realizes personhood.
Property enables us to see “evidence of our own agency and choices”
It’s public: we and others can see what we have and what we have done with what
(Consider the TV channels devoted to houses: “This old House” and “Holmes on
property “gives the individual and others a concrete perception of the individual’s
independence... “property and contract are necessary for the development of free
The State should protect property because in doing so it protects Personality ...
3. But we are only individuals among other individuals. No desert-island individuals
[fascinating idea, this ...]
“the full actualization of freedom calls for a “more truly universal” set of institutions ...
family, civil society, and state
36. Hegel Hegel
- is the “evidence of our own agency and choice”
[is this interesting? Remember the definition of ‘property’. ...]
- my property enables me to “see myself as someone who does not take his situation as given but can
impose his will and agency onto his surroundings” ..
So I buy a toaster, and, lo! - I can now make toast when I like....
(Well, yes: that is why one buys a toaster!
and it’s being my property (in the moral and legal sense) “protects my freedom”
- yup! But that’s the normal view - being true by definition...)
A supposed problem: property undermines itself [this influenced Marx, later, enormously ...]
“the very success of a social structure consisting of property and contract at turning agents into
persons seems to guarantee its own demise”: property and contract “imbue people with
motivations and dispositions that lead them to act in ways that actually undermine the
institutions of property and contract.”
[? Note: this simply isn’t true. What is true is that once you have contract, you have the
possibility of reneging, defrauding, defaulting, etc. But nothing about the institution causes
these things to happen.]
37. Hegel Hegel
Groups don’t literally think; we do.
Does Hegel think they do? He talks as if he does...
If he doesn’t - then what is he saying?
* the “sense of self” is requires a “practice of mutual recognition among free
[What about group madness? What about doing x just because the others are doing x?]
One of Hegel’s most striking and perhaps insightful theses:
“Only in the context of a public culture of freedom, one in which certain ideas,
practices, and self-understandings prevail ... is individual free agency fostered and
38. Hegel Hegel
3. The State.
“The state ... is the ethical whole and the actualization of freedom.”
It is the absolute purpose of reason that freedom should be actualized.
“The state is the march of God in the world”
.. its ground or cause is the power of reason realizing itself as will.
Asiatic despotisms: individuals have “no inner nature, and no selfjustification”
[whereas] in the modern world man’s inner self is honoured.
The state is the sole and essential condition of
the attainment of the particular end and good. (?)
[so people didn’t do anything until there were governments??]
[A Rousseau/Locke reflection: Often it is imagined that force holds the state
together -- but the binding cord is nothing else than the deep-seated feeling of
order, which is possessed by all.”
We must hence honour the state as the divine on earth, and learn that if it is
difficult to conceive of nature, it is infinitely harder to apprehend the state.
[not cool ...!]
39. Hegel Hegel
Who shall frame the constitution?
This question .. on closer examination turns out to be meaningless.
If the question, however, takes for granted the existence of an actual
constitution, then to make a constitution means only to modify it...
The Constitution is “above and beyond what is made”
- self-begotten and self-centred
- “divine and perpetual.”
The state, which is the nation’s spirit, is the law which permeates all its
Every nation, therefore, has the constitution which suits it and belongs to
it. [!] [meaning: we get the constitution that we deserve??]
[What about revolutions, amendments, etc? Don’t they count?]
The state must in its constitution penetrate all its aspects.
A constitution is not a mere manufacture, but the work of centuries.
[Is he denying the possibility of a “state of nature”?
Or is morality being regarded as “constitutional”?
- Maybe so...]
40. Hegel Hegel
The Power of the Prince.
... despotism is a condition of lawlessness [this is Locke & Aquinas all over again!]
- in which the particular will - of monarch or people rules instead of law.
... the state is the self-determining and completely sovereign will, whose judgment is
By this is not meant that the monarch can be willful in his acts.
Rather is he bound to the concrete content of the advice of his counselors, and, when the
constitution is established, he has often nothing to do but sign his name.
[Is this empirical discussion, or is there a claim to necessity here?]
A complaint: monarchs may be ill-educated - “unworthy to stand at the helm of state”
- so it is absurd for such a condition of things to exist under the name of reason.”
Hegel’s reply: The pinnacle of the state must be such that the private character of
its occupant shall be of no significance.
[Hegel’s point is that the particular person who occupies the throne is not really the
Right: the Canadian government is not Stephen Harper or Michael Ignatieff ...
41. Hegel Hegel
The state’s consciousness and the most conspicuous education are found in the
middle class, to which the state officials belong.
[maybe the middle class is the “synthesis” of the other two ...?]
The members of this class, therefore, form the pillars of the state in regard to rectitude
The state, if it has no middle class, is still at a low stage of development.
[note: Hegel’s father was a respected civil servant ...]
The legislature interprets the laws ... In it the constitution is presupposed
the people ... does not know what it wills.
To know what we will, and further what the absolute will, namely reason, wills,
is the fruit of deep knowledge and insight, and is therefore not the property of the
[a problem is that the expression ‘the people’ doesn’t denote a mind; deciding what it
means to say that “the people” know something is enough of a problem that one can
hardly evaluate Hegel’s idea.]
42. Hegel Hegel
... when and only when the multitude has an “organic relation to the
whole” does it obtain its interests in a right and orderly way
[I’ll bite!: when’s that??]
So also the people in a despotism pay light taxes, which in a constitutional
state become larger through the people’s own consciousness.
In no other land are taxes so heavy as they are in England.
[interesting observation, well born out by modern developments..]
consciousness and will cease to be empty only when they are filled with
particularity [= “the characteristic of a particular class”]
Representation no longer means that one person should take the place of
Rather is the interest itself actually present in the person of the representative...
43. Hegel 
Of elections by many separate persons:
there is necessarily little desire to vote,
because one vote has so slight an influence.
... Hence occurs just the opposite of what is sought.
The selection passes into the hands of a few, a single party
- or a special accidental interest, which should rather be neutralized.
[This is cool! A good point, and a worry....]
Of any reasonable end we may be sure that public opinion will ultimately be
pleased with it,
“In public opinion all is false and true”
- “but to find out the truth in it is the affair of the great man”
[such as GWF Hegel? No, actually. He’s pointing out the need, but isn’t
offering himself as the man for that job...]
44. Hegel 
Freedom of the Press
liberty of the press as liberty to speak and write what one pleases is ...
undeveloped crudity and superficiality of fanciful theorizing
... there is no obscurity about a direct summons to steal, murder, or revolt.
words may have consequences, which are not actually expressed.
-[ example: when it’s a set of commands to carry out harmful acts
- If we silence the signalman in the bank robbery, we aren’t suppressing
rightful freedom of speech....]
[Hegel is here really endorsing the normal liberal view: speech that can be
identified as causing harm can be suppressed, but not other sorts.
- when does it cause harm, though? To Be Continued when we discuss Mill.]
45. Hegel Hegel
[According to Alan Patten] (a professor of politics at Princeton)
1. Hegel’s state is a “constitutional monarchy” with a powerful civil service and a
the idea is to ensure that those with superior knowledge and virtue occupy key positions
cvil service selected on merit
thoroughly trained and socialized
“into a knowledge of and commitment to the universal”
with checks against corruptions etc..
2. “The claim that the Hegelian state is a necessary part of this structure
amounts to the proposition that the
(a) ties of sentiment and affections [family] and of [thesis?]
(b) mutual advantage and collegiality (civil society) [antithesis?]
are not sufficient to guarantee that people will accept the sacrifices and burdens
needed to support a freedom-developing institutional structure”
So they require (c) - The State (again, the synthesis?)
“Mutual advantage ... can have tremendous integrative effects within the
context of an established market economy, but it is much less able to support the
background norms, rules, and institutions that make such an economy possible in
the first place.” [Patten, not Hegel, but summarizing Hegel]
46. Hegel 
The State has to promote “the universal”
[= the interest that all have in living in a stable and self-reproducing setting
that develops, nourishes, and respects individual subjectivity.”
they stabilize and preserve a social order hospitable to subjectivity against a
range of destabilizing shocks and deprivations both internal and external
“Hegel thinks that starting from a basic commitment to free personality
one is led inevitably ... to a reconciliation with the modern state...”
47. Hegel Hegel
Meaning of War
There is an ethical element in war: it is not to be regarded as an absolute evil.
... successful wars have prevented civil broils and strengthened the internal power of the
state. [no doubt!]
Everlasting peace is frequently demanded as the ideal towards which mankind must
Hence, Kant proposed an alliance of princes, which should settle the controversies of
... Although a number of states may make themselves into a family, the union, because it
is an individuality, must create an opposition, and so beget an enemy.
As a result of war peoples are strengthened,
nations involved in civil quarrels - win repose at home by means of war abroad.
[or: is war a cover for internal misdeeds?]
“It is true that war occasions insecurity of possessions,
but this real insecurity is simply a necessary commotion.” [?]
The military class is “the class of universality”
[So, what’s the “ethical element”?
- There’s no mention of justice here --
48. Hegel Hegel
Individuals are “not real unless related to others”
Phil. 324 Overheads ... 156
also the state: not really individual unless related to other states
The legitimate province of a state in its foreign relations, is on one side wholly
a state shall not meddle with the internal affairs of another state.
Yet it is essential for its completeness that it be recognized by others. [which] demands as a guarantee that it shall recognize those who recognize it,
Therefore they cannot be indifferent to its internal affairs.
The “spirit of a nation” is “an existing individual”
having in particularity its objective actuality and self-consciousness. The
history of the world is the world’s court of judgment.
[comment: And just who gives the “verdict”? - History is the world
- It’s the database for all
-- Like too much in Hegel, this is cute, but says really nothing...]
49. Hegel Hegel
What, if anything, do we learn from Hegel?
* The “broad canvas”
- But it seems to be so broad that you can’t make out anything in particular
* Not far from saying that whatever is, is right
* the “organic state” is ill-defined
* The personification of groups and states is dangerous...
* Individuals as such get lost in the stew
* a strain of liberalism runs through it, but with no obvious relation to the “big
[Patten credits Hegel with a fair measure of recognizable liberalism.
He wasn’t in favor of the totalitarian state, as some have thought.]
* Hegel’s talk of “freedom” is mostly free-association....
* Freedom is “the Absolute Idea realizing itself...”
- this would appear to be blarney....
The general problem with Absolute Idealism is absence of content: it seems to
say nothing empirically discernible....