Spirit, Freedom, and Self-Consciousness in Hegel's "Philosophy of Right"

Dissertation, Vanderbilt University (1997)

Andrew Fiala
California State University, Fresno
According to the republican ideal of modern European ethical life, every person has a right to self-conscious freedom. Hegel's Philosophy of Right responds to this conception of modern ethical life by attempting to bring all of the various objective determinations of freedom to self-consciousness. These determinations become self-conscious by way of philosophical reflection on ethical life from within ethical life. This is what occurs in the Philosophy of Right and indeed the whole of Hegel's system. Hegel's system is best understood as attempting to respond to the demand of modern ethical life for its own self-consciousness. ;The Philosophy of Right carries out this task by showing how self-consciousness occurs in all of the determinations of ethical life: property, labor, punishment, morality, family, civil society, and state. By paying close attention to Hegel's use of the language of knowledge and consciousness, I show that all of these determinations are understood by Hegel as drives toward self-consciousness. I further show how these implicit forms of self-consciousness demand their full self-comprehension in the philosophical reconstruction of the whole of ethical life. Finally, I show how the completion of self-consciousness by way of the Philosophy of Right can result in the actualization of freedom. This interpretation is opposed to those, like Allen Wood, who attempt to discern what type of "ethical theory" Hegel was espousing in the Philosophy of Right. Rather, I show that Hegel's text attempts to be the theoretical comprehension of modern ethical life that completes the modern republican project of freedom. The normative content of this theory must be understood in terms of the claim that freedom is completed in the philosophical comprehension of ethical life
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