History of Political Thought 25 (3):481-507 (2004)

Joshua D. Goldstein
University of Calgary
As in the transmigration of souls after death in the Pythagorean myth that Socrates recounts in the Phaedo, for G.W.F. Hegel, in the Philosophy of Right, individuals are also 'reborn' out of their original nature into a 'second nature'. This article asks whether the Hegelian transmigration aims at their becoming nothing higher than that 'race of tame and social creatures . . . bees perhaps, wasps, or ants' which the Pythagorean myth relates is the fate of those who 'practiced popular and social goodness . . . but devoid of philosophy and intelligence'. Through an analysis of duty, virtue, rectitude, custom and habit, this article argues that Hegel's account of the nature of fully ethical self-consciousness contains within it a robust, practical knowledge that resists the 'bees problem', shifts the focus of criticism from the truncation of human possibilities to the vitality of life, and ultimately furnishes resources that can secure the latter -- all without abandoning conventionality as the ethical horizon
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