Hegel's Project of Modernity: Rights, Duties and Freedom

Dissertation, Columbia University (2004)

In Philosophy of Right, Hegel asserts that each individual has a right to freedom and that each individual finds his substantial freedom in duties. Enveloped in these claims is an apparent contradiction. The objective of this work is to assess Hegel's conception of duties by considering the conceptual relation that his philosophy establishes between the notions of duties and rights and how this network of relations reflects a distinctively modern conception of freedom. ;What characterizes Hegel's project as modern is that he subscribes to a conception of a self as a self-defining subject; this entails a set of claims. Rights and duties are grounded on the notion of free will; the most important right and duty is the right and duty the self has to itself to realize its essential freedom. Respect of each individual is expressed in the inviolability of the right and duty to realize one's freedom. Freedom must be understood as the identity of rights and duties, an identity which is realized only in the ethical state. The institutions of the state must be authenticated by the individuals; only a rational state can realize freedom and be authenticated. Since Hegel predicates his conception of ethical life on the self-determining powers of the self, all rights and duties that an individual acquires in the state must be in accordance with the concept of the fundamental right to freedom as being inviolable. ;The aim of this thesis is threefold: to identify the importance of the notion of duty to self and to isolate this concept from the broader category of duties to others; to delineate the meaning and role this concept has in the development of the individual as a "person," "subject," and member of a state; and to explore the conceptual relations of duties and rights in Hegel's conception of substantial freedom. My argument is that Hegel's philosophy of right is a theory of ontological liberalism, which holds that a proper basis for the justification of political institutions must appeal to the idea of the individual as essentially free
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