The Owl of Minerva 26 (1):65-68 (1994)

Mark Tunick
Florida Atlantic University
The Philosophy of Right is an enormously complex work, and any short treatment of it has to set limits for itself. Harry Brod, in this highly readable and useful new book, chooses to focus only on the last third of the Philosophy of Right, in which Hegel discusses civil society and the state, and also limits his scope by avoiding engagement with much of the relevant secondary literature. This is not to say Brod avoids larger interpretive questions; on the contrary, he focusses on the concrete political institutions in the last third of the Philosophy of Right in order to advance his general thesis that Hegel’s analysis of history, as the development of human beings’ consciousness of their freedom, shapes the philosophic enterprise and structure of the Philosophy of Right. In Brod’s view, Hegel intends to show how the practices and institutions discussed in the Philosophy of Right “engender in the citizens of the Hegelian state an ever-more-conscious awareness of their roles as political agents”. In Hegel’s view, “people and institutions in succeeding historical periods display increasingly greater consciousness of their freedom”. This is due to appropriate political institutions that have developed in history - “for Hegel, subjective freedom follows the institutionalization of objective freedom, not the reverse”. Brod suggests that for Hegel we can judge and criticize our political institutions according to whether they fulfill the principles toward the realization of which history is aiming. These principles - “subjective freedom,” “universality,” and “rationality” - are reflected in the modern consciousness of Hegel’s day, as a result largely of the French Revolution but also of Protestantism. Part of Brod’s thesis is that Hegel insists on drawing on these principles precisely because they contribute to the modern consciousness of Hegel’s own time. There is one other “primary principle of the modern world,” though, one shunned by the Revolutionaries and their liberal theorists of abstract individualism, namely, “being part of the world in which one feels at home”, and Brod repeatedly shows how Hegel invokes this additional “principle” to criticize modern liberal thought. I shall have more to say about these principles later.
Keywords Major Philosophers
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ISBN(s) 0030-7580
DOI owl199426132
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