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Title: The objectivity of freedom : a systematic commentary on the introduction to Hegel’s Philosophy of Right
Author: Stein, Sebastian
ISNI:       0000 0004 2734 7282
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2012
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The introduction (§§1-33) to Hegel’s Philosophy of Right is the key to the work’s structure, its argumentative strategy and it functions as a foundation for Hegel’s practical philosophy in general. Its explanatory potential is best realised by situating it within the systematic context of the Encyclopedia of Philosophical Sciences and the Science of Logic. This interpretative strategy reveals that for Hegel, the true site of agency is ‘the concept’ and that particular individuals and their arbitrary activity are at best the concept’s ‘appearance’. This does not render their activity ‘false’ but describes how willing and freedom are ‘for us’ as self-conscious subjects that confront an external world. For Hegel, ‘true’ freedom in the sense of ‘self-determination to itself’ resides with the universal and singular concept that negatively unites itself with its objectivity to form what he calls the ‘Idea of the will’ or ‘right’. This interpretation contradicts the mainstream of contemporary Hegel scholarship since its proponents either deny the reality of the universal concept as agent or absolutely differentiate between the concept’s activity (subjective action) and its objective reality (norms, institutions). This prevents the interpreter from appreciating that it is Hegel’s concept that is manifest in form of particular willing subjects and their socio-political context. Since most commentators associate ‘activity’ or ‘freedom’ primarily with particular subjects, their notions of freedom are, by Hegel’s standards, either empty and fail to describe actual willing or they fall short of the standard of ‘true freedom’, viz. ‘self-determination to itself’ because their agents’ freedom depends on something that differs from the agents.1 The present commentary argues that such a dilemma can be avoided by an interpretation that attributes agency to Hegel’s concept. By determining itself to be Idea, the universal concept determines itself (as subject) to itself (as object) and rational agency and rational institutions are grasped as aspects of the same entity. This is what Hegel calls the unconditioned Idea of right or ‘objective freedom’.
Supervisor: Inwood, Michael Sponsor: AHRC ; German Academic Exchange Service
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Legal philosophy ; Social justice ; Ethics and philosophy of law ; Modern Western philosophy ; Hegel ; idealism ; action theory ; free will