Hegel - “The State”

Lucas Immer, Nathan Farnsworth

1. What is the nature of the argument?

- or more loosely, how is the author trying to make his/her case?

Predominantly deductive, uses the model of the dialectic to identify broad features of the composition and functionality of the state.  Hegel makes broad claims about the nature of civil society and includes historical examples to bolster these claims. (306-307, 289)  

2. Who/What is the argument against?

- identify the targets, other authors or systems of thought that this author is bent on challenging.

Individualism - Disagreed with Rousseau’s notion of the universal will as merely the common elements of individual will.  Instead regarded the will of particular (subjective) individuals as one with the universal (objective). (277)

Cosmopolitanism - Argued against the Kantian idea of perpetual peace among nation states~ asserting that while states “may enter into alliances...these are always purely relative and limited” (282)

Neoliberalism - Singular focus on the individual undermines the rights of the individual

3. What is the argument?

-The “state” is the highest form of ethical living, in which the subjective will of each individual is united with the universal/objective will of the state; (275) primary focus on rationality being found upon unity between individuality and universality, or between subjective freedom and objective freedom… “Everything depends on the unity of the universal and the particular within the state.” (285)

-The state is the natural highest order of civic organization, in which it is the duty of individuals to preserve the independence and sovereignty of the state, and in turn the recieves protection of his person and his property (289)  

-Individuals enter into the state not by contract or coercion but by shared interest, knowledge, and volition (282)

- be sure to pay attention to what the author is saying concerning our three focal points:

i. human nature: what theory is developed, what assumptions are made?

Man is a political animal: “Individuals as a mass are themselves spiritual natures, and they therefore embody a dual moment, namely the extreme of individuality [(focus on the self)]and the the extreme of universality [(focus on the “substantial”)].” (287)

“It is only through being a member of the state that the individual himself has objectivity, truth, and ethical life… the destiny of individuals is to lead a universal life” (276)

Humans, individually, are capriciously motivated, but their collective unification into civil nation-states is what allows the realization of reason

ii. ethics: how does ethics figure in the argument?  is the author engaging in moral condemnation or moral prescription, if so, on the basis of what sort of ethical theory?

The highest manifestation of ethical living is the institution of the state: “The state in and for itself is the ethical whole, the actualization of freedom, and it is the absolute end of reason that freedom should be actual.” (279)

iii. politics: what is politics according to the author?  what should the purposes of politics be?

-   does the author employ or develop any specific concepts that deserve attention?

Politics is continually developed through the applied powers delegated to the state’s various branches through the organism of the political constitution (290)

End of the state is pursuit of the universal interest as well as conservation of particularities within the universal interest (290)


3a. What does the author regard as the distinctive problems and possibilities in the Modern Age

- on what are they focusing?

The success of a modern state depends on the unification of the needs of the particular with the desired ends of the universal. That is to say the efforts of individuals and families must serve the state’s interests, while the rights and desires of these individuals must be preserved and protected.

“The essence of the modern state is that the universal should be linked with the complete freedom of particularity and the well-being of individuals, and hence that the interest of the family and of civil society must become focused on the state; but the universality end cannot make further progress without the personal knowledge and volition of the particular individual who must retain their rights.” (283)

3b. How does the author address liberty, equality, and fraternity?

- how does the author define, conceptualize, and operationalize each concept?

Liberty - the right to do what the law permits (to perform one’s duties): “my obligation towards the substantial is at the same time the existence of my particular freedom; that is duty and right are united within the state in one and the same relation.” (284)

Individual concrete liberty is actualized in the state, as individuals grow to trust government, they realize freedom as part of a cohesive entity

Equality - All members of the state share a common universal will, which encompasses the fulfillment of the needs of all individuals.  Duties are unequal, but equality of opportunity is achieved

Fraternity - Civic engagement and political unity are paramount, membership in the political state is the actuality of concrete freedom, of reason and of the ethical idea (275) Particular interests should be harmonized with the universal, individual reason is actualized in the form of volitional engagement in family, civil society and eventually the nation-state (282)

1)Fraternity 2)Liberty 3)Equality

4. what are the strengths of the author's argument?

- does the author succeed in challenging his/her targets?

- good use of evidence?

-Dissuades readers from finding faults from his own claims by making a general statement that it is better to look for the truths in an argument, such as those of a religion: “Uneducated people delight in argument and fault-finding, for it is easy to find fault, but difficult to recognize the good and its inner necessity...In religion, it is equally easy to say that this or that is superstition, but it is infinitely more difficult to comprehend the truth which it contains.”

-Where Kant merely takes the general progress of humanity as given, Hegel provides a framework for this progression

-Provides an explanation for war/conflict, states require opposition or antithesis in order to know themselves, revitalize identity(362)

5. what are the weaknesses of the author's argument?

- what, if anything, has the author unduly neglected or missed?

- anything implausible, illogical, unargued?

- why are you not persuaded? where did the author lose you?

Hegel’s notion that the interests of individuals and interests of the state can be unified seems idealistic; he neglects to reconcile these seemingly competing priorities.  In addition his style can be dense and inaccessible.

As far as equality goes, Hegel mentions that all people have duties, but are not necessarily the same duties (for women vs. men) which is somewhat of a cop-out statement