Elements of the Philosophy of Right Background

Elements of the Philosophy of Right Background

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel composed an original work, Elements of the Philosophy of Right, in 1820. This book holds Hegel’s “legal, moral, social and political philosophy” within its pages. He goes into a deeper expansion of the topics he brought up in his 1817 book, Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences.

The book begins with the topic of “free will”, and how a person can only be truly free if he is a participant in the complex idea of social context, such as contract, property rights, moral commitment, family life, and so on. However, the majority of the book explains what Hegel believes is the three most important versions of “right”. He endeavors into the topics of abstract right, morality, and ethical life. He explains abstract right as the “non-interference” way to respect other people. In his words, morality is the way people “reflect their own subjectivity of others,” and in doing so, they respect other people. Ethical life is explained within the topics of family, society, state, and individual feelings. After that section, Hegel then digresses into the pattern and course of history.

The book was originally written in German, so translation controversies and issues emerged. One selective excerpt was translated into English as, “The state is the march of God through the world.” This led to people accusing Hegel of justifying the authoritarian and even totalitarian forms of government. However, another translation came up to the surface saying that it really says, “It is the way of God in the world, that there should be state.” This led to the interpretation that the state is a part of “divine strategy”, and that the state is an important part of the development of history.

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel was born in the year 1770 and died in 1831. He is known as a German philosopher and idealist. His ideas are still well recognized in Western culture and civilization. He influenced many thinkers, writers, and philosophers of his time, and even philosophers today.

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