Elements of the Philosophy of Right

Nascent Inequality in Hegel's Civil Society

Whether enthusiastically placed on a pedestal or shoved in a dark corner, Georg Friedrich Hegel remains one of the most controversial and influential figures in modern philosophy. In perhaps his most famous work, Elements of the Philosophy of Right, Hegel develops a comprehensive vision of the good society, one rightful in its structure, and motivated by the driving force of existence. This force, known as geist or the Spirit of the Age, propels the course of history toward the ever-increasing actualization of its ultimate end: freedom. Spirit is the activity of history and it develops in stages that build successively upon each other in pursuit of freedom’s coming-to-presence. In light of the orientation of human existence towards the relentless pursuit of freedom, Hegel develops three spheres of right in this work: Abstract Right, Morality, and Ethical Life. These spheres form the three-part dialectical movement that traces the stages of the will, and constitutes a unified vision of existence. Only in the final stage, Ethical Life, is freedom realized to be both in-and-for-itself: when willing, right-bearing individuals achieve determinacy in light of a place they find for themselves in a larger social, and ultimately...

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