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Freedom’s Devices

Freedom’s Devices
The Place of the Individual in
Hegel’s Philosophy of Right
John Rosentha/
The ordinary man thinks he is free if it is open to him to act
as he pleases but his very arbitrariness implies that he is
not free. When I will the rational, then I am acting not as
a particular individual but in accordance with the concepts
of ethics in general.. .. The rational is the high road where
everyone travels, where no one is conspicuous.

Hegel, The Philosophy of Right l

From out of the shadow of the condemnation of Hegel as an
apologist for the Prussian state and the philosophical progenitor
of modem ‘totalitarianism’, much recent Hegel scholarship has
insisted that we place greater emphasis upon the role of the
individual when considering Hegel’s systematization of right.

According to this line of interpretation, such a shift of focus
should finally dispel any suspicions we might still harbour as to
Hegel’s alleged statism. No doubt the state is understood by
Hegel as the most concrete form of existence acquired by right in
the process of its actualization; but the end of this process, the
purpose which draws it on through all its phases of existence,
including this its last, is something distinct from any form it
might adopt. This end is not then the state itself, but rather
freedom. ‘Freedom’ is the achieved actuality of the concept of
right: the idea of right as the unity of its constitutive moments. 2
But the difficulty that lies in any such appeal to right’s status as
the actualization of freedom in order to vindicate the claims of the
individual as against those of the state is that it too, just as much
as the position to which it is counterposed, must identify all of
right but with one of the moments in its development: only now
this privilege is accorded not to the moment of un mediated unity,
but rather that of particularization or merely particular individuality [besondere Eizelheit] – both of which are distinguished by
Hegel from the individualized universality or ‘self-enclosed
existence’ [das Beisichseinde] achieved by freedom embodied in
the system of right as a whole. 3 Such an interpretive strategy, far
from clarifying the role which Hegel assigns to individuality in
actualizing freedom as the system of right, lifts individuality out
of this system altogether and sets it up as the external standard
according to which the progress of freedom’s actualization is to
be judged. Hence, to take a prominent example, Joachim Ritter
writes that ‘the Philosophy of Right can be understood as the
philosophical theory of the realization of freedom, conceived as
the actual existence of all as free individuals. ‘4 What is crucial on

Radical Philosophy 59, Autumn 1991

this view is simply by unilateral pronouncement to ‘conceive’

freedom thus – ‘as the actual existence of all as free individuals’

or, alternately, ‘as the condition of man in which he can realize
his humanity and so be himself and lead a human life’ 5 – and then
to search out the process which could ‘actualize’ it as so conceived. Here freedom has no hand whatsoever in its supposed
‘actualization’, but rather awaits some other agency to take an
interest in bringing it about: this’ actualization of freedom’ is not
freedom’s own doing. Whereas for the ‘totalitarian’ Hegel the
work of freedom was the construction of the most far-reaching
servitude, for the newly-discovered liberal Hegel the work of
freedom is just not freedom’s work at all. The irony of thus
positing the individual’s capacity to ‘be himself’ as the motivation for the entire systematic embodiment through which the idea
of right passes is that it makes of the Weitgeist that subjects itself
to this movement of particularization – or what Hegel also refers
to significantly as ‘free mind’ (der freie Geist) – it makes of Geist
the mere functionary of the individuals into which it gets dissolved: and hence, insofar as it is thus called upon to act on the
behalf of something other than itself, precisely withdraws from
Geist the aspect of its freedom. This benevolent Weltgeist of the
liberal interpretation, that sacrifices itself for the benefit of individual freedoms, bears little resemblance to the Weltgeist as we
know it, for example, from the Philosophy ofHistory: consuming
individuals as its steady diet, sacrificing them in droves on the
‘slaughter-bench of history’ – and all for no other purpose than
‘finding itself – coming to itself – and contemplating itself in
concrete actuality’, i.e., realizing its freedom, or rather the freedom that it is in itself as an objective world for it to ‘contemplate’ .6
It would be a simple matter to demonstrate by the adducing of
textual examples that, contrary to the claims of the liberal interpretation, the freedom of the individual as abstract person is
not on Hegel’ s view the end of the systematization of right, but
rather the instrumental means whereby Geist in its universality
actualizes itself as free. It would be easy to show, for example,
that what Ritter treats as ‘substantial freedom’, viz. the right of
the individual to ‘be himself’ and satisfy ‘his’ own interests in
‘his’ activity, is precisely the opposite, viz. freedom only abstractly considered, of the’ substantial freedom’ that Hegel strictly
identifies with the system of right in its developed totality. For
this latter, the very life of individuals, and all their rights with it,
is eminently dispensable, if they fail to find their satisfaction and
proper essence in the life of the ethical order as a whole. 7 (In this


regard, one should recall Hegel’ s approving citation of Richelieu ‘s
response to the alibi ‘Il faut donc que je vive’: viz. ‘Je n’en vois
pas la necessite’ [PR, #126, add., p. 242].) But we can spare
ourselves the exegetical labour of amassing examples (and they
are legion) by instead returning to the concept of the free will as
this forms the point of departure – and, of course, return – for the
systematic elaboration of right that Hegel pursues in his
Rechtsphilosophie. What I want to demonstrate here is not so
much the textual inaccuracy of regarding the individual as the
standard according to which the’ actualization of freedom’ is to
be measured in Hegel, as the logical incompatibility of so doing
with the concept of the (free) will as Hegel develops it. If the
absolutizing of individual freedoms is indeed logically impossible within the Hegelian system, or, more exactly, within the
system of right comprehended
as the development of the concept of the will, then we can
rest assured – seeing as we are
here dealing with Hegel – that
Rechtsphilosophie it will nowhere take place. In which case,
our exegetical powers can be
conserved for the more fruitful
work of determining the functions to which individuality is
assigned in the realization of a
freedom which is necessarily
other than its own. As we shall
see, such a substantive freedom would be contradicted in
its very nature were it to be
understood as the mere attribute
of a subject, rather than as the
subject itself.

‘The free is the will,’ Hegel
writes, ‘Will without freedom
is an empty word, just as freedom is actual only as will, as
subject’ (PR, #4, add., p. 226).

On the liberal interpretation, the
expression ‘actualization of
freedom’ must imply some anterior conditions of individuals
still in want of their freedom as
the elimination of restriction.

In contrast, Hegel’ s identification of freedom with the will in
its concept, his exhaustive
predication of the latter by the
former – i.e., as that which the
will in essence is – suggests instead that freedom as the unrestricted in itself is that which wants individuals, or rather that
which, without remaining in want, determines itself straightaway
as finite and hence particularized, precisely in order to gain
actuality and so become for itself what as concept it is merely in
itself. According to the liberal view, freedom might be ‘actualized’ (and, in which case, cause for celebration), but until such
time as it was, there would be no freedom whatsoever. If,
however, a speculative identity is maintained between that which
is actualized and the agent of actualization (which is indeed the
meaning of the Hegelian demand that substance be grasped as
subject), then there simply could not be any ‘actualization of
freedom’ unless freedom were there from the start. For Hegel,
freedom is not then the outcome of the system of right, but rather


its basis. Thus, as I have suggested, it forms the logical point of
departure for the philosophical science of right which attempts to
grasp its object in the various stages of its development (i.e. into
the existent ‘idea’ of freedom):

the basis of right is, in general, mind [das Geistige]; and its
precise place and point of origin, the will, which is free, so
that freedom constitutes both the substance of right and its
goal, and the system of right is the realm of freedom made
actual… (PR, #4, p. 20).

The ‘freedom’ which is at stake in Hegel’s systematic presentation of right – or rather, the freedom which is existent within the
system of right (since, as I have indicated, this is not the sort of
freedom which might be or might not be) – is that of mind [Geist].

And this freedom of mind exhibited in practice is precisely
the will. As Hegel takes some
pains to emphasize, thinking
and willing thus understood are
not distinct things or ‘faculties’

[Vermogen], but rather willing
is, so to speak, the mode according to which mind actualizes itself as freely existing:

‘thinking translating itself into
existence [als sich iihersetzend
ins Dasein]’ (PR, #4, add., p.

226V It is then, for Hegel,
senseless to speak of an ‘unfree’

will. ‘Will without freedom is,’

as he puts it, ‘an empty word,’

since will is nothing but the
freedom of thinking in the
course of its actualization. Thus,
from the standpoint of right as
the resultant trace of thought’s
intervention in the world, will,
freedom, and Geist are identical; which is why in Hegel’s
exposition they in fact function
interchangeably and in combination as the subject/substance
of the development of right into
an ‘ethical’ (i.e. sittlichen)
whole. 9 (The will is just the form
of Geist as subject in its practical actualization, and so exhaustively characterized, i.e. in respect to its substance, as free.)
In defence of the liberal position, one might respond that
if it is senseless to speak of an ‘unfree will’, it is equally senseless
to speak of a freedom subsisting in itself apartfrom any will (and
so the preeminence of the individual is preserved). And indeed
Hegel’s remark elaborating upon the asserted identity of freedom
with the will would seem to lend support to this argument. ‘Will
without freedom is an empty word,’ he insists, but then adds, ‘just
as freedom is only actual as will, as subject.’ While both are
expressions of the asserted identity of freedom and the will, it
would be a mistake, however, to regard the two statements as
. simple converses. Rather they reflect two distinct moments in the
articulation and concretization of the free will as ‘idea’ , as, that is,
substantive freedom. It would be senseless to speak of an ‘unfree
will’ because not only does it ‘belong’ to the concept of the will
to be free, but the free being of Geist is indeed that concept.

Radical Philosophy 59, Autumn 1991



‘Freedom,’ as Hegel puts it, ‘constitutes the … substantiality of
the will, its weight, just as weight constitutes the substantiality of
the body’ (and we might add, following the Phenomenology,
universality that of the actual, etc.) (PR, #7, p. 23).10 The will in
itself is then free – though free only abstractly, that is, as the
possibility of abstraction from all determinate contents. This is
the moment of abstract universality. At this stage, while we can
speak of ‘the will’, we do so only retrospectively, on the basis of
the foreknowledge that the subsequent moments have succeeded
in realizing the concept here only abstractly considered, that this
concept is indeed the concept of something and not just ‘the
concept’ as such. The activity of willing, the freedom of mind, is
precisely to abandon this abstract universality and subject itself
to determinate existence: in Hegel’ s words, ‘thinking reason is as
will-resolving itselfto finitude’ (PR, #13, p. 26). As Hegel goes
on to stress, prior to this determination (and the further ‘idealization of this determination as the free act of mind), there is no will,
but only mind abiding in its infinite abstraction. ll Nonetheless,
insofar as willing is mind’s activity in determining itself, abstract
universality constitutes a moment in the development of its
concept, viz., that of the will prior to the activity that makes it
(actually) what it is (in essence or ‘in itself). We should be
careful, however, not to regard the will in this, so to speak,
moment of anticipation as already realized and whole, and so
subject to the determinations which in fact will accrue to it only
via its subsequent moments. Thus, it would be illegitimate, for
instance, to characterize the will yet on the verge of its actualization, i.e., the abstract universality of mind, as the condition of a
will already individualized. The ‘pure thought of the ego’ is not
the achievement of an ego, since as pure thought mind is precisely unrestricted and universal, and hence not yet determined
as the will of a specific individual. Of course, Hegel describes this
moment as a ‘flight’ from determinate contents, as if abstract
universality was only arrived at consequent to a sort of renunciation on the part of the will in its particularity. But we should
remember that abstract universality is only a moment of the will
at all as seen retrospectively from the position of its substantial
existence. Thus, as participating in the development of the will as
concept, the moment of still unmediated universality, or the will
in its passivity, has to be comprehended under this negative, and
indeed contradictory, form. (Moreover, Hegel recommends that
each of us verify the character of this moment by testing our own
ability to undertake such an exhaustive abstraction. But, in so
doing, in thinking the ‘pure thought of self (if we can), precisely
what we abstract from is our determinate existence as individuals. ‘The ego is thought,’ Hegel writes, ‘and so the universal.

When I say “I”, I thereby abandon all particularity, my character,
disposition, knowledge, and age. The ego is completely empty … ‘

(PR, #4, add., p. 226).)
If we understand that the will in itself is freedom, then the
objection that we have adduced on behalf of the liberal position
has already been answered. In its moment of abstract universality
– that is to say, as no more than concept – the will is free. But
since, as I have indicated, it is only retrospectively, from the
standpoint of the will already actualized as the activity of free
mind, that this prior moment can be identified as a moment of the
will at all – since, that is, the will is not yet a will so long as it
remains only ‘in itself’ and indeterminate – precisely what is
implied therein is that freedom can indeed subsist independently
of the individual (understood as the immediate form adopted by
the will resolved into actuality). In Hegel’s usage, it would not
then be senseless to speak of freedom apart from a will. Hegel
does so all the time, and in fact has to, insofar as previous to the
determination that forms the second moment in the development
of its concept, there simply is not yet any will to encompass that

Radical Philosophy 59, Autumn 1991

freedom which is still only about to commit itself. Thus, to speak
of such freedom apart from a will, as we must, is not senseless,
but just abstract: it is merely abstract or ‘negative’ freedom of
which we speak – freedom as the absence of restriction. And it is
just this freedom of abstraction that, as we have seen, constitutes
the first moment in the development of the concept of will,
wherein the will is not yet the ‘true will’, but freedom must
already be freedom, since it is the definitive condition of the will
throughout all of its moments, it is what each of them must be in
order even to be recognized in their articulated unity as precisely
moments of the will.

Thus when Hegel writes that ‘freedom is actual only as will,
as subject,’ he does not thereby suggest that apart from this form
it takes in actuality, there is no freedom at all. Rather, there would
have to be since, in order for the will to be ‘truly’ a will in and for
itself, and not just the mere abstract concept of will, this actual
freedom must be grasped as the objective of a process undertaken
as freedom’s own work: ‘freedom willing freedom,’ as Hegel
puts it. 2 Freedom has at once to be the subject of this actualization, namely free mind in the course of foregoing its abstract
universality, and the object, that is, the total system of right as
freedom existent and thus mediated by particularity – as well as
the conscious recuperation of the latter moment of determination
as the free act of the former, i.e., ‘abstract universality selfdetermined’ (see PR, #21, p. 29). Otherwise – were freedom not
grasped as the’ agent’ of its actualization – one could intend when
speaking of ‘freedom’ no more than the ‘one-sided’ abstract
conception that, as we have just noted, corresponds to the condition of the will prior to its resolution upon particular contents: the
merely negative freedom that pertains to the will before it has
willed anything at all, before it has even been exhibited as will,
would be taken in its abstractness as the whole of freedom and the
only freedom possible. We should be sensitive to the contradiction inherent in this position. By tying freedom to the condition of
an already individualized subject, the freedom one gives this
subject to enjoy is precisely the sort that ‘it’ could have enjoyed
just as well without ever having been actualized as subject. If
freedom is nothing apart from the volitions of an actually existing
individual, then it is simply not freedom which thus has actuality;
rather freedom remains abstract (it is only thus something by not
itself existing), since for such an individual every evidence of
actuality is in fact a restriction. And yet it is just by thus being
subjected to restriction that the particular individual even has any
existence at all. Freedom so conceived as an inviolable static
state: the pure pleasure of immobility that the individual enjoys at
the expense of a labour which is not its own.

The absolutizing of such merely abstract freedom is referred
to derisively by Hegel as ‘the freedom of the understanding’ [die
Freiheit des Verstandes]. In his own exposition, it figures rather
as the subordinate stage ofWillkiir: the capacity of the immediate
‘natural’ will (i.e., the determinate individual) ‘freely’ to choose
among given contents and so subsume them, though only formally, as its own (as, for instance, in claiming property under the
aegis of abstract right). Willkiir represents, in Hegel’s words,

the will’s abstract certainty of its freedom, but it is not yet
the truth of freedom, because it has not yet got itself as its
content and aim, and consequently the subjective side is
still other than the objective …. (PR, #115, p. 27).

The ‘subjective side’ thus remaining ‘other than the objective’,
freedom is neither, but merely the formal attribute of a subject in
its relating to objects other than itself; and it is precisely the
necessity of this relation as standard (i.e., that the subject is ‘free
to choose’) that implies the actual dependency of the subject in
question. Thus, the immediate will allegedly ‘realizing’ its free-


dom in Willkur, in fact, if it realizes anything at all, realizes only
its own limitation. This sort of ‘freedom’ then consists not even
so much in resolving upon contents as in perpetually being about
to do so, since in the actual choice – the resolution upon and hence
restriction by a particular object – such negative freedom would
be completely spent. Substantive freedom – the’ self-mediating’

activity of free mind, rather than the donnant options of a
detennined individual- consists, by way of contrast, precisely in
‘making its freedom objective’: in the free will’s having nothing
other than itself as its aim and in its recognizing in the objects by
which it is confronted nothing but the manifold fonns of its own
existence. 13 This does not suggest the removal of all restrictions
presented by objectivity, but rather the removal of the character
of restriction/rom objectivity.14
Such a substantively free will which, by overcoming the
merely immediate will’s shyness towards objectivity, gains actuality in a system of right and recognizes its own free activity
therein – ‘freedom willing freedom’ – Hegel calls ‘true, or rather
the truth itself’ (PR, #23, p. 30). The verification of this truth lies
in the identity between the completed work of right as freedom
existent and the concept of the free will itself as the ‘selfdetennining universality’ capable of having undertaken it. Mind
in its free activity as will brings its existence into accordance with
its concept, and hence is ‘true’: the sought-for correspondence is
the will’s own, and indeed its definitive, achievement. As I have
tried here to indicate, the merely immediate will of a particular
individual could never accomplish such a feat, since it is merely
immediate by virtue precisely of not having itself in the actuality
which is at best only formally (Le., as property) its own. Thus
individuals, detennined as such by the externality of the objects
with which they are confronted, cannot be justifiably attributed
the substantive freedom that belongs rather to the ‘true’ will, not
even as a predictable attribute, but rather as the very criterion of
its truth. The most that the individual can hope for is to contrive
a sort of intimation of this freedom by precisely abdicating its
detenninate subjectivity – by, that is to say, abstractin8. But the


movement of the free will in actualizing as ‘idea’ the freedom that
it is (in itself) as concept is just the opposite ofthis, viz., foregoing
its abstract universality in order to achieve detenninate existence:

‘resolving itself to finitude’. The individual’s thought experiment is thus a sort of backwards reenactment of thinking’s
resolution upon existence; and the symmetry of these inverted
images is not without importance, since it reminds us that the
fonn in which the free will must posit itself in order to demonstrate its substantiality is precisely that of the individual. For the
realization of the ‘absolute aim of free mind’ (to know itself as
objective), the restriction of the merely particular individual and
its contradictory Willkur is, then, indispensable. Or rather, the
will is the very fonn of mind’s finitude: the evidence it offers as
a token of its existence – and then itself accepts as a manifestation
of its freedom. Thus, if the particular individual is not the
standard according to which the actualization of freedom is to be
judged in Hegel (as the liberal interpretation has assumed),
nonetheless, the’ actualization of freedom’ would not be possible
at all without the particular individual. And this is precisely the
sense of Hegel’ s earlier cited remark that’ freedom is actual only
as will, as subject’. The claim is not that freedom without will is
inconceivable (just as the will without freedom is inconceivable),
but rather that freedom without will is only conceivable: not an
’empty word’, but just an abstract concept. In abandoning this
abstractness and actualizing itself as concrete idea – as the ‘true’

will – freedom has to pass through the moment of detennined
particularity as the very manner in which it achieves actuality.

Freedom is actual’ only as will’. Freedom needs the subject as the
instrument of its actualization.

This is the reason I suggested at the outset that, once having
returned particular individuality to its logical place within the
self-systematization of the free will (as this fonns the subjectmatter of Hegel’s Rechtsphilosophie), the functions assigned to
the individual by the concept in pursuit of its actualization would
have to become the focus of any further exegesis. The liberal
interpretation has not been altogether mistaken in identifying
Hegel as the champion of the ‘right of subjective freedom’: the
right of a subject to find satisfaction in the action he or she
undertakes. Only Hegel’s advocacy is of a decidedly motivated
sort (in this case, a theoretical motivation), since it is only by the
acknowledgement of this right of particularity that freedom as
such can escape its abstract universality and gain access to
objective existence. Subjective freedom is not then elevated by
Hegel to the status of the goal of right’s systematization – it is
expressly not, for instance, that which the state is meant merely to
secure. IS Rather, subjective freedom is enlisted to serve as the
vehicle of particularization that the free will must employ if it is
to be realized as right, and so know itself as actual.

This ‘freeing’ of subjectivity from the substantial ties that
bind it – historically in the states of classical antiquity and feudal
Europe, and actually in the family as the merely immediate phase
of mind’s existence – represents for Hegel the distinguishing
feature of the modem state and its ‘perfection’ (vollkommenheit)
vis-a-vis its predecessors and constitutive moments. ‘The principle of modem states,’ he writes,
has the prodigious strength and depth to allow the principIe of subjectivity to progress to its culmination (vollenden)
in the self-subsistent extreme of personal particularity and
at the same time to bring it back to the substantial unity
and so maintain this unity in the principle of subjectivity
itself (PR, #260).

By thus releasing subjectivity to ‘self-subsistent’ (selbstiindig)
existence in civil society, 16 only to bring it back again, by way of
the administration of justice, public authority, and the corpora-


Radical Philosophy 59, Autumn 1991

tion, to the substantive universality of the political constitution, 17
the modern state achieves self-consciousness as not just one form
of existence of universal ‘free mind’, but as that singular ‘perfected’ form in which the universal arrives at the awareness of
existence as itself – as, that is to say, ‘concrete freedom’. As
against the right of the free will existent in the state, the right of
subjective freedom has then no substantiality – because this
former right is precisely the latter’s substantive basis. It is no
mere relative right, but rather right as such: freedom in its
achieved actuality, or, as Hegel puts it, ‘the right of actual
concrete mind’ (PR, #126, p. 185). From the outset, the right due
to subjectivity is subordinated to the absolute purpose of free
mind, and the right it reserves for itself to realize this purpose,
i.e., to exist. And this subordination, moreover, implies not only
a hierarchy, but also, as I have suggested, a functional relation.

Thus, the merely subjective not only might come into conflict
with right as such and so be forced to submit, but it is even
positively required to do so, since only through the exposure of
its difference (i.e., from the substantial unity) does it fulfil the
function of particularization assigned to it by the concept. Or, to
put this another way, the subjective will can only be merely
subjective insofar as it deviates from the universal; but the
universal will can only gain the actuality which is its ‘absolute
aim’ by appearing in the form of the individual, by, that is to say,
subjecting itself to particularity. Thus, the universal will demands the non-correspondence of the subjective, in order thereby
to create the opportunity to ‘annul’ this opposition, to negate this
negation, and so reclaim the subjectivity that first appears thus
opposed to it as the subjectivity of its own self-consciousness. A
right – albeit a limited, subordinated one – does, then, pertain to
the free subjectivity of the individual, as the liberal interpreters of
Hegel have so much stressed; but it is only in wrong – unrecht that the individual who could claim this right even appears in its
specificity: wrong is the constitutive condition of such ‘free’

subjectivity. IS
In Hegel’ s systematization of right, the individual is thus set
free to err, to do wrong, since only by so doing does it attain the
measure of self-subsistence required of it. But if, in this manner,
the individual stands alone, posited in its particularity as opposed
to the still abstract universal- if it is thus selbstiindig – it always
stands at the very point of being corrected. From the perspective
of the merely subjective freedom that the individual acquires just
long enough for mind to register its resistance, the substantive
freedom in which it is thus made to participate must appear’ as
freedom of a somewhat inimical sort. For the individual ‘released’ to particularity, it is, in effect, the freedom either to return
quietly to the universal, to will the universal end as is one’s duty
– and, in which case, the transition effected by the doing of justice
issues without rupture at morality, as the sphere in which the
subject is brought back to the universal, though still only in
subjective intention – or to persist in one’s opposition, and so be
brought back to the universal infact and by force, all to the greater
glory of the ‘free mind’ which is thus afforded the occasion to
demonstrate the brute objectivity of its existence in the form of
state power. One way or another, and throughout the system of
right – from the phase of ‘civil society’ up to that of world history
as a whole – the individual is always set free by mind only to
serve as alibi for the exhibition of mind’s own free activity. To
specify the manner in which individuality fulfils this mediating
function at the determinate structural loci within the
Rechtsphilosophie where its services are called upon is an exegetical task that remains to be performed; I have only tried to
establish the general parameters within which that task might
provide productive.

Radical Philosophy 59, Autumn 1991


Since the first drafting of this essay, the liberal interpretation of
Hegel has acquired new and surprising audiences. Thanks to
Francis Fukayama’s celebrated ramblings on ‘The End of History?’ (The National Interest, Summer 1989, pp. 3-18), it is now
even possible to speak of a ‘U.S. State Department neoHegelianism’. According to Fukayama’s ‘reading’ of Hegel, the
state with which history is supposed to culminate (and is now
indeed supposed to have culminated) is ‘liberal insofar as it
recognizes and protects through a system of law man’s universal
right to freedom’ (p. 5). It is not hard to understand how Hegel’ s
political philosophy might have served apologetic purposes in his
own day, but it can only continue to do so in our own in the
trivialized form of an interpretation that has to ignore virtually
everything Hegel wrote on the subject of personal freedoms (not
to mention that of popular democracy) – that has, in effect, to
ignore Hegel’s political philosophy. To say it once more: whatever ‘freedom’ may connote for Fukayama (or, for that matter,
for Ritter),for Hegel freedom exists concretely only for Geist as
such, viz. in the form of the state, which is the actuality of
freedom and not merely its guarantor. The state does not exist in
order to make the freedom of individuals possible, but rather
individuals exist in order to make the freedom of Geist actual, i.e.

precisely through their continual subordination to the demands of
the state, the latter representing the instance of universality in
which individuals are obligated (as I have said, one way or
another) to ‘participate’. Thus Hegel: ‘If the state is confused


with civil society, and if its specific end is laid down as the
security and protection of property and personal freedom, then
the interest of the individuals as such becomes the ultimate end of
their association, and it follows that membership of the state is
something optional. But the state’s relation to the individual is
quite different from this. Since the state is mind objectified, it is
only as one of its members that the individual himself has
objectivity, genuine individuality and an ethical life. Unification
pure and simple is the true content and aim of the individual, and
the individual’s destiny is the living of a universal life’ (PR,
#258, p. 156).

(Aujheben) and idealization of this determination; rather it is
first a will as this self-mediating activity and return into itself’

(p. 24); as well as PR, #6, add.: ‘A will which … wills only the
abstract universal, wills nothing and is therefore no will at all’




See PR, #27.


The nature of this ‘substantive freedom’ and its complete irreducibility to any abstract capacity on the part of an individual to
‘be oneself’ is most starkly exemplified by Hegel’s treatment of
the punishment of crimes under the jurisdiction of law (i.e., as
pursued by the state rather than by the injured party). Thus, in
the Philosophy of Right, Hegel argues that punishment is the
right of the convicted, that is to say, ‘a form of existence of his
freedom’, insofar as this freedom substantively represents no
more than ‘his’ participation as rational in the concreter freedom belonging to mind in the midst of its actualization (PR,
#100, p. 70). And again in the Logic, Hegel even adduces the
objectivity of correction as an illustration of the concept of
freedom comprehended as the ‘truth of necessity’: ‘A criminal,
when punished, may look upon his punishment as a restriction
of his freedom. Really the punishment is not a foreign constraint
to which he is subjected, but the manifestation of his own act:

and ifhe recognizes this, he comports himself as a free man’ (G.

W. F. Hegel, The Logic, trans. William Wallace, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1975, #158, add.). Cf. also PR, #268, on
the ‘political sentiment’.


See, for instance, PR, # 100: ‘the state is not a contract of all nor
is its fundamental essence the unconditional protection and
guarantee of the life and property of individuals as singular. On
the contrary, it is the higher entity which even lays claim to his
life and property and demands its sacrifice’ (p. 71). Cf. also PR,


See on the ‘transition of the family into civil society’ (PR,
#181), as well as Hegel’s criticisms of Plato’s Republic in PR,
# 185 and passim.

G. W. F. Hegel, Grundlinien der Philosophie des Rechts, ed.

Helmut Reichelt (Frankfurt!M: Verlag Ullstein, 1972), #15,
zusats. Throughout I have used the English translations provided by T. M. Knox in Hegel’s Philosophy of Right (Oxford:

Oxford University Press, 1952), though with frequent modifications of my own. Subsequent references to the Philosophy of
Right will be given in the text, abbreviated as ‘PR’; page
numbers are those of the English edition. Thus the full citation
for this entry gives: PR, #15, add., p. 230.


See PR, #1, add.: ‘The idea of right is freedom, and if it is to be
truly understood, it must be known both in its concept (Begriff)
and in the determinate existence (Dasein) of that concept’ (p.



Cf. PR, #7, #24, and #275 (add.), wherein Hegel stresses the
distinction between the individuality one finds in immediate
actuality and the individuality of the concept. ‘Reciprocal externality (das Auseinander),’ he writes, ‘is not self-enclosed existence (das Beisichseinde)’, p. 287.


Joachim Ritter, from ‘Person and Property’, in Hegel and the
French Revolution, trans. Richard Dien Winfield, Cambridge,
Mass.: MIT, 1982, p. 128.


Ritter (from ‘Hegel and the French Revolution’), p. 48.


G. W. F. Hegel, Reason in History, trans. Robert S. Hartmann,
Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1953, p. 31. Cf. also Reason in
History, p. 24: ‘We have established Spirit’s consciousness of
its freedom, and thereby the actualization of this freedom as the
final purpose of the world.’ It is no accident that Hegel’ s
discussion of individuality in this text falls under the heading
‘Means of Realization’ .


See Ritter, P. 58, and compare, for instance, PR, #258: ‘The
state is, as the actuality of the substantial will … , the rational in
and for itself. This substantial unity is an absolute unmoved end
in itself, in which freedom comes into its supreme right; just as
this final end has supreme right against individuals, whose
supreme duty is to be members of the state’ (pp. 155-56). Hegel
even goes so far as to identify merely abstract freedom as
‘unfreedom’ (PR, #149, add., p. 260).


Cf. PR, #21: ‘The self-consciousness which purifies its object,
content and aim, and raises them to this universality, does this as
though getting its own way in the will (das im Willen sich
durchsetzende Denken). Here is the point at which it becomes
clear that it is only as thinking intelligence that the will is a true,
free will ‘Cp. 30).


For example, Sittlichkeit is said to be ‘the concept of freedom
developed into the existing world’ (PR, #145) or alternatively
das Sittlich, ‘the will in and for itself as the objective’ (PR,
#151), and ‘to make freedom objective’ is identified as the
‘absolute goal of free mind’ (PR, #27).


See The Phenomenology of Spirit, para. 62, illustrating the
nature of the’ speculative proposition’ .


See PR, #7: ‘ … (the will) is not something complete and
universal prior to its determination and prior to the supersession


See PR, #21, add.: ‘the true will is that for which what it wills,
its content, is identical with itself, so that freedom wills freedom’ (p. 232).


See PR, #269.


See PR, #81: ‘The transition to wrong is made by the logical
higher necessity that the moments of the concept – here right in
itself, or the will as universal, and right in its existence, which is
just the particularity of the will- should be posited as for itself
different, and this happens through the abstract reality of the
concept’ (p. 64). ef. also PR, #104.

Radical Philosophy 59, Autumn 1991

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