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Hegel’s Concept of Freedom

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Reason and Reality

Part of the book series: Royal Institute of Philosophy Lectures

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The concept of freedom is one which Hegel thought of very great importance; indeed, he believed that it is the central concept in human history. ‘Mind is free’, he wrote, ‘and to actualise this, its essence — to achieve this excellence — is the endeavour of the world-mind in world-history’ (VG, p. 73).1 Those who already have an interest in Hegel will doubtless be interested in his views on a topic which he thought so important; on the other hand, the many philosophers who are either indifferent to or hostile to Hegel may point out that it does not follow that, because the subject of freedom interested Hegel, his views about this subject are of general interest. It will be the aim of this paper to show that they are of general interest; in the meantime, it may be recalled that Isaiah Berlm has argued (Four Essays on Liberty, Oxford, 1969, p. 144) that Hegel’s concept of freedom is one of a type, called by him the concept of positive freedom, which is ‘at the heart of many of the nationalist, communist, authoritarian and totalitarian creeds of our day’. It will surely be worth while to see to what extent this is true of Hegel, and to what extent Hegel’s views about freedom are true.

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  1. For arguments of this type, see G. H. Sabine, A History of Political Theory, 2nd ed. (London, 1948) p. 530; G. Lasson, Introduction to his edition of the Philosophy of Right, pp. xlii ff.

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  2. See, e.g., J. Hyppolite, Introduction à la Philosophie de Vhistoire de Hegel (Paris, 1948) p.35.

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  3. Hegel is often accused of idealising the Prussian constitution ; but he clearly did not think that this constitution was perfect. See, e.g., T. M. Knox, ‘Hegel and Prussianism’ in Philosophy (1940) pp. 51–63, 313–4; Ernst Bloch, Subjekt-Objekt, 2nd ed. (Frankfurt am Main, 1962) pp. 249 f.

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© 1972 The Royal Institute of Philosophy

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Parkinson, G.H.R. (1972). Hegel’s Concept of Freedom. In: Reason and Reality. Royal Institute of Philosophy Lectures. Palgrave Macmillan, London.

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  • Print ISBN: 978-1-349-81580-7

  • Online ISBN: 978-1-349-81578-4

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