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Man in Völker and States

  • Christopher J. Berry
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Part of the Archives Internationales D’Histoire des Idees / International Archives of the History of Ideas book series (ARCH, volume 103)

Abstract

The previous chapter outlined the theoretical underpinning of Hegel’s contextualist theory of human nature. This chapter will examine the agents by which human nature is ‘contextualised’. The ‘agents’ in question are the individual’s people (Volk) and State. It must be emphasised at the outset that these agents can only be distinguished analytically because it is important, in Hegel’s eyes, to realise that they act in concert. By so doing they constitute a whole or totality (the context) to which the nearest approximation is perhaps ‘Culture’, understood in its wide anthropological sense as “that complex which includes knowledge, art, belief, morals, laws, custom and any other capabilities acquired by man as a member of society”,1

Keywords

Civil Society Human Nature Social Contract Social Contract Theory Historical School 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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References

  1. 1.
    E.B. Tylor, Primitive Culture (1871), p. 1. Tylor is credited with the introduction of this meaning of ‘culture’ into English and, in fact, he took it from the German, with Herder usually cited as the locus classicusGoogle Scholar
  2. 1a.
    see W.H. Bruford, Culture and Society in Classical Weimar 1775–1806, p. 6f.Google Scholar
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    Cf. M. Riedel, ‘Nature and freedom in Hegel’s “Philosophy of Right”’, in Pelczynski, Hegel: Problems & Perspective, who quotes from a manuscript version of Hegel’s lectures — “The impulse toward sociability which philosophy formerly accepted as the basis of the state is something indefinite and abstract which can only furnish some of the necessary conditions for the vast and highly structured state, and which appears excessively thin beside the phenomenon it is meant to explain”, p. 148.Google Scholar
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    Cf. JR II, 245–6, where Hegel rejects the original contract and sees the origin of all states in the actions of Grosser Menschen. They establish their position as leaders not through their strength for (as Hume had also pointed out) the many are always stronger than the individual but through something in their character of personality (Zügen) which extracts obedience. In fact, by expressing the absolute will these men constitute and uphold the State’s unity as absolute Geist. Similarly, though the State may originate in violence it does not rest on it for in the State the individual obeys a universal — he recognises others as free persons like himself (EG, 172: WG VII, 277).Google Scholar
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  39. 34.
    Heiman, ‘Sources and Significance’, is thus in error when he remarks that Hegel’s theory of the State is “not too far removed” from Müller’s, p. 113n. G.A. Kelly is clear that the differences between Hegel and Müller are “striking”, Hegel’s Retreat from Eleusis, p. 123.Google Scholar
  40. 35.
    Hegel cites Smith in his Jena writings (at JR II, 239 — for example he quotes the famous example of the pin-making process) and in 1799 he wrote a commentary (now lost) on Steuart’s Political Economy. The debt of Hegel to Steuart has been stressed by P. Chamley (see ‘Les Origins de la Pensée Economique de Hegel’, Hegel-Studien (1965) 225–261) and he is followed by R. Plant (Hegel, p. 64ff.). Much, though not all, of Steuart’s doctrine is, however, stock eighteenth-century theorising which Hegel could have got from Rousseau, Herder, Ferguson etc. In addition, though Plant regards Steuart’s notion of the ‘Statesman’ as “having an enormous influence upon Hegel”(p. 68, cf. p. 168) and, though, to Chamley (p. 251 – 5), Hegel found in Steuart, rather than in Adam Smith, more insights into the dialectics of economics, nevertheless, much of Hegel’s discussion in the Philosophie des Rechts can be seen to have Smithian roots. For example, the ‘other side’ of the division of labour manifest in the distress of those restricted to particular tasks and in their inability to enjoy the mental (geistigen) benefits of Civil Society (PR, 150: WL VI, 188) is found in Smith’s discussion of the division of labour in Book 5 of the Wealth of Nations as producing “torpor of the mind” (Everyman Edit., Vol. II, p. 264). Again, Smith’s remedy for this in education provided by government acton (II, 265 – 6) can be seen in Hegel’s demand that society must furnish public education (PR, 148: WL VI, 187). Further, the actions that Hegel sees public authority performing (street-lighting bridge building, pricing of necessities, public health) (PR, 276: WL VI, 346) are those that Smith advocated (II, 211ff) and for the similar reason that they are ‘public goods’, that is, socially advantageous but not such that it would repay any one individual the cost of establishing them. Finally, there is considerable literature on Adam Smith’s theory of ‘alienation’, based on the above passages from Book 5, which compares this theory with that of Marx. Marx, indeed, obtained his conception of alienation from Hegel (see Chapter 11 infra) but it should be stressed that Smith’s discussion and Hegel’s are not identical. Smith’s is rather to be seen in its admittedly complex relationship to the classical question of ‘virtue’ whilst Hegel’s theory presupposes a theory of human nature far removed from Smith’s basically Humean account.Google Scholar
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    Heget und der Staat, Vol. II, p. 118.Google Scholar
  42. 37.
    The following account is gleaned from Savigny’s Vom Beruf unserer Zeit für Gesetzgebung und Rechtswissenschaft, tr. in Reiss, Pol. Thought German Romantics, & from Vol. 1 of Savigny’s Geschichte des Römischen Rechts im Mittelalter, 2nd Edit. (1834).Google Scholar
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    Cf. H. Marcuse, Reason and Revolution: Hegel and the rise of social theory, 2nd Edit., p. 237. Avineri in Kaufmann, Hegel’s Pol. Phil, comments “in Hegel’s thought the Volksgeist underwent a profound process of rationalisation”, p. 123, and for comparison with Savigny see p. 124 but when Avineri says (p. 126) that the analogue between language and law is rejected by Hegel, since, whilst one legal system can be superior to another, “it would be nonsense to say anything like this about languages”, he is in error because Hegel does say this about the inferiority of Chinese to European languages, see EG, 216: WG VII, 399.Google Scholar
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    The distinction between the strictly political state and State as the highest Moment of Ethical Life is emphasised by Pelczynski, The Hegelian Conception of the State’, in Pelczynski, Hegel: Problems and Perspective, pp. 1–29.Google Scholar

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© Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, The Hague 1952

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