Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel’s text entitled “The Elements of the Philosophy of Right”, his work that explicates different concretizing ideas and which stimulated much controversy as interest, discussed the concept of free will and what role it plays in the complicated social context of property rights, contracts, moral commitments, family life, the economy, the legal system and the polity. He made one of the greatest contributions in Western Philosophy as a systematic thinker.
In this paper, we will focus solely on the first part of the text, the Abstract Right which is divided into three parts: the property; the contract; and crime. The free will has become the foundation and derivation of right that the minds, in general, objectify itself in a system that expresses freedom. Free will is also the goal of right according to Hegel. Abstract Right focuses mainly in the individual himself and all the rights that he holds. Hegel claims that the right of the personality, aside from its identity, is conceptual and nonconcrete, a simple concept of the will.
“Be a person and respect other as a person”—Hegel (Hypertext). Hegel pointed out that it is a man’s free will to form a kind of personality that he has. His personality will determine and will essentially involve the competence for rights and the concept and the basis of the system of abstract and formal right. As a man, you know what you want, what will hurt you, and what doesn’t feels good to you. Then by knowing those, you will also learn that there are also other people who can feel the same way. The concept of respect takes place.
The abstract right can be established through the mutual respects of people. As what the old proverb says, do not do to others the things that you do not want others to do to you, just like the law of karma. In this formal conception of right, particular interests, advantages, and motives are unquestionable. The concept is highlighted on the possibility of preferring based on the acquiring of permission, as long as one does not violate the right of other individuals. Due to the possible violation of rights, the positive form of commands here is prevention or prohibition.
When you have a right, you will also establish the concept of permission or warrant. (Hypertext). For example the right for a property. Since you have one, you have the right to use and personaly own that property of yours and you are the only one who can give a permission to anybody who wants to have a share or use your property. You can also demand for something, like privacy, for your property. Hegel also pointed out that the basis of individual rights lies in property (Sparknotes LLC). It is not about the material gaining, but it is focused on an individual’s affirmation of personality and identity.
It is through property that can give right to someone to claim something that “this is mine”, a claim that the others will respect. “In order to exist as Idea”—Hegels (Hypertext), first the person must believe in the idea, and take its external form in the reality. The abstract right exhibits itself in the right of correct usage of all things. Property categorizes the actuality of something that is under the claims and will of someone. If a first person claims something as his, everyone else should also consider it. It must not only be in one’s inner form, it should also appear in an external form.
“Property is the embodiment of personality and of freedom. ”—Hegel (Hypertext). Aside from possessing an actual thing, an individual also has the right to alienate his property or pass it to another with his consent. The individual’s personality is not immutable and one’s right to personality can not be taken away. This means, in order for you to alienate one’s labor tie totally, you must be part of his property first. (Duquette) Having a possesion over something, as in a property, is a way of satisfying human needs.
To satisfy human needs is to reconcile for realization, and in this way, the individual undergoes development and improvement as well. The system of private ownership creates one’s personality through agreement(contract) and trade(exchange). Contract is a means of owning a property that will require an individual to undergo institutionalized norms of mutual respect of people’s rights and obligation. The concept of “common will” is connected with contract. Two persons or property owners made with a common will made an agreement about the possesion of something.
In this sphere, there is a relation of will to will, one holds property through the wills of other people and not simply because of his inner will alone that has been externalized, and this is what you call the “common will”. To be identified as an independent property owner, which excludes himself from the will of another, mediates his identification in the contractual relation, which is assuming that parties need to “recognize each other as persons and property owners. ”—Hegel(Hypertext). In addition, when contract includes the alienation or giving up of assets, the external thing is now a clear representation of the agreement of wills.
In contract involving exchange of properties, the value of the thing to give up should be identical with the thing to be gained in return. The goods that the parties will be exchanging should be equal and fair in footing, despite the external differences between the properties. “Value is the universal in which the subjects of the contract participate. ” –Hegel (Hypertext) In order for a contract to be established, it must involve two consenting parties with either the possible purpose of acquiring a property or surrendering it.
The contract is said to be real if both parties completed the terms and conditions of the agreement like for example, both parties acquire and surrender possessions, but still both remains property owners, meaning both sides gained, the contract is said to be a contrac of exchange. The contract is said to be formal if only one party had surrendered or acquired a property, or in Hegel’s terms this a contract of gift. An example of a formal contract goes this way; before a dying rich man meet his end, he has already made his last will and testament which will pass all his wealth and property to his sons or grand sons or other relatives.
Then, an example of a real contract is the exchange of goods between or among businessmen. One will buy something from the other. There is a surrender of property to acquire another form of goods. Hegel also discussed about crimes and the wrong doings as another product of an individual’s wills. In direct associations of individuals to one another, it is not impossible for a certain will to be at discrepancy with the universal through uncertainty of pronouncement and eventuality of a situation, and so the manifestation of right takes on the nature of an event, which is the inessential, subjective, though posing as the essential.
Let’s take for example when something wrong seems to be right in the doer’s eyes, the wrong doing will be negligible and non-malevolent. According to Sigmund Fraud, a show intentionally creates a deception to other party, in relation to the doer’s eyes; the right is insisted only as a show. Crime is conventionally wrong, and so as from the point of view of the doer, but the wrong is preferred without simulation of right. It is a kind of act that uses force causing coercion rather an act that identifies right. It emphasizes that the victim’s rights were refuted, contradicting the principle of rights.
(Duquette) Criminals is being penalized after doing the crime, and the punishment is not merely just but is “a right established within the criminal himself”, according to Hegel. Since crime is a product of a rational being, it implies appeal to a system of standards recognized by the criminal. Crimes are analogous in the sense that they are all creating injuries, consequently, these are not something personal but the concept of it is the one that carries out vengeance. (Duquette) Crime is a will that is unconditionally intolerable that holds its contradiction in itself, which is punishment or penalty.
Every action should have an equal reaction, in order to balance everything. (Duquette) Crime can only be considered null if rights have been set aside, but since right is absolute, this can never happen. Therefore, crime is wrong, and punishment is the thing that can contradict the negation of crime. (Duquette) He also stated that what is rational is actual and what is actual is rational which means that it is not the merely existence of a state that can be simply identified empirically, but the actualized or realized state.
Moreover he says, “The state is no ideal work of art; it stands on earth and so in the sphere of caprice, chance, and error, and bad behavior may disfigure it in many respects. But the ugliest of men, or a criminal, or an invalid, or a cripple, is still always a living man. The affirmative, life, subsists despite his defects and it is this affirmative factor which is our theme here” (Hypertext). Man can be free with all his wills, but this freedom may also cause the destruction of others if other’s wills are not considered.
For this reason, Hegel is actually ambiguous in his claims about the modern state that it is a product of the actualization of freedom. (Duquette)
Duquette, David A. The internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 2006. 17 SEptember 2007 <http://www. utm. edu/research/iep/h/hegelsoc. htm>. Hypertext. Hegel-by-HyperText Home Page. 17 September 2007 <http://www. marxists. org/reference/archive/hegel/works/pr/prabstra. htm>. Sparknotes LLC. Philosophy of Right, I–II: Abstract Right and Morality. 2006. 17 September 2007 <http://www. sparknotes. com/philosophy/hegel/section5. rhtml>.