Hegel's Political Philosophy

Apologist for the Prussian state? Proto-totalitarian? Or liberal? This course will cut through the misconceptions and present Hegel's political philosophy in its full complexity and subtlety, by means of a close reading of his Philosophy of Right (1821). This is Hegel's major work in moral and political philosophy and contains a philosophical defence of modern social institutions, specifically the family, civil society (including the market), and the state. In the process, we will be able to decide whether and to what extent we agree with Hegel's famous claim that "what is rational is actual; what is actual is rational".

Students will need to have a copy of Hegel's Philosophy of Right; either of the following translations will be fine:

Course outline, by week:

  1. What is the point of political philosophy? (Philosophy of Right, Preface)
  2. The will as the foundation of practical philosophy (Philosophy of Right, 1-33)
  3. Abstract Right: property (Philosophy of Right, 34-71)
  4. Abstract Right: punishment (Philosophy of Right, 72-104)
  5. Morality: doing the right thing? (Philosophy of Right, 105-141)
  6. Ethical Life: The concept of Sittlichkeit; the family (Philosophy of Right, 142-181)
  7. Ethical Life: civil society (Philosophy of Right, 182-256)
  8. Ethical Life: the state; law and the sovereign (Philosophy of Right, 257-286)
  9. Ethical Life: the legislature and international relations (Philosophy of Right, 272-329)
  10. Hegel's political philosophy in retrospect