6th Pavia Graduate Conference in Political Philosophy – Abstract/Rae

Gavin Rae

Hegel, Freedom & the State

This paper engages with the relation between freedom and the State in Hegel’s philosophy. For Hegel, freedom is not realized through the individual exercising his arbitrary will. Rather, the individual’s freedom is realized when he overcomes the Other-ness of the world by finding himself mirrored in the objective structures of the world. For Hegel, this occurs in the rational State. It is shown that the rational State is comprised of numerous interlinking objective structures. Participation in these objective structures allows the individual to transcend his particularity and find himself in the world. For Hegel, the individual can only realize himself by developing a family, participating in civil society, and through a specific formation of the State. The relation between these aspects takes the form of a set of concentric rings: the universality of the family is superseded by the universality of civil society which in turn is superseded by the universality of the State. However, while there is a hierarchy to the aspects of the rational State, each aspect is required. However, while the realization of freedom requires these objective structures, it is argued that it also requires the individual to comport himself towards these objective structures in a particular way. The individual must want to see himself in the universal and work towards this realization. This is crucial to freedom’s realization. Freedom does not result from objective structures alone; rather, freedom requires the individual to identify with these objective structures and work towards relating to them in a way that confirms his individuality. As such, Hegel shows us that our freedom is dependent on us winning it.