Fundamental lines of the philosophy of law

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By JEAN-FRANÇOIS KERVÉGAN*

Presentation of the recently launched Brazilian edition of the book by GWF Hegel

Published in 1820, these Fundamental lines of the philosophy of law (Grundlinien der Philosophie des Rechts) constitute one of the greatest works of modern legal and political philosophy, and one of the central writings of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831). This volume makes available to Brazilian readers an original and meticulous translation into Portuguese, authored by Marcos Lutz Müller, an eminent specialist in Hegelian thought, who was also the author of the precious explanatory and interpretative notes that accompany this translation.

Here, appropriating the legacy of theories of modern natural law (Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Immanuel Kant), GWF Hegel breaks with the individualist assumptions and legalism of this current in favor of a dialectical and institutional approach to what he calls the “objective spirit”, with the aim of thinking about the systematic articulation of the different domains (law, morals, politics) of practical philosophy.

But he also takes into account the heritage of his predecessors, as the subtitle of the work suggests: “Natural law and science of the State in its fundamental outline”. To this end, Hegel puts into operation, as he himself indicates at various points in the book, the speculative requirements set out in the science of logic (1812-1816) and in Encyclopedia of Philosophical Sciences (first edition of 1817). This allows him to think in a unitary way, as successive moments of a historical process of realization of freedom, the “abstract right” (private right), subjective morality and, finally, what he calls ethics – Ethical Life –, vast space of family, social and political interactions, such as these were established and transformed in modern societies.

Particularly innovative is the study of civil society (burgerliche Gesellschaft), through which Hegel seeks to account for the positive and negative effects of the development of a market society that already partially escapes the tutelage of state instances. In this sense, one can see there a premonitory study of the forms and consequences of capitalist globalization, which he considers to be both ineluctable and disturbing, above all because it gives rise to the emergence of a desocialized layer, called by Hegel the mob (“plebs”), which is the product and symptom of the contradictions of bourgeois civil society.

One of the tasks Hegel entrusts, therefore, to the institutions of the “rational” (post-revolutionary, constitutional) State is to manage as much as possible these contradictions by subjecting them to the demands of a political “living-together” that is always to be recreated. The State, as Hegel conceives it, is not an oppressive machine, but much more “the union as such” of free citizens, accepting to submit to norms that constitute, for each of them, not an obstacle, but a condition of their existence. freedom.

This innovative approach to law and politics paved the way for revolutionary challenges to the bourgeois social order and the new hegemonies it engendered (Karl Marx, like Mikhail Bakunin, is a heretical disciple of Hegel); but it also served, at times, as collateral for various restorative or even reactionary enterprises. The legend of the “double face” of Hegelian philosophy has its roots in the heterogeneity of this heritage.

Today, for those who examine it with serenity, there is no doubt that this work, which bears the marks of the profound transformations that European societies have undergone since the French Revolution, is a reflection on the conditions and forms of modern freedom.

*Jean-Francois Kervegan is professor of philosophy at the Université Panthéon-Sorbonne (France). Author, among other books, of Hegel et l'hégélianisme (Presses Universitaires France).

 

Reference


Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. Fundamental lines of the philosophy of law. Translation and notes: Marcos Lutz Müller. São Paulo, Editora 34, São Paulo, 2022, 736 pages.

 

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