Name: Saeed Ahmad M.A.

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HEGEL: ABSTRACT RIGHT
George Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel was born in Stuttgart in 1778. His father was a senior financial official in the administration in the duchy of Wurttemburg. He started learning Latin as a very young age, courtesy his mother and even after her death kept practicing it. He also seemed to have this unending thirst for knowledge and the knowledge he acquired helped in writing great works such as the Phenomenology of Spirit, The Philosophy of Right and many others too. He can be called as one of the creators of German Idealism. His work was a revolutionary landmark in European philosophy and was a precursor to Marxism as Karl Marx himself was a Hegelian. Hegel intended his writings for people well versed with Western philosophy. Even though he did provide an encyclopaedia, he assumed that people reading his work would be familiar with older Western Philosophers such as Kant and Descartes. His dialectic is one of the most difficult to understand and therefore, just a casual reading does not serve the purpose of understanding Hegel. In this essay, I attempt I have attempted to examine and possibly analyze bit by bit of Hegel’s theory of Abstract Right. ABSTRACT RIGHT According to Hegel, the Abstract Right arises out of the conscious free will. The manifestation of this free will is external and that makes it abstract. This external manifestation is also an indicator of a person’s freedom. Hegel’s theory of abstract right is divided into three parts i.e. Property, Contract and Wrong. In this theory he talks about the conception and the unique individuality of a person’s free will. The free will, in effect, presents an alternative view to reality i.e. the free will is a contrast of the particular to the universal. In a sense, there can be no conception of a particular idea or free will without having an inherent consciousness of the universal or reality. This free will is exclusive to the individual and definite ends. This free will when it is in potentiality has nothing opposed to it but from the perspective of the social norm or reality, it is in contrast to it. This very contrast of the particular to the universal gives the will its definite character. Hegel says, “man’s biggest aim is to be a person”. However, in order to be a person, one has to undergo a transformation from being a “subject” to a person. Any living thing having a

This external sphere. making it his own. “Free will is the idealism which refuses to hold that things they are can be self complete”. jointly owned property is a “dissolvable community” as it may or may not allow a person to retain his share in it. .”. as quoted by Hegel. If a person possesses a right. ”is not only distinguishable from him but directly different and separable”. Possession can be defined as a person having or asserting their power over something else. However. While an animal may have a thought process and might even conceive free will. However. He also goes on to say that “the free will is infinite in nature as compared to everything else”. forming an idea or free will by taking reality into context makes a subject a person. It may seem that property is a means of satisfaction for a person considering the fact that the person’s needs are primary. Therefore. one should have the consciousness of “I” forming this free will and a conscious idea of himself being free. as Hegel says. an “alternative world view” which could be possible in the future. a person must give a sort of an external sphere to his freedom in the form of property. then he attains some kind of authority. this does not mean that someone can insist upon a right. This is what accentuates property’s distinctive character. But this seems to propagate that a man who does not undertake the act of possession isn’t rational which is wrong. Yes property is an assertion of a person’s freedom and conscious free will but it does not mean that every person who possesses property is rational just by virtue of his act of possession. According to Hegel there is supposedly a natural right of appropriation that mankind possesses and therefore “man has the right to assert his will on any object. However. This way the will is actualised. possession is the first instance of a person’s freedom. Thus.thought process can be called a subject. This act of free will is an indicator of freedom. there is no realization of an “I” forming this free will. For Hegel. A man’s rationality cannot be measured according to whether he does or doesn’t own property. In a sense. So the existence of this “alternative world view” is a possibility but is not certain. It is this very notion that certifies that man is the only species in nature that has the right to form a free will as every man born is free by nature. Hegel is also of the belief that man becomes rational in the process of possession. an object does not have a means to an end until it is possessed or appropriated by someone’s will. The free will has finite ends and a potential but that is not realized till the idea is actually conceived. This is because the free will and the resulting abstract right is in contrast to the universal and presents. the act of a free will can be called the act of personality. it can be said. thus. PROPERTY In order for him to assert his free will and freedom.

Though all persons are equal in terms of personality. who has a conscious feeling of himself being an “I” is an organism and is in possession of his soul and body. A person might be forced into suicide but . 2) Use of the object: An object. animals have no possession over their life as such as they do not have a conscious will to do so. For example. buildings. A person is a free being and therefore cannot be used as a beast of burden and any harm inflicted affects both his soul and body. Hegel also talks about property saying that everyone should have property. This is the very difference between damage to external property and damage to body. He therefore. But equality in the amount of property doesn’t sit well with Hegel. he believes that a person does not have a right to relinquish his life. 3) Relinquishment of Property: A person may relinquish property when no part of his will is in the property. Therefore. that cannot be relinquished as they are not mere physical manifestations that can be possessed by someone else. a body in order to be useful must first be possessed by the spirit. Relinquishment can take place when an object completes its purpose or when he has no control over it. I agree with Hegel is the sense that equality of property seems to idealistic a concept as it requires an immense amount of organization on the part of a government as that is the only body that is capable of carrying out such an act.The person. Hegel supports this argument by saying that nature cannot be unjust in terms of distribution of property as it is not free. It is true the will of the person that the object fulfils it purpose as it has no purpose without an owner and therefore. But unlike humans. the conscious free will makes one person different from another. relinquishes it and it comes under the possession of someone else. no means to an end. No object has a soul until a person endows one in it. Also the thing that is borne becomes separate from man as well as his will. It is the same with animals. this statement is slightly contradictory as something like the idea of committing suicide arises out the conscious free will of the person. So. However. when in possession only serves the need of the person’s will. Hegel further asserts that “the disposal or sacrifice of life is not the manifestation of one’s personality”. On the contrary when a person takes possession of his own personality thorough his free will. Property can be said to have three phases: 1) Act of possession: Possession can be simply defined as taking occupying an object through the process of bodily grasp or by forming an image of the object that one wants to possess. But he also maintains that a person cannot attempt to posses the property of another person as that is wrong. Everything that is borne out of man’s property adds to his wealth.

Hegel does not agree with the “the introduction of the relations of contract with private property into the functions of the state” i. a person shares a common will and this is Contract. He knows that the ring has no use for him even before he buys it. So. reality. Hegel goes on describe various types of contract. the idea of a so called “negative” disposal seems flawed. The conception of this idea arises out of his own free will.e. He asserts that the so called “modern notion” of a contract of “all with all” is wrong. Hegel also seems to miss out in analysing the emotional aspect i. A contract can never be considered the right of a person because it is something external. Rather. is characterised by the act of “negative” disposal of an object by a person and the consequent “positive” acceptance of the object by another person.e. So. each will is distinct at different points of time. there still remains a will. the idea of committing suicide is conceived in his very mind. This statement seems false as the act of gifting someone arises out of the free will. the contract of individual rights as well as the rights of prince and state. This means that a person gifts something to someone else when he does not have any use of it or doesn’t want it. In Contract the particular will is combined with another will and the universal will does not obtain any high status. while one free will relinquishes a property. When one person ceases to be an owner by virtue of his free will.e. This is because a person cannot leave or enter a state at his own will. For him a modern state progresses because of its absolute end. He believes that a state should provide this option to its citizens. A person ceasing to be an owner is also a free will. An external object can be part of a contract as internal objects such as thoughts and emotions are not physical things. Hence. It is just there for cooperation. CONTRACT In Contract. However. property is considered to be the embodiment of the will of two different persons. . it picks up another property at the same time and gives the new property its means to an end. A person ceases to be an owner of a property once he acknowledges the will of another person in a property as property belongs to a person when it is only the embodiment of his personal will and not the will of someone else. it should not be assumed that every will is the same. Throughout this argument he keeps asserting the importance of existence of a state. The idea of suicide in its nature is opposed to the social norm i. which is love. buys a diamond ring for his wife as he wants to gift it to her. for example. This is the nature of Contract.even then. A man. the reason for the man gifting his wife the diamond ring. Property can be determined is with its relation to other external objects and it also is the embodiment of a will as well as it exists for another will. Gift for him.

This implies that “I” as a person is only in possession of the value of the object rather than the object itself. This implies that the violation leads the abstract right to attain a more actualized nature. the abstract right is a mere possibility but it reaches a state of actuality once it is violated. strengthens the right. it would mean that a person will contradict his own particular will as well as the common will he agreed upon with the other party and. “real contract occurs when each of the contracting parties. Once a person enters a contract he has to complete it. Security can therefore. Contract can be completed through a security or pledge. yields up and acquires possession. . The person relinquishes his property but at the same time gets another property from the other person in which his will can be embodied. WRONG When a contract is violated. it seems wrong to do so. This violation also leads eventually to the concretization of a right. Wrong leads to the abstract right being contradictory to the particular and therefore. for Hegel. wrong occurs when there is a violation of the common as well as the particular will.Exchange is also another form of contract where both persons relinquish property but still remain owners. “formal contract occurs when one just gives up or acquires”. also be referred to as a stipulation which completes the contract in terms of possession of the object. He goes on to contest Fitche argument of contract being subject to moral obligation and earnest of either of the contracting parties. In Hegel’s words. the particular will that leads to wrong. Stipulation is the premise of the contract and a person has to carry out the stipulation so that the contract is complete. Hegel thinks otherwise and asserts that one cannot opt out of a contract once they enter into it as the whole concept of an “obligation” only arises in a contract when a person wills it. Hegel clearly distinguishes between promise and contract asserting that mere promise in not binding and universal as a person can change his mind about the promise. at the beginning of a contract. According to Hegel. So. In contract. On the other hand. it is crucial that both the common will of the contracting parties as well as the particular will of each individual should be actualized as contract’s nature is of the relation of the two wills.e. In security. violated or negated. In a sense. “security or pledge is concerned with an object which I give up or an object which is to be mine”. negates this very negation and becomes a reality”. the contract is legally binding and universal. possession is guaranteed but is still not actualized. Hegel says that “The right when. a wrong is committed i. Fitche’s argument proposes the view that a person can opt out of a contract later. Taking Fitche’s argument into consideration. On the other hand. thus.

According to Hegel this judgment has a negative nature as it negates the “mine” of one of the either two contesting parties. When this free will is forced to do something that harms it by an external factor. Looking at it from the perspective of free will. In Hegel’s words. . Hegel goes on to say that the act of crime also arises out of the conscious free will of the violator and subsequently “supersedes” the free will of the violated. An abstract right is external manifestation of a person’s free will and when violence is committed against it. thus. The free will of a person cannot be forced externally unless it decides to do so itself. the law is considered to be the norm for judgment. The other contracting party is made to believe that his rights have not been violated. This force. neglecting and in simple terms. can never have a right. a person commits wrong when his free will asserts that he is right. crime is committed. People can have different conceptions of what is right and what is wrong and this can cause contradictions. Fraud serves the purpose of the person who commits fraud. unpremeditated wrong “negates only the particular will but pays respect to the general right”. Crime disregards the particular as well as the universal will. 3) Violence and Crime: Crime is committed when the wrong can easily be seen unlike a fraud where the wrong is concealed.violates the essence of reality and tries to present something which seems real and this makes it unreal. this force can be called violence. Punishment for a crime can be questioned in the sense that punishment is also a violation of a person’s free will and right but the question arises whether violating the free will and right of a person who himself has done the same is justified or not? The answer is yes as he himself has violated the contract and therefore deserves punishment. It is committed with the desire to violate the universal as well as the particular right. thus. 2) Fraud: Fraud occurs when a person violates the right of other contracting party by pretending to agree with the universal right even though he does not think so. fooling the other person. Wrong can be divided into three categories: 1) Unpremeditated or civic wrong: If the wrong seems right for a person but is not the case then it can be called as unpremeditated wrong. In that sense. it is crime. In order to solve these contradictions.

Hegel’s categorization of wrong into just 3 kinds seems incomplete because considering these definitions dispensing justice would be difficult. This situation can also be looked from the view point that fraud is committed against the jihadi by the person who recruited him or who gives him money and a false sense of belief.However. . He is completely aware of the universal law that one should not kill others but in spite of that he commits mass killings as he believes that his god has willed it. he has committed an unpremeditated wrong in believing that he is right in killing so many people. Similarly. how does one judge the jihadi? Going by Hegel’s argument. This causes a dilemma. So the question is whether just these three divisions are adequate enough to judge someone or not? Hegel’s view on abstract right compels a person to really think about the world and how it functions. For example. But. he has also committed crime as he has killed so many people. if the case of a woman who murders her husband because he beats her be considered then both committed crime against each other’s will. at the same time. In such a situation. It needs an in depth analysis in order to be understood. This is because Hegel’s dialectic is such that it provides a thesis as well as an anti thesis and therefore. a jihadi commits an act of terror believing what he has done is right as he has done it in the name of god. seems to be a very complete argument in spite of certain shortcomings that I believe so exist.

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