The Concept of Sittlichkeit – Analysis of #513 Encyclopedia

I know, we talked about this paragraph before. But I thought it was necessary to visit it again…

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New Series #2 – Review #2 and the Concept of Social Morality in #513


Raw transcript of the introduction and the summary.

Review of our previous discussions and a new start with #513 of the Encyclopedia: the concept of social morality. The second of two review lectures and the beginning of our analysis of Hegel’s social philosophy, the new series. This lecture we’ll discuss the concept of social morality.


We are not going to repeat all the previous steps we have taken to arrive at the concept of social morality. A quick reminder must be sufficient.

I just want to remind you that the sphere of abstract justice shows us a person who expresses his freedom in a property. That implies a negative relationship to other persons who are excluded from that property. Then we found a positive relationship in the concept of the contract. However, a person can try to express his freedom by breaking the contract, which introduces the concept of injustice. We started with abstract justice and ended up with injustice. Why? Because property and contract do not fully express the nature of freedom. Property and contract do not fully realize, i.e. do not make personal freedom become fully objectified. The result is a contradiction between my freedom and the contract I have made but can always break as well.

Therefore it seems that we need to talk about subjectivity, which is the concept of a free individual being responsible for his actions and recognizing himself in the world of his actions. Our actions show intentionality, we aim at realizing the good. That at least is the purpose of our exercise of freedom. We do not control however all the circumstances of our actions, nor do we control the effect of our actions. We started with a subject trying to intentionally realize the good, but we end up, yet again, with a contradiction. Our purpose is the good, but evil can result. The good is merely an obligation and not a reality. Let us now turn to paragraph 513 and discuss the nature of Hegel’s concept of social morality.


Let us now summarize what we have found in this lecture. The concept of social morality is the result of all the deductions in abstract justice and morality. Social morality is a concept that refers to a shared life of a community, organizing a certain manner. A basic principle of this organized community is the unity of universality and particularity. That is not an ideal, but a reality. The concept of freedom has now reached the stage of its objective existence. It is no longer abstract, nor does it show the supremacy of my particular freedom which is the principle of morality. There is a new unity of subjective and objective spirit.

What we have called the good in the sphere of morality, was still merely a formal concept and implied an obligation. But now in social morality, this good has become a living reality. We now have an organization of our social life that is universal and rational in itself. It goes beyond and above our individual freedom. However, only when individuals in their self-awareness and in the exercise of their freedom recognize this and think and act in conformity with it, is the universal and rational will a reality. Individuals make the universal a reality. And at the same time, that reality as universal is more than just the sum of these individuals. All social morality can be viewed therefore from an objective and a subjective viewpoint.

It is very easy to illustrate this. let’s consider the institution of marriage. Two individuals enter into a marriage by their own individual free will. And yet the concept of marriage goes beyond their individuality both in the legal ramifications and in the conceptual meaning of marriage. Marriage is only a reality within the self-consciousness and actions of married persons. And at the same time, the concept of marriage is more than just the self-consciousness and the actions of individuals.

So now we have a beginning for our analysis of Hegel’s social philosophy.

Thank you for listening. See you next time.

And be wise and be nice!

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New Series – #1 – The Point of Departure in Free Spirit

Review #1

Where did we come from?

Let us consider where we are. What is the exact point we have reached in the development of the concept of spirit?

Let’s consider first where we came from. The presupposition of Hegel’s social philosophy – in itself a result of another deduction – is the concept of the free spirit. This is its definition in paragraph 482.

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Hegelcourses is back on line this week

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Transition to Social Ethics – Enc. #511 & 512

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