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Introduction: Freedom and History in Hegel's Philosophy of Right

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 March 2017

David James
Affiliation:
University of Warwick
David James
Affiliation:
University of Warwick
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Summary

G. W. F. Hegel's Elements of the Philosophy of Right or Natural Law and Political Science in Outline (Grundlinien der Philosophie des Rechts oder Naturrecht und Staatswissenschaft im Grundrisse), to give the work its full title, was, according to its title page, published in 1821, though the actual year of publication appears to have been 1820. This work was conceived as a ‘textbook’ (Lehrbuch) designed by Hegel to fulfil ‘the need to provide my audience with an introduction to the lectures on the Philosophy of Right which I deliver in the course of my official duties’ (PR Preface, 9[11]). The audience in question was made up of Hegel's students at the University of Berlin, where he had already begun to lecture on the same topic in the winter semesters of 1818–19 and 1819–20, and would do so another three times, in 1821–22, 1822–23 and 1824–25, if one excludes the series of lectures he began to deliver in the winter of 1831 that was soon cut short by his death in the same year. Hegel had also lectured on the same topic at the University of Heidelberg in the winter semester of 1817–18, by which time he had published the first edition of his Encyclopaedia of the Philosophical Sciences in Outline (Enzyklopädie der philosophischen Wissenschaften im Grundrisse), which introduces some of the central concepts developed in the published version of the Philosophy of Right. The latter is, in fact, described as ‘a more extensive, and in particular a more systematic, exposition of the same basic concepts’ found in the Encyclopaedia in the section on ‘objective’ spirit (PR Preface, 9[11]). It consists of consecutively numbered paragraphs to which in many cases Hegel has added remarks ‘so as to clarify on occasion the more abstract contents of the text and to take fuller account of related ideas [Vorstellungen] which are current at the present time’ (PR Preface, 9[11]), together with a preface and an introduction. Additions drawn from student notes were subsequently added to the edition of the Philosophy of Right that formed part of the edition of Hegel's works undertaken after his death by some of his students.

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Hegel's Elements of the Philosophy of Right
A Critical Guide
, pp. 1 - 15
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2017

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