Hegel's Philosophy of Right is more than a major work of political and legal philosophy; it is a battleground for two different interpretive approaches. My Hegel's Political Philosophy: A Systematic Reading of the Philosophy of Right argues that these approaches are mistaken about their differences and that one approach offers a more compelling interpretation of Hegel's Philosophy of Right than the other. I will briefly outline my defence of the systematic reading of the Philosophy of Right before replying to the constructive criticisms raised by Redding, Rosen and Wood.
There are two different interpretative approaches to understanding Hegel's Philosophy of Right. These are the metaphysical and the non-metaphysical readings. The former often highlight Hegel's insistence that some political states may be considered more ‘true’ or ‘actual’ than others. This reading also often emphasises the special place of religion in Hegel's philosophical system, for example. In contrast, the non-metaphysical reading argues that such an interpretation is not only unattractive, but perhaps even unnecessary because Hegel's views on ‘actuality’ and ‘actualization’ are less controversial than traditional metaphysical readings of Hegel's philosophy have claimed. Commentators must choose between these competing camps and interpretations of Hegel's work are conceived within these approaches. Importantly, each reading claims that its approach best captures Hegel's philosophical importance. But would Hegel endorse either the metaphysical or non-metaphysical reading?
The problem is that this debate rests on a central misconception about Hegel's philosophy. The debate is characterized as a disagreement about the role and perhaps the very existence of metaphysics in Hegel's philosophy. But this is a false impression. It is virtually nowhere in doubt that metaphysics is present in Hegel's philosophy, including his Philosophy of Right. Therefore, the debate between a ‘metaphysical’ and ‘non-metaphysical’ reading of Hegel's works is not a debate about whether these works contain metaphysics. The characterization of the debate invites a false impression about what is at stake.