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Elements of the Philosophy of Right (Texts in the History of Political Thought)

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  3,103 ratings  ·  71 reviews
This translates Elements of the Philosophy of Right. Hegel's last major publication systematizes ethical theory, natural right, the philosophy of law, political theory & the sociology of the state into a philosophy of history framework. The work has been interpreted in radically different ways, influencing political movements from far right to left, & is widely ...more
Hardcover, 567 pages
Published October 25th 1991 by Cambridge University Press (first published 1821)
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Roy Lotz
Among the pantheon of philosophers, Hegel is one of the most intimidating. His very name evokes fear: the towering behemoth of obscure German prose, looming in the distance, spinning out sentences that can trip up the most astute and careful readers.

Yet, after reading two of his books, I feel that his reputation for obscurity is—like Kant’s—significantly exaggerated. It’s a certain style of writing, sure; and several sentences are, as far as I’m concerned, gobbledygook. But like any academic
Sep 16, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Jun 25, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Possibly the most morally repugnant treatise on political theory this side of Leviathan, Hegel's Philosophy of Right is ostensibly an account of the modern state, but it is in fact a collection of cheerleading anthems for power by an evil pedant desirous of the destruction of our species. There are three agonizing sections. The first is about how, as a particular human being, you are contradictory and therefore untrue; in contrast, the state, being the embodiment of contradictionless Reason, is ...more
Nov 03, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While I cannot say that I fully agree with his views on Religion and the State... just look at the nutty things that religious folk believe these days? I do think that his sections on democracy could be construed as somewhat implicitly fascistic. Here we see the birth of the Continental Tradition in many ways. It was not Descartes, or Kant, but Hegel who first truly understood the promise of constructing a World Philosophy from the Enlightened Light on the Hill that was Modern Europe. So many ...more
Otto Lehto
Feb 29, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For a book that is wrong about almost everything, it is remarkable how much I enjoyed it.

Much ado is made about Hegel's impenetrable style, but after one gets used to it, it isn't all that bad in itself. But it relates to the German philosopher's tendency to be vague where precision is needed, and to emphasize holistic harmony as a masturbatory poetic license where differentiated, more analytical approach would have revealed the devil in the details. Hegel, in other words, has a bad habit of
The Philosophy of Nature allowed Hegel to don the hat of a natural scientist and the Philosophy of Right introduces us to Hegel the politician and lawyer. Hegel is never at his most intolerable than when he leaves the realm of speculative philosophy for other disciplines in order to apply his philosophy and make it absolutely comprehensive. This is usually when he is the most arrogant and the most annoyingly tedious.
Hegel's political philosophy is a bizarre amalgam of collectivism and monarchy.
Erik Graff
Apr 07, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Hegel fans
Recommended to Erik by: David Schweickart
Shelves: philosophy
I read this book for David Schweickart's course on Social and Political Philosophy during the second semester of 1980/1 at Loyola University Chicago. Previously, I'd read Hegel's Phenomenology of Mind and his Logic only. Like the former, unlike the latter, Philosophy of Right is a relatively easy read. Unlike the Phenomenology, it is neither very profound nor challenging, intellectually speaking. It is, however, an important book as regards how it applies the very intriguing thought-forms of the ...more
Jun 23, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
With Outlines of a Philosophy of Right (1821) German philosopher Hegel published a book that was to be used as the backbone of a series of lectures. In the book, he deals with the foundations of ‘Recht’ (hard to translate in English since it comprises subjects like Right, Government, and Law). And as Hegel already developed his philosophical system of Absolute Knowledge (i.e. the foundation of and the method to truth), he tries to fit social aspects, such as Law, Government and Religion, into ...more
Sep 07, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lots of good stuff, lots of garbage
Cain S.
Oct 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
At the heart of Hegel’s Elements of the Philosophy of Right (1821) is a conception of reason as a normative social institution. The practical use of reason in dealing with daily life is the peculiar human game of acting in accordance with laws—even those only taken true by convention. This rule directed behaviour consists of giving and asking for reasons [a], judging their appropriateness [b], justifying acts, and assertions, one has committed to by them [c], and modifying one’s commitments to ...more
Grant Francis
Don't read this. It will make your head crack open and your brains fall out. Especially if you read Heidegger at the same time.
Aug 19, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have avoided going into any detail about the philosophical content in this review so by my reckoning it doesn’t really contain any spoilers, there is one or two things about the general topics he covers and one or two of the positions Hegel holds, but in no place do I really talk about his reasons for holding these positions – basically I very much doubt it’s going to give the ending away.

Before I started reading this everything I’d heard about Hegel made me think he was the king of the silly
Jacob Aitken
Hegel gives primacy to constitutional monarchy, but wants a government that allows civic participation. Citizens should participate in government as part of a subset of the whole–not as individuals. Hegel calls these subsets “corporations.” I don’t know to what extent corporations in the mid-19th century resemble corporations today. But we can view it another way by calling them “estates,” which is exactly how medieval many participated in the monarchical order.

Hegel wants a constitutional
Jacob Aitken
The mature epitome of Hegel's thought. If you aren't intimately familiar with Hegel's vocab (and the language of 19th century Idealism) then don't begin here. The first section begins with Hegel's discussion of modern rights, but one gets the feeling that by rights Hegel doesn't mean what we normally mean. It is not until one consults the "additions" at the end of the book does it become clearer.

Hegel's organization of civil society is nothing less than brilliant. The basic unit of social order
Feb 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Incredible work, tough read, but worth the effort if you want a glimpse into the social development/realisation of 'Right', and what 'ideas' are. (Way beyond Nietzsche) This book will forever live on my top shelf- A life changer, and as yet perhaps, not fully recognised for the masterpiece it is.
'Truly to escape Hegel involves an exact appreciation of the price we have to pay to detach ourselves from him. It assumes that we are aware of the extent to which Hegel, insidiously perhaps, is close
Jason Marianna
At times, you think you're reading a book in a foreign language. At other times, you KNOW you are. This is, BY FAR, the most difficult text I've ever read. Hegel's style and the clumsy translation force you to take hours to read and reread what other authors typically cover in minutes. It is a rare case where the cliff notes and online helps are better and more informative than the text itself.

The ideas themselves, while influential, are not worth the work it takes to understand them. From a
Lucas Johnston
Sep 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Once you fully immerse yourself in the Hegelian jargon, this is truly a work of art.
Andrew Fairweather
In this work Hegel spirals upward from the personal to the social towards an Outline of the Philosophy of Right. In general terms, abstract right is the will or personality, moral right is the recognition that the subject is infinite and must therefore act "as if their actions were infinite." Ethical life acts in proper concert with the concept of the will, that is, freedom. Right and morality cannot exist independently of ethical life [sittlichkeit] as ethical life serves as the foundation of ...more
I have a lot of feelings about this book. I came to it, really, in order to better understand the vast number of authors who have since tweaked and critiqued Hegel's philosophy and ethics (Kierkegaard, Marx, various post-structuralists). He's a bad writer forwarding a philosophy that--especially in hindsight--seems pretty heinous at the end, but here's my best attempt at a charitable summary:

Elements outlines an ethical philosophy that prioritizes/has its end in the state. That is, unlike a
I deduct a star from this great philosophical work for the following passage, which it was infuriatingly ironic to read as a woman PhD student in political philosophy who just read two of Hegel's own works and a great deal of the Western philosophical canon more broadly: "Women can, of course, be educated, but their minds are not adapted to the higher sciences, philosophy, or certain of the arts. These demand a universal faculty. Women may have happy inspirations, taste, elegance, but they have ...more
Feb 02, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hegel is undoubtably a difficult--though fascinating--philosopher. Outlines of the Philosophy of Right is written a style that is unnecessarily obtuse but, unfortunately, not unusual for the school of thought or the period. I would suggest reading Hegel in conjunction with a class or background book (I personally consulted the Cambridge Companion to Hegel), or otherwise preparing for a slow reading with time allotted for background research. What makes Hegel so interesting is the sheer ...more
Michael Williams
A strange book. Hegel's politics are impossible to categorize. But two things are certain. 1) This book was NOT particularly progressive in its own time and could even be characterized as reactionary and not merely conservative. Hegel champions the rule of law, the existence of a diet and the publicizing of its debates, religious toleration, and freedom of speech. But all of these liberal stances are highly qualified throughout his work and rendered somewhat meaningless by the absolute and ...more
Sean Rosenthal
Interesting quote:

"As for popular suffrage, it may be further remarked that especially in large states it leads inevitably to electoral indifference, since the casting of a single vote is of no significance where there is a multitude of electors. Even if a voting qualification is highly valued and esteemed by those who are entitled to it, they still do not enter the polling booth. Thus the result of an institution of this kind is more likely to be the opposite of what was intended; election
Peter J.
Oct 01, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I always struggle with the Germans when it comes to philosophy, but this was well worth the effort; even if I may have missed a bit. There were some things I strongly disagreed with put forward by Hegel, but right before I would write him off, he would shift gears and say something things that were profoundly insightful; keeping me on the hook.
I'm still musing on his theory that the conscience isn't the voice of something external, but of our true selves, void of corrupting external influences.
This is an incredibly difficult book to read, because of the structure of the book itself. The text is actually the compiled notes of students, with three layers of notes on each argument. As a result, the philosophy of an incredibly difficult thinker is made even more difficult because of the format of the text. Nonetheless, within the book are Hegel's critiques of Kantian ethics and his introduction of a kind of Aristotiliean ethics. Ultimately, Hegel's description of the ideal state as a ...more
Jul 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This marks my second time reading Hegel's PoR cover to cover. The first time I probably got less than nothing out of it. Surely it was a net harm. This time, I must say, the first 150-ish pages on abstract right, moral will, and the transition to ethical life, are perhaps the single best writings on normative philosophy I've ever read. Pure genius. The last 150 pages however are, to put it mildly, gross.
Aug 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This Oxford World's Classic edition (2008) of the Philosophy of Right deserves 5 stars primarily owing to the revisions, edits, and introduction by Stephen Houlgate. Houlgate is among the recent cohort of Anglophone Hegel scholars who have finally begun to get Hegel right, despite the long history of misreception and misunderstanding of Hegel as an obscurantist by Anglophone philosophers.
Apr 01, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Nothing he says make sense and he says things in 100 pages what could be said in 1 simple sentence.

- a Philosophy major.

Jul 23, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
From this book, i found the Theory of Need. This theory inspires me to explore Need in Law perspective. This is one of the inspiring book for me. Thx for Hegel, the author, wish i had a chance to study about Hegel and his theories.
Peter Owens
Dec 10, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A killer work, and much clearer than The Phenomenology of Spirit, thought perhaps my having read the latter influenced my ability to read it well. Considered by some Hegelians to be his weakest work, I think it is perhaps under-appreciated.
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German philosopher and one of the founding figures of German Idealism. Influenced by Kant's transcendental idealism and Rousseau's politics, Hegel formulated an elaborate system of historical development of ethics, government, and religion through the dialectical unfolding of the Absolute. Hegel was one of the most well-known historicist philosopher, and his thought presaged continental ...more
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