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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter November 23, 2014

Reinstating Reflection: The Dialectic of Conscience within Hegel’s Philosophy of Right

Sarah Jennings
From the journal SATS


Although it is now widely acknowledged that Hegel’s political philosophy is based freedom, there is still divided opinion regarding the role of conscience within Hegel’s Philosophy of Right. In fact, it is often claimed that Hegel allows insufficient room for conscience (and thus subjective freedom) within the political realm he describes. This article responds to such criticism and argues that Hegel allocates an irreducible function for conscience within his political state. It begins by examining the emergence of conscience within the morality section of the text and then continues to establish what happens to the conscience during the Aufhebung of morality into ethical life (of which Hegel’s state is a part). It argues that, during this dialectical transition, all the essential moments of moral conscience are preserved in the true conscience of ethical life. This article puts forward a reading of true ethical conscience that combines its right to subjective reflection alongside its respect for objective institutions, thus demonstrating that conscience can operate as a meaningful part of Hegel’s political state.

Published Online: 2014-11-23
Published in Print: 2014-11-1

© 2014 by Walter de Gruyter Berlin Boston