Jacques Maritain Center

Moral Philosophy


Hegelian Idealism

Hegel and the Human Person -- Sittlichkeit

I The Dialectical Immolation of the Person

The Individual Person
1. In the previous chapter we considered the Hegelian dialectic of negativity and Aufhebung (suppression-superelevation) in its various aspects. What does all this mean for the human person? And what becomes of the person itself?

For Christian realism the person, by the very fact of being an individual substance, was a whole; independence was one of its defining characteristics; and the notion of personality was an analogical notion, which was realized, in essentially different ontological degrees, in God, in pure spirits and in man. Here below, then, the person -- "that which is most perfect in all of nature"{1} -- was the individual human subject (composed of soul and body and subsisting by the subsistence of the soul) which, superexisting spiritually in knowledge and in love, constituted a whole universe in itself but was at the same time a part of the universe and a part of the social group, and possessed a very characteristic independence of personality but possessed that independence only potentially, in the midst of all the servitudes to which matter and the world, heredity and environment, subjected it. The drama of human life consisted in rendering the limited, fragile and menaced independence more and more effective and vigorous in itself, and in passing through deaths to self in order to conquer its freedom of autonomy, as far as that is possible for a created being -- for a creature made of flesh and spirit -- and with the restrictions proceeding from the human condition.

But limitation is precisely what Hegel cannot accept, unless it be to go beyond it. Hegelianism claims to go beyond all limitation. In the Hegelian perspective, finitude and contingency can only occur as immediate data (irrationals), which it is the object of the processes and conflicts of development, phase by phase, to deny and surmount, or sublimate. The limitlessness of freedom of autonomy is posited from the beginning in the very definition of Freedom, which is Spirit, and the only thing that matters is finally to recover that limitlessness by the losses of self and the reintegrations of self through which the Idea of Freedom works its way. The human person is not a mysterious center subsistent in itself, a substantial existent obscure to itself precisely by reason of its ontological richness which is inexpressible in any object of thought, an individual in which is contained and consummated the metaphysical reality of personality and in which the destiny of the personality is worked out -- for Hegelianism this destiny is achieved outside the individual. The individual personality constitutes a first point of reflection, emerging from Nature, in which the spirit begins no doubt to turn back upon itself -- but it will only really return to itself by investing the individual personality with the personality of a superior whole; and as individual (individual-born), the personality is not really a whole, it is only a contradictory moment in which the abstract form of personality hides the absence of and the waiting for true subjectivity. It can only overcome the afflictions of the particular and the contingent by escaping from itself. In short, all the limitations and the miseries in the midst of which, as we remarked above, the human person struggles to become what it is and to conquer its freedom of autonomy now come to be contained in its very notion, making of it nothing but a moment to be surpassed.

2. Hegel knows that the Absolute is Subject.{1} And he glorifies subjectivity and the depths of subjectivity, but for him it is "infinite subjectivity"{2} -- "pure certainty of itself"{3} which "the individual attains not in virtue of his particular idiosyncrasy, but of his essential being".{4} He does not know how to recognize subjectivity and the depths of subjectivity where they exist here below -- in the "particular individuality" of each one, in the poor human atom pursuing its quarrel with the servitudes of limitation, of matter and of contingency which overwhelm it from every side. In spite of his profound insight into the tragic rendings and the progressive moultings of human consciousness, he is ignorant of the abyss of subjectivity in the individual person, because this abyss, though it certainly involves the reversion of the spirit upon itself, is a substantial abyss which, far from being defined by consciousness of self, defies consciousness of self, which is for it a night which becomes darker as it penetrates into it. That is why it is indeed a night that Hegel contemplates in others, but a very different night from that substantial abyss, or universe to itself proper to each individual. "Man is this night, this empty Nothingness which contains all in its simplicity: a store of an infinite number of images, of pictures, none of which he perceives clearly, or which do not exist as really present. It is the night, the interiority of Nature which exists here: pure Self" -- an interiority of Nature, Hegel says (and not: of the singular subject itself) because for him the pure I-personal or the pure Self is universal, and Nature is the first avatar in which, by alienating itself from itself, it lets itself be glimpsed obscurely, as a Void and Negation of itself. And Hegel continues: "In phantasmagoric shows there is night all around; here a bloody head suddenly rises up, there a white phantom; and both as suddenly disappear. It is the night that one sees when one looks men in the eyes: one plunges then into a night which becomes terrible; it is the night of the world which presents itself then to us."{1}

Thus for Hegel the night of subjectivity is only an empty shadow where the ghosts of dreams rise up and where the multiple and the apparent slumber. When he looks a man in the eyes he is not fascinated by the mystery of this soul, of the unique you; it is the night of the world that he sees in these eyes, this alone that fascinates and disturbs him.

Hegel knows that Christianity has had the privilege of bringing to light the value and the dignity of the individual.{2} He took over from Christianity, in order to reinterpret it, the idea that each human being is "unique in the world" and that this uniqueness is of infinite value. More important than that, he took over while denying it the Christian idea of man to such an extent that while he rejected as mythical the notion of grace and the supernatural order he embodied at the very heart of his thought the Christian idea of man's accession to the divine life and his transformation into God. As a result, the human as such consisted of a rendering oneself other, of changing radically, and there was no longer, properly speaking, any human nature;{1} human nature henceforth gave place to the historical auto-genesis of humanity, and it is thus by his own action that man acquires his being, makes himself at the same time Man and God. "The true being of man is . . . his act."{2}

But toward what does the action of man tend in the course of history, if not to the appearance of the highest forms of social Community and the supreme revelation of absolute Knowledge? The infinite value of the individual and his uniqueness are only a shadow, a promise, a frustrated aspiration or a vain presumption, so long as they do not pertain to these high universal Totalities, taken either in their own superindividual unity-indivisibility or as the soul and substance of the individuals integrated into them.

And no doubt it is quite true that personality only grows in man to the degree that he leaves the closed world of simple material individuality in order to open out spiritually, through intelligence and through love, toward the outside world and toward others, toward the common good of the family and that of the city, toward the boundless sea of truth, of the suffering of his brothers, of the charity of his God. But this is a process taking place on the moral level, produced out of the anguish of each one's free choice; and Hegel substitutes for it an onto-logical development, produced by the dialecticity of being -- in such a way that there is nothing higher than Individuality when at last it finds itself and realizes itself in the Universal, and nothing more miserable while it remains in its own individual being-there. The human individual, eminent as he appears in relation to the world of Nature, in reality only achieves concrete personality and subjectivity{3} beyond himself as a particular individual; what we call the human person is interesting only by virtue of the destiny which carries it beyond itself; it must in its turn be surpassed and sacrificed so that personality or self-consciousness may be re-established at a higher level, in the individual which is really Totality -- the Totality of the universal come back to its original self with all the spoils of its differences reabsorbed into itself. This is so because, in fact, what Hegel posited from the very beginning, and what governs his whole perspective, is that the Self is a universal Self, and that it is essential to Spirit to deliver itself from the dictatorship of the singular (which will become authentic again only in the universal).

3. Kant, affirming the absolute dignity of the person as an end in itself, had deified it by transporting it (I mean transporting, by the touch of a magic wand, the sensible singular I's themselves, inseparable from the universal I and belonging to the same tribe) into an intelligible world where empirical singularity, the differences deriving from space and time, disappeared. Hegel undertakes the inverse operation. Faced with the great idols of superindividual personality engendered by the movement of the Idea, he completely relativises the individual person. The human person is only a wave which traverses the ocean of History, and thinks it is propelling the water while in reality it is being carried along by it. And no doubt it is quite true -- it is one of the great apperceptions by which Hegel was dazzled -- that most often what the individual performs on the stage of the world is really something quite different from what he thinks he is doing,{1} and that while they seem to be carried away by their passions and their particular interests the great men of history are really accomplishing a work which manifests the majesty of destiny, because, given the pressure exerted by the tide of life and the needs of the human race, it was indeed necessary that a decisive change of that sort should occur. But Hegel believes that just as it occurred in fact, so the act in question was required by Reason at work in history; he does not see that this work -- which no doubt had to be done -- might have been done otherwise (for every great historical event, ambivalent though it be, can emerge into existence with the mark of better or of worse upon it, as a substantially healthy fructification or as a worm-ridden and rotten fructification), and that this properly moral quality, this how of the work, depends largely on the great figure himself who makes history while remaining dependent upon it. He sees neither that the courses taken by human personality in history are freer of the instant than is history itself (the great figures of history are not only those who are received by their own time because they bring about what was already about to happen, but also those who struggle against their time and are broken by it, like the prophets);{1} nor does he see that the individual element that counts most in the individuality itself of the great man is not that which is seen by the "psychological valets"{2} -- his passions and his egoistic interests; it is what they cannot see -- his conscience (if he has one). And especially he fails to see that in relation to the human person and what it accomplishes there is another dimension than that of history (there are events and works, and a duration, which are meta-historical, because they derive from the purely spiritual).{3} For Hegel the whole grandeur of the great figures of history -- "these agents of the World-Spirit"{4} -- is to have been the accomplices of the exigencies of the time, to have foreseen what the time had made "ripe for development"{5} -- Ripeness is all, as Edgar says in King Lear.

Few passages show more clearly the sort of profound Hegelian mistrust and aversion regarding individuality as such (native or "given" individuality) than that in which the philosopher explains that one must expect individuality to pervert the course of history. If this is not the way things go, it is thanks to one of the mysteries of the dialectic, and because this very individuality which was to make the course of the world into a "perversion of the good" serves the Universal as a point of insertion and realization in history.{6} The individual is good for this and for this alone; the individual person can be tolerated by reason only insofar as it is not taken as individual, insofar as it is the actualization of the Universal which surpasses it. It is not surprising that in such a perspective the human person, as we shall notice a little further on, only finds itself by losing and annihilating itself as every individual does in the community; and the supreme autonomy, that which is won by merging with the Absolute, belongs not to the human person as person, but only to the Knowledge by which and in which the finite spirit is superindividually reconciled with the infinite spirit.

Freedom of Choice
4. In his doctrine of the subjective Spirit and in that of the objective Spirit, Hegel gives us as it were a dialectical recasting of the whole subject matter of Psychology and the whole subject matter of Ethics in their broadest extension. The three fundamental stages of development of the subjective Spirit are that in which the spirit of man is still immersed in the impulses and inclinations of nature; that in which it begins to free itself by the negation of that given being; that in which, by giving to itself a superior being through consciousness of self and elevating self to universality, it definitively passes the threshold of freedom (and, by the same token, of the world of objective Spirit).

What does this mean? At the second stage free choice appears. The will is concerned with impulses which come from outside or from nature. Yet at the same time, possessing the abstract certitude of its autonomy (not yet really and concretely realized at this stage), it envelops in this empty form of self-determination a content which it has not given to itself, and which is composed of the pressures exerted by nature; and what appears to it as a "choice" among these diverse pressures is from now on nothing but an event which, because it "is not the fact of the activity of self-determination", derives from nature while at the same time being contingent or without internal necessity within the sphere of the will: in short, free choice is nothing other than "contingency manifesting itself as will".{1} And since there is no real freedom, but only contingency posing as freedom, one must say that in the judgment of philosophy free choice implies an inevitable illusion.{2} Hegel, who was neither a determinist (because he is interested only in the self-movement of the Idea) nor an anti-determinist (for the same reason), does not hesitate to talk about free choice. Free will, or freedom of choice, has its place in the development of the subjective Spirit -- but as an illusory moment.{1} This is the maximum of effective recognition that Hegelian rationalism can bestow upon it.

In the third stage of the development of subjective Spirit freedom of choice is superseded. The way is now clear for true freedom, which is a perfect spontaneity of the spirit without dependence on anything exterior, or autonomy, finally realized.{2} There is no longer choice. The will has brought everything under the universal. It is very significant that for an instant Hegel gives as an indication of this true freedom, inclined toward the universal, the will to happiness,{1} in which in effect the spontaneity of the will is complete -- along with necessity. But happiness is only an abstract and imagined ("represented") universality of things desired. True universality, the concrete universality of the will, is only attained when the entire content of the will depends uniquely on the will itself, in other words is the very essence, reflexively thought, of the will as object of itself. Then the will is truly free, by which is to be understood that having gone beyond freedom of choice it enjoys a freedom of independence or autonomy which coincides with the necessity of that which is willed in the pure and purifying consciousness of self which "grasps itself as essence through thought" -- it is only "as thinking intelligence" that the will is authentically a will, and free{2} -- and in that reassumption and repatriation in the concrete Universal and the common Will which make it adhere to the supreme obligations manifested by the objective Spirit.

The morality of Conscience
5. It is only with the rise of the objective Spirit (when in virtue of that degree of intensity which Subjective Free Spirit has attained, "it is elevated to the form of Universality"){3} that Freedom is truly made concrete and realized. In short, "it is only in consciously willing the State that the individual goes beyond the contingency of free choice to enter upon the native soil of Freedom".{4}

Freedom acquires body in external institutions as in a world that Spirit has created for itself. Then freedom presents itself in the form of necessity,{5} and this necessity can impose constraint upon the individual if he refuses to be free, but in itself it is only the visage of freedom, or of the self-determination of mind. The three stages of development of the objective Spirit -- in which it is actualized first exteriorly, then interiorly, finally completely (exteriorly and interiorly at the same time) -- are those of abstract Law, the Morality of Conscience, and the Ethicity involved in the social group and above all in the State.

Abstract Law{6} is the world of relations between juridical persons as proprietors of things. We will only concern ourselves here with the typical separation, already affirmed by Kant (and whose source must be sought in Luther) between the juridical order and the moral order: Law, for Hegel, comes before the stage of Morality and is entirely independent of it; the rules of Law, and the external obedience they require, belong to a sphere completely separated from that of the exigencies which work on the conscience in matters of good and evil. We should add that the symmetrical arrangements of the system ought not to conceal the very close relation which exists between this first stage of the development of the objective Spirit and the second of the three phases{1} of the third stage, that is, between Law and "civil Society". The abstract world of Law, of private property and private needs, finds its concrete realization and its own collective spirit, its sociality, in civil Society (bürgerliche Gesellschaft),{2} which Hegel distinguishes from the State, while misconstruing the significance of this distinction in the worst way: instead of taking political society or the body politic (which is to be identified with the authentic concept of civil society) for the political and social whole of which the State is only the central organ, he makes the State itself the political whole, and reduces what he calls civil society to an atomistic collection{3} of individual rights which have to do solely with the economic order and with the relations between private interests. In other words, it is the homo oeconomicus of classical economics (in whom the homo juridicus assumes a concrete shape, takes on muscles and a stomach) that we find here lodged at a certain point in the system -- in civil society, which among the concrete social forms is that in which the abstract or contractual law has its locus naturalis.

Moralität,{4} in which man follows the dictates of his own conscience, and "free will penetrates the interior particular",{5} is a manifestation or outgrowth of Spirit -- deeper but more disturbed and perilous than Law, and finally deceptive, destined to annihilate itself -- in the contingency and insufficiency of the individual.

With morality the idea of the good emerges. Thus the good, which Kant had rejected from the formal structure of ethics, regains its place with Hegel at the stage of the Morality of Conscience, which might equally well be designated as the Morality of good and evil. This was quite inevitable from the moment that Hegel re-established, after his fashion, the connection between the universe of morality and the universe of being. But he conceives of the good in a way that is at the same time thoroughly metaphysical (with no distinction between metaphysical good and moral good) and thoroughly voluntaristic; it is nothing other than "the essence of the will in its substantiality and universality"{6} or "the universal of will".{7} And as we shall see, it completely fails in the end, like the conscience which appeals to it, to put us in possession of the principles of human conduct.

6. Moralität -- which made its historical debut with the advent of Christian conscience insofar as it was connected with the myths inherent in religion and with the regime by which the Church affirmed the supremacy of the spiritual over the temporal, but whose principal manifestation occurred with the individualistic disintegration of that conscience during the age of rationalist criticism and especially of romantic liberalism -- Moralität, or the Morality of Conscience, is a necessary stage because it is indispensable that in the development of the objective spirit the latter should manifest itself in the very heart of subjectivity and subjective freedom, and that man should thus obey the moral commandments transmitted by the social group and by religion because he recognizes them himself in "his heart, sentiment, conscience, intelligence", and possesses "a personal knowledge of the distinction between good and evil".{1} To will the good prescribed by conscience is for the individual to have the intention of according his particular designs with the universal Will. The effort by which an individual thus seeks to render effective the dictate of his own conscience and his own conception of the good represents a higher degree of moral development than purely external conformity to the rules characteristic of the sphere of Law. Yes, no doubt. But what firm criterion of conduct can a morality of the good furnish? Absolutely none, in fact, from Hegel's point of view. Because for him, though the good is "the universal element of the will, determined in itself" (precisely insofar as it is good in general), it in no way suffices to determine the particular it contains, because this particular is still abstract and so not concretely designated in the universality of good. I want to perform the good, but what is the good here and now? The notion of the good does not tell me. Consequently, "there is no principle at hand to determine it".{2} In other words, every rational criterion of conduct is absent, because Hegel neither admits, with perennial philosophy, the objective rule furnished by the natural law as an ideal norm of human action,{3} nor admits, with Kant, the purely formal rule of the possibility of willing to universalize without contradiction the maxim of the act; and because, on the other hand, it is only in the succeeding stage of development, in the stage of Sittlichkeit, that the objective rule furnished by the social community and above all by the State will appear. Thus the morality of the good or of conscience is, for Hegel, because he has deprived it of its objective rational consistency, nothing more than the morality of private inspiration, of good intentions and good sentiments, in which "the heart, the feelings, the conscience, prudence", in short the purely subjective according to him, are the principle of distinction; and it is a morality without a compass. Why should we be surprised to see the conscience laboring and hesitating in the midst of conflicts and collisions between the multiple goods and duties, determined from outside the universality of the substantial will,{1} which its abstract aspiration toward the good in general causes to crowd up before it? There are only vain gropings of the individual conscience where the firmness of an objective criterion, which only the majesty of the concretely manifested universal can furnish, is lacking. So long as it does not give way to voluntary submission to the social whole of which man is a member, the will to act according to one's own conscience exposes human conduct to illusion and contradiction. More than that, very little is needed for it to slip into moral evil, for it lives close to evil and has the same root.{2} In fact it is by virtue of the same movement that the self-assured decision of the individual buries itself in the solitude of the conscience and -- if it goes just a little further -- into the supreme retirement into self which is characteristic of evil. When, solely in virtue of his free individual and subjective decision, and because the weight of his good intentions bears him toward the universal, man accepts the rules of good and evil recognized by his fellows, taking his conscience as the arbiter of his conduct, he is still submitting himself to a general law by making the content of his act a particular case under the general law; but in revolting against the universal he is going still further in the assertion of his free individual and subjective decision -- he is making the content of his act depend upon it alone.{3} It is thus that Hegel sees the individual finally falling into evil, as a result of following his own conscience -- a phenomenon in which Moralität overthrows and annihilates itself.

It is at this point that the profound significance -- and the historical importance -- of Hegel's moral philosophy becomes evident. Just as Hegel has completely relativized the individual person, and made of freedom of choice an illusory moment, so he has completely relativized the morality of conscience,{1} and made of it a moment to be got over, in which the moral life, not yet having come into possession of its rational foundation, tries itself out in a subjective effort of self-affirmation of individuality as such -- an effort which is subject to the pernicious instability of the contingent and is immediately exposed to the contagion of evil, to the tendency whereby man thinks to exist for himself by opposing his miserable individuality to the law. And the worst occurs when conscience and evil lend each other support, and when the rebellion derives from the very commandment of conscience, which by seeming to justify it confers upon it a perverse obstinacy. If the conscience tries "testing the laws . . . moving the immovable"{2} -- in other words if it declares that an unjust law is not a law and does not deserve obedience, or claims the right to obey God rather than men -- if it says no to the State,{3} it deviates into unpardonable illusion, it resists Mind, which is the only real evil, it is guilty.

There is no real and rational morality or ethicity except when the force of the individual, integrated into the interiority of the common conscience where the universal Self affirms itself, moves of itself toward the object willed by the social superindividual and above all by the State.

II Ethicity

The State as the Objectivication of Mind and the Incarnation of Freedom
7. If the Family is in fact already an individual, in which the notion of individuality is realized at a higher level than in the individual person,{1} then the State, itself, collective Man as a living unity, is the Super-individual, the human Person or Super-person par excellence, because it is Spirit thoroughly objectified -- not yet Spirit conscious of itself as infinite Spirit and divine subjectivity, but Spirit sovereignly affirming itself as Action, Will and practical Imperium, in a particular consciousness or certitude of itself raised to universality (the personality of the State).{2}

Kant thought that ethical conduct, imposed by duty, was the realization of the free and reasonable Will which, in the intelligible world, is essentially one and the same, and common to all men. Hegel departs from this point, but he reproaches Kant for having left it to each individual to determine the content of this Will by applying subjectively the formal condition of acting according to a maxim that he can without contradiction will to universalize. Kant's trouble is not having seen that the universal Will is concrete, and is identical with Freedom in its effort to realize itself. It is objectively actualized in the laws and the institutions and the common moral psyche of the supra-individual whole. It is fully actualized only in the State. "The basis of the State is the power of reason actualizing itself as Will."{3} Then there finally appears in its definitive manifestation the content of the universal Will, the universal triumphant. The historical age of this definitive manifestation is that in which Hegel himself appeared (for the very purpose of revealing this age to itself), the age of Napoleon and of the Napoleonic State (at the time of the Phenomenology -- but they did not fulfill their promises), then (for the system decisively constituted) of the Germanic-Christian State, in the form of the Prussian State, or some other form to come, called upon to impose itself one day upon the entire world as the "universal and homogeneous State", in the phrase of M. Kojève.

The State is the supreme realization of universal reason in the practical sphere, the terrestrial incarnation of Freedom. "The State is the actuality of concrete freedom",{1} "mind present on earth",{2} "a self-consciously rational and ethical organization";{3} "The State is the realization of Freedom, i.e. of the absolute final aim, and . . . it exists for its own sake."{4} That is why "man must venerate . . . the State as a secular deity",{5} "the march of God in the world, that is what the State is";{6} "The State is the Divine Idea as it exists on Earth."{7} It follows from this that the rational end of man is life in the State. "The State is absolutely rational inasmuch as it is the actuality of the substantial will which it possesses in the particular self-consciousness once that consciousness has been raised to consciousness of its universality. This substantial unity is an absolute unmoved end in itself, in which freedom comes into its supreme right. On the other hand this final end has supreme right against the individual, whose supreme duty is to be a member of the State."{8} In the complete organic unity of the social Whole, individuals come to achieve that reality for which the necessary beginnings were conferred on them by the family and intermediary social groups; they only truly exist as members of the State. Only within the State are they really recognized, and is it not in being recognized by others (a theme dear to Hegel) that individuality is born into its true nature and its supra-contingent reality? That recognition of his uniqueness that the man of uneasy conscience received only symbolically from the transcendent God of religion, here at last I have actually obtained it!{9} Yes, recognized by the Whole, but let it be clearly understood on what conditions: on the condition that in return I recognize the Whole for what it is (that is, my entelechy), and on the condition that I am become recognizable to all -- with no longer anything in me which is not exposed to all and to myself each one in the uniqueness of his empirical being-there no longer having any soul or spiritual interiority other than the very soul of the Whole. Thus it is that "Man is not . . . truly human, that is to say 'individual' except in the degree to which he lives and acts as a 'recognized' citizen of a State".{10}

"Everything that man is, he owes to the State. He has his being only in it." . . . "All the worth which the human being possesses -- all spiritual reality, he possesses only through the State."{1} "Since the State is mind objectified, it is only as one of its members that the individual himself has objectivity, genuine individuality and an ethical life"{2} -- this is the very formula, the original formula of political totalitarianism.

8. With Hegel German Protestant thought took an historical turn of crucial importance. Following the initial act of rupture effected by Luther, concerning which so many dithyrambs have been chanted in honor of the conscience of the individual, Protestant thought, by dint of insisting on the interiority of the conscience, had veered to the doctrine of freedom of conscience. Now, on the contrary, individualism was finished; the necessity for an objective rule and for a supra-individual authority was again recognized; but since one cannot demand these things of the Protestant Churches, which have decisively renounced them, they will henceforth be the rule and authority of the sovereign temporal community, the State -- not in order to transmit to men the word of God, but in order to make them act as they ought to act. The characteristic functions of the Protestant spiritual community pass over to the Germanic State. The collective subjectivity which Christ inhabits is to be found in the State in the form of reason, constituting the nous of Spirit, and it is therein that it is reconciled with the objectivity of the Law. The mystical operation by which, for Rousseau, individual wills died in the general will to be resurrected in unity, passes for Hegel from the social level to the metaphysical level. And it is in virtue of a fundamental requirement of the dialectic that when the State arises the will of each individual dies to itself in order to relive -- transfigured -- in the common will, where it finally achieves its reality and its freedom. It is of its own accord, then, and with all the spontaneous force of its subjective freedom, that the individual does what the State wishes. As a crowning piece of political hypocrisy, this mythology guaranteed by the dialectic gives complete security to the sovereign power of the State, which, far from exercising restraint upon me, is my freedom, and consequently has a right not only to my obedience, but also to my enthusiasm and to a warm glow in my heart. Thus we see how, now that the true religion has revealed to itself the interiority of the common conscience, the State, understood according to its authentic idea, assures subjective freedom{3} and does not impose itself from without by enslaving individuals as did the despotic empires of long ago, but subjects them to itself all the better -- without submitting them to the least heteronomy -- because it is the very substance and truth of their will.

At this price they are free, they have attained their freedom of autonomy, because they are moved by the freedom which has become embodied in the Whole in which they are annihilated in order really to relive. And they are truly moral agents, because they are no longer subject to the uncertainty of subjective reflection. The abstract categorical imperative has been replaced by the concrete imperium of the State. They see their duty. Its authority is over them, and it is by themselves willing this authority that they fully realize their freedom.{1}

Departing, as we remarked above,{2} from the Lutheran separation between the juridical and the moral, Hegel has now succeeded in tracing his curve and closing the circle: it is the law -- not certainly the purely formal law of abstract Law, but the living and concrete law of the divinely real State -- that defines duty. The legal -- the concrete legal -- has become the moral.

At this stage in which objective will and subjective will interpenetrate each other in a superior identity "and present one identical homogeneous whole",{3} and in which freedom and necessity are reconciled in unity, we are no longer dealing with Moralität, but rather with Sittlichkeit or Ethicity,{4} which constitutes the moral life in its pure and authentic, stable and consistent, or completely rational form, and which, developing from its origin in the familial community, has for its keystone the State. Then I am no longer obliged to "reflect on the object of my activity" in order to form my "own conviction" I do my duty "as it were from instinct", because it is my "second nature".{5} The rule of conscience is finally transcended.

It is easy to see what all this means in the reality of human experience. Faced with an order of the State, my conscience may experience scruples, and the thing prescribed may appear to it inhuman, unjust and criminal. No matter! This uneasiness and these scruples of the conscience have only a subjective value, and I reject them with the courage of authentic morality, which has become my second nature, and without troubling myself with the kind of reflection that deliberates. I know that I am fulfilling the absolute requirement of a truly ethical mode of conduct, absolute duty -- that which is -- by doing that which the State, that is Spirit, prescribes for me, and I know that the State itself, including within itself the sphere of abstract law and that of morality but superior to both, is subject neither to the rules of law nor to those of good and evil as the conscience understands them. In willing what the State wills as if it were my own being, I possess my real freedom, and I am covered, not only by my hierarchical superior but by the unshakeable certitude of the objective and universal order in which God manifests Himself. In practice, Sittlichkeit is the morality which consists in the sacrifice of the conscience, made joyously and spontaneously to the State. It is this morality that Hegel, after having invested it as the Spirit of the world, made a present of to the Germano-Protestant community and to occidental civilization in its decline.

Freedom of Autonomy and the Hegelian system
9. The points made in the preceding sections permit us now to try to elucidate the Hegelian conception of freedom of autonomy.

Taken according to its true notion, freedom of spontaneity signifies not the absence of necessity but the absence of constraint or coercion; and freedom of autonomy, or the perfect freedom of spontaneity proper to the spirit, can coincide with intrinsic necessity, by no means in virtue of some dialectical opposition and reconciliation, but in virtue of the very nature of things. Is not the Pure Act at the same time, and precisely because it exists a se, supremely free (independent) and supremely necessary? Does not the will will its happiness by a necessity of its nature and in a completely spontaneous manner, or without the least constraint? And when it is in the presence of the subsisting Good seen face to face, in the beatific vision, does it not live it at the same time necessarily and with the perfect spontaneity or the perfect independence of an agent which nothing constrains -- nay, of an agent which absolutely nothing other than itself, not even the object that fulfills all its desire, but only its own nature{1} necessarily determines to action? In other words, if there is a self-determination free of all necessity (which is the self-determination of free choice), there is also another self-determination free of all constraint, even of all extrinsic necessitation to act, which is not free choice nor the absence of necessity, and wherein the agent determines himself not in the freedom of his choice but in the independence of his being.

But if freedom of autonomy can exist without the exercise of free choice, it always presupposes in the subject the power or faculty of free choice, the existence of free will. It only comes into existence in the process of distinguishing itself from simple freedom of spontaneity, at that level of being where the threshold of the spirit is crossed and where reason brings freedom of choice along with it. And more than that, when freedom of autonomy designates a state or an existential condition of human life, in which man fulfills the law while being free from its constraint -- the condition proper to the life of the perfect citizen, free in the state, or the condition proper to the life of the sage, free in the world, or the condition proper to the life of the saint, free of everything but God -- then it embraces, as contributing to the condition in question, everything in which human life expresses itself, notably that very exercise of free will and the flux of acts which proceed from it; the state of freedom involves the joint exercise of freedom of choice and freedom of autonomy: because it is the highest state of that universe-to-itself which is the human person.

Hegel, on the contrary, makes of freedom of autonomy definitively acquired a stage of the development of the spirit in which freedom of choice has been superseded, and in which there is no longer any choosing to be done, because the performance of duty has become a second nature. There is no longer any question of freedom of choice -- it has annihilated itself to rediscover itself in freedom of autonomy. This is true, in the last analysis, because the individual man, as a singular entity (what we call a person),{2} far from being really and by his nature a whole, only becomes a whole by becoming in a certain way -- in the now recognized uniqueness of his empirical Dasein -- the Whole itself, therefore the State. For Hegel, as we have already seen, human individuality in its quality of humanness (personality) is only acquired by the human atom if he universalizes himself, rejoins his true substance, his being-in-itself in the general will, if he effaces himself like every other individual consciousness in the shadow of the glory of the State. Napoleon is the individual par excellence, hence the Autonome par excellence, der erscheinende Gott,{1} because as creator and maintainer of the State he embodies the social entelechy itself, the very whole of the State. Ordinary citizens are authentic individuals, really autonomous beings, because insofar as they are and will themselves to be true members of the State, they make of themselves pure parts of the whole of the State, each having this whole itself as his entelechy. In immersing himself in the depths of freedom of autonomy the individual has renounced his being as an individual whole, and has actively annihilated himself as a person in order to be only a part, which as such exists only in the existence of the Whole, but which, knowing this and willing it, thus equalizes itself with the superior individuality of the Whole, and gains for itself by this self-consciousness as part of the Whole, the superior personality and the superior freedom of the Whole itself. Such is the meaning of Hegelian self-determination.

10. This is really a determination of the self by the self no longer to be a particular self -- by virtue of which the will confers upon itself its content, which is only its own because it is that of the Universal Will. Then each individual, recognized by the Whole in its very uniqueness, feels itself definitely a self and definitely autonomous, not indeed because its own interior glance in some way penetrates the substantial night of its subjectivity, but because, henceforth perfectly universalized, it sees itself in the eyes of all others and receives from the millions of looks which recognize it the satisfaction it was looking for, and by the same token the certitude of being itself and free (by doing what it wills because it wills what the Whole wills). From this it becomes apparent that what finally perfects and consummates truly human individuality (personality), and the freedom to which citizens are raised by the State, is to die for the State, because it is in dying for the Whole that they attain supreme recognition by the Whole. "In the last analysis it is because man can die that he can be an individual."{2} As Hegel expresses it,{3} "In death the absolute power, the master of the particular, that is to say the common will, has become pure Being-as-given [which is the corpse of the citizen who died for the State]." "This condition of universality, which the individual as such reaches, is mere being, death . . . death is the fulfillment and highest task which the individual as such undertakes on . . . behalf [of the community]."{4} In the last analysis, the consciousness of self in which, as we remarked above, autonomy is realized, this "self-consciousness which justifies its object, content and aim", and raises them to universality, because it is "thinking getting its own way in the will",{1} is nothing but the "self-contained existence of which 'spirit' consists".{2} It appears when "the particular . . . by its reflection into itself has been equalized with the universal".{3} Then there is self-determination, in other words, "the self-determination of the ego . . . means that at one and the same time the ego posits itself as its own negative, i.e. as restricted and determinate, and yet remains by itself, i.e. in its self-identity and universality. It determines itself and yet at the same time binds itself together with itself."{4} It remains itself and bound only to itself because it has its substance in the Self of the spirit, in "infinity as negativity relating itself to itself, this ultimate spring of all activity, life, and consciousness".{5} To be free is, without having to choose, to will something definite by virtue of the simple fact that I am myself, that is, that I have denied myself as an individual entity in order to return to the universal and will that which is willed by the universal Will, thereby equalizing myself with an individuality and a totality which belong to the concrete Universal, or to the Spirit.{6} The real person, the individual person, has been done away with; not by a simple negation, but by inclusion in an essentially ambiguous dialectical pair, and as the result of an inevitably misleading attempt to retain the multiple in a completely univocal view of being-becoming. In reality, and when we consider the final issue of this system, the only authentic freedom of autonomy that remains in Hegelianism -- that freedom in which "the will [is] by itself without qualification, because . . . it is related to nothing except itself and so is released from every tie of dependence on anything else"{7} -- is that of the super-individual Spirit, and that of the State, the incarnation of Spirit.

11. Hegel rejected the fundamental truth of political philosophy, which is that the body politic (by him perniciously confused with the State) is a Whole made up of parts which are themselves wholes, a Whole composed of wholes. His State is a Whole whose parts are nothing but pure parts, that is, parts which are not persons, and which only acquire personality insofar as they are and wish themselves to be integrated into the supra-individual Self of the State. Then they cease to be mere clouds of atoms, and are recognized and dignified, invested with authentic morality and personality (that is, for Hegel, with rational necessity) as members and uniquely as members of an organic whole or concrete universal which is the State. There is no place here for the freedom of autonomy which on the level of social life we attain to as persons in the body politic of which we are members, or as individual wholes possessing their own rights within the political whole and surpassing it by virtue of that which is eternal in them, bound to that whole by mutual relations of justice and by civic friendship, obeying its laws because their personal conscience commits them to the common good,{1} which flows back upon or is redistributed among them as members of the community.

It behooves us at this point to examine matters very closely, and not be taken in by false appearances. The true, or authentically human, common good is a reduplicatively common good (reflecting upon the social Whole and upon its parts as persons or as individual wholes); in other words, it is redistributed to those persons, it is a supra-organic common good. Hegel, for whom despotism, controlling a swarm of non-integrated individuals from without, is an inferior and outmoded stage of development, unworthy of Christian times, strove to maintain the dignity of the individual within the State, but he did this only through the State, and in virtue of the individual's having his very substance in the State, as a member of the organism. Because his genius was the genius of immanence and immanentism, he failed in this way to go beyond an organicist conception, which he carried to its logical extreme with unparalleled thoroughness. He replaced the transcendence of the person as derived from its supra-temporal values and under the formal aspect of personality{2} (and as, in this respect, it constitutes an end for the State) by a dialectical relation between the individual and the State as concrete universal, in which the individual is only dignified in receiving from the State all its human value. Instead of being a redistributed and supra-organic common good, the common good of the Hegelian State is, then, no more than a so-called organic common good, and irreversible to other wholes than the Social Whole itself; we may say that it is the private good of the Whole, which is not redistributed to individual persons as to other wholes, but is shared by them uniquely as parts and members of the Whole. Clearly it follows from this that except in cases where the Whole requires some part to sacrifice itself for it, it is in the interest of the Whole that its own private good (the good of the hive, or of the organism) should take advantage of the parts as such (of the bee, of the hand) to the degree that the parts are means for it, or rather moments and elements of its own life. This is the full import of the notion of the Hegelian State as Tun Aller und Jeder, and all Hegel means when he assures us that in the fulfillment of his duty toward the Whole the individual must at the same time find his own compensation.{1} And this is essentially different from the redistribution of the good of the Whole to parts which are themselves not only parts but also wholes.{1} For in this case -- the case of a Whole which aims only at its private good -- the rights of individuals and their dignity as persons derive solely from the State and are only taken into consideration insofar as the good of the State requires it, or even, in the name of the good of the State, flatly disregarded; and the whole (the Hegelian State) has an absolute and unlimited right over the individuals and groups that are its members. In the last analysis, the only concern of such a State, in spite of all the real but unavailing efforts of dialectical immanentism to establish after its fashion the double value of the individual and of the State, and in spite of the resounding declarations by means of which it deludes itself, is to have the machinery in good working order, or happy slaves persuaded that they are enjoying a superior freedom. It is to Hegel that the totalitarian States peculiar to the modern age owe the perverse and fundamentally anti-political notion of the common good as a good pertaining to the Whole, whereas in reality, as we noted above, it is the good common to the Whole and to the parts, which are themselves individual wholes, or persons -- the only real persons on this earth.

12. But let us return to the Hegelian conception of freedom of autonomy. It is really impossible to talk about this freedom without going back to the archetypal idea of it which, as we have previously pointed out, is presented to us in the texts of the Apostle Paul on the freedom of the sons of God. Hegel tried to carry over from the religious level of obedience to the law of God to the political level of obedience to the law of the State the notion of libertas christiana that Protestant thought had developed in the course of interpreting the texts of St. Paul according to its own perspective. In a much more general way, and because his whole system is geared to the idea of freedom of independence or autonomy, he tried to recast in purely philosophical terms the Pauline notion of the freedom conferred by the Spirit. The attempt failed, because the Weltgeist is not the Holy Spirit, and because the whole reality of that which love accomplishes in making man one in spirit with the infinitely transcendent God becomes pure mirage when a so-called onto-logic tries to find its equivalent in the auto-negation in which the individual, seeking his own essence, comes upon it in the concrete universal, which is itself traversing history toward its own divinity.

Those whom St. Paul describes as being conducted by the Spirit which bloweth where it listeth are free not only because they are no longer under the law (in achieving this state they are following their own inclination, an inclination which is doubly personal since they have of their own accord voluntarily assumed it out of love), but because, having passed beyond the stage where there is any question of observance of the law, embarking upon a terrain where there is no longer any path marked out, what means everything to them is the person-to-person dialogue and the mutual expression of love in which they are engaged with Him who is infinitely beyond all created necessity, and in whose own freedom they participate, in the perpetual unforesee ability, superior to any historical fatum, of that state of being in which, as we said above, freedom of choice and freedom of autonomy are exercised together. But all human freedom consists for Hegel in grasping and fundamentally realizing the truth of necessity, in other words, in recognizing the rational and its necessity as law and in obeying it as one obeys the substance of one's own being. The individual is only free when of himself, and as if it were a second nature he fulfils the laws of the State, the objectification of the Spirit; and it is finally in amor fati, in reconciliation with destiny, with the history of the world, that in Hegel's view resides the supreme consciousness of freedom.{1} Finally, in the Pauline conception man, moved by the Spirit of God, of the separated Whole, remains himself and is more than ever an individual whole, a person; and love itself requires that within the unity of spirit the duality of persons be maintained. At the very moment that the saint says to Him whom he loves: thy will be done, he says in the same breath: and not mine, which indicates that his own will is still in existence: it subordinates itself and gives itself, it does not abolish itself. But in the Hegelian conception -- we have insisted on this point in our previous analyses -- man only achieves freedom by giving up being a person, a self-consistent whole as born individual.

It is thus quite in vain that Hegel tries to carry Pauline freedom over into the political order as a designation of the individual's freedom in relation to the State. Whatever he does and whatever he says, he still leaves no place at all for the inferior but authentic freedom of autonomy of which man is capable on the level of social life. Nor, when we go on to the stage which he calls that of absolute Spirit, does he leave any place for that superior freedom of autonomy which, on the level of the spiritual life, Greek wisdom looked for in the accomplishments of reason, the natural mysticism of India in intellectual concentration attaining through negation the existence of the self, the supernatural mysticism of Christianity in a union of love with a supremely personal transcendent God. He leaves no place for that supreme freedom of autonomy in which the person is moved, not by the Spirit of the world incarnate in the State, but by the Spirit of God, and precisely in its quality as a universe to itself in which free choice is present under grace.

Aristotle's sage was a whole contemplating a Whole. For Hegel philosophy is not so much the work of the philosopher as "the reconciliation of the Spirit with itself",{2} "the knowledge of Spirit by Spirit".{3} He de-personalizes the philosopher as he does the citizen, the latter in the collective Self of the community, the former in the Self of thought in historical self-motion and finally in the Self of the spirit reintegrated into itself in absolute Knowledge. His philosopher no doubt belongs to an age, and inevitably bears the marks of it.{1} And also he has had to await the modern age in order to become a Sage and have absolute knowledge revealed to him.{2} But the moment he becomes the consciousness of the spirit of his time, and restores his thought to the realm of the universal in order to infinitize it therein, the philosopher in his contingent particularity is no longer anything more than a point of actualization of the universal Whole or the universal Spirit, which at a given moment of time becomes conscious of itself as "Philosophy" in its historical development, and expresses itself therein -- still inchoately and partially -- as in a medium in which pure thought thinks itself and all things. As for the Sage, he suppresses himself even more perfectly as an individual person or as an individual whole. "The True is the essence of the thing, the general. . . . In thinking the general, we are the general; this is why only philosophy [the Knowledge of the Sage] . . . is free."{3}

13. Philosophers have followed one after another down through history, the Sage arrives when all is accomplished: not only because he sums up within himself all the philosophy of the whole of history, but because the absolute Spirit can only be actualized in a man through reflection on the supreme achievements of the objective Spirit. The pre-condition of the existence of the Sage is that he be a citizen of the absolute State, and himself enjoy the freedom proper to a citizen who is a member of the absolute (Napoleonic or Prussian) State, in order to achieve absolute Knowledge and the freedom that goes along with it. This freedom is of a superior kind, it is complete autonomy, because it is the freedom of Spirit itself. The Sage is more of an emperor than Napoleon, more completely the Individual par excellence than he, because it is the Sage who reveals to the State and to Napoleon what they are, and who transforms the Bewusstsein of Spirit objectified in the State into the Selbst-bewusstsein of the absolute Spirit, fully reconciled with itself in Knowledge. He makes himself equal with the Whole not by becoming a pure part of the whole which is the State, but by identifying himself dialectically with that Whole which is the absolute Spirit in its very function of being the Whole. Thus, like the ordinary citizen, he fully retains his empirical existence and his empirical singularity, his existential particularity. But while the citizen in his activity as a member of the State exercises real and rational supra-contingent individuality, received from the State, which has become his entelechy, the Sage, on the other hand, in his comprehensive contemplation, does not exercise the supra-contingent individuality that he has arrived at by means of absolute Knowledge, but rather abandons it, divests himself of it in that very Knowledge. For the Sage is nothing other than Knowledge, begriefendes Wissen.{1} Insofar as he is Knowledge, he is the consciousness of self of the Spirit; but insofar as he remains at the same time an empirical singular in his contingent particularity, he surrenders up to the Spirit that supreme consciousness of self, and thus the supreme Individuality (Personality) it constitutes. "The whole sphere of finitude, of the fact of being one's self a part of the sensible world, is engulfed in the true-or-veritable Faith before the thought and the intuition (Anschauung) of the Eternal, and becomes here one and the same thing. The swarming gnats of the subjectivity are burned in this devouring fire and the very consciousness of this gift-of-oneself (Hingeben) and this annihilation is annihilated."{2} Though Hegel found it very hard at first to bear the idea of such a surrender, and such an annihilation{3} -- which have no relation, by the way, to an "ecstasy" like that of Plotinus, but which are rather, in a completely immanentist perspective, the price of a discursively articulated Gnosis in which the work of the Reason is distilled into philosophy -- he ended up by finding the complete satisfaction (Befriedigung) proper to the Sage in this renunciation of being a whole in the face of the Whole, in this death to self as an individual person, thanks to which supreme Knowledge is in him as it is in God. It is the same kind of satisfaction he found in accepting total and final death for himself: for in dying completely man bears witness that there is no Transcendence{1} -- no other God than the Spirit immanent in nature and in history which realizes in the end all the attributes of its divinity, its divine personality and its divine freedom of autonomy through the ephemeral unity with it of the princes of humanity who are its manifestations -- and on their ashes. For Hegel's Sage as for his citizen it is in death, and in the acceptance of death with nothing after, that autonomy is consummated.

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