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Political Philosophy

Hegel and The Libertarians

Paulo Roberto Monteiro De Araujo

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ABSTRACT: This paper aims to show how the Hegelian philosophy can contribute to the conceptual discussions between the two strains of contemporary ethical-political philosophy. I argue that the Hegelian political theory is of central import to the discussion between communitarians and libertarians, both in the communitarian criticism of the libertarian — mainly in Michael Sandel's criticism of Rawls — and in the Rawlsian project of a society founded in justice as equality. For if the communitarians' theoretical basis is the living of a community in terms of historical-social values, and the individualists' deontological rationality is the basis for the libertarians, Hegel's pointing to a synthetic resolution of the two positions provides a moral foundation for their harmonious coexistence. This does not, however, mean that there is one simple ideological solution that can unite the universal and the particular, the community and the individual, through artificial dialectics, as the critics of Hegelian thought would affirm following the Frankfurt School.

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This present text aims to show how the Hegelian philosophy can contribute to the conceptual discussions between the two strains of the contemporary ethical-political philosophy. In our view, both the communitarians and the libertarians still need to pass through the Hegelian conceptual skeleton to bear the organized societies'ethical-political matters within the considered democratic standards.

Hegel, although still holds the blemish of a Absolute State's thinker, not democratic, in his work, mainly in what refers to the "Philosophy of the Right", makes possibles the deepening of the investigations for authors like Rawls, who worries about questions related to the justice as actualization of a social-politic project based in the constructions of public institutions which preserve the relations both among individuals and among the various groups of a society.

Given that, the Hegelian thought already points to the need of a social life's ethics reconstruction (Sittlichkeit). This life's ethics will comprehend the various individualities differences, which form, since Modernity, Western Societies.

The goal of our paper is to show conceptually how the Hegelian Theory is important and lightening, in terms of a political theory, to the discussion between communitarians and libertarians; both in the communitarian criticism to the libertarian, and mainly in Michael Sandel criticism to Rawls, and in Rawlsian project of a society founded in justice as equality. For if the communitarians'theoretical basis is the living of a community in terms of historical-social values, and the individuals'deontologic rationality is the basis for the libertarians, as moral support for the harmonious living together, Hegel points to a sinthetic resolution of the two positions.

It is through the social and political practices that we get to see the rational process which leads to the identity between the individual's determination and community's determination. In this way, Hegel offers the Key to us to understand the identifications between individual and community in search of a fair social life.

The theory developed by Rawls turns in a connection with the Hegelian thought. This happens not because Rawls adopts the conclusions of Hegel's political philosophy, not even because assigns his metaphysics, but because his start is the actual social practices, which he tries to examine in the light of the values embedded in this social practices. Rawls'aim in intendign to elaborate a political theory to create and preserve a kind of contract among the various individuals and groups that form contemporary societies is to point out the need of elaborating one type of cooperation which makes possible to unify the various individuals around a social life founded in justice as fairness. For this, Rawls makes use of his Kantism to create the idea of "rational choice" by the autonomous and free individuals.

Sandel criticizes precisely the uncertainty of Rawls "faith" in relation to the individuals' neutrality in front of a purely rational choice, apart their particular interests. For, to Sandel, each social group or each individual posses their own interests. The Kantian transcendentality which Rawls makes use is indicated by Sandel as simply deontologic abstractionism.

For Sandel, Rawls' justice theory founded in a self conception doesn't supply the basis to evaluate the social institutions or the moral practices. Sandel's criticism goes toward precisely the roots of the matter of a autonomous moral subject as not linked with the community living practices. Hence Sandel points to the lack of accuracy of Rawls'conception of a moral subject is, for Sandel, a pure abstraction. In this way, we can verify a certain resemblance between Sandel's criticism to Rawls and Hegel's criticism to the Kantian moral subject.

The rationalization process of the self as disassociated of its own experience would result, according to Sandel, in a kind of despondency to decide about the so-called "rational choices". The avoidance of the subject cannot intend to be pure neutrality not interested in the level of contractual choices.

For Sandel, Rawlsian self cannot give the basis to evaluate the political institution in order to make them democratic and fair. For one self understood as a pure abstract neutrality finds itself disembodied from its particular characteristics. One self like that would not have the abilility of taking "rational choices", because it would lack the living of itself in the range of its particular motivations in the social and political life. For Sandel, it would lack this self in Rawls to make true any kind of accord. The tendency, so, of this self would be the arbitrariness in the choice of justice principles. The criticism that Sandel makes to the disembodied self takes Rawls conception about the original Position.

For Sandel, Rawls'self is stuck only to desires that are conceded in the level of a reflection founded in a rational process, but not in the object of desire itself. In this aspect we can detect a relation between Sandel and Hegel in the first part of "Philosophy of the Right", in what refers to the self-determination of the person.

In the abstract law, while the first moment of all development of the concept of freedom, Hegel focuses the person's constitution as self-determination consciousness. Thus, Sandel, as given ones. (1) The desire themselves makes possible, for Hegel, a objectivation of individual's existence as different persons one from each other. Only in the level of the difference that it can exist choices to the actualization of agreements among individuals.

For Hegel, the person, in determining her existence in a objective form, contains the ability of the law (par.36, PL). Only in this way, she gains the right over the determination of her will as legal person. Being this person's subject imperative the respect for the this part. Hence Hegel highlights that "I am a person and respect the others as persons" (par. 35, PL). We can visualize the rational character of this sentence, which shows the ability of a person to formulate a self-representation in a universal way. Nevertheless, this does not mean that the person looses her particular constituition. It is precisely this particular constitution that Sandel points as lost or canceled in Rawls'self.

Sandel's criticism to Rawls go toward the impossibility of a total transcendence by the individuals and their particular interests on behalf of general interests. In a society formed by a plurality of people, each one with their interests, it is impossible not to considerate their particularities. Hegel himself already foresee this question of the individuals' particular interests in the abstract law. The respect in relation to the them, that Hegel puts as Kantian inspiration maxim, does not mean a transcendence of the individuals in relations to their particularities; rather this respect has as a meaningful basis the maintenance of particular interests of all. It's not a question of a simple universalization of the law with the purpose of establishing an identity among the various individual interests.

What Hegel tries to show is the need of a regulation of the various individual rights, as the maintenance of a formal sociability. Thus, there's not an ethics character (Sittlichkeit) in the legal relation among individuals. What matters in this relation is the formal character of the law on behalf of the maintenance of the sociability without the content of ethics.

For Sandel, Hegel eventually has conceptual arguments to strenghten his criticism to Rawls. Hence Sandel's conclusions about the fake individual choice in Rawlsian Theory. There isn't for Sandel the person's freedom of choice, as desire and will, because individuals are already determined on behalf of a social contract that makes feasible the egalitarian justice among all.

Sandel, despite his precise criticism to Rawls, eventually suffocates the individual's conception, in putting the history of the self's particularity always integrated to the history of the community. If by one hand Sandel's arguments about the historical dependence of the self in modern civil societies' statute itself, societies founded in a egocentric individuality. It's precisely this individuality which Hegel calls our attention in the "Philosophy of the Right" as a modern phenomenon. It's necessary to understand, like Hegel, the situation itself of the modern social history as an emergency of the individuality, as a particular will which self-determinates.

Thus, we cannot forget that contemporary societies found'themselves in the extent of individuality, characterized in the persons and diverse groups. The plurality of the individualities, although need to be considered within a social life existential context, cannot be suffocated by the same context. In this aspect, Rawls has a theoretical basis for thinking community life from the plurality of the individuals as rational subjects, free and autonomous.

We can so visualize in this debate we presented the position of the two strains of contemporary political philosophy. The posture, both Rawls'and Sandel's, open to questions about the problem of the relation between community and individual, although by unilateral ways. Hence neither the communitarian nor the libertarian give an account of the conceptual basis that rule contemporary societies socio-ethical-political life.

One creates, doing so, a deadlock in the debate of those two strains, which, in our view, can only be surpassed by the insertion of Hegelian thought. In is not the case, still, of creating a third strain neo-Hegelian to confront communitarians and libertarians. Rather investigating conceptually the matters of those two straints through the theoretical wealth already developed by Hegel, mainly in the "Philosophy of the Right". It is in this work that we find the conceptual support to elaborate solutions in what refers to the problems of the rationality which involve individual and community.

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(1) In Hegel, the consciousness receives the knowing of itself, as person, from what is exterior for it, as to say, the objects. However, the objects are always in the level of a person's desire or will. For, to Hegel, the point is the consciousness determining itself as person who has the right to be owner of what is external to itself. Hence Hegel's concern of indicating that conceptually the individual's freedom happens through the right to particular satisfaction, which must be respected.


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