Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy, Vol 3, No 2-3 (2007)

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Hegel’s Theory of Moral Action, its Place in his System and the ‘Highest’ Right of the Subject

David Rose


There is at present, amongst Hegel scholars and in the interpretative discussions of Hegelrsquo;s social and political theories, the flavour of old-style lsquo;apologyrsquo; for his liberal credentials, as though there exists a real need to prove he holds basic liberal views palatable to the hegemonic, contemporary political worldview. Such an approach is no doubt motivated by the need to reconstruct what is left of the modern moral conscience when Hegel has finished discussing the flaws and contradictions of the Kantian model of moral judgement. The main claim made in the following pages is that the critique of lsquo;subjectiversquo; moralities is neither the sole nor even the main reason for the adoption of an immanent doctrine of ethics. This paper will look to Hegelrsquo;s mature theory of action as motivating the critique of transcendentalism rather than merely filling in the hole left when one rejects Kant and it will discuss what the consequences of this approach are for the role of the moral conscience within the political sphere, arguing that Hegelrsquo;s own conditions of free action would not be met unless the subjective moral conscience was operative in the rational state.

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