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Hegel isn't super popular, but his theory is starting to become more prevalent again. Hegel has probably the hardest and most confusing source text, so do not try to read that. Similar to Kant, his theory is deontological, so the morality of the action is not reliant on the consequences. Below is a brief description of how many Hegelian frameworks are justified in LD debate. Framework Background: The Metaethic

A major distinction that can be made to organize/categorize frameworks is the internalism and externalism distinction.

Internalism: Moral facts are internally derived. We get facts based on what we think. Internist versions of util might care about what people’s internal desires are. A Hegelian would view internalist theories are insufficient due to some problems, mainly that it is difficult to provide an objective good that is "good" for everyone; positive obligations are thus hard to derive. Internal obligations are also non-verifiable; you don’t have access to other peoples’ internal thoughts.

Externalism: ethics and ethical obligations are derived from the external world. A Hegelian would still see externalist theories as problematic, because it seems difficult as to how people know how we can verify the existence of the natural world around us (e.g. we could all be living under a simulation or dreaming. these arguments seem farfetched now but if you think about them, they do hold some weight. How do we know everyone experiences the world in the same way? What if our sense are lying to us? Think optical illusions or how real a dream feels.

The conclusion Hegel and many other philosophers come to is that of constitutivism. This is the idea that ethics should be based on constitutive or intrinsic features of a subject. Philosophers ask themselves, "what defines a subject?". This metaethic resolves the problems of internalism because we are able to create objective obligations. Since all subjects are based on the same thing or share a similar characteristic, we are able to create moral obligations for all of them, as we all share agency. This also resolves the problems of externalism, because our constitutive subjectivity provides us a way of knowing moral facts. Essentially, constitutivism establishes the fact that all constitutive frameworks have a way of defining subjectivity.


Once we have established the metaethic, the Hegelian syllogism follows as such. There are two main ways of articulating/reading the syllogism in debate. 1 - Gobsch (a Hegelian author) This is a play on practical reason. Gobsch writes that practical reason is constitutive, but people relate to practical reasoning in different ways. It’s impossible to have a pure concept of practical reason that is not impacted by the way the subject experiences the world (we interpret universal things differently). Gobsch criticizes Kant for asserting that one can abstract your intention from everything else.

2 - Wood (another author) This section will delve deeper into Wood's reading of Hegel.

Wood's reading of Hegel is based around the idea of appropriation. He defines subjectivity through appropriation, how self-conception that shapes the way you act as a subject. E.g. if I want to take a drink of water, I pick up a glass and drink from it. Therefore, all ends that I pursue and actions I take are related to my self-conception. Thus, the only defining feature of subjectivity is our ability to appropriate. People interact by appropriating the world.

There are two types of appropriation. Appropriating a material object (not moral agent) is ethically different than appropriating another person (independent agent) Appropriating another agent is interacting with someone in a unique way.

Next, the only way we can recognize ourselves as agents is through social interactions with others. This concept of mutual recognition of moral agents is how we verify our agency. Mutual recognition is understanding of others as having distinct and ethically relevant consciousnesses. E.g. if you were born on an isolated island with no other agents, Hegel would say that you would not realize you are an agent. Only by interacting with another agent, recognizing they have agency, will you therefore realize you yourself are also an agent. Thus, Hegel is comparatively more concerned about social interactions and interactions with the material world compared to philosophers like Kant.

Thus, the conclusions are 1) The only way to confirm you are an agent is to interact with someone with an external consciousness that can interact with you and affirm your agency 2) The only way to recognize we have obligations is to mutually recognize each other as agents, as obligations like preserving the ability to mutually recognize others as agents can only be derived if we know who the agents are.

Hegel's concept of appropriation is also related to Jaeggi's concept of alienation.

The State

The Hegelian State has two obligations 1 - Right Claims. Because Hegel thinks people have the obligation to recognize each other, the state has to recognize all the rights claims that people have. The state is necessary for mutual recognition. The state is thus based on the ethical community that forms to escape the state of nature- people create morality socially, and community values dictate what the state ought to do. For Hegel, engaging in the state is a positive duty because it is engaging in politics and the state is the thing that allowed people to activate their wills.

2 - The state is the only force able to institute normative claims. Since the state institute norms, if you act in accordance with a specific apart in the world, you have an obligation to interact with the state.

Not only does the state prevent the state of nature, but the state can help us mutually recognize others and structurally recognize all other obligations.

Random Note: Hegel explains how people are able to socially construct things like language in a non a priori way


Gobsch, Wolfram The Idea of an Ethical Community: Kant and Hegel on the Necessity of Human Evil and the Love to Overcome It Wood, Allen Hegel's Ethical Thought

Do not try to read primary source Hegel! He has probably some of the hardest and most confusing philosophy source texts out there.