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"Hegel legitimised the French Revolution but not the Revolutionaries themselves" Discuss.

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Introduction

POLI2001 - Political Thought & Research Methods Stephen Parsons "Hegel legitimised the French Revolution but not the Revolutionaries themselves" Discuss. Hegel views on the role of the individual can be seen and used to justify the Revolution. Individual freedom can also be woven into these ideas and living in a community or society is how Hegel saw the individual fulfilling their life. Hegel agreed with the ideas of the classical Greeks in as much that he thought the individual should lead an ethical life. In this ideal each individual has obligations to the community in which they live. Hegel rejected Kant's view of freedom of the individual as he saw Kantian philosophy as rejecting the rest of the community and that an individual is a self-contained unit for whom history starts and finishes in their own lifetime. Hegel looked at this differently "Because humans act collectively to promote their freedom, the primary question of modern political philosophy, on Hegel's view, is not a priori what institutions would fulfil these functions, but rather how and to what extent existing institutions do fulfil these functions. This is why Hegel analysed the rationality of extent institutions.1 Hegel believed that rationality was superior to understanding. He also believed that the state should be rational in order to allow the individuals to fully develop and become free. ...read more.

Middle

He saw everything moving towards the self-understanding of reason. The individual was the vehicle for this. He also saw society at the end of history and stated others would realise this if they saw the will become free to follow nothing but its own substance, thought. This became Hegel's idea of radical autonomy. "The will should obey nothing but itself, its own immanent rationality".5 The idea of absolute freedom was weak because any idea to found a society on nothing but freedom would aim to destroy the society that already exists and anything that arises from its destruction. This is what the French Revolutionaries tried to do. Once the political systems that existed and had alienated them were destroyed, they turned on each other and any institutions that they saw as impinging on their freedom, such as the church. Hegel then was looking for a society founded on more than the struggle of individual wills. A society with no means to an end or end to a means. The concepts needed to be overcome. His criticism of the French Revolutionaries was also a criticism of Rousseau. He explained and dismissed the concept of absolute freedom. "He interprets Rousseau as a philosopher of an epoch in which, the external order being abolished, every man was free to transform his inner conviction into political reality. ...read more.

Conclusion

The idea of continuing on something that already exists. "One may be dissatisfied with political life, one may even propose to destroy it, but one may only do so in order to create a new political reality more satisfying than the old..., must not irresponsibly condemn the state without putting something equally concrete in its place.8 He is condemning not the idea of the Revolution but the failure of the Revolutionaries to reject their understanding of absolute freedom in favour of rationality that the individual cannot find true freedom of will, with will following its own reason, outside the context of the state where good infinity exists. Hegel still supported Revolutionary principles. He saw the Revolution as a positive in as much as it made people aware that they could obey rules and laws subjectively. It made people aware of their rights and he saw it as a conscious effort by people to assert freedom of the individual. The actual criticism came in fact that the Revolutionaries failed to create something concrete in place of the state they had destroyed rather than something based on absolute freedom. It is clear to see then that Hegel did justify the French Revolution in as much as it was an attempt to assert individual freedom in a society where a large section was alienated. He did not justify the Revolutionaries themselves as they tried to do this armed with an understanding of freedom that was self-destructive. ...read more.

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