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Idealistic Studies

Volume 46, Issue 3, Fall 2016

Kelly M. S. Swope
Pages 237-258

Education as "Absolute Transition" in Hegel’s Philosophy of Right

G. W. F. Hegel’s Elements of Philosophy of Right analogizes the unfolding of a people’s political self-consciousness to the unfolding of an education. Yet Hegel is somewhat unsystematic in accounting for how the process of political education unfolds in its differentiated moments. This paper pieces together a more systematic account of political education from Hegel’s scattered remarks on the subject in Philosophy of Right. I argue that, once we understand how political education fits into the holistic picture of Hegel’s Rechtsphilosophie, we see that it exercises both a fortifying and a threatening influence on the state: fortifying the state insofar as it habituates individuality to universality in the form of ethical dispositions such as patriotism, threatening the state insofar as it represents a destabilizing tendency toward democratic judgment in the emergence of public opinion. I conclude by raising the possibility that political education poses an entropic, “democratic” threat to the modern state.

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