published on November 6, 2018
Making Sense of "Needs" in Hegel’s Philosophy of Right
This paper unpacks the often made but rarely fleshed out distinction between a ‘need’ and a ‘want.’ The usual conception of a need is that it is something that is teleologically necessary for the achievement of a certain end, with the end being somehow essential to human wellbeing. A want, on the other hand, is understood to be an arbitrary desire, and, as such, without the moral weight of a need. However, both concepts have at least a weak sense of teleology embedded in them, because everything we want fulfills at least some minimal purpose. In order to clear up the confusion between a want and a need this paper turns to the ‘System of Needs’ section in Hegel’s Philosophy of Right.