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Idealistic Studies

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published on August 21, 2018

Kelly M. S. Swope

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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