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BOOK REVIEWS 493 Joachim Ritter, Hegel and the French Revolution. Essays on the "Philosophy of Right." Translated with an introduction by Richard Dien Winfield. Studies in Contemporary German Social Thought. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1982. Pp. xii + 191. $~2.5o (cloth). Readers who have found Joachim Ritter's analysis often stimulating hut his German sometimes difficult will welcome this translation of a substantial part of Metaphysik und Logik. Studien zu Aristoteles und Hegel (Frankfurt am M.: Suhrkamp, 1969. Pp. 356). The English volume consists of four essays on Hegel, including the justly famous one that provides the title of the English volume. The others are: "Person and Property: On Hegel's Philosophy of Right, paragraphs 34-81," "Morality and Ethical Life: Hegel's Controversy with Kantian Ethics," and "Hegel and the Reformation ." The translator's introduction sets the context. Taken together, the four essays present the principal features of Ritter's interpretation of Hegel's political philosophy. Ritter's Hegel thought that the distinctive character of modern social life was its extension of actual freedom to all. The extension was based upon the equality that came from being simply human, rather than French or German, Catholic or Protestant, aristocrat or bourgeois. The "state of nature" postulated by liberal theorists was in fact a weapon invented in order to strike against old differences. "The ahistorical nature of [modern civil] society is its historical essence " (76). Now, modern equality arose through the emancipation of human labor from traditional ties and historical privilege; so that at its basis, emancipation is an economic process, endorsed in theory by the liberal philosophies of Locke and Rousseau and the political economies of Smith and Steuart, and realized in practice by the pursuit of private interest with minimal governmental interference. Ritter argues that Hegel assimilated liberalism into his own philosophy. And he argues further that, far from adopting a reactionary Prussianism, Hegel always held a positive regard for the French revolution. What he found inadequate in that liberalism, however , was that it seized upon liberty as an individual principle of freedom, lying prior m the actual social life of men; whereas, for Hegel, freedom emerged only in the actual structures of social interaction. Moreover, Hegel also saw that the emancipation promoted by economic and social liberalism was not enough to sustain social and political life in its entirety. In turning to Aristotle, and his scholastic continuators including Christian Wolff, Hegel sought a deeper basis and broader context from which to formulate a modern political philosophy. The discontinuity introduced by economics and revolution was deemed desirable as well as irreversible, so that there could be for Ritter's Hegel no nostalgia. Aristotle could be drawn upon for a new thought that would be genuinely political (not merely economic and civil), and genuinely philosophical (i.e., metaphysical and not merely positivist). Ritter's German is not easily rendered into flowing English, and it is to the credit of the translator that the translation is for the most part readable and understandable . In a few passages the German is actually clearer than the English (e.g., 1~4, second sentence; 35, second paragraph; 188, near the top); but they are few. There 494 JOURNAL OF THE HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY ~2:4 OCT ~984 are perhaps too many small faults: some slippage of tense (e.g., 36; n.t, 143) and shift of number (e.g., 19o); some renderings are needlessly free (thus, rechtliche Zufiilligkeiten may amount to much the same as "a matter of indifference so far as rights are concerned" (l ~5), but the latter is simply not a translation of the former). So far as I could determine, however, no serious misunderstandings result. It is well known that the English term "right" (for RechO has subjective connotations and lacks the very ambivalence that Ritter counts upon. But we have here an unbridgeable difference of social experience between the two linguistic groups. The reader might bear in mind that the impact of economic and social liberalism is reflected much more in the English term than in the German. The decision to translate Sache as "object of the will," however, is less inevitable. To be sure, the German term is...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1538-4586
Print ISSN
0022-5053
Pages
pp. 493-494
Launched on MUSE
2008-01-01
Open Access
N

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