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Natural Law

The Scientific Ways of Treating Natural Law, Its Place in Moral Philosophy, and Its Relation to the Positive Sciences of Law

By G. W. F. Hegel. Translated by T. M. Knox. Introduction by H. B. Acton. Foreword by John R. Silber

Publication Year: 1975

One of the central problems in the history of moral and political philosophy since antiquity has been to explain how human society and its civil institutions came into being. In attempting to solve this problem philosophers developed the idea of natural law, which for many centuries was used to describe the system of fundamental, rational principles presumed universally to govern human behavior in society. By the eighteenth century the doctrine of natural law had engendered the related doctrine of natural rights, which gained reinforcement most famously in the American and French revolutions. According to this view, human society arose through the association of individuals who might have chosen to live alone in scattered isolation and who, in coming together, were regarded as entering into a social contract.

In this important early essay, first published in English in this definitive translation in 1975 and now returned to print, Hegel utterly rejects the notion that society is purposely formed by voluntary association. Indeed, he goes further than this, asserting in effect that the laws brought about in various countries in response to force, accident, and deliberation are far more fundamental than any law of nature supposed to be valid always and everywhere. In expounding his view Hegel not only dispenses with the empiricist explanations of Hobbes, Hume, and others but also, at the heart of this work, offers an extended critique of the so-called formalist positions of Kant and Fichte.

Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press


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pp. 5

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pp. 7-8

Perhaps no other philosopher poses greater difficulties for his readers or promises greater rewards for diligent study than Hegel. In writing of the dividends to be derived from the "supreme thought-treasure" of Hegel's works, John N. Findlay has rightly praised Hegel's "stock of invaluable methodological principles by which one's own thought may be guided." Among these principles is Hegel's concern to preserve the unity of...

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pp. 9-47

Hegel's essay The Scientific Ways of Treating Natural Law appeared in two consecutive parts (December 1802 and May 1803) of the Kritisches Journal der Philosophie.l This Journal ran from January 1802 until May 1803 and was edited by "Fr. Wilh. Joseph Schelling and Ge. Wilhelm Fr. Hegel" who between them wrote all the contents. The general aims of the Kritisches Journal are stated in...

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Translator's Note

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pp. 49-51

This translation is based on Hegel's original periodical publication, now reprinted in the magnificient new edition of his Works. See vol. 4, ed. by H. Biichner and O. Poggeler (Hamburg, 1968). The page references in the foot of the translation are to the pages of this edition. One or two references in my notes to this edition are described as "Poggeler". However I have adopted some...

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The Scientific Ways of Treating Natural Law, Its Place in Moral Philosophy, and Its Relation to the Positive Sciences of Law

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pp. 53-133

The science of natural law, like other sciences such as mechanics and physics, has long been recognized as an essentially philosophical science and, since philosophy must have parts, as an essential part of philosophy. But with the other sciences it has shared a common fate; the philosophical element in philosophy is assigned exclusively to metaphysics, while the sciences have been allowed little share in it. On the contrary, in their special principle they have been kept aloof...


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pp. 135-137

E-ISBN-13: 9780812200256
Print-ISBN-13: 9780812210835

Page Count: 144
Publication Year: 1975