Property and the limits of the self

Political Theory 8 (1):39-64 (1980)
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THE MAIN OBJECTIVES of the following discussions are, first, to show the logical inconsistency of Hegel’s theory of the necessity of private property and, second, to show its exegetical inconsistency with the most plausible and consistent interpretations of Hegel’s theory of the self and its relation to the state in Ethical Life. I begin with the latter objective, by distinguishing three basic conceptions of the self that can be gleaned from various passages in the Philosophy of Right. I suggest viable connections between each of these three conceptions and three respective interpretations of what I call the Hegelian requirement, i.e., that the individual be able to identify his personal interests and values with those of the state [141, 147, 147r, 151, 155].1 This can be understood as the requirement that the individual be capable of transcending certain limits of individuality in the service of broader and more inclusive political goals. I argue that Hegel’s theory of Personality and the requirements of Ethical Life in the state commit him to a conception of the self as capable of achieving such selftranscendence through action, despite appearances to the contrary that suggest that self-transcendence is to be primarily achieved through acquisition of various kinds. I then try to demonstrate the logical inconsistency of Hegel’s theory of the necessity of private property. I argue that the fallacies inherent in his exposition of this theory can be explained by his presupposing a conception of the self which both is inadequate to meet the criteria of Hegel’s theories of Personality and Ethical Life and also, therefore, fails the Hegelian requirement

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Adrian M. S. Piper
APRA Foundation, Berlin


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