DOI: 10.30443/POI2019-0003

Individual, People, Sovereignty: Hegel and the Foundations of the Modern World

Emiliano Alessandroni


In his Doctrine of Being, Hegel states: “If a determinate content, some determinate being, is presupposed, this being, since it is determinate, stands in manifold reference to another content. It is not a matter of indifference to it whether a certain other content to which it refers is or is not, for only through such a referring is it essentially what it is”. This dialectical perspective perfectly fits both Hegel’s views on aesthetics and in his political philosophy. On the one hand, the universal in art comes to manifest its essence only when it is able to descend and to materialize itself in particular individualities. Conversely, it can be argued that in his political philosophy the individual acquires ethicality only after recognizing the value of the State, whose elevation to an ethical level, in turn, cannot take place without recognizing the value of the individual. Similarly, international law can only arise on the basis of recognition of national sovereignties, and the latter acquire their value only after mutual and prior recognition of international law. In Hegel’s view, this dialectic approach runs throughout the Elements of the Philosophy of Law, and characterizes not only his account of the individual-state relationship, and of the national-supranational nexus, but also the formulation of concepts such as “people”, “morals”, “property”. The way in which the German philosopher problematizes these notions allows them to escape their tendential subordination to the logic of the abstract intellect (i.e., their easy sliding into ideology), and can therefore constitute an effective antidote against the instrumental uses of such notions through which – then as now – the most important (and more genuinely universal) achievements of the modern world are being questioned.

Keywords: Individual, State, Sovereignty, Cosmopolitanism, People

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4. P.O.I - Hegel, la storia e noi- Alessandroni