Encyclopaedia of the Philosophical Sciences
Part III: The Philosophy of Spirit


§ 503

The free individual, who, in mere law, counts only as a person, is now characterised as a subject — a will reflected into itself so that, be its affection what it may, it is distinguished (as existing in it) as its own from the existence of freedom in an external thing. Because the affection of the will is thus inwardised, the will is at the same time made a particular, and there arise further particularisations of it and relations of these to one another. This affection is partly the essential and implicit will, the reason of the will, the essential basis of law and moral life: partly it is the existent volition, which is before us and throws itself into actual deeds, and thus comes into relationship with the former. The subjective will is morally free, so far as these features are its inward institution, its own, and willed by it. Its utterance in deed with this freedom is an action, in the externality of which it only admits as its own, and allows to be imputed to it, so much as it has consciously willed.

This subjective or 'moral' freedom is what a European especially calls freedom. In virtue of the right thereto a man must possess a personal knowledge of the distinction between good and evil in general: ethical and religious principles shall not merely lay their claim on him as external laws and precepts of authority to be obeyed, but have their assent, recognition, or even justification in his heart, sentiment, conscience, intelligence, etc. The subjectivity of the will in itself is its supreme aim and absolutely essential to it.

The 'moral' must be taken in the wider sense in which it does not signify the morally good merely. In French le moral is opposed to le physique, and means the mental or intellectual in general. But here the moral signifies volitional mode, so far as it is in the interior of the will in general; it thus includes purpose and intention — and also moral wickedness.


§ 504

So far as the action comes into immediate touch with existence, my part in it is to this extent formal, that external existence is also independent of the agent. This externally can pervert his action and bring to light something else than lay in it. Now, though any alteration as such, which is set on foot by the subjects' action, is its deed, still the subject does not for that reason recognise it as its action, but only admits as its own that existence in the deed which lay in its knowledge and will, which was its purpose. Only for that does it hold itself responsible.


§ 505

As regards its empirically concrete content (1) the action has a variety of particular aspects and connections. In point of form, the agent must have known and willed the action in its essential feature, embracing these individual points. This is the right of intention. While purpose affects only the immediate fact of existence, intention regards the underlying essence and aim thereof. (2)The agent has no less the right to see that the particularity of content in the action, in point of its matter, is not something external to him, but is a particularity of his own — that it contains his needs, interests, and aims. These aims, when similarly comprehended in a single aim, as in happiness (§ 479), constitute his well-being. This is the right to well-being. Happiness (good fortune) is distinguished from well- being only in this, that happiness implies no more than some sort of immediate existence, whereas well-being is regarded as having a moral justification.

§ 506.

But the essentiality of the intention is in the first instance the abstract form of generality. Reflection can put in this form this and that particular aspect in the empirically concrete action, thus making it essential to the intention or restricting the intention to it. In this way the supposed essentiality of the intention and the real essentiality of the action may be brought into the greatest contradiction — e.g. a good intention in case of a crime. Similarly well-being is abstract and may be placed in this or that: as appertaining to this single agent, it is always something particular.


§ 507

The truth of these particularities and the concrete unity of their formalism is the content of the universal, essential and actual, will — the law and underlying essence of every phase of volition, the essential and actual good. It is thus the absolute final aim of the world, and duty for the agent who ought to have insight into the good, make it his intention and bring it about by his activity.

§ 508.

But though the good is the universal of will — a universal determined in itself — and thus including in it particularity — still so far as this particularity is in the first instance still abstract, there is no principle at hand to determine it. Such determination therefore starts up also outside that universal; and as heteronomy or determinance of a will which is free and has rights of its own, there awakes here the deepest contradiction. (a) In consequence of the indeterminate determinism of the good, there are always several sorts of good and many kinds of duties, the variety of which is a dialectic of one against another and brings them into collision. At the same time because good is one, they ought to stand in harmony; and yet each of them, though it is a particular duty, is as good and as duty absolute. It falls upon the agent to be the dialectic which, superseding this absolute claim of each, concludes such a combination of them as excludes the rest.

§ 509.

(b) To the agent, who in his existent sphere of liberty is essentially as a particular, his interest and welfare must, on account of that existent sphere of liberty, be essentially an aim and therefore a duty. But at the same time in aiming at the good, which is the not-particular but only universal of the will, the particular interest ought not to be a constituent motive. On account of this independency of the two principles of action, it is likewise an accident whether they harmonise. And yet they ought to harmonise, because the agent, as individual and universal, is always fundamentally one identity.

(c) But the agent is not only a mere particular in his existence; it is also a form of his existence to be an abstract self-certainty, an abstract reflection of freedom into himself. He is thus distinct from the reason in the will, and capable of making the universal itself a particular and in that way a semblance. The good is thus reduced to the level of a mere 'may happen' for the agent, who can therefore decide on something opposite to the good, can be wicked.

§ 510.

(d) The external objectivity, following the distinction which has arisen in the subjective will (§ 503), constitutes a peculiar world of its own — another extreme which stands in no rapport with the internal will-determination. It is thus a matter of chance whether it harmonises with the subjective aims, whether the good is realised, and the wicked, an aim essentially and actually null, nullified in it: it is no less matter of chance whether the agent finds in it his well- being, and more precisely whether in the world the good agent is happy and the wicked unhappy. But at the same time the world ought to allow the good action, the essential thing, to be carried out in it; it ought to grant the good agent the satisfaction of his particular interest, and refuse it to the wicked; just as it ought also to make the wicked itself null and void.

§ 511.

The all-round contradiction, expressed by this repeated ought, with its absoluteness which yet at the same time is not — contains the most abstract 'analysis' of the mind in itself, its deepest descent into itself. The only relation the self-contradictory principles have to one another is in the abstract certainty of self; and for this infinitude of subjectivity the universal will, good, right, and duty, no more exist than not. The subjectivity alone is aware of itself as choosing and deciding. This pure self-certitude, rising to its pitch, appears in the two directly inter-changing forms — of Conscience and Wickedness. The former is the will of goodness; but a goodness which to this pure subjectivity is the non-objective, non-universal, the unutterable; and over which the agent is conscious that he in his individuality has the decision. Wickedness is the same awareness that the single self possesses the decision, so far as the single self does not merely remain in this abstraction, but takes up the content of a subjective interest contrary to the good.

§ 512.

This supreme pitch of the 'phenomenon' of will — sublimating itself to this absolute vanity — to a goodness, which has no objectivity, but is only sure of itself, and a self-assurance which involves the nullification of the universal-collapses by its own force. Wickedness, as the most intimate reflection of subjectivity itself, in opposition to the objective and universal (which it treats as mere sham) is the same as the good sentiment of abstract goodness, which reserves to the subjectivity the determination thereof: - the utterly abstract semblance, the bare perversion and annihilation of itself. The result, the truth of this semblance, is, on its negative side, the absolute nullity of this volition which would fain hold its own against the good, and of the good, which would only be abstract.

On the affirmative side, in the notion, this semblance thus collapsing is the same simple universality of the will, which is the good. The subjectivity, in this its identity with the good, is only the infinite form, which actualises and develops it. In this way the standpoint of bare reciprocity between two independent sides — the standpoint of the ought, is abandoned, and we have passed into the field of ethical life.

Morality (Philosophy of Right) - next section (Ethics)

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