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System of Ethical Life

Source: G.W.F. Hegel, System of Ethical Life (1802/3) and First Philosophy of Spirit (Part III of the System of Speculative Philosophy 1803/4) Edited and translated by T.M. Knox; Published: by State University of New York Press, Albany 1979; Transcribed: by Andy Blunden.

Table of Contents


1. Absolute Ethical Life on the Basis of



Subsumption of Concept under Intuition

First Level: Feeling as

B. Second Level: of Infinity and

Ideality in Form or in Relation


Concept under Intuition


under the Concept


of (a) and (b)

The subsumption of the

The subsumption of Intuition

The Level of the Indifference


The Negative of Freedom or


3. Ethical Life

First Section: The Constitution of the State I. Ethical Life as System, at rest II. Government

A. The Absolute Government

B. Universal Government

a) The first system of

Government: System of need


Government: System of justice


Government: System of Discipline

The second system of

The third system of

C. Free Government

A Note on the Translation

Of all Hegel’s posthumously published manuscripts, the System der Sittlichkeit is perhaps the most enigmatic. Even German scholars who have studied all of the posthumous publications closely do not seem to dissent from this verdict. For example Haering, who made the most comprehensive study of Hegel’s early writings, says: “It is true that the difficulties of understanding it are quite extraordinary” (Hegel, sein Wollen und sein Werk, ii, 338). For this reason we have not always found it entirely possible to render into clear and intelligible English what is scarcely intelligible in German. It has, nevertheless, seemed to us that the effort was worth making because this essay is the earliest of Hegel’s systematic manuscripts that survives intact, and it represents his mature social thought in embryonic form. Its importance, long recognised by German scholars, has now been made clear to Anglo-Saxon students by Shlomo Avineri (Hegel’s Theory of the Modern State, Cambridge, 1972).

The translation is based on the edition of Georg Lasson (originally published by F. Meiner Verlag in 1913). We have used the second edition, of 1923, and have indicated the pagination of this edition in square brackets in the margin of our text. The original draft for the translation was made by T. M. Knox and it is in essence his work. But we have both gone over it thoroughly, and we now share responsibility for whatever errors and imperfections may still be found in it.

T. M. Knox H. S. Harris

September 1977

See Also: Who Thinks Abstractly?, c. 1808

Hegel's System of Ethical Life. Andy Blunden

Commentary on the Young Hegel

Herbert Marcuse. Hegel's First System


Shlomo Avineri. Hegel's Theory of the Modern State

Axel Honneth, Crime and Ethical Life, Hegel's Intersubjectivist Innovation

Georg Lukacs, The Young Hegel

Hegel-by-HyperText Home Page @ marxists.org