Hegel. The Philosophical Propadeutic. 1808-1811

The Science of Laws, Morals and Religion
[For the Lower Class]


1. The object of this science is the Human Will in its relations as the Particular Will to the Universal Will: to the Will which is Lawful and Just or in accordance with Reason. As Will the Mind stands in a practical relation to itself. The practical way of acting [Verhalten], through which it brings determination into its determinateness or opposes other determinations of its own in the place of those already existing in it without its cooperation, is to be distinguished from its theoretical way of acting.

2. Consciousness, as such, is the relation of the Ego to an object; this object may be internal or external. Our Knowing contains objects, some of which we obtain a knowledge of through Sensuous Perception; others, however, have their origin in the Mind itself. The former, taken together, constitute the Sensuous World; the latter, the Intelligible World. Judicial [rechtlichen = legal], ethical and religious conceptions belong to the latter.

3. In the relation of the Ego and object to each other the Ego is (a) passive; in which case the object is regarded as the cause of the determinations in the Ego and the particular ideas [Vorstellungen] which the Ego has are attributed to the impression made upon it by the immediate objects before it. This is the Theoretical Consciousness. Whether it be in the form of perception or of imagination or of the thinking activity its content is always a given and extant something, a content having existence independent of the Ego.

On the contrary, (b) the Ego manifests itself as Practical Consciousness when its determinations are not mere ‘ideas’ and thoughts, but issue forth into external existence. In this process the Ego determines the given things or objects, so that the former is active and the latter are passive, i.e. the Ego is the cause of changes in the given objects.

4. Practical Ability [Vermögen] as such determines itself from within, i.e. through itself. The content of its determinations belongs to it and it recognizes that content for its own. These determinations, however, are at first only internal and, for this reason, separated from the external reality, but they are to become external and be realized. This is done through the [conscious] Act. By such an Act internal practical determinations receive externality: i.e. external Being. Conversely, this process may be regarded as the cancelling of an extant externality and the bringing of the same into harmony with the internal determination.

5. The internal determination of the Practical Consciousness is either Impulse [Trieb] or Will Proper [eigentlicher Wille]. Impulse is a natural self-determination which rests upon circumscribed feelings and has a limited finite end in view which it cannot transcend. In other words, it is the unfree, immediately determined. Lower Appetite [niedere Begehrungsvermögen] according to which man ranks as a creature of nature. Through Reflection he transcends Impulse and its limitations, and not only compares it with the means of its gratification but also compares these means one with another and the impulses one with another, and both of these with the object and end of his own existence. He then yields to the decision of Reflection and gratifies the Impulse or else represses it and renounces it.

6. The Will Proper, or the Higher Appetite, is (a) pure indeterminateness of the Ego, which as such has no limitation or a content which is immediately extant through nature but is indifferent towards any and every determinateness. (b) The Ego can, at the same time, pass over to a determinateness and make a choice of some one or other and then actualize it.

7. The Abstract Freedom of the Will consists in this very indeterminateness, or identity of the Ego with itself, wherein a determination occurs only in so far as the Ego makes it its own [assimilates it] or posits it within itself. And yet in this act it remains self-identical and retains the power to abstract again from each and every determination. There may be presented to the Will, from without, a great variety of incitements, motives and laws but man, in following the same, does this only in so far as the Will itself makes these its own determinations and resolves to actualize them. This, too, is the case with the determinations of the Lower Appetites, or with what proceeds from natural Impulses and Inclinations.

8. The Will has Moral Responsibility [Schuld] in so far as (a) its determination is made its own solely from its own self, or by its resolve: i.e. [in so far as] the Ego wills it, and (b) it is conscious of the determinations which are produced through its act as they lie in its resolve or are necessarily and immediately involved in its consequences.

9. A Deed [Tat] is, as such, the produced change and determination of a Being. To an Act [Handlung], however, belongs only what lay in the resolve or was in the consciousness [and] hence what the Will acknowledges as its own.

10. The free Will, as free, is moreover not limited to the determinateness and individuality through which one individual is distinguished from another but is Universal Will and the individual is, as regards his Pure Will, a Universal Being.

11. The Will can, in various ways, take up into itself external content, that is, a content which does not proceed from its own nature and make this content its own. In this the Will remains self-identical only in form. It is, namely, conscious of its power to abstract from each and every content and recover its pure form but it does not remain self-identical as regards its content and essence. In so far as it is such a Will it is really only the Will-of-Choice [Willkür] [or Arbitrariness].

12. But that the Will may be truly and absolutely free it is requisite that what it wills, or its content, be naught else than the Will itself i.e. the pure self-determination, or the act that is in harmony with itself. It is requisite that it wills only in-itself and has itself for its object. The Pure Will, therefore, does not will some special content or other on account of its speciality but in order that the Will as such may in its deed be free and be freely actualized; in other words, that the Universal Will may be done.

The more precise determination and development of these universal maxims of the [rational] Will belong to the Science of Laws, Morals and Religion.


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