The place of property in Hegel's Concept of the State
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Chapters II through IV of our inquiry are concerned with exposition and interpretation. In Chapter II, we examine the meaning and the development of property from its beginning in possession to its completion in contract. Here we find that the will exhibits a universality which is not found in things. The will is able to place itself in anyone of an infinite number of things and in doing so, the will takes possession of that thing. But possession is not the same as property, for the fact that a person has a right over things is not yet recognized by others, and every person ~ho does not recognize this right, is a threat to our possession. Only through struggle and cunning is the individual able to maintain his occupancy over the thing and the result of this struggle is an implicit recognition of the right of others to own property. However, this recognition is only implicit. At this point the truce which has been achieved is only a tentative truce. Recognition, and therefore property, becomes explicit only in contract. Contract is possible because man's will is universal, because he is able to alienate any particular piece of property and because one of the means of alienating property is through exchange. In contract we are no longer taking possession of a mere thing, we are now taking possession of a thing into which someone,had previously placed his will and now has consented to remove it. We are granting explicit recognition to his right over things, just as he is granting this same recognition to us. In contract, the universality of the will is also recognized, but the contract is only the result of two immediate wills, thus, while it claims for itself universal validity, it fails to provide the conditions whereby this universality may be realized. Nor may contract claim that it is based on reason, for reason is universally valid, while contract has its validity only between particular wills. Because of this lack, contract contains within itself the seeds of wrong. Crime is a coercive wrong act which threatens to annul the universality of my will by negating my right over a thing. But punishment also is an act of coercion, but it is an act which seeks to annul the crime and which attempts to restore the universal. At this point, two things have occurred: first, we are no longer judging an act merely by its results, but also by its intent punishment and crime are both acts of coercion, but the first intends to violate right, while the second intends to restore it); secondly, the demand arises for an impartial authority who is able to judge intent. But, at this point, no such authority exists [TRUNCATED]
Thesis (M.A.)--Boston University
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