Designing journeys to the social world: Hegel’s theory of property and his Noble dreams revisited

Author: Haochen Sun

In: Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy, 2010, v. 6 n. 1, p. 33-59.

Abstract: The conventional interpretations of Hegel’s theory of property show that property plays an important role in developing human individuality through the person-to-thing relationship. In this paper, I seek to repudiate the conventional interpretations by demonstrating that they are narrow-minded and unfaithful to Hegel’s thought on property. I then offer a new interpretation of Hegel’s theory of property. By and large, I aim to show that Hegel’s property theory provides a vantage point for us to rethink the relationship between persons and the society in general and the nature of property in particular. Situated in the whole picture of Hegel’s social theory of freedom, I demonstrate that Hegel sees property as a social institution that plays a crucial role in shaping human individuality as well as sociability. On the one hand, mediated by the institution of property, a person nurtures and develops individuality or personal freedom in the social world consisting of things and other persons. On the other hand, the institution of property facilitates the cultivation of sociability by helping human beings become members of our society. Furthermore, social institutions in the Hegelian ethical life act as the indispensable catalyst for empowering property to spark the synergies between human individuality and sociability so as to actualize freedom for all human beings.

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