Source: King's Law Journal, Volume 15, Number 1, 2004 , pp. 45-62(18)

Publisher: Hart Publishing

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This essay examines Hegel's changing treatment of the ‘Beautiful Soul’ from his early to his later work. It considers the relevance of this change for thinking about modern law. In rejecting the Beautiful Soul in his mature work, Hegel moves from a radical ‘expressive’ morality to one endorsing market society, private property, and individual legal and moral subjectivity. Expressive morality stressed wholeness while the modern morality he came to accept reflected a partiality and antinomialism he had originally rejected. Hegel sought unsuccessfully to rationalise these changes in his mature philosophy, and this is seen in his treatment of law, which is itself antinomial. A primary antinomy is that of the ideal and the actual, which stems from the failure of modern society to inscribe an expressive morality at its core. This antinomialism is seen in modern legal theory and practice where law sets up a ‘positivised ideal’ reliant on ‘law terms’ like the ‘internal’, the ‘positive’, ‘legal formalism’, ‘legal form’ and ‘universality’. Such terms only presuppose their excluded opposites ‘externality’, ‘morality’, ‘informalism’, ‘content’, ‘particularity’) as part of the law. While these antinomies directly link law and its morality to a historical form of society based upon private property, they also indicate a morality that lies beyond, but echoes in, them. Revisiting the Beautiful Soul, reading the early Hegel against his mature work, reminds us what is morally, politically, socially, and historically at stake in the modern law.

Keywords: Beautiful Soul; Hegel; antinomy; ethical naturalism; expressive morality; ideal and actual; law; moral realism

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2004

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  • Until 2007 the King's Law Journal was known as the King's College Law Journal. It was established in 1990 as a legal periodical publishing scholarly and authoritative Articles, Notes and Reports on legal issues of current importance to both academic research and legal practice. It has a national and international readership, and publishes refereed contributions from authors across the United Kingdom, from continental Europe and further afield (particularly Commonwealth countries and USA). The journal includes a Reviews section containing critical notices of recently published books.
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