Page:Ethical Theory of Hegel (1921).djvu/11
One of the difficulties in the study of Hegel’s philosophy is that of finding a starting-point. The theory is a closed circle and does not seem to contain any convenient means of ingress. The approach which Hegel himself provides in the Phenomenology may well seem as formidable a fastness as the castle itself, and sometimes the method which recommends itself most is simply to break in at any point where the wall looks less forbidding than usual. To those who adopt this course the Philosophy of Right has some attractions. For one thing, the treatise is an elaborate re-mapping of ground which Hegel has dealt with on more than one previous occasion, and consequently the style is less burdened by the task of expressing novel ideas. This does not mean, of course, that the style is good, but it is not quite so cumbersome and abstruse as in some of his other writings, and the plan of thought is steadily worked out. Moreover, the work is an expression of Hegel’s mature thought and gives his final views on ethical and political subjects. Behind it lies his whole system, and difficult passages can be supplemented from various sources; on ethical points we can refer to his other ethical writings, and on points of general importance we have the Larger Logic, the Encyclopaedia, and, of course, the Phenomenology to help us. The notes, too, which were collected and added to the first edition of the Werke are very useful, and throw brilliant side-lights on the main principles. The language of these is freer and more vivid than that of the text, though perhaps it is also less strict and reliable.
But the Philosophy of Right has another attraction; for the subject is one with which every reflecting man cannot but be familiar. It is practically impossible in a civilized