FREEDOM AND RIGHT ON THE THOUGHT OF HEGEL
1.1 Background of the Study
Freedom, generally, is having the ability to act or change without constraint. Something is "free" if it can change easily and is not constrained in its present state. In philosophy and religion, it is associated with having free will and being without undue or unjust constraints, or enslavement, and is an idea closely related to the concept of liberty. A person has the freedom to do things that will not, in theory or in practice, be prevented by other forces. Outside of the human realm, freedom generally does not have this political or psychological dimension.
Patterson1, in a bid to describe what freedom means, writes that freedom has three dimensionspersonal, sovereignal, and civic. Patterson describes personal freedom as both the absence of coercion and the ability to do as one pleases, within the limits of other person's desires to do as they please. Sovereignal freedom is the power to act as one pleases, regardless of the desires of other people. Civic freedom is the ability of people to participate in public life, especially governance. Two of the dimensions identified by Patterson—personal and civic—directly include limits. Personal freedom prohibits behavior that infringes on other people's ability to act. Civic freedom is about participating in governance (creating and enforcing rules), not the absence of limits. The other dimension—sovereignal freedom—appears to be a true statement of freedom—you can do whatever you want, ignoring other people's desires. However, as Patterson acknowledges, only one person can be sovereign, since for one person to do as they please, all other people must be subject the sovereign's wishes. Patterson2 writes: The sovereignally free person has the power to restrict the freedom of others or to empower others with the capacity to do as they please with others beneath them. This conception of freedom is always relative. At one extreme stands the person who is absolutely free with respect to another, namely the slavemaster or absolute ruler or god; at the other extreme is the person who has no freedom with respect to another, namely the slave in relation to his master. Between the two are all other human beings with more or less power or freedom, with respect to others. (p. 4) So, sovereignal freedom, as with personal and civic freedoms, requires limits on behavior for all but the sovereign. However, Patterson fails to note that slavemasters are also not free. A slavemaster may have authority over his slaves, but the slavemaster does not have authority over other people. Even slavemasters are subject to political and social constraints. Additionally, Flikschuh3 concludes that freedom is both metaphysically and normatively an "indeterminate" idea. She doesn't consider the harm done to clear communication by using indeterminate terms to describe our fundamental values. Rather, she concludes that we should not look for unanimity where none exists and, instead, recommends that we should "enjoy ... the diversity of liberal freedom meanings and commitments." That might be good advice for entertainment, but we should want to communicate clearly when it comes to life-and-death matters of morality, economics, and politics (Alford4).
The concept of Human rights on the other hand has, over the years, become a contentious issue in all countries in the world. There are contentious issues arising from the definition of Human rights, the methodologies of implementation of binding human Rights rules, acceptance of conventions and declarations as binding on states and countries. One definition is that Human rights belong to all people, or all people who are competent to exercise them. In contrast, a right that only belongs to some people is termed a "special" right. This definition introduces the general nature and Universality of Human Rights. Human Rights are also defined as the rights people are entitled to simply because they are human beings, irrespective of their citizenship, nationality, race, ethnicity, language, sex, sexuality, or abilities; human rights become enforceable when they are codified as conventions, covenants, or treaties, or as they become recognized as customary international law. This shows that Human Rights exist and are enforceable after codification.
It is clear from literature that Hegel certainly destroys human freedom, defined, as it is defined, in the writings of Hobbes, e.g., or Rousseau. "The liberty of man consisteth in this," writes Hobbes, "that he finds no stop, in doing what he has the will, desire, or inclination to do." 2 Hobbes argues that in any kind of social life such liberty, true though it be, is impossible, since it contains the disruption of all human relations. For this reason, so he proceeds, men have abandoned their indubitable right to true freedom, and " they have made an artificial man, which we call a commonwealth; so, also, have they made artificial chains, called ' civil laws.' " In mere point of language, at any rate, the view of Rousseau, as contained in his famous sentence, " Man was born free, but everywhere he is in chains," is not unlike the view of Hobbes. It would be necessary to bring these words of Hobbes and Rousseau into relation with their entire system of thought, before a competent judgment could be passed upon them; for nothing is so easy, and at the same time so ineffectual, as to prove unsound a detached expression, which was never intended by itself to claim validity. But, as it is Hegel with whom we are now concerned, we may, perhaps, assume that these views of Hobbes and Rousseau are ' self-standing,' and can, on that assumption, deal with them summarily. This study however, sought to present an analysis of Hegel’s thought on freedom and human rights.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Many conflicting views on the concepts of freedom and human right abound. Hegel himself refers to a handful of them as 'nebulous images,' which are without any justification in history. Instead of the theory that civil law is a restraint, he argues, as we have shown, that it is the expression of reason; and instead of the view that he who obeys law sacrifices his liberty, he is at pains to prove that only he who yields obedience to rational law can be free. Furthermore, no study has attempted to present Hegel’s thought on the concepts of Freedom and right as opposed to the views of other philosophers.
1.3 Objectives of the Study
The main objective of this study is to present an analysis of Hegel’s thought on freedom and human rights. Specific objectives include;
i. To explore Freedom and Right on the thought of Hegel.
ii. To explore Hegel’s thoughts on Freedom and human rights in the light of other conflicting views.
1.4 Research Questions
i. What is Hegel’s thought on the concepts of freedom and right?
ii. How is Hegel’s thought on freedom and right different from those of other philosophers?
1.5 Significance of the Study
The findings of this study will provide clarity on freedom and right with respect to Hegel’s contributions. This study will be of immense benefit to other researchers who intend to know more on this study and can also be used by non-researchers to build more on their research work. This study contributes to knowledge and could serve as a guide for other study.
1.6 Scope of the Study
This study is restricted to presenting an analysis of Hegel’s thought on Freedom and rights. Secondary data was used for this study.
1.7 Limitations of the study
The demanding schedule of respondents at work made it very difficult getting the respondents to participate in the survey. As a result, retrieving copies of questionnaire in timely fashion was very challenging. Also, the researcher is a student and therefore has limited time as well as resources in covering extensive literature available in conducting this research. Information provided by the researcher may not hold true for all businesses or organizations but is restricted to the selected organization used as a study in this research especially in the locality where this study is being conducted. Finally, the researcher is restricted only to the evidence provided by the participants in the research and therefore cannot determine the reliability and accuracy of the information provided.
Financial constraint: Insufficient fund tends to impede the efficiency of the researcher in sourcing for the relevant materials, literature or information and in the process of data collection (internet, questionnaire and interview).
Time constraint: The researcher will simultaneously engage in this study with other academic work. This consequently will cut down on the time devoted for the research work.
1.8 Definition of Terms
Freedom: Freedom is the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint, and the absence of a despotic government. ... The right to freedom of association is recognized as a human right, a political freedom and a civil liberty.
Human rights: Human rights are moral principles or norms that describe certain standards of human behaviour and are regularly protected in municipal and international law.
1. Patterson, Orlando. (1991). Freedom. New York, NY: Basic Books.
3. FlikschuhKatrin (2007), Freedom, contemporary liberal perspectives.
4. Alford, Fred. (2009). Rethinking Freedom: Why Freedom Has Lost Its Meaning and What Can Be Done to Save It. Gordonsville, VA, USA: Palgrave Macmillan..