Hegel's claim that self-consciousness realizes itself in ethical life is set up with the understanding that un-reactive immersion in the social community is no longer possible for modern human beings in his own time. In Hegel's view, ethical life is created within the culture and practices of the social community of an individual. “Ethical life is a system of norms and mores belonging to a social body, made up of spheres of social interaction and interdependence in which all individuals are embedded.” (Philosophy of Right, III: Ethical Life.) More importantly, the individual must follow that ethical life, and therefore contribute to the society himself. Ethical life is a stage of self consciousness towards which the individual of Hegel’s time is seen by Hegel to be living within, and to be constructing throughout his life. Hegel would claim that the moral individual would not try to dissociate from this, for his own benefit. He argues that reason is manifested in the benefit of the individual rather than of the social.
By this, he means that while earlier forms of government and other institutions were based on a sense of community, the modern government has dialectically adapted to the individualism of modern life. Some of the mentalities in modern life were considered to be dangerous to the welfare of society as a whole. These are centered on the ideal that people might be motivated by selfishness. Hegel turns this idea on its head, claiming instead that the selfishness of the individual allows each person to pursue their own freedoms and lives within and while helping to construct a cultural system -ethical life- that benefits the entire society. In this way, the members of an organized social group resemble permutations o...
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...es the recognition of humanity outside of norms, which are so commonly created by inequality.
An alternative life for the modern individual described in these theories seems to be a moral life, outside of an ethical life. If Hegel believes that morality is the action of choosing between paths to find the right, and that ethical life is a stage of beneficial self consciousness towards which the individual of Hegel’s time is seen by Hegel to live and move without thought to disassociate, then it should be entirely possible to pursue freedom and happiness outside of a culture or society.
Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich, Arnold V. Miller, and J. N. Findlay. Phenomenology of Spirit. Oxford [England: Clarendon, 1977. Print.
“Philosophy of Right, III: Ethical Life”. Sparknotes. Web. Sep. 20, 2005. http://www.sparknotes.com/philosophy/hegel/section6.rhtml
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