Philosophy of Right

Author: Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

First Section: The Family.

158. The family is the direct substantive reality of spirit. The unity of the family is one of feeling, the feeling of love. The true disposition here is that which esteems the unity as absolutely essential, and within it places the [p.139] consciousness of oneself as an individuality. Hence, in the family we are not independent persons but members.

Addition.—Love is in general the consciousness of the unity of myself with another. I am not separate and isolated, but win my self-consciousness only by renouncing my independent existence, and by knowing myself as unity of myself with another and of another with me. But love is feeling, that is to say, the ethical in the form of the natural. It has no longer a place in the state, where one knows the unity as law, where, too, the content must be rational, and I must know it. The first element in love is that I will to be no longer an independent self-sufficing person, and that, if I were such a person, I should feel myself lacking and incomplete. The second element is that I gain myself in another person, in whom I am recognized, as he again is in me. Hence love is the most tremendous contradiction, incapable of being solved by the understanding. Nothing is more obstinate than this scrupulosity of self-consciousness, which, though negated, I yet insist upon as something positive. Love is both the source and solution of this contradiction. As a solution it is an ethical union.

159. A right, which comes to the individual by reason of the family and constitutes his life in it, does not appear in the form of a right, that is, the abstract element of a definite individuality, until the family is dissolved. Then those, who should be members, become in feeling and reality self-dependent persons. What was theirs by right of their position in the family, they now receive in separation in an external way, in the form of money, maintenance, or education.

Addition.—The family has this special right, that its substantive nature should have a sphere in actuality. This right is a right against external influences and against abandonment of the unity. But, on the other hand, love is subjective feeling, which, if it oppose the unity of the family, destroys it. If in such a case a unity is insisted on, it can comprehend only things that are external and independent of feeling.

160. The family when completed has the three following Phases:

(a) The form of its direct conception, marriage.
(b) External reality, the family property and goods and the care of them.
(c) Education of children and dissolution of the family. [p.140]

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Chicago: Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, "First Section: The Family.," Philosophy of Right, trans. Dyde, Samuel Walters in The Philosophy of Right (London: G. Bell and Sons, 1896), Original Sources, accessed September 28, 2023,

MLA: Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich. "First Section: The Family." Philosophy of Right, translted by Dyde, Samuel Walters, in The Philosophy of Right, London, G. Bell and Sons, 1896, Original Sources. 28 Sep. 2023.

Harvard: Hegel, GW, 'First Section: The Family.' in Philosophy of Right, trans. . cited in 1896, The Philosophy of Right, G. Bell and Sons, London. Original Sources, retrieved 28 September 2023, from