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Hegel’s Theory of the Emergence of Subjectivity and the Conditions for the Development of Human Rights

Filozofia, 2019, vol. 74, No 6, pp. 456-471.
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Globalization and mass migration have raised anew the question of the nature and origin of human rights. There have been a number of works that seek inspiration on this issue from the philosophy of Hegel. Usually, the primary focus of these works has, naturally enough, been the main statement of Hegel’s political philosophy, the Philosophy of Right. Scholars go to this work in search of a principle that can ground human rights in such a way that can be meaningfully used in a political and legal context. This body of literature is important in that it draws attention to this aspect of Hegel’s thought and shows how it is relevant for a problem of some topicality today. However, this approach, I wish to argue, takes up the issue at a fairly advanced stage in Hegel’s thinking and fails to see some much more fundamental elements in his way of understanding the concept of human rights, specifically, that the very idea of human rights presupposes a philosophical anthropology and a theory of history since human rights as a concept did not always exist. These aspects of Hegel’s theory have been generally neglected in the secondary literature on the issue of human rights.

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