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Hegel argues in the preface to the Philosophy of Right that "every individual is a child of his time; so philosophy too is its own time apprehended in thoughts." "It is just as absurd," he maintains, "to fancy [the German word is einbilden: imagine, presume] that a philosophy can transcend its contemporary world as it is to fancy that an individual can overleap his own age, jump over Rhodes." This is a hard saying. It suggests that " '[t]here is not one of our ideas or one of our reflexions which does not carry a date.' " The fact that a given philosophical project has a date does not, of course, mean that it is necessarily (out)dated. Nonetheless, if Hegel is right, if a philosophy is always already bound to its own time, we must squarely face the obstacles which stand in the way of the project undertaken in these pages: an examination of Hegel's relevance for the theory and practice of law in the twentieth century.

Several questions seem pertinent to our purpose: Can we expect to shed light on problems in contemporary legal theory and practice through analysis of the work of a man for whom the dependence of thought on the particular socio-historical conditions of its production was axiomatic? Can an audience of late twentieth century, (primarily) English-speaking American scholars hope meaningfully to translate the work of an early nineteenth-century German who described his project as an attempt to teach philosophy to speak in his native tongue? Given the difficulty of translation-both as a methodological and philosophical problem-is an effort to make (Hegel's) German speak in (our) English doomed to end in aporetic babble? Have we any reason, in short, to believe that we can supersede or leap over (overleap) the temporal, socio-cultural, and linguistic distance which separates us from Hegel? These questions are not merely rhetorical. To view them as such would be to foreclose any prospect of opening up Hegel's texts beyond their nineteenth-century European provenance. For my part, any serious engagement with Hegelian dialectical method in our time and place must take these questions seriously.


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