Social Scientist. v 8, no. 87 (Oct 1979) p. 15.

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Concept of Man in Political Theory


PHILOSOPHY, Hegel thought, was a tragedy man played with himself. This was, of course, a very abstract proposition; Hegel used such abstractions liberally. This man whose tragedy was philosophy had to be an abstract man—his society, hFs time, his culture all left unspecified. Still there was an implicit significance in the way Hegel asked this question.

Why should men ever ask themselves what man is? Philosophers have kept coming back to it. On occasions, when society was stable and its politics quiet, they answered this question with an air of finality. For some, man was an incorrigible sinner; for others a seeker of good life, for still others, a seeker of profit. All such certainties were shortlived. While the going was good people accepted these judgments. But these certainties were questioned, turned to doubt and replaced by new ones that appeared adequate for a new age. For ages this inherent relativism was not noticed by philosophers themselves. Insulation between theories was so complete that each group tended to think within the sealed interior of their own system, wondering how others could be so misled on so simple a question. Hegel noted this relativism. Philosophy appeared to him consequently as a most romantic of projects—'the story of man's self-recognition, man's attempt to know what man is. To

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