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Person as Property- Understanding Hegel

Author: Seena Kuriakose, Research Assistant, Inter University Centre for IPR Studies, CUSAT, Kerela, India

Abstract What is the philosophy behind slavery? Are ‘slaves’ property of their masters? How does the concept of ‘free-will’ apply at any given circumstance? The term ‘property’ whether it be in a socio-legal sense or economic or political sense is definitely a matter of subjective interpretation. Numerous jurists and philosophers have had their own takes on the evolution of this concept and the jurisprudence of property have led to the formation of its own separate school of thought. The present paper deals with the Hegelian concept of property; with more emphasize on person being considered as a property. Are body and soul objects? Can one alienate one’s body? Can a person be possessed? Can one subject oneself to another? The author attempts to answer these questions, by referring to the German philosopher’s main works: ‘Philosophy of Right’ and ‘Phenomenology of Spirit’. This paper will also critically analyse on how influenced was Friedrich Hegel in reaching his philosophical justification of treating ‘slaves as property’ and how much had his contemporary world got rooted in him. Though the paper analyses the slavery concept of Hegel, the analysis gains contemporary importance in the light of recent events which took place in America, where a black American citizen was brutally killed by a white American law enforcement officer. Keywords: Property, Person as Property, Rights.

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