The Ethics of Democracy

A Contemporary Reading of Hegel's Philosophy of Right

By Lucio Cortella
Translated by Giacomo Donis

Subjects: Hegel, Political Philosophy, Philosophy, Democracy, Political Theory
Series: SUNY series in Contemporary Italian Philosophy
Paperback : 9781438457543, 242 pages, July 2016
Hardcover : 9781438457536, 242 pages, October 2015

Alternative formats available from:

Table of contents

Translator’s Introduction
Preface to the English Translation
Preface to the Original Italian Edition: Does Democracy Need Ethics?
Introduction. Morality and Ethical Life: Key Concepts in Hegel’s Conception of the Political
1. Freedom and the Absolute
2. The Age of Universal Freedom
3. Actualization of Ethical Life: The Sphere of the State
4. Elements of a Postidealist Ethical Life: A Democratization of Hegel’s Political Philosophy

Demonstrates how the ethical underpinning of Hegel’s political and social philosophy has relevance for contemporary democratic life.


The legal regulations and formal rules of democracy alone are not enough to hold a society together and govern its processes. Yet the irreducible ethical pluralism that characterizes contemporary society seems to make it impossible to impose a single system of values as a source of social cohesion and identity reference. In this book, Lucio Cortella argues that Hegel's theory of ethical life can provide such a grounding and makes the case through an analysis of Hegel's central political work, the Philosophy of Right. Although Hegel did not support democratic political ends and wrote in a historical and cultural context far removed from the current liberal-democratic scene, Cortella maintains that the Hegelian theory of ethical life, with its emphasis on securing a framework conducive to human freedom, nevertheless offers a convincing response to the problem of the ethical uprootedness of contemporary democracy.

Lucio Cortella is Full Professor of History of Philosophy at the Ca' Foscari University of Venice in Italy. Giacomo Donis is a professional translator.


"[The book's] heart is an intelligent, sympathetic analysis of the first two sections of Hegel's Philosophy of Right." — CHOICE

"That democracy is the best form of government has, since Hegel's time, become an almost unquestioned assumption in political philosophy. Hegel's opposition to direct democracy seems then to put him squarely on the wrong side of history, forcing sympathetic interpreters either to defend or discount this unfortunate choice. Lucio Cortella's book is a welcome addition to this debate." — Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews