"The I is a We, the We is an I." Hegel's maxim is not only the condition of possibility an ethical community, but also of an individual who is truly self-conscious, recognized, autonomous, free, something that both individual and society must realize. The individual, the criminal, is not an abstraction, a pure ethereal "I" that stands over and above the concrete conditions inside which it acts. The criminal lives in a world just as any individual does.
In abstracting the criminal we abstract ourselves. In an early essay "Who Thinks Abstractly?", Hegel uses the image of the criminal to critique "abstract thinking." He writes:
One who knows men traces the development of the criminal's mind: he finds in his history, in his education, a bad family relationship between his father and mother, some tremendous harshness after this human being had done some minor wrong, so he became embittered against the social order — a first reaction to this that in effect expelled him and henceforth did not make it possible for him to preserve himself except through crime. — There may be people who will say when they hear such things: he wants to excuse this murderer!...This is abstract thinking: to see nothing in the murderer except the abstract fact that he is a murderer, and to annul all other human essence in him with this simple quality.