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Compiled by Anthony Harrison-Barbet


HEGEL

(1770 — 1831)

 

ABSOLUTE IDEALISM

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel was born in Stuttgart, the son of a civil servant. He was educated at the local Gymnasium and then studied philosophy and theology at the University of Tübingen (where he became friends with Schelling and the poet Hölderin). After graduating he worked for seven years as a family tutor, during which time he started to write. In 1801 he became a professor at Jena but had to leave when the university closed down in 1806 because of the Battle of Jena. He then edited a newspaper, and was appointed Rector of a grammar school in Nuremburg. He was a professor at Heidelberg in 1816, and two years later he succeeded Fichte in the chair at Berlin, where he died of cholera.

 

[Sources: Hegel's philosophy is set out systematically in his Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences, which is essentially a construction of the life of the 'Absolute'. In the earlier Phenomenology of the Spirit he had sought to trace the development of consciousness through its various stages up to the level of absolute or philosophical knowledge: but much of what he wrote in this book was later incorporated into Part III of the Encyclopedia. Part I of the Encyclopedia, the so-called 'Lesser Logic' was a revised version of his earlier Science of Logic; Part II is his Philosophy of Nature. The following account is based largely on the Encyclopedia. References are to the 'Divisions' and chapters, and to the relevant numbered sections (Part I: 1-244; Part II: 192-298; Part III: 377-577].

 

Introductory Summary:

THE METAPHYSICAL SYSTEM/ KNOWLEDGE

[1] In common with his idealist predecessors, Fichte and Schelling, Hegel built on the philosophy of Kant. But, as against the Königsberg philosopher, he attributed to human reason the capacity to grasp the Real. There is for Hegel no unknowable 'thing-in-itself': Reality is knowable. The real is the rational, and the rational is the real [a]. He also rejected the phenomenal and noumenal dichotomy and the sharp division Kant made between reason and sense/ feeling or desire; for Hegel the two aspects were reconciled in the Real [b]. Hegel's metaphysical system comprehends all aspects of his philosophy — theory of knowledge, philosophy of Nature, philosophy of mind, ethics, aesthetics, philosophy of religion, and philosophy of history. The central concept is that of the Absolute, the infinite creative totality in which all finite distinctions are unified. He regards this as Spirit (Geist) and self-thinking thought, an identity-in-difference of the ideal and real, of subjectivity and objectivity. It is a necessary process of self-development from potentiality to actuality, which reveals itself in and through finite Nature, its self-knowledge being achieved through the philosophical reflection of man (and articulated finally, we might suppose, in Hegel's own thought and philosophy) [c].

 

METHODOLOGY

[2] The inner essence of the Absolute as it is 'in itself' is revealed through logic. But this is neither the logic of Aristotle nor modern formal logic. Hegel's method is dialectical. Dialectic is to be understood as the articulation, exploration, revelation of categories undergoing a progressive transformation culminating in the category of the Absolute Idea [a]. Underlying this is a distinction between understanding (Verstand) and reason (Vernunft). Through the understanding we may grasp concepts such as the finite and the infinite, the one and the many, reality and appearance. Such polar oppositions may be important in our everyday practical lives or in the sciences. But Hegel sees reliance on the understanding as limited in so far as its concepts are 'static', rigid, and superficial; and it does not allow these 'contradictories' to be overcome. The understanding cannot supply us with knowledge of the life of the Absolute. To transcend oppositions, overcome contradictions, requires (dynamic) reason or speculative thought; this alone can grasp how one concept or category can pass over into its opposite, both being united in a higher identity-in-difference. Central to the rational process is negation (for Hegel to negate is to determine and to posit); and the process is triadic: a thesis is opposed by its antithesis; both are taken up in a new synthesis. The synthesis is in turn opposed by a new antithesis; and eventually the ultimate self-explanatory principle is attained. This is the dialectical method, motivated, as it were, by an inner necessity of Reason, an Absolute process working through the finitude of the human spirit to resolve 'contradictions' and achieve self-knowledge. Put more simply, the Absolute comes to know itself through human philosophical reflection [b]. Hegel's philosophical system is a 'deduction' (though not in the narrow sense as used in formal logic) of the categories leading progressively through to ever more coherent, that is, true intellectual revelations of the Real, culminating in the category of the Absolute itself. These categories are at once 'definitions' of the Absolute and, as universal concepts, applicable to the actual existent entities constituting the universe. And the Absolute is implicit in each individual category in so far as each constitutes an element in the total system [c].

 

Hegel's metaphysical system, as presented in the Encyclopedia:

[I. Logic]

[3] [Encl.I, 1-83] The function of logic (as Hegel understands it) is to make possible the study of the Absolute or Idea as it is 'in itself ' — as 'potential' rather than 'actual' Spirit, to reveal its inner essence through the dialectic deduction of the categories by pure reason. The Absolute spirit as self-thinking thought manifesting itself in finite Nature thereby comes to know its own being. (Logic and metaphysics thus coincide) [a].

[Division 1of the Logic] is the Doctrine of Being [84ff.]. The fundamental or first category, logically and ontologically, is that of pure Being (Sein). But as it is completely empty or indeterminate it passes over into non-Being or nothing. However, the 'contradiction' of Being and non-Being (thesis versus antithesis) is resolved in the higher synthesis of Becoming [88]. Becoming is then shown to give rise to Determinate Being [89] by removing from it the element of change and replacing it by rest. Within the category of Determinate Being Quality as thesis gives rise to Limit as antithesis, from which the synthesis of the 'True Infinite' is deduced [94] [b]. This in turn gives way to the category of Being-for-self [96ff.] which contains the triad The One, the Many, and Repulsion-Attraction. Hegel then moves from this to the spheres firstly of Quantity [99] and then of Measure [107]. [To understand precisely how each category has been supposedly deduced from that which precedes it the reader should read Hegel's own detailed account in the Encyclopedia.]

.[Division 2] is the Doctrine of Essence (Wesen) [112-159]. Hegel calls the concepts in this Division categories of reflection, in that they relate to a reflective consciousness which has access to the inner essence lying behind Being in its phenomenal existence. From the category of Essence as Ground of Existence [115-128] he derives 'The Thing' — an existent considered under the aspect of both 'reflection-into-self' (self-subsistence) and reflection-into-another (dependence); while 'The Thing' is analysable into inherent dependent properties, which in turn are seen as independent 'matters' of which a thing is composed. This leads to a deduction of Matter as such and its correlate, Form. Matter "the immediate unity of existence with itself", is "indifferent towards specific character" and is thus is indeterminate, featureless; while Form, "the reflective category of difference" constitutes and defines the thing's distinct properties and their external relations to each other. As Hegel explains, the category of The Thing as a totality is a contradiction:

On the side of its negative unity it is Form in which Matter is determined and deposed to the rank of properties. At the same time it consists of Matters, which in the reflection-of-the-thing-into-itself are as much independent as they are at the same time negatived. Thus the thing is the essential existence, in such a way as to be an existence that suspends or absorbs itself in itself. In other words the thing is an Appearance or Phenomenon. [128]

Actuality (Wirklichkeit) [142-159] is the synthesis of (a) Essence as Ground of Existence and (b) Appearance [131-140], that is, the inner and outer aspects of Being. From Actuality he ultimately derives Substance and Existence, Cause (active substance) and Effect (passive substance), and Reciprocity (in which category activity is passivity and vice versa). Being and Essence in turn produce a synthesis in the category of the Notion or Concept (Begriff) — [Division 3] [c]. Hegel's argument here is that while each category in the category of Being is seemingly self-sufficient and immediate, and the categories in the category of Essence are relational and mediational, the category of the Notion is seen to be self-mediating, passing from itself into its opposite yet remaining itself. This category of Notion [160] is subdivided into a formal or subjective aspect, which leads to a deduction of logic in its traditional sense, and an objective aspect under which are subsumed the categories of the concept of Nature (the 'sensuous' realm) — 'Mechanism' [195], 'Chemism' [200], and their synthesis as Teleology [204]. In the unity and identity of the Subjective Notion and Objective Notion we have the the category of the Idea [213]. This in turn has three phases: Life [216], Cognition [223], and the Absolute Idea [236]. This last is the synthesis of the life-process (in which the organic has reabsorbed the inorganic into itself) and self-thinking thought or Spirit, which both knows itself in and as the object: "The Absolute Idea alone is being, eternal life, self-knowing truth, and it is all truth, it is the one subject-matter and content of philosophy" [Science of Logic, 1781]. It is "the noesis noeseos which Aristotle long ago termed the supreme form of the idea." [Encl. 236 n.] [d].

 

[II. Philosophy of Nature]

[4] [Encycl. II, 192-5] From the Logical Idea Hegel moves to his Philosophy of Nature, which is the Absolute or Idea considered 'for itself ' — as 'self-alienated' Spirit. As the means whereby the Absolute realizes itself, comes to a knowledge of itself through the human spirit, Nature must be a precondition for this process; and Hegel sees the deduction of Nature as revealing it. The Absolute as Idea cannot exist separate from Nature but is yet logically prior to it. Nature in its structure and universality is the manifestation of free rational Spirit and is thus a necessary process, its explanation being given in terms of reason; but considered in itself, in its concrete particularity, it is abstracted from and is external to the Idea and is thus the realm of contingency, though a contingency which is essential to Nature. Hegel says Nature is 'impotent' to keep within the bounds of reason and thus far is irrational. Nature is a 'decline' (Abfall) from the Idea. Thus we might say, consistently with his dialectic, that Nature is both identity of necessity-in-contingency and freedom-in-determinism. Contingent Nature is a necessary realization of free Spirit and is knowable through the dialectic. Clearly Hegel rejects the view that it is the Non-Ego which yet remains within the sphere of a conscious Absolute Ego and that it is to be known only practically — as the means through which individual egos can realize themselves morally [a].

The category of Nature gives rise to three Divisions: Mechanics [206ff.], Physics [218ff.], and Organics [260ff.]. From the first we may derive the categories of Space and Time, Matter and Motion, and Absolute Mechanics. Further deductions can then be made. As for space and time [197-199, 200-02], Hegel, disregarding Kant's 'subjective idealism', considers these to be abstractions, that is, pure forms, devoid of any kind of determination or character, and as such are in stark opposition to the 'internality' of mind or thought, that is, Being [b]. "Space and time constitute the idea in and for itself, with space the real or immediately objective side and time the purely subjective side" [203]. Time in its concept is "like the concept itself generally, eternal, and therefore absolute presence" [201] . Space and time, he says, disappear and regenerate in each other, thus constituting motion, a becoming, which is the "identically existing unity of both", or matter. But this transition from ideality to reality, from abstraction to concrete existence, a transition from space and time to reality, appearing as matter, as a given entity, is incomprehensible to the understanding.

These divisions and sub-divisions represent Hegel's attempt to work through the dialectical process of the Absolute in Nature, which underlies the concepts, structures, and empirically observable data of the sciences. He is thus concerned with a Philosophy of Nature and not with this or that scientific hypothesis; and with logical deduction, not with explanation of particulars in terms of efficient causality.

 

MIND

[III. Philosophy of Spirit]

[5] Although the Absolute or Idea is reflected and manifested in Nature, the human spirit is required to effect its transition from Nature to existent Spirit 'in-and-for-itself'. Hegel's treatment of this transition and the emergence of Absolute existent Spirit constitutes the third part of his dialectical system.

Division 1 of the Philosophy of Spirit [Encycl. III, 387-482] is the category of (finite and non-conscious) Subjective Spirit. From within the Sphere of 'Anthropology' (the soul) Hegel deduces the categories of the Natural Soul (Physical Qualities, Physical Alterations, Sensibility); the Feeling Soul (in its Immediacy, Self-feeling, Habit); and the Actual Soul [411]. The Actual Soul is an organic unity of an 'inner' and an 'outer' aspect, respectively universal soul and particular body in which the universality is manifested. (Mechanical relationships apply only to 'inert' matter.) It is doubtful that Hegel accepted that the soul is literally immortal [a]. (In his note to 34 of the Logic he refers to the pre-Kantian view of the soul as a 'thing' and comments on the ambiguity of this word. If by this we mean "an immediate existence, something we represent in sensuous form", then the soul is "in space and sensuously envisaged"; and we can ask whether it is simple or composite. And he adds that the question is important as bearing on the soul's immortality, which is supposed to depend on the absence of composition.)

But the fact is, that in abstract simplicity we have a category which as little corresponds to the nature of the soul, as that of compositeness. The actual soul is self-enclosed or self-contained, possessing self-feeling, sensation, and so on, but lacking self-consciousness.

The soul's consciousness of itself arises only as a consequence of its rational awareness of external objects (qua real universals) [424] [b]. This leads to the Sphere of Phenomenology — consciousness in relation to others.

We now have the triad of Consciousness Proper [418-23] (Sensuous Consciousness, Sense-Perception, Intellect); Self-Consciousness [424-437] (Appetite/ Instinctive Desire), 'Self-Consciousness Recognitive', (Universal Self-Consciousness); and Reason [438]. Hegel here takes up and develops many of the ideas he had set out in the Phenomenology of Spirit. He starts with the supposed immediacy and certainty of sense-apprehension of individual objects. But our knowledge is only of abstractions; all descriptions, even of 'this' are of universals applicable to other objects. There is thus an emptying of particularity: the 'this' does not exist; there is a self-contradiction in sense-perception as between the individual and the universal. The thing then has to be conceived as mediated through perception — as a nexus of universals [c]. Sense-perception in turn gives way to the realm of scientific intellect (that is, understanding). The intellect recognises the universal laws (essence) which explain individual phenomena (appearances) [d]. Appearance is thus reconciled with real essence; law and phenomenon are identical. In its new phase consciousness becomes self-conscious. Self-consciousness, considered initially as appetite, seeks to control or appropriate the external object to itself. However, genuine self-consciousness demands that another self be recognised not as an object to be annihilated but as a self (the 'slave') which will acknowledge the first self's own selfhood (the 'master')But such a relationship is inherently unstable, in so far as the slave is thereby reduced to an unreal thing and therefore cannot provide the master with his guarantee of freedom. Further, through labour, doing his master's bidding, the slave "makes himself" and becomes independent and self-conscious. 'Self-consciousness Recognitive' thereupon leads to universal self-consciousness, a stage at which mutual recognition of each other's self-consciousness is achieved. Consciousness and self-consciousness can then be unified through Reason (Vernunft), which both enables the subject to recognise the distinction between itself and the object and yet sees that the distinction lies within itself. The object becomes identity-in-difference [e].

The Sphere of Psychology [ 440-82] is now attained: this is the Sphere of Mind (Geist) in itself. Again we have a deduction of three categories: Theoretical Mind [445-68] (Intuition, Representation — including Recollection, Imagination, and Memory, — and Thinking); Practical Mind [469-80 (Practical Sense Impulses and Choice, Happiness); and Free Mind [481]. As in the case of categories relating to the sciences, Hegel's treatment here concerns not an empirical discipline of psychology but the dialectical process, that is, the deduction of the stages through which the active finite spirit passes. He argues that the free mind (or 'will') arises as the unity of the theoretical and practical spirit, and exists for itself as free, that is self-determining, self-conscious will — as "free intelligence". In that way Spirit-in-Itself is identified with Rational Will [f].

 

ETHICS

[6] [gen 6] [Division 2 of the Philosophy of Spirit, Encycl. III, 483-552] is the category of Objective Spirit. Inner Subjective Spirit must now pass over into external objectivity. Within this category Hegel distinguishes Abstract Right, Morality and Social Ethics, and within the Sphere of Abstract Right [487-502] he includes Property [488-92], Contract [493-95], and Wrong (tort and crime) [496-502]. Free and intelligent individual wills express themselves objectively and universally by utilizing material things and thus come to 'own' them. Property can also be given up: the thing becomes 'alienated' [a]. But two or more wills can agree to own property for some common purpose, and this gives rise to the concept of contract. In so far as a contract can be broken this leads to the concept of wrong, the 'negation' of which Hegel sees as the concept of punishment. From this he derives his dialectical treatment of morality. Punishment being 'external', the opposition of a particular will (as practical mind) determines itself to harmonize with universal will and thus becomes moral will [b].

The Sphere of Morality [503-12], is subdivided into Purpose [504], Intention and Well-Being [505-6] and Goodness and Wickedness [507-12]. Morality is grounded in action; and understood 'formally' the moral will is that which regards itself alone as the source of its principle of action. But he recognises that everything we do has consequences. These are our 'performances' or 'transactions' (Handlungen). He reserves the term 'deed' (Tat) to be used in a strict sense for those actions which we will purposefully and whose consequences we have foreseen. The ends at which we aim, which we intend, and which Hegel sees as satisfying our human needs, securing our welfare, have a role to play in morality [c]. However, subjectivity or egoism is transcended in so far as our particular wills are directed towards the welfare of all, and are identified with the rational will itself [d]. The good will is thus that which recognises an obligation to conform its particularity to the universal spirit. Recognition of right and duty, and thereby the good, is guaranteed by conscience [e]. In so far as the will is rational and wills the universal Notion, that is, the moral or legal law, rather than following desire it is free. Complete realization of its freedom coincides with the will's objective self-contemplation and thereby brings about the good and happiness (as the will's universal satisfaction). The "absolute purpose of the world" is thus achieved. At the same time, for Hegel the universe as a totality is already absolute Good. But in so far as the finite will regards the world as alien and as constricting, it sees the good as yet to be accomplished [f].

 

POLITICAL/ SOCIAL PHILOSOPHY

[7] So far, Hegel says, we are confined to the realm of subjectivity — the inner aspect of morality (Moralitt). Now, as action is manifested in the external world this concept permits a transition to the outer aspect of morality, that is, customary or Social Ethics (Sittlichkeit) in which Abstract Right and Morality can be unified. The Sphere of Social Ethics [513-52] covers the deduction of the Family [518-22], Civil Society [523-34], and the State [535-52]. With reference to the respective roles played by individuals in relation to the family and civil society, Hegel thinks of these concepts as in opposition. Individuals belong to the family as parts of a unity, while in civil society they are separate, discrete elements seeking their own satisfaction. The universality of the former concept and the particularity of the latter are reconciled in the unity-in-difference of the concept of the 'organic' State. The State, as the actualization of the rational self-conscious will and expressing objective Spirit, is the source of the concept of right and morality [a]. The individual's duties are determined by his position in the social organism; and it is in identifying his will with the general will of the state that the individual actualizes his freedom [b]. And it is the State which provides the framework for the satisfaction of individual needs and promotes self-realization, though at the same time the state and its institutions alienate the individual in that they oppose and constrain him [c]. And he regards this provision as a test of the suitability or effectiveness of the political constitution of a mature rational state. But he recognises also that there are many possible constitutions, each having developed historically from and therefore "in identity with" the respective 'spirit' (Volksgeist) of different nations. He is not therefore proposing any utopian or ideal political structure within which uniquely the moral life can most perfectly be achieved [d]. Rather he is showing how the history of states can be understood in terms of the dialectical teleological process of self-actualizing Spirit. Hence his concern with world-history in which the Spirit manifests itself as World-Spirit (Weltgeist) through human consciousness [d]. [See also sec. 9.]

 

ART, RELIGION, AND PHILOSOPHY

[8] [Division 3 of the Philosophy of Spirit, Encycl. III, 553-77]: Absolute Spirit. With the concept of Absolute Spirit Hegel claims to have reconciled and brought into a higher synthesis the concepts of Subjective and Objective Spirit. Spirit, while operating through the finite spirit of national states, is free from their limitations and recognises its own infinitude. This recognition — Absolute Spirit's actualization as self-thinking Thought — is realized through the Spheres of Art, Religion, and Philosophy [a]. However, while at the conceptual dialectical level we can grasp that there is a successive transition from art to religion to philosophy, Hegel accepts that different stages of the temporal historical continuum in which the dialectical process is implicit may not be coincident with it; all three manifestations of the human spirit may be present simultaneously but in various stages of development. Accordingly in his account of the Absolute in all these phases he exhibits the historical process as well as deducing the logical or conceptual transition from each stage to the next.

The Sphere of Art [556-63]. In the context of the dialectic the Absolute, Hegel says, is manifested in sensuous appearance as beauty. His idea of beauty is called the Ideal, and is the unity of subjectivity (spirit) and objectivity (matter), as found in the work of art. (Beauty occurs in Nature too, but he thinks it is superior in art, which is the immediate creation of Spirit.) Depending on the relationship of the (ideal) content to the (sensuous) form, different types of art may be distinguished. If the sensuous predominates over the content, we have symbolic art (for example, of India and Egypt); if the spiritual and sensuous elements are found in a harmonious unity we have Classical art (such as that of the Greeks); while if the spiritual aspect 'overflows' the sensuous, we have 'romantic' art (the art of Christendom). And Hegel regards this last as the highest type in so far as it is in Romantic art that the transition to the Sphere of Religion is effected. However, considered as art in itself, that is, as judged by aesthetic standards, Classical art is the perfect type. Hegel goes on to show that each type of art is associated with particular arts, though not in a rigid or mutually exclusive way. Thus, architecture tends to be characteristic of Symbolic art, sculpture primarily of Classical art, and poetry, painting, and music (which involve action and conflict) of Romantic art: but there are of course Classical and Romantic forms of architecture. Hegel's discussion of poetry is particularly interesting. He distinguishes between epic poetry (whose principle is objectivity) and lyrical poetry (subjectivity). Dramatic poetry represents their higher synthesis and is characterized by 'collision'. In tragic drama (Hegel has in mind particularly Greek drama especially the Antigone) conflicts arise from the opposing but equally justifiable ethical claims espoused by the characters. In conformity with his dialectic he argues that the antagonists achieve a kind of reconciliation in death [b]. Comic drama by contrast justifies what has ethical value through its exposure of worthlessness. Both kinds of drama are said to be unified in a third type which Hegel calls the 'social play'. With poetry the organic unity of the 'spiritual' and the 'sensuous', which characterizes art, is fractured. Art thereby abolishes itself, and Spirit moves into the higher Sphere of Religion.

The Sphere of Religion [564-71] is divided into the deducible categories of Religion in General, 'Definite' Religion, and the 'Absolute' Religion — which Hegel identifies with Christianity. He regards this Sphere as intermediate between the Spheres of Art and Philosophy in that unlike the former it thinks the Absolute, but it differs from the latter in so far as what is revealed of the Absolute is through images (Vorstellungen), for example, the notions of creation, God as a (triune) person, the incarnation, and not through pure concepts. These images are at once sensuous (particular) and rational (universal). The category of Religion in General allows a further deduction into three phases of religious consciousness. (1) God is the universal, infinite, and only true reality, lacking all differentiation [c]. (2) The finite individual creature sees the infinite God as set against him: hence his feelings of being a 'sinner' and alienated. (3) Through religious rituals the union between the finite and the infinite is restored. Hegel then embarks on a consideration of the development of particular religions in the various cultures which have appeared in the course of history (Definite Religion). He distinguishes (a) Religions of Nature, which involve (i) magic, (ii) a conception of God as 'Substance' ('pantheisms' such as Chinese religion, Hinduism, Buddhism), and (iii) Religions such as Zoroastrianism, Syrian, and Egyptian, which he regards as transitional to (b) the Religions of Spiritual Individuality, namely Jewish, Greek, and Roman. He then arrives at the third phase of religious consciousness: Christianity, which 'represents' God as both immanent and transcendent, and man as in union with the Triune God as a consequence of his incarnation in Christ.

The Sphere of Philosophy [572-7]. Finally Hegel deduces the third category of Absolute Spirit — Philosophy itself, in which pure conceptual thought of God as Absolute is made possible [d]. Here we arrive at the culmination of Hegel's system — and at the same time return to the beginning, to the Idea of the Logic, which is now itself grasped as the manifestation of the Absolute: "The eternal Idea, in full fruition of its essence, eternally sets itself to work, engenders and enjoys itself as absolute Mind" [577]. Hegel sees no incompatibility between Philosophy and Religion; Philosophy completes Religion, while Religion relates Philosophy to life.

What then of proofs of God's existence?. (1) From the standpoint of the philosophical sphere 'proof' is the totality of Hegel's own dialectical system. The finite is itself shown to be a manifestation of Infinite Being, the necessarily existing Absolute Idea. The qualitative distinction between God and man is thereby eliminated. As he says [in Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion, vol. II, Appendix: 'Proofs for the Existence of God'], the reality or existence (as Idea), the unity of subject and object, must correspond to the Notion. (This is Hegel's version of the Ontological Argument.) He does not, however, accept pantheism and does not 'divinize' Nature [[573] [e]. Certainly Nature in itself in the idea is divine, but it exhibits no freedom in its existence, only necessity and contingency; and so, in the determinate existence, which makes it nature, is not to be deified. "As it is, the being of nature does not correspond to its concept; its existing actuality therefore has no truth; its abstract essence is the negative, as the ancients conceived of matter in general as the non-ens." But in so far as Nature is a representation of the Idea, one may admire in it the wisdom of God" [Encycl. II, 193].

(2) Within the intermediate religious sphere traditional 'proofs' for God's existence, he says, represent attempts by reason to support faith and feeling. Necessarily they are inadequate to the extent that they separate the finite from the infinite, and then try to move from the former to the latter as different in kind (whereas Being is both finite and infinite) [f]. Nevertheless, they can be seen legitimately as attempts to articulate that towards which faith is directed [Phil.Rel. III].

 

PHILOSOPHY OF HISTORY

[9] [See Encycl. III, 548-52; also Lectures on the Philosophy of History] As we have seen, Hegel alludes to historical development on a number of occasions in connection with nations, forms of art, and religions. These are all particular and empirical manifestations of history in culture. He subdivides history into original history, reflective history, and philosophical history. From the wider perspective, however, history is the process through or in which both the Absolute and Infinite Thought unfolds itself dialectically and (seemingly) inevitably as World-Spirit (Weltgeist) and human thought works towards [in the Encyclopedia, following his Phenomenology of Mind] an adequate understanding of the Absolute or [in Philosophy of History] of freedom — knowledge and freedom, for Hegel, being in fact interdependent in that one's freedom consists in possessing a 'free mind' which reason will then follow [Encycl.II, 481] [a]. With respect to philosophical history, Hegel stresses that national histories, as phases in the development of the World-Spirit, can be judged by historians only in terms of the categories and prejudices of their own cultures and national spirits [b]: complete impartiality is not attainable. Indeed he attempts to trace stages in world history as possessing characteristic features — the despotism of the oriental world, consciousness of freedom for the few in the Graeco-Roman cultures, the Christian and latterly the 'Germanic' recognition of human freedom in general. He also argues that "great men" play a central role in the dialectic of the national spirit of states, though they may not always be aware of it.

 

CRITICAL SUMMARY

Like Fichte and Schelling, Hegel was concerned to overcome the dualism bequeathed by Kant. He initially agreed with Schelling that Fichte had debased Nature by leaving it in the realm of the 'subjective' creative Ego. He also rejected Fichte's treatment of Nature as being only the means for man's moral improvement. However, he came to regard Schelling's approach as equally unsatisfactory. Firstly he objected to what he supposed to be Schelling's 'divinization' of Nature. Secondly he was critical of Schelling's 'identification' of (subjective) Mind and (objective) Nature, the ideal and the real, as the manifestation of a transcendent Absolute which is essentially closed to positive conceptualization; an Absolute of total indifference as between the subjective and objective. As he says [Phenomenology I, 15], this Absolute is "like the night in which all cows are black" (though some scholars, especially Bowie, have questioned whether he did in fact have Schelling in mind here).

The essential features of Hegel's own monumental system may be summarized as follows. The inner essence of the Absolute as it is 'in itself' is revealed through a progressive dialectical logic (lacking in Schelling's philosophy). The Infinite Absolute is logically prior to yet requires finite Nature for its self-expression and self-knowledge as the Absolute 'for-itself'. Hegel examines this process in his philosophy of Nature. In Nature we find identity of both necessity-in-freedom and freedom-in-determinism. Nature is conceived as a 'fall' from the Absolute and as imperfect and incomplete it is irrational. Hegel makes it clear that this is not a scientific hypothesis; his logical deduction is not an explanation in terms of the concept of causality. For its expression to be fully revealed the Absolute requires a transition from Nature to Absolute Existent Spirit as in-and-for-itself. This is effected through subjective spirit, that is, the human mind. Hegel traces the dialectical development from human sensation and feeling to consciousness, self-consciousness, universal self-consciousness, and finally to Reason. The objective spirit is manifested in ethics, such categories as abstract right, purpose, goodness being duly developed by means of the same dialectical process. It is in the unity with or identification of particular wills with the rational will itself that Hegel discovers the good as the realization of freedom — the absolute first purpose of the world. Inner morality of course has to be exhibited in the external world, and this outer morality is dealt with in Hegel's examination of political and social philosophy and of history. It is in history that the Absolute Mind manifests itself as World-Spirit — national histories being phases in its development to be judged by historians only in terms of the categories and prejudices of their own cultures or national spirits. Reconciliation of subjective and objective spirit is brought about in the higher synthesis of Absolute Spirit. Spirit recognises its own infinitude through the spheres of Art, Religion and Philosophy in various stages of development — culminating , it is supposed, in Hegel's own philosophical system. In short, Reality as Absolute Reason is revealed objectively in the dialectic processes of Nature through the reasoning processes of individual human minds — especially the Hegelian philosopher! — thereby resolving contradictions consequent on Kantian dualism.

It can hardly be denied that Hegel's metaphysical system, which marks the final stage in German Idealism, is an extraordinary achievement. For the boldness, breadth, and all-embracing nature of his speculations he must rank as one of the greatest Western thinkers. And his writings have been enormously influential — not least (positively) on Marx and Sartre, and (negatively) on Schopenhauer and Kierkegaard, to name but a few philosophers. Nevertheless, his thought has been rejected by most Anglo-American analytic philosophers. Judged by such considerations as consistency, correctness of assumptions, validity of inferences, and the application of his dialectic to concrete situations in Nature, it has to be granted that there is some substance in their views. (Karl Popper refers to Hegel's "gibberish" and his "bombastic and mystifying cant"!)

(1) There is a tension between Hegel's dialectical logic of Being and traditional formal logic in that the articulation of the former presupposes the latter. To say, for example, that the passing of Being into not Being is a 'negation' of the concept (Hegel often uses the metaphor of conflict or struggle to describe such a transition) is on the face of it just plain wrong. In the case of other categories the errors seem even more obvious. These are not 'deductions' in the usual logical sense. One can criticize further his view that through the dialectic deduction of categories thought is a progressive revelation of the Absolute as ultimate truth, an increasing grasp of the Real — the Real (or Being) is the Rational (as thought), and vice versa. (Indeed it is on this claim that Schelling's counter-attack was primarily concentrated: he argued that Reason itself could not deduce this identification from within itself. Rather the identity of reality and rationality as the Absolute is a presupposition of philosophical thought and cannot be fully grasped by reason, which must start from that which is external to itself, namely, the realm of contingent reality, that is, being or nature.) Again there is arguably also a conflation here of some metaphysical sense of truth and truth as a feature of propositions in so far as they relate to the world or cohere with each other. Nevertheless, Hegel's dialectic as such and the claims he makes are not meaningless, and should not be dismissed out of hand. It is often intellectually useful (though not necessarily correct) to suppose there is change and development in thought and nature, and that some kind of progress is implicit therein. But this is a general view, and leads to the next criticism.

(2) There is a lack of coincidence between the dialectic of the categories and the contingent data of experience, in other words in the application of Hegel's Logic to Nature. He would say that the dialectic represents an ideal which, despite frequent oscillation or divergence from it of empirical events, is in the course of time ever more closely approximated to and revealed in history and philosophical thought itself.

(3) As in rationalism, we have an assimilation of causation to logic and reason. This raises the problem of determinism and historical inevitability.

(4) The problem of the Idea itself. Hegel supposes that the Idea may be identified with God and as freely positing Nature; Nature is derived from it and thus ontologically separate. Yet Nature may also be regarded as the revelation of the Absolute, and inseparable from it: the infinite is manifested through the finite understood teleologically and in terms of logical priority. It is questionable whether these two interpretations are compatible. Arguably Hegel's philosophy and (Christian) religion coincide, in that the Absolute may be conceived as ultimate thought and being. Indeed, it is an interesting consideration whether his philosophy as a whole is final. To be consistent his system must presumably allow for further development, though it is difficult to see quite what form this might take, given that the ultimate category has allegedly been 'deduced'. The 'left' Hegelians certainly interpreted his philosophy as being incomplete, and regarded it as incompatible with Christianity and such ideas as personal immortality of the soul. Indeed the initial pantheism of his 'left' followers were soon replaced by the more radical atheism of Feuerbach and Marx. (Stace [p. 514] is of the opinion that Hegel did not take immortality literally, "but regarded it as a Vorstellung for the infinitude of spirit and the absolute value of spiritual individuality. Immortality is a present quality of the spirit, not a future fact or event.") The 'right' Hegelians, however, tended to regard Protestant Christianity and the Prussian State as the apotheosis of Hegelian thought.

(5) Popper is highly critical both of Hegel's "Platonizing worship of the state", [a] which he sees as a link between Platonism and modern totalitarianism, and of his dialectic and historicist philosophy.

 

READING

Hegel: Phnomenologie des Geistes (1807) (Phenomenology of Mind); Wissenschaft der Logik (vol. I, 1812/3; vol. II, 1816) (Science of Logic); Encyklopdie der philosophischen Wissenschaften im Grundrisse (1817; 2nd enlarged edn, 1827) (Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences in Outline); Naturrecht und Staatswissenschaft im Grundrisse (1821; 2nd edn — Grundlinien der Philosophie des Rechts, 1833) (Philosophy of Right) Good recent translations of the Phenomenology of Spirit [Mind] and the Science of Logic are those of A. V. Miller. For the Encyclopedia see [Part I] The Logic of Hegel, trans. W. Wallace, foreword by J. N. Findlay; [Part II] Hegel's Philosophy of Nature; and [Part III] The Philosophy of Mind, both trans. A. V. Miller). See Bibliography for other translations and details of his posthumously published lectures on Aesthetics, the Philosophy of History, Religion, and the History of Philosophy.

Studies:

Introductions

R. Norman, Hegel's Phenomenology.

P. Singer, Hegel.

W. T. Stace, The Philosophy of Hegel.

Advanced (of many)

J. N. Findlay, Hegel: A Re-examination.

K. R. Popper, The Open Society and its Enemies, vol. 2: Hegel and Marx.

M. Rosen, Hegel's Dialectic and its Criticism.

H. Solomon, In the Spirit of Hegel: A Study of Hegel's Phenomenology.

C. Taylor, Hegel.

Collections of essays

K. Ameriks (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to German Idealism.

F. Beiser (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Hegel.

 

 

CONNECTIONS

Hegel

 

Metaphysics/ methodology

Note: Hegel's philosophy as a whole was rejected as 'negative' philosophy by Schelling in his last period. Hegel equally rejected Schelling's 'positive' philosophy — [see Schelling sec. 6]. Hegel's rationalistic or speculative idealism [e.g., sec. 1] was also rejected by Schopenhauer [see secs 1, 2, & 3]; by Kierkegaard [see sec. 1], and by Nietzsche [see sec. 2] — the entries below are representative.

 

[1a; cf. 5c-d] Reality knowable: no unknowable thing-in-itself; real is rational (idealism)

   Plato

   Kant

   Fichte

Schelling

Spencer

Bradley

   Husserl

Santayana

Sartre

[7e]

[2d 4a]

[1a]

[3b]

[4e]

[1e 3a 4b 5a b]

[2b 7a]

[3a]

[1a]

 

[1b; cf. 5c-d] Rejection of sharp division between noumenal and phenomenal realms, and between reason and feeling/ sensation, desire

   Kant

   Fichte

Schelling

Spencer

Dilthey

[2a]

[2a]

[1a]

[1a]

[1a]

 

[1c; see also sec. 3] Absolute as identity of real and ideal; self-thinking thought; necessary process of self-development revealed in Nature (potentiality to actuality); finality achievable?

   Plato

   Aristotle

   Spinoza

   Kant

   Fichte

Schelling

Kierkegaard

Marx

Peirce

Nietzsche

Bradley

Royce

Husserl

Dewey

Scheler

   Popper

[3a 4a]

[5b]

[2b]

[2d 4a]

[1b 2c]

[1a 1d 2a 3a]

[1a]

[1a]

[2c]

[1a 2a c]

[2a 3a 5b]

[1a 1f 2e]

[2b]

[1a]

[4c]

[2c]

 

[2a; see also 3a] Dialectic: deduction, revelation (through 'logic') of categories leading to Absolute Idea; syntheses of theses and antitheses; negation is determination

   Zeno

   Socrates

   Plato

   Aristotle

   Spinoza

   Kant

   Fichte

Schelling

Kierkegaard

Dilthey

Nietzsche

Bradley

Santayana

Gadamer

[1a]

[1d]

[2c]

[4a b]

[4b]

[2c 3a]

[2a]

[1e 2b]

[1e]

[1c]

[1a c 2a c]

[1e 2b 3a]

[3a]

[2d]

 

[2b; see also 3a-d] Understanding grasps 'static' concepts but dynamic Reason needed to transcend oppositions and grasp dialectic of category transformation (triadic); negation and determination

   Kant

   Fichte

Schelling

Peirce

Bradley

Sartre

[2c 3a]

[2a]

[2b 3c]

[1e g 3a]

[3b]

[2b]

 

[2c] Truth as coherence; degrees of truth and reality; the categories develop from each other hierarchically, so the Absolute is implicit

   Leibniz

Bradley

Royce

Dewey

[4d]

[1c 5c 6a]

[1c]

[2c]

 

[3a] Logic reveals inner essence of Absolute 'in-itself'; coincides with metaphysics

   Aristotle

   Kant

Schelling

Nietzsche

Bradley

   Whitehead

Santayana

[13a]

[3a]

[1d 2a 3c 6e]

[1a c]

[3a]

[4a]

[3a]

 

[3b] Doctrine of Being: Being and Non-Being resolved in Becoming; category of Being-for-self Sartre [2b c 2b]

 

[3c; cf. 5c] Actuality as synthesis of Essence and Appearance; Matter and Form; actuality generates Cause and Effect, and Reciprocity; Essence and Being resolved in category of Notion

   Aristotle

   Kant

Schelling

[13c 14a]

[3e]

[2b]

 

[3d; cf. 1c 2c; see also 8c e] Category of Notion: (subjective aspect) formal logic; (objective aspect) categories of concept of Nature; both aspects ultimately synthesized into Absolute Idea — the unity of Life and Cognition, and all truth, "the thought of thought"

   Aristotle

   Fichte

Dilthey

Dewey

[12e]

[1b 2a]

[1b]

[2c]

 

[4a; cf. 1c 5f 6a] Philosophy of Nature: Absolute considered 'for-itself' (self-alienated Spirit); Nature as 'fall' from the Idea; Nature is both necessity-in-contingency and freedom-in-determinism, and manifestation of rational Spirit

   Plato

   Kant

   Fichte

Schelling

Peirce

[sec. 5]

[5c]

[1b 2c]

[1c 3c 4d 6b 6c]

[3a]

 

[4b] Deduction of categories of mechanics (incl. space and time), physics, organics

   Kant

Schelling

Bradley

Heidegger

[2b]

[1e 2b]

[3b]

[3d]

 

Mind
[5a; cf. 1c 6f 7b] Philosophy of Spirit — trans ition to Absolute considered in-and-for-itself: 'actual' soul as organic unity of universal soul and particular body; soul may not be immortal?

   Kant

   Fichte

Schelling

Marx

Nietzsche

[3b 5a b]

[1b 3c]

[1b]

[2a]

[2a]

 

[5b; also 5e] Soul's self-consciousness achieved only through awareness by Reason of external objects (real universals)

   Kant

   Fichte

Schelling

   Schopenhauer

Marx

Bradley

Royce

Sartre

[3b 5a b 8b]

[2a]

[2b 3b]

[3g]

[2a]

[5d]

[2d]

[2b]

 

[5f; cf. 4a 9a] Free (self-determining) will/ mind from unity of theoretical and practical spirit; Spirit-in-itself as Rational Spirit; will as free intelligence

   Spinoza

   Kant

   Fichte

Schelling

Bradley

Scheler

Sartre

[3d]

[5c 7a]

[3a]

[2b c 4a 5e]

[6c] [7a]

[4a d]

[2b 3a]

 

Knowledge

[see also sec. 1]

[5c] Sense apprehension of objects leads to perception of 'nexus of universals'

   Plato

   Kant

Schelling

Peirce

Bradley

Royce

Husserl

Sartre

[6b 7e]

[2a c 3c]

[2b]

[2a]

[2b]

[1a b]

[7f]

[1a]

 

[5d] Scientific intellect discovers real universal laws which explain individual phenomena

   Kant

Schelling

[2c 3e]

[2b]

 

[5e; cf. 5b] Genuine self-consciousness and other selves; 'master-slave' relationship; consciousness and self-consciousness unified through Reason; object as identity-in-difference

   Kant

   Fichte

Schelling

Marx

Bradley

Royce

Scheler

Sartre

Ricoeur.

[3b 5a]

[2a]

[2a]

[2b]

[4a]

[1e]

[4a d]

[2b 4a 4b 6a]

[10h]

 

Ethics
[sec. 6] General ethical thesis

Schopenhauer

Marx

Peirce

[3f]

[2f]

[4b]

 

[6a; cf. 4a] Spirit expressed through utilization of material things by free wills; alienation of property

Schelling

Marx

[4a]

[1c]

 

[6b] Wrong as breach of contract; negation of this is punishment; harmonization of particular will with universal will → moral will

   Rousseau

   Kant

   Bentham

[1g]

[6c]

[1f]

 

[6c; cf. 6f] Morality grounded in action; (formally) moral will as source of principle of action, but ethics concerned also with ends (satisfying needs)

   Kant

   Fichte

Peirce

Dewey

 

[6b-e]

[3a b]

[4a]

[3c]

 

 

[6d] Particular will directed towards welfare of all (egoism transcended) — identified with rational will

   Kant

Peirce

Nietzsche

   Bradley

   Royce

[6f]

[4a]

[1b 2a]

[7g]

[2c]

 

[6e] Obligation of good will to conform particularity to universality; conscience guarantee of right and duty

   Kant

   Fichte

Schelling

Kierkegaard

Nietzsche

   Bradley

[6b]

[3a c 4b]

[4a]

[1e g]

[1b 2a]

[7g]

 

[6f; cf. 6c 7b] Free action from rational moral will rather than desire; realization of freedom and the achievement of the good and the will's happiness in objective self-contemplation; evil as real but universe perfect and Good accomplished (absolute purpose of world)

   Kant

   Fichte

Schelling

Schopenhauer

Peirce

Bradley

Royce

Dewey

Santayana

[6a 6b-e 8a]

[3a]

[6d]

[3a]

[4a]

[7h]

[1b 2g]

[3b c]

[6a]

 

Political philosophy
[7a] The 'organic' State as actualization of self-conscious will; source of concept of abstract right and morality (reconciled in Sittlichkeit: individuals, family, society, and state)

   Rousseau

   Fichte

Schelling

Marx

Spencer

Nietzsche

Royce

Dewey

Ricoeur

[1h]

[4b d]

[4b]

[2b 2d 2e]

[2a]

[4a]

[2c]

[3b]

[10d e]

 

[7b; cf. 6d f] Individual actualizes freedom by identifying his will with general will; individuals' different roles in society

   Rousseau

   Fichte

Kierkegaard

Marx

Nietzsche

Bradley

Royce

[1g-i]

[4b]

[1e g]

[2b]

[4a]

[7d]

[2a]

 

[7c] State provides framework for satisfaction of needs and promotes self-realization; at the same time institutions 'alienate' the individual

   Rousseau

   Fichte

Schelling

Marx

Nietzsche

Bradley

Royce

Dewey

[1g h]

[4d]

[4b]

[1b 2b]

[4a]

[7b 7d 7f]

[2c]

[5a]

 

[7d CSa; see further 9a] No utopian or ideal political structure; many different constitutions can provide framework for the moral life [Hegel as a totalitarian?]

   Plato

Marx

Dewey

Popper

[sec. 14]

[2e]

[5b]

[3a c]

 

Art, Religion, Philosophy
[8a; see also secs 5 & 6] Synthesis of subjective and objective spirit in Absolute Spirit (realized through art, religion, and philosophy)

   Fichte

Schelling

Schopenhauer

Kierkegaard

[5a]

[5b]

[3c]

[1b]

 

[8b] Sphere of Art: Absolute manifested in sensuous appearance as Beauty (the 'Ideal') — work of art unites subjective and objective; tragic drama — conflict and reconciliation

   Plato

   Aristotle

   Kant

Schelling

Schopenhauer

Nietzsche

Heidegger

Gadamer

Ricoeur

[4c 15b]

[23b]

[9c]

[5b e]

[3c 3d]

[1a]

[7a]

[1c]

[10b]

 

[8c; see also 3d] Sphere of Religion: Absolute/ God (triune person) revealed through images (Vorstell ungen) at once sensuous and rational; God as true reality, infinite, no differentiation

   Plato

   Schleiermacher

Schelling

Kierkegaard

Marx

Bradley

Royce

[7e]

[1d]

[6a 6e]

[1a]

[1b]

[5e]

[2e 2f]

 

[8d] Sphere of Philosophy: the Absolute revealed through conceptual thought (Reason)

   Plato

   Kant

   Schleiermacher

Schelling

Kierkegaard

Peirce

Royce

[7e]

[2d]

[1b]

[6e]

[1a b]

[3d]

[1f]

 

[8e] (In philosophical sphere) Hegel's own dialectical system is proof for existence of God (his version of the ontological argument); qualitative distinction between God and man eliminated but pantheism/ divination of Nature rejected

   Spinoza

   Kant

Schelling

Kierkegaard

[2b 2c]

[2c 5d]

[6a]

[1a b f]

 

[8f] (In religious sphere) traditional proofs as attempts to support faith and feeling; invalid because they first separate the finite from the and infinite

   Kant

   Fichte

Schelling

Kierkegaard

[5d]

[5b]

[6e]

[1b]

 

Philosophy of History
[9a 7d; cf. 5f] World history — in which Spirit manifests itself in the dialectic process as World-Spirit (through human consciousness), manifested in knowledge and freedom

   Vico

   Hamann

   Herder

Schelling

   Comte

Marx

Dilthey

Nietzsche

Husserl

Popper

[2a]

[1d]

[2d]

[4c]

[1a 2e]

[2a c]

[1b 2b]

[1c 4a]

[2b]

[3a]

 

[9b] National histories judged only in terms of their own cultures, national spirits, prejudices

   Vico

   Herder

Dilthey

Nietzsche

   Bradley

Husserl

[2a]

[2e]

[1b f 3a]

[4a]

[7e]

[2b]