A Blupete Biography Page

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

Hegel was another disciple of Kant; he was of the Idealist school.

Born in Stuttgart; he died in Berlin. Teaching his way through Tübingen, Jena, and Heidelberg; Hegel eventually ended up, in 1815, at the University of Berlin. In 1818, Hegel took Immanuel Herman von Fichte's job at Berlin and to his death was "virtually dictator of German philosophical thinking." (Chambers.)

To come to Hegel's philosophy one starts with Kant and proceeds through Fichte and Schelling. Hegal departed from the Fichte-Schelling "Ego-nonEgo" analysis by stating that it was reason that should take over, not your reason or not my reason, but the World Reason, Universal Consciousness; an Absolute. This Absolute while it governs the individual (the Ego) and all the world around the individual (the nonEgo), it is, nonetheless part of, or synonymous with, Reason (Ego) and Reality (nonEgo). This, in my short study, is the best I can make of Hegel, and if these statements are confusing to you, - you have company: "Hegelian terminology is cumbersome and defies analysis, except on its own terms."

The dialectic is a branch of logic in the art of reasoning and\or disputing. It is a classic approach, one at which Socrates was a master. Through the use of it Socrates (and, in my experience, many a good cross-examining lawyer) would lead his adversary to make clear his position on the subject, then, often with the introduction of an absolutely contrary theory, the discussion would end with an admission, on the other side, of an inaccuracy. Now, the German philosophers of the idealist school were partial to the dialectic method. It was employed, as often it was, beginning with Plato, to set one theory in opposition with another, and thus to develop a subject in a comprehensive manner. First an idea (a Thesis) was thrown up against another theory (an Antithesis); from this, it was thought, one would advance to a third stage, and the truth would emerge. Often, - though not necessarily - there would come about a combination of both the ideas (a synthesis). From this process, it is thought, one would arrive at the truth of a proposition; this is not to be confused with a negotiation process whereby, usually, a compromise is wrought out. It must be remembered that while the truth may lie between one proposition or another, it may (I suggest more likely than not) lie fully with one thesis or the other (either the Thesis or the Antithesis). It is my impression that the German idealist school (for that matter, most any school of thought) through the dialectic, always came away with a synthesis, "a combo" of the the two ideas under review, "a remix" of ideas that likely have been mixed by the same process, over and over. The overall result is a hopeless maze of probabilities, which some souls would assert is exactly what reality is all about.

"We must analyze everything into what it now is, then analysis will show that it contains its opposite, which in turn will have to be harmonized into something that includes them both. But the resultant synthesis will itself be subject again to a negative element, this then, will be resolved into a still more comprehensive synthesis, which will be subjected once more to the principle of contradiction. The final solution, the ultimate harmony, the last synthesis, the step when it will no longer be necessary to go higher, will constitute the Absolute. The Universe as a whole harmonizes all contradictions, it is the perfect whole, it is the synthesis which we are seeking as our final solution. It, therefore, constitutes the true, the rational, the goal of the dialectic method. The conclusion is that only the whole of reality is rational, because that furnishes a complete view of all things; it is the Absolute, the World, Reason, God." (See Henry Alphern's An Outline History of Philosophy (Forum House, 1969), p. 162-3)
The Hegelian view, arrived at by the dialectic method, was that there were fundamental laws which drove the development of a culture or a country; that a culture or a country has a kind of a personality of its own, and its development is to be explained in terms of its own character. Hegel also supported the idea that men are dissatisfied or so alienated in their practical life that they need to believe in illusory ideas such as religion or nationalism. These notions of historical development and of alienation were to play a crucial role in the thoughts of Marx. Marx followed Hegel, who had a deterministic view and that all events (economic stages) come about as a result of the inevitable progress of history.
"... Hegel surveys four world-historic kingdoms: (1) The Oriental Empire, the absolute monarchy. Its chief characteristic consists in the utter suppression of individuality. The State so dominates the individual that it almost annihilates him. (2) The Greek Empire. The monarchy is replaced by republics. The individual here comes into his own, and the States becomes aware of the importance of its component members, through whose co-operation it triumphs. (3) The Roman Empire. The individual, who ran riot in the Greek Empire, is now reduced to obedience. All diverse nations are thrown into a confused heap. Here the World Spirit retreats into itself. (4) The Germanic Empire. Here the individual and State are harmonized.
"Its [the state] self-aggrandizement, its desire for survival, conflicts, as may be expected, with another State, whose sole ambition is similar to that of the first. War ensues out of this conflict ... Since a political unit must act through the wills of individuals, the hero represents the Spirit in its march through history, no matter now unconscious he may be of his mission, or how unappreciated his deeds are by his fellow men." (See Alphern, p. 169 & then pp. 171-170.)
In later years, a fellow German, Adolf Hitler, rose to this Hegelian bait. If one needs an example of a philosophy which can lead millions of people into ruin, then one need look no further than the philosophy of Hegel; it has been "the justification of extremist authoritarian creeds from Fascism to Communism." (Chambers.) (Also, see Paul Johnson's book, Birth of the Modern, pp. 810-22.)


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Peter Landry