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Hegel - Historian and thinker

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  • kmlightseeker
    Here is an example of not merely having knowledge or information, but also developing an interpretation of what the knowledge means by developing a set of
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 2 3:57 AM
      Here is an example of not merely having knowledge or information, but
      also developing an interpretation of what the knowledge means by
      developing a set of principles, upon which a greater clarity of
      understanding of a subject can be based:

      "Life and work

      Hegel attended the seminary at Tübingen with the epic poet Friedrich
      Hölderlin and the objective idealist Schelling. The three watched the
      unfolding of the French Revolution and collaborated in a critique of
      the idealist philosophies of Immanuel Kant and his follower Fichte.

      Hegel's first major work was the Phenomenology of Spirit (or
      Phenomenology of Mind). During his life he also published the
      Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences, the Science of Logic and
      the (Elements of the) Philosophy of Right. A number of other works on
      the philosophy of history, religion, aesthetics, and the history of
      philosophy were compiled from the lecture notes of his students and
      published posthumously.

      Hegel's works have a reputation for their difficulty, and for the
      breadth of the topics they attempt to cover. Hegel introduced a system
      for understanding the history of philosophy and the world itself,
      often called a progression in which each successive movement emerges
      as a solution to the contradictions inherent in the preceding
      movement. For example, the French Revolution for Hegel constitutes the
      introduction of real freedom into western societies for the first time
      in recorded history. But precisely because of its absolute novelty, it
      is also absolutely radical: on the one hand the upsurge of violence
      required to carry out the revolution cannot cease to be itself, while
      on the other, it has already consumed its opponent. The revolution
      therefore has nowhere to turn but on to its own result: the hard-won
      freedom is consumed by a brutal Reign of Terror. History, however,
      progresses by learning from its mistakes: only after and precisely
      because of this experience can one posit the existence of a
      constitutional state of free citizens, embodying both the benevolent
      organizing power of rational government and the revolutionary ideals
      of freedom and equality.

      In the introduction to The Philosophy of History (translated by J.
      Sibree) Hegel says: "Philosophy shows that the Idea advances to an
      infinite antithesis; that, viz. between the Idea in its free,
      universal form - in which it exists for itself - and the contrasted
      form of abstract introversion, reflection on itself, which is formal
      existence-for-self, personality, formal freedom, such as belongs to
      Spirit only."

      So, breaking it down, there are two forms of the universal idea and
      they are always and infinitely the antithesis of each other. One form
      is the general principle of it and the other form is its specific
      application to the actual events in history. He continues to say: "The
      universal Idea exists thus as the substantial totality of things on
      the one side, and as the abstract essence of free volition on the
      other side."

      and: "This reflection of the mind on itself is individual
      self-consciousness - the polar opposite of the Idea in its general
      form, and therefore existing in absolute Limitation. This polar
      opposite is consequently limitation, particularization, for the
      universal absolute being; it is the side of its definite existence;
      the sphere of its formal reality, the sphere of the reverence paid to
      God. - To comprehend the absolute connection of this antithesis, is
      the profound task of metaphysics."

      Therefore, Hegel is stating, albeit in difficult turns of phrase, that
      metaphysics should be concerned with grasping the mechanics of how the
      thesis and antithesis are connected in each individual case. To do so
      would involve comparing examples of events of history with their
      archetypal forms and trying to understand both the similarities and
      the differences between them.

      Aside from Hegel's dense and difficult style his work is perplexing
      for modern audiences because he had an organic and teleological view
      of human society. This view is in direct opposition to the conceptions
      of individual rights and existentialism which most modern-day
      intellectuals take for granted.

      Hegel's legacy

      Hegel's ultimate legacy will be debated for a very long time. He has
      been a formative influence on such a wide range of thinkers that one
      can give him credit or assign him blame for almost any position.

      Historians have spoken of Hegel's influence as represented by two
      opposing camps. The Right Hegelians, the direct disciples of Hegel at
      the Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität (now known as the
      Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin), advocated evangelical orthodoxy and
      the political conservatism of the post-Napoleon Restoration period.

      The Left Hegelians, also known as the Young Hegelians, interpreted
      Hegel in a revolutionary sense, leading to an advocation of atheism in
      religion and liberal democracy in politics. Thinkers and writers
      traditionally associated with the Young Hegelians include Bruno Bauer,
      Arnold Ruge, David Friedrich Strauss, Ludwig Feuerbach, Max Stirner,
      and most famously, the younger Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels - all of
      whom knew and were familiar with the writings of each other. A group
      of the Young Hegelians known as Die Freien ("The Free") gathered
      frequently for debate in Hippel's Weinstube (a winebar) in
      Friedrichsstrasse, in Berlin in the 1830's and 1840's. In this
      environment, some of the most influential thinking of the last 160
      years was nurtured - the radical critique and fierce debates of the
      Young Hegelians inspired and shaped influential ideas of atheism,
      humanism, communism, anarchism and egoism.

      Almost none of the so-called "Left Hegelians" actually described
      themselves as followers of Hegel, and several of them openly
      repudiated or insulted the legacy of Hegel's philosophy. Nevertheless,
      this historical category is often deemed useful in contemporary
      academic philosophy. The critiques of Hegel offered from the "Left
      Hegelians" led the line of Hegel's thinking into radically new
      directions - and form an important part of the literature on and about

      In contemporary accounts of Hegelianism — to undergraduate classes,
      for example — Hegel's dialectic often appears broken up for
      convenience into three moments called "thesis" (in the French
      historical example, the revolution), "antithesis" (the terror which
      followed), and "synthesis" (the constitutional state of free
      citizens). Hegel did not use this classification at all himself,
      though: it was developed earlier by Fichte in his loosely analogous
      account of the relation between the individual subject and the world.
      Serious Hegel scholarship does not recognize the usefulness of this
      triadic classification for shedding light on Hegel's thought. Although
      Hegel refers to "the two elemental considerations: first, the idea of
      freedom as the absolute and final aim; secondly, the means for
      realising it, i.e. the subjective side of knowledge and will, with its
      life, movement, and activity" (thesis and antithesis) he doesn't use
      "synthesis" but instead speaks of the "Whole": "We then recognised the
      State as the moral Whole and the Reality of Freedom, and consequently
      as the objective unity of these two elements."

      Hegel used this system of dialectics to explain the whole of the
      history of philosophy, science, art, politics and religion, but many
      modern critics point out that Hegel often seems to gloss over the
      realities of history in order to fit it into his dialectical mold.
      Karl Popper, a critic of Hegel in The Open Society and Its Enemies,
      suggests that the Hegel's system forms a thinly veiled justification
      for the rule of Frederick William III, and that Hegel's idea of the
      ultimate goal of history is to reach a state approximating that of
      1830s Prussia. This view of Hegel as an apologist of state power and
      precursor of 20th century totalitarianism was criticized thoroughly by
      Herbert Marcuse in his Reason and Revolution: Hegel and the Rise of
      Social Theory, on the grounds that Hegel was not an apologist for any
      state or form of authority simply because it existed: for Hegel the
      state must always be rational. Arthur Schopenhauer despised Hegel on
      account of the latter's historicism (among other reasons), and decried
      Hegel's work as obscurantist "pseudo-philosophy". Many other newer
      philosophers who prefer to follow the tradition of British Philosophy
      have made similar statements.

      In the 20th century, Hegel's philosophy underwent a major renaissance.
      This was due partly to the rediscovery and reevaluation of him as the
      philosophical progenitor of Marxism by philosophically oriented
      Marxists, partly through a resurgence of the historical perspective
      that Hegel brought to everything, and partly through increasing
      recognition of the importance of his dialectical method. The book that
      did the most to reintroduce Hegel into the Marxist canon was perhaps
      Georg Lukacs's History and Class Consciousness. This sparked a renewed
      interest in Hegel reflected in the work of Herbert Marcuse, Theodor
      Adorno, Ernst Bloch, Alexandre Kojève and Gotthard Günther among
      others. The Hegel renaissance also highlighted the significance of
      Hegel's early works, i.e. those published prior to the Phenomenology
      of Spirit. More recently two prominent American philosophers, John
      McDowell and Robert Brandom (sometimes, half-seriously, referred to as
      the Pittsburgh Hegelians), have exhibited a marked Hegelian influence.
      U.S. neoconservative Francis Fukuyama's controversial book The End of
      History and the Last Man was heavily influenced by Hegel's interpreter
      Alexandre Kojève."

      (source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georg_Wilhelm_Friedrich_Hegel
      [accessed 2nd June 2005])


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