Gw Hegel's Philosophy of History  Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

His career at school and university was undistinguished - his certificate mentioned his "inadequate grasp of philosophy." At Tubingen university he studied not philosophy but theology - and in a sense all his philosophy was essentially a theology, an exploration of the workings of the world-spirit which he identified with God."

He spent time as a family tutor and worked in Frankfurt and Berne. His work as a tutor gave him a lot of free time that he could devote to his private examination of the world and history. His private studies were not impeded by a hard or long houred job.

In 1801 he won his first university post at the University of Jena. After the Battle of Jena in 1806 when Napoleon defeated the Prussians, Hegel saw the emperor riding past."

He soke of this years later and said it had a huge and significant impact on his life and works. This is but one example of how his life experiences may have had a lot to do with the development of his later theories and works including the Philosophy of History.

The encounter had a profound impact. "I saw the Emperor - this world-spirit - go out from the city to survey his realm," he wrote on October 13, 1806. "It is a truly wonderful experience to see such an individual, on horseback, concentrating on one point, stretching over the world and dominating it" for Hegel, Napoleon embodied the world-historical hero of the age, driving forward the self-realization of God in history."

He later became an editor when he was broke due to lack of work as a tutor. When he was working as that he became a headmaster of a secondary school. There could not be a better place for a philosopher than a school and he had found his element in that position. In 1816 he was declared a professor of philosophy and two years later he was chair of the philosophy department in Berlin.

Hegel's philosophical system was perhaps the most ambitious since Aristotle, comprising logic, psychology, religion, aesthetics, history, law. As well as his published works, many volumes were compiled from the notes of his long-suffering students. Though they laboriously took down almost every word, one wonders how much they understood. Hegel's language is abstruse and sometimes tortuous, and makes great demands on the reader."

It is important to understand his life if one wants to fully grasp some of the things that he developed in his Philosophy of History later on.

Experts have said that the motivating force behind the core of his system is Pantheism" it is a grandiose idealistic pantheism, in which all existence and all history are part of God's cosmic self-development."

Hegel is one of the few philosophers who mix ethno and ego centric views when developing his works.

The German nation were the highest carriers of the wave of God's development. The bureaucratic monarchy of the Prussian type was the highest form of state. The pinnacle of philosophy - through which God at last becomes fully conscious of himself - was, implicitly, Hegel's own system."

His Impact

Hegel had a tremendous impact on German teaching. His influence was not always a positive one however and some of his ideas were had a clear consequence that was not positive.

Hegel believed that only the greatest of men became the developers of history. That mindset and teaching created a breeding ground for people like Adolph Hitler.

His insistence on the identification of the individual, the nation and the state; his stress on Great Men as the only real agents of history; his belief that individual welfare or suffering simply did not matter in the sweep of world history, advancing like a juggernaut over the corpses of individuals."

There were others who followed him at one time and later turned against him as a leader or a teacher. Some were notable men in history and included:

David Strauss,

Max Stirner,

Ludwig Feuerbach,

Karl Marx

Friedrich Engels.

Hegel developed the Philosophy of History with the basic belief that God is the beginning and the end. In addition he believed that God is a manifestation of himself.

God is... The absolutely true, that from which everything proceeds and into which everything returns, that upon which everything is dependent and apart from which nothing else has absolute, true independence." (Philosophy of Religion, p 368)

He taught that God was the only absolute fact that can not be argued with. He believed that he was the true only actuality in life and through that development the rest takes place.

Whatever subsists has its root and subsistence only in this One... God is the absolute substance, the only true actuality... All through his development God does not step outside his unity with himself." (Philosophy of Religion, 369)

God is the substance, energy, material and final goal of the universe.

Hegel's most powerful statement according to some is on page 55. He discusses Spirit in the sense that it is at war with itself and trying to overcome itself.

Thus Spirit is at war with itself; it has to overcome itself as its most formidable obstacle... What Spirit really strives for is the realization if its ideal being; but in doing so, it hides that goal from its own vision, and is proud and well satisfied in this alienation from it. Its expansion therefore does not present the harmless tranquility of mere growth, as does that of organic life, but a stern reluctant working against itself."(55)


Hegel believed that history was predestined but at the same time it was guided by reason. He believed that Spirit was in a constant battle with itself and that God was the only absolute. His theories were ascribed to by many and then disowned by several who used to follow him. His theories did provide a backdrop for others to build on and because of that he is instrumental in the development of the philosophy of history.




G.W.F. Hegel: Introduction to the Lectures on the Philosophy of History (1840 edition)

Hegel: Philosophy and history as theology.

Marx and the History of Philosophy



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