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The Philosophy of History

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Hegel wrote this classic as an introduction to a series of lectures on the "philosophy of history" — a novel concept in the early nineteenth century. With this work, he created the history of philosophy as a scientific study. He reveals philosophical theory as neither an accident nor an artificial construct, but as an exemplar of its age, fashioned by its antecedents and c Hegel wrote this classic as an introduction to a series of lectures on the "philosophy of history" — a novel concept in the early nineteenth century. With this work, he created the history of philosophy as a scientific study. He reveals philosophical theory as neither an accident nor an artificial construct, but as an exemplar of its age, fashioned by its antecedents and contemporary circumstances, and serving as a model for the future. The author himself appears to have regarded this book as a popular introduction to his philosophy as a whole, and it remains the most readable and accessible of all his philosophical writings. Eschewing the methods of original history (written during the period in question) and reflective history (written after the period has passed), Hegel embraces philosophic history, which employs a priori philosophical thought to interpret history as a rational process. Reason rules history, he asserts, through its infinite freedom (being self-sufficient, it depends on nothing beyond its own laws and conclusions) and power (through which it forms its own laws). Hegel argues that all of history is caused and guided by a rational process, and God's seemingly unknowable plan is rendered intelligible through philosophy. The notion that reason rules the world, he concludes, is both necessary to the practice of philosophic history and a conclusion drawn from that practice.


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Hegel wrote this classic as an introduction to a series of lectures on the "philosophy of history" — a novel concept in the early nineteenth century. With this work, he created the history of philosophy as a scientific study. He reveals philosophical theory as neither an accident nor an artificial construct, but as an exemplar of its age, fashioned by its antecedents and c Hegel wrote this classic as an introduction to a series of lectures on the "philosophy of history" — a novel concept in the early nineteenth century. With this work, he created the history of philosophy as a scientific study. He reveals philosophical theory as neither an accident nor an artificial construct, but as an exemplar of its age, fashioned by its antecedents and contemporary circumstances, and serving as a model for the future. The author himself appears to have regarded this book as a popular introduction to his philosophy as a whole, and it remains the most readable and accessible of all his philosophical writings. Eschewing the methods of original history (written during the period in question) and reflective history (written after the period has passed), Hegel embraces philosophic history, which employs a priori philosophical thought to interpret history as a rational process. Reason rules history, he asserts, through its infinite freedom (being self-sufficient, it depends on nothing beyond its own laws and conclusions) and power (through which it forms its own laws). Hegel argues that all of history is caused and guided by a rational process, and God's seemingly unknowable plan is rendered intelligible through philosophy. The notion that reason rules the world, he concludes, is both necessary to the practice of philosophic history and a conclusion drawn from that practice.

30 review for The Philosophy of History

  1. 4 out of 5

    Riku Sayuj

    The Evolution & Perfection of Germany Hegel’s Lectures on the ‘Philosophy of History’ are considered to be valuable as an accessible introduction to his system. Since he works with familiar historical examples here to illustrate his metaphysical system, it is certainly an easier read than some of his purely abstract works (this reviewer ought to know, having entered those hallways and retreated in incomprehension and terror many times by now). Here Hegel visualizes the major instances of hist The Evolution & Perfection of Germany Hegel’s Lectures on the ‘Philosophy of History’ are considered to be valuable as an accessible introduction to his system. Since he works with familiar historical examples here to illustrate his metaphysical system, it is certainly an easier read than some of his purely abstract works (this reviewer ought to know, having entered those hallways and retreated in incomprehension and terror many times by now). Here Hegel visualizes the major instances of history (for the most part just regurgitating Herodotus) from inside a new theoretic framework, wherein he tracks the movement of the Idea of Freedom and of the Spirit of History (or rather the Idea of Germany! :) ) through the whole of human history and points out its evolutions and the condition that felicitated these changes to his readers. Samples “The life of the ever present Spirit is a circle of progressive embodiments, which looked at in one respect still exist be-side each other, and only as looked at from another point of view appear as past”. +++ God is thus recognized as Spirit, only when known as the Triune. This new principle is the axis on which the History of the World turns. This is the goal and the starting point of History. “When the fulness of the time was come, God sent his Son,” is the statement of the Bible. This means nothing else than that self- consciousness had reached the phases of development [Momente], whose resultant constitutes the Idea of Spirit, and had come to feel the necessity of comprehending those phases absolutely. This must now be more fully explained. +++ ...“Part IV: The German World. The German Spirit is the Spirit of the new World. Its aim is the realization of absolute Truth as the unilimited self-determination of Freedom — that Freedom which has its own absolute form itself as its purport.25 The destiny of the German peoples is, to be the bearers of the Christian principle. The principle of Spiritual Freedom — of Reconciliation [of the Objective and Subjective], was introduced into the still simple, unformed minds of those peoples; and the part assigned them in the service of the World- Spirit was that of not merely possessing the Idea of Freedom as the substratum of their religious conceptions, but of producing it in free and spontaneous developments from their subjective self- consciousness.” +++ “Germany was traversed by the victorious French hosts, but German nationality delivered it from this yoke. One of the leading features in the political condition of Germany is that code of Rights which was certainly occasioned by French oppression, since this was the especial means of bringing to light the deficiencies of the old system. The fiction of an Empire has utterly vanished. It is broken up into sovereign states. Feudal obligations are abolished, for freedom of property and of person have been recognized as fundamental principles. Offices of State are open to every citizen, talent and adaptation being of course the necessary conditions. The government rests with the official world, and the personal decision of the monarch constitutes its apex; for a final decision is, as was remarked above, absolutely necessary. Yet with firmly established laws, and a settled organization of the State, what is left to the sole arbitrament of the monarch is, in point of substance, no great matter. It is certainly a very fortunate circumstance for a nation, when a sovereign of noble character falls to its lot; yet in a great state even this is of small moment, since its strength lies in the Reason incorporated in it. Minor states have their existence and tranquillity secured to them more or less by their neighbors: they are therefore, properly speaking, not independent, and have not the fiery trial of war to endure. As has been remarked, a share in the government may be obtained by every one who has a competent knowledge, experience, and a morally regulated will. Those who know ought to govern, not ignorance and the presumptuous conceit of “knowing better.” Lastly, as to Disposition, we have already remarked that in the Protestant Church the reconciliation of Religion with Legal Right has taken place. In the Protestant world there is no sacred, no religious conscience in a state of separation from, or perhaps even hostility to Secular Right. This is the point which consciousness has attained, and these are the principal phases of that form in which the principle of Freedom has realized itself; — for the History of the World is nothing but the development of the Idea of Freedom. But Objective Freedom — the laws of real Freedom — demand the subjugation of the mere contingent Will — for this is in its nature formal. If the Objective is in itself Rational, human insight and conviction must correspond with the Reason which it embodies, and then we have the other essential element — Subjective Freedom — also realized.45 We have confined ourselves to the consideration of that progress of the Idea [which has led to this consummation], and have been obliged to forego the pleasure of giving a detailed picture of the prosperity, the periods of glory that have distinguished the career of peoples, the beauty and grandeur of the character of individuals, and the interest attaching to their fate in weal or woe. Philosophy concerns itself only with the glory of the Idea mirroring itself in the History of the World. Philosophy escapes from the weary strife of passions that agitate the surface of society into the calm region of contemplation; that which interests it is the recognition of the process of development which the Idea has passed through in realizing itself — i.e., the Idea of Freedom, whose reality is the consciousness of Freedom and nothing short of it. That the History of the World, with all the changing scenes which its annals present, is this process of development and the realization of Spirit — this is the true Theodicaea, the justification of God in History. Only this insight can reconcile Spirit with the History of the World — viz., that what has happened, and is happening every day, is not only not “without God,” but is essentially His Work.” +++ Reader, Beware This approach means that Hegel is quite disappointed with those civilizations which, according to his framework, stayed static and did not move in the required directions. So china and India gets a very dismissive treatment, which should be enough to irk most readers from those parts of the world. And then Europe gets a very favored and biased treatment as Hegel waxes on about the perfection it has attained in the current stage where the Idea of Freedom has finally triumphed. It is almost an advocation of the End of History and of Perfection already attained. The book is interesting only as a way to understand Hegel’s system. If one attempts to use it so as to understand history itself or goes in with such expectations, it is going to be a very tiresome ride. Hegel is not an easy co-passenger to have when having a tour of the highlights of history.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Trevor

    Marx says somewhere that he had to take Hegel’s method and turn it on its head to make sense of it. And while I always thought this was a really brilliant image, I also thought it was probably one of those extremes of overstatement that philosophers are a bit prone to. However, if nowhere else, Marx is proven right with this book. It is hard to underestimate the change that Marx wrought to Hegelian thought – and to the study of history generally, and, to me at least, that seems most clear after Marx says somewhere that he had to take Hegel’s method and turn it on its head to make sense of it. And while I always thought this was a really brilliant image, I also thought it was probably one of those extremes of overstatement that philosophers are a bit prone to. However, if nowhere else, Marx is proven right with this book. It is hard to underestimate the change that Marx wrought to Hegelian thought – and to the study of history generally, and, to me at least, that seems most clear after reading this book. Hegel is not really all that interested in history itself – at least, he says he’s not particularly interested in history per se (the 'one damn thing after another' bit of history) – but rather what history can tell us about what he calls the world spirit. This is a complicated idea, and one I’m not entirely sure I have fully understood. Still, it might help to sort of personalise this spirit. In one way I guess this is what Hegel intends. He wants you to think that there is a single ‘god’ that is using human history as a way to either manifest itself, or perhaps better, to come to a full realisation of its own actual essence. The spirit does this by literally using people and the kinds of societies they develop to realise or understand itself - a kind of reflection through alienation idea. To Hegel the highest realisation of this spirit – something he is often (and rightly) criticised – is the Germany he just happened to be living in at the time. Here the spirit, which had alienated itself into various realisations of various human societies, finally is in harmony with itself – in a kind of dance between necessity and freedom, which to Hegel is the highest realisation of freedom. You know, if your philosophy makes the society you just accidentally happened to be born into the ideal form of all societies, it might just mean that rather than you being critically aware and your thinking being a pure manifestation of rational disinterestedness, that in fact you are just proposing a kind of self-congratulation that is, well, somewhat unworthy. Still, Hegel takes us on a tour of world history showing the diversity and development of the world spirit. Some of this history seemed, to me at least, rather quixotic, I mean, I couldn’t see why one thing was discussed in some length when a million other things were skirted over or even not mentioned at all. The lessons in relation to the development of the world spirit seemed rather obscure to me – but this might well be just me. I suspect there are commentaries I really ought to have read while reading this that might have explained this and that I’ve completely missed important bits along the way. He makes it clear early in this that the world spirit doesn’t climb a ladder all at once and so develop in the way we like to think humans did in that standard monkey walking left-to-right to become an ape to become a man. But rather that all aspects of the history of the development of the spirit co-exist in the world and all are ongoing aspects of the spirit. It is in this sense that there is a national spirit and so nations like China and India – that had once been the bloom of the pinnacle of the world spirit – have languished while the spirit has gone on to find more fertile soil to continue its development. Progress is toward increased freedom, as I said before – and this is a freedom that is strongly linked with what was, at the time, the recent birth of capitalist freedom. The individual as the core of society and their enterprise unfettered by caste and feudal restrictions as the highest realisation of that freedom. What is interesting about all this is in relation to Marx’s inversion is perhaps made clear by thinking about Diamond’s book ‘Germs, Guns and Steal’. For Hegel a people have a particular character – often highly associated with the kind of religion they practice. These ideas structure and constrain the amount of freedom these people can have and thereby determine how far their society will be able to develop and progress. The world spirit uses these various characteristics of these people to understand itself. For Diamond – and Marx too, obviously, but Diamond is very clear on this – the reason why Europe ruled the world and China didn’t isn’t really linked to Chinese ‘character’, but rather to a series of local conditions that went to structure that character. That is, the geography of China in the first instance where, once conquered, the nation tended to remain conquered. The plants and animals available – rice providing quite different relations to work than wheat does. And, related again to geography, the possibility of competing civilisations on your doorstep that will overthrow you if you don’t ‘keep up’ was much more evident in Europe than it is in China. Rather than history being a product of a spirit and idea, national characters become a product of real conditions of life, character has a physical, rather than purely mental series of causes. This transformation in how we understand history – the kinds of things we look for so as to explain differences between societies – isn’t just superficial. As Marx said, it is a complete inversion. I found this book particularly interesting because in it we glimpse into a world where ignoring the physical and geographic conditions of societies and resting human progress on spirit has reached its highest point. Not that Hegel doesn't discuss these physical conditions at all – his discussion of Greece and Rome, for instance, does focus on geography, but even here this seems less causal than yet another factor that goes to composing the national spirit which seems much more important than these physical constraints.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Hadrian

    How on earth can I 'review' this beast of an author, much less give his works a star rating? I'll try anyway. This is one of his more accessible works, thankfully. If you have to read him, start here. To take the shorter way out of this, I'll say that Hegel views History as Freedom. Some of his conceptions of the history of non-European states are incredibly misinformed, but that's just something that you have to take in mind. The Introduction and Preface are astounding - German idealism, etched in How on earth can I 'review' this beast of an author, much less give his works a star rating? I'll try anyway. This is one of his more accessible works, thankfully. If you have to read him, start here. To take the shorter way out of this, I'll say that Hegel views History as Freedom. Some of his conceptions of the history of non-European states are incredibly misinformed, but that's just something that you have to take in mind. The Introduction and Preface are astounding - German idealism, etched in stone tablets and given from the Mount of Sinai. Interesting ideas about Spirit and the Dialectic and The Meaning of History and other things. I need to reread a huge chunk of my philosophy section, now that I've actually read Hegel and not just summaries of him in order to get a background. The preface and introduction are necessary for students of history and philosophy, regardless of orientation. The rest is up to you.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Roy Lotz

    I didn't know Bill Watterson read Hegel: http://staff.harrisonburg.k12.va.us/~...

  5. 4 out of 5

    Xander

    During the winter of 1830-1831 Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel lectured on the philosophy of history. This was the third time in his career that he lectured on the subject; it would also be his last – he succumbed to the complications of cholera. Posthumously the lecture notes were collected and published in 1837 – in case of contradictions with earlier lectures the editors decided to stick to the last course of lectures Hegel presented. Hegel’s son Karl (himself a historian) decided to revise bit During the winter of 1830-1831 Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel lectured on the philosophy of history. This was the third time in his career that he lectured on the subject; it would also be his last – he succumbed to the complications of cholera. Posthumously the lecture notes were collected and published in 1837 – in case of contradictions with earlier lectures the editors decided to stick to the last course of lectures Hegel presented. Hegel’s son Karl (himself a historian) decided to revise bits and pieces and do some re-structuring and published a second edition of the book in 1840. Anyways, this is the short history of Lectures on the Philosophy of History, which shows how this is not really a book, but then again it is. As Karl Hegel explains in his short introduction, Hegel’s main thoughts remained the same over the course of his life while he continuously revised his own lecture materials. Also, son Karl explains how his father didn’t really stuck to definite concepts: sometimes he called the Eastern religion Buddhism, sometimes Lamaism – the concept remaining the same but the words changing. I open this review with these remarks, because it goes to show how easy it is for readers to stick meanings to Hegel’s words that he never meant himself (more on that later). This is a peculiar characteristic of Hegel and it not only makes his work very hard to interpret (or simply to read) – leading to a booming industry of academics offering their own studies – but it also offers us the problem of generality (also more on that later). So what is the book about? As Hegel himself explains in the introduction, these lectures were dealing with the philosophy of history. This sounds very simple and self-evident, but one has to remind oneself that this hadn’t been done up to that moment (with hindsight everything looks easy) and also that Hegel meant a very particular thing with his statement: he views historical facts as the material, the data, from which the philosopher has to abstract meaning. So the book is more about Hegel’s interpretation of history than it is about history itself. This is a significant point that many Hegel readers seem to overlook (judging by the reviews on this site). But Hegel also makes another very significant statement in the middle of his (long) introduction. He clearly states that the philosopher of history is powerless if he doesn’t know what he’s looking for beforehand – he can study facts endlessly but he will not understand their meaning. To illustrate this, Hegel draws an analogy with Johannes Keppler, a seventeenth century astronomer. Keppler wanted to describe the planetary orbits around the Sun in mathematical terms – to be precise: he wanted to explain the circular paths planets travel around the Sun (astronomy wanted to describe everything in terms of ‘perfect’ circles). Since he was already very familiar with geometry, he was able to interpret the data and recognize the impossibility of fitting the orbits into circular paths and discover the fact that the planets travel in elliptical paths. Without his geometrical knowledge, he wouldn’t have been able to discover the truth. Now Hegel sees himself as the Keppler of history – he doesn’t want to study historical facts, he wants to discover their underlying reality. And he is able to do this, since he already knows how the world is (literally) the development of consciousness. He knows how Spirit (‘Geist’) develops itself out of simple sense-certainty (the simple, basal certainty that the subject perceives an object – ‘this, here, now’). Reflection on this sense-certainty leads to consciousness of the self as subject. After this, consciousness perceives the material world and discovers this phenomenal world is itself a manifestation of consciousness (like Kant, Hegel claimed we impress, e.g., natural laws through force on ‘Nature’). But there’s a problem: there seem to be other subjects. Reflecting on this leads to the master-slave dualism, in which subjects try to destroy one another, ultimately ending in a relationship of master (‘Herr’) and slave (‘Knecht’). Initially the master is content, but he lets the slave work for him on the objective world. Doing this, the slave subject gets to know the world better and through this itself. Ultimately, Hegel sees stoicism, epicureanism and scepticism develop as consequences of these unhappy subjects. Anyways, the process is still a very long one to Spirit, but this would mean offering a summary of his longest and most difficult book and there’s no place for that here. Suffice to say, Hegel sees Spirit developing from simple sense-certainty through consciousness and self-consciousness to Reason. Reason has a major place in Hegel’s system, since it is able to distinguish itself as self-conscious subject as thing in itself and this self-same self-conscious subject as object. This antithesis leads to a resolution through Spirit. The main points to understand is that Hegel views the development of Spirit as not only a metaphysical process, but also a historical process, and even a political process. This process itself develops dialectically, where thesis and antithesis annihilate one another and a synthesis follows, which then forms a new thesis in itself, continuing the process. This means (in the case of history) that all prior development is contained in the historical epoch that one studies. So history is literally the development of Spirit, objectifying itself in the world. Another important point to grasp is that Hegel’s system is heavily dependent on the ancient distinctions of subject-object and universal-particular. Hegel follows Kant in claiming that the subject is unified self, unifying all thought in one Ego. The dialectic consists in the fact that a subject is universal – its thought is abstract, general, universal, not occupied with particular objects – but as soon as the subject thinks about itself it has to view itself as object – i.e. it has to become a particular. This antithesis continuously resurfaces in different disguises. Now, all the above is simply the underlying framework that Hegel uses to interpret history – this one has to understand PRIOR to starting the introduction. The introduction itself, which spans about 25% of the book, then makes matters even more abstract and hard to follow. The main gist seems to be this (it is hard to summarize Hegel, since all minor details are important…): Reason, as self-conscious Spirit, steers the world on its historical course. The goal of subjective Reason is to realize its Idea of Freedom in the objective world. Put differently, when Reason is identical with its Idea it is Free Spirit. This is the goal of history, according to Hegel. Now, if one understands Free Spirit as Absolute Knowledge – knowledge of the totality of all (both the finite and infinite), and recognizes this Absolute as that which Wills itself and realizes itself through its own unrestrained Freedom, it makes matters only harder to understand. Right? But what thing is called infinite, all-knowing, perfectly free (all-powerful) and – literally – the creator of the objective world? Ah! Now we see where Hegel is going. He identifies the Absolute with God, more specifically the Christian God. One could say that History is God Becoming itself, on the way to Freedom; History is God’s development into Free Spirit and the World is God (as Free Spirit) Objectified. Human beings partake in God, since they are part of the world and through the use of Reason they can attain the level of self-consciousness Hegel calls Spirit. (Hegel’s God, by the by, seems to be a rather peculiar God, more like the God of Spinoza than the God of Luther.) And in this, one can see how Hegel influenced a whole new generation of German scholars and theologians who finally could reclaim God after Kant made Him redundant. Anyway, when we study history, we notice the Spirit developing itself towards Freedom, and the material it uses is Man. This means humanity, not a particular human – although certain individuals can act as catalysts in the world-historical development (more on that later). Spirit needs Man – just as Man partakes in Spirit and is on his way towards unification with Absolute Spirit – because the Idea of Reason has to manifest itself in the phenomenal world. To accomplish this, it uses a civilization as medium and its individual human beings as mechanism. Human beings have a will; they follow their passions, which motivate their actions. And it is these actions that have effects on the historical epoch. In general, all the individual passions constitute society, but certain individuals have such strong wills that they press themselves against their society. It is in these geniuses that the Idea is able to manifest itself and work history to the next phase, so to speak. An example of this is Julius Caesar, who followed his own self-interests (fame, power, legacy, etc.) and destroyed the contemporary stagnant Roman Republic. Through his violent actions and conquests, he ushered in a new Roman phase (the Roman Empire). So the Spirit manifests itself through Caesar’s passions and unifies with these into a more Free historical stage. Hegel mentions the fact that the historical individual (like Caesar) is unhappy, since he is the determination of the Idea. When one is determined, merely a vessel of the Absolute Will, one is not free, hence not happy. In that sense, the historical figure has to offer himself to the altar of history. But in a broader perspective, Hegel also seems to mean that the individual offers his own people to the altar of history, and that the people have to accept this implicitly. Hegel’s perspective on history is one of necessary struggle and bloodshed, all for the greater good of the Spirit becoming Free. But there is hope for Man. According to Hegel, as world-history proceeds, the notion of Freedom starts to manifest itself more and more. This is, because all earlier developments are contained in the current historical phase. The Greeks knew a morality of custom (one simply had to do what was best for society) and were determined externally (through the material universe), while the Romans developed the notion of the autonomous individual (at least de jure, if not de facto). Christianity replaced Roman morality and offered Man a conception of himself as an individual of infinite value and equality to all others. After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, German tribes supplanted the Romans as world-historical people, while adopting Christianity. Initially kingdoms developed, which then grew and fell apart through strife, ending with feudalism – the state of German lands lacking any central authority where individuals had to ask for protection from local lords in exchange for giving up their lands. Feudalism is intrinsically incompatible with Freedom, so we see it develop more, over time, into States, led by the strongest princes, and parallel to this the growth of the Church. The Church served as the protector of human subjectivity, but over time it started to objectify its own subjective ideas – rituals, idols, saint worship and even ordinary indulgences started to replace the Christian Idea. Then Luther comes along the scene – the most important moment in History for Hegel – and reclaims the human subject. Now Man is free to think for himself and use his Reason to judge good and bad. The Reformation then leads to the Religious Wars in Europe and the establishment of Protestant regions. The seventeenth century then serves as the main spring for the Enlightenment: Man has now discovered Reason – the material world is studied, and this doesn’t just include the physical side of things – morality is studied in the same way as well. In the eighteenth century, with the subjective Freedom (Morality) enabled by Luther and Protestantism, Man starts to look at his own society in the same light. One discovers inequality and a state that is far from Free. The application of Reason to society leads to the conclusion that society has to be ordered according to Reason. This means, in effect, that the Law, the Government and the Disposition of the people all have to be instituted in such a way to reflect subjective Freedom. These together comprise the State, which then is Freedom objectified. According to Hegel, this can be called Religion – the cultivating of moral behaviour within society through objective measures mirrors exactly the subjective disposition of the individuals involved. So we end with the conclusion that History culminates on the paper on Hegel’s desk as he was writing these things; just like the Absolute Knowledge (i.e. the knowledge of the totality) culminated in Hegel’s mind grasping all there is to know in his Phänomenologie des Geistes. Talk about solipsism… To me, the way Hegel outlines his whole system and is able to string together such diverse subjects as metaphysics, history, politics, law and morality into one consistent whole is impressive. The whole idea, or rather complex of ideas, has a even certain intrinsic beauty. And compared to Kant, he is also much more apt and consequential in dealing with the problem of the metaphysical foundation of reality. But there are simply to many objections to his way of philosophizing. For starters, he is very selective in picking the civilizations that are part of World-History. He leaves out contemporary newcomers like the USA and the whole of Africa – a stagnant continent suffering under the African temperament and superstition. Though this might sounds racist, he does reject slavery outright and his stance on Africa was not unique among intellectuals of his time. Second, he starts his study with China, India and Persia, but why not earlier civilizations? This seems a bit arbitrary. Also, he sees the stagnation of China and the degeneration of India throughout history (his own views), which would refute his own theory of development, but then he arbitrarily claims these civilizations (just like Africa) are a-historical, they are not part of World-History. At best, the served as the spring for History to start developing. Third, because he is forced to apply his own logic of antithetical resolutions, he sees in every historical event a conflict with another event, which then has to be resolved. And so on. In other words: not only is Hegel’s view of history highly deterministic (there are laws guiding historical development) but also highly arbitrary. If I want, I can literally make an antithesis out of any historical fact – which makes Hegel’s history a bit quaint. Also, as Karl Popper writes in his Poverty of Historicism (1944) deterministic views on history are logically impossible, since this implies that the future is already known, which it is not by definition. The determinist claims that the future is already contained in the past, but this would mean that we could learn the future. But by studying this, we would by definition change the future (or our studying history should be included in the future contained in history, and so on ad infinitum). Fourth, the most simple rejection to Hegel’s Philosophy of History is simply the flawed data. No matter how more important interpretation is (according to Hegel), the facts are essential. And when he wrote and lectured, history simply was a flawed science. There is much missing in his exposition on the civilizations he describes; many new facts were discovered later on; and many facts have been nuanced at best, refuted at worst. So Hegel builds his historical system on faulty, incomplete and biased data – leaving not much for us to interpret… A final objection I want to state is the ingenious use Hegel makes of historical facts he likes. When he was young, he witnessed the huge event called the French Revolution from Germany, as the news gradually spread over Europe. He called this the most magnificent thing he knew about – and in his Philosophy of History both the French Revolution and its intellectual parent the Enlightenment, play an important role. The aftermath of the Revolution led to the application of all the ideals into practice, which clearly didn’t work and heralded in the Terror. It is completely understandable that such a major event leaves a lasting impression. But it seems a bit too coincidental if this personal event plays the main role in modern (German) history in your own system. It smells of bending the facts to your own goals, and throughout the work there are many more instances like this. For example, the role Christianity plays – both as a humanizing and elevating force destroying the despotic Roman power and as an emancipating return to true religion in the Reformation – needlessly fits in with Hegel’s own Protestant worldview. Another example is the use Hegel makes of the magnificent Greeks – founders of the notion of the subjective self (albeit in a spiritual form) – especially when contrasted to his approach of the despotic, dim-witted Persians – whose only historical role was the discovery of the principle of Light (in Zoroastrianism) and the derivative worldview dividing everything into Good and Bad. After this, history could do without them. And then there’s the Jews – laying in hiding, waiting for a chance to send off a sect to end Roman times. In short, Hegel seems to shop very selectively and only pick those historical facts that fit his preconceived system. The problematic facts are dealt with in an ad hoc fashion, almost obliquely, as if the only thing we should focus our attention on is the lecturer’s developing system. But to end this review on a more positive note (and to be fair to Hegel), I’d like to state that his conception of history as evolutionary process, and especially the conception of history as different epochs, each with their own key figures, events and cultural contexts. This approach to history was new when Hegel was lecturing, and he is the starting point of a whole trend in history, with people as diverse as Marx, Spengler and Toynbee all starting from the same basic Hegelian assumptions. Also, Hegel’s emphasis on the importance of ideas – as influencing development through shaping culture – is an important and healthy antidote to the one-sided materialism of later thinkers (especially Marx and Engels). Can I recommend this book? Well… To be honest, I think one needs to understand Hegel’s phenomenology of mind/spirt first – his dealings with social and historical phenomena can only be understood as factors in the last phase of mind developing itself into Self-Consciousness as Absolute Knowledge. If one doesn’t understand this phrase, I’d suggest pick up Phänomenologie des Geistes (1807) first.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Bob Nichols

    The "Philosophy of History" is Hegel's story about the unfolding of God in history. The world is God's creation, but that realization is not at first readily apparent. Man (humans are) is immersed in nature, a slave to his self-interest and its very material accoutrements. Only through the conflicts and opposition in history does man realize his spiritual essence that is God's essence in him. Just as Christ is both man and divine, humans and the divine are essentially one. This means that man is The "Philosophy of History" is Hegel's story about the unfolding of God in history. The world is God's creation, but that realization is not at first readily apparent. Man (humans are) is immersed in nature, a slave to his self-interest and its very material accoutrements. Only through the conflicts and opposition in history does man realize his spiritual essence that is God's essence in him. Just as Christ is both man and divine, humans and the divine are essentially one. This means that man is free of his bondage to the material world, and is able to construct a new reality by the laws of reason that operate and apply universally. Freedom, Reason, Universality constitute man's divine essence and these are the culmination of God's plan for the world. That culmination occurs in the German world (i.e., those from northern Europe). While Hegel's historical theory receives the most attention, Hegel's grasp of historical detail (Orient, Greece, Rome, Europe, Germany) is impressive. But Hegel approaches all of this rich information within his own religious frame of reference, and either abstracts his theory from history, or interprets history to fit his theory. Hegel is strikingly self-oriented (subjective) and uncharitable about the virtues and capacities of people other than his own. To be fair, Hegel's focus is on the reality for everyday man in everyday life, and whether these individuals were free (fully self-determined selves who, through the institutions of the state, self-govern for the good of the whole). But this overlooks the rich tradition of the East that struggled with the issues of freedom and self-governance, and the proper relationship between the individual and the state. Perhaps as a general statement, there's truth to Hegel's perspective that individual freedom and universal laws of the state emerged first in the democratic movements of the West. Yet, as beneficial as these developments may have been, it is problematic to argue that this union between the divine and secular (the free divine essence that operates rationally and universally in the material world) served objective and universal ends. Those who suffered under Western colonialism, for instance, would likely have a different perspective from the subjective "our way" that the West universalized and objectified. Judged from this viewpoint, Hegel's theory may be quite wrong. History is linear for Hegel. That perspective is challenged by some thinkers from "the Orient" that Hegel dismissed as thought from the backwater -- thought that was "outside the world's history." Some of those thinkers, contemporary with the Pre-Socratics, tended to view history cyclically. At its core, that world was and always will be never-ending change that is characterized by force and counter-force, resolution and balance, that regenerates itself in perpetuity. In a way, this this is the essence of Hegel's dialectic (thesis, antithesis, synthesis). But where Hegel saw purposeful progression toward ever higher levels of freedom toward an eternal Absolute (man's union with God), these thinkers from the East saw the only permanent reality as change itself. Hegel captured something fundamental in history. He traced the development of freedom (the capacity to make free choices), but he overlooked the tie of that freedom to man's (and history's) biological core. At that core, man is immersed in self-interest, despite the aspirations of many that man can (should?) have the capacity to operate for the good of the whole. In this this view of the world, self-interest confronts self interest. Tension and conflict are resolved through cooperation or overcoming until new cycles of self interest emerge that again must be dealt with (new power dynamics, new laws, etc.), and this dialectical cycle repeats itself through time and space, endlessly. Perpetual conflict, not permanent harmony, could be the essence of our history.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jesse

    Basically the manifest destiny ideology come home to roost in the philosophical hen-house, Hegel, the empty-headed rooster, makes a big, loud obnoxious aroaorooooooh throughout the length of this book in favor of Western culture. The thesis, set out in the introduction, is that a people only exists if the state above them is writing history, since only those states contain spirit which have the substance of reason, so Hegel says, which allows individuals to reach an objective view of the world a Basically the manifest destiny ideology come home to roost in the philosophical hen-house, Hegel, the empty-headed rooster, makes a big, loud obnoxious aroaorooooooh throughout the length of this book in favor of Western culture. The thesis, set out in the introduction, is that a people only exists if the state above them is writing history, since only those states contain spirit which have the substance of reason, so Hegel says, which allows individuals to reach an objective view of the world and therefore write history. So, right off the bat, Hegel declares that Native Americans deservedly "vanished" because they had no spirit, not because they were systematically murdered, and Africans are unimportant and should probably just go away too, or at least be ignored as part of the slave trade. The racism is only just beginning however, for in the first section, depicting Asia, Hegel depicts the cultures and people of China and India as essentially nothing; Asia is a pure Nothing that exists merely as a holding pattern for the West to produce Something. Consequently, Indians and Chinese people, because they are nothing, have "no morality" and are "lying, deceitful and slavish" by nature; interestingly, Hegel lectured on this at the same time that the British usefully propagated this sentiment in order to establish its "free-trade" markets in India and China - coincidence? So, after the far east, we get to the mid-east in Persia; they are noted for having the first empire, which gets a clap from Hegel, but he says its not quite filled with spirit yet so we have to go to Egypt where the people worship spirit in the form of animals. But they worship the spirit of the dead too, and so we have to go to Greece to worship the spirit of life. Hegel has a big orgasm over Greece and identifies the dissolution of this culture to the development of subjectivism, which he equates with the ultimate aim of spirit. This subjectivity results in the atomism of Rome and, thankfully, Hegel doesn't have too much good to say about it except that it gives birth to Christianity. Hegel, then, has another huge orgasm over Christianity, where he says "Jesus' morality must be ranked higher" than Socrates'. Apparently this is because Socrates didn't believe in hell, but we can't think too long about why that's obviously evil because the dialectic is a-moving, which means no time for moral reflection and so we gotta pass through the German world. Hegel says that the Crusades were conducted "simply and solely" to acquire the holy relics in Jerusalem in order for spirit to realize that sensuous objects haven't anything to do with faith. However, if you actually look over the history, you find that all the princes were in debt to the Pope and the Pope just wanted some spending money so he pointed to Jerusalem and said, "Steal that gold from the Arabs!" The Germans realize that the holy relics aren't spiritual, and for Hegel this all makes sense because afterwards Martin Luther shows up and says, "Let's make the state really powerful!", and that means he likes spirit and subjectivity. Hegel has his third and last huge orgasm at this, and concludes that Christianity, in its German form, has kept itself "pure from all admixture of races", and that's why liberalism was able to come into being. So, in order to preserve liberalism, we must all become Christian fascists! Huh?

  8. 4 out of 5

    Erik Graff

    I almost can't believe I read this book. Seeing it on the "Books Read 1/8-11/30/80" list had me running to the philosophy shelves and assuming it was Lectures of the Philosophy of History, a much shorter work. Then, to make sure, I checked the bibliographic card file, found both titles and looked again. There it was--an old copy, the title barely visible on the spine, and some annotations in my hand within. For instance: "Hegel begins here with the rational solipsism whereby human understanding- I almost can't believe I read this book. Seeing it on the "Books Read 1/8-11/30/80" list had me running to the philosophy shelves and assuming it was Lectures of the Philosophy of History, a much shorter work. Then, to make sure, I checked the bibliographic card file, found both titles and looked again. There it was--an old copy, the title barely visible on the spine, and some annotations in my hand within. For instance: "Hegel begins here with the rational solipsism whereby human understanding-reason (the two are not clearly distinguished in the Kantian sense) is recognized as entirely constituative of the world as it is knowable. From there--a demonstrable premise--he takes the step whereby our (possibly) qualified knowledge is potentially identified with the Gnosis itself. This step, however, is a major one. Hegel may be accused of (in a Kantian sense) confounding Reason qua Absolute with the all-too-human Understanding, degrading the former while inflating the latter to a dangerous level of hubris and confusion. At best this is a rational faith--one to which I subscribe, I hope, humbly." Although that rather lengthy marginal note is typical of notes running throughout my copy of Kant's First Critique and Kemp Smith's Commentary, I find that subsequent notes in the margins of The Philosophy of History are few and quite short. And now it comes back to me! I read this thing mostly in the Volume II Bookstore/Cafe on Sheridan Road across from Loyola University Chicago's Lake Shore campus. After Hegel's introduction, I got frustrated with his tendentious generalities and no longer expected much of the book, finishing it simply because it is hard to let off on a book once it's been started and because the prefatory materials are over a hundred pages long. Ah, Hegel was so exciting during the first readings of him in seminary, so disappointing when seriously pursued!

  9. 4 out of 5

    David Huff

    My first foray into reading Hegel, and I was definitely at the deep end of the pool for much of it, and sometimes underwater. Still, I'm glad I read it, and managed to assimilate at least a few ideas. I recently joined an online reading group that is reading, and discussing, The Great Books. The Philosophy of History was their current book underway when I joined. Of course, I didn't realize they were only reading Hegel's famous introduction (100 pages or so), and not the entire book (another 350 My first foray into reading Hegel, and I was definitely at the deep end of the pool for much of it, and sometimes underwater. Still, I'm glad I read it, and managed to assimilate at least a few ideas. I recently joined an online reading group that is reading, and discussing, The Great Books. The Philosophy of History was their current book underway when I joined. Of course, I didn't realize they were only reading Hegel's famous introduction (100 pages or so), and not the entire book (another 350 pages). So, yes, I read it all. The introduction, which for me had moments of being nearly incomprehensible, lays out Hegel's philosophy of history, and his ideas about "spirit" (hard to explain, sort of like the impulse of humanity toward freedom and growth through various societal stages -- and that's probably a weak and rudimentary explanation), and also his views on freedom and the need for the rule of law as overseen by the state. After the introduction, Hegel compares and contrasts the various maturity levels and stages of different cultures of the past. In order, these were China, India, Persia, Greece, Rome, and Germany. Interestingly, his writing seemed to get more clear and easier to follow as the book progressed, with the last section seeming the most straightforward of all to me. A couple of examples: "... the History of the World is nothing but the development of the Idea of Freedom". And "... the History of the World .. what has happened, and is happening every day, is not only not 'without God', but is essentially His Work" A mind-stretching read; probably would've been 4 stars if Hegel wrote more clearly -- or if I were smarter.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Nathan "N.R." Gaddis

    [2 stars for the translation; 5 because it's Hegel.] I have finally gotten around to looking into the matter. The Sibree translation of Hegel's Lectures on the Philosophy of History can now be and should be set up on the upper-most shelf and forgotten. Cambridge University Press has recently published a new translation based on the critically established German text and is presumably now the English version to read. The Sibree text is helplessly outdated and was based on a faulty text of the lect [2 stars for the translation; 5 because it's Hegel.] I have finally gotten around to looking into the matter. The Sibree translation of Hegel's Lectures on the Philosophy of History can now be and should be set up on the upper-most shelf and forgotten. Cambridge University Press has recently published a new translation based on the critically established German text and is presumably now the English version to read. The Sibree text is helplessly outdated and was based on a faulty text of the lectures. Lectures on the Philosophy of History translated by Ruben Alvarado should help bring this lecture series into the 21st century. The Sibree text is ubiquitous and cheap because it is in the public domain. Don't be tempted to save a few $$$ -- be sure you've got the latest scholarship at your finger tips. I am going to lay aside my reading of these lectures and pick it up again when I find a copy of this new translation. If one is not reading Hegel in German, finding a good translation is of utmost importance. Fortunately there has been a recent spate of new translations which are replacing the flawed and outdated translations of earlier generations. The Miller translations of the Phenomenology and the Greater Logic have been serviceable, but we now have newer translations available, or coming available, of these Hegel's most important and dense works.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Nathan "N.R." Gaddis

    This is the new translation of Hegel's lectures on the philosophy of history and is based on a critically established German text -- the first English translation of the entire series of lectures in 150 years. It should replace the old Sibree translation which is ancient and based on a flawed German text. The Sibree is cheap and ubiquitous because it is in the public domain. Do not be tempted to save a few $$$ by settling for it. When reading Hegel in translation it is of utmost important to hav This is the new translation of Hegel's lectures on the philosophy of history and is based on a critically established German text -- the first English translation of the entire series of lectures in 150 years. It should replace the old Sibree translation which is ancient and based on a flawed German text. The Sibree is cheap and ubiquitous because it is in the public domain. Do not be tempted to save a few $$$ by settling for it. When reading Hegel in translation it is of utmost important to have the latest scholarship available and hopefully this new translation should bring this set of lectures into the 21st centurty.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Rowland Pasaribu

    Hegel's philosophy of history is very much a product of its times, the more so for the overarching context of "Reason" in which he interprets history. The Philosophy of History is not a work that Hegel lived to see published. The massive text we have today is a reconstruction of a series of lectures Hegel gave at the University of Berlin in the 1820s. His students, colleagues, and friends were shocked at his sudden death in a cholera epidemic in 1831, and, feeling that he had still had many cont Hegel's philosophy of history is very much a product of its times, the more so for the overarching context of "Reason" in which he interprets history. The Philosophy of History is not a work that Hegel lived to see published. The massive text we have today is a reconstruction of a series of lectures Hegel gave at the University of Berlin in the 1820s. His students, colleagues, and friends were shocked at his sudden death in a cholera epidemic in 1831, and, feeling that he had still had many contributions to make, set about organizing and publishing his lectures. This project resulted in the posthumous publication not only of the Philosophy of History, but also of the Philosophy of Art, the Philosophy of Religion, and the History of Philosophy. Born in 1770, Hegel lived through a number of major socio-political upheavals: the American Revolution, the French Revolution, the Napoleonic wars, and the aftermath of those wars (in which Europe began to be re-structured according to early nationalist principles). Hegel followed all these events with great interest and in great detail, from his days as a seminary student in the late 1780s through his various appointments in high school philosophy departments and on to his days as the foremost intellectual of his time. The Philosophy of History, like his first major work, the Phenomenology of Spirit, strives to show how these major historical upheavals, with their apparent chaos and widespread human suffering, fit together in a rational progression toward true human freedom. The Introduction to the Philosophy of History does not go into much specific historical detail--Hegel is laying the groundwork for that pursuit, insisting on iron-clad basics like the idea that Reason rules history. He does, however, make a few brief references to contemporary intellectual projects and theories from which he wants to distance himself. Chief among these is a loose school of formalism, which was becoming increasingly popular in Germany. Formalism, for Hegel, includes those theories that seek to universalize certain elements of culture across the globe and across time. The most common approach such theories were taking was to posit an originary, united human culture and to argue that our contemporary culture consists of the separated fragments of this original whole. Thus, Hegel dismisses the "state of nature" arguments of his contemporary, Friedrich von Schlegel, and disparages similar schools of thought that seek to link Greek culture with ancient Indian culture or contemporary western ethics with Confucian morality. (Sanskrit had been "discovered" only twenty years prior to these lectures, and much new work was being done on Indian philosophy). Hegel is careful to distinguish his own theory (which involves a series of truly unique cultural stages) from this "Catholic" (i.e., universal) theory about common human culture; this universalizing of culture, he says, proceeds only on the basis of similarities in the form of culture, and ignores cultural content (which is what really makes cultures distinct). It must be emphatically noted that translating Hegel is notoriously difficult. Translations take a wide range of approaches to Hegel's conceptual vocabulary (which depends partly on a certain overlapping of terms)--some translate each German word as one English word, and some vary the translation of each term according to its changing context and emphasis. In addition, many translators capitalize words like "Spirit" or "Reason" to show when Hegel is referring to absolute, large-scale concepts and when he is not (in German, all nouns are capitalized all of the time). The translation used for this note is by Leo Rauch (see bibliography), who borrows tactics from various translations and comes up with a solid, contemporary version. Nevertheless, be prepared for some degree of confusion if you are working with another translation. If you are using this note to assist you with a different translation, it may be helpful to pick up a copy of Rauch's translation for comparison. Hegel sets out these three main divisions of recorded history in order to clear the decks for his own method of "philosophic" history. That concept receives very little clarification in this introduction to the Introduction, but what is said about it depends heavily on the notion of Spirit that Hegel has already begun to build. Spirit is Hegel's best-known and probably most difficult concept. The basic idea is that all of human history is guided by a rational process of self- recognition, in which human participants are guided to greater and greater self- awareness and freedom by a rational force that transcends them (Hegel will emphasize that we need not think of Spirit as God). The only interest of this force, Spirit, is to realize its own principle of true freedom. It does this by unfolding as human history, where the consciousness of freedom is the driving force. Each type of history that Hegel addresses here participates in this Spirit-guided process to some extent, and so each allows Hegel to set up some of the groundwork for his idea of Spirit. We first encounter this idea in the context of original history, in which the spirit of the historian's writing is identical to the "spirit" of the times covered. (If the translator has used a small "s" for spirit here and a capital one elsewhere, it's because Hegel is referring to the "spirit of the times" rather than Spirit as a whole, transcendent force). A fundamental feature of the operation of Spirit in history is that its nature is self-reflective. Human history progresses as humans become increasingly self-aware, and as they correspondingly become aware of their freedom (through the state). The stages of this progress seem to correspond roughly to the types of history Hegel sets out. Thus, original history seems to be the most basic with regard to Spirit, since it has little or no capacity to reflect on the spirit of the times--it is of the times, and therefore cannot transcend them. Reflective history, then, takes us up a level to the point where the historian is capable of reflection on earlier times. The most advanced method of reflective history is specialized history, since it splits history along conceptual, thematic, and therefore universal lines (by choosing to focus on law, religion, etc). By bringing this universal viewpoint to bear, specialized reflective history comes closest to Hegel's own project (philosophic history), in which universal principles truly come first. Philosophic history taps directly into the Spirit that guides world history, because this Spirit is essentially a force of Reason. Philosophy (particularly in pure logic) comes to know the characteristics of Spirit first, then looks for them in the events of history. The characteristics of Spirit that it comes to know are, roughly, that Spirit seeks only to realize its own nature, which is freedom. Thus, Hegel is already marking the rough outlines of what he means by Spirit, and is setting up his historical method (philosophic history) as the best one for understanding this guiding force in history (because philosophy knows it beforehand). We should note that this already gives Hegel a justification problem: he can only argue that he is right about Spirit based on 1) the logical analysis of Reason itself; or 2) the detailed study of history. There's no time for the former proof, and the detailed proof must come later (remember, this whole text is an introduction). Thus, Hegel says, for now we must simply have "faith" that history is rational. Hegel's discussion of the means of Spirit allows him to bring us closer to the kind of "common sense" history we know, even as he advances some extremely intricate metaphysical theory. Hegel uses both of these aspects to continue his running battle against the apparent improbability of his proposition that Reason runs world history. It may come as a relief to begin to hear about actual human beings, with their selfish drives, interests, and "passions." This seems suddenly to be a much more down-to-earth approach, especially when Hegel admits that history presents itself as a "slaughter-bench" inspiring "grief" and "helpless sadness." Unjust wars spring to mind as soon as any discussion of Reason in history is raised, and Hegel was witnessing his share of upheaval at the time of writing. The American and French Revolutions, each with their apparent advancement of human society and their simultaneous wanton butchery, were fresh in his mind (though we should keep in mind that neither of the World Wars were even on the horizon). Nonetheless, Hegel cites these horrors of history only in passing, and one suspects that he wishes to dispose of the most difficult challenges to his theory at one blow--hence, Hegel immediately returns to his theory, implying that it is the only viable choice besides despair or irresponsible aloofness. We must, that is, believe that these tragedies are "sacrifices" to a higher purpose. If this emotional discussion leaves us feeling that Hegel is more aware of the problems of concrete history than we thought, the next discussion launches us directly back into nearly total abstraction. Hegel wants us to grasp the sense in which human activity is the means used by Spirit to realize itself. What is particularly challenging about this proposition is that Hegel must explain precisely how Spirit "uses" humans for its own ends; in short, he must show a connection or even a unity between abstract Spirit and real human action. Hegel bases this unity on a proof that he attributes here only to "metaphysical logic": truth is the unity of the universal with the subjective particular. This actually makes intuitive sense (we might think of the framers of the U.S. constitution, who, through a unity of their own interests with a universal Idea of freedom, wrote the document taken as the essential truth of the State (whose purpose in history went on to transcend the purpose of any of the framers). Hegel wants to show that history unfolds only in as much as there is a relationship between human passion and universal ideas--a union of extreme opposites. The metaphysical version of this union is complex. Spirit has freedom as its central principle, but this is a different sort of freedom than arbitrary human free will. The freedom of Spirit can also be called a necessity, since Spirit finds its freedom simply in realizing itself--it's almost as if it's free to do one infinite thing. In contrast, human will is free in a very finite, fickle, and particular sense; it is subjective, serving only its subject. The union of these two, the universal and the subjective, is the means of history. What they accomplish together (the founding of States, etc.) is history itself. We should note that this unity of opposites has much to do with what Hegel refers to elsewhere as the "dialectic": universal Spirit knows itself as an object, and struggles against itself (its particular, subjective aspect). In more worldly terms, humans struggle to know themselves, and progress by negating some particular aspect of themselves in favor of a universal (the principle of the State). Thus, there is a dialogue, a progressive back-and- forth, between the subjective particular aspect and the objective universal aspect of this spiritual unity that drives history.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jacob Aitken

    (The page numbers come from the Brittanica Great Books Series, volume 46). Hegel is trying to overcome the dilemma that social life poses: per man's subjective life the important thing is freedom of spirit. However, man also lives in community and the norms of the community often bind his freedom of spirit (it is to Hegel's credit that he recognized this problem generations before Nietszche and the existentialists). Given Hegel's commitment about the fulfillment of spirit, it follows that communi (The page numbers come from the Brittanica Great Books Series, volume 46). Hegel is trying to overcome the dilemma that social life poses: per man's subjective life the important thing is freedom of spirit. However, man also lives in community and the norms of the community often bind his freedom of spirit (it is to Hegel's credit that he recognized this problem generations before Nietszche and the existentialists). Given Hegel's commitment about the fulfillment of spirit, it follows that communities grow. As seen above, Hegel's applies to history the problem of self-fulfillment. How does man realize the fulfillment of the Idea? Eastern Cultures: Hegel notes that these cultures—India, China, Persia, Egypt—were unable to bring about a harmony of spirit and sense. The Greek world developed from the Oriental world because it was able to embody Geist in such a way to emancipate spirit from “dead matter” (258). Jews: realization that God is pure, subjective Spirit. Ends up negating finite reality. Greek: opposite of Jewish mentality. Harmonizes God with "natural expression." Ends up with idolatry. Greek polis is pariochial. Each state his its own God. A universal realization of spirit is thus impossible. Men were identified with Greek state. Democracy natural expression. There is a necessary contradiction within the Greek polis: only represents a part of finite reality. Romans: Origin of the idea as "Person," bearer of "abstract right". Christianity: the finite subject and absolute spirit can be reconciled. The task of history is to make this reconciliation public--this is the Church. Germans: they were to take it to the next stage. The rest of European history is a working out these processes, a transformation of institutions. It is hear that we see feudalism, etc. At this point we need to correct a mistake about Hegel: Hegel is not saying that world history climaxes with Prussian Germany. There is no sensible way he could have believed that. Germany was weak and defeated when he wrote (it would have been interesting and perhaps more perceptive to say that Russia was the bearer of the World Spirit, especially in light of 20th century politics). Nonetheless, as Hegel notes and as his critics routinely miss, history did take an interesting turn in the 19th century and the force of ideas does not simply stop because the historian wants them to stop. Monarchy and the State Hegel sees “the state” as the mode in which the individual enjoys his freedom, but only in the sense of the willing according to the whole. In order to avoid confusion, Hegel must be seen as continuing Herder's thoughts: healthy states are organic outgrowths of individuals and communities (170). Another term of possible confusion is Hegel's use of “constitution.” By it he does not mean the vehicle of salvation that American conservatives think. A constitution is simply how society is arranged and not necessarily on paper (173). Hegel writes, “Now monarchy is that kind of constitution which does indeed unite the members of a body politic in the head of government as in a point; but regards that head neither as the absolute dictator nor the arbitrary ruler, but as a power whose will is regulated by the same principle of law as the obedience of the subject (208). American constitutionalists love to pretend that monarchy = despotism, but Hegel demonstrates that this is not the case. If we judge the world on how modern America develops, we will fail to understand Hegel. In Hegel's time, as per most of history, societies were often ethnically unified along a cultural (usually religious) center. Because of that, the monarch usually would not will something to the detriment of his subjects. Today's America, however, is officially predicated on the negation of that unifying center and Americans, even (especially!) conservatives, cannot understand that. Hegel warns of the chaos of the Republicanism that plagued Greece and Rome. While it is good that man is free and makes decisions, the problem arises when all men are free and make decisions that contradict one another. This kind of Republicanism necessarily leads to oligarchy, for the the individual with the most power and money will make the most powerful decision (and thus negate the weaker individual's decision and free choice). By contrast, Hegel points to the monarch as the final arbiter (281). Hegel's Christianity From a historical Christian perspective, Hegel's form of Christianity is pretty awful and need not be defended. On the other hand, his criticisms of Roman Catholicism, while often unfair, are interesting and I want to focus on a few of them. While Hegel rejected the sacred matter views of ancient Christianity, per the Eucharist and relics, he charged that this view chained the spirit to matter and institutions. While I don't think that is true, it is interesting that he phrased his critique that way. Orthodox theologians have always charged Rome's view of the Filioque as enslaving the Holy Spirit to institutions. Consider: if the Spirit proceeds from Father and Son because it is the Spirit of “Christ,” then the Spirit necessarily proceeds from the flesh of Christ. Keep in mind that “Christ” refers to the Incarnate Son, not to the Eternal Logos. This is a point all sides agree on. While technically speaking, the West teaches the Spirit proceeds from the Eternal Logos, that's not what the word “Christ” means. In that case, Hegel's criticism of Rome is quite interesting (the irony should not be lost because Hegel, too, accepted the Filioque). Conclusion This is probably the best place to start with Hegel. One should consult a history of philosophy manual and get reasonably familiar with Hegel's terms. Having done that, this text is fairly easy to read, if somewhat boring at times.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Karl Hallbjörnsson

    It pains me to have to tell you this but this is some of the Hegel Whichst Is Bad. Read the Phenomenology or the SoL instead. This is a shitty translation as well.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jacob Hurley

    it's fun i guess, he mostly modulates history through his system of philosophy and explains how the organizations, religions, and cultures of the world developed with a focus on great men who arise (like Alexander, Napoleon, Charlemagne). Like the aesthetics you can see the ideas in practice a little more clearly, for better or worse; this is presumably how he developed his abstract development of the spirit for Phenomenology. Probably an essential book of his, if you're committed to reading heg it's fun i guess, he mostly modulates history through his system of philosophy and explains how the organizations, religions, and cultures of the world developed with a focus on great men who arise (like Alexander, Napoleon, Charlemagne). Like the aesthetics you can see the ideas in practice a little more clearly, for better or worse; this is presumably how he developed his abstract development of the spirit for Phenomenology. Probably an essential book of his, if you're committed to reading hegel.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Ned

    Subject matter here is that the History of Culture is a rational but divinely impelled process. Whether you like his definitions, the process, the dialectic he lays out here is difficult to argue with, though many have decisively. They are indemonstrable biases one way or the other. On the one hand, Hegel's gloss of Asian and Ancient Near-Eastern culture's own self-understanding is horribly misshapen and includes so much 19th century anti-Eastern biases, not merely including the bourgeoning Romant Subject matter here is that the History of Culture is a rational but divinely impelled process. Whether you like his definitions, the process, the dialectic he lays out here is difficult to argue with, though many have decisively. They are indemonstrable biases one way or the other. On the one hand, Hegel's gloss of Asian and Ancient Near-Eastern culture's own self-understanding is horribly misshapen and includes so much 19th century anti-Eastern biases, not merely including the bourgeoning Romantic mid-european nationalism and xenophobia prevalent in his time. The short and misunderstood gloss of Buddhism or Chinese history, fail to show the breadth of these people's myriad of culture's or their understanding of them, as mere example. Hegel's woefully underdocumented historical bases (still the norm for his time), for much of his hubristic take on cultural characteristics of the non Judeo-Christian 'other' civilizations, and thereby 'inferior' Eastern or Arab, Moslem or Egyptian culture, in the end only damage the credibility of his overall thesis -- the 'evolution' of divinely impelled process of human or universal culture at large over eons of time. If one were to take Hegel's argument at face value, these premises that he builds upon later are thereby faulty. So the whole machinery is flawed. However, there are very singular characterizations that he gives to Jewish historical culture, to the Greeks, to the Romans, medieval euro-culture ,and as he calls it the 'German Spirit' that have much to say about the growth and advent and decline of the different periods in European culture and their self-understanding and self-expression. Hegel reveals the more he knows of a topic, the better his analyses. Indeed, this was what the reputation of this book is based on as outlined in the famous introduction and which went on to be seen as a clear fork in diverging opinions about what is going on in the world at large and what we should be doing about it. You either agreed with Hegel or didn't and it always mattered HOW one agreed or didn't with him. Is the human race propelled by the Sacred Need of the Holy Spirit of God to reveal itself? Or are we just dumb animals flailing and floundering with the only advances of any kind being born purely from luck and random mutation (as many existentialists would have you BELIEVE) ? It's not a pretty way to look at it, unless you can see it from Hegel's POV and then you have to be a believer in the way that he believes for it all to be believable . . . It might seem like I'm trashing Hegel here, I'm really not. He made his argument. There have been a couple tangents in thought from his time, but none of them and none of us have come up with a better way to explain the advance and purposes of culture over eons (maybe Spengler? or maybe in fiction?) like he does here, despite so many wrong examples and misunderstandings and florid expanses of turgid vapidity that maybe he did for his students. Yes! Still five stars because of the vision and the multi-faceted ideas that grow out of this system, even today and it's consequent tremendous influence.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Morgan

    While I have another 100 pages or so to go, this book has not seemed particularly informative or even well written. Hegel's entire view of history is premised on history being completely teleological, with each stage leading towards some grand goal. Conveniently, this goal seems to be a modern, Christian German state. Can't imagine how Hegel got to that conclusion. This teleological view falls apart pretty quickly if you don't believe in some sort of deity guiding the process, an objection Hegel While I have another 100 pages or so to go, this book has not seemed particularly informative or even well written. Hegel's entire view of history is premised on history being completely teleological, with each stage leading towards some grand goal. Conveniently, this goal seems to be a modern, Christian German state. Can't imagine how Hegel got to that conclusion. This teleological view falls apart pretty quickly if you don't believe in some sort of deity guiding the process, an objection Hegel never once seems to have considered, or at least never seems worthy of addressing. My main issue with this book is that Hegel is some vague with defining this goal, "realizing the underlying principle of history," to paraphrase. This principle is variously referred to as obtaining subjective unity, the realization of the Spirit, fully obtaining Freedom and many other equally meaningless phrases. The term Spirit itself is thrown around frequently with no explanation as though the reader ought to inherently know what is being referred to by it. It later receives multiple definitions, none of which do much to explain it or how we know it exists, including: the underlying animate material, inherent vital movement, pure Identity and even used as an explanation of the link between man and God in Hegel's system. Freedom seems only to mean having reflected upon things and deciding for yourself to submit to the rules laid out by the Christian God of your own free will, under the realization that they are the best for you rather than out of fear or under force. The history itself is incredibly bad, with Hegel naïvely relating obvious myths and rumors about the history and people of China and India. Meanwhile he writes off vast parts of the world as being essentially unable to have any historical significance based on Hegel's farcical geographical analysis. I picked this up hoping for an interesting introduction to Hegel and his much referenced dialectical, but was fairly disappointed in all aspects. The Hegelian dialectical is treated as a fait accompli, even though his ideas on the synthesis between an idea and its antithesis seem to form the crux of his historical analysis. In addition to his poorly explained theory, you get double servings of bad history mixed with Hegel's intermittent forays into theology. I'll check out some of his other works to try and get a better understanding of his system, particularly the dialectic, but overall am quite disappointed, especially as this book was recommended as a good introduction to Hegelian thought. Absolutely do not understand the praise given to this book.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Ed

    This is an ambitious work. There's 100 dense pages of introduction just so the reader can learn what the book is about, and then another 350 pages that describes all the important developments in the history of civilization up until that time. This is not a book for light reading. I'm don't even think that this book is worth reading for it's intrinsic value at all. It may be worthwhile because of it's historical importance. Hegel was an influential man and this book provides a good look, unsurpr This is an ambitious work. There's 100 dense pages of introduction just so the reader can learn what the book is about, and then another 350 pages that describes all the important developments in the history of civilization up until that time. This is not a book for light reading. I'm don't even think that this book is worth reading for it's intrinsic value at all. It may be worthwhile because of it's historical importance. Hegel was an influential man and this book provides a good look, unsurprisingly, of his philosophy of history. Basically, the Spirit, or God or Reason, or some sort of nebulous, capitalized force guides history towards freedom. The book gives a detailed guide of examples of how the Spirit guided history throughout history. Although I doubt so much of the historical information that Hegel gives, the book really showcases what a staggering amount of knowledge that Hegel had. Hegel seemed to know a fair bit about every civilization in the world. Well, every important civilization that is. This was a man who was happy to dismiss small continents such as Africa as being irrelevant to history's development. There were several examples of the requisite racism that comes with the works of 19th century, european authors. Hegel thought that Napoleon was a higher thinking individual so it's obvious that Hegel didn't care so much for the less visible people of History. I confess that I did skim some of the historical section. It's not a book for the faint of heart. It takes a lot of effort to get going and then some stamina to finish. Apparently this is his most accessible book but that shouldn't be taken to mean that it's an easy read. I'm glad that I read it, but I don't anticipate reading it again.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jeremy

    As with a lot of 18/19th century German philosophy (Herder, Kant, etc), you find yourself plopped down into a view of the world animated by such unfathomably large abstract concepts (Spirit, Thought, Will) that you have to wonder why the author even bothers. Every concept is contingent upon and reduces into every other concept, or evolves into it, or whatever. This is not an attempt at an original inquiry as much as it is Hegel attempting to put together a historical justification for his broade As with a lot of 18/19th century German philosophy (Herder, Kant, etc), you find yourself plopped down into a view of the world animated by such unfathomably large abstract concepts (Spirit, Thought, Will) that you have to wonder why the author even bothers. Every concept is contingent upon and reduces into every other concept, or evolves into it, or whatever. This is not an attempt at an original inquiry as much as it is Hegel attempting to put together a historical justification for his broader philosophical system by attempting to anatomize the pyschological 'states' of various periods of history, a dubious project, at best. An aweful lot of it boils down to this kind of sinister justification for a brand of uber-nationalism which seems eerily reminiscent of what made the first half of the twentieth century such an unbelievable shit storm. Though maybe some of my issues with the text have to do with the Sibree translation, which is piss-poor at best. After reading this, I kind of suspect that Hegel's prominence in Western philsophy has more to do with his creation of a system so byzantine that its nearly impossible to coherently refute (Which means it must be right. Right?) rather than from any profound insight it offers.

  20. 4 out of 5

    xDEAD ENDx

    Although I think a fair majority of the content in this book is detestable, Hegel is a very formidable opponent. The historical importance of this work cannot be discounted, and even though he proclaimed 19th century Germany to be the pinnacle and end of history, his ideas have so heavily influence the idea of progress that we struggle with today. I spent a good amount of time reading the introduction in a study group setting, but had it not been for that I would have been pretty lost reading thi Although I think a fair majority of the content in this book is detestable, Hegel is a very formidable opponent. The historical importance of this work cannot be discounted, and even though he proclaimed 19th century Germany to be the pinnacle and end of history, his ideas have so heavily influence the idea of progress that we struggle with today. I spent a good amount of time reading the introduction in a study group setting, but had it not been for that I would have been pretty lost reading this. I feel that Hegel gives a novel tracing of history, but I almost knew exactly where he was heading when discussing each region. There are interesting tid-bits here and there, but I'm generally unmoved by history. Everyone else sucks, Germany is the best, The Spirit travels West to Germany, the end of the journey is German philosophy, and Hegel sits atop his throne as the one to know the Totality.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Padraig Mcgrath

    A truly world-changing book, and a total head-fuck. The "genealogy of the soul" offered herein, and Hegel's de-metaphysicalization of the Christian deity, marked a profound revolution in the philosophy of religion. Arguably the most influential work of Christian apologetics ever written by a secular philosopher. And as if that wasn't enough, it reads like a very pacey novel. More than any philosophical text I've ever read, this could be described as "a page-turner." Its stylistic accessibility ( A truly world-changing book, and a total head-fuck. The "genealogy of the soul" offered herein, and Hegel's de-metaphysicalization of the Christian deity, marked a profound revolution in the philosophy of religion. Arguably the most influential work of Christian apologetics ever written by a secular philosopher. And as if that wasn't enough, it reads like a very pacey novel. More than any philosophical text I've ever read, this could be described as "a page-turner." Its stylistic accessibility (in comparison to Hegel's other work) is largely down to the point that it wasn't intended as a book at all - it was a series of lectures, published posthumously in book-form. The analysis of Zoroastrianism and Egyptian religion is exhilarating. In any case, I can't recommend it highly enough. When they bury me, I want this one in my coffin....

  22. 4 out of 5

    Hami

    Brother Hegel has shown his true face in these lectures. For some reason, his eurocentric, anti-indigenous, and nationalistic ideas come easier to the surface in this book than in “Phenomenology of Spirit (1807)”. “The Orientals have not attained the knowledge that Spirit—Man as such—is free; and because they do not know this, they are not free. They only know that one is free. But on this very account, the freedom of that one is only caprice; ferocity—brutal recklessness of passion, or a mildne Brother Hegel has shown his true face in these lectures. For some reason, his eurocentric, anti-indigenous, and nationalistic ideas come easier to the surface in this book than in “Phenomenology of Spirit (1807)”. “The Orientals have not attained the knowledge that Spirit—Man as such—is free; and because they do not know this, they are not free. They only know that one is free. But on this very account, the freedom of that one is only caprice; ferocity—brutal recklessness of passion, or a mildness and tameness of the desires, which is itself only an accident of Nature—mere caprice like the former.—That one is therefore only a Despot; not a free man. The consciousness of Freedom first arose among the Greeks, and therefore they were free; but they, and the Romans likewise, knew only that some are free—not man as such. Even Plato and Aristotle did not know this. The Greeks, therefore, had slaves; and their whole life and the maintenance of their splendid liberty, was implicated with the institution of slavery: a fact moreover, which made that liberty on the one hand only an accidental, transient and limited growth; on the other hand, constituted it a rigorous thraldom of our common nature—of the Human. The German nations, under the influence of Christianity, were the first to attain the consciousness, that man, as man, is free...” Even Dover couldn’t fix this comment when they wrote the preface to the book: “Hegel at times speaks of the peoples as if they were nations, and this has given rise to a good deal of misunderstanding. Hegel has even been called the philosopher of the modern nation-state, who provided a spiritual apotheosis for the nation and its role in world history. But all we need to do is to look at his basic pattern, his broad conception to see the error of this common view of the Hegelian philosophy of history. “The Orient knew and knows only that one is free, the Greek and Roman world that some are free; the Germanic world knows that all are free.” In these terms: Orient, Greek and Roman, Germanic, we are actually confronted with entities much larger than the modern nations. What Hegel is manifestly talking about is the great cultures or civilizations.” After reading this book, I realized why Deleuze attacked Hegel so vigorously. Aside from his archaic vocabulary (using words such as inherent, essential, natural, spiritual, morality, etc.), he mentions “will” quite often, which is probably inspired by Schopenhauer. Hegel seems to have a good idea what are the primitive and uncivilized qualities. He dismisses peoples who do not belong to any state. One of his objectives is to establish the idea of “spirit” and “nation” as foundational for a universal reason (read the introduction chapter) In the Phenomenology of Spirit, the famous section on master and slave dialectic in The Independence and Dependence of Self-Consciousness: The Dialectic of Lord and Bondsman, lays down theoretically the notion of slavery based on “recognition”. Yet, this perspective has denied the cruelty and torture of forced slavery and has reduced it to the institutions of slavery that contains and defines the human beings. In another word, the voiceless slaves, their misery and agency is neglected in the conversation (their being is reduced to a struggle for recognition!) State: He says: "It is only through the state that ....things can happen, and be realized” therefore according to his view indigenous peoples, migrants and people without state are spiritless. From the introduction of the book, one can easily infer that he does not count China, India and other Asian civilizations as legitimate but as static and pre-historical. Instead, when he arrives in Persia, he gives a salute to the old kingdom, but also says that there is nothing left there so let's move on to Greece. In Greece, he first dissects similarities to German qualities and then mentions the Greek problems just to arrive at the concluding chapter on Germans, German-Christianity and freedom. He accepts Herodotus as the founder of history and builds upon the same tradition. Hegel divides history into three sections: original, reflective and philosophical history. Hegel is anthropomorphizing nation-state to further illuminate its positive features and show the necessity of its existence, yet in this process, he neglects the idea of culture and imperialism. Therefore, he ends up promoting colonialism and colonial projects in order for the aggressors to realize their national spirit. Here, it is appropriate to mention Edward Said's great work Culture and Imperialism, which for the first time examined the classical western novels that were connected to the various colonial projects outside of Europe. Said’s historiography similar to Foucault can be considered oppositional to eurocentric Hegelian idea of the philosophy of history. Freedom: Surprising fact about this book is that when Hegel comes across the idea of freedom and spirit [we can call it "spirit of nationhood" for the sake of convenience] he mentions Rousseau on the idea of minority and their voice. “We have considered two aspects of Freedom,—the objective and the subjective; if, therefore, Freedom is asserted to consist in the individuals of a State all agreeing in its arrangements, it is evident that only the subjective aspect is regarded. The natural inference from this principle is, that no law can be valid without the approval of all. This difficulty is attempted to be obviated by the decision that the minority must yield to the majority; the majority therefore bear the sway. But long ago J. J. Rousseau remarked, that in that case there would be no longer freedom, for the will of the minority would cease to be respected." Spirit: “Thus is it with the Spirit of a people: it is a Spirit having strictly defined characteristics, which erects itself into an objective world, that exists and persists in a particular religious form of worship, customs, constitution, and political laws—in the whole complex of its institutions—in the events and transactions that make up its history. That is its work—that is what this particular Nation is. Nations are what their deeds are. Every Englishman will say: We are the men who navigate the ocean, and have the commerce of the world; to whom the East Indies belong and their riches; who have a parliament, juries, etc.—The relation of the individual to that Spirit is that he appropriates to himself this substantial existence; that it becomes his character and capability, enabling him to have a definite place in the world—to be something.” Today, as an immigrant in Europe, reading this section is like waking up to the worst nightmare: to see the essentialist characteristics of a nation being revived then popularized (the old school racist discourse of England for English, America for Americans, Finland for Finns etc.) Hegel emphasizes that "the shape which the perfect embodiment of Spirit assumes— [is] the State” Therefore, let's forget about the slavery and Atlantic slave-trade, forget about the genocide of the native Americans because those people didn’t have spirit to being with. He identifies “Matter” as the opposite of Spirit. Matter's essence is Gravity and Spirit's essence is Freedom."Society and state are where freedom becomes realized”. I haven’t read Hobbes’s Leviathan, but I can imagine him saying the same type of things based on the reversal of Rousseau's Social Contract and Discourse on Inequality. At the end of the book, he celebrates the fact that Germany was able to keep its essence of German-ness [or white race] and its Christianity. Therefore it had the possibility of establishment of a strong state. “Germany Proper kept itself pure from any admixture; only the southern and western border—on the Danube and the Rhine—had been subjugated by the Romans. The portion between the Rhine and the Elbe remained thoroughly national. This part of Germany was inhabited by several tribes. Besides the Ripuarian Franks and those established by Clovis in the districts of the Maine, four leading tribes—the Alemanni, the Boioarians, the Thuringians, and the Saxons—must be mentioned. The Scandinavians retained in their fatherland a similar purity from intermixture; and also made themselves celebrated by their expeditions, under the name of Normans. They extended their chivalric enterprises over almost all parts of Europe. Part of them went to Russia, and there became the founders of the Russian Empire; part settled in Northern France and Britain; another established principalities in Lower Italy and Sicily. Thus a part of the Scandinavians founded states in foreign lands, another maintained its nationality by the ancestral hearth.” Uni-Reason (European reason) The second half of the book is based on a naïve comparison of “us" and “them”, "Christian Europe" and "Non-christian Asia”, “orient" and “occident”. In this battle, its reason [a.k.a Europe] that will ultimately win. Using this method, he incorporates any characteristics of religion, culture, art, and historical events to push his thesis forward. Regarding this issue, Linda Smith writes: “It should also be self-evident that many of these ideas are predicated on a sense of Otherness. They are views which invite a comparison with ‘something/someone else’ which exists on the outside, such as the oriental, the ‘Negro’, the ‘Jew’, the ‘Indian’, the ‘Aborigine’. Views about the Other had already existed for centuries in Europe, but during the Enlightenment these views became more formalized through science, philosophy and imperialism, into explicit systems of classification and ‘regimes of truth’.” “The blood-revenge of the Arabs is based on the feeling that the honor of the Family is injured. Among the Germans the community had no dominion over the individual, for the element of freedom is the first consideration in their union in a social relationship." Another day in Norenburg (1813): .. May 1813 Hegel and his wife were in Nuremberg where a large Prusso-Russian force was in the vicinity. In this alliance against Napoleon (who Hegel saw as the Weltgeist) were thousands of Russian muslims-Bahskiri Turks from central Asia. The Bashkiris filled him and his wife with fear. He relates in a letter to his friend Niethammer a strange dream his wife had. "..she dreamt she found herself in a huge camp just outside Paris, full of wild soldiers, Cossacks, Prussians, all mixed together. She was terrified - but you rode through the turmoil on a horse next to her and made a way through; whenever they hemmed close around her you reached down from your horse and gestured, that she was under your protection ...I was a little concerned in this story about the fact that I didn't appear in it at all. My wife excused herself by saying that I was part of her in the dream; and it certainly pleases me to think that under your protection you brought us home to safety through all those Chuvashes and Bashkiris" -Letter to Niethammer, April 29, 1814—in Briefe von und an Hegel, II:27 insideanairport

  23. 4 out of 5

    Geoff Sebesta

    I enjoyed the hell out of this book. I obviously don't agree with everything this guy says, but it's all super interesting. I like the idea that yesterday's historical lessons don't necessarily apply directly to today. I see a lot of evidence for that around here. His prescription for the state functions quite well as a description of the state. Hegel's understanding of freedom and nature is much the same as mine, and I believe to be the common view of almost anybody who has spent a substantial a I enjoyed the hell out of this book. I obviously don't agree with everything this guy says, but it's all super interesting. I like the idea that yesterday's historical lessons don't necessarily apply directly to today. I see a lot of evidence for that around here. His prescription for the state functions quite well as a description of the state. Hegel's understanding of freedom and nature is much the same as mine, and I believe to be the common view of almost anybody who has spent a substantial amount of time outside. Perfect freedom is available to anyone who wants to go over the next hill and flail around in the forest to their heart's content, all alone. Society is the problem of dealing with other people, and it cannot be escaped if other people are to be dealt with. I've always had trouble understanding how ancient people viewed the state as a religious entity but Hegel helps bridge that gap. He was looking for a perfect spiritual society as a reflection of a perfect god, and he wasn't afraid to make big leaps.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Hakkı

    Wanna read this.

  25. 4 out of 5

    emily Ying

    For Political Philosophy class. We read the Hacket Version, so it has only 100 pages. I have to download the whole Chinese translation which is directly translated from German and maintains all Hegel's point. One of the most inspiring book I've ever read. It literally changed my life attitude. I used to think that freedom is inborn-ed with us, and all the rules forced by all institutions or states are actually shackles. In short, I used to believe in "lassez-faire" on all aspects of life. Howeve For Political Philosophy class. We read the Hacket Version, so it has only 100 pages. I have to download the whole Chinese translation which is directly translated from German and maintains all Hegel's point. One of the most inspiring book I've ever read. It literally changed my life attitude. I used to think that freedom is inborn-ed with us, and all the rules forced by all institutions or states are actually shackles. In short, I used to believe in "lassez-faire" on all aspects of life. However, Hegel point out that even in the most primitive condition of barbarism there actually exist some form of restriction and limit on freedom. because "Freedom, as the ideal dimension of original nature, does not exist as an original and natural state. On the contrary, it must first be achieved and won, and indeed won through an endless process involving the discipline of knowledge and will." Just like financial freedom, it won't just come naturally. You have to practice your discipline and will power to study and use ration, make deep research and thereby made wise investment and then will the financial freedom be really achieved. Just as the old saying goes 没有规矩,不成方圆 “ Still....I am trying to change some of my habit now.....kind of brainwashed, but Hegel is really persuasive. Hegel strongly favors state over individuality. State is the only place where freedom could really exist, for the "will that is obedient to the law is free". It is the place that synthesis the two antithesis between freedom and necessity. Conflict between classes is the real force that push the history forward, my understanding is that it's like the natural world, the physics, only when there is a difference either in electricity level or the temperature, will the electricity or the molecule move. So he said that periods of happiness are "empty pages in history, for they are the periods of harmony, times when the antithesis is missing." We'll probably need to write an essay two weeks later....make update this note after we finish Hegel...... Also about China, Hegel most praised about criticized that only the emperor in ancient Chinese political system and is free all other people being equal, a.k.a, 专职统治。 Seems like the same even to today's communist party but perhaps transit to the roman empire's state where few are free. After all, our law system is adopt after the roman's. (just guess...please correct me) What Hegel said about China is right, however, China has such a long history so he only extracts the part that's beneficial for his argument, for all his statement about Greek or Rome, there exist a period in Chinese history that's identical. Like Han Dynasty or Tang dynasty in accordance with the Greek union of states "loose organization of states" and Tang dynasty that's highly tolerant of different races of people, especially people from the Middle east (the Arab people) and the European people(mostly from roman empire) who all eventually have been part of all China's population now. still need more research to further confirm my point on China later......

  26. 4 out of 5

    Nare

    The only thought that philosophy brings to history is the simple conception of reason, the history of the world presents us with a rational process. The only place where you find truth is in history. Hegel’s only world of reason is history, where truth is made and happens. Reason is the substance of the universe. It is the infinite energy of the universe. Everything has to make sense because making sense is grounded in history. Historical record makes sense if you know how to look at it. You hav The only thought that philosophy brings to history is the simple conception of reason, the history of the world presents us with a rational process. The only place where you find truth is in history. Hegel’s only world of reason is history, where truth is made and happens. Reason is the substance of the universe. It is the infinite energy of the universe. Everything has to make sense because making sense is grounded in history. Historical record makes sense if you know how to look at it. You have to know how to read history. Modernity is the period in which we understand that the only place we should look for truth is around us. Dialectic is Hegel’s lens for reading history. Historical present contains the past within it. Dialectical processes are how the past is retained in the present. When you have one thing in history, it calls for its opposite, brings about conflict. You have the first point, and the opposite is called for. What you get is the result, but that has the first two terms within it. Thesis, antithesis, and synthesis…how you read history. This is the negation. “In transversing the past…we have only to do with what is present. The life of the ever present Spirit is a circle of progressive embodiments, which looked at in one aspect still exist beside each other, and only looked at from another point of view appear as past.”- Hegel Hegel believes that conflict is necessary. Different philosophers used various standards, but for Hegel the link is history. Influenced by Christianity and Christian mysticism. The truth comes to the world and is incarnated in the world. The truth is in the flesh of history. The truth is around us and it will emerge in history. It emerges dialecticall in the theory of conflict. It is not a way of looking at the world, it is how the world works. “The history of the world is none other than the progress of the consciousness of freedom; a progress whose development according to the necessity of its nature it is our business to investigate.” Hegel is investigating progress. The truth is that all must be free, not just some people. Freedom is needed in all of society and that is the truth of history.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Alex Lee

    Hegel did his best to calibrate his philosophy to humankind. In doing so he adopts a Rousseauian sense geography influencing culture and culture itself arising out of a necessity of universality as individuals attain self awareness through the signal of the abstract greater Good that Christianity is formulated around. This "Reality that is not sensuous" is both a rejection and a correction of Kantian transcendental philosophy, in which Hegel bridges the suture. While he talks about the raw materi Hegel did his best to calibrate his philosophy to humankind. In doing so he adopts a Rousseauian sense geography influencing culture and culture itself arising out of a necessity of universality as individuals attain self awareness through the signal of the abstract greater Good that Christianity is formulated around. This "Reality that is not sensuous" is both a rejection and a correction of Kantian transcendental philosophy, in which Hegel bridges the suture. While he talks about the raw material of geography providing the initial context for how culture of different peoples arises, he jumps this to the final point of Abstraction, in which the elevation of "Form into Universality": where "Objective Spirit attains manifestation". This is in a way, a literal reconciliation of the self with his soul, the soul with Truth of the State. We can read this almost sideways and get a better sense that attaining selfhood within the European framework is only possible within European self-awareness because of its tautological nature. If we were to accept that there are different rationalities, we would need to discard Hegel's theory completely. But as the Modernist that he is, he never considers this possibility, subjugating/mapping all rationality within the metaphysical container of Rationality. If we were to consider each self within their respective culture as needing to understand its individuality within that context as an expression of its rightful Will, we could destroy the hierarchical of Hegel's motion. But this is a difference of modernism and post-structuralism, wherein in modernism the correct context is unspoken and assumed to be evidently correct throughout. Interesting book. Definitely interesting ideas. Racist ideas, but Hegel was working within his own time expressing his structures with the available ideas of that era. This doesn't mean what he did is useless but it does mean we should understand the limits of what he produced and be sensitive to the possible value his ideas still have as we would sometimes assume them.

  28. 5 out of 5

    ZaRi

    Although Freedom is, primarily, an undeveloped idea, the means it uses are external and phenomenal; presenting themselves in History to our sensuous vision. The first glance at History convinces us that the actions of men proceed from their needs, their passions, their characters and talents; and impresses us with the belief that such needs, passions and interests are the sole springs of action — the efficient agents in this scene of activity. Among these may, perhaps, be found aims of a liberal Although Freedom is, primarily, an undeveloped idea, the means it uses are external and phenomenal; presenting themselves in History to our sensuous vision. The first glance at History convinces us that the actions of men proceed from their needs, their passions, their characters and talents; and impresses us with the belief that such needs, passions and interests are the sole springs of action — the efficient agents in this scene of activity. Among these may, perhaps, be found aims of a liberal or universal kind — benevolence it may be, or noble patriotism; but such virtues and general views are but insignificant as compared with the World and its doings. We may perhaps see the Ideal of Reason actualized in those who adopt such aims, and within the sphere of their influence; but they bear only a trifling proportion to the mass of the human race; and the extent of that influence is limited accordingly. Passions, private aims, and the satisfaction of selfish desires, are on the other hand, most effective springs of action. Their power lies in the fact that they respect none of the limitations which justice and morality would impose on them; and that these natural impulses have a more direct influence over man than the artificial and tedious discipline that tends to order and self-restraint, law and morality. When we look at this display of passions, and the consequences of their violence; the Unreason which is associated not ,only with them, but even (rather we might say especially) with good designs and righteous aims; when we see the evil, the vice, the ruin that has befallen the most flourishing kingdoms which the mind of man ever created, we can scarce avoid being filled with sorrow at this universal taint of corruption: and, since this decay is not the work of mere Nature, but of the Human Will — a moral embitterment — a revolt of the Good Spirit (if it have a place within us) may well be the result of our reflections.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Doctor Moss

    The whole of Hegel’s Lectures on the Philosophy of History is rarely read. The Introduction is widely read and respected as a key text for understanding Hegel’s philosophy of history, and also his political philosophy. This edition includes the entire contents of the lectures, translated by Ruben Alvarado (although based on the Sibree translation from 1857). It is important to remember that this is not a text published by Hegel himself, but was originally compiled and published from his and his The whole of Hegel’s Lectures on the Philosophy of History is rarely read. The Introduction is widely read and respected as a key text for understanding Hegel’s philosophy of history, and also his political philosophy. This edition includes the entire contents of the lectures, translated by Ruben Alvarado (although based on the Sibree translation from 1857). It is important to remember that this is not a text published by Hegel himself, but was originally compiled and published from his and his students' lecture notes after his death. The Introduction, about one quarter of the entirety in this edition, lays out the basics — what history is to Hegel, how it fits into his broader system, the roles of individual agents within history, and some very interesting remarks on historical change and the importance of making sense of history as something more than just a massive sequence of events. The remainder, the bulk of this edition, presents Hegel’s understanding of history in detail, beginning with “The Oriental World” and culminating in “The Germanic World” of his own time. Hegel is a rationalist, certainly in the sense that he draws from early Greek philosophy — that there is a way of making rational sense of the world. And he credits Anaxagoras with this fundamental insight, that nature can be understood in rational terms — that it has a logos. But nature, while understood rationally, doesn’t do what human history does — history doesn’t just follow a rational course. In human history, reason is enacted in the rational wills, actions, institutions, and practices of people. History starts when reason begins to enact itself, in Hegel’s terms, when the consciousness of freedom begins to develop itself. For Hegel, that enactment of reason requires a “state”. His use of the term “state” is misleading in our own context, where the “state” is identified with a “government”. His conception is much broader and includes not only the political structures of a people, but their culture and practices in general — their art, science, religion, civic, and even the structures of personal life. All of these are aspects of the “determination” that a people gives to itself — the specific structures, practices, etc. they both construct and live within historically. The first true states in Hegel’s account are those of “The Oriental World”. What is distinctive about this stage of history is the emergence of “freedom” — where “freedom” is exactly this ability of a rational agent to enact itself in the world. As Hegel progresses through the stages of history, from this initial stage through the Greek and Roman Worlds, and finally to what he calls “The Germanic World”, freedom progresses. In the initial stages, freedom is not universal — in fact, in his account of China, freedom is the freedom of only one person, a ruler. For the rest, the state, and the rules by which to live, are external — an imposition. Parenthetically, I have to say that Hegel’s knowledge of what he calls “The Oriental World, seems rudimentary and shallow. Hegel writes at a time when Asia, like Africa, South America, and parts of North America were still remote. They still carry an exotic air, but, because of their remoteness, even someone like Hegel appears to have been vulnerable to gross misapprehensions. It would have been difficult for anyone to have first-hand knowledge of those continents, and most, probably including Hegel, relied on third or fourth hand accounts, with abundant generalities and inaccuracies. As we progress through the other stages, freedom becomes universal — the state becomes the expression of the rational will of all its people. This is not a story of western democracy (in fact, the political theory put forward here by Hegel is monarchical). One thing that comes out more clearly than in others of Hegel’s works is the Kantian nature of his concepts of freedom and the state. For Kant, freedom is the activity of a rational will, as opposed to a will determined by nature ("inclination" for Kant). Reason supplies us with the ability to affect reality freely rather than as compelled by nature. Hegel criticizes the liberal conception of freedom as essentially non-Kantian (although not in so many words) — the freedom of liberal states is the freedom to follow natural inclinations, particular interests, desires, and aims. Kantian freedom, to the contrary, is the freedom of rational activity — pursuit of universal goals and laws. And freedom, the full playing out of “subjective” and “objective” freedom, in the consciousness of people and in their concrete lives, institutions, and laws is what world history achieves — “. . . world history is nothing but the development of the idea of freedom.” The contrast is important. Achieving a just state, for Hegel, is not a matter of constructing a fair playing ground for individuals to pursue their separate and particular interests. It is an arena in which reason, again in the Kantian sense, makes itself real in institutions, practices, and laws. This is an importantly different conception of the role of the state in the life of individuals, drawn from a different conception of freedom. Freedom, for Hegel as it was for Kant, is the ability to act rationally, generating our actions from universal principles of reason. In its favored light, it is the freedom to act rationally and produce a world mirroring human reason. None of this is to say that freedom actually implies the suppression of the aims and goals of individuals. Hegel argues, going beyond Kant certainly on this point, that the opposition between reason and inclination is resolved in the evolution of a state that, in its very rational character, provides for the fulfillment of the particular aims and goals of individuals. Hegel’s philosophy of history neatly complements both his Phenomenology of Spirit, as the concrete historical settings for the evolution of knowledge and consciousness in the Phenomenology, and his Philosophy of Right, his most focused work on political philosophy. Given the central importance of history in Hegel's thought, it's great to see this newer, revised translation. I'm not in a position to make a scholarly judgment on the translation, and I have no specific criticisms. Alvarado bases his translation on the original (and only other complete) translation by Sibree from 1857. I'd love to see a fresh translation from scratch, but I do recommend Alvarado's translation as a much needed update.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Aaron

    I like the way he described history as a process controlled by a Geist or Spirit and this Spirit is dictated by reason, as the sovereign of the world, which is the result of freedom. Also I liked the way he described the role of the World-Historical Individuals as the Agent of the Spirit, as individuals who best understood the affairs of their state at that time and their ideas was considered the best at that time and their ideas resulted into a revolution, revolution in controlling the affairs I like the way he described history as a process controlled by a Geist or Spirit and this Spirit is dictated by reason, as the sovereign of the world, which is the result of freedom. Also I liked the way he described the role of the World-Historical Individuals as the Agent of the Spirit, as individuals who best understood the affairs of their state at that time and their ideas was considered the best at that time and their ideas resulted into a revolution, revolution in controlling the affairs of the state which led to improvement or to term it politically, social change. Also I liked the way he used Christianity as an example in realization of man's freewill; and by saying that freewill must be used for the common good just as Jesus Christ used his freewill to save us from our sins. What I admired the most is the way he described the development of the modern state (using Hegel's Context) as the direct product of dialectical ideas- two or more ideas that results into a better ideas for example the idea that slaves want to be free like their masters since from the start, there are persons that are free, so they started the idea of them being free like their masters that resulted to the love and desire for freedom in the modern times.

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