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Detail of Biography - Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
Name :
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
Date :
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327
Category :
Birth Date :
27/08/1770
Birth Place :
Stuttgart, Swabia.
Death Date :
November 14, 1831
Biography - Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
Many problems plague Hegel’s philosophy. However, possibly the most offensive to a modern reader is the apparent racism of Hegel’s historical analysis. One of many examples of this racism can be found in the philosophy of History.[br /]
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[b]Nationalism[/b][br /]
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This fondness for Germany leads us to a second problem in Hegel’s Philosophy of History. Hegel’s thought was highly influential in Germany in 19th century, and many of his followers used his ideas to support their own nationalistic ideals. Though Hegel’s philosophy is essentially a philosophy of change, many conservatives were able to interpret his thought in a manner consistent with their own right of center ideas. It is hard to relate Hegel’s philosophy with nationalism, for Hegel believed that individuals are truly free when they fully identify with their nations. In order to become truly free, the individual must identify with a larger entity than the family or the community; only a complete relationship with the nation can produce true freedom for the individual. [br /]
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[b]Monarchy[/b][br /]
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Another troubling aspect of Hegel’s philosophy of history is his acceptance of the Prussian monarchy. Hegel claims that the Prussian State is the most effective vehicle for carrying out the people’s wishes, thereby allowing them to be free.[br /]
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[b]Relativism[/b][br /]
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Hegel’s emphasis on change and process might seem to point such a conclusion. If cultures, morals, religions etc. are always existing, then is there any Universal ? Is there any Truth ? Hegel could claim that there is indeed a single truth and that history is the unfolding of this truth. However, the assertion that Hegel was a relativist can easily be defended, for most of his writings stress that all things, ideas, and people must change through time. If we assume that time is infinite, then all things must change infinitely and thus nothing is constant, nothing is true.[br /]
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In his inaugural lecture in Berlin, Hegel said, "In religion the spirit becomes present to spirit. In religion, man abandons his limited and temporal aims, the pressure and delight of the present, and his essence becomes free by itself; the inner God is one with the outer."[br /]
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Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel was born on August 27, 1770, in Stuttgart, Swabia. Beethoven, the great composer, was also born in 1770; the nineteenth century was destined to be a great period in Germany's cultural history. Hegel's father, Georg Ludwig Hegel, worked in the department of finance for the Duchy of Württemberg. Hegel was the oldest of three children, and therefore bore a great deal of responsibility. Hegel's mother died when he was just eleven, resulting in even greater responsibilities for the young Hegel.[br /]
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His brother, Ludwig, would eventually serve in the army of Napoleon. Christiane, his younger sister, came to depend upon him emotionally in place of a parent. This attachment might have resulted in an emotional breakdown. According to Hegel, his sister was envious of other women in his life. When Hegel married, Christiane developed "hysteria" and resigned from her work as a governess. In 1820, Christiane was committed to an asylum for one year. Once released, Christiane's relationship with Hegel remained strained. Only three months after Hegel's death, Christiane drowned herself.[br /]
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Georg Ludwig Hegel inspired his children to have an anti-Catholic bias as he was a Protestant. The Hegel family had fled persecution by Catholics in Austria many years ago. Deep divisions between Lutheran Protestants and Catholics made Austria dangerous for Protestants. In Germany, the Hegels rose in social standing, which also dictated one son was expected to enter the clergy. Georg Ludwig assumed his eldest son would be a minister.[br /]
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Brought up in an atmosphere of Protestant Pietism, he became thoroughly acquainted with the Greek and Roman classics while studying at Stuttgart, in Germany. He learned the elements of Latin from his mother by the time he entered the Stuttgart grammar school, where he studied until 18. A stimulating teacher of Greek and Latin, gave him a firm foundation, which enabled him to master Plato and Aristotle’s works. Today, we read 19th and 20th century commentaries and translations of these philosophers; many of them inspired by Hegel. As a schoolboy he made a collection of extracts, alphabetically arranged, comprising annotations on classical authors, passages from newspapers, and treatises on morals and mathematics from the standard works of the period.[br /]
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Equipped with a thorough knowledge of Latin and Greek, and already endowed with wide-ranging intellectual curiosity and a special interest in history, he went as a student to Tübingen in 1788, to read philosophy and theology. He entered the University of Tübingen as per his parent’s wish. He arrived there one year after the publication of the second edition of the critique of Pure Reason and one year before the French Revolution. Here he studied philosophy and classics for two years until his graduation in 1790.[br /]
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In the year 1789, several students at the university formed a political club of sorts. Hegel became part of this group, primarily to engage in the discussions concerning the French Revolution and the concepts of freedom. but it truly is ironic that Hegel's works later gave rise to Karl Marx. While a member of this group, Hegel formed ties to several Jacobin secret societies, which he considered "ruthlessly suppressed" by authorities. Throughout his life, Hegel celebrated the French Revolution - Bastille Day became a personal holiday for Hegel. At Tübingen, he was clearly bestraddled with 18th century rationalism with the Romantic Movement of that era. Though he took the theological course, he was impatient with the orthodox attitude of his teachers. He was said to be poor in oral exposition. Though his fellow students called him ‘the old man’, he liked cheerful company and a ‘sacrifice to Bacchus’ and enjoyed the ladies as well. There he developed friendship with the poet Holderlin, his contemporary, and the nature philosopher Schelling, five years his junior. Together, they read the Greek tragedians and celebrated the glories of the French Revolution.[br /]
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On leaving college, Hegel did not enter the ministry; instead, wishing to forgo leisure for the study of philosophy and Greek literature, he became a private tutor in Berne, Switzerland. For the next three years he lived there, with time on his hands and read books. He read Edward Gibbon, Baron de Montesquieu, as well as the Greek and Roman classics. He also studied the critical philosopher Immanuel Kant and was stimulated by his essay on religion, which is later reflected in his work.[br /]
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Hegel was lonely in Berne and was glad to move, at the end of 1796, to Frankfurt, where Holderlin got him a tutorship. His hopes of more companionship, however, remained unfulfilled. Holderlin was engrossed in an illicit love affair and shortly lost his reason. Hegel began to suffer from melancholia and to cure himself, worked harder than ever, especially at Greek philosophy, modern history and politics. He read and cut clippings from English newspapers, worked on the internal affairs of his native Wurlemberg, and studied economics. Hegel was now able to free himself from the domination of Kant’s influence and to look with a fresh eye on the problem of Christian origins. Two years later, his father died, leaving a financial legacy that was sufficient to free him from tutoring.[br /]
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In January of 1801, he arrived at Jena, where Schelling had been a professor since 1798. The precocious Schelling, who was only 26 on Hegel arrival, already had several books to his credit. Schelling had been fighting alone in the university against the rather dull followers of Kant. Hegel had been summoned as a new champion to aid his friend. Hegel’s delivered lectures in the winter of 1801-02, on Logic and Metaphysics, which were attended by about 11 students. Later in 1804, with a class of about 30, he lectured on the whole system, gradually working it out as he taught. After the departure of Schelling from Jena (1803), Hegel was left to work out his own views untrammeled.[br /]
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Besides philosophical and political studies, he made extracts from books, attended lectures on physiology, and dabbled in other sciences. The most lasting fruit of his Jena experiences was his friendship with Goethe. At this time, Hegel published his first great work, The Phenomenology of Mind.[br /]
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Unfortunately, his philosophical career was cut short after only six years when the university was closed with the advent of Napoleon. He had to leave the town and work for a year as a newspaper editor in Bamberg. This however was not a suitable vocation, and he gladly accepted the rectorship of the Aegidien gymnasium in Nuremberg, a post he held from December 1808 to August 1816 and one that offered him a small but assured income. There, Hegel inspired confidence in his pupils and maintained discipline without pedantic interference in their associations and sports.[br /]
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While he was at Nuremberg he met Marie Von Tucher (1791-1855). He married her in 1811 and entered a happy married life. His wife bore him two sons: Karl (1813-1901), who became eminent as a historian; and Immanuel, whose interests were theological. Marie gave birth to a daughter, who died soon after birth. Before his marriage, Hegel had fathered an illegitimate son, Ludwig (1807-31), who eventually came to live with the Hegels.[br /]
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He accepted the chair at Heidelberg. There, he published his Encyclopaedia of the Philosophical Sciences in Outline.[br /]
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In 1818, Hegel accepted the renewed offer of the chair of philosophy at Berlin, which had been vacant since Fichte’s death. There, his influence over his pupils was immense and he then published his The Philosophy of Right. After this Hegel seemed to have devoted himself entirely to his lectures. Between 1823 and 1827 his activity reached its maximum. His notes were subjected to perpetual revisions and additions.[br /]
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Strongly influenced by Greek ideas, Hegel also read the works of the Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza and the French writer Jean Jacques Rousseau. Although he often disagreed with these philosophers, their influence was evident from his writings.[br /]
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In 1831, cholera spread to Germany. Hegel and his family retired for the summer to the suburbs, and there he finished the revision of the first part of his Science of Logic. On November 14, Hegel died after a day’s illness, of cholera and was buried there.[br /]
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George Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel born in Stuttgart, Germany, was an idealist philosopher who has influenced most facets of modern philosophy. He studied theology at the University of Tubingen, and his theological background decisively influenced his philosophy, which tends to develop along religious lines.[br /]
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Hegel wrote several voluminous books of which, the most important are The Phenomenology of Mind, The Science of Logic, and The Philosophy of Right.[br /]
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Hegel had great stimulating power, which influenced and motivated thinkers as diverse as Karl Marx, Bernard Bosanquet and many others of his time. His fertile thoughts and suggestive power made him a great philosopher. He had an amazing gift of epigram, and his descriptive power in sketching modes of consciousness from within, was indeed masterly.[br /]
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Hegel’s philosophy played an influential role in the formation of the modern American Public Education System. A genius who towered above his contemporaries and his successors. Far more people in the world today are followers of Marx and Kierkegaard than those who study Hegel, and yet these two were eager students of Hegel.[br /]
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His life ought to be an encouragement to all those, who in their youth are at sea with a host of issues that challenge them.[br /]
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1807[br /]

The Phenomenology of Mind[br /]
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1812-13[br /]

The Objective Logic[br /]
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1816[br /]

The Subjective Logic[br /]
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1817[br /]

Encyclopaedia of the Philosophical Sciences in Outline.[br /]
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1821[br /]

Philosophy of Right[br /]

Reconstructed lecture notes[br /]
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1832[br /]

Philosophy of Religion[br /]
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1833-1836[br /]

History of Philosophy[br /]
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1835-1838[br /]

Philosophy of Fine Arts[br /]
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1837[br /]

Philosophy of History[br /]
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[b]Hegel’s Philosophy[/b][br /]
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The basic tenet of Hegel’s philosophy is that the human mind does indeed play a large role in structuring the existence of the individual, but only through its opposition to the outside world. For example, our concept of a chair is something that is formed in our minds, yet this concept could not occur without some sort of sensual perception of the chair itself. When we see, feel and smell something then only we demand for it. Hegel treated all human actions in a dialectical manner. The self was nothing until the mind was able to relate the self to its concept of ‘Self’ as well as relate it to the other. Hegel believed that the individual, by interacting with other individuals, other objects in the concrete world, as well as other ideas in the world of the spirit, could reach a higher order of self.[br /]
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In fact, true freedom and the fully realized self could only be achieved through interaction with other individuals, other objects, and other ideas. Consequently, institutions such as the family, civil society, education etc. were absolutely essential to the freedom of the individual.[br /]
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Hegel’s philosophy is speculative in the sense he tried to understand the whole realm of human experience by grasping it as the manifestation of Geist. Geist means both ‘mind’ and ‘spirit’ and it may not always be clear whether Hegel is thinking of mind as a philosophical concept, or of spirit, as a theological one. As a last resort he identifies the two, because philosophy in his religion crystallized into thought.[br /]
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[b]The Phenomenology of Mind[/b][br /]
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Hegel’s greatest work is his The Phenomenology of Mind which is described by Marx as the true birthplace and secret of Hegel’s philosophy. It is sometimes referred to in English as, The Phenomenology of Spirit. This, perhaps the most brilliant and difficult of Hegel’s books, describes how the human mind has risen from mere consciousness, through self-consciousness, reason, spirit and religion, to absolute knowledge. Though man’s nature or attitude towards existence is reliant on the senses, a little reflection is sufficient to show that the reality attributed to the external world is due as much to intellectual conceptions, as to the senses and that their conceptions elude man when he tries to fix them.[br /]
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In this work, Hegel sought to show that all human intellect so far was logically necessary. The logic of this process is, however, not the traditional logic of syllogism, but rather Hegel’s own dialectical logic. The study of phenomena is called phenomenology, and Hegel focuses on mental phenomena. Hence the title, Phenomenology of Mind. It is a study of appearances, images and illusions throughout the history of human consciousness.[br /]
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Seeing the Phenomenology as a whole and at the same time understanding it as a document of Hegel’s development, one can easily see his desperate struggle with himself. It is the life of the spirit not to shun his own devastation. But to face them with absolute honesty guided by the preface, one may see the Phenomenology as a great work of art, an immense world-historical stage play. On the stage appears one form of human consciousness after another, each together with what it believes in, its value. Each makes a disappointing experience with its certainty and is replaced by another one, which enjoys and suffers the same fate. At the end of all these various characters, will have contributed their share to the whole play; the audience at the same time becomes aware that all these roles are their own roles. It unfolds their own fable before their eyes and minds.[br /]
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In the Phenomenology, the whole philosophy is discovering itself in the voyage and adventure, which the human soul undertakes to become aware of its world and of it within itself. Every step and phase of this human consciousness discovers in itself, a perennial human possibility, both in ascending, as well as, in descending directions.[br /]
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[b]The Philosophy of Right[/b][br /]
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This is another one of the important works of Hegel. In The Philosophy of Right, Hegel describes this rational quality in a manner that parallels – though is not identical with the Prussian monarchy of his own days. For this, he was accused by Schopenhauer of selling himself to his employer. The Philosophy of Right falls into three main divisions. The first is concerned with law and rights like: persons are the subject of rights, and what is required of them is mere obedience, no matter what the motives of obedience may be. Right is thus an abstract, universal and therefore does merit justice only to the universal element in the human will. The individual, however, cannot be satisfied unless the act that he does accord not merely with law, but also with his own conscientiousness. Thus, the problem in the modern world is to construct a social and political order that satisfies the aims of both. And thus, no political order can satisfy the demands of reason unless it is organized so as to avoid on one hand, a centralization that would make men slaves or ignore conscience, and on the other, an antinomianism that would allow freedom of connection to any individual and so produce a licentiousness, that would make social and political order impossible.[br /]
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The Philosophy of Right can and has been read as a political philosophy, which stands independently of the system, but it is clear that Hegel intended it to be read against the background of the developing conceptual determinations of logic. The text proper starts from the conception of a singular willing subject as "the bearer of an abstract right". While this conception of the individual willing subject with some kind of fundamental right is in fact the starting point of many modern political philosophies.[br /]
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[b]The Science of Logic[/b][br /]
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In 1812, the first volume of Hegel’s Logic appeared; the second volume was published in 1816. His school and his new family life kept him busy during these days.[br /]
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The Logic is, like the Phenomenologic des geistes, a new creation, a miracle of achievement. And, as in the case of the latter, there are a number of long and careful comments and reproductions, notably those of the orthodox Hegelians Kuno Fischer and Johann Edward Erdmann. But those elegant reproductions of Hegel’s Logic are no less artificial than the original; their sequence of categories is not less arbitrary, and many transitions are just as forced. Hegel meant to develop Logic as ontology. He intended to unfold the categories of being itself, present in and pervading all beings, and all of its regional dimensions such as nature and history. He kept working on this theme to his last days but Logic never satisfied him.[br /]
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[b]Hegel’s Philosophy of History[/b][br /]
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To Hegel, history was a complex, organic process that could never be understood by concentrating solely on the narrow accounts of politicians, kings and aristocrats. To fully understand the history of a nation or of the world, one had to delve into its times, and explore its culture, its pattern of thought, and the interactions of all its people. Hegel’s philosophy of history has greatly influenced our modern historical methods and studies. Students of Hegel have proven themselves to be some of the most influential historians of all time. For example, Marx’s materialistic interpretation of history and David Strauss’ attempt to discover the ‘true’ life of Jesus are some of the finest examples of the original ‘new history’ that the modern world has produced since Hegel.[br /]
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Hegel presents his view of the direction of history in a famous sentence from the introduction to The Philosophy of History.[br /]
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The history of the world is none other than the progress of the consciousness of freedom.[br /]
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The remainder of the work is a long illustration of this thought. Hegel begins with the ancient empires of China, India and Persia. For Hegel, the course of history since the Reformation has been governed by the need to transform the world so as to reflect the newly recognized principle of individual freedom.[br /]
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One might ask why a philosopher should write a work that is, in one sense, a brief outline of the history of the world, from ancient times to his own day? The answer is that for Hegel the facts of history are raw material to which the philosopher must give some sense. Hegel said that history displays a rational process of development, and, by studying it, we can understand our own nature and place in the world.[br /]
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[b]Hegel’s Philosophy on Nature[/b][br /]
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Hegel made most strenuous efforts to make into an intelligible whole what contemporary scientists told him about the physical world. According to him, however necessary the mastery of nature was to man; the really important problems lay elsewhere. The stars, which excited Kant, were for Hegel only a ‘rash’, and the mountains of the Bernese Oberland he found equally unimpressive for knowledge of what is in nature and history he depended on natural scientists and historians. Philosophy’s task was indeed to get to the bottom of what they reported, but it could not alter their reports or substitute anything for it. His Philosophy of Nature might have been more highly regarded if it had explicitly adopted a theory of evolution. No theory could have better fitted Hegel’s own views.[br /]
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[b]Encyclopaedia of the Philosophical Sciences[/b][br /]
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While in Heidelberg he published the Encyclopaedia of the Philosophical Sciences, a systematic work in which an abbreviated version of the earlier Science of Logic was followed by the application of its principles to the Philosophy of Nature and The Philosophy of Spirit. In 1821 at Berlin, Hegel published an expanded and developed version of a section of the encyclopaedia dealing with political philosophy, Elements of the Philosophy of Right. The following 10 years up to his death due to cholera in 1831, he continued to teach at Berlin, and published subsequent versions of the Encyclopaedia. After his death, versions of his lectures on philosophy of history, philosophy of religion, aesthetics, and the history of philosophy were published.[br /]
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[b]Ethics and Politics[/b][br /]
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Hegel’s social and political nature emerges most clearly in his discussion of morality and social ethics. At the level of morality, right and wrong is a matter of individual conscience. One must however, move beyond this to the level of social ethics, for duty according to Hegel, is not essentially the product of individual judgment. Individuals are complete only in the midst of social relationships; thus, the only context in which duty can truly exist is a social one. Hegel considered membership in the state, one of the individual’s highest duties. Ideally the state is the manifestation of the general will, which is the highest expression of the ethical spirit. Obedience to this general will is the act of a free and rational individual.[br /]
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From The Philosophy of History[br /]
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"The only Thought, which Philosophy brings…. to the contemplation of History is the simple conception of Reason; that Reason is the Sovereign of the world, that the history of the world, therefore presents us with a rational process."[br /]
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"Spirit is self-contained existence. Now, this is Freedom, exactly. For if I am dependent, my being is referred to something, which I am not; I cannot exist independently of something external. I am free, on the contrary when my existence depends on myself."[br /]
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"What experience and history teach is this - that people and government never have learned anything from history, or acted on principles deduced from it."[br /]
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From The Encyclopedia of Philosophical Sciences[br /]
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"The significance of that ‘absolute commandment’, know thyself – whether we look at it in itself or under the historical circumstances of its first utterance – is not to promote mere self-knowledge in respect of the particular capacities, character, propensities and foibles of the single self. The knowledge it commands means that of man’s genuine reality – of what is essentially and ultimately true and real - of spirit as the true and essential being."[br /]
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General Quotations[br /]
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"We may affirm that nothing great in the world has been accomplished without passion."[br /]
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"We learn from history that we do not learn from history."[br /]
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