Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

gigatos | June 23, 2022


Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel († November 14, 1831 in Berlin) was a German philosopher who is considered the most important representative of German idealism.

Hegel”s philosophy claims to interpret the entire reality in the diversity of its manifestations, including its historical development, in a coherent, systematic and definitive way. His philosophical work is one of the most effective works in the history of modern philosophy. It is divided into “Logic,” “Philosophy of Nature,” and “Philosophy of Mind,” which includes, among other things, a philosophy of history. His thought also became the starting point for numerous other currents in the philosophy of science, sociology, history, theology, politics, jurisprudence, and the theory of art; in many cases, it also influenced other areas of culture and intellectual life.

After Hegel”s death, his followers split into a “right-wing” and a “left-wing” grouping. The right-wing or Old Hegelians, such as Eduard Gans and Karl Rosenkranz, pursued a conservative interpretive approach in the sense of a “Prussian philosopher of the state,” which Hegel had been declared to be during the Vormärz period, while the left-wing or Young Hegelians, such as Ludwig Feuerbach or Karl Marx, derived a progressive approach critical of society from Hegel”s philosophy and developed it further. Karl Marx in particular was influenced by Hegel”s philosophy, which became known to him through Eduard Gans” lectures. Hegel”s philosophy thus became one of the central starting points for Dialectical Materialism, which led to Scientific Socialism. Hegel also exerted a decisive influence on Søren Kierkegaard and existential philosophy, and later especially on Jean-Paul Sartre. Hegel”s method of grasping the subject matter by bringing all of its views to bear allowed the most opposing representatives to invoke Hegel and still do today.

Early period (1770-1800)

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (his family called him Wilhelm) was born in Stuttgart on August 27, 1770, and grew up in a pietist home. His father Georg Ludwig (1733-1799), born in Tübingen, was a Rentkammersekretär in Stuttgart and came from a family of civil servants and pastors (see Hegel family). Hegel”s mother, Maria Magdalena Louisa Hegel (née Fromm, 1741-1783), came from a wealthy Stuttgart family. His two younger siblings, Christiane Luise Hegel (1773-1832) and Georg Ludwig (1776-1812), grew up together with him. The eponymous ancestor of the Hegel family, which belonged to the traditional “respectability” in the Duchy of Württemberg, had come to Württemberg in the 16th century as a Protestant religious refugee from Carinthia.

Probably since 1776, Hegel attended the Gymnasium illustre in Stuttgart, which had been an educational branch of the Eberhard-Ludwigs-Gymnasium since 1686. Hegel”s interests were wide-ranging. He paid particular attention to history, especially antiquity and ancient languages. Another early interest was mathematics. He possessed knowledge of Wolffian philosophy, which was prevalent at the time. The surviving texts from this period show the influence of the late Enlightenment.

For the winter semester 1788

After two years, Hegel received the degree of Master of Philosophy in September 1790, and in 1793 he was awarded the theological licentiate. Hegel”s graduation certificate states that he had good abilities and diverse knowledge.

Hegel benefited much from the intellectual exchange with his later famous (temporary) roommates Friedrich Hölderlin and Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling. Through Hölderlin he became enthusiastic about Schiller and the ancient Greeks, while the pseudo-Kantian theology of his teachers repelled him more and more. Schelling shared these ideas. They all protested against the political and ecclesiastical conditions in their home state and formulated new principles of reason and freedom.

In the summer of 1792, Hegel attended the meetings of a revolutionary-patriotic student club that brought ideas from the French Revolution to Tübingen. Its members read French newspapers with great interest; Hegel and Hölderlin were described as Jacobins. Hegel is said to have been “the enthusiastic advocate of freedom and equality” in this.

After Hegel left the university, he obtained a position as a tutor in Bern in 1793, where he was to give private lessons to the children of Captain Karl Friedrich von Steiger. The Steigers” comparatively liberal ideas fell on fertile ground with Hegel. The Steigers also introduced Hegel to the social and political situation in Bern at the time.

Hegel spent summers with the Steigers at their estate in Tschugg near Erlach, where the Steigers” private library was at his disposal. There he studied the works of Montesquieu (Esprit des Lois), Hugo Grotius, Thomas Hobbes, David Hume, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, John Locke, Niccolò Machiavelli, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Anthony Ashley Cooper, 3rd Earl of Shaftesbury, Baruch Spinoza, Thucydides and Voltaire. Hegel thus laid the foundation for his broad knowledge in philosophy, social sciences, politics, political economy, and political economy during his Bern period.

In Bern, Hegel maintained his interest in the revolutionary political events in France. His sympathies soon turned to the “Girondist” faction, as he became increasingly disillusioned by the excessive brutality of the Jacobin reign of terror. However, he never abandoned his earlier positive judgment of the results of the French Revolution.

Another factor in his philosophical development came from his study of Christianity. Under the influence of Gotthold Ephraim Lessing and Kant, he strove to analyze the real meaning of Christ from the accounts of the New Testament and to grasp the specific newness of Christianity. The essays, which he wrote only for himself, were published only posthumously in 1907 by the Dilthey student Herman Nohl under the title ”Hegels theologische Jugendschriften” (and thus triggered a renewed interest in Hegel).

At the end of his contract in Bern, Hölderlin, now in Frankfurt, obtained a home teaching position for his friend Hegel in the family of Herr Johann Noe Gogel, a wine wholesaler in the center of Frankfurt.

Hegel continued his studies of economics and politics steadily in Frankfurt; he studied Edward Gibbon”s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, writings by Hume, and Montesquieu”s The Spirit of the Laws. Hegel became interested in questions of economics and daily politics. These were mainly developments in Britain, which he followed through regular reading of English newspapers. He followed with keen interest the parliamentary debates on the “Bill of 1796,” the so-called Poor Laws on public social welfare, as well as the news about the reform of Prussian civil law (“Landrecht”).

Jena: Start of university career (1801-1807)

When his father died in January 1799, Hegel received a modest inheritance, but it enabled him to think again about an academic career. In January 1801, Hegel arrived in Jena, which at that time was strongly influenced by the philosophy of Schelling. In Hegel”s first publication, an essay on the difference between Fichte”s and Schelling”s philosophical systems (1801), Hegel, for all the differences that were already beginning to appear, placed himself in the main behind Schelling and against Johann Gottlieb Fichte.

Together with Schelling, Hegel edited the Kritisches Journal der Philosophie in 1802-1803. The articles Hegel wrote in this journal include such important ones as “Glauben und Wissen” (July 1802, a critique of Kant, Jacobi, and Fichte) or “Über die wissenschaftlichen Behandlungsarten des Naturrechts” (November 1802).

The topic of the doctoral thesis (“Habilitationsdissertion”), by which Hegel qualified for the position of Privatdozent (Dissertatio Philosophica de orbitis planetarum, 1801), was chosen under the influence of Schelling”s natural philosophy. In this work Hegel deals mainly with the laws of planetary motion of Johannes Kepler and the celestial mechanics of Isaac Newton. He arrives at a sharp rejection of Newton”s approach, but relies on serious misunderstandings. In the last section, he critically discusses the Titius-Bode “law” of planetary distances, which deduces a priori a planet between Mars and Jupiter, and then, transforming a series of numbers from Plato”s Timaeus, constructs another series of numbers that better represents the gap between Mars and Jupiter. Since the minor planet Ceres was found in this gap in the same year 1801, which seemed to confirm the Titius-Bode series, this appendix to Hegel”s dissertation often served to ridicule Hegel. However, he has later been taken to task by historians of astronomy.

Hegel”s first Jena lecture on “Logic and Metaphysics” in the winter of 1801

Beginning in 1804, Hegel lectured on his theoretical ideas to a class of about thirty students. In addition, he lectured on mathematics. While teaching, he constantly improved his original system. Every year he promised his students anew his own textbook of philosophy – which was postponed again and again. After recommendation by Johann Wolfgang Goethe and Schelling, Hegel was appointed associate professor in February 1805.

In October 1806, Hegel had just written down the last pages of his Phenomenology of Spirit when the harbingers of the battles of Jena and Auerstedt loomed. In a letter to his friend Friedrich Immanuel Niethammer, Hegel wrote on October 13, 1806:

Hegel had shortly before experienced Napoleon”s entry into the city and, as a supporter of the French Revolution, was thrilled to have seen the “world soul on horseback” – later often changed to “world spirit on horseback”. In Napoleon, Hegel saw the world soul, respectively the world spirit, exemplarily embodied; the idea of the world spirit as a metaphysical principle became the central concept of Hegel”s speculative philosophy: For him, the entire historical reality, the totality, was the process of the world spirit. Thereby the “final purpose” of world history was realized, namely the “reason in history”. With this thesis he tied in with the world spirit theory first published by Schelling. As a result of the occupation of Jena by French troops, Hegel was forced to leave the city after French officers and soldiers took up quarters in his house and he ran out of financial resources. He moved to Bamberg and became editor of the Bamberg newspaper.

On February 5, 1807, Hegel”s first and illegitimate son was born, Ludwig Fischer, a common child with the widow Christina Charlotte Burkhardt, née Fischer. Hegel had withdrawn his marriage vows to the widow Burkhardt when he left Jena; he then learned of the birth in Bamberg. The boy was initially raised by Johanna Frommann, a sister of the publisher Carl Friedrich Ernst Frommann, in Jena, and only became part of the Hegel family in 1817.

Bamberg (1807-1808)

Hegel found a publisher for his work Phenomenology of Spirit in Bamberg in 1807. He became editor-in-chief of the Bamberg newspaper, but soon came into conflict with the Bavarian press law. Finally, disillusioned, Hegel left the city for Nuremberg in 1808. His journalistic engagement was to remain an episode in his biography. In 1810, one of his successors, Karl Friedrich Gottlob Wetzel (1779-1819), assumed the role of editor-in-chief of the newspaper, which was renamed Fränkischer Merkur.

However, he remained loyal to the mass media, which were increasingly appearing at that time: “He described the regular reading of the morning newspaper as a realistic morning blessing.”

Nuremberg (1808-1816)

In November 1808, through the mediation of his friend Friedrich Immanuel Niethammer, Hegel was appointed professor of preparatory sciences and rector of the Egidiengymnasium Nuremberg next to St. Egidien. Hegel taught philosophy, German studies, Greek and higher mathematics there. He divided the lessons into dictated paragraphs; a large part of the teaching time was taken up by the interposed questions and subsequent explanations that Hegel wanted. The philosophical knowledge thus brought into the notebooks was later compiled by Karl Rosenkranz from the student transcripts and published as Philosophische Propädeutik.

The German Romantic writer Clemens Brentano (1778-1842) describes in a letter the working methods of the high school principal Hegel:

However, the hoped-for order in his financial circumstances did not materialize. Months of salary arrears again brought Hegel into financial difficulties.

On September 16, 1811, Hegel married Marie von Tucher (born March 17, 1791), who was just twenty years old and whom he had been courting from her parents since April 1811. Due to Hegel”s still uncertain position, her parents were reluctant to give their consent to the marriage; however, a letter of recommendation from Niethammer was helpful in arranging the marriage. Marie Hegel soon gave birth to a daughter, who, however, died shortly after birth. The son who followed in 1813 was named after Hegel”s grandfather Karl.

Throughout his life, Karl Hegel strove to step out of the shadow of his father, who was perceived as overpowering, in the scientific field. At first, he studied philosophy like his father and wanted to follow in his footsteps. In time, however, he emancipated himself and became one of the leading historians of the 19th century, who was particularly active in the field of urban and constitutional history. In addition, throughout his life he acted as editor of paternal letters, writings and lectures.

Hegel”s third son, born in 1814, was named Immanuel after his godfather Niethammer and became consistorial president of the province of Brandenburg.

Born in 1807 as an illegitimate son, Ludwig was brought to Nuremberg by his mother, the widow Burckhardt, in 1817, as she was now insisting on a settlement. The shy Ludwig developed with difficulty; he was not respected by his father and his two half-brothers. To relieve the strain on family life, Hegel finally gave the youth an apprenticeship as a merchant in Stuttgart, where Ludwig again got into trouble. Hegel now even deprived the “unworthy” of his name, so that Ludwig had to take his mother”s maiden name, whereupon the reviled man strongly reproached his father and stepmother. In 1825, at the age of 18, Ludwig Fischer enlisted as a soldier in the Dutch army for six years and died in Batavia in the summer of 1831 of the then widespread tropical fever.

Shortly after the marriage, Hegel began writing on his Science of Logic. In 1813 he was then appointed school councilor, which improved his material situation somewhat.

Heidelberg (1816-1818)

In 1816, he accepted a professorship in philosophy at the University of Heidelberg. This chair had been vacant since Spinoza had declined the appointment to this professorship in 1673. In his inaugural address on October 28, Hegel welcomed the first steps of German unity through the formation of the German Confederation, which gave him hope that “pure science and the free rational world of the spirit” could develop alongside the reality of political and everyday life. As a lecture guide, the first edition of the Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences appeared in May 1817.

He worked on the editorial board of the Heidelberg Yearbooks for Literature. His work on the negotiations of the estates of the Kingdom of Württemberg was published there.

On December 26, 1817, Hegel received an offer from zum Altenstein, the first Prussian Minister of Culture, to come to Berlin University.

His successor in Heidelberg was Joseph Hillebrand for a short time.

Berlin (1818-1831)

In 1818, Hegel accepted a call to the University of Berlin, whose rector at that time was the theologian Philipp Konrad Marheineke. Here he succeeded Johann Gottlieb Fichte as professor. On October 22, 1818, Hegel gave his inaugural lecture. From then on, he usually read ten hours a week. His lectures quickly became popular and their audience expanded far beyond the university environment, as colleagues and civil servants now also sought out his classes. In 1821, his last work, Grundlinien der Philosophie des Rechts, which he produced personally, was published. Hegel himself became rector of the university in 1829. At a dinner with the Crown Prince, later King Frederick William IV, the latter said, “It is a scandal that Professor Gans is turning all of us students into republicans. His lectures on your philosophy of law, Professor, are always attended by many hundreds, and it is well enough known that he gives your exposition a perfectly liberal, even republican, coloring.” In response, Hegel again took over the lecture, which soured relations with his closest student. Heinrich Gustav Hotho, who posthumously edited Hegel”s lectures on aesthetics in 1835, reports the latter”s broad Swabian dialect.

Hegel died in 1831. Two causes of death are mentioned: The majority say he died of the cholera epidemic raging in Berlin. However, more recent research also holds that Hegel “probably died of a chronic stomach ailment and not of cholera, as was the official diagnosis.” He was buried in the Dorotheenstädtische Friedhof. The gravesite, as an honorary grave of the city of Berlin, is located in section CH, G1.

The widow, Maria Hegel, still lived to see the studies of her two sons (see above) and died on July 6, 1855.Hegel was a supporter of the constitutional monarchy of Prussia in the Berlin years. After his enthusiasm for the revolutionary upheaval of 1789, his shock at man “in his delusion” (Schiller), and the failure of Napoleon, a political reorientation had taken place in Hegel. He reconciled himself to the political realities and was considered a bourgeois philosopher and joined the Berlin Lawless Society. Minister Altenstein favored Hegel”s philosophy in Prussia.

Hegel”s popularity and impact far beyond his death can be attributed primarily to the Berlin period. The university was a scientific center of the time and was dominated by the Hegelians for decades after Hegel”s death. If Hegel”s teachings were able to give valuable impulses to the humanities, they appeared for a long time as a stumbling block to the natural sciences or were at best ignored. However, a holistic approach to natural and spiritual phenomena made Hegel”s natural philosophy increasingly popular again. After Hegel”s death, his students compiled texts from his estate and from the transcripts of individual listeners, which they published as books.

In other European countries, Hegel came to the attention of the public only after his death. Thus the London Times mentioned him for the first time in 1838 in a review of Russian journals, one of which was devoted to “metaphysical speculations” of “German ideas,” first and foremost those of Kant, Fichte, and Schelling, and “not least Hegel, whose ideas are beginning to meet with approval everywhere in Europe.”

The Hegelhaus Stuttgart houses a permanent exhibition on Hegel”s life. In his honor, the city of Stuttgart awards the international Hegel Prize every three years. The oldest and most important association dedicated to Hegelian philosophy is the International Hegel Society.

In Berlin, he was given a grave of honor, at his own request next to that of his predecessor in office, Johann Gottlieb Fichte. Their wives are also buried on this site.

In numerous cities, streets or squares have been named after the philosopher. Vienna”s Hegelgasse in the 1st district, with several well-known schools and significant architecture, is a strong reference to the educational pioneer, where the world”s first girls” high school was built by the women”s politician Marianne Hainisch.

The Hegelian writings are divided in Hegelian research into fourteen sectors, which correspond partly to chronological and partly to systematic criteria:

The texts can be further divided into three groups:

The first group of texts includes the writings from the beginning of Hegel”s time in Jena as well as his works in the journal Kritisches Journal der Philosophie, which he edited together with Schelling. Furthermore, his main works Phenomenology of Spirit, the Science of Logic, the Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences and the Basic Lines of the Philosophy of Right belong to this group. Furthermore, Hegel published only a few smaller works for topical occasions and for the Jahrbücher für wissenschaftliche Kritik.

Almost all of the writings in the second text group were not published in an authentic version until the 20th century. They include Hegel”s manuscripts written in Tübingen and Jena, the Jena system drafts, the works from the Nuremberg period, and the manuscripts and notes from the Heidelberg and Berlin lecture activities.

The group of texts neither written nor published by Hegel makes up almost half of the texts attributed to Hegel. They include the lectures on aesthetics, philosophy of history, philosophy of religion, and history of philosophy, which were very important for Hegel”s impact. These texts are student products, for the most part the result of the compilation of postscripts of Hegel”s lectures.

Historical starting point

The starting point of Hegelian philosophy as well as of German Idealism in general is the problem of synthetic judgments a priori raised by Kant. For Kant, these are only possible for mathematics, the natural sciences and with reference to the possibility of empirical experience. Their propositions are based on the forms of perception space and time, which structure perception in the first place, and the categories, which connect them to a synthetic unity.

For the field of theoretical philosophy, Kant rejects the possibility of synthetic judgments a priori, since their propositions and conclusions exceeded the sphere of possible experience. This leads him to reject classical philosophical disciplines such as rational psychology, cosmology and theology.

The thinking I (“I think”) takes a special position. Although only this guarantees the unity of perception, for Kant we can “never have the slightest concept of it” (KrV, Immanuel Kant: AA 000003III, 265). The question of the foundation of the unity of perception by the I and of its consciousness of itself is one of the central philosophical problems or motifs of German Idealism, whereby Hegel processes the Kant receptions of Johann Gottlieb Fichte and Friedrich Schelling.

“The true is the whole”: idea, nature and spirit

Hegel”s claim is to present the movement of the concept itself – the self-development of the logical and real categories – in systematic, scientific form. His system thereby results from the principle:

This whole is differentiated in itself and can be understood as a unity of three spheres:

The idea is the concept (logos) par excellence, from which the objective, eternal basic structures of reality can be derived. Thus he indirectly refers to a concept of idea as Plato understood it. The logic determines the content of this principle concept in the form of the thought. The attempt to answer directly in one stroke what the idea is must necessarily fail, since the first step of any definition can only state the pure being of the concerned, still undetermined concept: “The idea is.” Thus, at the outset, the determination is still completely devoid of content, abstract and empty, and therefore equivalent to the proposition: “The idea is nothing.” Hegel concludes from this that nothing can be taken as it is immediately as a moment, but must always be considered in its mediation: in its demarcation (negation) from others, in its constant change and in its relation to the whole, and in the distinction between appearance and essence. Everything concrete is in the process of becoming. Likewise, in logic as the “realm of pure thought” (L I 44), the Idea undergoes a process of self-determination that constantly expands its content and scope through seemingly mutually exclusive, opposing concepts. Through a series of transitions, the “hardest” of which leads from necessity to freedom, this self-movement finally brings the idea to the concept as concept, in whose “realm of freedom” (L II 240) it reaches its utmost completion in the absolute idea. It realizes its absolute freedom by “deciding” to divest itself (E I 393) – this divestiture is the created nature, the Idea “in the form of otherness”.

In nature, the idea has “gone out of itself” and lost its absolute unity – nature is fragmented into the externality of matter in space and time (E II 24). Nevertheless, the Idea continues to operate within nature, attempting to “take back into itself” its own product (E II 24) – the forces of nature, such as gravity, set matter in motion to restore its ideational unity. However, this remains ultimately doomed to failure within nature itself, which is determined as “the persistence in otherness” (E II 25). The highest form in nature is the animal organism, in which the living unity of the idea can be objectively looked at, but which lacks the subjective consciousness of itself.

What is denied to the animal, however, is revealed to the spirit: the finite spirit becomes aware of its freedom in the individual human being (E III 29). The idea can now return to itself through the spirit, in that it forms nature (through work) as well as itself (in state, art, religion and philosophy) according to the idea. In the state freedom becomes the general good of all individuals. However, their limitedness prevents them from attaining the infinite, absolute freedom. So that the whole becomes perfect, the infinite, absolute spirit creates its kingdom in the finite, in which the barriers of the limited are overcome: the art represents the truth of the idea for the sensual view. Religion reveals the concept of God to the finite spirit in the imagination. In philosophy, finally, the edifice of reason-guided science arises, in which self-conscious thought grasps the eternal truth of the Idea (in logic) and recognizes it in everything. The Absolute thereby becomes conscious of itself as the eternal, indestructible Idea, as the Creator of nature and of all finite spirits (E III 394). Outside of its totality there can be nothing else – in the concept of the absolute spirit even the most extreme opposites and all contradictions are suspended – they are all reconciled with each other.

The dialectic

The driving moment in the movement of the concept represents the dialectic. It is both the method and the principle of things themselves. The dialectic comprises essentially three moments, which cannot be considered separately from each other (E I § 79):

Dialectic is not only the representation of the union of opposites, but is the constitutive movement of things themselves. The infinite reason, according to Hegel, permanently divides itself anew. It absorbs the existing in an infinite process and brings it out of itself again. In essence, it thereby unites with itself (GP 20). Hegel illustrates this development (here that of the idea of spirit) by means of a seed metaphor:

Existence is always also change. The state of a thing, its “being”, is only a moment of its whole concept. In order to grasp it completely, the concept must return to itself, just as the seed returns to its “first state”. The “annulment” of a moment comes into play here twice. On the one hand, the abolition destroys the old form (the seed) and on the other hand, it preserves it in its development. The idea of development in this conception takes place as progress, as a transgression to a new form. In nature, however, the concept falls back into itself (the return to the seed), so that for Hegel nature is only an eternal cycle of the same. There is a true development only when the abolition does not only mean return into itself, but also the abolition process – in its double function – reaches itself. A true progress is therefore possible only in the realm of the spirit, i.e. when the concept knows about itself, when it is conscious of itself.

The term

The concept is with Hegel the difference of the things themselves. The concept is negation and Hegel expresses it even more vividly: the concept is time. In the philosophy of nature, therefore, no new determinations are added. Only in the philosophy of spirit can there be a progress, a going beyond oneself. The finite moment is annulled; it perishes, is negated, but finds its determination in the unity of its concept. Thus the individual man dies, but his death receives its determination in the preservation of the species. In the realm of the spirit, one figure of the spirit replaces the previous one, e.g. the Gothic is followed by the Renaissance. The border is set by the new style, which represents a break in the old style. Hegel also calls these breaks qualitative leaps. In nature, however, there are no such leaps for Hegel; it only returns eternally into itself.

The abstract movement of the double negation, the negation of the negation, can be determined as the dissolution of the negative: the negative turns against itself, the negation sets itself as difference. The determination of this self-dissolution is its higher unity – it is the affirmative character of the negative. In nature, the negative does not get beyond itself, but remains trapped in the finite. The seed rises, grows into a tree, the tree dies, leaving the seed behind; beginning and end coincide. In the philosophy of mind, there is a development of the concept – history. The concept comes to itself. Negation here is not circular, but drives progress spirally in one direction. Negation is the motor and principle of history, but it does not contain the goal of its development. Negation takes on a radically dynamic aspect in the philosophy of mind. In the philosophy of mind, beginning and result fall apart. Aufhebung is a central term in Hegel. It contains three moments: Aufhebung in the sense of negare (to negate), conservare (to preserve), and elevare (to raise up). The spiritual – seen from its result and by referring to its starting point – represents a movement that is uniformly grasped as a figure.

For Hegel true thinking is the recognition of opposites and the necessity to unite them in their unity. The concept is the expression for this movement. This kind of philosophy Hegel calls speculative (Rel I 30).

The task and character of philosophy

Hegel turns against the “philosophy of edification” of his time, which “considers itself too good for the concept and by its lack for a contemplative and poetic thinking” (but it must “beware of wanting to be edifying” (PG 17)). To become “science,” it must be willing to take upon itself the “effort of the concept” (PG 56). Philosophy realizes itself in the “system” because only the whole is the true (PG 24). It considers in a dialectical process the “concept of spirit in its immanent, necessary development”.

For common sense, philosophy is a “topsy-turvy world” (JS 182), since it aims at “the idea or the absolute” (E I 60) as the ground of all things. Thus it has “the same content with art and religion”, but just in the way of the concept.

Logic, natural philosophy and the philosophy of mind are not only the basic disciplines of philosophy; in them is also expressed “the immense work of world history” (PG 34), which has been performed by the “world spirit”.The goal of philosophy can therefore only be reached if it comprehends world history and the history of philosophy and thus also “grasps its time in thought” (R 26).

The task of philosophy is to comprehend “what is, because what is, is reason” (because for this it “always comes too late anyway”: “As the thought of the world it appears only in time, after reality has completed its process of formation and has made itself ready. the owl of Minerva begins its flight only with the breaking dawn” (R 27-28).

Foundation of philosophy

In the Phenomenology of Spirit, the first typical work of the mature Hegel, Hegel formulates as a prerequisite for all true philosophizing to gain the “scientific standpoint”. He also calls this the “absolute knowledge”. In order to reach it, a path has to be followed, which is not indifferent for the then gained standpoint, because: not “the result the real whole, but it together with its becoming” (PG 13).

The way to “absolute knowledge” is for Hegel the comprehension of the absolute itself. Also for the absolute the way of access to it is not indifferent. It also embraces the process of its cognition. The access to the Absolute is at the same time its self-expression. True science is ultimately only possible in this perspective of the Absolute.

Hegel begins with an analysis of the “natural consciousness”. The actual reality (the “substance”) is for the natural consciousness in its most elementary stage what it finds immediately: the “sensuous certainty”. This corresponds philosophically to the position of empiricism. Hegel shows that the empirical concept of reality necessarily presupposes a self-consciousness which interprets the sensually perceived as such.

But also the self-consciousness is not the actual real. It can determine its own being-with-itself only in contrast to a natural reality; its substantiality is therefore necessarily dependent on this natural reality.

In the third form of natural consciousness, reason, the determination of the substance of consciousness and self-consciousness come to a synthesis. Self-consciousness developed into reason insists on its own substantiality, but at the same time recognizes that it relates to a natural reality that is also substantial. This can be reconciled only when self-consciousness recognizes its substantiality in the substantiality of natural reality. Only then can the contradiction that two substances entail be avoided.

In the further course of the Phenomenology, Hegel determines reason as “moral reason”. As such, it is not only a product of self-consciousness, but always already refers to an external reality that precedes it.Reason can only exist as the moral substance of a real society; in this form it is (objective) spirit.

The spirit is in turn dependent on the self-consciousness. This has the freedom not to submit to the ruling law, which is historically shown e.g. in the French Revolution. Its freedom is ultimately based on the absolute spirit.

The absolute spirit shows itself first in religion. In the “natural religion” the self-consciousness still interprets the natural reality as self-expression of an absolute being, while in the “revealed religion” the human freedom plays the central role. The concept of the absolute spirit can be understood as the concept of reality itself, so that religion passes over into absolute knowledge. Thus the standpoint is won, from which only science in the actual sense can be pursued. The whole content of the experience of consciousness is to be unfolded anew, but no longer from the perspective of consciousness first penetrating itself to itself and its object, but systematically, i.e. from the perspective of the “concept”.


Hegel presupposes in logic the “scientific standpoint” gained in phenomenology. The latter had shown that the logical determinations (categories) can be conceived neither as mere determinations of a subject-independent reality as in classical metaphysics, nor as mere determinations of the subject as in Kant”s philosophy. Rather, they must be conceived from the unity of subject and object.

The task of logic is to represent pure thinking in its specific meaning. It is to replace the classical disciplines of philosophy, logic and metaphysics, by uniting the two programs, the representation of pure thought and the idea of the absolute.

According to Hegel, the logical determinations have at the same time an ontological character. They are not to be understood merely as contents of consciousness, but at the same time as “the inside of the world” (E I 81, Z 1).

Hegel”s concern is to carry out a systematic derivation of the categories and to demonstrate their necessity. The decisive means for this is the principle of dialectics, which, according to Hegel, is based in the nature of logical determination itself. Therefore, he is convinced that in this way all categories are completely derivable “as a system of totality” (L I 569).

Logic is divided into an “objective logic” – the doctrines of being and essence – and a “subjective logic” – the doctrine of the concept.

In the first part of Objective Logic, Hegel addresses the concept of being and the three basic forms of our reference to it: quantity, quality, and measure.

For Hegel, the beginning of logic must be a concept which is characterized by “pure immediacy”. This is expressed in the concept of being, which has no determinations at all. But the renunciation of any further differentiation makes the determination “being” completely empty of content. Thus, the determination of “nothing and no more nor less than nothing” results for being after all (L I 83). Not “less than nothing” means that this “nothing” is after all a determination of thinking, a thought.

The pure immediacy of the beginning can thus only be expressed in the two opposite determinations “being” and “nothing”. The two terms “pass over” into each other. This “passing over” of both into each other represents itself a new category, the “becoming” (L I 83f.). In “becoming” both determinations, “being” and “nothing”, are contained and that in their mutual passing over into each other.

If now a being mediated by this unity of becoming is thought, then the determination of the becoming being, the “Dasein” (L I 113ff.) results. But its genesis requires that also the “nothing” is recognizable in it. Towards this side, “Dasein” shows itself as a “something” that faces the “other”. A something can only be grasped if it is distinguished from the other – according to the sentence of Spinoza quoted by Hegel: “Omnis determinatio est negatio” (Every determination is a negation) (L I 121).

Every determination is a drawing of a boundary, whereby to every boundary also belongs something that exists beyond it (cf. L I 145). To think a boundary as such also means to think the boundless. Likewise, with the thought of the “finite” is given that of the “infinite” (L I 139ff.). The infinite is the “other” of the finite, just as conversely the finite is the “other” of the infinite.

But for Hegel, the infinite cannot simply be juxtaposed with the finite. The infinite would otherwise “border” on the finite and would thus be limited and finite. The “truly infinite” must rather be thought in such a way that it embraces the finite, as the “unity of the finite and the infinite, the unity that is itself the infinite, which comprehends itself and finitude in itself” (L I 158).

Hegel does not want this unity to be understood pantheistically, since it is not a differenceless unity, but one in which the infinite allows the finite to exist. He calls this the “true” or “affirmative infinity” (L I 156). It differs from the “bad infinity” (L I 149), which only comes into being by a mere going on from boundary to boundary in an infinite progress and which lacks the reference back through the beyond of the boundary.

This reference back also characterizes the finite; it is the result of its mediation with the infinite and constitutes the “being-for-itself” of the finite (L I 166). From the category of “being-for-itself,” Hegel develops other determinations in the further course of the section on “quality.” If something is “for itself,” it is “One.” If this “One” is mediated by “others”, these are likewise to be regarded as “One” in each case. From the “one” thus results the plurality of “ones”. They differ from each other, but are equally related to each other, which Hegel calls “repulsion” and “attraction” (L I 190ff.). Their uniform plurality leads to the concept of “quantity”.

The decisive difference of quantity to quality is that by changing the quantity the identity of what is changed remains. A thing remains what it is, no matter whether it is made larger or smaller.

Hegel distinguishes between the pure, indeterminate quantity and the determinate quantity (the quantum). Thus, space as such is an instance of pure quantity. If, on the other hand, one speaks of a certain space, then it is an instance of the certain quantity.

The two terms “attraction” and “repulsion”, which are suspended in the category of quantity, become here the moments of continuity and separation (discretion). These two terms also presuppose each other. Continuity means that a continuously continuing “something” is there. This “something” is necessarily a “something” separate from an “other”. Conversely, the concept of separation also presupposes that of continuity; one can only separate under the condition that something is there which is not separated and from which the separated is separated.

A quantum is of a certain size, which can always be expressed by a number. Therefore, the concept of number belongs to the category of quantum. A number has two moments: it is determined as number and as unit. The concept of number as a sum of units includes the concept of separation, whereas the concept of unity includes continuity.

A quantum can be an “intensive” or “extensive” quantity. An intensive quantity (e.g. color sensation, warmth sensation) can be characterized with the help of the term degree – a degree which has more or less intensity depending on the quantity. Extensive quantities (e.g. length or volume) have neither degree nor intensity. Extensive size is decided by means of an applied scale. Intensive quantities, on the other hand, cannot be determined by any scale outside of them. The physicalist theory that every intensive quantity can be reduced to an extensive quantity is rejected by Hegel.

The doctrine of “measure” is about the unity of “quality” and “quantity”. Hegel explains the character of this unity with vivid examples. For example, the quantitative change of the temperature of water leads to a qualitative change of its state. It freezes or becomes steam (L I 440). This gives rise to the determination of an underlying “substratum” that remains indifferent and whose “states” change according to the dimensional relations. The thought of a something, which is differentiated in this way according to “substrate” and “states” in itself, leads to the second part of logic, the “doctrine of essence”.

The Doctrine of Being is considered the most difficult part of Logic and was modified several times by Hegel. Hegel could not lean on the philosophical tradition here to the same extent as in the other two books (Lehre vom Sein, Lehre vom Begriff). The greatest influence was exerted by Kant”s “transcendental logic”, whose theoretical elements (modal and relational categories, reflection terms and antinomies) Hegel tried to derive conceptually consistently in a new context.

Hegel circumscribes the concept of essence by that of “recollection”, which he understands in the literal sense as “becoming inward” and “going into oneself”. It designates a sphere that lies deeper than the external immediacy of being, whose surface must first be “pierced” in order to arrive at essence. The logical determinations of being are distinct from that of being. In contrast to the being-logical categories, they occur preferably in pairs and receive their determinateness from the reference to their respective other: essential and non-essential, identity and difference, positive and negative, ground and founded, form and matter, form and content, conditioned and unconditioned, etc.

Hegel begins with the treatment of the “reflection determinations”, “identity”, “difference”, “contradiction” and “reason”. He analyzes the reflection determinations in their relation to each other and shows that they have no truth in their isolation from each other. The most significant reflection determination is that of “contradiction.” Hegel attaches great importance to the fact that contradiction must not be “pushed into subjective reflection” as in Kant (L II 75). This would mean “too great a tenderness” (L I 276) toward things. Rather, the contradiction comes to the things themselves. It is “the principle of all self-movement” (L II 76) and therefore also present in all movement.

The principle of contradiction does not only apply to the external movement, but is the basic principle of all living things: “Something is therefore alive only insofar as it contains the contradiction in itself, and that is this power to grasp and endure the contradiction in itself” – otherwise it “goes down in the contradiction”. In a very special way, this principle applies to the sphere of thinking: “Speculative thinking consists only in the fact that thinking holds the contradiction and in it itself” (L II 76). Thus, contradiction is for Hegel the structure of logical, natural and spiritual reality in general.

In the second section of The Logic of Essence, “The Appearance”, Hegel explicitly deals with Kant and the problem of the “thing-in-itself”. His intention is not only to eliminate the difference of “thing-in-itself” and “appearance”, but furthermore to declare the “appearance” to be the truth of the “thing-in-itself”: “The appearance is what the thing-in-itself is, or its truth” (L II 124-125).

What something is in itself, shows itself for Hegel nowhere than in its appearance and it is therefore senseless to build up a realm of the “Ansich” “behind” it. The “appearance” is the “higher truth” both against the “thing in itself” and against the immediate existence, since it is the “essential, whereas existence is the still insubstantial appearance” (L II 148).

In the third section, “Reality,” Hegel discusses central tenets of the logical and metaphysical tradition. A central theme here is the discussion of Spinoza”s concept of the absolute.

Hegel sees in the absolute on the one hand “all determinateness of essence and existence or of being in general as well as of reflection dissolved” (L II 187), otherwise it could not be understood as the unconditioned. But if it were thought merely as the negation of all predicates, then it would be merely the emptiness – although it should be thought as its opposite, namely as the fullness par excellence. But this absolute cannot be opposed by thinking as an external reflection, because this would abolish the concept of the absolute. Therefore, the interpretation of the Absolute cannot fall into a reflection external to it, but must rather be its own interpretation: “In fact, however, the interpretation of the Absolute is its own doing, and that begins with itself, as it arrives at itself” (L II 190).

The third book of the Science of Logic develops a logic of “concept”, which is divided into the three sections “subjectivity”, “objectivity” and “idea”.

In the section “Subjectivity” Hegel deals with the classical doctrine of concept, judgment and conclusion.

To explain the “concept of the concept,” Hegel recalls the “nature of the I.” There is a structural analogy between the concept and the ego: like the concept, the ego is also “unity referring to itself, and this not directly, but by abstracting from all determinateness and content and going back into the freedom of boundless equality with itself” (L II 253).

Hegel”s use of the term “concept” differs from what is usually understood by a concept. For him, the concept is not an abstraction apart from the empirical content, but the concrete. An essential moment of the concept is its “negativity”. Hegel rejects the concept of an absolute identity underlying the ordinary understanding of the concept, since for him the concept of identity necessarily includes the concept of difference.

Hegel”s “concept” has three moments: Generality, particularity (separateness) and singleness (individuality). To negate is to determine and to limit. The result of the negation of the general is the separated (particularity), which is identical with the general as the result of the negation of this negation (i.e. the negation of particularity), since the particularity returns to the original unity and becomes individuality.

For Hegel, the concept is the unity of the general and the individual. This unity is explicated in the sentence “S is P”, where “S” is the subject, the individual, and “P” is the predicate, the general.

According to Hegel, a sentence can very well have the grammatical form of a judgment without being a judgment. Thus the sentence “Aristotle died in the 73rd year of his age, in the 4th year of the 115th Olympiad” (L II 305) is not a judgment. Although it shows the syntax of judgment, it does not connect a general concept with the individual and thus does not fulfill the logical requirements of judgment. Nevertheless, the above sentence can be a judgment, namely, if the sentence is used in a situation where one doubted in which year Aristotle died or how old he was, and the cessation of doubt is expressed in the sentence under discussion.

For Justus Hartnack, this means that Hegel thus in effect introduces – “without putting it that way – the analytic distinction between a proposition and its use. One and the same sentence can be used as an imperative, as a warning or a threat, as a request, etc.”.

In the conclusion, a unity of judgment and concept takes place. Hegel considers the following example (from L II 383):

The particular term (the particular) here is “people”, the individual (the individual) is Cajus, and the term “mortal” is the general. The result is a unity of the individual subject and the general or universal predicate, that is, the predicate in the judgment “Caius is mortal”.

For Hegel, the concept of the object can be understood only insofar as it has a necessary connection to the concept of the subject. In this respect, it is also the subject of the “science of logic”. Hegel”s philosophical analysis leads step by step from a “mechanical” via a “chemical” to a “teleological” way of looking at the object. In the teleological object, the processes leading to the purpose and the purpose itself can no longer be distinguished from each other. In it, subjectivity objectifies itself. This unity of subjectivity and objectivity Hegel calls the idea.

In the concept of the idea all determinations of the logic of being and essence like those of the logic of the concept are “suspended”. The idea is the true (it is thus identical with everything that the science of logic sets forth in relation to the logical structure of being. All categories are integrated in the idea; with it the so-called movement of the concept ends.

Hegel distinguishes three aspects of the idea: life, cognition, and the absolute idea.

In life, the idea can be understood as the unity of soul and body. The soul is what makes an organism. The different parts of an organism are what they are exclusively because of their relation to the unity of the organism.

In cognition (of the true and the good) the cognizing subject strives for knowledge about a given object. The object of cognition is at the same time distinct from and identical with the subject.

In the absolute idea finally – as the culmination of the philosophical thinking – the consciousness sees the identity of subjective and objective – of Ansich and Fürsich. The subject recognizes itself as object and the object is therefore the subject.

Philosophy of Nature

According to Wandschneider, the transition from the idea to nature is one of the darkest passages in Hegel”s work. At this point, it is about the “notorious problem of metaphysics what reason a divine absolute could have to perish in the creation of an imperfect world”.

Hegel remarks at the end of the Logic that the absolute idea as the last “logical” determination is still “enclosed in pure thought, the science only of the divine concept”. Since it is in such a way still “enclosed in subjectivity, it is impulse to abolish it” (L II 572) and therefore “decides” to “release itself freely from itself as nature” (E I 393).

Due to its own dialectical character, the logical must step out of itself and oppose its other, nature, which is characterized by conceptlessness and isolation. This divestiture of the logical ultimately happens for its own completion.

Hegel defines nature as “the idea in the form of otherness” (E II 24). Nature as the non-logical remains dialectically bound back to the logical. As the other of the logical, it is basically itself still determined by the latter, i.e. nature is a non-logical only according to its external appearance; according to its essence, it is “in itself reason”. The intrinsically logical essence of nature expresses itself in the laws of nature. These underlie the “things of nature” and determine their behavior, without, however, being a “thing of nature” themselves. Natural laws are not sensually perceptible, but have for their part a logical existence; they exist in the thinking of the spirit recognizing nature.

In contrast to Schelling”s early philosophy of nature, Hegel does not see the relationship between idea and nature as equally weighted; rather, for him, nature is under the primacy of the idea. Nature is not par excellence “idea” or “spirit”, but the “other”. In nature the idea is “external to itself”, but not vice versa nature external to itself in the idea.

Since the spiritual belongs for Hegel altogether to a higher level than the merely natural, for him even evil is to be classified still higher than nature. The deficiency of nature shows itself, as it were, in the fact that it cannot even be evil: “But if the spiritual randomness, the arbitrariness, continues up to evil, then this itself is still an infinitely higher than the lawful walking of the stars or than the innocence of the plant; for what thus goes astray is still spirit” (E II 29).

Completely in the sense of Kant”s transcendental philosophy, Hegel also does not understand nature as something merely “objective” and “immediate”. It is not simply given to consciousness from outside, but is always already spiritually grasped.Nevertheless, Hegel never plays off this known nature, always also constituted by achievements of subjectivity, against a “nature in itself”. It is senseless for Hegel to ascribe to nature a being that exists beyond consciousness, that is “true” but not recognizable.

Hegel considers nature “as a system of stages, one of which necessarily emerges from the other and the next truth is that from which it results” (E II 31). The phenomena of nature show “a tendency of increasing coherence and ideality – from the elementary being out of each other to the ideality of the psychic”.

The Hegelian stage concept of nature, however, is not to be misunderstood as a theory of evolution. For Hegel, the succession of the stages “does not result in such a way that one would be produced naturally from the other, but in the inner idea that constitutes the ground of nature. The metamorphosis comes only to the concept as such, since its change alone is development” (E II 31).

Hegel understands natural philosophy as a “material” discipline, not as a mere theory of science. Like natural science, it thematizes nature, but has a questioning that is distinct from it. It is not concerned with a merely theoretical understanding of some object or phenomenon of “nature,” but with its position on the path of spirit toward itself. “Nature” for Hegel is nothing merely “objective.” To comprehend it always includes a self-grasping of the spirit.

Hegel distinguishes in his natural philosophy – as usual in the middle of the 19th century – the three disciplines, mechanics, physics and organic physics. Mechanics is considered to be the mathematizable part of physics – especially the changes of place – which had separated from the traditional Aristotelian physics since the 18th century and had become increasingly independent. Organic physics, on the other hand, describes all other phenomena that are subject to change: the transformation processes of matter and the organic. Organic physics considers its objects, earth, plants and animals, as an organism.

In contrast to Kant, Hegel does not understand space and time as mere forms of perception belonging to subjective cognition. Rather, they also have reality, since they are constituted by the absolute idea.

Space and time are for Hegel nothing completely different, but closely interlocked: “Space is self-contradictory and makes itself time”. “The one is the producing of the other”. Only “in our imagination we let this fall apart”. In his early natural philosophy (Jena period), which was still strongly influenced by Schelling, Hegel had derived the concept of space itself from an even more original concept of the ether; only his post-Jena natural philosophy then had Hegel start right away with the concept of space.

For Hegel the three-dimensionality of space is derivable a priori. The category of space must first be determined as the “abstract outside” (E II 41). This is in its abstractness synonymous with complete indistinguishability. As such, however, it is no longer “apart” at all, because apart can only be what is distinguishable. The category of pure disagreement thus dialectically changes into that of the point, which is determined as “not-distinct”. Nevertheless, the point, according to its “origin” from the pure apart, remains related to it. That is, the point is related to other points, which in turn are related to points. This mutual being related of points is the line, which thus represents itself at the same time as a synthesis of being apart and not being apart. This still “point-like” character of the line results analogously in the abolition of this form of not-apartness and thus in the “stretching” of the line to a surface. The two-dimensional surface, as the completed form of the non-contiguity, represents the boundary of the three-dimensional space, which must therefore be regarded as the actual form of the contention.

Hegel”s concept of time is directly connected to the previously developed concept of space. Space is essentially determined by the fact that it is delimited against another space into which it “passes over”. This negativity, which is already contained in the concept of space but not yet explicit, represents a “lack of space” (E II 47 Z), which now motivates the introduction of the concept of time.

For Hegel, time is only ascertainable by the fact that something can have duration, i.e. that it remains in change at the same time and thus “fixes the now as being” (E II 51). Such a fixation, however, is only possible in spatial form. In this respect, the concept of time remains essentially related back to the concept of space.

Duration, on the other hand, includes change: “Even if things last, time passes and does not rest; here time appears as independent and distinct from things” (E II 49 Z). But by changing other things in the meantime, they let time become visible, to which everything must ultimately fall prey: For because “things are finite, therefore they are in time; not because they are in time, therefore they perish, but things themselves are the temporal; to be so is their objective destiny. The process of the real things itself therefore makes the time”.

Hegel calls the three modes of time, past, present and future, “dimensions of time” (E II 50). In the actual sense, only the now of the present is being, which, however, constantly becomes non-being. Past and future, on the other hand, have no existence at all. They are only in the subjective memory or in fear and hope (E II 51).

Eternity must be distinguished from time as a totality of past, present and future. Hegel does not conceive of eternity as something otherworldly that would have to come after time; for in this way “eternity would be made into the future, a moment of time” (E II 49): “Eternity is not before or after time, not before the creation of the world, nor when it perishes; but eternity is absolute present, the now without before and after” (E II 25).

According to Hegel, the categories of space and time initially involve the category of movement. Now, however, movement has sense only relative to a non-moving, i.e. with the category of movement is thus always implied also that of rest. But resting can only be something, which is identically preserved in the movement and thereby defines a certain, single place as reference instance of movement. According to Hegel, such a single thing which is identically preserved in the movement is the mass. The “logic” of the concept of movement thus also demands the category of mass.

Relative to another mass, a mass itself can also be moved. In this case, the relation of motion is symmetrical: Each of the two masses can be considered equally as being at rest or moving, thus formulating the principle of relativity of motion.

According to the principle of relativity of motion, a mass can be considered either as being at rest, namely in relation to itself, or as being moved, namely in relation to another mass (moving relative to it). Thus, the mass can in principle be both, at rest or moved. Therefore, according to Hegel, it is “indifferent to both” and in this sense inert: “In so far as it rests, it rests and does not pass over into motion through itself; if it is in motion, it is just in motion and does not pass over into rest for itself” (it is the “own essence of matter, which itself belongs to its inwardness at the same time” (E II 68 Z).

The “organics” contains Hegel”s theory of life. According to Hegel, life has the chemical processes as its prerequisite and is at the same time their “truth”.In the chemical processes, union and separation of the substances still fall apart, in the organic processes, both sides are inseparably connected. The individual inorganic processes are independent of each other – in the organism one process follows the other. Moreover, the organism is fundamentally reflexively structured, whereas in the chemical reactions there is a mere interaction. Hegel considers this reflexive structure to be the decisive criterion of life: “If the products of the chemical process themselves began activity again, they would be life” (E II 333 Z).

The characteristic of the plant is for Hegel its only “formal subjectivity” (E II 337). It is not centered in itself, its limbs are therefore relatively independent: “the part – the bud, twig, etc. – Is also the whole plant” (E II 371). This lack of concrete subjectivity is, according to Hegel, the reason for the immediate unity of the plant with its environment, which is shown in the uninterrupted intake of non-individualized nourishment, in the absence of locomotion, animal warmth and feeling (E II 373 f.). The plant is also dependent on light, which Hegel calls “its external self” (E II 412).

The animal or the animal organism represents the highest level of realization of the organic. It is the “true organism” (E II 429). Its main characteristic consists in the fact that its members lose their independence and thus it becomes a concrete subject (E II 337).

The relationship of the animal to its environment is characterized by a greater independence compared to the plant, which is expressed in its ability to change location and to interrupt the intake of food. The animal has furthermore a voice, with which it can express its inwardness, warmth and feeling (E II 431 Z).

With the reproduction of the individuals “the genus as such has entered into reality for itself, and has become a higher thing than nature”. The general proves to be the truth of the individual. However, this general is connected with the death of the individual organism. Also the new organism is an individual, which must therefore also die. Only in the spirit is the general positively united with the individual and i.e. known by it as such: “In the animal, however, the species does not exist, but is only in itself; only in the spirit is it in and for itself in its eternity” (E II 520).

The animal reaches its highest point in reproduction – precisely for this reason it must die: “Low animal organisms, e.g. butterflies, therefore die immediately after mating, because they have abolished their singleness in the genus, and their singleness is their life” (E II 518 f. Z).

For the individual organism “its inadequacy to the generality is its original disease and (the) innate germ of death” (E II 535). In death the highest point of nature, and thus this as a whole, is negated – admittedly only in an abstract way. “Death is only the abstract negation of that which is negative in itself; it is itself a nullity, the revealed nullity. But the set nullity is at the same time the annulled and the return to the positive” (Rel I 175f.). According to Hegel, this same affirmative negation of nature, which also has no truth as an organism, is the spirit: “the last outside-ness of nature is abolished, and the concept that is only in itself in it has thus become for itself” (E II 537).

Philosophy of mind

For Hegel, the spirit is the truth and the “absolute first” of nature (E III 16). In it, the disassociation of the concept is cancelled again, the idea reaches “its being-for-itself” (E III 16).

While nature, even as thoughtfully penetrated, always remains something different from spirit, something immediate, to which “the concept” is directed, in spirit object and concept fall into one. “Spirit” is the grasping and the grasped; it has “the concept for its existence” (E II 537).

The spirit, which is directed to the spiritual, is with itself and therefore free. All forms of the spirit show a fundamentally self-referential structure. It already appears in the forms of the subjective spirit, but finds its characteristic shape only there, where the spirit “objectifies” itself and becomes the “objective spirit”. Finally, in the form of the “absolute spirit” knowledge and object of the spirit coincide to the “in and for itself existing unity of the objectivity of the spirit” (E III 32).

The systematic first part of the philosophy of the subjective spirit is the so-called “anthropology” by Hegel. Its subject is not man per se, but the soul, which Hegel distinguishes from consciousness and spirit. The subjective spirit is here “in itself or immediate,” whereas in consciousness it appears as “mediated for itself” and in spirit as “determining itself in itself” (E III 38).

Hegel decidedly opposes the modern dualism of body and soul. For him the soul is immaterial, but it is not in opposition to nature. It is rather “the general immateriality of nature, its simple ideal life” (it represents the principle of the movement to transcend corporeality in the direction of consciousness.

The development of the soul passes through the three stages of a “natural”, a “feeling” and a “real soul” (E III 49).

The “natural soul” is still completely interwoven with nature and not even reflected in itself in an immediate way. The world, which has not yet come to itself through an act of abstraction, is not detachable from it, but forms a part of it.

The “sentient soul” differs from the “natural” by the stronger moment of reflexivity. In this context, Hegel essentially deals with parapsychological phenomena, mental illnesses and the phenomenon of habit.

Hegel considers phenomena such as “animal magnetism” (Mesmer) and “artificial somnambulism” (Puységur) as evidence of the ideal nature of the soul. Unlike Mesmer, Hegel, like Puységur and later James Braid, already interpreted these phenomena psychologically. For him, their connection of the natural with the spiritual forms the general basis of mental illness. The “pure spirit” cannot be sick; only by insisting on the particularity of its sense of self, by its “particular corporealization,” is the “subject formed into intelligible consciousness still capable of sickness” (E III 161). Madness contains “essentially the contradiction of a bodily, being-become feeling against the totality of mediations, which is concrete consciousness” (E III 162 A). Insofar, mental illnesses are always psychosomatic in nature for Hegel. For their cure, Hegel recommends that the physician should respond to his patient”s delusions and then reduce them to absurdity by pointing out their impossible consequences (E III 181f. Z).

Through habit, the various feelings become a “second nature,” i.e., an “immediacy set by the soul” (at the same time, however, it relieves from immediate sensations opens the soul “for further activity and occupation – of sensation as well as of the consciousness of the spirit in general” (E III 184).

The “real soul” arises in the process of the liberation of the spirit from naturalness. In it, corporeality finally becomes mere “externality, in which the subject refers only to itself” (E III 192). For Hegel, the spiritual does not stand abstractly next to corporeality, but rather permeates it. In this context, Hegel speaks of a “spiritual tone poured out over the whole, which directly reveals the body as the externality of a higher nature” (E III 192).

The middle section of the philosophy of the subjective spirit has the consciousness or its “subject” (E III 202), the I, as its object.The soul becomes the I by reflecting in itself and drawing a boundary between itself and the object. While the soul is not yet able to reflect itself out of its contents, the sensations, the I is defined precisely by “distinguishing itself from itself” (E III 199 Z).

Because of this ability of abstraction, the I is empty and lonely – because any objective content is outside of it. But the I refers at the same time to that which it excludes, in that the understanding “assumes the differences as independent and at the same time also sets their relativity”, but “does not bring these thoughts together, does not unite them to the concept” (E I 236 A). Consciousness is therefore “the contradiction of the independence of both sides and their identity, in which they are suspended” (E III 201).

The dependence of the ego on its object is based precisely on the fact that it must “repel” the object from itself in order to be ego. This is shown in the development of consciousness by the fact that a change of its object corresponds to a change of itself – and vice versa (E III 202). The goal of the development is that the I also explicitly recognizes the object, which is in itself always already identical with it, as such – that it also comprehends itself in the content of the object, which is initially alien to it.

The final stage of consciousness, in which an “identity of the subjectivity of the concept and its objectivity” (E III 228) is achieved, is reason – the “concept of mind” (E III 204), which leads over to psychology.

The subject of Hegel”s “Psychology” is the spirit in the proper sense. While the soul was still bound to nature, the consciousness to an object external to it, the spirit is no longer subject to any ties foreign to it. From now on, Hegel”s system is no longer concerned with the knowledge of an “object” but with the knowledge of the spirit of itself: “The spirit therefore begins only from its own being and relates only to its own determinations” (E III 229). It becomes first the theoretical, practical and free spirit, later finally the objective and absolute spirit.

Hegel”s determination of the relationship between theoretical and practical spirit is ambivalent. On the one hand, he sees a priority of the theoretical spirit, since the “will” (practical spirit) is the more limited compared to the “intelligence” (theoretical spirit). While the will “engages in struggle with the external, resisting matter, with the excluding singularity of the real, and at the same time has other human wills to itself”, the intelligence “goes in its utterance only as far as the word – this fleeting, vanishing, completely ideal realization taking place in an element without resistance”, thus remains “in its utterance completely with itself” and “satisfied in itself” (E III 239 Z). The confrontation with material reality is described by Hegel as exhausting and laborious – the practical spirit is therefore devalued compared to the theoretical one. The theoretical spirit, on the other hand, is an end in itself.

On the other hand, Hegel evaluates the practical spirit as an advance over the theoretical one and even makes it the real-philosophical counterpart of his highest logical category, the idea: “The practical spirit not only has ideas, but is the living idea itself. It is the spirit determining itself from itself and giving external reality to its determinations. A distinction is to be made between the I as it only theoretically or ideally and as it practically or realistically makes itself an object, objectivity” (NS 57).

An essential element of the theoretical spirit is language. It is the activity of the “sign-making imagination” (E III 268). For Hegel, language essentially has a signifying function. With it, the spirit gives the ideas formed from the images of Anschauung “a second, higher existence” (E III 271). Language is indispensable for thought. Memory, according to Hegel, is linguistic recollection; in it are stored not images but names, in which meaning and sign coincide (E III 277f.). The reproducing memory cognizes without sight and image, solely on the basis of names and thus makes thinking possible: “With the name lion we neither need the sight of such an animal nor even the image itself, but the name, in that we understand it, is the imageless simple conception. It is in names that we think” (E III 278).

Hegel emphasizes again and again that it is impossible to fix the particularity of a thing in language. Language inevitably transforms – against the inner intention of the speaker – all sensuous determinations into a general and is in this respect wiser than our own opinion (PG 85). Moreover, language also transcends the singularity of the ego by abolishing my merely subjective opinion of particularity: “Since language is the work of thought, nothing can also be said in it that is not general. What I only mean is mine, belongs to me as this particular individual; but if language expresses only general things, then I cannot say what I only mean” (E I 74).

Although Hegel recognizes the linguistic nature of thinking, for him thinking nevertheless has a primary existence vis-à-vis language. It is not thinking that depends on language, but vice versa language that depends on thinking (E III 272). Reason coagulated in language is to be discovered – analogously to reason in myth. For Hegel, philosophy has a language-norming function (L II 407).

Hegel emphasizes the “reasonable nature” of the drives, inclinations and passions, which he regards as a form of the practical spirit. On the one hand, they have “the reasonable nature of the spirit as their basis,” but on the other hand, they are “afflicted with contingency.” They limit the will to one determination among many, in which the “subject places the whole living interest of his spirit, talent, character, enjoyment.” But for Hegel “nothing great has been accomplished without passion, nor can it be accomplished without it. It is only a dead, indeed too often hypocritical morality, which sets out against the form of passion as such” (E III 296).

Hegel resists any moral evaluation of passion and inclinations. For him, in general, no activity “comes about without interest.” Hegel therefore ascribes a “formal reasonableness” to the passions; they have the tendency “to annul subjectivity through the activity of the subject itself” and thus “to be realized” (E III 297).

The best known area of Hegelian philosophy is his philosophy of the objective spirit. In the “objective spirit” the “subjective spirit” becomes representational. Hegel considers here “right”, “morality” and “morality” as forms of social life.

Hegel is close to the natural law tradition. However, the term “natural law” is mistaken for him, since it contains the ambiguity “that by it is understood 1) the essence and the concept of something and 2) the unconscious immediate nature as such”. For Hegel, the ground of validity of norms cannot be nature, but only reason.

Natural law and positive law are complementary for Hegel. Positive law is more concrete than natural law, since it must be brought into relation with empirical framework conditions. The foundation of positive law, however, can only take place by means of natural law.

The constituting principle of natural law norms is free will (R 46). The will can only be free if it has itself as content: Only “the free will that wills free will” (R 79) is truly autonomous, since in it the content is set by thinking. This will no longer refers to anything extraneous; it is at once subjective and objective (R 76f.). According to Hegel, law is identical with free will. It is therefore not a barrier to freedom, but its completion. The negation of arbitrariness by law is in truth a liberation. In this context, Hegel criticizes Rousseau”s and Kant”s conception of law, which would have interpreted law as something secondary and criticizes their “shallowness of thought” (cf. R 80f.).

The basic concept of abstract law is the person. The person is abstracted from all particularity; it is general, formal self-reference. This abstractness is on the one hand the precondition for equality among men, on the other hand the reason that the spirit as a person “does not yet have its particularity and fulfillment in itself, but in an external thing” (E III 306).

Hegel justifies the necessity of property by the fact that the person, “in order to be as an idea” (R 102), must have an external existence. Nature is not a direct legal subject for Hegel. Everything natural can become the property of man – vis-à-vis his will, nature is without rights: animals “have no right to their life because they do not want it” (R 11 Z). Property is not merely a means for the satisfaction of needs, but an end in itself, since it represents a form of freedom.

The alienation of property takes place in the contract. Labor services and intellectual products can also be alienated. Inalienable for Hegel are goods “which constitute my own person and the general essence of my self-consciousness, like my personality in general, my general freedom of will, morality, religion” (as well as “the right to live” (R 144 Z).

The contract is the truth of property; in it the intersubjective relation of property is expressed. The essence of the contract consists in the agreement of two persons to form a common will. In it, the contradiction is “mediated” “that I am and remain the owner who is for me, excluding the other will, insofar as I cease to be the owner in a will identical with the other” (R 155).

Following Kant, Hegel advocates an “absolute” theory of punishment: punishment is inflicted because a wrong has been done (“quia peccatum est”) and not – as was common in the contemporary relative theory of punishment – so that no further wrong may be done (“ne peccetur”). Hegel justifies his approach with the necessity of restitution of the violated right. Violated right must be restored, for otherwise the right would be abrogated and crime would apply in its place (R 187 f.). The necessary restoration of the violated right can only take place through negation of its violation, the punishment.

The restoration of justice through punishment is not something that would happen merely against the will of the criminal. The will that is in itself violated by the criminal is also his own, reasonable will: “The violation that happens to the criminal is not only just in itself – as just it is at the same time his will that is in itself, an existence of his freedom, his right” (R 190).

Hegel did not develop his own ethics. His remarks on “morality” contain critical reflections on the ethical tradition and elements of a theory of action.

Hegel distinguishes between a general will of right that exists in itself and the subjective will that exists for itself. These two wills can stand in opposition to each other, which results in a breach of law. To mediate their opposition, a “moral will” is necessary, which mediates both forms of will with each other.

Since the (subjective) will is always directed towards a content or purpose, it cannot be considered on its own. The relation to its external content makes the self-relation of the will possible. Through the external content, the will is “determined for me as mine in such a way that it contains in its identity not only as my inner purpose, but also, in so far as it has received the external objectivity, my subjectivity for me” (R 208).

In the analysis of “intention” and “guilt” Hegel treats the different dimensions of the problem of attribution. Hegel advocates a broad concept of culpability, which also extends to such cases that are not caused by my “deed” but, for example, by my property. Hegel thus anticipates the concept of strict liability, which was developed only at the end of the 19th century and plays an important role in today”s civil law.

The moment of intention separates the concept of action from that of the deed. Nevertheless, Hegel does not understand the concept of intention merely subjectively. He also includes in it the consequences that are directly related to the purpose of the action. For the area of criminal law, Hegel therefore demands that the success of an intentional act be taken into account in the assessment of punishment (R 218f. A).

Hegel opposes the tendency of his time to presuppose a break between the “objective of actions” and the “subjective of motives, of the inner being”. In and of themselves, purposes and subjective satisfaction cannot be separated for him. There is a right of the individual to satisfy the needs he has as an organic being: “There is nothing degrading in the fact that someone lives, and he is not opposed to a higher spirituality in which one could exist” (R 232 Z).

Hegel criticizes Kant”s categorical imperative as being without content. Everything and nothing can be justified with it – everything if one makes certain presuppositions, nothing if one does not make them. Thus, it is of course a contradiction to steal if property is supposed to exist; if this precondition is not made, then stealing is not contradictory: “That no property takes place does not contain a contradiction in itself any more than that this or that individual people, family, etc., does not exist or that no people live at all”. (R 252 A).

The decision about what should be concretely valid falls into the subjective conscience. This, however, has no fixed determinations, since these can only be given from the standpoint of morality. Only the true conscience, as a unity of subjective knowledge and objective norm, Hegel respects as a “sanctuary, which to touch would be sacrilege”. Conscience must be subjected to the judgment “whether it is true or not.” The state “cannot therefore recognize conscience in its peculiar form, i.e. as subjective knowledge, any more than in science subjective opinion, the assurance of and appeal to a subjective opinion, has any validity” (R 254 A).

For Hegel, evil is the purely subjective conscience in which one”s own particular will makes itself the principle of action. It represents an intermediate form between naturalness and spirituality. On the one hand, evil is no longer nature; for the merely natural will is “neither good nor evil” (R 262 A), since it is not yet reflected in itself. On the other hand, evil is also not an act of true spirituality, since the evil will holds on to the natural urges and inclinations with all the force of subjectivity: “Man is therefore at the same time evil both in himself or by nature and through his reflection in himself, so that neither nature as such, i.e. if it were not naturalness of the will remaining in its particular content, nor the reflection going into itself, cognition in general, if it did not hold itself in that opposition, is evil for itself” (R 260 f. A).

The third and most weighty part of the philosophy of the objective spirit is “morality” in Hegel. It is the “concept of freedom that has become the existing world and the nature of self-consciousness” (R 142). Its institutions are the family, civil society and the state.

Morality has a contradictory structure. Its “laws and powers” do not have the character of freedom for the individual subject at first, but are “an absolute, infinitely firmer authority and power than the being of nature” (R 295). On the other hand, they are the very product of the will itself. For Hegel, however, the forms of the will (they are not arbitrarily created, but constitute the “substance” of the will. Hegel is thus an opponent of the contract-theoretical models of society that have been common since early modern times.

The basis of the family is the sensation of love (R 307). Hegel emphasizes the contradictory character of love: it is the “most monstrous contradiction that reason cannot resolve, in that there is nothing harsher than this punctuality of self-consciousness, which is negated and yet which I am supposed to have as affirmative” (R 307 Z). In the family, one has rights only with regard to its external side (love itself cannot be the object of right (cf. R 366 Z).

Marriage has its starting point in sexuality, which, however, it has to transform into a spiritual unity (R 309f.). Hegel opposes both a contract-theoretical and a naturalistic reduction of marriage. Both interpretations misjudge the intermediate character of marriage, on the one hand to be constituted by an act of will and yet not to be an arbitrary contractual relationship, on the other hand not to be mere nature, but yet to have a natural moment in itself.

Love as a relationship between the spouses is objectified in the children and becomes a person itself (R 325). Only with them does marriage complete itself and become a family in the true sense. According to Hegel, the children are legal subjects; they have the right “to be nourished and educated” (R 326). They are “free in themselves” and “therefore belong neither to others nor to the parents as things” (R 327).

The child”s relation to the world is always already mediated by the traditions of the parents: “The world does not come to this consciousness as a becoming as hitherto in the absolute form of an externality, but passed through the form of consciousness; its inorganic nature is the knowledge of the parents, the world is an already prepared one; and the form of ideality is what comes to the child.” For Hösle, Hegel hereby already anticipates “the basic idea of the (transcendental) hermeneutics of a Peirce and Royce”: “There is no immediate subject-object relation; this relation is rather interwoven and interspersed by the subject-subject relation of tradition”.

Hegel does not consider marriage to be indissoluble (yet it may only be divorced by a moral authority – such as the state or the church). If divorce is all too easy, there is a moment of “dissolution of the state” (R 321). Hegel therefore assumes a right of institutions to hold on to marriage even if the spouses no longer want to do so: the right against its dissolution is a “right of marriage itself, not of the individual person as such” (R 308).

Hegel is regarded as the one who “for the first time thematized the concept of bourgeois society in principle and raised it to the conceptual consciousness of itself”. He thematizes society as a realm of the social that represents a reality of its own compared to the family and the state. For Hegel, bourgeois society becomes the “ground of mediation” between the individual and the state. This mediation is primarily performed by the so-called “system of needs” (R 346), by which Hegel understands the system of bourgeois economy.

Hegel highlights the alienated character of modern production and consumption. He attributes this to the increasing education in bourgeois society, in which man”s basic natural needs and thus the means of satisfying them become ever more differentiated and refined (R 347 ff.). As a consequence, there is an ever further particularization of labor (R 351), which necessitates an ever greater division of labor and finally replaces man by the machine (R 352 f.). This replacement of human labor by the machine is on the one hand a relief, but on the other hand it means that man, by subjugating nature, also degrades himself: “But every deceit which he practises against nature, and by which he stops within its singleness, avenges itself against him; what he extracts from it, the more he subjugates it, the lower he himself becomes” (GW 6, 321).

With the increasing division of labor, work becomes “more and more mechanical” (work and product no longer have anything to do with each other. The dependence of people on each other increases (because “man no longer works out what he needs, or no longer needs what he has worked out” (GW 6, 321 f.).

Despite this critique of alienation, for Hegel the spirit can only come to itself in the system of modern economy. Through work it can free itself from its immediate dependence on nature (cf. R 344 f. A). The loss of autonomy of human beings through their mutual dependence on each other also has the positive side that “subjective selfishness turns into the contribution to the satisfaction of the needs of all others” in that “everyone acquires, produces and enjoys for himself, he thus produces and acquires for the enjoyment of the rest” (R 353).

Hegel advocates the general legal equality of all citizens (R 360 A). Law must be formulated in the form of laws, because only in this way can generality and definiteness be achieved (R 361 f.). Hegel rejects English common law with the argument that in this way judges would become legislators (R 363).

The right is something real only if it is enforceable in court. It is therefore the duty and the right of the state and the citizens to establish courts and to answer to them.

Hegel recognizes the great importance of procedural law, which for him has the same status as the material laws (GW 8, 248). He advocates civil procedural settlement (R 375 f.), the publicity of the administration of justice (R 376), and the establishment of jury courts (R 380 f.).

Within the law, the police shall promote the welfare of the individual. (R 381 Z). It has security, order, social, economic and health policy tasks to perform (R 385 Z). The police also have the right to prohibit actions that are only possibly harmful and which Hegel clearly distinguishes from crimes (R 383). Fundamentally, however, Hegel calls for a liberal state that trusts that the citizen “need not first be limited by a concept and by virtue of a law not to modify the other”s modifiable matter” (JS 86).

Despite all police regulations, bourgeois society and participation in it “remains subject to contingencies,” the more so as it “presupposes the conditions of skill, health, capital, etc.” (R § 200). Hegel states that bourgeois society on the one hand increases wealth, but on the other hand increases “the isolation and limitedness of particular labor and thus the dependence and misery of the class bound to this labor” (R § 242). Bourgeois society tears individuals from their family ties (R 386). The increasing division of labor and constant overproduction entails unemployment and a further increase in poverty. This leads to the formation of the “rabble,” a disintegrated social class characterized by “inner indignation against the rich, against society, against the government,” becoming “frivolous and work-shy”: “Thus the evil arises in the rabble, that it does not have the honor to find its subsistence through its work, and yet claims to find its subsistence as its right” (R § 242+addition). It is therefore “a question that especially moves and torments modern societies”, “how poverty is to be remedied” (R 389f. Z).

To solve the social question he raises, Hegel suggests only two possible solutions: the expansion of bourgeois society by opening up new markets (R 391) and the establishment of corporations, i.e. professional, cooperative organizations.As a last resort, Hegel recommends “leaving the poor to their fate and directing them to public begging” (R 390 Z).

Hegel ascribes a godlike character to the state: “it is the course of God in the world that the state is, its reason is the violence of reason realizing itself as will” (R 403 Z). Hegel is primarily concerned with the idea of the state, not with actually existing states.

The state represents the reality of law. In it, freedom is realized and perfected. For this very reason, it is “the highest duty of individuals to be members of the state” (R 399), which is why it must “not depend on the arbitrariness of individuals” to leave the state again (R 159 Z).

Law and the state have a double relationship: on the one hand, law is the basis of the state, on the other hand, law can only become a reality in the state and thus a change from mere morality to morality can take place.

For Hegel, the state has an end in itself. There must be an institution in which “the interest of individuals as such” is not the “ultimate end” (R 399 A). In it, objective and subjective freedom interpenetrate. The supreme principle of the state is to be an objective will whose claim to validity does not depend on whether the rational “is recognized by individuals and willed by their will or not” (R 401).

The well-ordered state harmonizes the interest of the individual and the general interest. In it, concrete freedom is realized, in which “neither the general without the particular interest, knowledge and will is valid and accomplished, nor do the individuals live merely for the latter as private persons and do not at the same time want in and for the general” (R 407).

Hegel attaches great importance to the fact that the prerequisites of a good state include, in addition to a corresponding attitude of the citizens, the establishment of efficient institutions. The example of Marcus Aurelius, for example, shows that a morally exemplary ruler (“philosopher on the throne”, GP II 35) could not change the bad state of the Roman Empire (GP II 295).

For Hegel, the ideal form of state is the constitutional monarchy. In it, there should be a legislative, a governmental and a “princely power” (R 435).

The prince represents the unity of the state. With his signature, he must ultimately affirm all decisions of the legislative power. Hegel advocates a hereditary monarchy because, on the one hand, this expresses that it is indifferent who becomes monarch and, on the other hand, his appointment is removed from human arbitrariness (R 451 f.).

The government stands between the princely and legislative powers. It has to execute and apply the princely individual decisions. Hegel also subordinates the “judicial and police powers” (R 457) directly to the governmental power. Hegel pleads for a professional civil service, which, however, should not be recruited on the basis of birth, but exclusively on the basis of ability (R 460f.).

According to Hegel, legislative power should be exercised within the framework of a representation of the estates. Hegel advocates a two-chamber system. The first chamber is to be formed by the “state of natural morality” (R 474f.), i.e. noble landowners, who are called to their task by birth. The second chamber is composed of the “movable side of bourgeois society” (R 476). Its members are representatives of certain “spheres” of bourgeois society, appointed by their corporations. Insofar as Hegel”s Estates thus represent in principle nothing other than organizational forms of various major economic and social concerns, however, one might well think of the political parties, to which in the democratic constitutional state the function of representing and mediating societal pluralism of interests and state unity of action is primarily assigned, when attempting to translate the ideas and ideals underlying Hegel”s formulations into terms that are better understood today. Against this background, Hegel has recently been reinterpreted as a kind of “critical friend of the parties”.

Among the most heavily criticized parts of Hegel”s work are his reflections on “external constitutional law”. Hegel assumes that for ontological reasons there must necessarily be several states. The state is an “organism” that exists for itself and as such stands in a relationship to other states (according to Hegel, their relationship to each other can best be characterized by the concept of the state of nature. There is no power-granting and law-legislating authority overarching the states. Therefore, they have no legal relationship to each other and cannot do wrong to each other. Their disputes can therefore “only be decided by war”; Hegel considers the Kantian idea of a preceding arbitration by a confederation of states absurd (R 500).

Moreover, Hegel does not consider war an “absolute evil” but recognizes in it a “moral moment” (R 492). He advises governments to start wars from time to time: In order not to let the isolated communities within the state “become fixed, fall apart here by the whole and let the spirit evaporate, the government has to shake them in their interior from time to time by the wars, to injure and confuse their order and right of independence made right for themselves by it, but to give the individuals, who tear themselves away from the whole deepening in it and strive for the inviolable being-for-themselves and the security of the person, to feel their master, the death, in that imposed work” (PG 335).

The highest level of the objective spirit represents the world history. It is “the spiritual reality in its whole range of inwardness and outwardness” (R 503).

In world history and the rise and fall of individual states, the objective spirit becomes the general “world spirit” (R 508). For this purpose, it uses the finite forms of the subjective and objective spirit as tools of its own realization. Hegel calls this process the “world judgment” (R 503), which represents the highest and absolute law.

The final purpose of world history is the final reconciliation of nature and spirit (VPhW 12, 56).Connected with this is the establishment of an “eternal peace” in which all peoples can find their fulfillment as special states. In this peace the judgment of history is over; “for only that goes into judgment which is not according to the concept” (VPhW 12, 56).

“The principle of development begins with the history of Persia, and therefore this makes the real beginning of the history of the world.”

The great events and lines of development of world history can be understood only in the light of the idea of freedom, the development of which is necessary for the attainment of eternal peace. The essential characteristics of the spirit of a particular historical epoch are revealed in the great events that represent important advances in terms of the greater development of freedom among peoples.

Hegel distinguishes “four realms” or worlds, which follow one another like the periods of life of a human being. The oriental world is compared with infancy and boyhood, the Greek with youth, the Roman with manhood and the Germanic – by which Western Europe is meant – with old age.

Europe itself, in turn, has three parts: the area around the Mediterranean Sea, which represents its youth; the heart (Western Europe) with France, England and Germany as the main world-historical states; and Northeastern Europe, which developed late and is still strongly connected with prehistoric Asia.

The history of peoples usually proceeds in three distinct periods:

A people can take a world-historical role only once, because it can go through this third period only once. The higher stage, which follows after it, is “again a natural, appears so as a new people” (VPhW 12, 55).

Hegel”s philosophy of “absolute spirit” includes his theory of art, religion, and philosophy. It was hardly elaborated in the works he published himself and can be found mainly in the lecture notes.

The spirit becomes conscious of the principle of the world, i.e. of the absolute idea, only as absolute spirit (E III 366). The absolute spirit is present in art, religion and philosophy – but in different forms. While in art the absolute is looked at, in religion it is imagined and in philosophy it is thought.

In art, subject and object fall apart. The work of art is a “quite mean external object, which does not feel itself and does not know itself”; the consciousness of its beauty falls into the contemplating subject (Rel I 137). Moreover, the absolute appears in art only in the form of its beauty and can therefore only be “looked at”.

The object of religion, on the other hand, no longer has anything natural about it. The absolute is no longer present as an external object, but as a conception in the religious subject; it is “transferred from the objectivity of art into the interiority of the subject” (Ä I 142). The religious imagination, however, still occupies an intermediate position between sensuousness and concept, to which it is “in constant unrest.” This intermediate position shows itself for Hegel, among other things, in the fact that for religion stories, e.g. “the story of Jesus Christ”, are of great importance, although in them a “timeless event” is meant (Rel I 141f.).

In philosophy, however, the absolute is recognized as what it actually is. It comprehends the inner unity of the manifold religious ideas in a purely conceptual way and appropriates “through systematic thinking” that “which otherwise is only the content of subjective feeling or imagination”. In this respect, philosophy also represents the synthesis of art and religion; in it, “the two sides of art and religion are united: the objectivity of art, which has lost the external sensuality here, but has therefore exchanged it with the highest form of the objective, with the form of thought, and the subjectivity of religion, which has been purified to the subjectivity of thought” (Ä I 143f.).

The specific object of art is beauty. The beautiful is “the sensual appearance of the idea” (Ä I 151). In this respect, art, like religion and philosophy, has a relation to truth – the idea. Beauty and truth are for Hegel “on the one hand the same thing,” since the beautiful must be “true in itself.” However, in the beautiful, the idea is not conceived as it is in “its Ansich and general principle.” Rather, in the beautiful the idea is to “realize itself externally” and “gain natural and spiritual objectivity” (Ä I 51).

Hegel rejects the Enlightenment view that aesthetics must primarily imitate nature: “The truth of art must therefore not be mere correctness, to which the so-called imitation of nature is limited, but the exterior must be in harmony with an interior that is in harmony with itself and can thereby reveal itself as itself in the exterior” (Ä I 205). The task of art is rather to bring the essence of reality to appearance.

In contrast to Plato”s view, art is not a mere deception. Compared to the empirical reality it has rather “the higher reality and the truer existence”. By taking away “the appearance and the deception”, it reveals the “true content of the appearances” and thus gives them “a higher, spirit-born reality” (Ä I 22).

Hegel distinguishes three different ways in which the idea is represented in art: the symbolic, classical and romantic “art form”. These correspond to the three basic epochs of oriental, Greco-Roman and Christian art.

The art forms differ in the way they represent the “various relations of content and form” (Ä I 107). Hegel assumes that they have developed with an inner necessity and that specific characteristics can be assigned to each of them.

In symbolic art, which is based on a nature religion, the absolute is not yet presented as a concrete form, but only as a vague abstraction. It is therefore “more a mere search of visualization than a faculty of true representation. The idea has not yet found the form in itself and thus remains only the struggle and striving for it” (Ä I 107).

In the classical art form, on the other hand, the idea comes to a “form that belongs to its concept. In it, the idea is not expressed in something alien, but is rather “that which is significant in itself and thus also interprets itself” (Ä II 13). The classical art form represents the “perfection” of art (NS 364). If there is “something deficient about it, it is only art itself and the limitedness of the sphere of art” (Ä I 111). Its finiteness consists in the fact that the spirit is absorbed in its necessarily particular and natural body and does not stand above it at the same time (Ä I 391f.).

In the romantic art form, content and form, which had become one in classical art, fall apart again, but on a higher level. The romantic art form operates “the going out of art beyond itself,” but paradoxically “within its own territory in the form of art itself” (Ä I 113).

Hegel distinguishes five arts: Architecture, sculpture, painting, music, and poetry. They can be assigned to the three art forms and differ according to the degree of refinement of sensuality and its liberation from its underlying material.

In architecture, which Hegel assigns to the symbolic art form, the idea is represented only “as an exterior” and thus remains “impenetrable” (Ä I 117). The material of architecture is “heavy matter that can only be shaped according to the laws of gravity” (Ä II 259). Among the arts, it is still most closely related to a practical need (Ä II 268).

Sculpture, which belongs to the classical art form, shares the material with architecture, but not the form and the object, which in the majority of cases is the human being. In this respect, the spiritual plays a greater role in it. It withdraws from the “inorganic” into the “interior, which now appears for itself in its higher truth, unmixed with the inorganic” (Ä II 351). However, it remains related to architecture, in which alone it has its place (Ä II 352f.).

Finally, in painting, music, and poetry, the Romantic art forms, the subjective and individual predominate “at the expense of the objective generality of the content as well as the fusion with the immediately sensual” (Ä I 120).

Painting distances itself from the materials of architecture and sculpture. It reduces the “trinity of spatial dimensions” to the “surface” and “represents the spatial distances and shapes through the appearance of color” (Ä II 260).

In music, the reference to an objectivity is completely abolished. It is the most subjective of the arts; like no other art it is able to influence the individual. It abolishes even the planar spatiality of painting (Ä III 133) and works on the sound extending in time (Ä III 134).

On the one hand, poetry has an even more spiritual character than music in that it is even more weakly bound to the material in which it expresses itself: it has for it “only the value of a means, albeit artistically treated, for the expression of the spirit to the spirit” (it is the spiritual forms of inner imagination and contemplation themselves that “take the place of the sensual and provide the material to be shaped” (Ä III 229). On the other hand, poetry returns to a higher objectivity. It expands “in the field of inner imagination, contemplation, and feeling itself into an objective world” because it is “able to unfold the totality of an event, a sequence, an alternation of emotions, passions, ideas, and the completed course of an action more completely than any other art” (Ä III 224).

Hegel”s entire philosophical thought is accompanied by a multifaceted examination of the subject of religion and especially of Christianity. According to him, the task of all philosophy is none other than to comprehend God: “the object of religion as well as of philosophy is the eternal truth in its objectivity itself, God and nothing but God and the explication of God” (Rel I 28). In this respect, for Hegel, the whole of philosophy is itself theology: “In philosophy, which is theology, it is only a matter of showing the reason of religion” (Rel II 341).

Religion is “the self-consciousness of the absolute spirit” (Rel I 197f.). God works in the religious faith itself, the believer conversely participates in God in faith. God is not only present as object of faith, but above all in its consummation. The knowledge of God must become a knowing of oneself in God. The “human being knows only of God, insofar as God in the human being knows of himself” (Rel I 480). In the same way, however, God “is only God insofar as he knows himself”. His knowledge of himself is “his self-consciousness in man and man”s knowledge of God, which continues to man”s knowledge of himself in God” (E III 374 A).

The course of development of religion in its different historical forms is determined by the different conception of the absolute, which underlies it in each case. For Hegel, the history of religions is a history of learning, at the end of which Christianity stands. He distinguishes three basic forms of religion: natural religions, “religions of spiritual individuality” and the “perfected religion”.

In nature religions, God is thought of in direct unity with nature. Initially, magic, spirit and death cults are in the foreground (primitive peoples, China). The “religion of fantasy” (India) and the “religion of light” (Parsi religion) represent a further stage of development.

In the “religions of spiritual individuality” God is conceived as a primarily spiritual being, who is not nature, but rules over nature and determines it. To these religions Hegel assigns the Jewish, Greek and Roman religion.

Finally, Christianity is the “perfected religion” for Hegel. In it, God is presented as the Trinitarian unity (Trinity) of Father, Son and Spirit. Christianity is aware of the immanent differentiation in God himself, which is why for Hegel it takes the decisive step beyond the other religions.

In the person of the “Father” the Christians regard God “as it were before or apart from creation of the world” (Rel II 218), i.e. as pure thought and divine principle. God is understood as general, which also includes the distinction, the setting of his other, the “Son” and the abolition of the difference (cf. Rel II 223).

For Hegel, the incarnation is a necessary part of the divine. An essential part of the human appearance of God is the death of Jesus, for Hegel the “highest proof of the humanity” (Rel II 289) of the Son of God. This, in turn, appears to him inconceivable without the “resurrection.” With the overcoming of finitude, the negation of the negation of God takes place. In the risen Christ it is shown “that it is God who has killed death” (R II 292), a death that is the expression of his radically other, of the finite.

Philosophy is the last form of the absolute spirit. Hegel calls it the “thinkingly recognized concept of art and religion” (E III 378). Philosophy is the knowledge of art and religion raised into the conceptual form. In contrast to their forms of cognition, Anschauung and Vorstellung, philosophy as conceptual cognition is a cognition of the necessity of the absolute content itself. Thinking does not first produce this content; it is “itself only the formal of the absolute content” (E III 378). It produces “truth” in the concept, but it “recognizes this truth as something that is not produced at the same time, as truth that exists in and for itself”.

The history of philosophy is for Hegel “something reasonable” and “must itself be philosophical”. It cannot be a “collection of random opinions” (GP I 15) because the term “philosophical opinion” is self-contradictory: “But philosophy contains no opinions; there are no philosophical opinions.” (GP I 30). A merely philological history of philosophy is meaningless for Hegel (GP I 33). Philosophical history always already presupposes the knowledge of truth by philosophy in order to claim any meaning. Moreover, the demand to narrate “the facts without partiality, without a special interest and purpose” is illusory. One can only narrate what one has understood; therefore, the history of philosophy can only be understood by the one who has understood what philosophy is: without a concept of philosophy, “necessarily history itself will be something fluctuating in the first place” (GP I 16f.).

The history of philosophy passes through the most opposite positions, but at the same time represents a unity. In this respect, the history of philosophy is “not a change, a becoming of another, but also a going into oneself, a deepening of oneself” (GP I 47).The deeper reason for the historicity of philosophy lies in the fact that the spirit itself has a history. Therefore, as forms of the spirit, the individual philosophies cannot fundamentally contradict each other, but integrate themselves “into the whole form” (GP I 53f.). It follows that “the whole of the history of philosophy is an in itself necessary, consistent progress; it is in itself reasonable, determined by its idea. Randomness must be abandoned when one enters philosophy. As the development of concepts in philosophy is necessary, so is its history” (GP I 55 f.).

Overview of the philosophical system

From the beginning of his Berlin years, there was vehement criticism of Hegel”s philosophy. This criticism was partly fed by various motives of academic, scholastic, and ideological rivalry (especially in Schopenhauer”s case). It earned Hegel the disrespectful title of “Prussian state philosopher.” Hegel and his ideas were also the target of invective. A well-known example is Joseph Victor von Scheffel”s poem Guano, in which Hegel is associated with defecating birds.

Political philosophy

As a political philosopher, Hegel was held responsible for his state, and as a rational-optimistic philosopher of history for the history of this state, in retrospect; i.e. the personal disappointment about the political development of Prussia and then of Germany were preferably blamed on Hegel”s philosophy. Against this, it is objected that “the blind formula of the ”Prussian philosopher of state” identifies the policy of the Altenstein ministry, which itself was always controversial, with the ”Prussian state”” and thus ignores “the different, even opposing political groupings and aspirations of those years.” A comparable criticism comes from Reinhold Schneider in 1946, who sees a clear connection between Hegel”s conceptions in his ”Philosophy of World History” and the “people”s spirit” invoked during the period of National Socialism: “This kingdom of the Germanic peoples would be nothing other than the completion of history on this side, the kingdom of God on earth – a conception to which, insofar as we understand the language of the century that has since passed, history has answered with a horrible mockery.” Schneider calls Friedrich Nietzsche a “poor servant of the Hegelian world spirit”.

The political philosophy of the English idealists (Thomas Hill Green, Bernard Bosanquet) took up above all the anti-liberal tendencies of Hegel”s philosophy of right: the independent principle of the state, the supremacy of the general.

In Italy (Benedetto Croce, Giovanni Gentile, Sergio Panuncio) Hegel”s organic conception of the state was used to hold down liberalism, which was quite weakly developed in the country; this favored the rapprochement with fascism. The intellectual representatives of National Socialism in Germany, however, fiercely opposed Hegel because of the rule of reason in politics and the principle of the rule of law, and in this respect attempts at a right-wing Hegelian approach were hardly crowned with success.


In his Geschichte der sozialen Bewegung in Frankreich von 1789 bis auf unsre Tage (Leipz. 1850, 3 vols.) Lorenz von Stein made Hegel”s dialectic fruitful for sociology. But already in 1852 he revoked the attempt to base social theory on economic contradictions.

A dialectical theory of society based on Hegel”s and Marx”s teachings was developed above all by the philosopher Theodor W. Adorno.

The German sociology of culture from Georg Simmel, Ernst Troeltsch, Alfred Weber to Karl Mannheim integrated Hegel”s Volksgeist into a philosophy of life. Although it saw itself as empirically based, in polemical demarcation from Hegel”s realization of reason in history, it conceived of a metaphysics as the “given” that utilized the thoughts of Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, and historicism.

Cultural history

Cultural-historical studies received a tremendous boost from Hegel, who instructed a generation of German scholars in the historical approach to philosophy and literature, religion and art; and his students became the teachers not only of Germany but of the Western world.

On the subject of music, Hegel came under criticism. The music critic Eduard Hanslick accused him of often being misleading in his discussion of the art of sound, confusing his predominantly art-historical point of view with a purely aesthetic one and not taking historical understanding into account. He had tried to prove that music had certainties that it never had in itself.

Philosophy of Nature

Hegel was discredited by the materialistic natural scientists up to some representatives of the Neukantianism because he ignored certain results which corresponded to the state of science. Or, in the field of formal logic and mathematics, he was reproached for never having understood certain procedures properly, especially by his view that mathematics had to do only with quantities. While Hegel still understood “speculative” as the most excellent method of philosophical cognition and proof, in the common understanding it quickly became an empirically untenable, abstract conceptual thinking about God and the world.

Exemplary is the early, well-founded polemic by the natural scientist Matthias Jacob Schleiden from 1844, in which Schleiden cites examples from Hegel”s Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences, among others, this definition:

Schleiden commented smugly: “I would like to know what an examination committee would say if a candidate for the medical state examination answered the above definition to the question: what is the liver? He attacks Hegel”s relationship to natural science, which was characterized by misunderstanding and lack of understanding, even according to the state of science at that time: “This all sounds quite tremendous and high, but wouldn”t it be better if you good little children went to school first and learned something proper before you write down natural philosophies about things of which you do not yet have the slightest idea? Schleiden thus expresses a similar criticism as later Bertrand Russell (see below). Hegel scholar Wolfgang Neuser judges, “Schleiden”s arguments are among the sharpest and most comprehensive critiques of Hegel and Schelling. He collects and trenchantly summarizes the objections formulated before him; in the substance of his critique, no one has gone beyond Schleiden, even later.”

Individual recipients

Criticism of Hegel was widespread in the 19th and 20th centuries. A variety of figures, including Arthur Schopenhauer, Karl Marx, Søren Kierkegaard, Friedrich Nietzsche, Bertrand Russell, G. E. Moore, Franz Rosenzweig, Eric Voegelin, and A. J. Ayer, questioned Hegel”s philosophy from different perspectives. Among the first to look critically at Hegel”s system was the 19th-century German group known as the Young Hegelians, which included Feuerbach, Marx, Engels, and their followers. In Britain, the Hegelian school of British idealism (which included Francis Herbert Bradley, Bernard Bosanquet, and, in the United States, Josiah Royce) was challenged and rejected by the analytic philosophers Moore and Russell.

Hegel”s philosophy is one of the three main sources (along with French materialism and socialism and English national economics) of the political economy and historical materialism developed by Karl Marx.

Above all, the examination of Hegel”s dialectics shaped Marx”s thinking (Dialectics in Marx and Engels). Of particular importance for Marx is the theme of domination and servitude in the Phenomenology of Spirit and the System of Needs. Following on from this, Marx developed his materialist worldview in an inversion of Hegel”s idealism, but adhering to the dialectical method developed by Hegel. Fascinated by Ludwig Feuerbach, Marx moved from Hegel”s idealistic dialectics to materialism, which, in contrast to idealism, traces all ideas, conceptions, thoughts, sensations, etc. back to modes of development of matter and to material practice.

Marx turns the Hegelian dialectic “from its head to its feet”: For he takes as his starting point that objective reality can be explained by its material existence and its development, not as the realization of an absolute idea or as the product of human thought. Thus he does not direct his attention to the unfolding of the idea, but to the so-called “material relations”, which have to be recognized, i.e. made conscious, in the form of economic laws. These determine the social formations in their essential functions.

From this is derived a comprehensive critique of religion, law and morality. Marx understands the latter as products of the respective material conditions, to whose change they are subordinated. Religion, law and morality therefore do not have the universal validity they always claim. Marx understands the merely spiritual opposites in idealism as the image and expression of real, material opposites: These, too, depend on each other and are in constant reciprocal motion.

For Karl Popper, the origin of a statement, i.e. who asserts it, is not decisive for its truth; in the case of Hegel, however, he made an exception to this rule. Hegel violated the theorem of excluded contradiction with his dialectics in systematic intention; by this “doubly entrenched dogmatism” a rational discussion of his individual arguments was impossible. Popper criticizes such rules as: Contra principia negantem disputari non potest as a “myth of the framework”; for argumentation between different views is in principle always possible and about everything. But growing up in a tradition of Hegelianism destroys intelligence and critical thinking. Popper even refers to Marx, who sharply criticized the mystifications of Hegelianism. According to Popper, Hegel is both an absolutist and a relativist; he has inherited relativism to the sociology of knowledge. Popper”s critique itself was subject to fierce attacks. Thus he was accused of “inaccurate reading,” and “statement(s) bordering on slander.” Popper did emphasize in his later work that his theory of the Three Worlds Doctrine had much “in common” with Hegel”s Objective Mind, but that the theories differed “in some crucial respects.” According to Popper, Hegel rejected the consciousness-independent Platonic “world 3”: “He conflated thought processes and objects of thought. Thus – with disastrous consequences – he attributed consciousness to the objective mind and deified it.” Popper later expressed something like regret for having judged Hegel so harshly, but he maintained his “negative attitude” toward Hegel even in his later work and up to his death adhered to his fundamental critique of Hegel, which he expressed especially in the second volume of The Open Society and Its Enemies.

Bertrand Russell called Hegel”s philosophy “absurd,” but his followers would not recognize this because Hegel expressed himself in such a dark and hazy way that it had to be taken for profound. Russell summarized Hegel”s definition of the “absolute idea” as: “The absolute idea is pure thought about pure thought.”

Russell further criticizes Hegel for not having justified why human history follows the purely logical “dialectical” process and why this process is limited to our planet and the history that has been handed down. Both Karl Marx and the National Socialists had adopted from Hegel the belief that history is a logical process that works in their favor, and since one is in league with cosmic forces, any means of coercion is justified against opponents. According to Hegel, a strong government, in contrast to democracy, could force people to act for the common good.

Furthermore, Russell sneered that Hegel had been convinced that the philosopher in the study room could know more about the real world than the politician or natural scientist. Allegedly, Hegel had published a proof that there must be exactly seven planets, one week before the discovery of the eighth. Hegel, in his lectures on the history of philosophy, even more than two hundred years after the publication of the polemic Discorso intorno all”opere di messer Gioseffo Zarlino (“Treatise on the works of Mr. Gioseffo Zarlino”) by the music theorist Vincenzo Galilei, like Zarlino, wrongly assumed that the legend of Pythagoras in the forge was physically and historically based on truths.

The summarizing work of Hegel”s entire system is the Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences (from 1816). This results in the following structure of the systematic complete work:

I. Science of Logic (1812-1816, revised 1831)

II. Philosophy of nature

III Philosophy of mind

Writings outside the system:

Some of the “Werke” published after Hegel”s death in the first edition of works from 1832-1845 were lecture notes and notes heavily revised by the editors. The “Academy Edition” (from 1968) publishes instead the unedited lecture notes and notes, insofar as they have been preserved.

With a first day of issue of 6 August 2020, Deutsche Post AG issued a special postage stamp worth 270 euro cents to mark the 250th anniversary of Hegel”s birth. The design was created by graphic artist Thomas Meyfried from Munich.

In 1948, a stamp with Hegel”s portrait was issued in the Soviet occupation zone in the permanent stamp series “Great Germans” with the value of 60 Pf.

Philosophy bibliography: Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel – Additional literature references on the topic

About the complete works and the person

Introductions and manuals



On individual aspects of Hegelian philosophy


Philosophy of Nature



Practical philosophy

Philosophy of Religion

History of philosophy




Forums and societies

Audios and videos

Hegel is quoted – unless otherwise indicated – on the basis of the Theorie-Werkausgabe by Eva Moldenhauer and Karl Markus Michel, Suhrkamp, Frankfurt am Main 1979. The additions “A” or “Z” refer to the annotation or additional part of the corresponding passage.


  1. Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
  2. Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
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