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a slightly edited excerpt of the 1911's Encyclopedia Britannica "Hegel" article.
So far we have seen consciousness on one hand and the real world on the other. The stage of Geist reveals the consciousness no longer as critical and antagonistic but as the indwelling spirit of a community, as no longer isolated from its surroundings but the union of the single and real consciousness with the vital feeling that animates the community. This is the lowest stage of concrete consciousness—life, and not knowledge; the spirit inspires, but does not reflect. It is the age of unconscious morality, when the individual’s life is lost in the society of which he is an organic member. But increasing culture presents new ideals, and the mind, absorbing the ethical spirit of its environment, gradually emancipates itself from conventions and superstitions. This enlightment ("Aufklärung") prepares the way for the rule of conscience, for the moral view of the world as subject of a moral law. From the moral world the next step is religion; the moral law gives place to God; but the idea of Godhead, too, as it first appears, is imperfect, and has to pass through the forms of nature-worship and of art before it reaches a full utterance in Christianity. Religion in this shape is the nearest step to the stage of absolute knowledge; and this absolute knowledge— ‘ the spirit knowing itself as spirit “—is not something which leaves these other forms behind but the full comprehension of them as the organic constituents of its empire; “they are the memory and the sepulchre of its history, and at the same time the actuality, truth and certainty of its throne.” Here, according to Hegel, is the field of .
The preface to the Phenomenology signalled the separation from Schelling - the adieu to romantic. It declared that a genuine has no kindred with the mere aspirations of artistic minds, but must earn its bread by the sweat of its brow. It sets its face against the idealism which either thundered against the world for its deficiencies, or sought something finer than reality. is to be the science of the actual world - it is the spirit comprehending itself in its own externalizations and manifestations. The of Hegel is idealism, but it is an idealism in which every idealistic unification has its other face in the multiplicity of existence. It is realism as well as idealism, and never quits its hold on facts. Compared with Fichte and Schelling, Hegel has a sober, hard, realistic character. At a later date, with the call of Schelling to Berlin in 1841, it became fashionable to speak of Hegelianism as a negative requiring to be complemented by a "positive" which would give reality and not mere ideas. The cry was the same as that of Krug, asking the philosophers who expounded the absolute to construe his pen. It was the cry of the Evangelical school for a personal Christ and not a dialectical Logos. The claims of the individual, the real, material and historical fact, it was said, had been sacrificed by Hegel to the universal, the ideal, the spiritual and the logical.
There was a truth in these criticisms. It was the very aim of Hegelianism to render fluid the fixed phases of reality - to show existence not to be an immovable rock limiting the efforts of thought, but to have thought implicit in it, waiting for release from itt petrifaction. Nature was no longer, as with Fichte, to be a mere spring-board to evoke the latent powers of the spirit. Nor was it, as in Schelling’s earlier system, to be a collateral progeny with mind from the same womb of indifference and identity. Nature and mind in the Hegelian system - the external and the spiritual world - have the same origin, but are not co-equal branches. The natural world proceeds from the "idea", the spiritual from the idea and nature. It is impossible, beginning with the natural world, to explain the mind by any process of distillation or development unless consciousness or its potentiality has been there from the first. Reality, independent of the individual consciousness, then must be; reality, independent of all mind, is an impossibility. At the basis of all reality, whether material or mental, there is thought. But the thought thus regarded as the basis of all existence is the consciousness with its distinction of ego and non-ego. It is rather the stuff of which both mind and nature are made, neither extended as in the natural world, nor self-centred as in mind. Thought in its primary form is, as it were, thoroughly transparent and absolutely fluid, free and mutually interpenetrable in every part - the spirit in its seraphic scientific life, before creation had produced a natural world, and thought had risen to independent existence in the social organism. Thought in this primary, form, when in all its parts completed, is what Hegel calls the “idea.” But the idea, though fundamental, is in another sense final, in the process of the world. It only appears in consciousness as the crowning development of the mind. Only with does thought become fully conscious of itself in its origin and development. Accordingly the history of is the presupposition of logic, or the three branches of form a circle.
The exposition or constitution of the "idea" is the work of the Logic. As the total system falls into three parts, so every part of the system follows the triadic law. Every truth, every reality, has three aspects or stages; it is the unification of two contradictory elements, of two partial aspects of truth which are not merely contrary, like black and white, but contradictory, like same and different. The first step is a preliminary affirmation and unification, the second a negation and differentiation, the third a final synthesis. For example, the seed of the plant is an initial unity of life, which when placed in its proper soil suffers disintegration into its constitutents, and yet in virtue of its vital unity keeps these divergent elements together, and reappears as the plant with its members in organic union. Or again, the process of scientific induction is a threefold chain; the original hypothesis (the first unification of the fact) seems to melt away when confronted with opposite facts, and yet no scientific progress is possible unless the stimulus of the original unification is strong enough to clasp the discordant facts and establish a reunification. Thesis, antithesis and synthesis, a Fichtean formula, is generalized by Hegel into the perpetual law of thought (for a discussion of these three steps by Hegel, see the paragraphs 79-82 of his Encyclopedia).
In what we may call their psychological aspect, these three stages are known as the abstract stage, or that of understanding (Verstand), the dialectical stage, or that of negative reason, and the speculative stage, or that of positive reason (Vernunft). The first of these attitudes taken alone is dogmatism; the second, when similarly isolated, is skepticism; the third, when unexplained by its elements, is mysticism. Thus Hegelianism reduces dogmatism, skepticism and mysticism to factors in . The abstract or dogmatic thinker believes his object to be one, simple and stationary, and intelligible apart from its surrounding. He speaks, e.g., as if species and genera were fixed and unchangeable; and fixing his eye on the ideal forms in their purity and self-sameness, he scorns the phenomenal world, whence this identity and persistence are absent. The dialectic of negative reason ruofy dispels these theories. Appealing to reality it shows that the identity and permanence of forms are contradicted by history; instead of unity it exhibits multiplicity, instead of identity difference, instead of a whole, only parts. Dialectic is, therefore, a dislocating power; it shakes the solid structures of material thought, and exhibits the instability latent in such conceptions of the world. It is the spirit of progress and change, the enemy of convention and conservatism; it is absolute and universal unrest. In the realm of abstract thought these transitions take place lightly. In the worlds of nature and mind they are more palpable and violent. So far as this Hegel seems on the side of revolution. But reason is not negative only; while it disintegrates the mass or unconscious unity, it builds up a new unity with higher organization. But this third stage is the place of effort, requiring neither the surrender of the original unity nor the ignoring of the diversity afterwards suggested. The stimulus of contradiction is no doubt a strong one; but the easiest way of escaping it is to shut our eyes to one side of the antithesis. What is required, therefore, is to readjust our original thesis in such a way as to include and give expression to both the elements in the process.
The universe, then, is a process or development, to the eye of . It is the process of the absolute - in religious language, the manifestation of God. In the background of all the absolute is eternally present; the rhythmic movement of thought is the self-unfolding of the absolute. God reveals Himself in the logical idea, in nature and in mind; but mind is not alike conscious of its absoluteness in every stage of development. alone sees God revealing Himself in the ideal organism of thought as it were a possible deity prior to the world and to any relation between God and actuality; in the natural world, as a series of materialized forces and forms of life; and in the spiritual world as the human soul, the legal and moral order of society, and the creations of art, religion and .
This introduction of the absolute became a stumbling-block to Feuerbach and other members of the "Left". They rejected as an illegitimate interpolation the eternal subject of development, and, instead of one continuing God as the subject of all the predicates by which in the logic the absolute is defined, assumed only a series of ideas, products of philosophic activity. They denied the theological value of the logical forms - the development of these forms being in their opinion due to the human thinker, not to a selfrevealing absolute. Thus they made man the creator of the absolute.
But with this modification on the system another necessarily followed; a mere logical series could not create nature. And thus the material universe became the real starting-point. Thought became only the result of organic conditions - subjective and human; and the system of Hegel was no longer an idealization of religion, but a naturalistic theory with a prominent and peculiar logic.
The logic of Hegel is the only rival to the logic of Aristotle. What Aristotle did for the theory of demonstrative reasoning, Hegel attempted to do for the whole of human knowledge. His logic is an enumeration of the forms or categories by which our experience exists. It carried out Kant’s doctrine of the categories as a priori synthetic principles, but removed the limitation by which Kant denied them any constitutive value except in alliance with experience. According to Hegel the terms in which thought exhibits itself are a system of their own, with laws and relations which reappear in a less obvious shape in the theories of nature and mind. Nor are they restricted to the small number which Kant obtained by manipulating the current subdivision of judgments. But all forms by which thought holds sensations in unity (the formative or synthetic elements of language) had their place assigned in a system where one leads up to and passes over into another.
The fact which ordinary thought ignores, and of which ordinary logic therefore provides no account, is the presence of gradation and continuity in the world. The general terms of language simplify the universe by reducing its variety of individuals to a few forms, none of which exists simply and perfectly. The method of the understanding is to divide and then to give a separate reality to what it has thus distinguished. It is part of Hegel’s plan to remedy this one-sided character of thought, by laying bare the gradations of ideas. He lays special stress on the point that abstract ideas when held in their abstraction are almost interchangeable with their opposites—that extremes meet, and that in every true and concrete idea there is a coincidence of opposites.
The beginning of the logic is an illustration of this. The logical idea is treated under the three heads of being (Sein), essence (Wesen) and concept/notion/comprehension (Begriff). The simplest term of thought is being; we cannot think less about anything than when we merely say that it is. Being the abstract "is" - is nothing definite, and nothing at least is. Being and not being are thus declared identical a proposition which in this unqualified shape was to most people a stumbling-block at the very door of the system. Instead of the mere "is" which is as yet nothing, we should rather say "becomes", and as "becomes" always implies "something", we have determinate being - "a being" which in the next stage of definiteness becomes "one". And in this way we pass on to the quantitative aspects of being.
The terms treated under the first head, in addition to those already mentioned, are the abstract principles of quantity and number, and their application in measure to determine the limits of being. Under the title of essence are discussed those pairs of correlative terms which are habitually employed in the explanation of the world—such as law and phenomenon, cause and effect, reason and consequence, substance and attribute. Under the head of notion are considered, firstly, the subjective forms of conception, judgment and syllogism; secondly, their realization in objects as mechanically, chemically or teleologically constituted; and thirdly, the idea first of life, and next of science, as the complete interpenetration of thought and objectivity. The third part of logic evidently is what contains the topics usually treated in logic-books, though even here the province of logic in the ordinary sense is exceeded. The first two divisions - the "objective logic" - are what is usually called metaphysics.
The characteristic of the system is the gradual way in which idea is linked to idea so as to make the division into chapters only an arrangement of convenience. The judgment is completed in the syllogism; the syllogistic form as the perfection of subjective thought passes into objectivity, where it first appears embodied in a mechanical system; and the teleological object, in which the members are as means and end, leads up to the idea of life, where the end is means and means end indissolubly till death. In some cases these transitions may be unsatisfactory and forced; it is apparent that the linear development from "being" to the "idea" is got by transforming into a logical order the sequence that has roughly prevailed in from the Eleatics; cases- might be quoted where the reasoning seems a play upon words; and it may often be doubted whether certain ideas do not involve extra-logical considerations. The order of the categories is in the main outlines fixed; but in the minor details much depends upon the philosopher, who has to fill in the gaps between ideas, with little guidance from the data of experience,,and to assign to the stages of development names which occasionally deal hardly with language. The merit of Hegel is to have indicated and to a large extent displayed the filiation and mutual limitation of our forms of thought; to have arranged them in the order of their comparative capacity to give a satisfactory expression to truth in the totality of its relations; and to have broken down the partition which in Kant separated the formal logic from the transcendental analytic, as well as the general disruption between logic and metaphysic. It must at the same time be admitted that much of the work of weaving the terms of thought, the categories, into a system has a hypothetical and tentative character, and that Hegel has rather pointed out the path which logic must follow, viz, a criticism of the terms of scientific and ordinary thought in their filiation and interdependence, than himself in every case kept to the right way- The day for a fuller investigation of this problem will partly depend upon the progress of the study of language in the direction marked out by W. von Humboldt.
The of Nature (2nd book of the 'Enzyklopädie') starts with
the result of the logical development, with the full scientific "idea".
But the relations of philosophical pure thought, losing their inwardness, appear
as relations of of space and time; the abstract development of thought nature
appears as matter and movement. Instead of thought, we have perception; instead
of dialectic, gravitation; instead of causation, sequence in time. The whole
falls under the three heads of mechanics, physics and "organic" -
the content under each varying somewhat in the three editions of the Enzyklopädie.
The first treats of space, time, matter, movement; and in the solar system we have the representation of the idea in its general and abstract material form.
Under the head of physics we have the theory of the elements, of sound, heat and cohesion, and finally of chemical affinity - presenting the phenomena of material change and interchange in a series of special forces which generate the variety of the life of nature.
Lastly, under the head of "organic", come geology, botany and animal physiology - presenting the concrete results of these processes in the three kingdoms of nature.
The charges of superficial analogies, so freely urged against the "Naturphilosophie" by critics who forget the impulse it gave to physical research by the identification of forces then believed to be radically distinct, do not particularly affect Hegel. But in general it may be said that he looked down upon the mere natural world. The meanest of the fancies of the mind and the most casual of its whims he regarded as a better warrant for the being of God than any single object of nature. Those who supposed astronomy to inspire religious awe were horrified to hear the stars compared to eruptive spots on the face of the sky. Even in the animal world, the highest stage of nature, he saw a failure to reach an independent and rational system of organization; and its feelings under,the continuous violence and menaces of the environment he described as insecure, anxious and unhappy.
Hegel's point of view was essentially opposed to the current views of science. To metamorphosis he only allowed a logical value, as explaining the natural classification; the only real, existent metamorphosis he saw in the development of the individual from its embryonic stage. Still more distinctly did he contravene the general tendency of scientific explanation. "It is held the triumph of science to recognize in the general process of the earth the same categories as are exhibited in the processes of isolated bodies. This is, however, an application of categories from a field where the conditions are finite to a sphere in which the circumstances are infinite". In astronomy he depreciates the merits of Newton and elevates Kepler, accusing Newton particularly, a propos of the distinction of centrifugal and centripetal forces, of, leading to a confusion between what is mathematically to be distinguished and what is physically separate. The principles which explain the fall of an apple will not do for the planets. As to color, he follows Goethe, and uses strong language against Newton’s theory, for the barbarism of the conception that light is a compound, the incorrectness of his observations, etc. In chemistry, again, he objects to the way in which all the chemical elements are treated as on the same level.
The third part of the system is the "Philosopie des Geistes". The three divisions of the of Spirit/Mind ("Geist") are
The subjects of these divisions, especially of the second and third divisions,
have been treated by Hegel with great detail. The "objective spirit" is
the topic of the Rechts-Philosophie, and of the lectures on the
of History; while on the "absolute spirit" we have the lectures on
Aesthetic, on the of Religion and on the History of -
in short, more than one-third of his works.
The purely psychological branch of the subject takes up half of the space allotted to "Geist" in the Enzyklopädie. It falls under the three heads of anthropology, phenomenology and psychology proper.
Anthropology treats of the mind in union with the body - of the natural
soul - and discusses the relations of the soul with the planets, the races
of mankind, the differences of age, dreams, animal magnetism, insanity and
phrenology. In this obscure region it is rich in suggestions and rapprochements;
hut the ingenuity of these speculations attracts curiosity more than it satisfies
In the Phenomenology, consciousness, self-consciousness and reason are dealt
with. The title of the section and the contents recall, though with some
important variations, the earlier half of his first work; only that here
the historical background on which the stages in the development of the ego
were represented has disappeared.
Psychology, in the stricter sense, deals with the various forms of theoretical
and practical intellect, such as attention, memory, desire and will.
In this account of the development of an independent, active and intelligent
being from the stage where man like the Dryad is a portion of the natural
life around him, Hegel has combined what may be termed a physiology and
pathology of the mind—a subject far wider than that of ordinary psychologies,
and one of vast intrinsic importance. It is, of course, easy to set aside
these questions as unanswerable, and to find artificiality in the arrangement.
Still it remains a great point to have even attempted some system in the
dark anomalies which lie under the normal consciousness, and to have traced
the genesis of the intellectual faculties from animal sensitivity
The theory of the mind as objectified in the institutions of law, the family, society and the state is discussed in the ' of Right'. Beginning with the antithesis of a legal system and morality, Hegel, carrying out the work of Kant, presents the synthesis of these elements in the ethical life (Sittlichkeit) of the family, society and the state. Treating the family as an instinctive realization of the moral life, and not as the result of contract, he shows how by the means of wider associations due to private interests the state issues as the full home of the moral spirit, where intimacy of interdependence is combined with freedom of independent growth. The state is the consummation of man as finite; it is the necessary starting-point whence the spirit rises to an absolute existence in the spheres of art, religion and . In the finite world or temporal state, religion, as the finite organization of a church, is, like other societies, subordinate to the state. But on another side, as absolute spirit, religion, like art and , is not subject to the state, but belongs to a higher region.
The political state is always an individual, and the relations of these
states with each other and the "world-spirit" of which they are
the manifestations constitute the material of history. The Lectures on the
of history, edited by Gans and subsequently by Karl Hegel, is
the most popular of Hegel’s works. The history of the world is a scene
of judgment where one people and one alone holds for awhile the sceptre,
as the unconscious instrument of the universal spirit, till another rises
in its place, with a fuller measure of liberty - a larger superiority to
the bonds of natural and artificial circumstance. Three main periods - the
Oriental, the Classical and the Germanic - in which, respectively the single
despot, the dominant order, and the man as man possess freedom —constitute
the history of the world. Inaccuracy in detail and artifice in the arrangement
of isolated peoples are inevitable in such a scheme. A graver mistake, according
to some critics, is that Hegel, far from giving a law of progress, seems
to suggest that the history of the world is nearing an end, and has merely
reduced the past to a logical formula. The answer to this charge is partly
that such a law seems unattainable, and partly that the idealistic content
of the present which extracts is always an advance upon actual
fact, and so does throw a light into the future. And at any rate the method
is greater than Hegel’s employment of it.
As with Aristotle so with Hegel — beyond the ethical and political sphere rises the world of absolute spirit in fine art, religion and . The psychological distinction (see Hegel's division of theoretical intellect within his psychology) between the three forms is that sensuous perception (Anschauung) as the organon of the first, presentative conception (Vorstellung) of the second and free thought (Begriff) of the third.
The work of art, the first embodiment of absolute mind, shows a sensuous conformity between the idea and the reality in which it is expressed. The so-called beauty of nature is for Hegel an adventitious beauty. The beauty of art is a beauty born in the spirit of the artist and born again in the spectator; it is not like the beauty of natural things, an incident of their existence, but is "essentially a question, an address to a responding breast, a call to the heart and spirit". The perfection of art depends on the degree of intimacy in which idea and form appear worked into each other. From the different proportion between the idea and the shape in which it is realized arise three different forms of art. When the idea, itself indefinite, gets no further than a struggle and endeavour for its appropriate expression, we have the symbolic, which is the Oriental, form of art, which seeks to compensate its imperfect expression by colossal and enigmatic structures. In the second or classical form of art the idea of humanity finds an adequate sensuous representation. But this form disappears with the decease of Greek national life, and on its collapse follows the romantic, the third form of art; where the harmony of form and content again grows defective, because the object of Christian art - the infinite spirit - is a theme too high for art. Corresponding to this division is the classification of the single arts. First comes architecture - in the main, symbolic art; then sculpture, the classical art par excellence; they are found, however, in all three forms. Painting and music are the specially romantic arts. Lastly, as a union of painting and music comes poetry, where the sensuous element is more than ever subordinate to the spirit.
The lectures on the of Fine Art stray largely into the next sphere and dwell with zest on the close connexion of art and religion; and the discussion of the decadence and rise of religions, of the aesthetic qualities of Christian legend, of the age of chivalry, etc., make the Aesthetic a book of varied interest.
The lectures on the of Religion, though unequal in their composition and belonging to different dates, serve to exhibit the vital connexion of the system with Christianity. Religion, like art, is inferior to as an exponent of the harmony between man and the absolute. In it the absolute exists as the poetry and music of the heart, in the inwardness of feeling.
Hegel after expounding the nature of religion passes on to discuss its historical phases, but in the immature state of religious science falls into several mistakes. At the bottom of the scale of nature-worships he places the religion of sorcery. The gradations which follow are apportioned with some uncertainty amongst the religions of the East. With the Persian religion of light and the Egyptian of enigmas we pass to those faiths where Godhead takes the form of a spiritual individuality, i.e. to the Hebrew religion (of sublimity), the Greek (of beauty) and the Roman (of adaptation).
Last comes absolute religion, in which the mystery of the reconciliation between God and man is an open doctrine. This is Christianity, in which God is a Trinity, because He is a spirit. The revelation of this truth is the subject of the Christian Scriptures. For the Son of God, in the immediate aspect, is the finite world of nature and man, which far from being at one with its Father is originally in an attitude of estrangement. The history of Christ is the visible reconciliation between man and the eternal. With the death of Christ this union, ceasing to be a mere fact, becomes a vital idea - the Spirit of God which dwells in the Christian community.
The lectures on the History of deal disproportionately with the various epochs, and in some parts date from the beginning of Hegel’s career. In trying to subject history to the order of logic they sometimes misconceive the history of ideas. But they created the history of as a scientific study. They showed that a philosophical theory is not an accident or whim, but an exponent of its age determined by its antecedents and environments, and handing on its results to the future.
(The text above was taken from the Hegel article in the Encyclopedia Britannica of 1911 and slightly edited by Hegel.Net)