Hegel's philosophy of history
Fogg, Walter Larry
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We have found that Hegel's philosophy of history is in organic connection with the rest of his philosophical system. His hypothesis, the concept of Reason, has been taken from his system. Any understanding of his philosophy of history entails some acquaintance with his system as a whole. An understanding of Hegel's philosophy of history and, indeed, his thought in general, is made much easier if the direction in which he is going, the end he has in mind, is comprehended. Hegel's philosophy of history is an attempt to discover a meaning behind the entire course of the world. The empirical and historical facts are given to the philosophical historian; it is his task to ascertain the significance of these facts and the significance of their particular sequence. Hegel, by taking a comprehensive and synoptic view of the world's history, gives us, at first by way of hypothesis, the final cause of the world's history: Reason. Reason is the "inward guiding soul" of the world's history and that history presents us with a rational process. Hegel' s concept of Reason is quite comprehensive. It is man's substantial being and lies implicit within him. In this sense, the history of the world presents us man's gradual discipline of his own uncontrolled natural will. In terms of the Absolute, Reason is the Providential design at work in the world's history, and as such it is a purposive activity. Hegel's philosophy of history is, then, teleological. The history of the world offers us God's purposive and rational activity and in this respect history is, for Hegel, a Theodicaea. We have found also that another concept inextricably bound up with his system is the concept of Freedom. Self-conscious Reason, or Spirit, is gradually becoming conscious of its own freedom. Change in the realm of Spirit shows us an impulse of perfectibility. Freedom means for Hegel the Conscious realization upon the part of man that his interests, his inmost being, lie with the Universal. This is concrete Freedom and the State represents its embodiment. The State then plays a central role in Hegel's philosophy of history. It represents the freedom of man in conscious union with the Whole. History presents us with state or political forms which have shown the advancement of man's recognition of his own freedom. Hegel's division of the world's history is in accordance with these stages. The course of the world's history is one toward concreteness and inclusiveness. The success with which a given state integrates its citizens contained within the state determines the stage at which that society has reached. In the East man is blinded by the "Sun" and as such he is obedient to an abstract and external law. The "negation" of this is beginning to be realized by the Graeco-Roman civilizations, that external law and custom have no authority over the individual and that he should follow the dictates of his own conscience and reason. The "synthesis" of these two is the realization of the German world that their own conscience and reason are already there in the law and Reason contained in Society and the State. The freedom attained in history by man, then, is the freedom from the irrational control of nature while at the same time the freedom from uncontrolled natural will. In regard to the empirical facts of history, the actual events of history, Hegel does amazingly well. He considers the natural, geographical, end economic factors in history. We have found that the criticism charging Hegel with a priorism is not wholly founded but that certain difficulties do come about when we look closely at the relation which he holds between Absolute and finite mind. The "cunning of Reason" hardly seems reconcilable with the Theodicaea and there are difficulties in understanding what freedom as self-sufficiency could mean in an absolutistic system.
Thesis (M.A.)--Boston University