Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich (1770–1831)

views updated


Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, the German idealist philosopher, was born at Stuttgart and entered the theological seminary at the University of Tübingen in 1788. Among his fellow students were Friedrich von Schelling and the poet Friedrich Hölderlin. After graduating he became, in 1793, a resident tutor in the home of an aristocratic family at Bern, and in 1796 he took a similar post in Frankfurt. In 1800 he went to Jena, where Schelling had succeeded Johann Gottlieb Fichte as professor of philosophy and was developing an idealist philosophy of nature and metaphysics. Having been accepted as a teacher at Jena on the strength of his dissertation, De Orbitis Planetarum (1801), Hegel collaborated with Schelling in editing the philosophical journal Kritisches Journal der Philosophie and published his first book, Differenz des Fichte'schen und Schelling'schen Systems der Philosophie (1801). Notable articles by Hegel in the Kritisches Journal were "Glauben und Wissen" (1802) and "Über die wissenschaftlichen Behandlungsarten des Naturrechts" (18021803). At Jena, Hegel wrote his first major work, Phänomenologie des Geistes (Phenomenology of Mind, Würzburg and Bamberg, 1807). Completed about the time of Napoleon Bonaparte's victory over the Prussians at Jena in 1806, it was not published until 1807, after Hegel had left Jena to become editor of a daily paper at Bamberg in Bavaria.

In 1808, Hegel was appointed headmaster of a school in Nuremberg, a post he held until 1816. While at Nuremberg, Hegel published his Wissenschaft der Logik (Science of Logic )Vol. I, Die objective Logik (2 vols., Nuremberg, 18121813, and Vol. II, Die subjective Logik oder Lehre vom Begriff (Nuremberg, 1816). From 1816 to 1818, Hegel was professor of philosophy at Heidelberg. There he published Encyklopädie der philosophischen Wissenschaften im Grundrisse (Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences in Outline ) in 1817. In 1818, Hegel was appointed professor at the University of Berlin, where he became famous and influential. Naturrecht und Staatswissenschaft im Grundrisse (Philosophy of Right ) appeared there in 1821; a second edition, edited by E. Gans as Grundlinien der Philosophie des Rechts, was published in Berlin in 1833. In 1827 a second, much enlarged edition of the Encyclopedia appeared.

Hegel died during a cholera epidemic in 1831. After his death a group of his friends compiled an edition of his works in eighteen volumes (Berlin, 18321840). Several of Hegel's works were published for the first time in this edition: Vorlesungen über die Aesthetik (Lectures on aesthetics; translated as The Philosophy of Fine Art, edited by H. G. Hotho, 2 vols., 18351838); Vorlesungen über die Philosophie der Geschichte (Lectures on the Philosophy of History, edited by E. Gans, 1837); Vorlesungen über die Philosophie der Religion (Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion, edited by Philipp Marheineke, 2 vols., 1832); and Vorlesungen über die Geschichte der Philosophie (Lectures on the History of Philosophy, edited by K. L. Michelet, 2 vols., 18331836). This edition also contains notes taken by students of Hegel's comments on the Encyclopedia and on Philosophy of Right, which he was in the habit of using as textbooks.

In his biography, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegels Leben (Berlin, 1844), Karl Rosenkranz referred to and quoted from the manuscripts of works written by Hegel prior to the publication of the Phenomenology of Mind. Not all the manuscripts known to Rosenkranz have survived, but toward the end of the nineteenth century Wilhelm Dilthey made a study of those that have and published an account and discussion of them in the Proceedings of the Berlin Academy in 1905. This has since received the title Die Jugendgeschichte Hegels and is reprinted in the fourth volume of Dilthey's collected works. Dilthey's pupil and editor, Herman Nohl, then published, under the title Hegels theologische Jugendschriften, the text of a great part of what Hegel had written while he was at Bern and Frankfurt. The chief of the writings unpublished during Hegel's lifetime are the essay "Das Leben Jesu" ("Life of Jesus," 1795), Die Positivität der christlichen Religion (The Positivity of the Christian Religion, 1796), and Der Geist des Christentums und sein Schicksal (Spirit of Christianity and Its Destiny, 1799). In 1915, Hans Ehrenberg and Herbert Link published, under the title Hegels erstes System (Heidelberg, 1915), an early version, written at Jena but never published by Hegel, of what later became the system sketched in the Encyclopedia. Since then Georg Lasson (Hegels Jenenser Logik, Leipzig, 1923) and Johannes Hoffmeister (Hegels Jenenser Realphilosophie, 2 vols., Leipzig, 1932) have published still other writings that Hegel had left unpublished. Thus, much more is now known about Hegel's writings and philosophical development than was generally known in the nineteenth century.

Main Themes of Hegel's Philosophy


In the preface to the Phenomenology, Hegel wrote that only mind (Geist ) is real, and he constantly reiterated this view. (I have translated Hegel's Geist as "mind," in agreement with William Wallace's view that "to average English ears the word Spiritual would carry us over the medium line into the proper land of religiosity"Hegel's Philosophy of Mind, Oxford, 1894, p. 1.) Thus, he must be regarded as a philosophical idealist. He wrote rather slightingly of George Berkeley, however, whose works he does not seem to have studied closely, and is sometimes described as an objective idealist in order to absolve him from suspicion of the subjective idealism that has often been attributed to Berkeley. Hegel's idealism presupposed the work of Immanuel Kant and was influenced by Fichte and Schelling, but his early unpublished writings show that he had preoccupations of his own, independent of his famous German predecessors.

When Hegel said that only mind is real, he did not mean that material things do not exist and that only minds do. Mind was not, in Hegel's view, a plurality of immaterial substances but a system of individuals actively developing their potentialities by embodying them in increasingly complex forms. A fundamental feature of mind, according to Hegel, is freedom, and nothing that is partial or finite can be wholly free. The mind that is the only reality is therefore infinite. Furthermore, no one is free unless he is conscious of what he is doing, and infinite mind is therefore self-conscious mind. Artists and statesmen, merchants and saints, all busy themselves with their more or less partial tasks without necessarily concerning themselves with what it is that they are doing. According to Hegel, it is the function of the philosopher to make men conscious of what art and politics, commerce and religion, are, so that mind can exert itself to its utmost range and thus become absolute. Like Pythagoras, Plotinus, and Benedict de Spinoza, Hegel was a philosopher who held that philosophy is an activity that purifies and frees the mind.


Hegel is, of course, famous for his dialectical method, but it is enormously difficult to explain this in a brief compass. It should first be noted that Hegel set out his systematic writings in dialectical triads comprising a thesis, antithesis, and synthesis. Thus, he divided his Encyclopedia, in which he expounded his system as a whole, into three fundamental division sections"Logic," "Philosophy of Nature," and "Philosophy of Mind." In the first he expounded the categories as developing forms of thought; in the second, he said "the Idea" is considered in its "otherness" (Anderssein ) or externality; and in the third, mind is considered as existing "for itself," as conscious of itself and of the institutions it has given rise to. Within these main divisions there are further triadic subdivisions, although a very large number of subdivisions are not of this nature. It is therefore clear that Hegel himself regarded his whole work as a dialectical construction, with thought and nature as opposites united in mind and society, in the artistic and religious products of man, and, ultimately, in the activity of philosophical self-consciousness.

Hegel's system, then, has a dialectical structure, but what is his dialectical method? Hegel, like Spinoza, held that error resides in incompleteness and abstraction, but, unlike Spinoza, he held that the incompleteness and abstraction can be recognized by the contradictions they generate. It is the business of the philosopher, he held, to bring out the contradictions latent in partial or abstract views and to emphasize and elaborate them in such a way that less partial and less abstract views can be constructed that nevertheless retain in themselves what there was of truth in the original views. The same method is to be brought to bear on the less partial and less abstract views in their turn and to be pressed as thoroughly as it can be. This method of pressing and accentuating contradictions is not to be used merely to discard error but also to preserve truth. Because of the happy circumstance that in German aufheben means both "to cancel" and "to preserve"its literal meaning is "to lift up"Hegel was able to express this aspect of his view with brevity and acuity. The concept or view that is aufgehoben is transcended without being wholly discarded. Hegel's Phenomenology of Mind was an account of how various human attitudesreliance on sense experience, the belief in substance, otherworldliness, strenuous moralism, and so onall have some point and are yet contradictory, leading to the conclusion that "truth is a bacchanalian revel where not a member is sober," as Hegel put it in the Preface. His Logic gave an account of how the categories are related in this way. In his Lectures on the History of Philosophy he sought to show that the major philosophical outlooks from that of the Ionians on are, on the one hand, positive contributions that we could not do without and, on the other hand, contradictions that we have to overcome.


Another feature of Hegel's philosophy is its concern with history. Much as Hegel admired Plato's philosophy, he held that it was impossible to be a Platonist in the nineteenth century, when the philosophical context differed so greatly from that of Plato's day. In his Lectures on the Philosophy of History, Hegel argued that the history of man in the concrete was as much a progression as the history of his thought. This he deduced from the thesis that mind is of its very nature free. Thus, each historical epoch, according to Hegel, embodied some aspect of or stage in the development of man's free mind, and it would be absurd for an individual to go counter to his time except insofar as he was preparing the way for future epochs. Hegel borrowed this "progressivism," as it may be called, from the philosophers of the Enlightenment. It has greatly influenced Marxism.


Hegel thought his system provided a defense of Christianity, and both supporters and opponents of his system have taken this view of it. Those known as right Hegelians considered Hegel's apologetic successful, whereas the left Hegelians argued that his Christianity had been only superficial and his Christian terminology a disguise for something very different. In his system Hegel placed philosophy above religion in the dialectical scale, and this may give some support for the interpretations of the left. Yet there is ambiguity in Hegel's view on this, as on other important matters. On one hand, he held that only infinite mind is real; on the other hand, he held that infinite mind cannot be distinct from or beyond the finite and partial. He thought that these views were not incompatible, but it has been argued that the second is a denial of the first and, hence, a denial of any form of theism.

This entry will briefly describe Hegel's early works that were posthumously published in Hegels theologische Jugendschriften. It will continue with an account of the Phenomenology of Mind, Hegel's first important book, and conclude with a brief discussion of the Hegelian system based chiefly on the Encyclopedia.

Early Unpublished Writings

"life of jesus"

Even before he wrote his "Life of Jesus," Hegel had written some comments on Christianity in which he criticized it for its belief in the efficacy of prayer and had contrasted it, to its detriment, with the this-worldly, social religion of the Greeks. Jesus, he held, was obscurantist and narrow-minded in comparison with Socrates. In the "Life of Jesus" it almost seems as if Hegel had decided to rewrite the Gospels in the form of a Kantian manifesto. He began by claiming that God is pure reason. He described Jesus as the son of Joseph and Mary. The only miracles Hegel mentioned he interpreted naturalistically, bringing the work to an end with the death and burial of Jesus. The central theme is the conflict between the virtuous Jesus acting dutifully for the sake of the moral law and the Jewish priesthood calling for the meticulous observance of a set of irrational rules said to be commanded by God. Jesus is depicted as saying to the Pharisees, "When you regard your ecclesiastical statutes and positive commands as the supreme law given to mankind, you fail to understand the dignity of man and the power he has of creating out of himself the idea of the divinity and knowledge of his will." This improbable allocution is typical of the way in which this work denudes the Gospel narrative of what is individual and poetical.

the positivity of the christian religion

The theme of The Positivity of the Christian Religion the place in the Christian religion of the rational, on the one hand, and of the merely factual and historical, on the otherwas already raised in the "Life of Jesus." Developing the implications of the then current distinctions between natural law and positive law and between natural religion and positive religion, Hegel argued that the positive element rested on authority and was not wholly based on the dignity of man. In Christianity, according to Hegel, the main positive element was provided by Judaism, a highly authoritarian religion. But Jesus himself brought elements of positivity into the rational morality that it was his prime aim to teach; he could not have obtained a hearing from the Jews of his day if he had not claimed God's authority for his teachings. "Jesus therefore demands attention for his teachings, not because they are adapted to the moral needs of our spirit, but because they are God's will" (Early Theological Writings, p. 76). In claiming to be the Messiah, Jesus was using the language his listeners would understand. His followers, from a natural interest in the details of his life, developed these positive elements into Christianity. They appealed to miracles as proofs of Jesus' divinity and virtue, and instead of revering him for his teaching about virtue, they revered his teaching about virtue because of the miracles he was supposed to have performed.

Hegel asked how it happened that the pagan religion of the Greeks and Romans was overcome by Christianity. His answer was that at the periods of their greatness the Greeks and Romans were free peoples each individual of which regarded his own good as inseparable from the good of his community. When they lost their freedom, they lost the motives that bound them to their fellows; government and authority were now imposed from without, weighing down upon isolated individuals who came to regard their lives as individual possessions to be preserved irrespective of the social whole that alone gave them meaning.

Thus the despotism of the Roman emperors had chased the human spirit from the earth and spread a misery which compelled men to seek and expect happiness in heaven; robbed of freedom, their spirit, their eternal and absolute element, was forced to take flight to the deity. [The doctrine of] God's objectivity is a counterpart to the corruption and slavery of man. (ibid., pp. 162163)

the spirit of christianity

In The Spirit of Christianity Hegel continued and sharpened his attack on Judaism, which he regarded as a religion of domination. He now criticized Kantian ethics as well, however, finding in it elements of the same positivity he had criticized in the Jewish religion and had seen as a contamination in the teachings of Jesus. Kant had contrasted his rational religion with the religion of the Siberian shamans on the ground that these primitive men, as well as some civilized prelates and puritans, irrationally worshiped alien forces that they regarded as exerting domination over men. But according to Hegel, the difference between the believers in these positive creeds and the follower of the religion approved by Kant is "not that the former make themselves slaves, while the latter is free, but that the former have their lord outside themselves, while the latter carries his lord in himself, yet at the same time is his own slave" (ibid., p. 211). Hegel here first used the word morality (Moralität ) as a pejorative description of the Kantian morality, which he now considered to be a submission of man's inclinations, including his impulses and his feelings of love, to a universal reason held to be free from and above all passion. He held that virtue demands more than this and that in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus made higher demands. "The Sermon does not teach reverence for the laws; on the contrary, it exhibits that which fulfils the law but annuls it as law and so is something higher than obedience to law and makes law superfluous" (ibid., p. 212). Thus, duty takes a lower place than love. "Jesus makes a general demand on his hearers to surrender their rights, to lift themselves above the whole sphere of justice or injustice by love, for in love there vanish not only rights but also the feeling of inequality and the hatred of enemies which this feeling's imperative demand for equality implies" (ibid., p. 218). Hegel here saw in the ethics of the Sermon on the Mount and in the conduct of Jesus something of the "beautiful soul" described by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in Wilhelm Meister. Jesus retained his dignity by refusing to defend himself or to uphold his rights.

Hegel went on to discuss with subtlety the possible consequences for the individual and for other men of resistance to evil, on the one hand, and of withdrawal from conflict, on the other. In this part of the work the beginnings of dialectical method as it was used a few years later in Phenomenology of Mind may already be discerned.

Phenomenology of Mind

The Phenomenology is the most obscure and the most interesting of Hegel's works. On the title page it is described as a "System of Science, Part I. The Phenomenology of Mind," but this arrangement of Hegel's system was not continued in the Encyclopedia, where the section headed "Phenomenology of Mind" is contained in the third part and deals with only some of the topics of the original Phenomenology. Hegel put the Phenomenology together rather hastily and was uncertain what to call it. Different copies of the first edition have slightly differing titles, and what seems like a new title, "Science of the Experience of Consciousness," is placed after the preface and before the introduction. Insofar as there is a central theme, it consists of an account of the various stages of human consciousness from mere sense awareness to absolute knowledge, but there are many digressions into topics of current interest, such as Goethe's description of the "beautiful soul," the Reign of Terror, and F. J. Gall's phrenology. The difference between the dialectical progression of the Phenomenology and of the Encyclopedia was cited soon after Hegel's death as evidence of the inadequacy of the dialectical method (C. F. Bachmann, Über Hegels System und die Nothwendigkeit einer nochmaligen Umgestaltung der Philosophie, Leipzig, 1833). In the twentieth century Marxists preferred the Phenomenology to Hegel's other writings because Karl Marx himself admired it and because of its account of how man develops by transforming the natural world through his labor. Existentialists have preferred it to the later system because of its account of man as maker of himself; no doubt they are also impressed by Hegel's references to death and the fear of death.

The Phenomenology begins with a dialectical discussion of sense perception in which it is argued that knowledge of physical things presupposes the view that the physical world consists of forces interacting according to laws. Hegel maintained that knowledge of such a world is really a type of self-knowledge, since in penetrating to the forces behind phenomena we become aware of what we ourselves have devised and put there. "Behind the so-called curtain which is to hide the internal constitution of things, there is nothing to be seen unless we ourselves go behind." The physical world of scientific theory presupposes self-conscious beings. When he analyzed self-consciousness, Hegel argued that it presupposed a plurality of living and desiring beings each of whom seeks to subdue the world to his own wishes, to make it part of himself.

master and slave

No individual will rest satisfied with a conquest that fails to secure the conscious acknowledgment of other men. Hence, there is a struggle for both power and recognition. In this struggle some will take greater risks than their competitors; those who risk the least will become the slaves or bondsmen of those who face death by risking their lives. In order to preserve his life, the slave submits to the master, who regards the slave as nothing but a means to his own designs. The slave is forced to work, whereas the master can enjoy leisure in the knowledge that the slave is reshaping the natural world to provide the products of his labor for the master to consume. Thus, the master's leisure protects him from experience of the negativity of nature, whereas the slave, in struggling with nature's recalcitrance, learns its secrets and puts mind into it. The master, in consuming, destroys; the slave, in working, creates. But the master's consumption depends upon the slave's work and is thus impermanent, whereas the slave's labor passes into things that have a permanent existence. Hegel argued, too, that the slave's work in transforming the natural world is a consequence of his fear of the master, who can kill him. Death is overcome by the works of civilization. The man who risks his life and becomes the first master breaks the bonds of nature and starts the process that will incorporate mind into it.

It is not surprising that this section in the Phenomenology has greatly interested Marxists. Both Georg Lukács, in Der junge Hegel, and Herbert Marcuse, in Reason and Revolution (2nd ed., London and New York, 1955), contrived to discuss it without mentioning Hegel's emphasis on the fear of death. In Introduction à la lecture de Hegel, Alexandre Kojève brought out the importance of the fear of death and showed, too, that Hegel was here concerned with the transition from nature to history, from mere life to thought, from animality to freedom.

the unhappy consciousness

The next dialectical transition is from mind that is attempting to master nature to mind that seeks freedom and independence in itself, that says, "It is in thinking that I am free because I am not in another but remain completely with myself alone," an attitude exemplified in stoicism. But stoicism passes over into skepticism, for the stoic finds freedom in himself as a rational, thinking being, whereas the skeptic, pushing freedom still further, uses thought to dissipate its own categories. This, according to Hegel, was the state of mind that prevailed when the Roman Empire was dissolving. Christianity was an attempt on the part of men in intellectual despair to find stability in an eternal and infinite God.

Hegel called this frame of mind the unhappy consciousness. The individual is divided within himself, conscious of his own isolation, attributing all that is good to the activity of God. What Hegel said here was elaborated from a passage in The Positivity of the Christian Religion describing how the eternal and absolute in man had been "forced to take flight to the Deity." The unhappy consciousness was regarded by Hegel as a characteristic of both Judaism and Christianity and as the condition of all men at all times who believe in a transcendent God before whom they are as nothing. It is a stage on the way to higher forms of self-mastery.

It will be noted that in this part of the Phenomenology Hegel passed from epistemology through a sort of speculative sociology to an account of historical stages in human consciousness. According to Rosenkranz, Hegel, in his last years, used to refer to the Phenomenology as his philosophical "voyage of discovery," and it does seem that the course of the argument, although arresting, was not altogether foreseen. Josiah Royce was right when he said that in this book Hegel described "in serial order, some varieties of experience which are at once characteristic of the general evolution of the higher intellectual life, and are examples of the transition from common sense naiveté to philosophical reflection and to the threshold of an idealistic system" (Lectures on Modern Idealism, edited by J. Loewenberg, New Haven, 1919, p. 139).

reason as "objectivity"

After discussing certain scientific theories of his time under the heading "Reason as Observer," Hegel went on to consider some of the ways in which reason becomes practical. He depicted the man who, like Faust, tries to make the passing moment stay. When this attempt fails, as inevitably it must, ideals are sought in a spirit of sentimental disillusionment, but such romantic crusades are never really serious. In reaction to this frivolity there develops a taste for the hard intellectual pursuits of disinterested scholarship, the concern for "objectivity," for facts, for "the thing itself." But these allegedly disinterested researchers actually go into a sort of intellectual jungle (das geistige Thierreich ) where, deceiving one another and themselves, they tear one another to pieces in the service of truth. It soon emerges that it is not the facts that matter but a certain proprietorship that scholars working in their special fields claim over the facts.

the dialectic of morality

In the next part of the Phenomenology, titled "Mind," Hegel considered how the mind of man is embodied in his rules and institutions. This part constitutes both an account of the main types of moral attitude and a philosophy of history. These two lines of thought come together insofar as Hegel regarded the historical development from the Greek and Roman civilizations through early and medieval Christianity to Protestantism and the French Revolution as an unfolding of the main aspects and stages of freedom and, hence, as a dialectical actualization of what was merely latent and implicit in the morality of the ancient world. This unfolding is dialectical because it proceeds by oscillations and because it is made possible by conflict, in the ancient world by the conflict between the gods of the family and the laws of the city and in the modern world by the conflict between the claims of the individual and the demands of society.

In this part Hegel gave indications of the doctrine of alienation that attracted Marx in the 1840s. In building his civilization, man creates institutions and rules that are simultaneously his own products and alien constraints upon him. He may not even understand them, so that they appear strange to him. It was Hegel's view, of course, that without these institutions and rules and without the restrictions upon willfulness that they impose, mind could not reach its higher levels.

religion and absolute knowledge

In the last two parts of the Phenomenology, Hegel presented the dialectic of religion and the passage to absolute knowledge. In the earlier developments of mind the individual has to find his place in the natural world and in society, but in religion he gains consciousness of the Absolute Being. This is first approached in the primitive religions of nature, in which men worship trees, streams, or animals. Next come those forms of religion in which the Absolute Being is approached through such works of art as temples and statues. This type of religion reached a high level in ancient Greece, but when God was represented in human form, he came to be regarded as merely human and hence was lost sight of in the tragic heroes of Greek drama. As the religious element was discarded from tragedy, it gave way to comedy, in which the contingencies of human life were paraded and criticized, and God was completely ignored in favor of human self-knowledge. "The individual self is the negative force through and in which the gods disappear."

This skeptical and sophisticated humanism is succeeded by Christianity, in which God is revealed to man in Christ. Here the human and the divine are no longer sundered, and God is seen to be present in the world. But it is easy to overemphasize the historical features of Christianity and, as Hegel put it, to neglect the spiritual revelation in the attempt to uncover the often commonplace ideas of the early Christians and to gain knowledge of the mere externality and particularity of Jesus. Thus, no religious experience, not even that of Christianity, can bring absolute knowledge. The historical element in Christianity, although necessary in order to avoid regarding the Absolute Being as apart from the world, is nevertheless inseparable from perception and imagination. The events of the Gospels are, so to speak, pictured or represented. Religion therefore leads on but is subordinate to the supreme form of knowledge, the philosophical, in which human history is "conceived history, the recollection of the Absolute Mind and its graveyard, the actuality, truth and certainty of its throne, without which it would be for ever alone and devoid of life." In these last words of the Phenomenology, Hegel made it clear that the course of history, philosophically conceived, was in his view the incarnation of the Absolute Mind. Apart from the history of man God would be alone and lifeless (das leblose Einsame ). It would seem, indeed, that without the historical development of man and his freedom there would be no God.

The Hegelian System

It has already been mentioned that before writing the Phenomenology, Hegel had written but had left unpublished some attempts at a complete system of philosophy and that the Phenomenology was described on its title page as the first part of a system of science. It turned out that the Science of Logic (18121816) became the first part of Hegel's final system. A shortened and revised version of the Science of Logic appeared in 1817 as the first part of the Encyclopedia, a book intended for use at his lectures. A second, very much elaborated edition of the Encyclopedia appeared in 1827, and a third in 1830. This last edition was reprinted in the edition of Hegel's collected works published soon after his death, with inserted "additions" taken from the notebooks of students who had attended Hegel's lectures. These additions, which are most frequent in the first and second parts of the Encyclopedia, help greatly in the understanding of Hegel's argument but do not have quite the authority of the main text. Such additions are less frequent at the end, since the editors considered that the Philosophy of Right, first published in 1821, and some of the sets of lectures, provide commentary of this sort.

the encyclopedia

The Encyclopedia starts with a discussion of "Logic"a revision of Science of Logic and proceeds to the sections "Philosophy of Nature" and "Philosophy of Mind." The transition from the "Logic" to the "Philosophy of Nature" is not easy to understand. There are statements that say that the idea decides to allow nature to go forth freely from itself (Sec. 244), that "Nature has come to pass as the Idea in the form of otherness" (Sec. 247), and that nature is "the unresolved contradiction" (Sec. 248). The last main heading in the "Philosophy of Nature" is "The Animal Organism." Toward the end of this section there is an account of the individual animal as having "an original sickness" and "an innate germ of death" (Sec. 375), which leads to the assertion that with the subjectivity of living organisms the "outside-itself-ness" (Aussersichsein ) of nature is transcended by the "interiority" (Insichsein ) of actuality (Sec. 376).

Hegel later claimed (Sec. 381) that mind presupposes nature but is "the truth [of nature] and its absolute ground [deren absolut Erstes ]." He also stated that the essence of mind is freedom (Sec. 382). A fundamental comment on the dominating triadic division must be made before going further into the details of the system. The revised "Science of Logic" that appeared in the Encyclopedia was concerned with the categories of thought, proceeding from the most inadequate and abstract to the most concrete and adequate, from being to the Absolute Idea. The inadequacies of the abstract categories show themselves through the contradictions they give rise to. Being is more abstract than becoming; becoming, more abstract than being-for-self; these early categories, more abstract than the latter categories of life, and so on.

But Hegel was always concerned with the categories of thought and their relations to one another. When he wrote that the idea decided to allow nature to go forth freely from itself, was he saying that thought is the Divine Being that created nature? The religious overtones that accompany Hegel's major transitions cannot be ignored, but those who wish to interpret him naturalisticallyan interpretation his early writings and the Phenomenology may well justifycan take the view that the decision and the free going forth are meant to indicate that nature is not deducible from the categories of thought, that there is a contingency about it that no system of logic and no elaboration of concepts can eliminate. In Subjekt-Objekt (Berlin, 1951) Ernst Bloch suggested that the free decision of the Absolute Idea is reminiscent of the arbitrary act of an absolute monarch, and he quoted a passage from Schelling's Philosophie und Religion (Tübingen, 1804) which held that "the descent of finite things from the Absolute" is a "primal accident [Urzufall ]."

In the third part of the Encyclopedia, Hegel described mind as it develops in the natural world, mind as it transforms the natural world in creating the works of civilization, and mind fully aware of itself in the complete self-consciousness of philosophical thought. The "Logic" culminates in the Absolute Idea, the most adequate category but still a category. In the "Philosophy of Nature," where there is no Absolute, the culminating point consists of mortal individuals belonging to persisting animal species. The "Philosophy of Mind" culminates in Absolute Mind, the consciousness man gains of himself through understanding his own history in a civilization that he has imposed upon the contingencies of nature.


Like the Hegelian system as a whole, each of its three main sections"Logic," "Philosophy of Nature," and "Philosophy of Mind"is again divided into three. The "Logic" is divided into the "Doctrine of Being," the "Doctrine of Essence," and the "Doctrine of the Concept [Begriff ]." The difficulties in presenting a comprehensible summary of Hegel's views are at their greatest in relation to the "Logic," and all that will be attempted is an indication of a few of Hegel's most characteristic views.

"Doctrine of Being."

In the "Doctrine of Being" Hegel was concerned with the most abstract categories. Being itself, the most abstract of all, amounts to the same as nothing. Like Bertrand Russell in his theory of descriptions, Hegel held that nothing can be said to be unless some characteristic is attributed to it; hence, in Hegel's terminology being leads on to determinate being, which involves the notion of quality. On the ground that a quality is something distinct from other qualities, Hegel argued that quality implies the category of a unit (das Eins ) and that this in turn leads on to quantity. This part of the "Logic" was completed by transitions to degree and measure.

Hegel's object in the "Doctrine of Being" was to show that these categories are not independent of one another but develop from one to the other in an ascending order of adequacy. We know more about something when we know the proportions of its parts than when we know only how many parts it has, that it is, or that it is something or other. An important element in this part of the "Logic" is Hegel's criticism of infinite numerical series as the false infinite and his contrast between the false and the true infinite, which is not an incompletable progression of similar items but a completed, complex whole of supplementary parts. The true infinite is not to be reached by attempting the impossible task of moving from one finite to the next but must comprise the finite.

"Doctrine of Essence"

The "Doctrine of Essence" is concerned with such distinctions as that between a thing's nature and its appearances, forces and their manifestations, form and matter. Hegel exploited the difficulties ("contradictions") that arise when these oppositions are so accentuated that we are left with featureless essences, on the one hand, and unattached appearances, on the other. Typical of his treatment of these topics is his claim that "the explanation of an appearance in terms of a force is an empty tautology" (Sec. 136) and his assertion that as a man's outward actions are, so his inner aims and intentions must be (Sec. 140).

"Doctrine of the Concept"

A prominent feature in the "Doctrine of the Concept" is Hegel's critical treatment and reorganization of the traditional formal logic. Thus, he classified judgments in terms of his own division of "Logic" into being, essence, and concept. The classification progresses from the mere factual attribution of a quality, through disjunctive and necessary judgments in which the predicate belongs essentially to the subject, to judgments of value that assert that a thing is good or bad just because it is that individual thing. Judgments gain in adequacy as they advance from mere factual attribution to attribution for reasons contained in the subject. Hence, the more developed forms of judgment are indistinguishable from inferences. In his account of the syllogism Hegel placed inferences in which the terms are only contingently connected at the bottom of a scale leading up to the disjunctive syllogism, in which a genus is exhaustively specified.

Although Hegel retained the terms and distinctions of the traditional formal logic, the use he made of them was highly original. Instead of setting out the types of judgment and the figures and moods of the syllogism as equally valid forms, he regarded judgment as implicit inference and inference as ordered in a scale of ascending rationality. This conception of logic influenced such later writers as Christoff Sigwart and R. H. Lotze and was developed in both F. H. Bradley's Principles of Logic (London, 1883) and Bernard Bosanquet's Logic: The Morphology of Knowledge (2 vols., Oxford, 1888).

The argument of Hegel's "Logic" can be very briefly summarized. The least that can be said about anything is that it is. More is said about it when it is qualified, numbered, or measured; still more is said about it when it is explained in terms of essences, grounds, or causes. Most is said about it when it is placed in the context of life, purpose, will, and value.

"philosophy of nature"

At the end of the eighteenth and the beginning of the nineteenth century there was a great deal of philosophizing about nature. Electricity was held to have cosmic significance, and Schelling made much of the opposition between positive and negative poles. Poets as dissimilar as William Blake and Goethe rejected what they regarded as the unduly quantitative physics of Isaac Newton. Spinoza was revived, and among German poets and philosophers much was said about the ν και πα̑ν, the one and the all. It is not surprising, therefore, that Hegel's dissertation of 1801, De Orbitis Planetarum, was critical of Newton and sought to provide an a priori justification of Johannes Kepler's laws. At the end of the dissertation Hegel mentioned some numerological accounts of the distances and number of the planets and expressed the opinion that if Plato was right in the Timaeus, there could be no planet between Mars and Jupiter. Hegel did not then know that Ceres, an asteroid between these two planets, had been discovered at the beginning of the year. However, even after he had heard of this discovery and of the discovery of several other asteroids soon after, he continued to hope that philosophical reasons could be given for the positions of the heavenly bodies. In an addition to Section 270 of the Encyclopedia, Hegel tried to show that these asteroids filled a gap that would otherwise have been unreasonable. The addition ends with the words: "Specialists do not think about such matters. But a time will come when in this science there will be a demand for concepts of the Reason."

It should be mentioned here that Hegel accepted and developed Kant's distinction between the reason and the understanding. According to Hegel, the understanding, although a necessary stage of thought, is less philosophical than the reason. To think in terms of the understanding, as is done in mathematics, the natural sciences, and traditional metaphysics, is to think in terms of fixed and uncriticized categories, to think undialectically or in prephilosophical terms. The reason moves dialectically toward completeness in terms of fluid categories that constantly amend themselves. Thus, when Hegel wanted astronomers to pay attention to "concepts of Reason," he wanted astronomy to take its place within a system of philosophy. This place must be a subordinate one, for Hegel wrote in the Introduction to the "Philosophy of Nature" (Sec. 248): "Even if arbitrary will, the contingency of mind, leads on to wickedness, this is nevertheless something infinitely higher than the regular movements of the planets or than the innocence of the plants: for what goes wrong in that way is nevertheless mind." Here Hegel was emphasizing the gulf between mind and nature, even though he held that the understanding does not give a complete knowledge of nature.


The three main divisions of the "Philosophy of Nature" are concerned with mechanics, physics, and organic nature. The astronomical theories expounded in the first part have already been touched upon. This part also contains a brief discussion of space and time. Following Kant, Hegel regarded them both as "forms of sensibility," or, more strikingly, as "the non-sensible sensible." Although he regarded arithmetic and geometry as sciences of the understanding, he considered the possibility of a philosophical mathematics at the level of measure or proportion (mass).


The second part of the "Philosophy of Nature" moves through various triads from light, the elements, sound, heat, to electricity and chemical combination. Hegel commented upon the philosophical significance of each form of matter. The comment on heat is characteristic:

Heat is the re-establishment of matter in its formlessness, its fluidity, the triumph of its abstract homogeneity over its specific determinations. Formally, that is in relation to spatial determinations in general, heat therefore appears expansive, as cancelling the limitations which the specification of the indifferent occupation of space is. (Sec. 303)

That is, when heat spreads out from a heated thing, that thing is not confined to one place, as it would be if it were not heated. Or as Hegel put it in the next section, heat is the "real negation of what is specific and exclusive in body."

Organic nature

In the last main triad of the "Philosophy of Nature," Hegel passed from geological nature through vegetable nature to the animal organism. The most interesting part of this triad is the last, in which Hegel discussed animal species and their relationships. He seems to have thought that violent death is, in the animal world, "the natural fate of the individual" and that because of the contingency of nature animal life is "uncertain, anxious, and unhappy" (Sec. 369). But other members of the same species are not only hostile to the individual; they are also, like him, continuations of the species, and, hence, the individual feels a need to unite himself to the species (Gattung ) and to continue it by copulation (Begattung )the play on words is, of course, deliberate. Thus, Hegel seems to have held that animal sexual union is not merely a contingent affair. On the other hand, since the new individuals produced in this way only repeat the features of their parents and other ancestors, their constant reproduction is an instance of the false infinite, not of the true infinite in which completeness and perfection are achieved.

"philosophy of mind"

The major triad in the "Philosophy of Mind" consists of "Subjective Mind," "Objective Mind," and "Absolute Mind."

"Subjective Mind"

Under the heading "Subjective Mind" and the subheading "Anthropology," Hegel dealt with the soul as a natural entity in the physical world; the soul as a sensitive, feeling being; and the soul as a being that can express itself and act upon the world through its body. The upright body, the hand "as the absolute tool" (Sec. 411), the mouth, and the power of weeping and laughing all enable man to express in natureto externalizehis thoughts and feelings. Furthermore, the world has effects upon man's body that are internalized by himHegel here made a play on the word Erinnerung, which means "recollection" but, if taken in the literal sense of its German etymology, can be taken to mean "internalization." When the organism reacts to immediate stimuli in the light of its own experience, mind has evolved beyond the mere animal level and has reached the stage of consciousness.

Hegel discussed the next moment of subjective mind under the heading of the "Phenomenology of Mind," going through the main phases distinguished in the earlier chapters of his book with that titlenamely, sense experience, perception, understanding, desire, the self-consciousness that recognizes others (containing the discussion of master and slave), reason.

The third triad of subjective mind, which is headed "Psychology," contains descriptions of such intellectual functions as intention, representation, recollection, imagination, memory, and thought and descriptions of the practical drives, impulses, and seekings after satisfaction.

This part ends with a brief section headed "Free Mind." Here it is asserted that the unity of theoretical and practical mind is free will. Hegel meant that human freedom is possible only on the dual basis of thought and impulse and consists of the rationalizing and systematizing of the impulses and passions. "This will to freedom," he said, "is no longer an impulse that demands satisfaction, but the characterthe mind's consciousness grown into something non-impulsive" (Sec. 482).

"Objective Mind"

At the very end of his discussion of subjective mind Hegel wrote that the freedom which is the culmination of subjective mind is only a concept, "a principle of mind and heart destined to develop into the objective phase, into legal, moral, religious and scientific actuality" (Sec. 482). The rest of the system is therefore concerned with the ways in which the human will, in which thought and impulse ("mind and heart") are combined in freedom, becomes effective (this is the idea behind the word actuality, which translates Wirklichkeit ) in the public world, the world in which men act and in which their thoughts and deeds give rise to rules, institutions, and organizations. These rules, institutions, and organizations are independent of each man and thus may be regarded as kinds of objects, though not as physical objects. Men build up in the natural world a world other than the natural world by working on nature and transforming it and by creating systems of property, economic organizations, class differentiations, and the like. The triad that makes up objective mind comprises law (Recht ), subjective morality (as Wallace translated Moralität ), and social morality (as Wallace translated Sittlichkeit ; T. M. Knox translated it as "ethical life"). The first part covers legal rights and duties as exemplified in property, contract, and punishment. The second is concerned largely with the morality of intention and consciencethe term Moralität was used by Hegel somewhat pejoratively to mean a sort of ethics (of which Kant was, in his view, the chief exponent) in which the agent is unduly governed by the subjective and internal aspects of decision and action.

The third part is itself a triad. The first stage of social morality is the family, "the natural or immediate phase" of objective mind (Philosophy of Right, Sec. 152). When members of the family have matured, they detach themselves from it and enter the world of independent men who compete in an economic arena free from tribal allegiances. This phase of social life Hegel called "civil society." It is the world of intelligent, responsible individuals in their business relationships, free from irrational tribal loyalties, allowing their connections with one another to be formed by the coincidence of wants in a market of wide extent. Indeed, it is the aspect of human society that the classical economists, whom Hegel admired, had analyzed and justified. But civil society cannot exist as a mere market, for markets need to be policed, whereas trades and industries themselves find common concerns that unite the individuals in corporations of various kinds.

There is thus a double necessity for the stateas the upholder of fair dealing and as the ultimate curb on the selfishness of corporations within civil society. In the Encyclopedia, Hegel wrote of "the unification of the family principle with that of Civil Society" and described it as a unification of the love that is essential to the family with the conscious universality that is the mark of civil society (Sec. 535). In the Philosophy of Right (Sec. 257) the state was described as "the actuality [Wirklichkeit ] of the ethical Idea"that is, as its effective embodiment. In the same section of the Philosophy of Right, Hegel wrote that "the mind of a nation (Athene for instance) is the divine, knowing and willing itself," and in an addition to Section 258 is the famous phrase "The march of God in the world, that is what the State is." But this section has been misunderstood. In the sentence before that in which he had written that the state is divine, Hegel had said, with the family in mind, "The Penates are inward gods, gods of the underworld," so that it is not only to the state that he attributed divinity. Furthermore, in the same addition as that in which he claimed that the state is "the march of God in the world," he said that the state "stands on earth and so in the sphere of caprice, chance and error, and bad behaviour may disfigure it in many respects." Hegel's main concern was, as he stated, to analyze the state at its best. Although, like Aristotle, he regarded the state as the highest social achievement of man, he also held, again like Aristotle, that within the state there should be guarantees against arbitrariness and despotism. He did not take a favorable view of "popular suffrage" on the grounds that "in large states it leads inevitably to electoral indifference" and that "election falls into the power of a few, of a caucus" (Philosophy of Right, Sec. 311). He strongly believed that all important interests should be represented and thought that there should be a constitutional monarchy with considerable powers advised by an upper and a lower house.

This brings us to the most controversial part of Hegel's account of objective mind, his philosophy of history. Whatever else is involved in his view that the state is man's highest social achievement, it undoubtedly implies that there is no superior body or group by which its claims may be assessed. States are necessarily independent beings. Their relations are regulated to some degree by custom, and there is an international law that regulates dealings between subjects of different states and requires adherence to treaties, as if they were a sort of contract. When the vital interests of states clash, however, there is no alternative except war. War between states, Hegel had said in his "Die Verfassung Deutschlands" ("Constitution of Germany," 1802; first published in Schriften zur Politik und Rechtsphilosophie, edited by Georg Lasson, 2nd ed., Leipzig, 1923), does not decide which of the rights of the conflicting states is the true rightfor both are"but which right has to give way to the other." Hegel believed that war performs the function of keeping before the minds of men the realities of death and destruction. He held that states are individuals and that all individuals persist in their existence by ensuring that other individuals recognize them as they recognize the others. The very concept of a state therefore requires that there be a plurality of them, and this makes war a part of the system of states even though war is not their natural condition but an interruption of the normal state of peace. Hegel argued that since war is a relation between states and not a relation of individual men to one another, the rights and interests of noncombatants should be maintained to the utmost. For the same reason he was in favor of professional armies and against conscription or any form of levy en masse.

Each nation is limited by geographical and other accidental features and hence can build up only a particular culture and can have only a particular, not a universal, history. Thus, nations, when they reach the level of statehood, make their contribution to the whole in the part they play in world history (Encyclopedia, Sec. 548). World history is not wholly an affair of chance or contingency; as the work of mind it could not be. Therefore, the history of the world has a rational structure, and any historical writing that ignored this "would be only an imbecile mental divagation, not as good as a fairy-tale" (Sec. 549). This rational structure, according to Hegel, is the development of freedom.

"Absolute Mind"

The triad that completes the Hegelian system is composed of art, revealed religion, and philosophy. It will be remembered that at the end of the Phenomenology Hegel proceeded from the religion of nature to the religion of art and then to the philosophical knowledge of the history of the world. In the Encyclopedia art is given what seems to be a more independent status, but the details of the argument hardly bear out the general scheme, since the transitional sections describe a transition from objective mind to religion, as in the Phenomenology. Thus, in the concluding sections of the Encyclopedia art is regarded as an inadequate form of religion, religion as a more adequate form of art, philosophy as religion freed from picture thinking and wholly rationalized, and all three as manifestations of Absolute Mind. Art is the embodiment of Absolute Mind in material things fashioned by the artist, who, in a sense, is thus "the master of the God" (Encyclopedia, Sec. 560). In classical art the embodiment takes place without any antithesis between the embodiment and the mind that is embodied. In the art of the sublime, which preceded classical art, the Absolute Mind is regarded as something that defies embodiment and remains forever beyond and behind the sensible forms that succeed only in symbolizing it. The defect of artistic representation is that the sensible symbols may be taken to refer to another world beyond, which is as limited as this world is falsely taken to be. Thus, men worship idols or even bones, "which point to the unspiritual objectivity of that other world" (ibid., Sec. 562).

God is therefore not something grander and more powerful than the natural world yet fundamentally like it, nor is he something beyond the world that must remain forever inaccessible to man. God is manifested in the world, and this is the truth that revealed religion has expressed most adequately in the Christian doctrine of the Incarnation. Without this doctrine God would still be regarded as beyond the world and, thus, as incomplete and finite. Even with this doctrine he is conceived of through the medium of particular historical events that introduce an element of contingency and irrelevance into our conception of him. In philosophy the artist's external vision and the mystic's internal vision are united in a mode of thought in which there is no further conflict. The philosopher who achieves ultimate self-knowledge is freed from the conflicts that inevitably disturb the inferior levels of knowledge. By philosophizing to the end, he has made himself free (ibid., Sec. 576).

The Dialectical Method


It is now necessary to give more detailed attention to Hegel's dialectical method. There are interpreters of Hegel who say that Hegel denied the principle of contradiction in that he held that contradictories can both exist and that contradictory propositions can therefore both be true. Others deny this interpretation, maintaining, instead that, according to Hegel, since contradiction is a mark of inadequacy and falsehood, contradictions are to be found in the lower categories but are absent from or resolved in the Absolute Idea. This view is summed up in Michael Oakeshott's reference to "the element of self-contradiction inherent in all abstraction" (Experience and Its Modes, Cambridge, 1933, p. 328). Those who take the first view can quote some convincing passages from Hegel's Science of Logic. For example, there he wrote that "all things are in themselves contradictory," that "movement is existing contradiction itself," and that "only insofar as something has contradiction in itself does it move, have impulse or activity."

If Hegel had rejected the principle of contradiction in the sense that that principle is understood by formal logicians, his case would indeed be serious, for it follows from the rejection of this principle that any proposition can be true and false and that there is thus no means of distinguishing truth from falsehood. It is important, therefore, to see whether Hegel did reject the principle of contradiction in this sense and whether its rejection is part of his dialectical method. That these questions are not easy to answer becomes apparent if we consult some of the commentators on the passages I have just quoted. J. M. E. McTaggart, in his Commentary on Hegel's Logic, was dissatisfied with the whole section and claimed that in it Hegel had allowed himself to be too much influenced by Schelling's view on polarity and opposition. "The whole point of the dialectic," McTaggart protested, "is that the perception of a contradiction is a reason for abandoning the category which we find contradictory." Indeed, he found this part of the Logic so unsatisfactory that he proposed to amend the sequence of categories by leaving out contradiction altogether.

McTaggart said nothing, however, about Hegel's statement that there are existing contradictions. G. R. G. Mure, in his A Study of Hegel's Logic, did not evade this difficulty. Examining Hegel's text more closely than McTaggart had done, he pointed out that on the ground that "the contradictory cannot be imagined or thought" Hegel rejected the commonsense view that things cannot be self-contradictory but that thought can be. Mure called attention, too, to Hegel's statement that self-contradiction is not a mere disease of thought but something it must pass through on its way to truth. Furthermore, according to Hegel, it is finite things that are self-contradictory, and they are contradictory not in relation to one another but by virtue of their relation to what is infinite: Hegel "is not suggesting that Big Ben can now read both 9 p.m. and not 9 p.m." (p. 105). Although this is an improvement on McTaggart, it left out of account Hegel's statement that for something to move, it must be both here and not here at the same time. What Hegel said about movement is not altogether unlike Mure's example of Big Ben. So the difficulty remains.

In the "Logic" sections of the Encyclopedia, which was written later than the Science of Logic, contradiction is not a separate category at all. Perhaps the reason for this difference is that Hegel had second thoughts and gave up the idea of contradiction in the nature of things. But although contradiction is no longer a category in the Encyclopedia, Hegel still sometimes wrote as if there were contradictions in the nature of things. For example, he stated that although such concepts as "square circle," "many-sided circle," and "straight curve" are self-contradictory, geometers nevertheless regard circles as polygons composed of very short sides and "the center and circumference of a circle as opposite and contradictory to one another" (Encyclopedia, Sec. 119). Hegel also suggested that polarity in physics goes against the ordinary logicbut he used the word opposition (Entgegensetzung ) rather than contradiction (Widerspruch ).

In Geschichte der neueren Philosophie (Heidelberg, 1901, Vol. VIII, Part 2) Kuno Fischer tried to overcome the difficulty by distinguishing between two sorts of contradiction, "necessary contradiction" and "impossible contradiction." The example of a square circle illustrates the notion of an impossible contradiction, a contradictio in adjecto, for it is impossible for the same thing to be both circular and square. When a circle is regarded as a many-sided polygon, however, the contradiction is not in adjecto but in subjecto, for the circle is then being regarded as in the process of being formed or generated from these many sides. This, Fischer held, is the contradiction involved in all becoming (the first concrete category of the "Logic," the synthesis of being and nothing). Fischer's suggestion is therefore that there is not a vicious or stultifying contradiction involved in becoming or in movement, contradictory though they must in some sense be. But although this may be a correct exposition of Hegel's view, it is hardly a defense of it, since it merely repeats without explaining his claim that there are contradictions in the objective world.

By drawing this distinction, Fischer has nevertheless raised the question whether Hegel intended the word contradiction to be used in the way it is used in formal logic. The answer is clear enough. Hegel did not regard formal logic as a philosophical science, and he therefore rejected any idea that its categories should dominate philosophical thought. Thus, the fact that the word contradiction is used in a certain way by formal logicians was not for him a reason for confining himself to that meaning. When Hegel was advocating the dialectical method, he had in mind a method in which oppositions, conflicts, tensions, and refutations were courted rather than avoided or evaded. Hegel was a student of the classical, laissez-faire economists who held that wealth would be maximized by the free play of competition. In this view if traders and producers ceased to compete with one another, the whole level of economic life would be lowered. General prosperity could be reached only at the expense of labor and anxiety. So it is, Hegel believed, with the categories of our thought, the systems of philosophers, and the forms of life and society. There is no tranquillity to be had by withdrawal and isolation. Our categories compete with one another, and out of their competition emerges something better than either of them could have accomplished alone. But it is not possible for the superior category to go into retirement, for without the spur of competition it would fall into decay.

Furthermore, just as competition requires the competitors to continue in businessfor if one destroys the others, there is monopoly and stagnationso the competing categories cannot be swallowed up and lost in the Absolute Idea but must all play their part in maintaining its life and stability. There is nothing fanciful in this comparison. Indeed, it gains support from Hegel's "System der Sittlichkeit" of 1802 ("System of Morality"; in Schriften zur Politik und Rechtsphilosophie, edited by Georg Lasson, 2nd ed., Leipzig, 1923), in which it is quite clear that Hegel's systematic thinking was influenced by his understanding of economic theory. For example, in this essay he developed the triad needlaborenjoyment and described labor as "the destruction of the object but in such a way that another is put in its place." Here Hegel compared labor with knowledge and undoubtedly had in mind (in accord with his tendency to take German words in the sense of their roots) the element of negation (nicht ) in the word for destruction (Vernichtung ). The destruction of the natural object is the creation of an artificial one.


Negation, indeed, is the vital notion in Hegel's account of the dialectic. In the Preface to the Phenomenology Hegel wrote, "The life of God and divine knowledge may, if we wish, be described as love disporting with itself; but this idea is degraded into mere edification and insipidity if it lacks the seriousness, the pain, the patience and the labour of the negative." "Seriousness," "pain," "patience," and "labor" would be strange words to use of the negative symbol of formal logic. Expressed in theological-economic terms Hegel's view is that God cannot be a mere consumer, for there is no consumption without labor, and labor has to face a recalcitrant nature that has to be understood and humored. Thus, there is no God apart from nature. In moral terms there is no good without evil, and in logical terms there is no truth without error. These, according to Hegel, are central truths of dialectics.

But surely, it will be said, this conflicts with such obvious facts as that there are some who consume without working, that in mathematics there are sequences of necessarily true propositions with no admixture of falsity, and that some thingsfor example, conscientious actionare good without qualification. As to the first point, Hegel argued in the Phenomenology that the master who consumes what his slave produces for him destroys what he consumes, whereas the slave shapes the external world in such a way that mind is embodied in it. Hence, the slave is on the road to freedom, whereas the master, who does not work, destroys without creating. As to mathematics, Hegel was inclined to hold it in contempt. There is no space here to consider the strange things he said about it, and it need only be remarked that he held that philosophical truth is utterly different from mathematical truth in that false philosophical views are taken up into true philosophy whereas false mathematics is not taken up into true mathematics. As to the alleged unmixed goodness of conscientious action (the Kantian "good will"), Hegel held that the morality of conscience contained in itself the seeds of willfulness and arbitrariness, for the most atrocious deeds can be defended on the ground that the man who committed them genuinely thought them right. Obedience to one's own conscience, Hegel thought, is an advance over obedience to the commands of an external lord but is nevertheless an unstable basis for morality.

Several ways in which the negative element is important in Hegel's method have been discussed. There is the conceptual competition without which thought must decay. Then, there is the polar character of certain fundamental notions that makes the one unthinkable without its opposite. At the prephilosophical level Hegel gave above and below, right and left, father and son, as examples. At the philosophical level his examples, were good and bad, master and slave, thought and nature. But not only do these opposites require each other; they also pass into each other. Good will can pass over into atrocity; philosophical truth is the result of errors that supplement each other; the master satisfies his desires but becomes dependent upon the labor of the slave in order to do so; and the slave, by work, controls his desires and develops a rational will. The life of thought in conceptual conflict, the mutual dependence of polar opposites, and the instability or oscillations of philosophical and moral attitudes are different sorts of dialectic that Hegel emphasized on different occasions. If they have anything in common, it is the activity of negation.

There are two other aspects of the dialectic to discuss, the role of reason and understanding and the role of skepticism.

reason and understanding

First, Hegel, following Kant, contrasted the reason, the source of dialectical thinking, with the understanding, the predialectical mode of thought. The understanding, as Hegel saw it, is the type of thinking that prevails in common sense, in the natural sciences, and in mathematics and those types of philosophy that are argued in quasi-scientific or quasi-mathematical ways. Fixed categories are uncritically adhered to, demonstrations are produced (only to be demolished), analyses are made, and distinctions are drawn. Analyzing and distinguishing are necessary foundations of philosophical activity but only to prepare the way for the more sinuous and subtle method of the dialectic. Once an analysis has been made, the elements of it are seen to conflict and collide as well as to cohere. First, the understanding isolates, then comes the Reason's negative moment of criticism or conflict, and after that its speculative moment of synthesis. It should be mentioned that distinctions somewhat similar to the distinction between the understanding and the reason had already been made by Plato when he distinguished between the highest knowledge and knowledge in the various sciences, by Spinoza in his second and third kinds of knowledge, by Blaise Pascal with his esprit de géometrie and esprit de finesse, by David Hume with his reason and imagination, and by Edmund Burke when he contrasted the abstract rationalism of the Enlightenment with the organic, evolutionary view of society that he preferred. These distinctions are not all quite like that drawn by Hegel, but in his theory there is something corresponding to each of them.


Second, Hegel thought that skepticism was an important forerunner and essential ingredient of the dialectical method. In a review of a book by G. E. Schulze that appeared in 1802, Hegel wrote appreciatively of the skepticism of Sextus Empiricus and of the skeptical features in the philosophy of Parmenides, of whom he wrote, "This skepticism, which in its pure explicit form comes forward in Parmenides, is to be found implicit in every genuinely philosophical system, for it is the free aspect [die freie Seite ] of every philosophy" ("Verhältnis des Skeptizismus zur Philosophie," in Kritisches Journal der Philosophie 2 (1802): 174; quoted from Sämtliche Werke, edited by Georg Lasson, Vol. I, pp. 174175). In the same essay Hegel wrote that when Spinoza held that God is the immanent but not the transcendent cause of the world, he was equating the cause with the effect, even though the very notion of an effect implies that it is distinct from the cause. Hegel agreed with Spinoza's equation but concluded that it shows that the reason can accept the principle of contradiction only as a formal principle. In "genuine" philosophy cause and effect are seen as both distinct and identical.

Hegel illustrated his comment that skepticism is "the free aspect" of philosophy in the following way. Dogmatists, he said, regard individual men as objects in the power of rules, laws, and customs. The more the dogmatists study man, the more they show him in subjection to these forces. When, however, the skeptics attack dogmatism, "they raise the freedom of Reason above this necessity of nature." An example of this is the way in which Europeans came to question their own concepts of law and morals when they were brought face to face with cultures very different from their own. When such skeptics as Montaigne mockingly insisted on these differences, men became more conscious of their own institutions and recognized the possibility of changing them. In theoretically breaking down men's traditional views and institutions, the skeptic frees men from the unconscious power of these views and institutions. Hegel repeated his general assessment of skepticism in the Encyclopedia (Sec. 81, addition 2) and in his Lectures on the History of Philosophy. In these lectures Hegel said that skepticism is "the demonstration that all that is determinate and finite is unstable." Hegel went on to say that "positive philosophy," by which he meant philosophy that is not content to remain in total skepticism, "has the negative to Scepticism in itself; thus it does not oppose, nor is it outside of it, for Scepticism is a moment in it" (Haldane and Simpson, 1955, Vol. II, p. 330).


From what has just been said, it is clear that Hegel's account of dialectic and of reason is closely linked with his view of freedom. The exercise of thought in its most developed forms involves the negation of what had seemed firm and certain and the opening up of new possibilities. That mind is freedom applies both to the understanding and the reason, since both are spontaneous activities that interpret and arrange. But because the understanding is confined to a fixed system of categories, it is less free than the reason that criticizes, stretches, and transforms the categories of the understanding.

Freedom is, of course, logically connected with will, and according to Hegel, will is as essential to mind as intellect is. Reference has already been made to Section 482 of the Encyclopedia, in which Hegel asserted that the unity of theoretical and practical mind is free will. In the preceding sections he had argued that thought presupposes mind as practical, since classifying and explaining are activities through which the world is, so to speak, appropriated by the mind. In the sections of the Encyclopedia in which he expounded the categories of cognition and of will, Hegel endeavored to show that mere cognition is at a lower stage than will and that will is thus the actuality of what is only potential in knowledge. He also argued that the freedom and necessity that are opposed to each other are abstractions and that what is concrete must combine both. The very nature of necessity, he continued, presupposes a will on which it is a constraint.

At the logical-metaphysical level, therefore, Hegel held a view that implied that freedom is essential to mind, both the presupposition and outcome of intelligence, and in its concrete form inseparable from constraint and necessity. This view of the matter pervaded his account of freedom in the social and political sphere. Freedom is not something merely opposed to constraint; on the contrary, it presupposes and requires restraint. This is true of concrete freedom. However, abstract or negative freedom, when it is more than a moment in actual or positive freedom, is a purely destructive force. Hegel considered that this negative freedom played a large part in the French Revolution. The old corporations and institutions were destroyed in such a frenzy of annihilation that it took several years for new institutions to be created and recognized as authoritative. Furthermore, when the conflicting interests in society are overcome, individuals come to be treated as equal, undifferentiated, replaceable, and expendable units. The events of the Reign of Terror thus led Hegel to hold that purely negative freedom was associated with force and death. The logical connections are not altogether clear, but it may well be that the links between egalitarianism, antinomianism, violence, and contempt for human life are not wholly accidental.

Freedom, according to Hegel, is something that has to be achieved, and it therefore would be impossible in the absence of opposition and negation. Hence, although negative freedom in its abstract form is a "fury of destruction," it is a necessary element in concrete freedom. Free will is not the liberty of indifference but the rational organization of the feelings and impulses.

Rationality is not a power that could reside in an isolated individual, however. To be rational, the individual must draw upon the resources of an organized and differentiated society and must be "formed" and educated to do this. His will is then in harmony with the ends of the various social groups by which he has been influenced and, in civilized societies, with the more complex ends of the state. In conforming to these pressures and in obeying the laws of the state, the individual is achieving his own rational ends and in so doing is free.

Hegel, like Jean-Jacques Rousseau, also held that an individual might be free even when he was being coerced, for although he might dislike the force applied against him, this dislike would be an expression of his particular whims, not of his rational insight, as can be seen when he approves of the imposition of a like force upon other people in like circumstances. Insofar as the criminal who is being punished would wish others to be punished who committed a like crime against him, he wills his own punishment.

freedom in history

Hegel considered that the history of the human race is a development from less to greater freedom and from less adequate forms of freedom to freedom in its perfection. Thus, his philosophy of history can be understood only in terms of his conception of freedom. In the Oriental world there was no freedom for the subjects and only an arbitrary, irrational freedom for the despot who ruled over them. In the classical world of Greece and Rome there was a more adequate conception of freedom, and more men achieved freedom than in the Oriental despotisms. In the Greek city-state the citizens often regarded themselves as finding their fulfillment in the achievements of their city, apart from which they conceived of no life for themselves. Indeed, they might accept personal defeat and misfortune and submit to what they called destiny and still regard themselves as free in so doing. Of course, there were slaves who had no part in this activity and had no freedom.

Christianity offered the prospect of freedom to all men, a freedom, furthermore, that transcended the given social order. In what Hegel called the Germanic worldthat is, the Christian civilization that grew out of Protestantismthis latest form of freedom was being realized in the manifold institutions of Europe and America and in the states in which these institutions flourished and by which they were regulated and protected. In Christianity the individual is regarded as of infinite value, as a candidate for eternal salvation, and although the emphasis on subjective freedom can lead, as it did in the French Revolution, to contempt for social institutions, it comprises the form and aspect of freedom that gives its special quality to modern civilization, with its romantic art, romantic love, and support for the rights of conscience (Philosophy of Right, Sec. 124).

It is apparent from the foregoing that Hegel rejected the liberal view that man is free to the extent that he is guaranteed a sphere within which he can do what he wishes without interference from others who are guaranteed a like position. Such freedom he stigmatized as negative, abstract, or merely willful. Men enjoy concrete freedom when the various orders and groups of civilized life are maintained in and by the state. In this passage of the Lectures on the Philosophy of History (Hoffmeister, Vol. XVIIIA, p.111) Hegel also emphasized that in submitting their private wills to the laws of the state and to the rules of its subordinate but free institutions, men were submitting their passions to the control of reason. Thus, the argument comes full circle. The theoretical reason is inseparable from will and from freedom; necessity and negative freedom are only abstractions; in concrete freedom the negative, destructive element is held in check and rendered fruitful by being realized in institutions; the individual enjoys concrete freedom when he is educated to live in a civilized state and to be guided by the reason that permeates it.

There is no space here to criticize this view in any detail, for in a way it is a cross-section of the whole Hegelian metaphysic. It should be noted, however, that when a critic maintains that real freedom is what Hegel called negative or abstract freedom and when he goes on to maintain that "concrete freedom" is not freedom but indoctrinated submission, then he is criticizing Hegel's terminology rather than the substance of his view. To say that freedom consists of a willing acceptance of the tasks imposed by a civilized state is certainly to extend and perhaps to distort the ordinary senses of the term and to capture a word from the liberal vocabulary for use in a far from liberal scheme of concepts. It was Hegel's view, however, that the thoughts that the liberal phraseology expressed necessarily move in the directions he described and that societies themselves, the embodiments of men's thoughts and aims, move in these directions, too.

Aesthetic Theory

We have already seen that Hegel discussed the nature of art and of beauty toward the end of both the Phenomenology and the Encyclopedia. Art, according to Hegel, is one of the manifestations of Absolute Mind, of which religion and philosophy are the other two. Thus, although art presupposes the civilized life of the state, it also transcends it. In his lengthy Vorlesungen über die Aesthetik (Lectures on aesthetics) Hegel developed his theories of art and beauty in great detail. The lectures possess great power and attraction, and so much of their value resides in the details that a summary treatment is bound to be difficult.

three styles of art

Hegel's account of beauty is a modification of Friedrich Schiller's view, in his Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Mankind (1795), that beauty is the mediation between the sensible and the rational. According to Hegel, beauty is the rational rendered sensible, the sensible appearance being the form in which the rational content is made manifest. This sensible embodiment of the rational, he held, can take place in three principal ways: symbolic art, classical art, and romantic art.

Symbolic art

In the first and least adequate form, symbolic art, the sensible shape merely symbolizes the rational content without penetrating and transforming it. A lion may symbolize courage; a bird, the soul; or a temple, the presence of a god who nevertheless remains a mystery. Thus, in symbolic art the sensible object refers away from itself to a rationality that is enigmatically and mysteriously beyond it. In thus referring away from the sensible symbol to something vast and merely adumbrated, symbolic art sometimes achieves the sublime.

Classical art

In classical art, the second form of sensible embodiment, the sensible expression is adequate to the idea that it gives expression to and does not point vaguely beyond itself. This is typified in sculptures of the human body so formed that the divine ideal is realized in the stone, not merely hinted at. A temple makes us think of the god but is not the god. In a statue of Apollo the god is visible and tangible in the stone. Hegel pointed out that works of classical art have independence and completeness, so that when they have been created, it seems that there is nothing more left to do done. "Nothing more beautiful," he wrote, "can be or become."

Romantic art

Christianity, however, with its emphasis on the infinite value of the individual and upon subjective freedom, made classical art seem somewhat unsatisfactory. More is required than works of art in which reason, as Hegel put it, "stands in quiet and blessedness in bodily form." When the self and its inner life are regarded as of infinite value, the forms of art must move on from balance and harmony to the storm and turmoil of the subjective. According to Hegel, it is in romantic art that this progress to subjectivity and self-consciousness is achieved. Romantic art turns its back on the quiet and balanced beauty of the classical and "weaves the inner life of beauty into the contingency of the external form, and allows full scope to the emphatic features of the unbeautiful." In romantic art, as in symbolic art, there is much that is bizarre and even grotesque, but romantic art is on a higher level than symbolic art because the mind expressed in it is more complex and sophisticated. And in romantic art the mind has achieved a greater measure of freedom than in classical art because romantic art is less involved in and hampered by the sensible embodiment.

products of art

Hegel's view of the three main types of beauty is closely linked with his view of the main types of artistic product. Hegel divided the arts into architecture, sculpture, painting, music, and poetry. Works in any of these mediums may be produced in the symbolic, classical, or romantic styles, but, according to Hegel, architecture is particularly appropriate to symbolic art, sculpture to classical art, and painting, music, and poetry to romantic art.


Architecture, Hegel held, is the basic art, the art that men first practice, for its material is mindless and its forms depend upon the weight and physical properties of this mindless medium. The architecture of early men, by bringing them together to worship the gods in temples, served to bring unity into their societies. Hegel imagined the men who built the first temples as they cleared the ground on which to build them, and he described this as "clearing the undergrowth of finitude."


In architecture a house is provided for the god, and the god is prepared for and expected. He is not, however, embodied or manifested in the stones of a mere building. In classical sculpture the god is embodied in the stone in such a way that all the parts of the statue combine in expressing and proclaiming him. Hence, it is not a mindless symbol of the mind beyond but a unified expression of it. Hegel contrasted the stiff regularity of Egyptian sculpture with the harmonious independence of the Greek, the acme of classical art. In Christian sculpture this Greek ideal does not predominate, and even when, as with Michelangelo, it is fully understood and mastered, it is associated with "the kind of inspiration that is found in romantic art."

Painting, music, and poetry

The three romantic arts of painting, music, and poetry differ from the arts of sculpture and architecture, according to Hegel, by being more "ideal." One thing he seems to have meant was that the productions of these arts are not three-dimensional like the productions of architecture and sculpture. Painting, of course, is two-dimensional, and Hegel thought it is more ideal than sculpture because it is further removed from the solid substance of material things. He appears to have argued that the painter transforms to an extent that the sculptor has no need to do. In reducing the three dimensions to two, space is somehow rendered more "inward" and "subjective," and the first step has been taken on the road to poetry.

The next step toward subjectivity is taken by music, which abandons all the dimensions of space as well as the senses of sight and touch. Hearing, according to Hegel, is a "more subjective" sense than sight because it is less practical and more contemplative.

In poetry the sensible elements of music, the notes or tones, are replaced by words that stand for thoughts. "The art of poetry," Hegel wrote, "is the universal art of mind that has become free and is no longer dependent upon external sensible material for its realization." Within poetry as a whole he distinguished epic, lyric, and dramatic poetry. Hegel's account of dramatic poetry is particularly interesting. "In tragedy," he wrote, "individuals destroy themselves through the onesidedness of their upright will and character, or they are forced to resign themselves and identify themselves with a course of action to which they are fundamentally opposed." In comedy, on the other hand, there is no such reconciliation; the characters pursue courses of action that have only subjective significance. Indeed, in comedy, according to Hegel, the subjectivity characteristic of romantic art is taken to such an extreme that all unity is dissolved; with it goes beauty, too. In comedy there is merely a series of subjective interests playing against one another, as opposed to the aim of all art, which is the revelation of the eternal and divine in sensible form.

natural beauty

The discussion has thus far been confined to the beauty of works of art (das Kunstschöne ). It is with this that by far the greater part of the "Lectures on Aesthetics" is concerned. In the second chapter, however, Hegel did say something about natural beauty (das Naturschöne ). He discussed the notions of regularity, symmetry, harmony, and conformity to law and also the beauty claimed for plants, animals, and human beings. He concluded his discussion of the subject with some comments on how natural beauty falls short of artistic beauty. Plants and animals, he granted, are more beautiful than inanimate natural objects, but what we see of them is their outward coverings, not the soul that works within, for that is concealed by the visible feathers, hair, scales, fur, and the like that cover them. Hegel referred to natural beauty as the "prose of the world." Although Hegel did not altogether deny the beauty of nature, it is clear that he ranked it very low. Indeed, the structure of his system made this inevitable, for it is the self-conscious achievements of man that form its culmination.

It would seem that the triadic divisions of the "Lectures on Aesthetics" constrained and even corrupted Hegel's argument. An example of this occurs in his account of dramatic poetry, into which he introduced a species called "drama," the function of which was to add one species to tragedy and comedy and thus make three species of dramatic poetry.

Hegel also tended to confuse conceptual and historical relationships. For example, the distinction between symbolic, classical, and romantic art was intended to be made on conceptual grounds, but, on the other hand, Hegel had in mind historical progression. Here, as elsewhere, Hegel confused historical types, such as romanticism, with conceptual types, such as tragedy, which have no necessary temporal sequence. Perhaps the most interesting case of this is Hegel's suggestion that art comes to an end with the highest flights of romanticism. We have already seen that Hegel brought his account of dramatic poetry to an end with comedy, the most subjective of all art forms. At the very end of the "Lectures on Aesthetics" he said that "in this culmination comedy is leading straight to the dissolution of art in general." It is unlikely that Hegel believed that art was coming to an end, any more than he believed that with the Prussian state, history was coming to an end. Yet in each case he argued in such a way as to suggest that the culmination of a conceptual sequence must also be the conclusion of a historical progress. Insofar as he held that history was the movement of the Divine in the world, it was natural to make this identification, extravagant as it is. Bosanquet, who denied that Hegel believed that art was on the point of final dissolution, held that he did foresee that it was about to suffer an eclipse in the new form of society. "But we must claim extraordinary insight for him, who, still under the spell of Schiller and Goethe, described the present exhaustion of the art-impulse and the conditions hostile to it in language approaching that of John Ruskin and William Morris" (A History of Aesthetic, 4th ed., London, 1917, p. 361).

Philosophy of Religion

A few commentators have regarded Hegel's philosophy as atheistic, but most have considered it to be either theistic or pantheistic. Certainly religious expressions abound in his writings, even in the Logic. It has been shown how closely he associated art with religion and how he applied religious epithets to the state. It was also pointed out that the Phenomenology might with some justification be interpreted in atheistic terms. It would be obviously overstraining the evidence, however, to interpret Hegel's mature system in this way, for in the system religion is a form of Absolute Mind, along with art and philosophy, which is the supreme expression of the Absolute Mind. According to Hegel, religion represents or pictures the Absolute, whereas philosophy conceives or thinks it. The same truth, that is, expressed in quasi-imaginative form in one and in conceptual form in the other.


Since the concept is supreme and ultimate, philosophy surpasses religion to this extent, but in doing this, it finally and fully justifies Christianity, which is the absolute religion. The doctrine that elevates Christianity above all other religions is the doctrine of the Incarnation, which, according to Hegel, is the religious expression of the philosophical truth that the Infinite Being is not distinct from what is finite but is necessarily manifested in it. Hegel also interpreted the doctrine of the Trinity in philosophical terms. In the "Science of Logic" God is revealed as he is before the creation of the world; in the "Philosophy of Nature," in his material embodiment; and in the "Philosophy of Mind," as reconciling the finite and the Infinite. In this way the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are explained in terms of the main themes of the Hegelian system. Again, Hegel interpreted the doctrine that God is love to mean that although the Infinite Being cannot exist without negation and opposition, the negation and opposition are finally reconciled. Finally, it should be mentioned that Hegel gave a series of lectures on the traditional proofs for the existence of God. He admitted the force of Kant's criticisms of these proofs but claimed to have reformulated the arguments so as to meet the criticisms. In particular, he held that the Ontological Argument, which Kant had regarded as vital but unsound, was valid when properly understood.

Undoubtedly, Hegel's later writings are much closer to orthodox Christianity than his earlier ones. The early "Life of Jesus" had nothing to say about the Resurrection, whereas in the Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion this doctrine was stated and defended. Hegel here wrote of "the death of death," of "the triumph over the negative," of mind as "the negative of this negative which thus contains the negative in itself," and of "the division of the divine idea and its reunion" that is "the whole of history." Although Hegel said that God appeared in the flesh at a particular time and in a particular individual, his account of the matter seems to be extremely general. In the Christian doctrine of the Incarnation, God became man in Jesus Christ at a particular time and place, whereas Hegel's God is incorporated in the finite world. It would seem that a highly specific historical view is replaced by a highly general metaphysical one. Hegel himself did not take this view of his own work, nor did a younger contemporary of his, Karl Friedrich Göschel, in his Aphorismen über Nichtwissen und absolutes Wissen im Verhälnisse zur christlichen Glaubenserkenntnis (Berlin, 1829). In the Encyclopedia (Sec. 564) Hegel recommended this book, which is generally regarded as giving a theistic account of the Absolute. Just before referring to Göschel's book, Hegel had written, "God is only God in so far as he knows himself; his self-knowledge is moreover his consciousness of himself in man and man's knowledge of God, a knowledge that extends itself into the self-knowledge of man in God."

What cannot be doubted is that Hegel's philosophy of religion contained elements that could easily be developed in ways that go counter to orthodox Christianity. Thus, when D. F. Strauss argued, in his Life of Jesus (1835), that the Gospel story was a set of myths, he was consciously working out what he thought was the consequence of Hegel's view that in religion the truth about God is understood in representative or pictorial terms. Again, Ludwig Feuerbach, in his The Essence of Christianity (1841), endeavored to interpret the Christian doctrines in human and psychological terms as the imaginary fulfillment of wishes that cannot be satisfied here on Earth. We have already referred to the passage in Hegel's The Positivity of the Christian Religion, in which he said that in the days of imperial Rome men who had been robbed of their freedom in this world sought for it in a heaven beyond. Feuerbach, who, of course, had not seen this work, could have read something similar in the Phenomenology. It is a very short step from Hegel's view that the infinite is manifested in the finite to the view that it is a projection of it. Perhaps the truth of the matter is that the Christian religion, according to Hegel, is adequate in its own sphere and that the philosophy of religion is required to counteract false religious views and false views about religion but is not a substitute for it. This is the interpretation given by Lasson in the introduction to Hegel's philosophy of religion printed at the end of his edition of Hegel's Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion.

See also Dialectic; Philosophy of Mind.


works by hegel

The edition of Hegel's collected works, Werke. Vollständige Ausgabe, published soon after his death has already been mentioned. This was republished in 26 volumes under the editorship of Hermann Glockner (Stuttgart, 19271940) as the jubilee edition. Volumes 2326 of this edition are an invaluable Hegel-Lexikon (1st ed., 1935; rev. ed., 2 vols., 1957). Mention must be made of Georg Lasson's edition, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegels Sämtliche Werke (Leipzig, 1905); this was to have been revised and reedited by Lasson and Johannes Hoffmeister, and some volumes were published (Hamburg, 1949). As a result of the death of Lasson and of Hoffmeister, the plan was altered. The Sämtliche Werke, neue kritische Ausgabe, which Hoffmeister started to edit, will continue under the editorship of various scholars. This edition contains Hegel's letters in Briefe von und an Hegel, 4 vols. (19521960). The unpublished writings prior to 1800 will appear in this new critical edition under the editorship of Gisela Schüler. Another collection with still earlier documents is Dokumente zu Hegels Entwicklung, edited by Hoffmeister (Stuttgart: Fromanns, 1936).

Some of Hegel's early writings were translated from Herman Nohl, ed., Hegels theologische Jugendschriften (Tübingen, 1907) by T. M. Knox as Early Theological Writings (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1948). There is a translation of the Phenomenology of Mind by J. B. Baillie (London, 1910; 2nd ed., 1931). William Wallace translated the encyclopedia "Logic," with excellent prolegomena in The Logic of Hegel (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1873); there are subsequent editions. He also translated the last part of the Encyclopedia (in Hegel's Philosophy of Mind, Oxford, 1894). See also The Science of Logic, translated by W. H. Johnston and L. G. Struthers, 2 vols. (London, 1929); The Philosophy of Right, translated and edited by T. M. Knox (Oxford, 1942), a very fine work of scholarship; The Philosophy of Fine Art, translated by F. P. B. Osmaston, 4 vols. (London, 1920); Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion, translated by E. B. Speirs and J. B. Sanderson, 3 vols. (London, 1895); and Lectures on the History of Philosophy, translated by E. S. Haldane and F. H. Simsen, 3 vols. (London 18921896; reprint, 1955). J. Sibree's translation of the Lectures on the Philosophy of History (London, 1857) has been reprinted several times. See also Hegel's Political Writings, translated by T. M. Knox with an introductory essay by Z. A. Pelczynski (Oxford, 1964). There is a translation of the Encyclopedia with notes by Gustav E. Mueller (New York, 1959). There are two useful books of selections, Hegel: Selections, edited by Jacob Loewenberg (London and New York, 1929), and The Philosophy of Hegel, edited by C. J. Friedrich (New York: Modern Library, 1953).

works on hegel

The System

Caird, Edward. Hegel. London and Edinburgh, 1883.

Copleston, Frederick. A History of Philosophy, Vol. VII: From Fichte to Nietzsche. London, 1963. Chs. 911.

Croce, Benedetto. Ciò che è vivo e ciò che è morto della filosofia di Hegel. Bari, Italy, 1907. Translated by Douglas Ainslie as What Is Living and What Is Dead in the Philosophy of Hegel. London: Macmillan, 1915.

Findlay, J. N. Hegel: A Re-examination. London: Allen and Unwin, 1958. Emphasizes the Logic and interprets Hegel in somewhat nonmetaphysical terms.

Glockner, Hermann. Hegel, 2 vols. Stuttgart, 1929. These are Vols. XXIXXII of the jubilee edition of Hegel mentioned above.

Grégoire, Franz. Études hégéliennes. Louvain, Belgium, and Paris, 1958. Contains detailed and fruitful discussions of the central issues.

Haering, T. L. Hegel: Sein Wollen und Sein Werk, 2 vols. Leipzig, 1929. A leading authority.

Hartmann, Nicolai. Die Philosophie des deutschen Idealismus, Vol. II: Hegel. Berlin and Leipzig, 1929.

Kaufmann, Walter. Hegel: Reinterpretation, Texts and Commentaries. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1965.

Kline, George L. "Some Recent Re-interpretations of Hegel's Philosophy." Monist 48 (1964): 3473.

McTaggart, J. M. E. Studies in Hegelian Cosmology. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1901. Stimulating and idiosyncratic.

Mure, G. R. G. An Introduction to Hegel. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1940. Emphasizes Hegel's debt to Greek philosophy, Aristotle in particular.

Pringle-Pattison, A. S. Hegelianism and Personality, 2nd ed. London and Edinburgh: Blackwood, 1887. The first edition was published under the name Andrew Seth. See the article "The Absolute."

Seeberger, Wilhelm. Hegel: Oder die Entwicklung des Geistes zur Freiheit. Stuttgart, 1961. A new statement of the "orthodox" interpretation.

Serreau, René. Hegel et l'hégélianism. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1962. Brief but informative book with good introductory account of the various Hegelian schools.

Stace, W. T. The Philosophy of Hegel. London: Macmillan, 1924; New York: Dover, 1955. A detailed account based on the Encyclopedia.

Early Writings

Asveld, P. La pensée religieuse du jeune Hegel. Louvain, Belgium, 1953.

Dilthey, Wilhelm. Die Jugendgeschichte Hegels. Berlin, 1906. It is included as Vol. IV of Dilthey's Gesammelte Schriften (Berlin and Leipzig, 1921).

Hyppolite, Jean. Introduction à la philosophie de l'histoire de Hegel. Paris, 1948. A valuable account of Hegel's early views on history and politics.

Kaufmann, Walter. "The Young Hegel and Religion." In his From Shakespeare to Existentialism. Boston: Beacon Press, 1959. Ch. 8.

Lukács, Georg. Der junge Hegel. Berlin, 1948. An interesting Marxist interpretation.

Peperzak, A. T. P. Le jeune Hegel et la vision morale du monde. The Hague, 1960.

Walsh, W. H. "The Origins of Hegelianism." In his Metaphysics. London: Hutchinson, 1963. Ch. 9.

"Phenomenology of Mind"

Hyppolite, Jean. Genèse et structure de la Phénomenologie de l'Esprit de Hegel. Paris, 1946.

Kojève, Alexandre. Introduction à la lecture de Hegel. Paris, 1947. Gives the "atheistic" interpretation.

Loewenberg, Jacob. "The Comedy of Immediacy in Hegel's Phenomenology. II." Mind, n.s. 44 (1935): 21ff.

Loewenberg, Jacob. "The Exoteric Approach to Hegel's Phenomenology. I." Mind, n.s. 43 (1934): 424ff.

Wahl, Jean. Le malheur de la conscience dans la philosophie de Hegel. Paris, 1929; 2nd ed., 1951.


Hyppolite, Jean. Logique et existence. Paris, 1953.

McTaggart, J. M. E. Commentary on Hegel's Logic. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1910.

Mure, G. R. G. A Study of Hegel's Logic. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1950.


Coreth, E. Das dialektische Sein in Hegels Logik. Vienna, 1952.

Grégoire, Franz. Études hégéliennes. Louvain, Belgium, and Paris, 1958. See Study II.

McTaggart, J. M. E. Studies in the Hegelian Dialectic. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1896; 2nd ed., 1922.

Mueller, Gustav E. "The Hegel Legend of Thesis, Antithesis and Synthesis." Journal of the History of Ideas 19 (1958): 411414.

Popper, Karl. "What Is Dialectic?" Mind, n.s. 49 (1940): 403426. Revised and reprinted in his Conjectures and Refutations (London: Routledge, 1963), Ch. 15.

Social and Political Philosophy

Foster, M. B. The Political Philosophies of Plato and Hegel. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1935. An original and valuable discussion.

Grégoire, Franz. Études hégéliennes. Louvain, Belgium, and Paris, 1958. See Study IV.

Haym, Rudolf. Hegel und seine Zeit. Berlin, 1857; reprinted, Hildesheim, 1962.

Kaufmann, Walter. "The Hegel Myth and Its Methods." In his From Shakespeare to Existentialism. Boston: Beacon Press, 1959. Ch. 7 is a criticism of Ch. 12 of Popper's The Open Society and Its Enemies.

Knox, T. M. "Hegel and Prussianism." Philosophy 15 (1940): 5163.

Plamenatz, John. Man and Society, 2 vols. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1963. Vol. II, Chs. 34, "The Social and Political Philosophy of Hegel."

Popper, Karl. The Open Society and Its Enemies, 2 vols. London: Routledge, 1945. See Vol. II, Ch. 12.

Rosenzweig, Franz. Hegel und der Staat, 2 vols. Oldenburg, Germany, 1920.

Weil, Eric. Hegel et l'état. Paris, 1950.


Bosanquet, B. History of Aesthetic. London: Sonnenschein, 1892. Chs. 2, 12.

Teyssèdre, B. L'esthétique de Hegel. Paris, 1958.

Philosophy of Religion

Chapelle, A. Hegel et la religion, Vol. I: La problématique. Paris, 1964. The first of four projected volumes on the subject.

Grégoire, Franz. Études hégéliennes. Louvain, Belgium, and Paris, 1958. Study III.

Iljin, I. Die Philosophie Hegels als kontemplative Gotteslehre. Bern, 1946.

McTaggart, J. M. E. Studies in Hegelian Cosmology. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1901. Especially Chs. 2, 3, 6 ("Sin"), and 8 ("Hegelianism and Christianity").

Mueller, Gustav E. "Hegel's Absolute and the Crisis of Christianity." In A Hegel Symposium, edited by D. C. Travis. Austin: University of Texas, 1962.

For further discussion see Hegel-Studien, Vol. 1 (Bonn, 1961), Vol. 2 (Bonn, 1963), and Supp. Vol. 1 (Bonn, 1964). This is edited by F. Nicolin and O. Pöggeler and contains articles, reviews, and bibliography. See also Études hégéliennes (Neuchâtel, 1955), containing articles by Alexandre Kojève, Georges Bataille, R. Queneau, Jean Wahl, and Eric Weil, and A Hegel Symposium (Austin: University of Texas, 1962), with articles by C. J. Friedrich, Sidney Hook, Helmut Motekat, Gustav E. Mueller, and Helmut Rehder.

Beiser, Frederick C., ed. The Cambridge Companion to Hegel. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993.

Berthold-Bond, D. Hegel's Grand Synthesis: A Study of Being, Thought and History. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1989.

Burbidge, J. W. Historical Dictionary of Hegelian Philosophy. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2001.

Burns, Tony. Natural Law and Political Ideology in the Philosophy of Hegel. Brookfield, VT: Avebury, 1996.

Collins, Ardis B. Hegel on the Modern World. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1995.

Cullen, Bernard, ed. Hegel Today. Brookfield, VT: Avebury, 1988.

Desmond, William, ed. Hegel and His Critics: Philosophy in the Aftermath of Hegel. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1989.

Fox, Michael Allen. The Accessible Hegel. Amherst, NY: Humanity Books, 2005.

Gascoigne, Robert. Religion, Rationality, and Community: Sacred and Secular in the Thought of Hegel and his Critics. Boston: M. Nijhoff, 1985.

Harris, Henry Silton. Hegel's Ladder, Vol. 1 and 2. Indianapolis: Hackett, 1997.

Henrich, Dieter, ed. Kant oder Hegel?: Uber Formen der Begrundung in der Philosophie. Stuttgarter Hegel-Kongress. Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta, 1983.

Hösle, Vittorio. Hegel's System: Der Idealismus der Subjektivitat und das Problem der Intersubjektivitat Hegels. Hamburg: F. Meiner, 1987.

Hospers, J. ed. "Hegel Today." Monist (1991) 74: 3.

Hougate, Stephen, ed. Hegel and the Philosophy of Nature. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1998.

Houlgate, Stephen. An Introduction to Hegel: Freedom, Truth, and History. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2005.

Hutchings, Kimberly. Hegel and Feminist Philosophy. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2003.

Hyppolite, Jean. Introduction a la philosophie de l'histoire de Hegel [Introduction to Hegel's Philosophy of History]. Translated by Bond Harris and Jacqueline Bouchard Spurlock. Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida, 1996.

Inwood, Michael. Hegel. Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1983.

Inwood, Michael, ed. Hegel. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985.

Inwood, Michael. A Hegel Dictionary. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 1992.

Kainz, Howard P. An Introduction to Hegel: The Stages of Modern Philosophy. Athens: Ohio University Press, 1996.

Kainz, Howard P. G. W. F. Hegel: The Philosophical System. New York: Twayne, 1996.

Kainz, Howard P. Hegel's Phenomenology, Part I: Analysis and Commentary. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1976.

Kainz, Howard P. Hegel's Phenomenology, Part II: The Evolution of Ethical and Religious Consciousness to the Absolute Standpoint. Athens: Ohio University Press, 1983.

Keenan, Denis King. Hegel and Contemporary Continental Philosophy. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2004.

Knowles, Dudley. Routledge Philosophy Guidebook to Hegel and the Philosophy of Right. New York: Routledge, 2002.

Lamb, David, ed. Hegel and Modern Philosophy. New York: Croom Helm, 1987.

Lamb, David. HegelFrom Foundation to System. The Hague: M. Nijhoff, 1980.

MacIntyre, Alasdair C. Hegel: A Collection of Critical Essays. Garden City, NY: Anchor Books, 1972.

Maker, William. Hegel and Aesthetics. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2000.

Maker, William. Philosophy without Foundations: Rethinking Hegel. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1994.

McCarney, Joe. Routledge Philosophy Guidebook to Hegel on History. New York: Routledge, 2000.

Moran, Philip. Hegel and the Fundamental Problems of Philosophy. Amsterdam: B.R. Gruner, 1988.

Mure, Geoffrey Reginald Gilchrist. The Philosophy of Hegel. Bristol, U.K.: Thoemmes Press, 1993.

O'Malley, Joseph J., K. W. Algozin, and Frederick G. Weiss, eds. Hegel and the History of Philosophy: Proceedings of the 1972 Hegel Society of America Conference. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1974.

O'Malley, Joseph J., et al, eds. The Legacy of Hegel: Proceedings of the Marquette Hegel Symposium 1970. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1973.

Ormiston, Alice. Love and Politics: Re-interpreting Hegel. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2004.

Petry, Michael John, ed. Hegel and Newtonianism. Boston: Kluver Academic Publishers, 1993.

Pinkard, Terry P. Hegel's Dialectic: The Explanation of Possibility. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1988.

Pippin, Robert B. Hegel's Idealism: The Satisfactions of Self-Consciousness. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1989.

Pippin, Robert B., and Otfried Hoffe, eds. Hegel on Ethics and Politics. Translated by Nicholas Walker. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

Plant, Raymond. Hegel. New York: Routledge, 1999.

Plant, Raymond. Hegel: On Religion and Philosophy. London: Phoenix, 1997.

Reyburn, Hugh A. The Ethical Theory of Hegel: A Study of the Philosophy of Right. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1967.

Rockmore, Tom. Before and After Hegel: A Historical Introduction to Hegel's Thought. Indianapolis: Hackett, 2003.

Rockmore, Tom. Hegel, Idealism, and Analytic Philosophy. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2005.

Rockmore, Tom. Hegel's Circular Epistemology. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1986.

Rosen, Stanley. G. W. F. Hegel: An Introduction to the Science of Wisdom. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1974.

Sedgwick, Sally. The Reception of Kant's Critical Philosophy: Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

Singer, Peter. Hegel. New York: Oxford University Press, 1983.

Soll, Ivan. An Introduction to Hegel's Metaphysics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1969.

Solomon, Robert C. From Hegel to Existentialism. New York: Oxford University Press, 1987.

Speight, Allen. Hegel, Literature, and the Problem of Agency. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001.

Steinkraus, Warren E., and Kenneth I. Schmitz, eds. Art and Logic in Hegel's Philosophy. Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press, 1980.

Stepelevich, Lawrence S., ed. Selected Essays on G.W.F. Hegel. Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press, 1993.

Stern, Robert. "G. W. F. Hegel" In An Introduction to Modern European Philosophy. 2nd ed. Edited by Jenny Teichman and Graham White. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1995.

Stern, Robert, ed. G. W. F. Hegel: Critical Assessments. 4 vols. New York: Routledge, 1993.

Stern, Robert. Hegel, Kant and the Structure of the Object. London: Routledge, 1990.

Stern, Robert. Routledge Philosophy Guidebook to Hegel and the Phenomenology of Spirit. New York: Routledge, 2002.

Stewart, Jon, ed. The Hegel Myths and Legends. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1996.

Stewart, Jon. ed. The Phenomenology of Spirit Reader. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1998.

Taylor, Charles. Hegel. 5th ed. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1987.

Taylor, Charles. Hegel and Modern Society. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1979.

Tristram, Engelhardt, Jr., and Terry Pinkard, eds. Hegel Reconsidered: Beyond Metaphysics and the Authoritian State. Boston: Kluwer Academic, 1994.

Tubbs, Nigel. Contradiction of Enlightenment: Hegel and the Broken Middle. Brookfield, VT: Ashgate, 1997.

Walker, John, ed. Thought and Faith in the Philosophy of Hegel. Boston: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1991.

Weiss, Frederick Gustav, ed. Beyond Epistemology: New Studies in the Philosophy of Hegel. The Hague: Nijhoff, 1974.

Williams, Robert R. Recognition: Fichte and Hegel on the Other. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1992.

Wylleman, Luevan. Hegel on the Ethical life, Religion, and Philosophy, 17931807. Edited by A. Wylleman. Norwell: Kluwer Academic, 1989.

H. B. Action (1967)

Bibliography updated by Tamra Frei (2005)

About this article

Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich (1770–1831)

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article