Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

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Not curiosity, not vanity, not the consideration of expediency, not duty and conscientiousness, but an unquenchable, unhappy thirst that brooks no compromise leads us to truth.

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (27 August 177014 November 1831) was a German philosopher, most famous for attempting to elaborate a comprehensive and systematic ontology from a logical starting point.


  • Nicht die Neugierde, nicht die Eitelkeit, nicht die Betrachtung der Nützlichkeit, nicht die Pflicht und Gewissenhaftigkeit, sondern ein unauslöschlicher, unglücklicher Durst, der sich auf keinen Vergleich einläßt, führt uns zur Wahrheit.
  • The great thing however is, in the show of the temporal and the transient to recognize the substance which is immanent and the eternal which is present. For the work of Reason (which is synonymous with the Idea) when considered in its own actuality, is to simultaneously enter external existence and emerge with an infinite wealth of forms, phenomena and phases — a multiplicity that envelops its essential rational kernel with a motley outer rind with which our ordinary consciousness is earliest at home. It is this rind that the Concept must penetrate before Reason can find its own inward pulse and feel it still beating even in the outward phases. But this infinite variety of circumstances which is formed in this element of externality by the light of the rational essence shining in it — all this infinite material, with its regulatory laws — is not the object of philosophy....To comprehend what is, is the task of philosophy: and what is is Reason.
    • Works, VII, 17.
  • Poetry is the universal art of the spirit which has become free in itself and which is not tied down for its realization to external sensuous material; instead, it launches out exclusively in the inner space and the inner time of ideas and feelings.
    • Introduction to Aesthetics (1842), translated by T. M. Knox, (1979)
  • Reading the morning newspaper is the realist's morning prayer. One orients one's attitude toward the world either by God or by what the world is. The former gives as much security as the latter, in that one knows how one stands.
    • Miscellaneous writings of G.W.F. Hegel, translation by Jon Bartley Stewart, Northwestern University Press, 2002, page 247.
  • Every philosophy is complete in itself and, like a genuine work of art, contains the totality. Just as the works of Apelles and Sophocles, if Raphael and Shakespeare had known them, should not have appeared to them as mere preliminary exercises for their own work, but rather as a kindred force of the spirit, so, too reason cannot find in its own earlier forms mere useful preliminary exercises for itself.
    • Difference of the Fichtean and Schellingean System of Philosophy, cited in W. Kaufmann, Hegel (1966), p. 49
  • To be aware of limitations is already to be beyond them.
    • As quoted in Inwardness and Existence (1989) by Walter A. Davis, p. 18
  • Philosophy is by its nature something esoteric, neither made for the mob nor capable of being prepared for the mob.
    • Introduction to the Critical Journal of Philosophy, cited in W. Kaufmann, Hegel (1966), p. 56
  • So muß die Philosophie zwar die Möglichkeit erkennen, daß das Volk sich zu ihr erhebt, aber sie muß sich nicht zum Volk erniedrigen.
    • Philosophy must indeed recognize the possibility that the people rise to it, but must not lower itself to the people.
      • Introduction to the Critical Journal of Philosophy, cited in W. Kaufmann, Hegel (1966), p. 56

Der Geist des Christentums und sein Schicksal [The Spirit of Christianity and its Fate] (1799)[edit]

Published posthumously

  • Das Schicksal des jüdischen Volkes ist das Schicksal Makbeths, der aus der Natur selbst trat, sich an fremde Wesen hing, und so in ihrem Dienste alles Heilige der menschlichen Natur zertreten und ermorden, von seinen Göttern (denn es waren Objekte, er war Knecht) endlich verlassen, und an seinem Glauben selbst zerschmettert werden mußte.
    • The fate of the Jewish people is the fate of Macbeth who stepped out of nature itself, clung to alien beings, and so in their service had to trample and slay everything holy in human nature.
      • in Theologische Jugendschriften (1907), S. 261
  • Between the Shaman of the Tungus, the European prelate who rules church and state, the Voguls, and the Puritans, on the one hand, and the man who listens to his own command of duty, on the other, the difference 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.
  • What Jesus reveals is not that laws disappear but that they must be kept through righteousness of a new kind, … which is more complete because it supplements the deficiency in the laws. … This expanded content we may call an inclination so to act as the laws may command, i.e., a unification of inclination with the law whereby the latter loses its form as law. This correspondence with inclination is the πληρωμα [fulfillment] of the law.
  • The inclination to act as the laws command, a virtue, is a synthesis in which the law … loses its universality and the subject its particularity; both lose their opposition, while in the Kantian conception of virtue this opposition remains, and the universal becomes the master and the particular the mastered.
  • In the “fulfillment” of both the laws and duty, … the moral disposition ceases to be the universal, opposed to inclination, and inclination ceases to be particular, opposed to the law.
  • A command can express no more than an ought or a shall, because it is a universal, but it does not express an ‘is’; and this at once makes plain its deficiency. Against such commands Jesus sets virtue, i.e., a loving disposition, which makes the content of the command superfluous and destroys its form as a command, because that form implies an opposition between a commander and something resisting the command.

The German Constitution (1802)[edit]

  • The Catholics had been in the position of oppressors, and the Protestants of the oppressed

The Phenomenology of Spirit (1807)[edit]

History, is a conscious, self-meditating process — Spirit emptied out into Time.
Phänomenologie des Geistes; also translated as The Phenomenology of Mind (see Geist) – Full text online
  • The task of conducting the individual mind from its unscientific standpoint to that of science had to be taken in its general sense; we had to contemplate the formative development (Bildung) of the universal [or general] individual, of self-conscious spirit. As to the relation between these two [the particular and general individual], every moment, as it gains concrete form and its own proper shape and appearance, finds a place in the life of the universal individual. The particular individual is incomplete mind, a concrete shape in whose existence, taken as a whole, one determinate characteristic predominates, while the others are found only in blurred outline.
  • In the case of various kinds of knowledge, we find that what in former days occupied the energies of men of mature mental ability sinks to the level of information, exercises, and even pastimes, for children; and in this educational progress we can see the history of the world’s culture delineated in faint outline. This bygone mode of existence has already become an acquired possession of the general mind, which constitutes the substance of the individual, and, by thus appearing externally to him, furnishes his inorganic nature. In this respect culture or development of mind (Bildung), regarded from the side of the individual, consists in his acquiring what lies at his hand ready for him, in making its inorganic nature organic to himself, and taking possession of it for himself. Looked at, however, from the side of universal mind qua general spiritual substance, culture means nothing else than that this substance gives itself its own self-consciousness, brings about its own inherent process and its own reflection into self.
  • The goal to be reached is the mind’s insight into what knowing is. Impatience asks for the impossible, wants to reach the goal without the means of getting there. The length of the journey has to be borne with, for every moment is necessary; and again we must halt at every stage, for each is itself a complete individual form, and is fully and finally considered only so far as its determinate character is taken and dealt with as a rounded and concrete whole, or only so far as the whole is looked at in the light of the special and peculiar character which this determination gives it. Because the substance of individual mind, nay, more, because the universal mind at work in the world (Weltgeist), has had the patience to go through these forms in the long stretch of time’s extent, and to take upon itself the prodigious labour of the world’s history, where it bodied forth in each form the entire content of itself, as each is capable of presenting it; and because by nothing less could that all-pervading mind ever manage to become conscious of what itself is — for that reason, the individual mind, in the nature of the case, cannot expect by less toil to grasp what its own substance contains.
  • The life of God — the life which the mind apprehends and enjoys as it rises to the absolute unity of all things — may be described as a play of love with itself; but this idea sinks to an edifying truism, or even to a platitude, when it does not embrace in it the earnestness, the pain, the patience, and labor, involved in the negative aspect of things.
    • Variant translation: The life of God and divine cognition may well be spoken of as a disporting of Love with itself; but this idea sinks into mere edification, and even insipidity, if it lacks the seriousness, the suffering, the patience, and the labor of the negative.
  • A party first truly shows itself to have won the victory when it breaks up into two parties: for so it proves that it contains in itself the principle with which at first it had to conflict, and thus that it has got beyond the one-sidedness which was incidental to its earliest expression. The interest that formerly divided itself between it and that to which it was opposed now falls entirely within itself, and the opposing principle is left behind and forgotten, just because it is represented by one of the sides in the new controversy that now occupies the minds of men. At the same time, it is to be observed that when the old principle thus reappears, it is no longer what it was before; for it is changed and purified by the higher element into which it is now taken up. In this point of view, that discord which appears at first to be a lamentable breach and dissolution of the unity of a party, is really the crowning proof of its success.
    • Variant translation: the schism incipient in a party, which seems a misfortune, expresses its fortune rather.
  • Die Kraft des Geistes ist nur so groß als ihre Äußerung, seine Tiefe nur so tief, als er in seiner Auslegung sich auszubreiten und sich zu verlieren getraut.
  • The very attempt to determine the relationship of a philosophical work to other efforts concerning the same subject, introduces an alien and irrelevant interest which obscures precisely that which matters for the recognition of the truth. Opinion considers the opposition of what is true and false quite rigid, and, confronted with a philosophical system, it expects agreement or contradiction. And in an explanation of such a system, opinion still expects to find one or the other. It does not comprehend the difference of the philosophical systems in terms of the progressive development of the truth, but sees only the contradiction in this difference. The bud disappears as the blossom bursts forth, and one could say that the former is refuted by the latter. In the same way, the fruit declares the blossom to be a false existence of the plant. These forms do not only differ, they also displace each other because they are incompatible. Their fluid nature, however, makes them, at the same time, elements of an organic unity in which they not only do not conflict, but in which one is as necessary as the other; and it is only this equal necessity that constitutes the life of the whole.
  • For the subject matter is not exhausted by any aim, but only by the way in which things are worked out in detail; nor is the result the actual whole, but only the result together with its becoming. The aim, taken by itself, is a lifeless generality; the tendency is a mere drift which still lacks actuality; and the naked result is the corpse which has left the tendency behind.
  • But the other side of its Becoming, History, is a conscious, self-meditating process — Spirit emptied out into Time; but this externalization, this kenosis, is equally an externalization of itself; the negative is the negative of itself. This Becoming presents a slow-moving succession of Spirits, a gallery of images, each of which, endowed with all the riches of Spirit, moves thus slowly just because the Self has to penetrate and digest this entire wealth of its substance. As its fulfilment consists in perfectly knowing what it is, in knowing its substance, this knowing is that withdrawal into itself in which it abandons its outer existence and gives its existential shape over to recollection. Thus absorbed in itself, it is sunk in the night of its self-consciousness; but in that night its vanished outer existence is perserved, and this transformed existence — the former one, but now reborn of the Spirit's knowledge — is the new existence, a new world and a new shape of Spirit. In the immediacy of this new existence the Spirit has to start afresh to bring itself to maturity as if, for it, all that preceded were lost and it had learned nothing from the experience of the earlier Spirits. But recollection, the inwardizing, of that experience, has perserved it and is the inner-being, and in fact the higher form of the substance. So although to bring itself to maturity, it is none the less on a higher level that it starts. The realm of Spirits which is formed in this way in the outer world constitutes a succession in Time in which one Spirit relieved another of its charge and each took over the empire of the world from its predecessor. Their goal is the revelation of the depth of Spirit, and this is the absolute Notion. This revelation is, therfore, the raising-up of its depth, or its extension, the negativity of this withdrawn 'I', a negativity which is its externalization or its substance; and this revelation is also a Notion's Time, in that this externalization is in its own self externalized, and just as it is in its extension, so it is equally in its depth, in the Seld. The goal, Absolute Knowing, or Spirit that knows itself as Spirit, has for its path the recollection of the Spirits as they are in themselves and as they accomplish the organization of their realm. Their preservation, regarded from the side of their free existence appearing in the form of contingency, is History; but regarded from the side of their comprehended organization, it is the Science of Knowing in the sphere of appearance: the two together, comprehended History, form alike the inwardizing and the Calvary of the absolute Spirit, the actuality, truth, and certainty of his throne, without which he would be lifeless and alone. Only
from the chalice of this realm of spirits
foams forth for Him his own infinitude.
  • The final two lines are a rendering of Schiller's Die Freundschaft.
  • Von allen Wissenschaften, Künsten, Geschicklichkeiten, Handwerken gilt die Überzeugung, daß, um sie zu besitzen, eine vielfache Bemühung des Erlernens und Übens derselben nötig ist. In Ansehung der Philosophie dagegen scheint jetzt das Vorurteil zu herrschen, daß, wenn zwar jeder Augen und Finger hat, und wenn er Leder und Werkzeug bekommt, er darum nicht imstande sei, Schuhe zu machen, jeder doch unmittelbar zu philosophieren und die Philosophie zu beurteilen verstehe, weil er den Maßstab an seiner natürlichen Vernunft dazu besitze...
    • In all spheres of science, art, skill, and handicraft it is never doubted that, in order to master them, a considerable amount of trouble must be spent in learning and in being trained. As regards philosophy, on the contrary, there seems still an assumption prevalent that, though every one with eyes and fingers is not on that account in a position to make shoes if he only has leather and a last, yet everybody understands how to philosophize straight away, and pass judgment on philosophy, simply because he possesses the criterion for doing so in his natural reason.
  • Das Wahre ist das Ganze.
    • The true is the whole.
      • Section 20

Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences (1816)[edit]

Enzyklopaedie der philosophischen Wissenschaften (1816; 1830)

  • The significance of that 'absolute commandment', know thyself — whether we look at it in itself or under the historical circumstances of its first utterance — is not to promote mere self-knowledge in respect of the particular capacities, character, propensities, and foibles of the single self. The knowledge it commands means that of man's genuine reality — of what is essentially and ultimately true and real — of spirit as the true and essential being.
  • Each of the parts of philosophy is a philosophical whole, a circle rounded and complete in itself. In each of these parts, however, the philosophical Idea is found in a particular specificality or medium. The single circle, because it is a real totality, bursts through the limits imposed by its special medium, and gives rise to a wider circle. The whole of philosophy in this way resembles a circle of circles. The Idea appears in each single circle, but, at the same time, the whole Idea is constituted by the system of these peculiar phases, and each is a necessary member of the organisation.
  • A philosophy without heart and a faith without intellect are abstractions from the true life of knowledge and faith. The man whom philosophy leaves cold, and the man whom real faith does not illuminate, may be assured that the fault lies in them, not in knowledge and faith. The former is still an alien to philosophy, the latter an alien to faith.
  • The Philosophy of Nature takes up the material, prepared for it by physics out of experience, at the point to which physics has brought it, and again transforms it, without basing it ultimately on the authority of experience. Physics therefore must work into the hands of philosophy, so that the latter may translate into a true comprehension (Begriff) the abstract universal transmitted to it, showing how it issues from that comprehension as an intrinsically necessary whole.
  • It is because the method of physics does not satisfy the comprehension that we have to go on further.
  • Not only must philosophy be in agreement with our empirical knowledge of Nature, but the origin and formation of the Philosophy of Nature presupposes and is conditioned by empirical physics. However, the course of a science's origin and the preliminaries of its construction are one thing, while the science itself is another. In the latter, the former can no longer appear as the foundation of the science; here, the foundation must be the necessity of the Concept.
  • The heart is everywhere, and each part of the organism is only the specialized force of the heart itself.
The owl of Minerva first begins her flight with the onset of dusk.

Elements of the Philosophy of Right (1820)[edit]

Grundlinien der Philosophie des Rechts (1820)

  • Was vernünftig ist, das ist Wirklich; und was wirklich ist, das ist vernünftig.
    • What is reasonable is real; that which is real is reasonable.
    • Variant translation: What is rational is actual and what is actual is rational. On this conviction the plain man like the philosopher takes his stand, and from it philosophy starts in its study of the universe of spirit as well as the universe of nature. If reflection, feeling, or whatever form subjective consciousness may take, looks upon the present as something vacuous and looks beyond it with the eyes of superior wisdom, it finds itself in a vacuum, and because it is actual only in the present, it is itself mere vacuity. If on the other hand the Idea passes for 'only an Idea', for something represented in an opinion, philosophy rejects such a view and shows that nothing is actual except the Idea.
      • Preface
  • Jede Vorstellung ist eine Verallgemeinerung, und diese gehört dem Denken an. Etwas allgemein machen, heißt, es denken. ("Grundlinien der Philosophie des Rechts oder Naturrecht und Staatswissenschaft im Grundrisse", Berlin, 1833, p. 35)
    • "Any idea is a generalization, and generalization is a property of thinking. To generalize something means to think it."
    • "Every representation is a generalization, and this is inherent in thought. To generalize something means to think it."
    • "Any idea is a universalization, and universalizing is a property of thinking. To universalize something means to think."
    • "An idea is always a generalization, and generalization is a property of thinking. To generalize means to think."
  • Die Eule der Minerva beginnt erst mit der einbrechenden Dämmerung ihren Flug.
    • The owl of Minerva first begins her flight with the onset of dusk.
    • Variant: When philosophy paints its grey on grey, then has a shape of life grown old. By philosophy's grey on grey it cannot be rejuvenated but only understood. The owl of Minerva spreads its wings only with the falling of the dusk.
      • As translated by T. M. Knox, (1952)
  • Die Person muß sich eine äußere Sphäre ihrer Freiheit geben, um als Idee zu sein.
    • The person must give himself an external sphere of freedom in order to have being as Idea.
    • Sect. 41
  • The essence of the modern state is the union of the universal with the full freedom of the particular, and with the welfare of individuals.
    • Sect. 260
  • So ist vielmehr der Fall, daß das Volk, insosern mit diesem Worte ein besonderer Theil der Mitglieder eines Staats bezeichnet ist, den Theil ausdrückt, der nicht weiß was er will.[1]
    • Translation: But it is rather true that the people, in so far as this term signifies a special part of the citizens, does not know what it wants.
    • Sect. 301
  • To be independent of public opinion is the first formal condition of achieving anything great or rational whether in life or in science. Great achievement is assured, however, of subsequent recognition and grateful acceptance by public opinion, which in due course will make it one of its own prejudices
    • Sect. 318, as translated by T. M. Knox, (1952)
  • What the English call “comfortable” is something endless and inexhaustible. Every condition of comfort reveals in turn its discomfort, and these discoveries go on for ever. Hence the new want is not so much a want of those who have it directly, but is created by those who hope to make profit from it.
    • S. Dyde, trans. (1896), § 191

Lectures on Philosophy of Religion (1827)[edit]

Online texts at

  • The science of religion is one science within philosophy; indeed it is the final one. In that respect it presupposes the other philosophical disciplines and is therefore a result.
  • The beginning of religion, more precisely its content, is the concept of religion itself, that God is the absolute truth, the truth of all things, and subjectively that religion alone is the absolutely true knoweldge.
  • The Church has consistently and justly refused to allow that reason might stand in opposition to faith, and yet be placed under subjection to it. The human spirit in its inmost nature is not something so divided up that two contradictory elements might subsist together in it. If discord has arisen between intellectual insight and religion, and is not overcome in knowledge, it leads to despair, which comes in the place of reconciliation. This despair is reconciliation carried out in a one-sided manner. The one side is cast away, the other alone held fast; but a man cannot win true peace in this way. The one alternative is, for the divided spirit to reject the demands of the intellect and try to return to simple religious feeling. To this, however, the spirit can only attain by doing violence to itself, for the independence of consciousness demands satisfaction, and will not be thrust aside by force; and to renounce independent thought, is not within the power of the healthy mind. Religious feeling becomes yearning hypocrisy, and retains the moment of non-satisfaction. The other alternative is a one-sided attitude of indifference toward religion, which is either left unquestioned and let alone, or is ultimately attacked and opposed. That is the course followed by shallow spirits.
    • Lectures on the philosophy of religion, together with a work on the proofs of the existence of God. Translated from the 2d German ed. by E.B. Speirs, and J. Burdon Sanderson: the translation edited by E.B. Speirs. Published 1895 p. 49-50
  • Spirit is knowledge; but in order that knowledge should exist; it is necessary that the content of that which it knows should have attained to this ideal form, and should in this way have been negated. What Spirit is must in that way have become its own, it must have described this circle; then these forms, differences, determinations finite qualities, must have existed in order that it should make them its own. This represents both the way and the goal-that Spirit should have attained to its own notion or conception, to that which it implicitly is, and in this way only, the way which has been indicated in its abstract moments, does it attain it. Revealed religion is manifested religion, because in it God has become wholly manifest. Here all is proportionate to the notion; there is no longer anything secret in God.
  • Faith must now get what is essentially the form of mediation. It itself is already this form implicitly, for it is knowledge of God and of his character, and this knowledge is in itself a process, a movement-is life, mediation. It is involved in the very nature of the freedom which is the inner characteristic of faith, that it should not be what we at first called substantial, solid unity, that it should not be idea; in freedom I exist on the contrary as that activity in the affirmation which is infinite negation of itself. Now if we should wish to give to mediation the form of an external mediation as the foundation of faith, then such a form would be a wrong one. This mediation, of which the basis is something external is false. The content of faith my indeed come to be my means of instruction, miracle, authority, etc. These may be the foundation of faith as subjective faith. But it is just in giving this position to the content whereby it assumes the character of a basis for me, that we go on a wrong track; and when faith is reached, this externality must drop away. In faith I make that my own which comes to me thus, and it ceases to be for me an Other. Immediate faith may be so defined as being the witness of the Spirit to Spirit, and this implies that no finite content has any place in it. Spirit witnesses only of Spirit, and only infinite things are mediated by means of external grounds. The true foundation of faith is the Spirit, and the witness of the Spirit is inherently living. Verification may at first appear in that external formal manner, but this must drop away. It may thus happen that faith in a religion has its commencement form such testimony, from miracles, that is in a finite content. Christ Himself, however, spoke against miracles, He reproached the Jews for demanding them of Him, and said to His disciples, “The Spirit will guide you into all truth.”
    • Lectures on the philosophy of religion, together with a work on the proofs of the existence of God. Translated from the 2d German ed. by E.B. Speirs, and J. Burdon Sanderson: the translation edited by E.B. Speirs. Published 1895 p. 218-219

Lectures on the Philosophy of History (1832)[edit]

Also translated as Lectures on the Philosophy of World History; Online translation
  • What experience and history teach is this — that nations and governments have never learned anything from history, or acted upon any lessons they might have drawn from it.
    • Introduction, as translated by H. B. Nisbet (1975)
    • Variant translation: What experience and history teach is this — that people and governments never have learned anything from history, or acted on principles deduced from it.
  • Amid the pressure of great events, a general principle gives no help.
  • To him who looks upon the world rationally, the world in its turn presents a rational aspect. The relation is mutual.
  • It is easier to discover a deficiency in individuals, in states, and in providence, than to see their real import or value.
  • Life has a value only when it has something valuable as its object.
  • History is not the soil of happiness. The periods of happiness are blank pages in it.
    • Variant, as translated by H. B. Nisbet (1975): History is not the soil in which happiness grows. The periods of happiness in it are the blank pages of history.
    • Die Weltgeschichte ist nicht der Boden des Glücks. Die Perioden des Glücks sind leere Blätter in ihr.
    • General Introduction to the Philosophy of History
  • Serious occupation is labor that has reference to some want.
    • Pt. I, sec. 2, ch. 1
  • History as the slaughter-bench
    • Geschichte Als Schlachtbank
    • Pt. III, sec. 2, ch. 24
  • It is a matter of perfect indifference where a thing originated; the only question is: "Is it true in and for itself?"
    • Pt. III, sec. 3, ch. 2
  • The Few assume to be the deputies, but they are often only the despoilers of the Many.
    • Pt. IV, sec. 3, ch. 3
  • Abstraktionen in der Wirklichkeit geltend machen, heißt Wirklichkeit zerstören.
    • To make abstractions hold in reality is to destroy reality.
    • Vorlesungen über der Geschichte der Philosophie (herausgegeben von D. Karl Ludwig Michelet) Dritter Band. Berlin, 1836. Verlag von Dunder und humblot. (p. 553)
  • In history, we are concerned with what has been and what is; in philosophy, however, we are concerned not with what belongs exclusively to the past or to the future, but with that which is, both now and eternally — in short, with reason.
    • As translated by H. B. Nisbet (1975)
  • The enquiry into the essential destiny of Reason — as far as it is considered in reference to the World — is identical with the question, what is the ultimate design of the World? And the expression implies that that design is destined to be realised. Two points of consideration suggest themselves: first, the import of this design — its abstract definition; and secondly, its realisation.
  • It must be observed at the outset, that the phenomenon we investigate — Universal History — belongs to the realm of Spirit. The term "World," includes both physical and psychical Nature. Physical Nature also plays its part in the World's History, — and attention will have to be paid to the fundamental natural relations thus involved. But Spirit, and the course of its development, is our substantial object.
  • On the stage on which we are observing it, — Universal History — Spirit displays itself in its most concrete reality.
  • The present is not the occasion for unfolding the idea of Spirit speculatively; for whatever has a place in an Introduction, must, as already observed, be taken as simply historical; something assumed as having been explained and proved elsewhere; or whose demonstration awaits the sequel of the Science of History itself.
  • As the essence of Matter is Gravity, so, on the other hand, we may affirm that the substance, the essence of Spirit is Freedom. All will readily assent to the doctrine that Spirit, among other properties, is also endowed with Freedom; but philosophy teaches that all the qualities of Spirit exist only through Freedom; that all are but means for attaining Freedom; that all seek and produce this and this alone.
  • Matter possesses gravity in virtue of its tendency towards a central point. It is essentially composite; consisting of parts that exclude each other. It seeks its Unity; and therefore exhibits itself as self-destructive, as verging towards its opposite … Spirit, on the contrary, may be defined as that which has its centre in itself. It has not a unity outside itself, but has already found it; it exists in and with itself. Matter has its essence out of itself; Spirit is self-contained existence (Bei-sich-selbst-seyn).
  • Two things must be distinguished in consciousness; first, the fact that I know; secondly, what I know. In self consciousness these are merged in one; for Spirit knows itself. It involves an appreciation of its own nature, as also an energy enabling it to realise itself; to make itself actually that which it is potentially. According to this abstract definition it may be said of Universal History, that it is the exhibition of Spirit in the process of working out the knowledge of that which it is potentially. And as the germ bears in itself the whole nature of the tree, and the taste and form of its fruits, so do the first traces of Spirit virtually contain the whole of that History.
  • The History of the world is none other than the progress of the consciousness of Freedom; a progress whose development according to the necessity of its nature, it is our business to investigate.
  • The destiny of the spiritual World, and, — since this is the substantial World, while the physical remains subordinate to it, or, in the language of speculation, has no truth as against the spiritual, — the final cause of the World at large, we allege to be the consciousness of its own freedom on the part of Spirit, and ipso facto, the reality of that freedom.
  • Although Freedom is, primarily, an undeveloped idea, the means it uses are external and phenomenal; presenting themselves in History to our sensuous vision. The first glance at History convinces us that the actions of men proceed from their needs, their passions, their characters and talents; and impresses us with the belief that such needs, passions and interests are the sole springs of action — the efficient agents in this scene of activity. Among these may, perhaps, be found aims of a liberal or universal kind — benevolence it may be, or noble patriotism; but such virtues and general views are but insignificant as compared with the World and its doings. We may perhaps see the Ideal of Reason actualized in those who adopt such aims, and within the sphere of their influence; but they bear only a trifling proportion to the mass of the human race; and the extent of that influence is limited accordingly. Passions, private aims, and the satisfaction of selfish desires, are on the other hand, most effective springs of action. Their power lies in the fact that they respect none of the limitations which justice and morality would impose on them; and that these natural impulses have a more direct influence over man than the artificial and tedious discipline that tends to order and self-restraint, law and morality. When we look at this display of passions, and the consequences of their violence; the Unreason which is associated not ,only with them, but even (rather we might say especially) with good designs and righteous aims; when we see the evil, the vice, the ruin that has befallen the most flourishing kingdoms which the mind of man ever created, we can scarce avoid being filled with sorrow at this universal taint of corruption: and, since this decay is not the work of mere Nature, but of the Human Will — a moral embitterment — a revolt of the Good Spirit (if it have a place within us) may well be the result of our reflections.
  • The first remark we have to make, and which — though already presented more than once — cannot be too often repeated when the occasion seems to call for it, — is that what we call principle, aim, destiny, or the nature and idea of Spirit, is something merely general and abstract. Principle — Plan of Existence — Law — is a hidden, undeveloped essence, which as such — however true in itself — is not completely real.
  • Aims, principles, &c., have a place in our thoughts, in our subjective design only; but not yet in the sphere of reality. That which exists for itself only, is a possibility, a potentiality; but has not yet emerged into Existence. A second element must be introduced in order to produce actuality — viz. actuation, realization; and whose motive power is the Will — the activity of man in the widest sense.
Science and knowledge, especially that of philosophy, came from the Arabs into the West.
  • We assert then that nothing has been accomplished without interest on the part of the actors; and — if interest be called passion, inasmuch as the whole individuality, to the neglect of all other actual or possible interests and claims, is devoted to an object with every fibre of volition, concentrating all its desires and powers upon it — we may affirm absolutely that nothing great in the World has been accomplished without passion.
    • Often abbreviated to: Nothing great in the World has been accomplished without passion.
    • Variant translation: We may affirm absolutely that nothing great in the world has ever been accomplished without enthusiasm.
  • Truth is the unity of the universal and subjective will; and the Universal is to be found in the State, in its laws, its universal and rational arrangements. The State is the Divine Idea as it exists on earth. We have in it, therefore, the object of history in a more definite shape than before; that in which Freedom obtains objectivity. For Law is the objectivity of the Spirit.
  • This final aim is God's purpose with the world; but God is the absolutely perfect Being, and can, therefore, will nothing but himself.
  • Science and knowledge, especially that of philosophy, came from the Arabs into the West.
    • Lectures on the Philosophy of History, H.G. Bohn, 1857, part IV. The German world, p. 374

Quotes about Hegel[edit]

Alphabetized by surname
  • Following Kant, the most significant German philosopher was Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, whose emphasis on mind and idealism was, if anything, even greater than Kant’s, as his practical influence also may have been during the nineteenth century. Hayek abhorred Hegel, considering his work virtually without value. At the same time, Hegel’s emphasis on mind and idealism indicate the philosophical heritage from which Hayek sprang.
    • Alan Ebenstein, Hayek's Journey: The Mind of Friedrich Hayek (2003), Ch. 2. German and Viennese Intellectual Thought
  • * For better or worse, much of Hegel's historicism has become part of our contemporary intellectual baggage.  The notion that mankind has progresses through a series of primitive stages of consciousness on his path to the present, and that these stages corresponded to concrete forms of social organization, such as tribal, slave owning, theocratic, and finally democratic egalitarian societies, has become inseparable form the modern understanding of man.  Hegel was the first philosopher to speak the language of modern social science, insofar as man for him was the product of his concrete historical and social environment and not, as earlier natural right theorists would have it, a collection of more or less fixed "natural" attributes. The mastery and transformation of man's natural environment through the application of science and technology was originally not a Marxist concept, but a Hegelian one. Unlike later historicists whose historical relativism degenerated into relativism tout court, however, Hegel believed that history culminated in an absolute moment -- a moment in which a final, rational form of society and state became victorious
    • Francis Fukayama (1992) The End of History and the Last Man
  • Hegel's insania in the dissertation under question seems to be wisdom compared with his later ones.
    • Carl Friedrich Gauss, as quoted in Carl Friedrich Gauss: Titan of Science (2004) by Guy Waldo Dunnington. p. 361. In reference to Hegel's followers.
  • Georg W. F. Hegel’s philosophy is another fundamentally Counter-Enlightenment attack on reason and individualism. His philosophy is a partially secularized version of traditional Judeo-Christian cosmology. While Kant’s concerns centered upon epistemology, Hegel’s centered upon metaphysics. For Kant, preserving faith led him to deny reason, while for Hegel preserving the spirit of Judeo-Christian metaphysics led him to be more anti-reason and antiindividualist than Kant ever was.
    • Stephen Hicks, Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucalt Scholargy Press, p. 43
  • Hegel agreed with Kant that realism and objectivism were dead ends. Kant had transcended them by making the subject prior, but from Hegel’s perspective he had been too wishy-washy in doing so. Kant made the subject responsible only for the phenomenal world of experience, leaving noumenal reality forever closed off to us. This was intolerable to Hegel—after all, the whole point of philosophy is to achieve union with reality, to escape the merely sensuous and finite and to come to know and be one with the supersensuous and infinite.
    However, Hegel had no intention of trying to solve the epistemological puzzles about perception, concept-formation, and induction that had set Kant’s agenda, in order to show us how we might acquire knowledge of the noumenal. Instead, taking a cue from Johann Fichte, Hegel’s strategy was to assert boldly an identity of subject and object, thus closing the gap metaphysically.
    • Stephen Hicks, Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucalt Scholargy Press, pp. 44-45
  • Historically, when philosophy runs up against science, philosophy loses. Think of the bishops who refused to look through Galileo's telescope. Or Hegel's proving by logic that there can be no more than seven planets.
  • Frau Edouard Devrient: "Do tell me, who is the stupid fellow sitting next to me?" Felix Mendelssohn (behind his napkin): "The stupid fellow next to you is the philosopher Hegel."
    • Paul Johnson, in The Birth of the Modern (1991), pp. 817-818.
  • The second important characteristic of this utopia [as posited by Marxists] was the belief that the glorious future is not simply predetermined by the course of history hitherto, but that the future was already there, not empirically noticeable and yet more real than the empirical present about to crumble. This belief in a “higher” reality which, albeit invisible, was already embedded in the actual world could be traced back, to be sure, to its Hegelian sources; more exactly, it was an extension into the future-illegitimate in strictly Hegelian terms-of the Hegelian way of investigating the past. This enviable ability to detect in what appears to be something that appears not to be but that in fact is in a more eminent sense than what is “merely” empirical was itself in Hegel a secularized version of the Christian concept of salvation which, though not perceptible directly, is not just inscribed in God’s plan but has already occurred, since in the divine timelessness whatever is going to happen did happen. It justifies the illimited self-righteousness of those who not only are capable of predicting the future but in fact are already its blessed owners, and it gives them the right to treat the actual world as essentially non-existent.
    • Leszek Kolakowski, “The Death of Utopia Reconsidered,” part of the Tanner Lectures on Human Values, Delivered at The Australian National University, June 22,1982
  • Hegel is not a philosopher. He is no lover or seeker of wisdom--he believes he has found it. [...] By the end of the Phenomenology [of Spirit], Hegel claims to have arrived at Absolute Knowledge, which he identifies with wisdom.
    Hegel's claim to have attained wisdom is completely contrary to the original Greek conception of philosophy as the love of wisdom, that is, the ongoing pursuit rather than the final possession of wisdom. His claim is, however, fully consistent with the ambitions of the Hermetic tradition. [...] I do not argue that merely that we can understand Hegel as a Hermetic thinker, just as we can understand him as a German or a Swabian or an idealist thinker. Instead, I argue that we must understand Hegel as a Hermetic thinker, if we are to truly understand him at all.
    • Glenn Alexander Magee (2001), Hegel and the Hermetic Tradition Ithaca: Cornell University Press, pp. 1-2
  • Hegel remarks somewhere that all facts and personages of great importance in world history occur, as it were, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second as farce.
  • [W]hen Hitler says that “the State dominates the nation because it alone represents it,” he is only putting into loose popular language the formula of Hegel, that “the State is the general substance, whereof individuals are but accidents.”
  • While scientists were performing astounding feats of disciplined reason [during the Enlightenment], breaking down the barriers of the “unknowable” in every field of knowledge, charting the course of light rays in space or the course of blood in the capillaries of man’s body -- what philosophy was offering them, as interpretation of and guidance for their achievements was the plain Witchdoctory of Hegel, who proclaimed that matter does not exist at all, that everything is Idea (not somebody’s idea, just Idea), and that this Idea operates by the dialectical process of a new “super-logic” which proves that contradictions are the law of reality, that A is non-A, and that omniscience about the physical universe (including electricity, gravitation, the solar system, etc.) is to be derived, not from the observation of facts, but from the contemplation of that Idea’s triple somersaults inside his, Hegel’s, mind. This was offered as a philosophy of reason.
    • Ayn Rand, For the New Intellectual
  • Hegel's philosophy is so odd that one would not have expected him to be able to get sane men to accept it, but he did. He set it out with so much obscurity that people thought it must be profound. It can quite easily be expounded lucidly in words of one syllable, but then its absurdity becomes obvious.
  • When I was young, most teachers of philosophy in British and American universities were Hegelians, so that, until I read Hegel, I supposed there must be some truth to his system; I was cured, however, by discovering that everything he said on the philosophy of mathematics was plain nonsense.
  • Hegel published his proof that there must be exactly seven planets just a week before the discovery of the eighth. The matter was hushed up, and a new, revised edition was hastily prepared; nevertheless, there were some who scoffed.
  • My reason for rejecting Hegel and monism in general is my belief that the dialectical argument against relations is wholly unsound. I think such a statement as 'A is west of B' can be exactly true. You will find that Bradley's arguments on this subject pre-suppose that every proposition must be of the subject-predicate form. I think this the fundamental error of monism.
  • If I were to say that the so-called philosophy of this fellow Hegel is a colossal piece of mystification which will yet provide posterity with an inexhaustible theme for laughter at our times, that it is a pseudo-philosophy paralyzing all mental powers, stifling all real thinking, and, by the most outrageous misuse of language, putting in its place the hollowest, most senseless, thoughtless, and, as is confirmed by its success, most stupefying verbiage, I should be quite right.
  • Among Noah's sons was one who covered the shame of his father, but the Hegelians are still tearing away the cloak which time and oblivion had sympathetically thrown over the shame of their Master.
  • Let us state that the term "philosophy of history" may be applied to Hegel's speculation only with reservations. For Hegel's history is not to be found in reality, and the reality of history is not in Hegel. The harmony between construct and history could be achieved [by Hegel] only though the omission of an essential factor of reality.
    The factor Hegel excludes is the mystery of a history that wends its way into the future without our knowing its end. History as a whole is not necessarily an object of cognition; the meaning of the whole is not discernible. Hegel can construct, then, a meaningfully self-contained project of history only by assuming that the revelation of God in history is fully comprehensible. The appearance of Christ for him [for Hegel] the crux of world history; in this decisive epoch God had revealed the Logos -- reason -- in history. But the revalation was incomplete, and Hegel considered it man's duty to comlete the incomplete revalation by raising the Logos to complete clarity in consciousness. This elevation to consciousness is in fact possible through the mind of the philosopher -- concretely, through the mind of Hegel: in the medium of the Hegelian dialectic the revelation of God in history reaches its fulfillment. The validity of the construct depends on the assumption that the mystery of revelation and of the course of history can be solved and made fully transparent through the dialectical unfolding of the Logos. We have here a construct closely related to that of Joachim of Flora. Joachim, too, was dissatisfied with the Augustinian waiting fo the end; he, too, wanted to have an intelligible meaning in history here and now; and in order to make the meaning intelligible, he had to set himself up as the prophet to whom this meaning was clear. In the same manner, Hegel identifies his human logos with the Logos that is Christ, in order make the meaningful process of history fully comprehensible.
    • Eric Voegelin ([1968] 1997). Science, Politics and Gnosticism, Part II: "Ersatz Religion: The Gnostic Mass Movements of Our Time" Washington: Regenery Publishers, ISBN 0895264196, pp 72-73
  • Hegel experiences his state of alienation as an acute loss of reality, and even as death. But he cannot, or will not, initiate the movement of return; the epistrophe, the periagoge, is impossible. The despair or lostness, then, turns into the mood of revolt. Hegel closes his existence in on himself; he develops a false self; and lets his false self engage in an act of self-salvation that is meant to substitute for the periagoge of which his true self proves incapable. The alienation which, as long as it remains a state of lostness in open existence, can be healed through the return [to God], now hardens into the acheronta movebo of the sorcerer who, through magic operations, forces salvation from the non-reality of his lostness. Since, however, nonreality has no power of salvation, and Hegel’s true self knows this quite well, the false self must take the next step and, by ‘the energy of thinking,’ transform the reality of God into the dialectics of his consciousness: the divine power accrues to the Subjeckt that is engaged in self-salvation through reaching the state of reflective self-consciousness. If the soul cannot return to God, God must be alienated from himself and drawn into the human state of alienation. And finally, since none of these operations in Second Reality would change anything in the surrounding First Reality, but result only in the isolation of the sorcerer from the rest of society, the whole world must be drawn into the imaginary Second Reality. The sorcerer becomes the savior of the ‘age’ by imposing his System of Science as the new revelation on mankind at large. All mankind must join the sorcerer in the hell of his damnation.
    • Eric Voegelin (1972). "On Hegel: A Study in Sorcery," reprinted in Voegelin's Collected Works, Vol. 12, 1990.

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