Hegel is perhaps most well-known for his teleological account of history, an account which was later taken over by Marx and “inverted” into a materialist theory of an historical development culminating in communism. For most of the twentieth century, the “logical” side of Hegel's thought had been largely forgotten, but his political and social philosophy continued to find interest and support. However, since the 1970s, a degree of more general philosophical interest in Hegel's systematic thought has also been revived.
1. Life, Work, and Influence
2. Hegel's Philosophy
2.1 The traditional “metaphysical” view
2.2 The non-traditional “post-Kantian” view
3. Hegel's Works
3.1 Phenomenology of Spirit
3.2 Science of Logic
3.3 Philosophy of Right
1. Life, Work, and Influence
Born in 1770 in Stuttgart, Hegel spent the years 1788-1793 as a theology student in nearby Tübingen, forming friendships there with fellow students, the future great romantic poet Friedrich Hölderlin (1770-1843) and Friedrich W. J. von Schelling (1775-1854), who, like Hegel, would become one of the major figures of the German philosophical scene in the first half of the nineteenth century. These friendships clearly had a major influence on Hegel's philosophical development, and for a while the intellectual lives of the three were closely intertwined.
After graduation Hegel worked as a tutor for families in Bern and then Frankfurt, where he was reunited with Hölderlin. Until around 1800, Hegel devoted himself to developing his ideas on religious and social themes, and seemed to have envisaged a future for himself as a type of modernising and reforming educator, in the image of figures of the German Enlightenment such as Lessing and Schiller.
Around the turn of the century, however, possibly under the influence of Hölderlin, his interests turned more to the issues in the “critical” philosophy of Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) that had enthused Hölderlin, Schelling, and many others, and in 1801 he moved to the University of Jena to join Schelling. In the 1790s Jena had become a centre of both “Kantian” philosophy and the early romantic movement and by the time of Hegel's arrival Schelling had already become an established figure, taking the approach of J. G. Fichte (1762-1814), the most important of the new Kantian-styled philosophers, in novel directions.
In late 1801, Hegel published his first philosophical work, The Difference between Fichte's and Schelling's System of Philosophy, and up until 1803 worked closely with Schelling, with whom he edited the Critical Journal of Philosophy. In his “Difference” essay Hegel had argued that Schelling's approach succeeded where Fichte's failed in the project of systematising and thereby completing Kant's transcendental idealism, and on the basis of this type of advocacy was dogged for many years by the reputation of being a “mere” follower of Schelling (who was five years his junior).
By late 1806 Hegel had completed his first major work, the Phenomenology of Spirit (published 1807), which showed a divergence from his earlier, seemingly more Schellingian, approach. Schelling, who had left Jena in 1803, interpreted a barbed criticism in the Phenomenology's preface as aimed at him, and their friendship abruptly ended. The occupation of Jena by Napoleon's troops as Hegel was completing the manuscript closed the university and Hegel left the town.
Now without a university appointment he worked for a short time, apparently very successfully, as an editor of a newspaper in Bamberg, and then from 1808-1815 as the headmaster and philosophy teacher at a “gymnasium” in Nuremberg. During his time at Nuremberg he married and started a family, and wrote and published his Science of Logic. In 1816 he managed to return to his university career by being appointed to a chair in philosophy at the University of Heidelberg.
Then in 1818, he was offered and took up the chair of philosophy at the University of Berlin, the most prestigious position in the German philosophical world. While in Heidelberg he published the Encyclopaedia of the Philosophical Sciences, a systematic work in which an abbreviated version of the earlier Science of Logic (the “Encyclopaedia Logic” or “Lesser Logic”) was followed by the application of its principles to the Philosophy of Nature and the Philosophy of Spirit.
In 1821 in Berlin Hegel published his major work in political philosophy, Elements of the Philosophy of Right, based on lectures given at Heidelberg but ultimately grounded in the section of the Encyclopaedia Philosophy of Spirit dealing with “objective spirit.” During the following ten years up to his death in 1831 Hegel enjoyed celebrity at Berlin, and published subsequent versions of the Encyclopaedia. After his death versions of his lectures on philosophy of history, philosophy of religion, aesthetics, and the history of philosophy were published.
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