G. T. W. Hegel (1770-1831) The Progress of the Spirit  



On From Kant:
& Rationality  



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·         Kant

o        Constitutive Ideas [cause, substance, etc.] constitute phenomenal appearances: metaphysical function.

o        Regulative Ideas [God, self, totality] regulate the use of the CIs; practical/methodological function; no Metaphysical function.

·         Hegel Resulting Idealism: only thought exists.1

o        noumena, being unknowable drop out as unjustifiable metaphysical add-ons

o        `ideas of pure reason' [God, self, totality] are not merely regulative but constitute Reality.2 

§         appearances are realities

§         some more real [God-like, self-aware, comprehensive] than others.

·         Romantic Background: 

o        Dionysian (feeling-exalting) reaction to the Enlightenment3

o        if reason conquers all, All is diminished4

o        extrarational source of insight into true reality5

1.        The subsistence or substance of anything that exists is its self-identity; for its want of identity, or oneness with itself, would be its dissolution.  But self-identity is pure abstraction; and this is just thinking. (111)

2.        Here we find contained the principal that Being is Thought. ( 111 )

3.        If it were not for the Poetic or Prophetic character the Philosophic & Experimental would soon be at the ratio of all things, & stand still, unable to do other than repeat the same dull round all again. (Blake)

4.        He who sees the Infinite in all things sees God. He who sees the Ratio only sees himself only. (Blake)

5.       The answer to the riddle is given to the subject of knowledge who appears as an individual, and the answer is will. (Schopenhauer)

Reason as Dialectic

·         Basic Rationalism: "As he grew older, Hegel became conservative. He prized order above freedom and became deeply suspicious of `reform'." (Jones 108)

o        progress = increasing organization

o        "objective" -- or more accurately intersubjective -- idealism1

·         Romantic element in Hegel: emphasis on the process4 

o        over the static product (the apparent object) & producer (the subject appeared to)2

o        the thinking is prior to the thought & thinker3

o        the experiencing prior to the experienced and experiencer

o        Contrary to Aristotelian fixed kinds & immutable essences5

·         Dominant rationalism 

o        the reality-revealing or reality-constitutive process is rational

o        "we murder to dissect" not

§         If we say "all animals," that does not pass for zoology. (115)

§         To pit this single assertion, that "in the Absolute all is one," against the organized whole of determinate and complete knowledge, or of knowledge which at least aims at and demands complete development -- to give out its Absolute as the night in which, as we say, all cows are black -- that is the very naiveté of emptiness of knowledge. (117)

o        rather we dissect to create

§         knowledge "which ... aims at an demands complete development"

§         and consequently reality (being being thought)A2

·         Reason as dialectical process or reconciling contradictions, e.g.,

o        thesis: raisonment: being is articulated  in accord with preset categories reason discovers

o        antithesis: e.g., romantic contention that being is a whole that can be intuitively grokked not rationally systematized

o        synthesis: e.g. Hegelian dialectic in which evolving (more and more articulate & comprehensive) concepts evolve (an ever more articulate & organized) reality.

1.        The nature of humanity is to impel men to agree with one another, and its very existence lies simply in the explicit realization of a community of conscious life. What is anti-human, the condition of mere animals, consists in keeping within the sphere of feeling pure and simple, and in being able to communicate only by way of feeling states.( 109)

2.        In my view -- a view which the developed exposition of the system itself can alone justify -- everything depends on grasping and expressing the ultimate truth not as Substance but as Subject as well. ( 111 )

3.        Owing to the nature which being thus has [as thought), and so far as what is has this nature [that distinguishes it] from the point of view of knowledge, this thinking is not an activity which treats the content as something alien and external; it is not reflection into self away from the content. (111)

4.        These stages [blossom, bud, fruit] are not merely differentiated; they supplant one another as being incompatible with one another. But the ceaseless activity of their own inherent nature makes them at the same time moments of an organic unity, where they not merely do not contradict one another, but where one is as necessary as the other; and this equal necessity of all moments constitutes alone and thereby the life of the whole. ( 114)

5.       Such uniformity of colouring in the schema with its lifeless determinations, this absolute identity, and the transition from one to the other -- these are the one as well as the other, the expressions of inert lifeless understanding, and equally an external process of knowledge. ( 116)

Scientific Knowledge

1.        Science can become an organic system only by the inherent life of the notion. In science the determinateness which was [and the level of mere raisonement] stuck on to existing facts in external fashion, is the self directing inner soul of the concrete content. ( 118)

2.        Instead of making its way into the inherent content of the matter at hand, understanding always assumes a position above the particular existence about which it is speaking.  ... True scientific  knowledge, on the contrary, demands abandonment to the very life of the object .... (118)


·         Traditional rationalism: understanding

o        assumes a given objective reality1

o        with a knowable mind-independent structure

o        which science comes to truly describe.

·         Romanticism: feeling

o        assumes a subjective reality

o        which science objectifies in imposing fixed static categorizations

o        which fundamentally misrepresent the living truth of it2

·         Hegelian Science: 

o        assumes an objective-subjective reality: Spirit3

o        which evolves through a dialectical process of evolving concepualizations4

o        the science of which is essentially self-reflective5

·         Criticism of Kantian "critique" and other wanna-be methodologies such as Bacon's, Descartes, and Locke propose 

o        there is no fixed-unchanging objective reality-to-be-discovered

o        there is no fixed-unchanging subjective capacity for discovery

o        this too ever evolving

o        Hegel: "In virtue of that necessity this pathway to science is itself eo ipso science, and is, moreover, as regards its content, Science of the Experience of Consciousness"

3.        Spirit alone is Reality. It is the inner being of the world, that which essentially is, and is per se; it assumes objective, determinate form, and enters into relations with itself -- it is externality (otherness), and exists for itself; yet, in this determination, and in its otherness, it is still one with  itself -- is is self contained and self-complete, in itself and for itself at once. (120-121)

4.        True reality is merely this process of reinstating self identity, of reflecting into its own self in and from its other. ... It is the process of its own becoming, the circle which presupposes its end as its purpose, and has its end as its beginning .... (121)

5.       This dialectic process which consciousness executes on itself -- on its knowledge as well as its object -- in the sense that out of it the new and true object arises, is precisely what is termed Experience. (123)

The System as a Whole

·         Objective: a complete systematization of absolutely everything

o        Jones: "to bring consciousness up to a level at which the various bits and pieces of information that men have gleaned over the millennia are displayed in their true, systematic, determinate, and necessary relationships."1

·         The Idea

o        In Itself: Logic

§         Being: Immediate (Concrete)

§         Quality

§         Being:

§         Being2 

§         Nothing4

§         Becoming 3 

§         Determinate Being

§         Being for Self

§         Quantity

§         Measure

§         Essence: Mediate (Abstract)

§         Ground of Appearance

§         Appearance

§         Actuality

§         Substance

§         Cause-Effect

§         Reciprocity

§         Notion5: Self-Mediating

§         Subjective Notion: Logic

§         Objective Notion: Scientific Method

§         The Idea: Life|Thought>Knowledge

o        Outside Itself: Nature

§         Physics

§         Space & Time

§         Matter & Motion

§         Absolute Mechanics: Gravitation|

§         Astronomy & Chemistry

§         Biology

o        In and for Itself6: Spirit7

§         Subjective: Soul|Consciousness>Mind

§         Objective: Family|Civil-Society>State

§         Absolute: Religion|Art>Philosophy

1.        "To bring philosophy nearer to the form of science -- that goal where it can lay aside the name of   love of knowledge and be actual knowledge -- that is what I have set before me." (124)

2.        But this mere Being, as it is mere abstraction, is therefore the absolutely negative, which, in a   similarly immediate aspect, is just NOTHING. (127)

3.        Every one has a mental idea of Becoming and will even allow that it is one idea: he will further   allow that, when it is analyzed, it involves the attribute of Being, and also the very reverse of being, viz. Nothing. (127)

4.        The truth of Being and Nothing is accordingly the unity of the two: and this unity is BECOMING. ( 127)

5.        We must not let the two sides [A is the cause of B; B is the cause of A] rest in their state of mere given facts, but recognize them ... for factors of a third and higher, which is the notion and nothing else. (130)

6.        Spirit is self-contained existence. (in Russell, p. 737) 

7.       But what is Spirit? It is the one immutably homogenous Infinite -- pure Identity -- which in its second phase separates itself from itself and makes this second aspect its own polar opposite,  namely as existence for and in Self as contrasted with the Universal. (in Russell, p. 737-738)

Social Philosophy
Political Theory


1.        The German spirit is the spirit of the new world. Its aim is the realization of absolute Truth as the unlimited self determination of freedom -- that freedom which has its own absolute from itself as its purport. (in Russell: 738)


·         Idea In and for Itself: Spirit

o        Subjective: Freedom

§         Soul

§         Consciousness

§         Mind

o        Objective: Restraint

§         Family2

§         Civil-Society

§         State3

o        Absolute: Self-Restraint1

§         Religion

§         Art

§         Philosophy

·         2.  The family, as the immediate substantiality of mind, is specifically characterized by love, which is the mind's feeling of its own unity. Hence in a family ones state of mind is to have self consciousness as one's individuality within this unity as the absolute essence of oneself, with the result that one is in it not as an independent person but as a member. (135-136)

3.        The task of conducting the individual mind from its unscientific standpoint to that of science had to be undertaken in its general sense; we had to contemplate the formative development of the universal individual, of self conscious spirit. As to the relation between these two [the particular and general individual], every moment as it gains a concrete form and its own proper shape and appearance, finds a place in the life of the universal individual. The particular individual is an incomplete mind. (142)


Evaluation of Hegel's

1.        In like manner [to the birth of a child] the spirit of the time, growing slowly and quietly ripe for the new form it is to assume, disintegrates one fragment after another of the structure of the previous world. ... This gradual crumbling to pieces ... is interrupted by the sunrise, which, in a flash and at a single stroke, brings to view the form and structure of the new world. (141)

·         Objective Idealism

o        contrast Berkelyan Subjective Idealism

o        the spirit of the time/culture thinks through us1

·         Historicism

o        history is the progress of the World-Spirit

o        toward greater & greater self-awareness

o        by fits and starts3

o        through more inclusive forms of organization2

·         Collectivism

o        collectives are higher order subjects 

o        individual is fulfilled by assimilation in the greater being of the state4 

2.        Since in this independence [of the State] the being-for-self of real spirit has its existence, it is the first freedom and highest honor of a people. (in Russell: 741)

3.        War has the higher significance that through it the moral health of peoples is preserved in their indifference towards the stabilizing of finite determinations. (in Russell: 741)

4.       The particular individual is incomplete mind.


W. T. Stace’s Outline of Hegel’s System (abridged)

Idea in itself, Logic

Idea Outside Itself, Nature

Idea in and for Itself, Spirit


·         Quality

·          Being

o         Being

o         Nothing

o        Becoming

·         Determinate being

·        Being for self

·        Quantity

·        Measure


·         Space and Time

·         Space

·         Time

·         Motion

·         Matter and Motion - Finite Mechanics

·         Absolute Mechanics

·         Gravitation

·         The Solar System

·        Transition to Physics

Subjective Spirit

·         Anthropology - The Soul

·        Phenomenology – Consciousness

·         Consciousness Proper

·         Self-consciousness

·        Reason

·        Psychology – Mind

·         Theoretical Mind

·         Practical Mind

·         Free Mind



Objective Sprit


·         The Subjective Notion

·         The Object, or Objective Notion

·        The Idea


·        The Terrestrial Organism

·         The Vegetable Organism

·        The Animal Organism

Absolute Spirit

·        Art

·        Religion

·        Philosophy