The philosophy of history - by Friedrich Hegel - PDF ebook

The philosophy of history by Hegel

The philosophy of history By Hegel
Friedrich Hegel

Excerpt from the translator introduction:

Hegel's Lectures on the Philosophy of History are recognized in Germany as a popular introduction to his system; their form is less rigid than the generality of metaphysical treatises, and the illustrations, which occupy a large proportion of the work, are drawn from a field of observation more familiar perhaps, than any other, to those who have not devoted much time to metaphysical studies. 

One great value of the work is that it presents the leading facts of history from an altogether novel point of view. And when it is considered that the writings of Hegel have exercised a marked influence on the political movements of Germany, it will be admitted that his theory of the universe, especially that part which bears directly upon politics, deserves attention even from those who are the most exclusive advocates of the " practical." 

A writer who has established his claim to be regarded as an authority, by the life which he has infused into metaphysical abstractions, has pronounced the work before us, " one of the pleasantest books on the subject he ever read."

And compared with that of most German writers, even the style may claim to be called vigorous and pointed. If therefore in its English dress the " Philosophy of History " should be found deficient in this respect, the fault must not be attributed to the original. 

It has been the aim of the translator to present his author to the public in a really English form, even at the cost of a circumlocution which must sometimes do injustice to the merits of the original. A few words however have necessarily been used in a rather unusual sense, and one of them is of very frequent occurrence. 

The German " Geist," in Hegel's nomenclature, includes both intelligence and will, the latter even more expressly than the former. It embraces in fact man's * Mr G. H. Lewes, in his Biographical History of Philosophy, Vol. IV., Ed. 1841. iii. iv HEGEL's entire mental and moral being and a little reflection will make it obvious that no term in our metaphysical vocabulary could have been well substituted for the more theological one, *' Spirit," as a fair equivalent. 

Whatever view may be entertained as to the origin or importance of those elementary principles, and by whatever general name they may be called — Spontaneous, Primary, or Objective Intelligence — it seems demonstrable that it is in some sense or other to its own belief, its dozen reason or essential being, that imperfect humanity is in bondage; while the perfection of social existence is commonly regarded as deliverance from that bondage. 

In the Hegelian system, this paradoxical condition is regarded as one phase of that antithesis which is presented in all spheres of existence, between the subjective and the objective, but which it is the result of the natural and intellectual processes that constitute the life of the universe, to annul by merging into one absolute existence. And however startling this theory may be as applied to other departments of nature and intelligence, it appears to be no unreasonable formula for the course of civilization, and which is substantial as follows: 

In less cultivated nations, political and moral restrictions are looked upon as objectively posited; the constitution of society, like the world of natural objects, is regarded as something into which a man is inevitably born; and the individual feels himself bound to comply with requirements of whose justice or propriety he is not allowed to judge, though they often severely test his endurance, and even demand the sacrifice of his life. 

In a state of high civilization, on the contrary, through equal self-sacrifice be called for, it is in respect of laws and institutions which are felt to be just and desirable. This change of relation may, without any very extraordinary use of terms, or the extravagance of speculative conceit, be designated the harmonization or reconciliation of objective and subjective intelligence. The successive phases that humanity has assumed in passing from that primitive state of bondage to this condition of rational freedom form the chief subject of the following lectures.

  • Author:Friedrich Hegel
  • Translator: J. Sibree
  • Publication date 1901
  • Company: P. F. COLLIER AND SON

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