Georg Friedrich Wilhelm Hegel: Dialectic and ‘Geist’

In taking Immanuel Kant‘s mind-ordered world from the human level to the cosmic one, 19th century German philosopher Georg F W Hegel created a ‘total system’ into which all past, present, and future experience and thought fit together rationally in an encompassing dialectic that is constantly evolving toward supreme self-consciousness, or ‘Absolute Spirit’. Here Australian philosopher Peter Singer (in his pre bio-ethics avatar, when he was professor of philosophy at the Monash University) discusses the essentials of Hegelian thought and its influence. Hegel’s writings, are, of course famously, notoriously difficult to decipher – leaning into territory that may distinctly be identified as pedantic, pompous, and obscurantist. By the end of the 19th century, most academic philosophers of any stature were ‘Hegelians’, which is to say they embraced, theoretically, the notion of ‘Change’, accepted ‘Strife’ as essential to ‘Progress’, saw things as ‘Parts of a Whole’ and themselves as characters in the ‘Unfolding of History’, and argued dialectically. Chief among the left wing ‘young Hegelians’ was Karl Marx, whose Marxism was born out of the pages and writings of Georg F W Hegel. Needless to say, Hegel’s far reaching influence on, not only philosophy but also theology, politics, law, economics and other spheres, make him one of the most influential thinkers from the past centuries. Hegel’s far reaching ideas about ‘dialectics’, rationality, organic society, reality as a historical process, and the notion of freedom with the underlying premise that we cannot be free unless we control our destiny and realize our own power, render him perpetually relevant.

Hegel and Marx - Bryan Magee Series of The Great Philosophers


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