Hegel’s Lectures on the History of Philosophy


IF we cast a glance back over the period just traversed, we find that in it a turning-point had been reached, that the Christian religion had placed its absolute content in the mind and will of man, and that it was thus, as a divine and supersensuous content, separated from the world and shut up within itself in the centre-point of the individual. Over against the religious life an external world stood as a natural world - a world of heart or feeling, of desire, of human nature - which had value only in as far as it was overcome. This mutual independence of the two worlds had much attention bestowed on it throughout the Middle Ages; the opposition was attacked on all quarters and in the end overcome. But since the relation of mankind to the divine life exists upon earth, this conquest at first presented the appearance of bringing with it the destruction of the church and of the eternal through the sensuous desires of man. The eternal truth was likewise grafted upon the dry, formal understanding, so that we might say that the separation of self-consciousness has in itself disappeared, and thereby a possibility has been given of obtaining reconciliation. But because this implicit union of the Beyond and the Here was of so unsatisfactory a nature that the better feelings were aroused and forced to turn against it, the Reformation made its appearance, partly, no doubt, as a separation from the Catholic Church, but partly as a reformation from within. There is a mistaken idea that the Reformation only effected a separation from the Catholic Church; Luther just as truly reformed the Catholic Church, the corruption of which one learns from his writings, and from the reports of the emperors and of the empire to the Pope; if further evidence be required, we need only read the accounts given even by the Catholic bishops, the Fathers of the councils at Constance, Basle, &c., of the condition of the Catholic priesthood and of the Roman Court. The principle of the inward reconciliation of spirit, which was in itself the very Idea of Christianity, was thus again estranged, and appeared as a condition of external, unreconciled alienation and discord; this gives us an example of the slow operation of the world-spirit in overcoming this externality. It eats away the inward substance, but the appearance, the outward form, still remains; at the end, however, it is an empty shell, the new form breaks forth. In such times this spirit appears as if it - having so far proceeded in its development at a snail's pace, and having even retrograded and become estranged from itself - had suddenly adopted seven-leagued boots.

Since thus the reconciliation of self-consciousness with the present is implicitly accomplished, man has attained to confidence in himself and in his thought, in sensuous nature outside of and within him; he has discovered an interest and pleasure in making discoveries both in nature and the arts. In the affairs of this world the understanding developed; man became conscious of his will and his achievements, took pleasure in the earth and its soil, as also in his occupations, because right and understanding were there present. With the discovery of gunpowder the individual passion of battle was lost. The romantic impulse towards a casual kind of bravery passed into other adventures, not of hate or revenge, or the so-called deliverance from what men considered the wrongs of innocence, but more harmless adventures, the exploration of the earth, or the discovery of the passage to the East Indies. America was discovered, its treasures and people - nature, man himself; navigation was the higher romance of commerce. The present world was again present to man as worthy of the interests of mind; thinking mind was again capable of action. Now the Reformation of Luther had inevitably to come - the appeal to the sensus communis which does not recognize the authority of the Fathers or of Aristotle, but only the inward personal spirit which quickens and animates, in contradistinction to works. In this way the Church lost her power against it, for her principle was within it and no longer lacking to it. To the finite and present due honour is accorded; from this honour the work of science proceeds. We thus see that the finite, the inward and outward present, becomes a matter of experience, and through the understanding is elevated into universality; men desire to understand laws and forces, i.e., to transform the individual of perceptions into the form of universality. Worldly matters demand to be judged of in a worldly way; the judge is thinking understanding. The other side is that the eternal, which is in and for itself true, is also known and comprehended through the pure heart itself; the individual mind appropriates to itself the eternal. This is the Lutheran faith without any other accessories - works, as they were called. Everything had value only as it was grasped by the heart, and not as a mere thing. The content ceases to be an objective thing; God is thus in spirit alone, He is not a beyond but the truest reality of the individual.

Pure thought is likewise one form of inwardness; it also approaches absolute existence and finds itself justified in apprehending the same. The philosophy of modern times proceeds from the principle which ancient philosophy had reached, the standpoint of actual self-consciousness - it has as principle the spirit that is present to itself; it brings the standpoint of the Middle Ages, the diversity between what is thought and the existent universe, into opposition, and it has to do with the dissolution of this game opposition. The main interest hence is, not so much the thinking of the objects in their truth, as the thinking and understanding of the objects, the thinking this unity itself, which is really the being conscious of a pre-supposed object. The getting rid of the formal culture of the logical understanding and the monstrosities of which it was composed, was more essential than the extension of it: investigation in such a case becomes dissipated and diffused, and passes into the false infinite. The general points of view which in modern philosophy we reach are hence somewhat as follows : —

1. The concrete form of thought which we have here to consider on its own account, really appears as subjective with the reflection of implicitude, so that this has an antithesis in existence; and the interest is then altogether found in grasping the reconciliation of this opposition in its highest existence, i.e., in the most abstract extremes. This highest severance is the opposition between thought and Being, the comprehending of whose unity from this time forward constitutes the interest of all philosophies. Here thought is more independent, and thus we now abandon its unity with theology; it separates itself therefrom, just as with the Greeks it separated itself from mythology, the popular religion, and did not until the time of the Alexandrians seek out these forms again and fill the mythological conceptions with the form of thought. The bond remains, but for this reason it is clearly implicit: theology throughout is merely what philosophy is, for this last is simply thought respecting it. It does not help theology to strive against philosophy, or to say that it wishes to know nothing about it, and that philosophic maxims are thus to be set aside. It has always to do with the thought that it brings along with it, and these its subjective conceptions, its home and private metaphysics, are thus frequently a quite uncultured, uncritical thought - the thought of the street. Theme general conceptions are, indeed, connected with particular subjective conviction, and this last is said to prove the Christian content to be true in a sense all its own; but theme thoughts which constitute the criterion are merely the reflections and opinions which float about the surface of the time. Thus, when thought comes forth on its own account, we thereby separate ourselves from theology; we shall, however, consider one other in whom both are still in unity. This individual is Jacob Boehme, for since mind now moves in its own domains, it is found partly in the natural and finite world, and partly in the inward, and this at first is the Christian.

While earlier than this, moreover, the spirit, distracted by outward things, had to make its influence felt in religion and in the secular life, and came to be known in the popular philosophy so-called, it was only in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries that the genuine Philosophy re-appeared, which seeks to grasp the truth as truth because man in thought is infinitely free to comprehend himself and nature, and along with that seeks to understand the present of rationality, reality, universal law itself. For this is ours, since it is subjectivity. The principle of modern philosophy is hence not a free and natural thought, because it has the opposition of thought and nature before it as a fact of which it is conscious. Spirit and nature, thought and Being, are the two infinite sides of the Idea, which can for the first time truly make its appearance when its sides are grasped for themselves in their abstraction and totality. Plato comprehended it as the bond, as limiting and as infinite, as one and many, simple and diverse, but not as thought and Being; when we first thinkingly overcome this opposition it signifies comprehending the unity. This is the standpoint of philosophic consciousness generally; but the way in which this unity must be thinkingly developed is a double one. Philosophy, hence falls into the two main forms in which the opposition is resolved, into a realistic and an idealistic system of philosophy, i.e., into one which makes objectivity and the content of thought to arise from the perceptions, and one which proceeds to truth from the independence of thought.

a. Experience constitutes the first of these methods, viz. Realism. Philosophy now signified, or had as its main attribute, self-thought and the acceptance of the present as that in which truth lay, and which was thereby knowable. All that is speculative is pared and smoothed down in order to bring it under experience. This present is the existent external nature, and spiritual activity as the political world and as subjective activity. The way to truth was to begin from this hypothesis, but not to remain with it in its external self-isolating actuality, but to lead it to the universal.

i. The activities of that first method operate, to begin with, on physical nature, from the observation of which men derive universal laws, and on this basis their knowledge is founded; the science of nature, however, only reaches to the stage of reflection. This kind of experimental physics was once called, and is still called philosophy, as Newton's Principia philosophiæ naturalis (Vol. I. p. 59) show. This work is one in which the methods of the finite sciences through observation and deduction are alone present - those sciences which the French still call the sciences exactes. To this, the understanding of the individual, piety was opposed, and hence in this respect philosophy was termed worldly wisdom (Vol. I. p. 60). Here the Idea in its infinitude is not itself the object of knowledge; but a determinate content is raised into the universal, or this last in its determinateness for the understanding is derived from observation, just as is, for instance, done in Keppler's Laws. In Scholastic philosophy, on the other hand, man's power of observation was set aside, and disputations respecting nature at that time proceeded from abstruse hypotheses.

ii. In the second place, the spiritual was observed as in its realization it constitutes the spiritual world of states, in order thus to investigate from experience the rights of individuals as regards one another, and as regards rulers, and the rights of states against states. Before this popes anointed kings, just as was done in Old Testament times to those appointed by God; it was in the Old Testament that the tithe was commanded; the forbidden degrees of relationship in marriage were also adopted from the Mosaic laws. What was right and permissible for kings was demonstrated from Saul's and David's histories, the rights of priesthood from Samuel - in short, the Old Testament was the source of all the principles of public law, and it is in this way even now that all papal bulls have their deliverances confirmed. It may easily be conceived how much nonsense was in this manner concocted. Now, however, right was sought for in man himself, and in history, and what had been accounted right both in peace and in war was explained. In this way books were composed which even now are constantly quoted in the Parliament of England. Men further observed the desires which could be satisfied in the state and the manner in which satisfaction could be given to them, in order thus from man himself, from man of the past as well as of the present, to learn what is right.

b. The second method, that of Idealism, proceeds from what is inward; according to it everything is in thought, mind itself is all content. Here the Idea itself is made the object; that signifies the thinking it and from it proceeding to the determinate. What Realism draws from experience is now derived from thought à priori; or the determinate is also comprehended but not led back to the universal merely, but to the Idea.

The two methods overlap one another, however, because experience on its side desires to derive universal laws from observations, while, on the other side, thought proceeding from abstract universality must still give itself a determinate content; thus a priori and a posteriori methods are mingled. In France abstract universality was the more predominant; from England experience took its rise, and even now it is there held in the greatest respect; Germany proceeded from the concrete Idea, from the inwardness of mind and spirit.

2. The questions of present philosophy, the opposites, the content which occupies the attention of these modern times, are as follows: —

a. The first form of the opposition which we have already touched upon in the Middle Ages is the Idea of God and His Being, and the task imposed is to deduce the existence of God, as pure spirit, from thought. Both sides must be comprehended through thought as absolute unity; the extremest opposition is apprehended as gathered into one unity. Other subjects which engage our attention are connected with the same general aim, namely, the bringing about of the inward reconciliation in the opposition which exists between knowledge and its object.

b. The second form of opposition is that of Good and Evil - the opposition of the assertion of independent will to the positive and universal; the origin of evil must be known. Evil is plainly the "other," the negation of God as Holiness; because He is, because He is wise, good, and at the same time almighty, evil is contradictory to Him; an endeavour is made to reconcile this contradiction.

c. The third form of opposition is that of the freedom of man and necessity.

i. The individual is clearly not determined in any other way than from himself, he is the absolute beginning of determination; in the 'I,' in the self, a power of decision is clearly to be found. This freedom is in opposition to the theory that God alone is really absolutely determining. Further, when that which happens is in futurity, the determining of it through God is regarded as Providence and the foreknowledge of God. In this, however, a new contradiction is involved, inasmuch as because God's knowledge is not merely subjective, that which God knows likewise is.

ii. Further still, human freedom is in opposition to necessity as the determinateness of nature; man is dependent on nature, and the external as well as the inward nature of man is his necessity as against his freedom.

iii. Considered objectively, this opposition is that between final causes and efficient causes, i.e., between the acts of freedom and the acts of necessity.

iv. This opposition between the freedom of man and natural necessity has finally likewise the further form of community of soul and body, of commercium animi cum corpore, as it has been called, wherein the soul appears as the simple, ideal, and free, and the body as the manifold, material and necessary.

These matters occupy the attention of science, and they are of a completely different nature from the interests of ancient philosophy. The difference is this, that here there is a consciousness of an opposition, which is certainly likewise contained in the subjects with which the learning of the ancients was occupied, but which had not come to consciousness. This consciousness of the opposition, this 'Fall,' is the main point of interest in the conception of the Christian religion. The bringing about in thought of the reconciliation which is accepted in belief, now constitutes the whole interest of knowledge. Implicitly it has come to pass; for knowledge considers itself qualified to bring about in itself this recognition of the reconciliation. The philosophic systems are therefore no more than modes of this absolute unity, and only the concrete unity of those opposites is the truth.

3. As regards the stages which were reached in the progress of this knowledge we have to mention three of the principal.

a. First of all we find the union of those opposites stated; and to prove it genuine attempts are made, though not yet determined in purity.

b. The second stage is the metaphysical union; and here, with Descartes, the philosophy of modern times as abstract thought properly speaking begins.

i. Thinking understanding seeks to bring to pass the union, inasmuch as it investigates with its pure thought-determinations; this is in the first place the standpoint of metaphysics as such.

ii. In the second place, we have to consider negation, the destruction of this metaphysics - the attempt to consider knowledge on its own account, and the determinations which proceed from it.

c. The third stage is that this union itself which is to be brought about, and which is the only subject of interest, comes to consciousness and becomes an object. As principle the union has the form of the relationship of knowledge to the content, and thus this question has been put: 'How is, and how can thought be identical with the objective?' With this the inward element which lies at the basis of this metaphysic is raised into explicitude and made an object; and this includes all modern philosophy in its range.

4. In respect to the external history and the lives of the philosophers, it will strike us that from this time on, these appear to be very different from those of the philosophers of ancient times, whom we regarded as self-sufficing individualities. It is required that a philosopher should live as he teaches, that he should despise the world and not enter into connection with it; this the ancients have accomplished, and they are such plastic individualities just because the inward spiritual aim of philosophy has likewise frequently determined their external relations and conditions. The object of their knowledge was to take a thoughtful view of the universe; they kept the external connection with the world all the further removed from themselves because they did not greatly approve of much therein present; or, at least, it ever proceeds on its way, according to its own particular laws, on which the individual is dependent. The individual likewise participates in the present interests of external life, in order to satisfy his personal ends, and through them to attain to honour, wealth, respect, and distinction; the ancient philosophers, however, because they remained in the Idea, did not concern themselves with things that were not the objects of their thought. Hence with the Greeks and Romans the philosophers lived in an independent fashion peculiar to themselves, and in an external mode of life which appeared suitable to and worthy of the science they professed; they conducted themselves independently as private persons, unfettered by outside trammels, and they may be compared to the monks who renounced all temporal goods.

In the Middle Ages it was chiefly the clergy, doctors of theology, who occupied themselves with philosophy. In the transition period the philosophers showed themselves to be in an inward warfare with themselves and in an external warfare with their surroundings, and their lives were spent in a wild, unsettled fashion.

In modern times things are very different; now we no longer see philosophic individuals who constitute a class by themselves. With the present day all difference has disappeared; philosophers are not monks, for we find them generally in connection with the world, participating with others in some common work or calling. They live, not independently, but in the relation of citizens, or they occupy public offices and take part in the life of the state. Certainly they may be private persons, but if so, their position as such does not in any way isolate them from their other relationship. They are involved in present conditions, in the world and its work and progress. Thus their philosophy is only by the way, a sort of luxury and superfluity. This difference is really to be found in the manner in which outward conditions have taken shape after the building up of the inward world of religion. In modern times, namely, on account of the reconciliation of the worldly principle with itself, the external world is at rest, is brought into order - worldly relationships, conditions, modes of life, have become constituted and organized in a manner which is conformable to nature and rational. We see a universal, comprehensible connection, and with that individuality likewise attains another character and nature, for it is no longer the plastic individuality of the ancients. This connection is of such power that every individuality is under its dominion, and yet at the same time can construct for itself an inward world. The external has thus been reconciled with itself in such a way that both inward and outward may be self-sufficing and remain independent of one another; and the individual is in the condition of being able to leave his external side to external order, while in the case of those plastic forms the external could only be determined entirely from within. Now, on the contrary, with the higher degree of strength attained by the inward side of the individual, he may hand the external over to chance; just as he leaves clothing to the contingencies of fashion, not considering it worth while to exert his understanding upon it. The external he leaves to be determined by the order which is present in the particular sphere in which his lot is cast. The circumstances of life are, in the true sense, private affairs, determined by outward conditions, and do not contain anything worthy of our notice. Life becomes scholarly, uniform, commonplace, it connects itself with outwardly given relationships and cannot represent or set itself forth as a form pertaining only to itself. Man must not take up the character of showing himself an independent form, and giving himself a position in the world created by himself. Because the objective power of external relationships is infinitely great, and for that reason the way in which I perforce am placed in them has become a matter of indifference to me, personality and the individual life generally are equally indifferent. A philosopher, it is said, should live as a philosopher, i.e., should be independent of the external relationships of the world, and should give up occupying himself with and troubling himself concerning them. But thus circumscribed in respect of all necessities, more especially of culture, no one can suffice for himself; he must seek to act in connection with others. The modern world is this essential power of connection, and it implies the fact that it is clearly necessary for the individual to enter into these relations of external existence; only a common mode of existence is possible in any calling or condition, and to this Spinoza forms the solitary exception. Thus in earlier times bravery was individual; while modern bravery consists in each not acting after his own fashion, but relying on his connection with others - and this constitutes his whole merit. The calling of philosopher is not, like that of the monks, an organized condition. Members of academies of learning are no doubt organized in part, but even a special calling like theirs sinks into the ordinary commonplace of state or class relationships, because admission thereinto is outwardly determined. The real matter is to remain faithful to one's aims.


Hegel-by-HyperText Home Page @ marxists.org