Saturday, March 24, 2012

Hegel:  Introduction To The Philosophy of History.

This work would be more accurately named "Introduction To A Collection Of Speculations Regarding History". Hegel is all over the temporal and spacial map with this work so that it is essentially impossible to know what Hegel was really thinking.  I will make a few general observations keeping this caveat in mind.

Hegel begins by asserting that history is too varied and historians too sloppy to provide any hope of extracting generalized lessons.  It I accept this, I am immediately drawn to questioning the title of the work.  Philosophy means "Love of Wisdom".  And what is a generalized lesson, other than a gem of wisdom?  It would seem to me that he is incoherent from the starting point, but we will just note this and move on.

Next Hegel moves into discussions of Providence and a generalized plan of everything according to some higher wisdom.  The classical Greeks talked of society moving in cycles.  Hegel asserts that nature moves in cycles, but the motivations of man cause things to move in a different mode.  It seems to me that his notion is roughly a Christian notion of God working a plan through history, but others have asserted that Hegel is speaking of an evolutionary model.

The later portions emphasize "Geist", which means soul or spirit.  Perhaps it is more like Aristotle's "Anima".  Not quite sure.  Hegel talks of a Geist for the individual, but also a Geist for nations in which the spirit of the community is a composition of the spirit of the individuals who make up that community. There is nothing too peculiar here.  Hegel asserts that the end goal of history is freedom, and that the Geist is defined by freedom.  This is a point where I start to take issue because Christianity teaches that souls can be enslaved and that freedom of the Geist is only possible by God's intervention through Jesus Christ. Hegel claims to be Christian, so this oversight seems problematic.

Along the way Hegel gets into many little peculiar observations that don't seem to build into a coherent whole.  For example,  Hegel gives much attention to the similarities between German (via Latin and Greek) and Sanskrit.  He comments on Chinese moral systems, but finds them to be lacking in that they are mere systems of rules (albeit impressive ones), whereas true morality is backed by freedom and moral reasoning.  He then notes that Europeans and Chinese bother to record their history, whereas Indians do not.  The Vedas are compared with Homers works in terms of epic poetry.

After reading this work, I would like to go visit his tomb, kick the coffin, and ask for some more explanations and clarifications.  Some other time.


Delirious said...

This is off subject, but I wanted to share a blog post with you. I am not sure if you follow Euripedes. (It could be that I found his blog through you, I can't remember) But I thought this last post about the screwed thinking of the left was excellent.

Looney said...

Delirious, thanks for the link. It really isn't off topic since Hegel is a stepping stone to Marx and other leftists thinkers of the 19th century, which leads into much of the modern chaos that Euripides comments on.

I don't recall visiting his blog before.

Inklings said...

If you do go to his tomb and kick his coffin, take someone along who will take a picture of that, and post it on your blog, okay? ;0)