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Is Hegels' Philosphy Of History Valid?

2520 words - 10 pages

The question as to whether Hegel's Philosophy of History is valid has been a widely debated topic amongst Philosophers, Historians and many more since his death in 1831. From beginning to end, the Lectures on the Philosophy of History have been under critical scrutiny from a variety of interpretations. Joseph Mc Carney acknowledges the failure of Hegel's Philosophy of History to preserve itself as a coherent entity, "from the mid 1930's it began to split into 'Old' or 'Right' Hegelians, 'Young' or 'Left' Hegelians and an embattled 'center.'" (Mc Carney, 4: 2000) In addition, Hegel's Philosophy of History is described as being very diverse and vague in that almost anything can be made of it "the thing itself was not supposed to enter into knowledge." (Houtledge, 216:1998) In this essay, I will examine what I consider the central elements of Hegel's Philosophy of History with particular concentration at the core of it, the concept of freedom. As well as considering the conflicting interpretations that surround It, I will use Hegel's hypothesis, and my own judgment to make an informed assessment on the validity of Hegel's Philosophy of History.Born in 1770, Hegel grew up observing many significant historical developments such as the Enlightenment and the French Revolution. Similarly he identified with a range of German Romantic Philosophers at the time that shared and influenced his thinking. Hegel was dedicated to the Romantic thesis that Reason governed the universe and that because of this "world history had therefore been rational in its course." (Sibree, 28:1956) Thus the abstract reasoning of the enlightenment was frowned upon by Hegel, for he believed that historical reason and evolution embodied a rational purpose.Hegel claims that history, with all its accidents and unforeseeable events obeys a particular logic, the 'idea' as he calls it, and that from the dawn of time people have been on a journey of intellectual reflection and self-discovery. The human spirit develops in its consciousness for freedom and as this comes about "the illusion that the world is mad or foolish disappears." (Hegel, 174:1953) For as Hegel makes clear;"Spirit does not toss itself about in the external play of chance occurrences; on the contrary, it is that which determines history absolutely, and it stands firm against that chance occurrences which it dominates and exploits for its own purpose" (Hegel, 176:1953)The Philosophy of History is essentially dialectic as Hegel charts the "unfolding of the spirit" in a teleological manner. (Hegel, 15:1953) The progression of freedom says Hegel can only "be realized through the state" which records a structure of thought "sufficient to enable intellectual progress, in increasing awareness of, and therefore progress from, the past... our social and political awareness is essentially dialectical." (Pelczynski, 190:1971 and Hampsher-Monk, 478:1992)The system, for Hegel, begins with an existing element, the thesis, which...

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