Biography of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831)

Georg Hegel.

German philosopher. It is the largest representative of the idealism in Germany. The system developed at maturity (absolute idealism), understood as a unitary organization of special philosophical disciplines, covers all fields of knowledge in a great synthesis that has never again repeated, and is presented as the heir of the kernel of truth of all preceding philosophical positions of Western thought.

Life and works

Born into a de-marginalise family, Hegel was formed at the Protestant Seminary of Tübingen. There he met Schelling and Hoderlin, fellow students. The origin of his reflection is Kant's moral and religious philosophy. After his PhD in 1793, it was used as a preceptor in Bern, and afterwards in Frankfurt. The writings of these years, largely fragmentary, were published in 1907 under the title young theological writings. The main ones are: sketches on religion and love, life of Jesus, the positivity of the Christian religion, the spirit of Christianity and its fate and Republican fragments. In 1801, at the invitation of Schelling, he moved to Jena, the most important cultural center of Germany at that time. There he taught until 1807. He left Jena when the city was occupied by Napoleon, and in 1808 he was appointed rector and Professor of philosophy at the Gymnasium in Nuremberg. This educational activity is collected in the title of philosophical Propedeutica. But meanwhile Hegel was devoted to his greatest work, the science of logic, which was published in three volumes between 1812 and 1816. In this same year he was called to take up the philosophical Chair at the University of Heidelberg, where he published the complete exhibition of its system in the encyclopedia of the philosophical Sciences (1817). From the year 1818 until his death, he taught in Berlin, where he had been prestigious Chair of Fichte. His last great work philosophy of law was published in 1821. Immediately after his death, the students published their lessons on the philosophy of world history, aesthetics, philosophy of religion and history of philosophy lessons.

Hegel and his time

Hegel always maintained a close relationship with the historical events of his time. At the beginning of the French Revolution, and under the influence of Rousseau, he considered the ciudades-republica of the ancient Greece as a model of harmonious society, characterized by the patriotic spirit and by a popular non-dogmatic religion. In its origins, the aspiration of Hegel is illustrated: the liberation of mankind from a past of political oppression (Roman Empire) and religious (Christianity). Later, in the years of Jena and Frankfurt, he took a realistic attitude in politics and reconciliation with Christianity. This change occurred by the appreciation of the work of Napoleon, which was destroying the heavy waste of feudalism, and the discovery of modern political economy (particularly A. Smith), which gave him an optimistic idea of development in the bourgeois sense of contemporary society, so much that he came to consider his time as the beginning of a historical stagein whose realization also philosophy should collaborate. From the critique Kant and Fichte, soon separated from Schelling, apropos of the conception of the absolute. From 1815, Hegel will be presented as a defender of the Prussian monarchy, whereas her carrier of reason and authentic freedom. The philosophy leaves then have the mission to proclaim and to prepare a new era, to become a recognition of the positivity of the present.

Phenomenology of spirit

Hegel introduces the phenomenology of spirit as propaedeutics for his philosophical system. Its mission is to accompany the natural consciousness from their degrees more immediate to the knowledge of the absolute knowledge or philosophy. For natural consciousness to rise to speculative point of view it is necessary make this the experience of the inadequacy of the figures of apparent knowledge (hence the term phenomenology) which is performing up to understand the need for the journey through these figures. Only the philosophy includes the meaning total figures in succession, and in this sense the phenomenology of the spirit is like a recapitulation of the experience of humanity, concentrated and reconquered in that form of interaction that is memory. Memory not the individual as such, but the spirit that has already arrived to live in that area of the concept in which knowledge is deployed as a science.

The phenomenology of the spirit includes six sections: consciousness, self-consciousness, reason, spirit, religion, and absolute knowledge. In the first, Hegel criticizes various forms of more or less naive realism, at the time claimed the constitutive function of objectivity, and, therefore thought the function of mediation against the opinion that truth is given by the immediacy. Earlier, in the most basic certainty-sensitive, shows how the here and the now are only significant in relation to the overall structure of space and time, which are trying to locate a thing or an event. Then shows that the relation with other things (being-for-other) is as essential in all things as the relation to herself (being-in-si), opposing the atomism, which privileges the self-identity of the things in the guise of the difference. The awareness section culminates in the construction of the notion of infinity, which allows the passage to the section of self-consciousness. Self-consciousness is presented as the identity of opposites: the I-subject and the I-object are the same I which itself doubles. At the stadium of the reason consciousness is directed living nature as well as his own social world, insist on meet at that and in this concept, or to discover both an objective reason. Then passed to the stadium of the spirit, in which trace an outline of the decisive periods of Western history: from the ancient world until the French Revolution, through the Roman world, the crisis of feudalism and subsequent monarchical absolutism. Then follows the section of religion, which presents Christianity as a form of religion which symbolically expresses the requirement of conciliation between the divine and the human, through the dogma of the God-man.

In the last section, absolute knowledge, Hegel proposes an interpretation in allegorical terms through translation to philosophical terms of the requirement for reconciliation between opposites. With an expression that will enjoy great success, Hegel called alienation to the movement by which the spirit is outside of itself, in nature and in history, as opposed to its being itself, but to finally achieve in itself and for itself, State to overcome its own alienation.

The dialectic

The Idea in its manifestation, is a dialectic development in three phases: affirmation, negation and negation of the negation (correspond to the thesis, antithesis, and synthesis of Fichte although Hegel does not use this terminology. The dialectical development is both logical and ontological: hence that the dialectic of thought correspond, in the dialectic of the real, the phases of: position, contrast and reconciliation, so that the rational is real and the real is rational.

The logic

Equals the science of the Idea in the system of Hegel in his being itself. The logic of Hegel has not, therefore, intended just to know the rules which govern the thinking, but express determinations and laws of thought. At the same time is an ontology and a theodicy.Your logic is divided into three parts: logic of being, logic of the essence and logic of the concept.

The logic of being considered the categories of quality and quantity. Being (thesis), in pure concept, it is indeterminate; Therefore it is identifiable with nothing (antithesis). But we cannot conceive nothing without reference to be. Therefore, rather than exclude each other, they infer each other thus forming the unit which is the future (antithesis). Thus we have the certain existence. Since for Hegel the future is being determined, is that its first representation is the quality: the existing us shown qualitatively, it is something (new thesis). Continuing the process, we see that something makes reference to another (another something), his opponent in the limiter. Where it is clear that beings are locked in a certain amount (new antithesis), without specification of limits. The new synthesis of the quality and quantity will be, indeed, the measure or qualified quantity that sets the limit.

The logic of the essence considered, inter alia, the modal categories (possibility, reality, need) and the categories of the relation (substance, causality, reciprocity). The determination of the idea as happens time: of the determination as essence. Essence is defined therefore as being released himself (the truth of being) in identical relationship with the absolute that is being, with its three dialectic moments: essence as reason for existence, phenomenon and essential reality.

Finally, the logic of the concept considers traditional logical forms (concept, judgment, syllogism), and other determinations of science and metaphysics, as a mechanism, the set of chemical reactions, teleology, the life, the idea of truth and the idea of the good. As a synthesis of overcoming of being and essence arises the concept: the truth of being and essence, which also develops three-phase way in: subjective concept, objective concept and idea.

Philosophy of nature

Hegel called Idea to all rational categories; in reality, the Idea is out, fragmented in the accident. However, should be a fundamental distinction in the real, between nature and spirit: in this last area, represented by the man and his activities, the Idea again, insofar as the spirit is able to perform as absolute. The superiority of the spirit with respect to nature is a statement that Hegel wields not only against materialism, but also against the Romantic exaltation of nature of pantheistic inspiration. However, as a whole, the philosophy of the nature of Hegel is the least original part of your system with respect to the dominant culture in the Germany of the time. Rejection of empiricism, and of the mechanism, which leads Hegel to take party even by animism, extends the rejection of any evolutionary perspective. Nature is prepared according to successive grades (mechanics, physics, agencies). This hierarchy points the way to the spirit, to the exclusion of any development that takes place in time. The way that characterizes the nature is the space, while the time is mere repetition of nature, no novelty or progress. The development of the time, i.e. history, is a privilege of the spirit. But also the spirit is structured according to a series of degrees. In the first (subjective spirit) history has not yet appeared, it will only do so in the second degree (objective spirit).

Philosophy of the spirit

It responds to the last moment of the development of the absolute or Idea. Its externalisation in nature, the Idea returns to itself, is projected onto itself and itself is known, in human thought, as universal spirit. According to the Hegelian dialectical movement, the spirit is manifest in three phases, embodied in: subjective spirit, objective spirit and absolute spirit.

Subjective spirit

Corresponds to the spirit or individual soul (concrete spirit), who having emerged from nature, autoconoce as subject: is the man. The evolutionary process of the subjective spirit conforms to these phases: anthropology, phenomenology and psychology.

Anthropology notes the subjective spirit in the beginning, in the awakening of the natural world, as linked to the body soul. It is a concept of soul next to what the Greeks understood by sensitive soul. Their incipient awakening to consciousness March led by feel, flush with the primary nature. Phenomenology is the step in which the subjective spirit makes it possible to take self-awareness. The identity is already given with itself, but at the phenomenological level. Finally, in the phase of psychology the synthesis of the soul and consciousness generates the spirit as reason, capable of intuition, imagination, memory and reflection, which ends up flowing into the top grade of the subjective spirit: the free spirit.

The objective spirit

The spirit does not remain in its own right. At the end of the last degree of subjectivity, the spirit speaks, or expressed in actual human works, where the laws affirm their existence and defend its stability. This realization of the subjective spirit occurs in three stages or modes of exteriorization: the ethics, morality and the law. This part of the system is developed in Lafilosofia of law.

The absolute spirit

The absolute spirit is the in itself and for itself, unit of the subjective and objective spirit, and, at the same time, the synthesis of nature and spirit. The absolute spirit also runs through three stages: art, religion and philosophy.

Art is the objective exteriorization of the absolute spirit in an intuitive way. Includes also three moments: the idea of beauty in art or the ideal, the deployment of the ideal forms and particular arts system.

Religion, where internalizing are in the form of representation. It is conceived in rational form. The deployment of the religion throughout history also appears to Hegel in three stages: Eastern religions are fed of the infinite; the Greco-Roman, finite; cristina religion is that carry out the synthesis of the finite and the infinite.

Philosophy is the final step of the absolute spirit to its full State. The intuition of the absolute spirit in art, and its representation in the religion, are outweighed by the self-understanding that the absolute, through philosophy, makes itself. This self-consciousness which is philosophy has also had its dialectical development throughout history: old, middle and modern. But this topic, Hegel highlights two important moments: Greek philosophy and Germanic or Christian philosophy. In regards to modern philosophy, the new German philosophy comes to represent the culmination of the historical process of the philosophy. Of course that Hegel believes that its system is the definitive closure that contains, comprehends and exceeds the evolutionary process of thought throughout history.

The legacy of Hegel

Within a few years of the death of Hegel, came a split in your school (Hegelian left and right), with the intent to reform of the doctrine of the master of one and another side. Outside of Germany the hegelismo gained strength in England, in the second half of the last century, to dilute is definitely at the beginning of century. Liberals and Democrats of countries that fought for their political independence, such as Russia (V. Belinski, A. Herzen, Bakunin) and Italy (B. Spaventa, f. de Sanctis) appropriated it is for your cause. The neoidealismo of G. Gentile, and B. Croce will be developed in Italy. Hegel studies gained new momentum with the publication, in 1907, of his youth, hitherto unpublished writings. The fervor that sparked reached countries hitherto unrelated to Hegel, as France. Another element that has dominated the debate on Hegel was Marxism, which has been present since its inception thanks to the philosophical notebooks of Lenin, and other important studies.


ARTOLA, j.: Hegel. Philosophy as a return, Madrid, 1972.

BLOCH, e.: The thought of Hegel, Mexico, 1978.

FINDLEY, j.: Re-examination of Hegel, Barcelona, 1968.

GEORG GADAMER, H.: The dialectic of Hegel, Madrid, 1981.

KAUFMANN, w.: Hegel, Madrid, 1968.