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Hegel Philosophy some help needed

I will be writing a paper on Hegel and I was wondering maybe someone could share their thought about:

  • what ideas of Hegel have been refuted?
  • what do you find most interesting in his philosophy ?
  • and is it a good idea to strugle with Hegel?

Hegel Philosophy some help needed

Timuras,<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />


Here are my thoughts on your three questions:


1) What ideas of Hegel have been refuted? The notion of philosophical ideas being "refuted" is an odd one, to my mind. Certainly there are a great many specific arguments, and perhaps even specific positions that have been shown to be so untenable it is hard to imagine them being saved, but when it comes to foundational or fundamental philosophical ideas (which are the important ones), none are ever refuted. I'd say that they may or may not be in favor at a particular time, or have temporarily exhausted their usefulness as analytic tools. But discarded and tossed on the ash heap of intellectual history? I don't think so. Certainly you'll find many contemporary philosophers (particularly English-speaking philosophers) who consider Hegel a bunch of hokum, but that is hardly a refutation of his ideas.


2) What do I find most interesting in his philosophy? Generally, his Idealism, and specifically his interpretation of the nature of consciousness.


3) Is it a good idea to struggle with Hegel? Yes! If for no other reason than Hegel has a powerful and indeed perhaps the most powerful forced affecting all of 19th, 20th and now 21st century Continental philosophy. It would not be too much of an exaggeration to say that all Continental philosophy after Hegel was a reaction to him.





Hegel Philosophy some help needed

Hegel had and has much influence on many philosophers until today. For that reason it is a good idea to read his books. On the other hand Hegels work is very complicated to read.
His triads in thesis, antithesis and sythesis is very popular, but also very often critizised, because this formal system tends to ignore the complexity of aspects and focuses on the main topics. In theory, You can reduce a topic to one point, develop the antithesis etc. Practically this excludes a lot of relevant aspects.
I read the "Elements of the Philosophy of Right", a very interesting book.
But his idea of a telos in history, the idea of a "Geist" in history and his opinion, that the society he lived in is the best society You can think of is surely wrong.
In my very personal opinion Hegel is overestimated, because of the philosophers who included some elements of Hegel in their works (like Marx).
But nevertheless he developed a very interesting philosophy which is worth to read and important because of its reception.

Good luck with Your paper

Hegel Philosophy some help needed
The idea that Hegel's method is thesis-antithesis-synthesis is a cartoon view, and does not at all accurately capture his method. I'd be leery of the other simplifications that are so common when discussing Hegel. Dive into the texts themselves and the serious philosophical literature to find out for yourself.

Hegel Philosophy some help needed
Thank you very much for your answers. I also having by now read his "Philosophy Of Right" think that his critics tend to critisice their own made up caricature of his thought and not Hegel himself.

Hegel Philosophy some help needed

I find Hegel to be one of the most fascinating philosophers.

I agree with Wayne Buck that Hegel's Weltanschauung is far richer than the “cartoon” version one usually finds today-especially in Anglo-American philosophical culture. This is to be expected because Hegel existed in a world that is alien to our own.  Bertrand Russell is a perfect example of the Anglo-American pragmatist who simply could not fathom Hegel and was not afraid to reveal his disgust for Hegel. Hegel was part of a mystical tradition that was very much still alive in Germany and in Continental Europe in his day. It is a tradition that one-raised in the Anglo-American practical Weltanschauung-will find alien. Russell says (in his History of Western Philosophy) that Hegel was THE "most difficult philosopher to understand". This is not so if you have the right background/historcial context.

I think this is the most overlooked aspect of Hegel. One must approach Hegel for what he was: a mystic in the Hermetic Tradition. One must understand the intuitive illumination of the Platonic and Neo-Platonic mystics (theurgy), Meister Exkhart, Ramon Lull, Nicolas of Cusa and the Kabbalah (which was THE hot thing in Germany since the times of Leibniz and Mercurus van Helmot as the brilliant Allison Courdet has documented).

A good place to start is by googling “hegel hermetic”.  Magee and others have written great introductions to the subject.

“Mysticism” and “Hermeticism” have become bad words in philosophy and science (especially in Anglo-American circles) for 150 years. But this is what has obscured Hegel to us. My point is not that Hegel was right. My point is that it is so hard for us to understand Hegel unless we know the world he lived in-a world that has been meticulously eradicated by British Empiricists, American Pragamatists and Logical Positivists.

As far as what has been refuted, I cannot give you a solid answer, but his appeals to what B. Russell says "must have been mystical illuminatin" (History of Western Philosophy) is generally rejected today as "mere poetry" because it lacks the rigor that Husserl was attempting to apply to philosophy.  This is probably the central criticism you will come least in spirit. But the fact that such mysticism and intuitionism has solidified its place in the history of philosophy is so fascinating in itself. Hegel and our current zeitgiest are so distant that bridging the gap will take you on an incredible journey through the history of ideas.

Hegel is a struggle unless you have the historical context and are well versed in the underground history of occultism that influenced his thought. WHen well versed, his systemization of many of those ideas is obvious.

People always associate Hegel with Marx, but without understanding Hegel, I don't think the works of Frege and Husserl (and even Heidegger to some extent) can be properly framed. I hope i answered all of your questions even if i did not number my responses.


Hegel Philosophy some help needed
Reply to Gary Geck
I am amazed by the interpretation of Hegel's Philosophy that Mr. Gary Geck defends. I also find Hegel one of the most important and influential philosophers in Continental Philosophy, but I disagree with some points relating to its philosophical background.

In this sense, I think that the right way to understand the origin and development of Hegel's Philosophy is as a continuation of Kant's own problematic idealism. The first step towards Hegel's own philosophy is taken by Fichte, who understood his own work as a development of Kant's philosophy, something denied by Kant. The starting point towards it is, I believe, one of the most interesting problems in Kant: the epistemological status of the noumenon, of reality in itself. Whereas Kant still maintains the distinction between it and the phenomenon, Fichte is starting the way towards the assumption of  the noumenon into the phenomenon, and its subsequent negation. Hegel "only" drew the final consequences of this assumption and made a complete system out of it.

This means, for me, that the best way to get into Hegel's philosophy is his first published work: The Phenomenology of Spirit. This book is, in fact, the introduction to his own idealism, and I think the best way to read it and interpret it is considering it as a journey: it describes the Spirit own journey towards his complete self-discovery as Spirit fulfilled in Philosophy (in Hegel's own philosophy). The rest of Hegel's published books - in his lifetime - are actually the development of the system, but once the Spirit has arrived to its proper place.

Thus, the title of the book does not refer to a description of the Spirit in his phenomenological appearance as opposed to its real being. Hegel pretends to guide us through the journey the Spirit himself must make in order to discover himself as Spirit. In this respect, it is interesting to note Hegel's debt to Kant that the title itself encloses. Kant used the word phenomenon to name the epistemological product of the first synthesis between impressions and the a priori forms of sensibility, retaking the tradition that understood the term as phai-noumenon - reality as it appears to someone - as opposed to noumenon - reality in itself. So, for Kant, the Spirit (Transcendental Consciousness) is, in itself, the kind of reality that can only properly be noumenon (see Kant's Doctrine of the Pure Apperception), being a reality of which we cannot get impressions. The same is also true for Hegel and this is his debt to Kant. Hegel's intention is not to defend that Spirit (Geist) is a phenomenon, appearance as opposed to reality, but to describe both the way the Spirit becomes apparent or expresses himself, and the way we get to know those manifestations or phenomena as appearances of the Spirit, which is, at the same time, the way the Spirit gets self-conscious about its own activity.

With all these I am not trying to deny other influences in Hegel's philosophy besides Kant. I am trying to show Hegel's debt to Kant and the Idealist movement that spread in Germany at the end of Kant's life as the key to understand his philosophy.

As for the other questions posed by Mr. Timuras Saakovas, I agree with Mr. Wayne Buck on the problem of deciding what ideas of Hegel has been refuted. I will rather study the way Hegel influenced much of the philosophy that was made after him. In this sense, there are obvious and well-known, as it is the case of Marx, whose philosophy is a rebellion against Hegel Idealist system using many of the elements of that same system. Another interesting case is Nietzsche: I think his critic to Reason as opposed to the Dionysian forces of life have Hegel's Doctrine of the Spirit in the background.

With respect to the Twentieth Century, and besides the philosophers already mentioned, Hegel's influence is specially noted in Neo-Idealism, being a good example Croce's philosophy of art. In Great Britain, there is also an interesting figure that represents the British version of Neo-Idealism, R. G. Collingwood, with contributions to the philosophy of history and of art.


Jose Juan Gonzalez

Hegel Philosophy some help needed

Almost everything from Hegel has been criticised at one moment or another, and almost everything has been vindicated. However, Hegel's philosophy of nature definitley has been refuted. Some would say also that his political philosophy has been aborted for quite a long time.

The most interesting part of his philosophy, in my view, consists of the first part of the Phenomenology of Spirit (up to Reason) and of his Science of Logic (mostly the doctrine of Being and the doctrine of Essence). That is, I find his theory about the cognitive experience of consciousness and his ontology most interesting.

Is it a good idea to struggle with Hegel? Definitely, it is a good idea to struggle with some of Hegel's works.

Hegel Philosophy some help needed
Reply to Gary Geck
People who are interested in the connection that Glenn Magee draws between Hegel and occultism should look at my detailed critique of Magee's account, in chapter 3 of my _Hegel's Philosophy of Reality, Freedom and God_ (Cambridge U. Press, 2005). Briefly, Magee shows convincingly that Hegel sympathizes with some sort of "mysticism." People who've read Hegel's _Encyclopedia of the Phil. Sciences_ with a little care are unlikely to disagree with this thesis. But Magee infers from this that Hegel has rejected what Magee calls "philosophy" and what he also refers to as "rational" thought. This conclusion would follow from the first one only if we could assume that no mysticism deserves to be called philosophy and that no mysticism relies on rational thought. To anyone who is familiar with the Platonic tradition, and especially Plotinus and his successors, these assumptions are very questionable indeed. Plotinus clearly intends to follow Plato's lead in loving wisdom and in rational inquiry. But Plotinus is a mystic in the sense that he thinks the ultimate reality is one, and that we must transcend the apparent differences between us and between us and this ultimate reality. And Plotinus makes a pretty good case that Plato suggested very similar views in famous passages in the Republic, Symposium, etc. Thus Magee begs the question in favor of his second thesis, when he assumes that mysticism is always non-rational, and ignores the immense counterexample of the Platonic tradition. (Not to mention the perhaps equally sophisticated tradition of mystical philosophy in advaita vedanta.)

Plato of course receives great respect in present-day academic philosophy, though not everyone is attracted to his mystical side. Hegel should receive similar respect, for similar reasons.

Bob Wallace

Hegel Philosophy some help needed

Bob Wallace, I am humbled by your analysis.

And I am glad that your bring up Hegel’s Lectures on the History of Philosophy.  It is this work which should, in my opinion, be the first work of Hegel that a student begins with.  My post was an attempt to highlight just how inaccessible Hegel’s world is.  Hegel was many things and a raving mystic is one of them.  Let’s just get that out of the way.  And reading through this work will not only make that clear based on the weight that Hegel gives Cusa, Boehme, Bruno and other mystics, but it will open up the world so foreign to the modern Anglophone of German mysticism for which idealism is its public face. The Hegel's Hist. of Philosophy will give the student an alternative perspective to the one most commonly taught:

Here is a link to the History of Philosophy

I think Spengler summed it all up it best and put this all in context in a footnote on page 365 of The Decline of the West (The tan Knopf 2003 English Edition of Volume I) when he says: “Here we are only considering the scholastic side.  The mystic side, from which Pythagoras and Leibniz were not very far, reached its culminations in Plato and Goethe, and in our own case it has been extended beyond Goethe by the Romantics, Hegel and Nietzsche, where Scholasticism exhausted itself with Kant – and Aristotle – and degenerated thereafter into a routine profession.”  I could not agree with Spengler more…

-Gary Geck

Hegel Philosophy some help needed
Reply to Gary Geck
Dear Gary,

Thanks for your flattering comment. Of course I encourage anyone who shares my interest in the tradition of philosophical mysticism to have a look at my _Hegel's Philosophy of Reality, Freedom, and God_ (Cambridge U. Press, 2005), which shows the great contribution that Hegel makes to that tradition especially in his _Science of Logic_.

As for "raving mystic": true in one sense, not in another. The "madness" that Hegel seems to exhibit is the same "madness" that Plato, Plotinus, Meister Eckhart, and many other (by ordinary standards) sane and competent people endorse. It's a "madness" that goes beyond everyday reason (the "understanding"), rather than falling short of it.

Best regards, Bob Wallace

Hegel Philosophy some help needed


I believe the most fascinating thing about Hegel’s system is the way he uses the dialectic in order to interpret the relation between the subject and the object and construct the stages through which the conscience emerges as a totality. It is very interesting the fact that he begins its dialectical approach by questioning Kant’s thing in itself and completes it by identifying subject with object in a unity that reveals the truth not only about the subject that sees and perceives, but also about the object that can be seen and, therefore, is perceived. 


  I think it would be exciting for someone to explore the process that allowed Hegel to study conscience in depth and shed light to self-conscience, a concept that Kant failed to fully realize and successfully incorporate into his system.

good luck