Comprehensive Essay on Hegel’s Philosophy of History

The second stage in this process is the organic world- animals, plants etc. This stage is an improvement on the earlier stage. The third stage is the evolution of human beings. Each stage is more complicated than the previous stage. The evolution of human beings marks a qualitatively higher stage because the human beings are rational agents capable of distinguishing between good and bad.

The fourth stage marks the evolution of family system. In addition to rational element it involves mutual cooperation and accommodation. The fifth stage marks the evolution of Civil Society. Here economic interdependence is the main feature in addition to mutual cooperation and accommodation.

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The last and highest stage witnesses the evolution; of the State, which represents a perfect moral order. Hegel argues that family symbolises unity; civil society symbolises particularity and the state symbolises universality. The unity of the family, particularity of the civil society is realised with the appearance of the state as the actuality of the universal order.

Both the family and civil society are to some degree rational but only the state is perfectly rational and perfectly ethical. In short, the evolutionary process passes through the following stages and each successive stage is a distinct improvement on the predecessor stages:

Inorganic world organic world human beings family civil society State. It should be noted that with the help of the above argument, Hegel tried to solve the basic problem about the relationship between matter and Spirit. He did so by arguing that matter is only a manifestation of Spirit in its crude form. Matter is not only a negation of Spirit but also the conscious realisation of Spirit.

The second important dimension of Hegel’s philosophy of history is the doctrine of historicism. It is difficult to explain this doctrine. Broadly speaking, historicism is a doctrine, which holds that the whole course of history is predetermined course. The human intervention or human effort can be effective only if it falls in line with the dialectical direction of the world history.

Like-the stoic God history leads the wise man and drags the fool. The third major dimension of Hegel’s philosophy of history is the use of Aristotelian teleology. According to it everything in the world is moving towards the realisation of its end, its true nature. From the point of view of the human actors, history is a union of irony and tragedy; from the point of view of the whole it is a cyclic.

When we look at Hegel’s philosophy of history in its totality we can say that it is an attempt to synthesise Kant’s and Herder’s philosophies of history. Kant advocated scientific understanding of history, While Herder emphasised the place of feelings and speculation. In this sense Hegel’s philosophy of history is speculative reason.

For Hegel the world history exhibits the development of the consciousness of freedom on the part of Spirit. Hegel actually applies his philosophy of history when he says that in the oriental world (China etc) there was despotism and slavery and freedom was confined only to the monarch.

But in Greek and Roman civilisations although slavery was there, yet the citizens enjoyed freedom. In Europe, particularly in Germany, there is emphasis on liberty for all and infinite worth of each individual is recognised. The world history thus consists of definite ‘stages of progression Oriental, Greek, Roman and Germanic.

In short, Hegel’s philosophy of history consists of two parts: (i) the general pattern and (ii) various stages in this general pattern. Finally, Hegel’s philosophy of history talks of doctrine of moving forces in historical change. He argues that Reason’s great design can be carried out with the help of human passions.

Certain great men (like Caesar or Alexander) are chosen as instruments of destiny. Such men are necessary if the plot of history is to be carried out. This amounts to

Saying that ideas are important but there must be will exalted than in Hobbes. Hobbes at least grants to the power to implement them.

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