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“In a constitution, the key is the self-development of the reasonable, that is, the political condition,” not rule by terror. Hegel provides the example of building a house. Empiricism has nothing to tell us about morality, which governs “the right or wrong use of [human] freedom.” Kant then proceeds to formulate a non-Biblical, non-natural-rights based morality on the principle of the “categorical imperative.”. Europe has three sections: southern Europe, along the Mediterranean, where “Greece and Italy long presented the theater of the world history”; “the heart of Europe, which Caesar unlocked by when conquering Gaul,” a more productive achievement than the Eastern conquests of Alexander; and the northeastern region, consisting of Poland, Russia and the Slavonic kingdoms, which have “come only lately into the series of historical states, and form and perpetuate the connection with Asia.”. Thus, the Hegelian conception of spirit as involved in a relentless struggle with itself and with what it had created underwent a revolutionary transformation, explosive in its implications. There is, however, nothing to suggest that Hegel would have endorsed anything like the particular kind of liberalism prevalent in modern society. All rights reserved. Note: This is the first of a series of five essays on Hegel’s Lectures. This is why the French revolutionaries were so foolish to model themselves on the ancient Greek and Roman democrats and republicans, and why modern absolute monarchs were foolish to model themselves on the Oriental despots of Turkey and China. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2019. Like Hegel, Marx adopted a “directional” view of history; but, whereas Hegel had tended to exhibit it as representing the unfolding in time of an inner spiritual principle, Marx looked elsewhere for the ultimate determinants of its course and character. It may be to correct this possible misapprehension that he now brings us down to earth, that is, to geography. It is crucial however that Hegel does not mean by ‘freedom’ merely the unrestricted ability to do whatever we like: in the Philosophy of Right (1820) Hegel calls that type of freedom ‘negative freedom’ and says it’s an intellectually immature way to understand freedom. That is, Hegel ‘historicizes’ philosophy, including political philosophy. This misconception has often been accompanied by the accusation that Hegel sought to impose his own metaphysical scheme onto the historical facts, to conform them to his theory. As always, Hegel esteems synthesis as the higher ground. As Hegel puts it in the Phenomenology of Spirit (1807), spirit is the “ethical life of a nation.” For Hegel, then, there is rational progress in history only in so far as there is progress of the self-consciousness of the spirit of the world through human culture in terms of the consciousness of freedom. The suggestion that there is something essentially mistaken in the endeavour to comprehend the course of history “naturalistically” and within an explanatory framework deriving from scientific paradigms was powerfully reinforced by conceptions stemming from the development of German idealism in the 19th century. In the beginning, Hegel remarks, we must understand that what we call a final goal, as “the nature and concept of spirit,” is only “general and abstract.” Principle is “something inward”; it exists in our thoughts, in our intention, “but not yet in reality.” To make a principle or purpose real, actual, we must introduce “a second element,” that of “the will, the activity of man in the widest sense. It has, however, more than one aspect, and it would be an error to identify its underlying methodology with that associated with Comtean positivism. The aim of world history is the development of the self-consciousness of spirit, which is the self-consciousness of freedom. “What experience and history teach is this—that peoples and governments never have learned anything from history, or acted on the teaching to be drawn from it.” Given the incommensurability of one Zeitgeist with another—one Zeitgeist being “a condition of things so strictly idiosyncratic” as to make comparisons both facile and odious—”its conduct must be regulated by considerations connected with itself, and itself alone,” making it “useless to revert to similar circumstances in the past” when seeking guidance in the present. X. Hegel points out that the task of philosophy is not to prophesy or make forecasts. For, like Mercury the spiritual guide, the idea is, in truth, the leader of peoples and of the world; and spirit, the rational and necessitated will of that conductor, is and has been the director of the events of the world’s history. True, “Negroes are enslaved by Europeans and sold to America. Americans might think of Parson Weems’s biography of George Washington.

Hegel’s answer is ingenious. “The great men in question bring” that spirit “to consciousness” among their contemporaries. Reason as Hegel understands it can do so, Hegel asserts.

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