Hegel (his full name was Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel) was born at Stuttgart, German, in 1770. He spent most of his childhood in German, at a place called Jena (Singer 1). Some of the major events in Hegel’s life happened during the French Revolution that left a bloody mark on the history and was followed by Napoleon’s rise and fall.
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The other historical events during his time were the Revolution of 1830 and the death of the Holy Roman Empire. These changes brought with them the restructuring of both the social and the political lives and played a critical role in shaping of his thoughts (Luther 95).
By the time Hegel was twenty one years old, the revolutionary armies invaded Germany. This caused the beginning of the Revolutionary Wars. At that time, Germany was made up of over 300 states, free cities and duchies. They were bundled together loosely under the leadership of Francis I of Austria, who then became the leader of the Holy Roman Empire.
When the Revolutionary Wars began under the leadership of Napoleon, the Holy Roman Empire began crumbling down after a thousand years of reign. Hegel was living at Jena at that period. He was impressed by Napoleon’s might- that he believed had led to the fall of the Holy Roman Empire. His admiration for Napoleon would never cease, and even after he was defeated in 1814, Hegel considered it a tragic event (Singer 2).
Besides, several generations of his relatives were preachers in the Protestant Church. As such, Hegel is believed to have cultivated a robust sense of religious identity (Luther 95). Additionally, Hegel was born and brought up in a world composed of an odd and hardly coherent make-up of new and old.
The glaring contrasts between his cultural background, his introduction to Enlightenment both at school and home and the oddities as well as the complexities of the defunct Württemberg influenced his understanding of the world around him as well as development of his identity (Pinkard 2)
Hegel passed away in the year 1839. He had suffered multiple strokes having begun in the summer of 1838 which later caused his death in May 1939. At that time, Hegel was forty two years old (Hoffheimer 9).
Hege’sl Theories and Their Significance
Hegel’s philosophical theories revolved around ethics, freedom and recognition concepts. According to Hegel, the concepts of freedom, recognition and ethics are inextricably bound together. This is in the sense that freedom presupposes and needs recognition. On the other hand, recognition can be defined as the process through which freedom is actualized and also becomes ethical.
Recognition, therefore, was Hegel’s central philosophy of spirit. The inclusion of the critique of egoism and individualism helps to lend actuality in terms of freedom as proposed by Hegel. It also involves the decentralization of the individual subject by the other, which is transformative at the same time (Wood 42).
Even though Hegel concentrated his efforts on discussing freedom, it is imperative to note that Hegel’s autonomous freedom is mediated inter-subjectively. Hegel had the conviction that the true autonomy was achievable only through communion and relation with one another.
The relationship is not contrasted with autonomy as it is rather a requirement of autonomy. Subsequently, for Hegel, genuine autonomy is invariably the kind of autonomy that is mediated. That explains why freedom is shaped by the recognition of self in others (William 7).
Far from that, Hegel’s thought on social mediation of freedom consists of the parochial universality of the family, the ethical criticism, the dissolution of the family competitive, and self-seeking formal individualism that is manifest in the civil society.
Hegel, therefore, proposed that the state was to be comprehended as an institution that was ethical; this principle is premised on critical universalism that is inherent in reciprocal recognition. This means that freedom is an ethical community, which stands for a state. Indeed, the state constitutes the true refusal of slavery and acts of domination (Wood 43).
Hegel propounded the philosophy of right. He believed that there were larger perspectives that could be associated with welfare, and through welfare, certain temporal things, including morality, could draw their meaning. In essence, warfare reminds human beings that specific issues, for instance, morality and individuality can only be comprehended through a larger context. Hegel further observed that some human beings could be sacrificed for a greater good, as long as it was done within certain limits (Fiala 2).
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Influences of Hegel’s Philosophical Ideas
According to Baillie (82), in order to understand the pattern of development that guided Hegel to the philosophical position, which he adopted, and the reasons that motivated him to change his views, it is imperative to consider the philosophical demands that he intended to satisfy. This includes a thorough study of the knowledge in regards to the absolute. Secondly, the system of such knowledge needs to be determined by the inside connections of its contents and thirdly, the nature of that absolute should be apparent to the mind.
According to Hegel, these were the fundamental assumptions that one must have taken into consideration to succeed in satisfying one’s philosophical tasks. Hegel did not set out to prove them from the outset. He rather adopted the only probable proof as an actual realization of those goals through philosophy. These aims were, therefore, crucial in characterizing his distinctive attitude in the field of philosophy which acted as his guiding principles that became the active ingredients in his philosophies (Baillie 87).
Impact of Hegel’s Philosophy on the World at His Time
Baillie notes that there is not much to doubt about the attitude of Hegel during his time and especially towards his contemporaries (72). This is rather clearly reflected through his contributions to the Critical Journal, where the expositions and critical discussion of the contemporary system were published.
It is important, however, to note that Hegel focused more on the very fundamental concepts of the various systems rather than on their detailed contents. Besides, Hegel dealt with the principles in the broad terms providing their general outline, without regard to the special development of the principles (Baillie 72).
Impact of Hegel’s Philosophical Theories on the Future
Hegel influenced three philosophical theories that came up at the onset of the last century and later on were at the center of the philosophical debate. Those philosophies included American pragmatism phenomenological movement and analytic philosophy. Pierce, the founder of American pragmatism, was greatly influenced by Hegel as well as William James and John Dewey, who were American pragmatists (Rockmore 11).
The extensively complex interaction found between later philosophers and Hegel, which is least connected to his theories, is identified in the analytical philosophy. Building on Hegel’s analytical theory, Bernstein concentrates on the action theory. Bernstein sees a subtle continuity existing between the original founders of the analytical school of thought who hailed from Europe and the British idealism that they rebelled against. He notes that Hegel was concerned with human action (Rockmore 11).
Hegel’s view of the relationship between idealism and analytical philosophy is not well recognized by many philosophers. However, Hegel is a prominent figure in at least three crucial approaches to contemporary philosophy. He is a philosopher who called for departure from the Anglo-American analytic philosophy; to whom the last is presently making a critical but selective reference and due to whom the concept has been extensively understood (Rockmore 11).
Hegel’s Influence on Other Philosophers
Hegel’s thoughts influenced other philosophers, such as Marx (Levine 65). Some of Hegel’s ideas were included in Marx’s works, such as Hegel’s logic, philosophy of history and analysis of the modern society. In fact, Marx fruitfully contributed to the history of philosophy as propounded by Hegel and also built on Hegel’s analysis of the modern society up.
However, Marx is claimed to have missed the core of the implications found in Hegel’s work; Marx also failed to accurately interpret the principles behind Hegel’s concepts (Levine 65). Additionally, apart from adopting some of Hegel’s ideas, Marx is accused of failing to develop the concept further as well as contribute to the basic philosophy of Hegel.
Baillie, James B. The Origin and Significance of Hegel’s Logic: A General Introduction to Hegel’s System. New York: Batoche Books, 1999. Print.
Fiala, Andrew. Vanity of Temporal Things: Hegel and the Ethics of War. Studies in the History of Ethics. Fresno: California State University, 2006. Historyofethics.org. Web.
Hoffheimer, Harman M. Eduard Gans and the Hegelian Philosophy of Law. Netherlands, Springer, 1995. Print.
Levine, Norman. Divergent Paths: The Hegelian foundations of Marx’s method. New York : Oxford Lexington Books, 2006. Print.
Luther, Timothy C. Hegel’s Critique of Modernity: Reconciling Individual Freedom and the Community. United Kingdom: Lexington Books, 2010. Print.
Pinkard, Terry. Hegel’s Formation in Old Württemberg. Cambridge: Cambridge University, 2000. Print.
Rockmore, Tom. Hegel, Idealism and Analytic Philosophy. London: University of Yale. 2005. Yalepress.yale.edu Web.
Singer, Peter. Hegel’s Time and Life. Hegel: A Very Short Introduction. New York. Oxford University Press, 2001. Print.
William, Robert R. Hegel’s Ethics of Recognition. London: University of California Press, 1997. Print.
Wood, Allen W. Hegelian Ethical Thought. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991. Print.