Hegel's Historical Narrative Philosophy of History Term Paper

Pages: 9 (2606 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Black Studies - Philosophy

¶ … GW Hegel's Philosophy of History. The author explores the narrative and his ideas and concepts that are derived from that work. The author also compares and contrasts this work with the beliefs and theories of Karl Marx. The author uses four sources to underscore the important points of this paper.

Often times writers, historians and philosophers develop their ideas and concepts based on the experiences that they have in their own lives. It is a natural occurrence and one so deeply imbedded that they do not always realize that is what is happening. The experiences they have, coupled with the way they feel and think create a breeding ground for the views of the world and life that they espouse. It has been speculated that renowned historian and philosopher GW Hegel created his Philosophy of History based on his own life experiences and beliefs.

There are several things that cause experts to believe this. Hegel is well-known for his fear of French Terror. That fear is believed to have fueled some of the things that he placed in his philosophy of history.

This provided the negative beliefs and concerns he has in his philosophy. Conversely experts believe that his life experiences are also responsible for his romantic notion that Reason is what shapes the universe, therefore shapes history.

Nonetheless, Hegel's commitment to the dialectical progression of time and to the triumphant end of history is taken to be a largely deterministic and a historical philosophy."

Many people believe that Hegel was a determinist. One of the things that cause this opinion to be formed is the fact that he openly stated the world history exhibits nothing other than the plan of providence."

Indeed, at no point in his writings does Hegel appear willing to place conditions upon these dogmatic statements. He is consistent in his assertion that history follows a specific path, one predetermined by the purposeful movement of Spirit through time:

Other experts believe that Hegel was a believer in a theory similar to predestination. According to this school of thought, he believed history to be an already fixed and unchangeable fact that mankind only watches as a spectator when it comes to the ability to change it.

Despite these seemingly self-evident statements of absolute determinism, however, Hegel clearly recognized that contingency continued to exist in the world. He concurred that "chance occurrences" were indeed a part of history, but did not see them as an active or even particularly noteworthy element. They simply were not significant in terms of what really mattered: the meaning of history itself."

Part of the confusion lays in the fact that history and philosophy are two entirely different entities and Hegel was profound and deeply involved in both. The cross over was a natural progression for the thinker, though it created some difficulty for his followers and students when it came to understanding exactly what he was trying to say.

Whether one believes his theories or disagrees with them, it cannot be denied that GW Hegel was a force to be reckoned with when it came to developing framework for future historians and philosophers.

Who He Was GW Hegel took on a most difficult task when he decided to spend his life philosophizing about history and mankind. As a philosopher of history Hegel had to walk a line between rewriting history to fit his philosophical beliefs and changing those beliefs to fit what was actually happening in history. It was a line he walked well though critics have pointed out what they believed to be discrepancies.

His life work was based on trying to find the basic truths about history and mankind while at the same time examining the sub-topics that went along with those things by natural progression. Spirit, Nature, Reason and other things came into play to allow him to verbalize what he was feeling and thinking about the history of the world and its inhabitants.

Because he seeks metaphysical "first principles" of nature, his results cannot judged through outside sources or objective facts, but only through individual reflection and inspiration. In contrast, the philosopher of history is expected to rely almost wholly upon facts, and to avoid the contamination of "bias." Conclusions about the historical meaning follow not from preconceived notions, but from facts and connections discovered from historical events alone. The chasm separating these two approaches could hardly be more dramatic."

While he walked a line between the two the fact remains that Hegel maintained the mind and heart of a philosopher much more than a historian. "His theory, though grounded in historical facts, was based upon deductive and not inductive reasoning. The Hegelian model thus opens itself to criticism as a preconceived (and therefore uninformed) assessment of world historical events."

Some believe that this creates enough of a problem, that it hurts his credibility as a historian. Famed historian and developer of history theory, Karl Marx became one of the largest critics of Hegel after ascribing to his works and teachings for a short time.

The answer Hegel gives is that facts are important to theory, but only to a limited extent. As he asserts in Phenomenology, "the individual has the right to demand that science should at least provide him with the ladder" to any philosophical perspective. In other words, the objective facts should at least underlay the theory, offering empirical evidence of its possible validity. Hegel recognizes the significance of historical events, but only insofar as they provide evidence to confirm the underlying philosophy. "

Hegel's life work and Philosophy of History is founded in the belief that history is nothing more than a dialectical progression.

The system embodied within Hegel's philosophy of history is essentially that of a dialectical progression. To give a brief outline, this model begins with an existing element, or thesis, with contradictions inherent to its structure. These contradictions unwittingly create the thesis' direct opposite, or antithesis, bringing about a period of conflict between the two. The new element, or synthesis, that emerges from this conflict then discovers its own internal contradictions, and starts the process anew."

Hegel uses a progressive approach to develop his theory of history when he believes that each new theory is based on and developed from the previous theory, but the new theory has a new or more developed step. It is a theory of progression that involved history and mankind evolving through the lessons taught in each theory and then the next one develops because of the things that the previous one created.

To specifically apply this model Hegel's view of world history, it represents the manner in which the Spirit develops gradually into its purest form, ultimately recognizing its own essential freedom. To Hegel, "world history is thus the unfolding of Spirit in time, as nature is the unfolding of the Idea in space." The dialectical process thus virtually defines the meaning of history for Hegel.

His Philosophy

His basic philosophy is steeped in the belief that Spirit and Reason are fundamentally crucial to the development of history. Hegel believed that history is nothing more than Spirit striving to find its own freedom. Freedom eludes the Spirit and therefore history is constantly changing and evolving for the purpose of finding the freedom.

He also developed the belief that reason drives history. Hegel believes that Reason is constantly creating history to create history as well.

According to the theory of history through Hegel reason drives the course of history because it is rationale and based in fact.

Given this new understanding of Hegel, then, where is the general reader left in trying to apprehend the meaning of world history? History is fundamentally the striving of Spirit for its own freedom, Reason is consistently manifesting itself in the course of development, and the process is essentially a dialectical progression towards an end goal. Is this not deterministic? Accepting Hegelian boundaries, can we not approach the course of world history with foreknowledge or will contingency continue to confound such iron-clad predictability?"

In order to soften the impact of Hegel's statements, some interpretations have suggested that references to "necessary" events in history could be inferred as "rationally necessary." This would presumably reduce Hegel's argument from one of determinism to hopeful idealism. However, since Hegel states that "the rational, like the substantial, is necessary," no qualitative difference exists between the terms "necessary" and "rationally necessary." In addition, we have already proven that for either contingency or necessity to exist, the other must also exist. Any attempt to dilute the Hegelian meaning of "necessity" therefore will not help us to encompass the contingency often seen in world events.

The individual configurations assumed by Spirit in external reality could be left to limited histories." Carefully analyzed in the context of Hegel's work, it becomes clear that Hegel views long-term history as the meaningful area for study of Spirit's activity, whereas "limited histories" merely reflect the "external reality" that Spirit assumes." egel: Philosophy and history as theology. (http://members.aol.com/pantheism0/hegel.htm)

His Life

Many… [END OF PREVIEW]

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