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Hegel's Lectures on the History of Philosophy by G. W. F. Hegel (1989-02-01)

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  • By Steven H Propp on February 3, 2017

    Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831) was a German Idealist philosopher, who was very influential on later Philosophy of History, Philosophy of Religion, and even Existentialism [e.g., Sartre's Being and Nothingness]. Hegel also wrote (or at least delivered lectures that were transcribed by his students) works such as The Phenomenology of Mind,The Philosophy of History,Philosophy of Right,Logic,Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion, etc. The companion volumes to this book are Lectures On the History of Philosophy, Volume 1 and Lectures on the History of Philosophy: Volume 2. [NOTE: page numbers below refer to the 571-page reprint paperback edition.]He states, “before this time [Pentecost] the Apostles did not know the infinite significance of Christ; they did not yet know that this is the infinite history of God; they had believed in Him, but not yet as seeing in Him this infinite truth. This is the truth which the [Church] Fathers developed; the general relation of the first Christian Church to Philosophy is hereby given. On the one hand, the philosophic Idea has been transplanted into this religion; on the other, this moment in the Idea… has been brought to a culmination in subjectivity, and further in the sensuous immediate individuality and present existence of a human individual appearing in time and space.” (Pg. 16)He asserts, “The whole effect of the scholastic philosophy is a monotonous one. In vain have men hitherto endeavored to show in this theology, which reigned from the eighth or even sixth century to the sixteenth, particular distinctions and stages in development… It is not interesting by reason of its matter, for we cannot remain at the consideration of this; it is not a philosophy. The name, however, properly speaking indicates a general manner rather than a system…” (Pg. 37-38)He observes, “the Church merely has the spiritual principle within itself without its being truly real, and in such a way that its further relationships are not yet rational… in this way the Church comes to have within itself the immediately natural principle. All the passions it has within itself---arrogance, avarice, violence, deceit, rapacity, murder, envy, hatred---all these sins of barbarism are present in it, and indeed they belong to its scheme of government. This government is thus already a rule of passion, although it professes to be a spiritual rule, and thus the Church is for the most part wrong in its worldly principles, though right in its spiritual aspect.” (Pg. 50)He suggests, “The theology of the Middle Ages thus stands much higher than that of modern times; never have Catholics been such barbarians as to say that there should not be knowledge of the eternal truth, and that it should not be philosophically comprehended… [Anselm] apprehended in its unity that highest opposition between thought and Being spoken of above.” (Pg. 67)He states, “Scholasticism on the whole is a barbarous philosophy of the finite understanding, without real content, which awakens no true interest in us, and to which we cannot return. For although religion is its subject matter, thought here reached such an excessive point of subtlety that, as a form of the mere empty understanding, it does nothing but wander amongst baseless combinations of categories.” (Pg. 94-95)He is somewhat “positive” in his assessment of Jacob Boehme (devoting nearly thirty pages to him): “We have still to mention Boehme’s piety, the element of edification, the way in which the soul is guided in his writings. This is in the highest degree deep and inward, and if one is familiar with his form these depths and this inwardness will be found. But it is in a form with which we cannot reconcile ourselves, and which permits no definite conception of details, although we cannot fail to see the profound craving for speculation which existed within this man.” (Pg. 216)He is dismissive of Locke: “nothing can be more superficial than this derivation of ideas. The matter itself, the essence, is not touched upon at all. A determination is brought into notice which is contained in a concrete relationship; hence the understanding on the one hand abstracts and on the other established conclusions. The basis of this philosophy is merely to be found in the transference of the determinate to the form of universality, but it was just this fundamental essence that we had to explain. As to this Locke confesses of space, for example, that he does not know what it really is. This so-called analysis by Locke of complex conceptions… found universal acceptance…” (Pg. 307) He adds, “Locke’s reasoning is quite shallow; it keeps entirely to the phenomenal, to that which is, and not to that which is true.” (Pg. 311)Of modern German philosophy, he outlines, “The task of modern German philosophy is… summed up in taking as its object the unity of thought and Being, which is the fundamental idea of philosophy generally, and comprehending it, that is, in laying hold of the inmost significance of necessity, the Notion.” (Pg. 409) Later, he adds, “Kant thus accepts the categories in an empiric way, without thinking of developing of necessity these differences from unity. Just as little did Kant attempt to deduce time and space, for he accepted them likewise from experience---a quite unphilosophic and unjustifiable procedure.” (Pg. 439)He summarizes, “The present standpoint of philosophy is that the Idea is known in its necessity; the sides of its diremption, Nature and Spirit, are each of them recognized as representing the totality of the Idea, and not only as being in themselves identical, but as producing this one identity from themselves; and in this way the identity is recognized as necessary. Nature, and the world or history of spirit, are the two realities; what exists as actual Nature is an image of divine Reason; the forms of self-conscious Reason are also the forms of Nature. The ultimate aim and business of philosophy is to reconcile thought or the Notion with reality.” (Pg. 545) He adds, “Philosophy is thus the true theodicy, as contrasted with art and religion and the feelings which these call up---a reconciliation of spirit, namely of the spirit which has apprehended itself in its freedom and in the riches of its reality.” (Pg. 546)He concludes, “At this point I bring this history of Philosophy to a close. It has been my desire that you should learn from it that the history of Philosophy is not a blind collection of fanciful ideas, nor a fortuitous progression. I have rather sought to show the necessary development of the successive philosophies from one another, so that the one of necessity presupposes another preceding it. The general result of the history of Philosophy is this: in the first place, that throughout all time there has been only one Philosophy, the contemporary differences of which constitute the necessary aspects of the one principle; in the second place, that the succession of philosophic systems is not due to chance, but represents the necessary succession of stages in the development of this science; in the third place, that the final philosophy of a period is the result of this development, and is truth in its highest form which the self-consciousness of spirit affords of itself. The latest philosophy contains therefore those which went before; it embraces in itself all the different stages thereof; it is the product and result of those that preceded it.” (Pg. 552-553)While this series will hardly serve as a “history of philosophy” for the modern student, it is of great interest to serious students to Hegel, and is interesting to see how he viewed his philosophical predecessors.

  • By Mike on February 28, 2010

    Quick note, this is a different book than "Lectures on the Philosophy of History"Hegel's "Lectures on the History of Philosophy" are really quite interesting and provide a great deal of readable insight into his system. I wouldn't dream of giving them 1-star, even if I have some issues with his system of philosophy.However this edition is an abridgment of a public domain translation from 1892 that didn't need abridgment (the ordinarily verbose Hegel, shockingly, is really succinct in many of these entries) and is scandalously overpriced, so I feel it's necessary to recommend a more complete edition, like the Kansas or the public domain version.This review is for the Prometheus Books 761 page edition. This book, outrageously priced at nearly $40, is taken from an 1892 translation of the Haldane translation of "Lectures on the History of Philosophy" drawn from Michelet's notes of different lectures of Hegel's on the History of Philosophy.Michelet's original 3 volume set of Hegel's lectures as translated by Haldane is about 1800 pages (3 volumes). I can't imagine anyone who'd get anything out of an abridgement that eliminates 2/3rds of the material. Most of the people who are reading this probably know what it is and want the full book or at least a particular volume. Anyone looking for an introduction to the history of philosophy would be advised to look elsewhere - as this is too technical. Also, from a history of ideas and history of philosophy perspective, there are substantially better and more up-to-date books out there if you want a multi-volume.Still, Hegel is pretty thorough and writes some pretty absorbing prose of some lesser studied philosophic figures (Hegel and good writing, never thought I'd see those two phrases in the same sentence) even if he is prone to summarize a philosophy then explain why it's wrong (conveniently other systems are always always wrong for failing to anticipate some element of Hegel's System rather than a specific logical failing). He has some biases besides that, too - namely against Berkeley, all the materialists, and anyone who lacks a complex metaphysical system esp. the Chinese (as he perceives them), the Cynics, Epicureans, and Stoics.Hegel also doesn't seem to actually understand Zeno or calculus in Volume 1 as his view of both is a tad bit simplistic (but may be of interest to some scholars). Too bad he neglected Bishop Berkeley so much - reading him would've proved helpful. In all, it's a pretty interesting survey if overly reliant on Diogenes Laertius in volume 1 and 2, but these volumes are perhaps more useful for understanding Hegel than understanding philosophy anyway.Ok, let me give you a guide to what's in each volume and maybe save you some time and money so you can buy, borrow, or download (it's public domain!) the volume that interests you (Kansas has reprinted the volumes individually) rather than all of them rather than this abridged version that's likely missing what you may need for your research.Volume 1 is Presocratic Greek Philosophy and Philosophy contemporary or slightly before Plato and Aristotle, but excluding them. It includes a lengthy introduction, of interest. It also includes a section on Chinese philosophy which is grossly misinformed, a section on Indian philosophy which is mostly the same as what was in Lectures on the Philosophy of History. Then H treats the Ionics, the Pythagoreans, the Eleatics, Heraclitus, Empedocles/Leucippus/Democritus, Anaxogoras,Sophists, Socrates, the Socratics.Lectures on the History of Philosophy, Volume 1: Greek Philosophy to Plato (Lectures on the History of Philosophy Vol. 1)Volume 2 is Greek Philosophy including and after Plato and includes the Plato, Aristotle, the Stoics, Epicureans and Neo-Platonists.Lectures on the History of Philosophy, Volume 2: Plato and the Platonists (Lectures on the History of Philosophy Vol. 2)Volume 3 is medieval and modern. If you only want to get one volume and prefer a bound book, find a copy of this one. Volume 3 is the bread and butter of the set if you just want to buy one book (unless you're mostly interested in Hegel and Platonic thought). It's the least reliant on secondary sources (Hegel obviously read all these books quite well) it has the most to do with Hegel's thought and H has some interesting comments on medieval and modern philosophy. It starts with Christianity, then Arabic Philosophy, the Scholastics, the Pre-Reformation, then a very lengthy section on the various moderns and their respective schools.Lectures on the History of Philosophy, Volume 3: Medieval and Modern Philosophy (Lectures on the History of Philosophy Vol. 3)This really is one of Hegel's more interesting works and it's clearly written (well as far as Hegel goes). It forms an interesting counterpart to Hegel's Philosophy of History (though that addresses a different subdiscipline, many of the same themes recur).Since this is based on such an old translation, it's in the public domain. You can find it for free on google books. All 3 volumes are available in .pdf and epub. Look for "Lectures on the History of Philosophy" Haldane and Simson.If you're looking for a one volume history of western philo, get the Russell. He misrepresents Hegel, but otherwise the book's fine, especially for a one volume. If you're interested in this, get this for free online (I personally loaded the ebooks on my Sony Reader already) or check amazon for the U Nebraska reprints of the complete 3 volume set that I listed above.


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