Hegel: Bibliographic Annotation

Hegel, though is a great philosopher, but is very hard to grasp and difficult to interpret. His philosophy set the paradigm for many predecessors to think about development with more holistic and comprehensive way. Karl Marx is the one of his followers who is considered as left Hegelian. Though, I personally tried to go through various resources to understand his philosophical ideas, but it was really challenging. Following is the text which I got from Hegel-by-HyperText Resources and it really is helpful for beginners like me to have some idea about Hegel. I tried to annotate it with footnotes in at the end. Hope it will help the readers too.
“Hegel’s aim was to set forth a philosophical system so comprehensive that it would encompass the ideas of his predecessors and create a conceptual framework in terms of which both the past and future could be philosophically understood. Such an aim would require nothing short of a full account of reality itself. Thus, Hegel conceived the subject matter of philosophy to be reality as a whole. This reality, or the total developmental process of everything that is, he referred to as the Absolute[1], or Absolute Spirit. According to Hegel, the task of philosophy is to chart the development of Absolute Spirit. This involves (1) making clear the internal rational structure of the Absolute; (2) demonstrating the manner in which the Absolute manifests itself in nature and human history; and (3) explicating the teleological nature of the Absolute, that is, showing the end or purpose toward which the Absolute is directed.
Concerning the rational structure of the Absolute, Hegel, following the ancient Greek philosopher Parmenides, argued that “what is rational is real and what is real is rational.” This must be understood in terms of Hegel’s further claim that the Absolute must ultimately be regarded as pure Thought, or Spirit, or Mind, in the process of self-development. The logic that governs this developmental process is dialectic. The dialectical method involves the notion that movement, or process, or progress, is the result of the conflict of opposites. Traditionally, this dimension of Hegel’s thought has been analysed in terms of the categories of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis. Although Hegel tended to avoid these terms, they are helpful in understanding his concept of the dialectic. The thesis, then, might be an idea or a historical movement. Such an idea or movement contains within itself incompleteness that gives rise to opposition, or an antithesis, a conflicting idea or movement. As a result of the conflict a third point of view arises, a synthesis, which overcomes the conflict by reconciling at a higher level the truth contained in both the thesis and antithesis. This synthesis becomes a new thesis that generates another antithesis, giving rise to a new synthesis, and in such a fashion the process of intellectual or historical development is continually generated. Hegel thought that Absolute Spirit itself (which is to say, the sum total of reality) develops in this dialectical fashion toward an ultimate end or goal. For Hegel, therefore, reality is understood as the Absolute unfolding dialectically in a process of self-development. As the Absolute undergoes this development, it manifests itself both in nature and in human history. Nature is Absolute Thought or Being objectifying itself in material form. Finite minds and human history are the process of the Absolute manifesting itself in that which is most kin to itself, namely, spirit or consciousness. In The Phenomenology of Mind Hegel traced the stages of this manifestation from the simplest level of consciousness, through self-consciousness, to the advent of reason.
Self-Knowledge of the Absolute[3]
The goal of the dialectical cosmic process can be most clearly understood at the level of reason. As finite reason progresses in understanding, the Absolute progresses toward full self-knowledge. Indeed, the Absolute comes to know itself through the human mind’s increased understanding of reality, or the Absolute. Hegel analysed this human progression in understanding in terms of three levels: art, religion, and philosophy. Art grasps the Absolute in material forms, interpreting the rational through the sensible forms of beauty. Art is conceptually superseded by religion, which grasps the Absolute by means of images and symbols. The highest religion for Hegel is Christianity, for in Christianity the truth that the Absolute manifests itself in the finite is symbolically reflected in the incarnation. Philosophy, however, is conceptually supreme, because it grasps the Absolute rationally. Once this has been achieved, the Absolute has arrived at full self-consciousness, and the cosmic drama reaches its end and goal. Only at this point did Hegel identify the Absolute with God. “God is God,” Hegel argued, “only in so far as he knows himself.”
Philosophy of History
In the process of analysing the nature of Absolute Spirit, Hegel made significant contributions in a variety of philosophical fields, including the philosophy of history and social ethics. With respect to history, his two key explanatory categories are reason and freedom. “The only Thought”, maintained Hegel, “which Philosophy brings ... to the contemplation of History, is the simple conception of Reason; that Reason is the Sovereign of the world, that the history of the world, therefore, presents us with a rational process. “As a rational process, history is a record of the development of human freedom, for human history is a progression from less freedom to greater freedom.”
Ethics and Politics[4]
Hegel’s social and political views emerge most clearly in his discussion of morality and social ethics. At the level of morality, right and wrong is a matter of individual conscience. One must, however, move beyond this to the level of social ethics, for duty, according to Hegel, is not essentially the product of individual judgment. Individuals are complete only in the midst of social relationships; thus, the only context in which duty can truly exist is a social one. Hegel considered membership in the state one of the individual’s highest duties. Ideally, the state is the manifestation of the general will, which is the highest expression of the ethical spirit. Obedience to this general will is the act of a free and rational individual.”
G. W. F. Hegel (1770-1831). Hegel-by-HyperText Resources
http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/hegel/help/hegelbio.htm retrieved on 04/06/09.

[1] The idea of absolute was first introduced by Heraclitus which looks at all types of existence emanating from ‘The One’.
[2] Hegel’s philosophy core concept is this dialect and have it is this process which integrates various parts and bring them into oneness ‘Absolute’ and then one is able to find the reality. He says that reality is absolute and if you miss any part of it then it would be hard to understand full. Unless you understand Dialect you cannot move forward to explore the things.
[3] His concept of Self is worth mentioning here as it connects conscious or spirit with the body and establishes a link to understand reality as a whole i.e. absolute knowledge of conscious. Karl Marx also used this concept and discussed about he classless society.
Here I want to share that the concept and idea of creation Pakistan (my home country) by our nation poet Muhammad Iqbal in early twentieth century. His idea was based on Hegelian philosophy of understanding the collective ‘self’ of Muslims as a substantial minority in Sub-Continent and looking for an independent state where they can live enjoy liberty and equality.
[4] This concept tells us that how one should engage in the political and social process of society based on ethical principles. Though for Hegel the concept of ethics is more based into Christianity but still his approach is universal.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, Roshan - Great job with your post! Your annotated bibliography is very informative. You're no longer a beginner at Hegel at all, but you've certainly provided great information for the rest of us (I'm assuming we'd all consider ourselves beginners). I like how you explained that although "The highest religion for Hegel is Christianity" that philosopy is conceptually supreme. I think I understand correctly, but may need some clarification. You went on to say that "for in Christianity the truth that the Absolute manifests itself in the finite is symbolically reflected in the incarnation." I think that is an interesting explanation of the incarnation. It makes sense that God is absolute for Christians, and that when His Son (also fully God) was born as a human infant he became flesh and blood and lived with other humans to be 100% a finite mortal. I didn't realize how this would be a parallel for Hegel, but it's interesting.