Georg Hegel Essay

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Seeking to overcome the barriers to Absolute Knowledge that Descartes and Kant erected, Georg Hegel’s keyworks—the Phenomenology of Spirit (1804), Science of Logic (1812—16) and Encyclopedia of Philosophy (1817) — made him Prussia’s foremost post-Kantian, idealist philosopher.

Hegel served as a critical foil to Marx’s most important intellectual developments beginning with Marx’s critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right. Hegel argued that a constitutional state, with an impartial civil service, using the principles of Reason, would act in the interests of all and create a stable, historically evolving, social order. Marx criticized Hegel’s oversight of class interests and his presentation of the real subject of history — human actors — as a passive predicate and the real predicate — the state and civil society — as the acting force. This critique, which identified the proletariat as the real revolutionary subject of bourgeois society, began to distance Marx from his Hegelian roots.

In the Phenomenology, Hegel argued that through self-reflexive interaction with the external, phenomenal world, the human mind/Spirit develops through several stages — consciousness, self-consciousness, Reason, Spirit, and Religion — to ultimately achieve Absolute Knowledge. Accepting Hegel’s conception of history as the self-creation of humankind overcoming its alienated existence, Marx redirected the focus from thought-entities to real human labor. The creativity and ontological significance of labor in Marx’s work developed at this time.

The Science of Logic, Hegel’s systematic account of dialectical method, was the methodological inspiration for Marx’s critique of political economy; it remains essential to genuinely understanding Marx’s overall critique and method of presentation.

Bibliography:

  1. Kojeve, A. (1969) [1947] Introduction to the Reading of Hegel, trans. J. Nichols. Basic Books, New York.
  2. Lukacs, G. (1975) [1948] The Young Hegel, trans. R. Livingstone. Merlin Press, London.

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