BIOGRAPHY HEGEL – German idealist philosopher, Hegel has a decisive influence on the approach to philosophy and human history. His concepts of dialectics and aesthetics, as well as his works such as “The Phenomenology of the Spirit”, influenced many intellectuals after him.
Hegel’s short biography – Born in 1770 in the Holy Roman Empire, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel was interested from an early age in many disciplines: Greek and Latin dramaturgy, science, psychology and theology. His drive to understand the world around him already seems endless. After studying philosophy, he began a career as a tutor in Bern and then in Frankfurt. At the same time, he continues his research. He then joined the University of Jena to teach philosophy. In 1807, he published The Phenomenology of Spirit, in which he sets out his conception of the dialectic, from which derives the entirety of his philosophical thought. Forced to abandon Jena because of the territorial expansion of Napoleon’s Empire, he went to Nuremberg and wrote The Science of Logic (1812-1816). He teaches in Heidelberg, where he publishes several works like his Encyclopedia of Philosophical Sciences (1817).
Hegel ended his life as a professor at the University of Berlin, leaving behind a few posthumously published works which consisted of a compilation of his lectures. Influenced by the ideas of Plato and the Enlightenment, a fervent defender of the revolutionary ideas of 1789, Hegel’s lessons and thought acquired international fame during his lifetime. He is, with Emmanuel Kant and his friend Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph von Schelling, one of the most eminent representatives of the current idealistic German. With the main objective of bringing together the whole of reality under a single system, Hegelian philosophy will influence among others Mikhaïl Bakunin, Søren Kierkegaard and Karl Marx among the most famous. Hegel died in 1831, at the age of 61.
Finding its origins in Greek thinkers such as Plato, dialectics can at first glance be considered as a philosophical method which is obtained by the confrontation of different opinions, with the aim of striving as much as possible towards the ideal of truth. For Hegel, the breadth of the dialectic is such that everything, from the simple situation of everyday life to the most abstract concepts, including science or religion, is justifiable by the latter. The German philosopher considers that dialectic, and by extension philosophy, constitutes the main engine of thought. This concept is partly at the origin of the triptych “thesis – antithesis – synthesisThe first poses being, the second involves a negation of this being, while the third implies a going beyond the initial concept, without denying the changes induced by the first two stages. The real is therefore inseparable from the evolution of thought, regardless of the time or place. Thus, Hegel asserts that the history of mankind is dialectical, insofar as everything, including wars and the worst atrocities, can be justified by the refutation, the annulment of past acts to allow civilizations to s’ to emancipate from their original state and to transcend themselves. To cite an example, the Napoleonic conquests were perceived very negatively by many European states, but at the same time they were able to benefit from the dissemination of the ideals of the French Revolution of 1789. For Hegel, history does not is neither good nor bad morally, it is made up of perpetual changes that must be assimilated and overcome in order to strive for a new ideal.
Aesthetics is one of the great subjects of study of German idealist philosophers like Kant, but especially Hegel. The latter has given a number of courses on perception of beauty in artistic disciplines. Hegel perceives aesthetics as the science allowing to detect the beauty in a work of art. He also considers this artistic beauty as hierarchically superior to that of nature, since according to him any creation of the human mind, which comes first from the original nature and then from the mind, therefore prevails over the beautiful natural. This argument is based, like the whole of Hegel’s thought, on the dialectic, the idea that everything progresses in its being by its own negation. He gives aesthetics well-defined criteria: appearance or even the message transmitted, but does not in any way wish to elevate art to the rank of science in its own right.
Hegel distinguishes three ways of apprehending a work of art. First of all as human production, which arises from the mind and which allows the artist to account for his own existence. Then Hegel comes to consider art as theexpression of human feelings, which would aim to satisfy desires. Finally, he comes to wonder if the real objective of art is not to to be self-sufficient, with various intentions, as a way of imitating the original nature. The many reflections made by Hegel in his lessons on aesthetics do not give definitive answers on the artistic question. They nevertheless have the merit of providing leads on how to approach various disciplines, from painting to the theater, including literature and sculpture. It is largely thanks to Hegel and others that aesthetics has now entered into everyday language and now applies to many areas that do not necessarily take artistic considerations into account.
From an early age, Hegel has always been a model student with the desire to learn and above all to understand the world around him. Among his most notable achievements, it is possible to cite the Phenomenology of the mind (1807). The philosopher sets out there his considerations relating to the consciousness and the raison. He saw this work as a necessary entry point in order to understand his entire philosophy and concept of dialectic. A good part of his university courses are grouped together in a Philosophical propaedeutics, where it is in particular a question of language, which he considers to be the principal reflection of the thought of the spirit. Hegel is at the origin of a Encyclopedia of Philosophical Sciences (1817), where a large part of his ideas are organized into three parts: “The Science of Logic”, “The Philosophy of Nature” and “The Philosophy of the Spirit”.
In Reason in History (1837), Hegel explains his relationship to the history of humanity by relying on his concept of dialectics and where the rationality of the real supplants the action of men, who are only puppets of a higher will and have no real impact on the course of events. This “cunning of reason” is explained in more detail in the Lessons on the philosophy of history, where Hegel also provides his opinion on the role and legitimacy of a state. Finally, the Principles of Philosophy and Law (1820) serve as a complement to the philosophy of law courses taught by Hegel, in particular by shedding light on concepts such as the individual liberties and the impact of civil society on state decisions.
- August 27, 1770: Birth of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
- Hegel was born on August 27, 1770 in Stuttgart in the Duchy of Württemberg (current Land of Baden-Württemberg in southwestern Germany). He is the son of Georg Ludwig Hegel, magistrate at the Court of Auditors in the service of the Duke of Württemberg, and of Maria Magdalena Louisa Fromm. He is the oldest of three children. Her sister Christiane Luise Hegel, born in 1773, began a career as a preceptor like her older brother. Ludwig Hegel, the last born of the siblings in 1776, enlisted in the army and succumbed during the Russian campaign of 1812, when the coalition of the armies of Napoleon I had to abandon the plan to invade the Empire Russian. During his studies in Tübingen, Hegel befriended Hölderlin and Schelling. All three would become important intellectuals of their time, and are among the best known representatives of German idealism.
- 1807: Publication of the Phenomenology of the Spirit
- Determined to go beyond Kantian’s prohibition on knowing things in themselves, in themselves, Hegel publishes the dialectical work “Phenomenology of the Spirit”. Kant showed that it is not possible to access things but that man could only have representations of them. Hegel seeks to demonstrate the opposite by relying on dialectics: each knowledge allows another knowledge to be born which, under a contradictory aspect, is in fact the extension of the first one. He thus takes the metaphor of the flower which is both the negation of the bud and its extension, in the same way for the fruit vis-à-vis the flower.
- November 14, 1831: Death of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
- Hegel died on November 14, 1831 in Berlin. The exact causes of his death are subject to debate. Some believe he was the victim of a stomach condition, such as cancer or a gastric ulcer. But the track of cholera also seems plausible, since the kingdom of Prussia was at that time affected by a violent pandemic. The latter reached France in 1832 and caused many victims. Hegel had several children with different wives. He married in 1811 with Marie Helena Susanna von Tucher. One of his sons, Karl von Hegel, became a recognized medievalist of his time. Hegel rests in the Dorotheenstadt cemetery, alongside those of Johann Gottlieb Fichte, another German idealist philosopher.