Hegel’s Philosophy of History


1. Mr. G. H. Lewes, in his Biographical History of Philosophy, Vol. IV, Ed. 1841.

2. I cannot mention any work that will serve as a compendium of the course, but I may remark that in my “Outlines of the Philosophy of Law,” §§341-360, I have already given a definition of such a Universal History as it is proposed to develop, and a syllabus of the chief elements or periods into which it naturally divides itself.

3. Fr. von Schlegel, “Philosophy of History,” p. 91, Bohn’s Standard Library.

4. We have to thank this interest for many valuable discoveries in Oriental literature, and for a renewed study of treasures previously known, in the department of ancient Asiatic Culture, Mythology, Religions, and History. In Catholic countries, where a refined literary taste prevails, Governments have yielded to the requirements of speculative inquiry, and have felt the necessity of allying themselves with learning and philosophy. Eloquently and impressively has the Abbé Lamennais reckoned it among the criteria of the true religion, that it must be the universal – that is, catholic – and the oldest in date; and the Congregation has labored zealously and diligently in France towards rendering such assertions no longer mere pulpit tirades and authoritative dicta, such as were deemed sufficient formerly. The religion of Buddha – a godman – which has prevailed to such an enormous extent, has especially attracted attention. The Indian Timûrtis, as also the Chinese abstraction of the Trinity, has furnished clearer evidence in point of subject matter. The savants, M. Abel Remusat and M. Saint Martin, on the one hand, have undertaken the most meritorious investigations in the Chinese literature, with a view to make this also a base of operations for researches in the Mongolian and, if such were possible, in the Thibetan; on the other hand, Baron von Eckstein – in his way (i.e., adopting from Germany superficial physical conceptions and mannerisms, in the style of Fr. v. Schlegel, though with more geniality than the latter) in his periodical, “Le Catholique” – has furthered the cause of that primitive Catholicism generally, and in particular has gained for the savans of the Congregation the support of the Government; so that it has even set on foot expeditions to the East, in order to discover there treasures still concealed; (from which further disclosures have been anticipated, respecting profound theological questions, particularly on the higher antiquity and sources of Buddhism), and with a view to promote the interests of Catholicism by this circuitous but scientifically interesting method.

5. German, “Geschichte” from “Geschehen,” to happen. – ED. Vide Hegel’s “Vorlesungen über die Philosophie der Religion,” I. 284 and 289. 2d Ed.

6. The essence of Spirit is self-determination or “Freedom.” Where Spirit has attained mature growth, as in the man who acknowledges the absolute validity of the dictates of Conscience, the Individual is “a law to himself,” and this Freedom is “realized.” But in lower stages of morality and civilization, he unconsciously projects this legislative principle into some “governing power” (one or several), and obeys it as if it were an alien, extraneous force, not the voice of that Spirit of which he himself (though at this stage imperfectly) is an embodiment. The Philosophy of History exhibits the successive stages by which he reaches the consciousness, that it is his own inmost being that thus governs him – i.e., a consciousness of self-determination or “Freedom.” – ED.

7. It is evident that the term “moral standpoint” is used here in the strict sense in which Hegel has defined it, in his “Philosophy of Law,” as that of the self-determination of subjectivity, free conviction of the Good. The reader, therefore, should not misunderstand the use that continues to be made of the terms, morality, moral government, etc., in reference to the Chinese; as they denote morality only in the loose and ordinary meaning of the word – precepts or commands given with a view to producing good behavior – without bringing into relief the element of internal conviction. – ED.

8. Vide Hegel’s “Vorlesungen über die Geschichte der Philosophie,” vol. i. p. 138, etc.

9. Only recently has Professor Rosen, residing in London, gone thoroughly into the matter and given a specimen of the text with a translation, Rig-Veda; Specimen, ed. Fr. Rosen. Lond. 1830.” (More recently, since Rosen’s death, the whole Rig- Veda, London, 1839, has been published from MSS. left by him.)

10. “A. W. v. Schlegel has published the first and second Volume; the most important Episodes of the Mahabharata have been introduced to public notice by F. Bopp, and a complete Edition has appeared at Calcutta.” – German Editor.

11. As in Hegel’s original plan and in the first lecture the transition from Indian Brahminism to Buddhism occupies the place assigned it here, and as this position of the chapter on Buddhism agrees better with recent investigations, its detachment from the place which it previously occupied and mention here will appear sufficiently justified. – ED.

12. Compare Hegel’s “ Vorlesungen über die Philosophie der Religion,” 2d Edition, Pt. I. p. 284.

13. In earlier stages of progress, the mandates of Spirit (social and political law), are given as by a power alien to itself – as by some compulsion of mere Nature. Gradually it sees the untruth of this alien form of validity – recognizes these mandates as its own, and adopts them freely as a law of liberty. It then stands in clear opposition to its logical contrary – Nature. – ED.

14. Abstractions were to take the place of analogies. The power to connect particular conceptions as analogical, does but just fall short of the ability to comprehend the general idea which links them. – ED.

15. That is, blind obedience to moral requirements – to principle abstracted from personal conviction or inclination, as among the Chinese. – ED.

16. See Hegel’s “Vorles. über die Philos. der Religion,” II. p. 102 et seq. (2d edition.)

17. That is – the Objective and the Subjective Will must be harmonized. – ED.

18. “Plastic,” intimating his absolute devotion to statesmanship; the latter not being a mere mechanical addition, but diffused as a vitalizing; and formative power through the whole man. The same term is used below to distinguish the vitalizing morality that pervades the dramas of Æschylus and Sophocles, from the abstract sentimentalities of Euripides. – ED.

19. Otfried Müller, in his “History of the Dorians,” gives too dignified an aspect to this fact; he says that Justice was, as it were, imprinted on their minds. But such an imprinting is always something indefinite; laws must be written, that it may be distinctly known what is forbidden and what is allowed.

20. The harsh requirements of an ungenial tyranny call forth man’s highest powers of self-sacrifice; he learns his moral capacity; dissatisfaction with anything short of perfection ensues – consciousness of sin; and this sentiment in its greatest intensity, produces union with God. – ED.

21. So the English “train” from French “trainer” – to draw or drag. – ED.

22. “I was alive without the law once,” etc. Rom. vii. 9.

23. In the Lutheran ritual, “a holy Catholic Church” is substituted for “the Holy Catholic Church,” in the Belief.

24. That is: The Supreme Law of the Universe is recognized as identical with the dictates of Conscience – becomes a “law of liberty.” Morality – that authority which has the incontestable right to determine men’s actions, which therefore is the only absolutely free and unlimited power – is no longer a compulsory enactment, but the free choice of human beings.

25. The good man would make Law for himself if he found none made for him.

26. The influence of the Crusades and of the discovery of America was simply reflex. No other phase of humanity was thereby merged in Christendom.

27. The conception of a mystical regnum Patris, regnum Filii and regnum Spiritûs Sancti is perfectly familiar to metaphysical theologians. The first represents the period in which Deity is not yet manifested – remains self-evolved. The second is that of manifestation in an individual being, standing apart from mankind generally – “the Son.” The third is that in which this barrier is broken down, and an intimate mystical communion ensues between God in Christ and the Regenerated, when God is “all in all.” This remark may serve to prevent misconception as to the tone of the remainder of the paragraph. The mention of the Greek myth will appear pertinent in the view of those who admit what seems a very reasonable explanation of it – viz., as an adumbration of the self-involved character of the prehistorical period.

28. The word “Gemüth” has no exactly corresponding term in English. It is used further on synonymously with “Herz,” and the openness to various emotions and impressions which it implies, may perhaps be approximately rendered by “Heart.” Yet it is but an awkward substitute.

29. Formal Will or Subjective Freedom is inclination or mere casual liking, and is opposed to Substantial or Objective Will – also called Objective Freedom – which denotes the principles that form the basis of society, and that have been spontaneously adopted by particular nations or by mankind generally. The latter as well as the former may lay claim to being a manifestation of Human Will. For however rigid the restraints which those principles impose on individuals, they are the result of no extraneous compulsion brought to bear on the community at large, and are recognized as rightfully authoritative even by the individuals whose physical comfort or relative affections they most painfully contravene. Unquestioning homage to unreasonable despotism, and the severe rubrics of religious penance, can be traced to no natural necessity or stimulus ab extra. The principles in which these originate, may rather be called the settled and supreme determination of the community that recognizes them. The term “Objective Will” seems therefore not unfitly used to describe the psychological phenomena in question. The term “Substantial Will” (as opposed to “Formal Will”), denoting the same phenomena, needs no defence or explanation. The third term, “Objective Freedom,” used synonymously with the two preceding, is justified on the ground of the unlimited dominion exercised by such principles as those mentioned above. “Deus solus liber.”

30. An incapacity for conspiracy has been remarked as a characteristic feature of the Teutonic portion of the inhabitants of the British Isles, as compared with their Celtic countrymen. If such a difference can be substantiated, we seem to have an important illustration and confirmation of Hegel’s view. – ED.

31. Pure Self – pure subjectivity or personality – not only excludes all that is manifestly objective, all that is evidently Not-Self, but also abstracts from any peculiar conditions that may temporarily adhere to it, e.g., youth or age, riches or poverty, a present or a future state. Thus though it seems, prima facie, a fixed point or atom, it is absolutely unlimited. By loss or degradation of bodily and mental faculties, it is possible to conceive one’s self degraded to a position which it would be impossible to distinguish from that which we attribute to the brutes, or by increase and improvement of those faculties, indefinitely elevated in the scale of being, while yet self – personal identity – is retained. On the other hand, Absolute Being in the Christian concrete view, is an Infinite Self. The Absolutely Limited is thus shown to be identical with the Absolutely Unlimited.

32. All human actions, projects, institutions, etc., begin to be brought to the bar of “principle” – the sanctum of subjectivity – for absolute decision on their merits, instead of being referred to an extraneous authority.

33. The term “Cathari” (kaqaroi). Purists, was one of the most general designations of the dissident sects in question. The German word “Ketzer” = heretic is by some derived from it.

34. That is, not a personal aim, whose self-seeking character is its condemnation, but a general and liberal, consequently a moral aim.

35. The Church, in its devotion to mere ceremonial observances, supposes itself to be engaged with the Spiritual, while it is really occupied with the Sensuous. The World towards the close of the Mediaeval period, is equally devoted to the Sensuous, but labors under no such hallucination as to the character of its activity; and it has ceased to feel compunction at the merely secular nature of its aims and actions, such as it might have felt (e.g.) in the eleventh century.

36. The community of principle which really links together individuals of the same class, and in virtue of which they are similarly related to other existences, assumes a form in human consciousness; and that form is the thought or idea Which summarily comprehends the constituents of generic character. The primary meaning of the word idea and of the related terms eidos and species, is “form.” Every “Universal” in Thought has a corresponding generic principle in Reality, to which it gives intellectual expression or form.

37. The acknowledgment of an external power authorized to command the entire soul of man was not supplanted in their case by a deference to Conscience and subjective Principle (i.e., the union of Objective and Subjective freedom) as the supreme authority.

38. That is, the harmony in question simply exists; its development and results have not yet manifested themselves.

39. There is no current term in English denoting that great intellectual movement which dates from the first quarter of the eighteenth century, and which, if not the chief cause, was certainly the guiding genius of the French Revolution. The word “Illuminati” (signifying the members of an imaginary confederacy for propagating the open secret of the day), might suggest “Illumination,” as an equivalent for the German “Aufklärung”; but the French “Éclaircissement” conveys a more specific idea. – J. S.

40. Abstractions (pure thoughts), are, vi termini, detached from the material objects which suggested them, and are at least as evidential the product of the thinking mind as of the external world. Hence they are ridiculed by the unintelligent as mere fancies. In proportion as such abstractions involve activity and intensity of thought, the mind may be said to be occupied with itself in contemplating them. – J. S.

41. The sensational conclusions of the “materialistic” school of the 18th century are reached by the “axiom of Contradiction and Identity,” as applied in this simple dilemma: “In cognition, Man is either active or passive; he is not active (unless he is grossly deceiving himself), therefore he is passive; therefore all knowledge is derived ab extra. What this external objective being is of which this knowledge is the cognition, remains an eternal mystery – i.e., as Hegel says: “The results of thought are posited as finite.” – J. S.

42. “Freedom of the Will,” in Hegel’s use of the term, has an intensive signification, and must be distinguished from “Liberty of Will” in its ordinary acceptation. The latter denotes a mere liability to be affected by extrinsic motives: the former is that absolute strength of Will which enables it to defy all seductions that challenge its persistency. Its sole object is self-assertion. In fact it is Individuality maintaining itself against all dividing or distracting forces. And to maintain individuality is to preserve consistency – to “act on principle” – phrases with which Language, the faithful conservator of metaphysical genealogies, connects virtuous associations. In adopting a code of Duties, and in acknowledging Rights, the Will recognises its own Freedom in this intensive sense, for in such adoption it declares its own ability to pursue a certain course of action in spite of all inducements, sensuous or emotional, to deviate from it. These remarks may supply some indications of the process referred to in the text. – T. S.

43. “Formal Freedom” is mere liberty to do what one likes. It is called “formal,” because, as already indicated, the matter of volition – what it is that is willed – is left entirely undetermined. In the next paragraph the writer goes on to show that some definite object was associated with a sentiment otherwise unmeaning or bestial, “Vive la Liberté!” – J. S.

44. The radical correspondence of “Gleichheit” and “Vergleichung” is attempted to be rendered in English by the terms parity and comparison, and perhaps etymology may justify the expedient. The meaning of the derivative “comparatio” seems to point to the connection of its root “paro” with “par.” – J. S.

45. That is, the will of the individual goes along with the requirements of reasonable Laws. – J. S.