Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

From AnthroWiki
(Redirected from Hegel)
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
(portrait by Jakob Schlesinger, 1831)
Hegel Unterschrift.svg

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (* 27 August 1770 in Stuttgart; † 14 November 1831 in Berlin) was a German philosopher who is considered the most important representative of German idealism. Hegel's philosophy claims to interpret the whole of reality in the diversity of its manifestations, including its historical development, in a coherent, systematic and definitive way. His philosophical work is one of the most influential in the history of modern philosophy.

Hegel's work is divided into "Logic", "Philosophy of Nature" and "Philosophy of Mind", which also includes a philosophy of history.

The Significance of Hegel for Rudolf Steiner

As early as 1894 Rudolf Steiner wrote in a letter to Eduard von Hartmann:

„I do not think I differ from Hegel in anything, but only draw individual consequences of his teaching.“ (Lit.:GA 39, p. 227)

In a later lecture it is said appreciatively:

„Hegel appears as the one among modern minds who has brought the experience of the inner being to its highest flowering. He appears as the one who can lead man today into the etheric heights, into the luminous regions of thought, and for those who can allow themselves to be fertilised by Hegel's crystal-bright trains of thought floating in the etheric heights, another spiritual current that has prevailed in humanity also becomes comprehensible. For Hegel can only be compared, if we wander with our sensibilities through the turn of the times, with that Oriental spiritual flowering which has led most deeply into human spiritual life through pure thought: with Vedanta philosophy. In a certain respect he is the one who, within our Occident, has renewed the Luciferic, starting from India, and yet again in a different form.“ (Lit.:GA 113, p. 197)

Rudolf Steiner also mentioned, in several places in his work, the positive effect that comes from studying Hegel's logic:

„It is extraordinarily useful and constitutes an extraordinarily fruitful meditation to live in Hegel's crystal-clear concepts; it is an important means of education for the soul. At the same time, it is a means of education against all laxity and loutishness of concepts, which are thoroughly exorcised by the Hegelian dialectic. If one has trained one's mind on Hegelian dialectics, one often has the impression of loose concepts when reading books by modern writers.“ (Lit.:GA 108, p. 247)

„And if untrained thinking in outer science already causes a great deal of mischief, in the anthroposophical movement in particular mischief is caused even more than by incorrect observations by the fact that with many the interest in supersensible things does not go hand in hand with an equally strong interest in logical thinking. And this purely logical thinking can be trained quite particularly by a consideration of the thought of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel.“ (Lit.:GA 125, p. 27)

Hegel's philosophical view can very easily be misunderstood to the effect that he postulated a world of ideas independent of man, free-floating, as it were, and existing for itself. Hegel himself did little to dispel this misunderstanding. In contrast to this, therefore, two things must be noted: Firstly, the field in which thoughts occur is solely individual human consciousness; secondly, however, thought is based on its own inherent regularities, which is why it is always one and the same world of thought, common to all human beings, from which each individual, through his activity of thinking, draws the thoughts that occur in his consciousness. The appearance of thoughts brought about by thinking is therefore subjectively caused, but the thought content as such is objective.

„Hegel has an absolute trust in thinking, indeed it is the only factor of reality in which he trusts in the true sense of the word. However correct his view may be in general, it is precisely he who has deprived thinking of all prestige by the all-too-crass form in which he defends it. The way he has put forward his view is to blame for the hopeless confusion that has come into our "thinking about thinking". He wanted to make the significance of the thought, of the idea, quite clear by describing the necessity of thought at the same time as the necessity of facts. In this way he gave rise to the error that the determinations of thought were not purely ideal but actual. His view was soon taken to mean that he himself had sought thought as a thing in the world of sensuous reality. He never quite made this clear. It must be established that the field of thought is solely human consciousness. Then it must be shown that through this circumstance the world of thought loses nothing in objectivity. Hegel only brought out the objective side of thought; but the majority, because this is easier, see only the subjective; and it seems to them that the latter treated something purely ideal like a thing, mystified it. Even many scholars of the present day cannot be absolved from this error. They condemn Hegel on account of a defect which he does not have in himself, but which can certainly be put into him because he has not clarified the matter in question sufficiently.

We admit that there is a difficulty here for our judgment. But we believe that this difficulty can be overcome by any energetic thinking. We must imagine two things: first, that we actively bring the ideal world into existence, and second, that what we actively bring into existence is based on its own laws. We are, of course, accustomed to imagining an appearance in such a way that we only have to face it passively, observing. But this is not an absolute necessity. Unaccustomed as we may be to the idea that we ourselves actively bring an objective into appearance, that we, in other words, not only perceive an appearance but at the same time produce it, it is not an inadmissible one.

One need only abandon the ordinary opinion that there are as many worlds of thought as there are human individuals. This opinion is in any case nothing more than a long-established prejudice. It is everywhere tacitly assumed, without any consciousness that another is at least equally possible, and that the reasons for the validity of one or the other must first be considered. In place of this opinion, consider the following: there is only one thought-content at all, and our individual thinking is nothing more than a working of our self, our individual personality, into the thought-centre of the world.“ (Lit.:GA 2, p. 51f)

Hegel's dialectical method

Hegel's philosophy is about overcoming the subject-object split (dualism). Dialectics is the method by which the speculative spirit is used to overcome the split.

„This movement in pure concepts is called the "dialectical method" in the sense of the great philosopher Hegel, whereby man lives only in concepts and makes himself capable of allowing one concept to emerge from another, to grow out of it, as it were. Thus man lives in a sphere in which he refrains from the outer, sensuous world, and where he refrains from that which stands behind it, from the supersensuous world. The soul moves from concept to concept, and the force that drives it away from concept to concept lets the one concept emerge from the other. This method is called the dialectical method, the method of the self-moving concept.“ (Lit.:GA 108, p. 245)

„We must have the possibility of gaining a conceptual system by letting concept grow out of concept. How do we find a point of reference for this? We find this clue in the dialectical method, namely when we realise how every concept contains something else in itself than what it initially appears to be. It is with the concept as with a root. The root actually contains the whole plant, which has not yet grown out, but is still within it. When we look at the root, we do not yet have everything that is there. We do not see the plant itself, which is inside the root. If we only look at the root with external eyes, we do not see what the plant is pushing out of the root. So there is also something in every concept that can grow out of it, just as there is something in the root that can grow out of it, and indeed the opposite, the nothing, is in the concept of being. When we grasp the concept of being, it encompasses everything possible that can appear in the sensuous and supersensuous world. Because it encompasses everything, it also encompasses the "nothing". The 'nothing' is within 'being', it sprouts out of 'being'".“ (Lit.:GA 108, p. 247)

The Limits of Hegel's Philosophy to Spiritual Science

Since Hegel puts the concept first and not the thinking activity (like Steiner), it is not possible for him to penetrate to a productive and living spirituality. With his thinking he can only comprehend that which has become.

„Through mere thinking one gains a kind of overview, a kind of larger retrospective of what the human spirit has produced in the world-historical development. From a certain centre, one can look around at the thoughts that have been produced. But one cannot gain new content of knowledge.“ (Lit.:GA 125, p. 74)

Hegel's thinking thus resembles a plant that has completed its development with the formation of germs:

„To anyone who directs his gaze to the meaning of Hegel's philosophy, it can appear in such a way that in it the whole picture which man makes of the world unfolds like a plant; that this unfolding is brought up to the germ, the thought, but is then completed like the life of a plant whose germ is not developed further in the sense of plant life, but is turned into something which is externally opposed to this life, like human nourishment.

Indeed, once Hegel has arrived at the thought, he does not continue along the path that led him to it.“ (Lit.:GA 18, p. 337)

Hegel and his school

„No sooner had Hegel himself departed than his school disintegrated. And one could see how this Hegelian school completely took on the form of a new parliament. There was a left, a right, an extreme right, an extreme left, a most radical wing, a most conservative wing. There were quite radical people with a radical scientific, with a radical social world view, who felt themselves to be the correct spiritual descendants of Hegel. On the other hand, there were fully believing positive theologians who knew how to trace their theological primal conservatism back to Hegel. There was the Hegel Centre with the amiable philosopher Karl Rosenkranz, and all, all these personalities, they each claimed for themselves that they had the correct Hegelian teaching. One of those who inwardly studied Hegel most energetically, who made Hegel completely alive in themselves, is Karl Marx, And what does we encounter in Karl Marx? A strange Hegelianism! Hegel on the highest summit of the idea-picture above, on the outermost summit of idealism - the faithful pupil Karl Marx immediately turning the picture into the opposite, with the same method, as he believes, in that he believed he was forming precisely that which is truth in Hegel, and out of it comes historical materialism, that materialism which is to be that worldview or conception of life for broad masses which is now really to be carried into social life. Thus, in the first half of the 19th century, we encounter the great idealist Hegel, who lived only in the spiritual, in his ideas; thus, in the second half of the 19th century, we encounter his disciple Karl Marx, who researched only in the material, who wanted to see a reality only in the material, who saw only ideology in everything that lived in ideal heights. One should only once feel through this change of world and life views in the course of the 19th century, and one will feel the whole strength of that in oneself which today drives one to gain such a knowledge of nature, which, when we have it, releases in us a judgement that is socially viable.“ (Lit.:GA 322, p. 22ff)

Today we experience the reception of Hegel most intensively in neo-Marxist critical theory ("Frankfurt School"). Its moderate representative Jürgen Habermas is currently considered the most effective German philosopher worldwide.


Steiner big.jpg
References to the work of Rudolf Steiner follow Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works (CW or GA), Rudolf Steiner Verlag, Dornach/Switzerland, unless otherwise stated.
Email: URL:
Index to the Complete Works of Rudolf Steiner - Aelzina Books
A complete list by Volume Number and a full list of known English translations you may also find at Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works
Rudolf Steiner Archive - The largest online collection of Rudolf Steiner's books, lectures and articles in English (by Steiner Online Library).
Rudolf Steiner Audio - Recorded and Read by Dale Brunsvold - Anthroposophic Press Inc. (USA)
Rudolf Steiner Handbook - Christian Karl's proven standard work for orientation in Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works for free download as PDF.