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Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich

Page history last edited by Robert Goldman 15 years, 6 months ago

G.W.F. Hegel (1770-1831) is a German philosopher whose work has been very influential among many social theorists who followed him. He developed a philosophical system that looks at the development of reason which interprets reality through a dialectic method.  Some of his most influential concepts include sublation, self-consciousness, contradictions, "Spirit", dialectic, etc. which are further explained in his piece on the "Master/Slave" dialectic, which is an excerpt from one of his most important philosophical works, The Phenomenology of Mind. 


To briefly summarize, Hegel believes that within all relationships, which are seen as a unity of opposites, there exist contradictions, which are in fact the force of change. Through its development, self-consciousness dialectically sublates into a higher unity of reason and self consciousness of humankind, and through long-term historical development humanity achieves a state of knowledge that is not divided against itself. He believes that the whole process towards the end product of Absolute Knowledge (i.e. Spirit, Geist, etc.) is a slow process of struggle and conflict, where an internal and external other continue to sublate one another until there is unification. 


Hegel believes the self is composed of multiple forces (self and other) which cannot exist without recognition from an outside "Other". These selfs are in a constant state of sublation. Sublation means to eliminate, and the elevate.  Hegels uses this idea in conjuction with his theory that is self is composed of multiple forces. With every new relationship, every new growth, a part of your self is lost, and another is gained. This process occures over and over, with the ultimate goal being Absolute (Perfect) Knowledge. 

      Hegel believed that the progression of humanity would push societies toward reason. Here, the teleological thought inherent in Hegel's thinking makes itself apparent: Hegel held that there was some indeterminate endpoint towards which humanity was headed. Nonetheless, this formulation was a departure from the Enlightenment thinkers, who posited that reason was inherent to humanity. Hegel, conversely, argued that reason would come to society as an external discovery, and that the journey towards reason was the journey towards freedom. Unlike the Enlightenment thinkers, who held that humanity was born into freedom, Hegel posited that the freedom of humanity was in fact inadequate and illusory. It was only though reason that this freedom could be attained.

In many ways Hegel's theories are a response to most of the social and political theorists that came before him in the Enlightenment. He posits that "reason" is neither immediate or mediated, that the formation of all relationships and societal forms are a process, and that there is no state of nature to foil our society or the psyches of individuals against.


Comments (1)

mcnamara said

at 7:03 pm on Dec 11, 2008

Melanie, the main reason I didn't go too much into the whole process of sublation,etc. and master/slave relationship on this page is because Maile does a pretty good job summarizing it in the section on the master/slave dialectic...It's worth taking a look at at least because she goes into a good amount already! :)

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