Philosophy and Hegel: A Quick Overview of His Philosophy

“The great thing is to apprehend in the show of the temporal and transient the substance which is immanent and the eternal which is present.”

The passage above expresses a in a very concise, if somewhat hard to comprehend, manner, the main theme and crux of Hegel’s philosophy: there are no individual or separate things, there is only one thing, and all other things are simply manifestations, reflections, and expressions of that original thing. Signifying, basically, that our aim and goal should be to understand things at their absolute core meaning and that our clearest understanding of things comes only when we have stripped them of all that is contingent-all that is transient and temporal. Hegel is essentially saying that in order to be able to understand that which is truly important we have to strip away all the outer stratums, one by one, layer by layer and that when we have done this, then we will be able to apprehend the true or essential substance, that “which is immanent and eternal”-the geist.

Hegel postulates that the notion of reality lies in the idea that identity is found in difference and contradiction. That contradiction and negation have a dynamic quality that at every point in each domain of reality – consciousness, history, philosophy, art, nature, society – leads to further development until a rational unity is reached that preserves these contradictions as phases and sub-parts of a larger, evolutionary whole. He holds that modern philosophy, society, and culture are fraught with contradictions and tensions, such as those between the subject and object of knowledge, self and other, mind and nature, authority and freedom, faith and knowledge, and that in order to understand or comprehend the geist, one has to be able to take all these contrtadictions and tensions and interpert them as part of a comprehensive, rational, evolving unity, that he calls, “absolute spirt” or “absolute knowledge” or as we have been saying in the german venacular-Geist.

According to Hegel, the Geist externalizes itself in various forms and objects that stand outside of its self and are opposed to it, and that, through recognizing itself in these externalized contradictions, it is “with itself.” Therfore the Geist and these external manifistations are a whole, and at one, being at the same time, both “mind” and “other-than-mind.” This whole is mental because it is only mind that can comprehend all of these phases and sub-parts as steps in its own process of comprehension. It is rational because the same, underlying, logical, developmental order underlies every domain of reality and is ultimately the order of self-conscious rational thought, although only in the later stages of development does it come to full self-consciousness.

For Hegel, the objective thought-forms dominating social life co-exist with individual consciousness just as does Nature, and the development of individual consciousness presupposes the objective thought forms, including those which are the externalization of human activity. “Absoulte knowledge” comes to completion only in the philosophical comprehension of individual existing human minds that, through their own understanding, bring this developmental process to an understanding of itself. For Hegel the justification of something, the finding of its inherent rationality, is not a matter of seeking its origins or longstanding features-its transient or temporal qualities, but rather of studying it conceptually-in its immanent and eternal state.

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