The Highest Notion in Hegel’s System: Philosophy of History

What is Hegel’s philosophy ultimately about? My answer to that question involves a reading of the structure of Hegel’s philosophy as a whole.

Hegel’s system of philosophy is aimed at understanding Reality in the absolute sense of the word, i.e. as Spirit, as the identity of  subjectivity and “substance.” Expressions like “being with itself in its other”, or: “identity of identity and difference”, or even the notion of the Absolute are mere “markers” for what Hegel can only say with the whole of his system. It can be confusing that Hegel uses different markers to express the idea of the whole. In the various parts of the system the ultimate and most adequate category for this Ultimate Reality is expressed in different ways.

  • • In the Phenomenology of Spirit, which deals with the Absolute as it appears to itself in the form of specific types of knowledge,  the absolute is basically self-consciousness i.e. Absolute Knowledge.
  • • In the Logic we find the notion of the Idea, as the highest conceptual expression of the identity of subjectivity and objectivity.
  • • In the Encyclopedia that deals with the order of philosophical categories as such, the highest concept that expresses the Absolute is the notion of Philosophy, the philosophical sciences in itself, as the triad of Logic, Natural philosophy and Spiritual philosophy.
  • • The Philosophy of Religion shows how Christianity, in its doctrinal content (incarnation, trinity) and in its reality (congregation of the Spirit) is the highest form of religion and the only one in which the principle of the Spirit – the Absolute being manifest to and within the believer – is adequately expressed.
  • • In the Philosophy of Right the Absolute is understood as the reality of organized freedom  that  is real as the world history of States.
  • • In the Aesthetics we find this highest level both of reality and human understanding expressed as Romantic self expression – implying also the “end” of Art.

But Hegel’s thinking in all of these separate perspectives is ultimately focused on an understanding of History, in the sense of the dynamic self-development of the Absolute Spirit through human actions and concepts, in the organization of liberty called the State, in Art, Religion and Philosophy – in short, within human culture.

In that sense, the pivotal perspective in which the entire system is expressed, is Hegel’s Philosophy of History. Only as the Spirit (Idea etc.) that realizes itself through History and that is in that dynamic sense identical to itself through time, is the Absolute conceived in a manner that is adequate to its nature.


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4 responses to “The Highest Notion in Hegel’s System: Philosophy of History

  1. I read it and it is good. How can I follow the course on Hegel on line? I am interresting to his philosophy of history.

  2. Hi Louis,

    Thanks for your ccomment. There are classes on Hegel every week, and you can find them on my WIZIQ page.
    I will put the link to the Hegel site on the right side under Blogrol, or you can look it up it on the HEGELCOURSES page.
    At the moment I have no plans to teach Philosophy of History as such. At the moment we are doing a Basic Hegel series – on the logic and the philosophy of Spirit – and there is a more advanced teaching project on the Philosophy of Right.
    A third project deals with various topics under the title “Philosophy of German Idealism” and that one will restart in a couple of weeks.
    Most of the courses are still in development and will be taught through a Moodle system from the beginning of september.

    Hope to see you in one of my classes!


  3. Dear Robert
    Thank you for your answer. I believed you’d to reply via my email that’s why I am late ro answer you. In few months I will publish a book Hegel et Marx face au sens de l’histoire. Regard critique de leur philosophie de l’histoire and the Professor Tom Rockmore of Duquesne University sent me the preface. I will be glad if you can help me to show to others how we see Hegel in Africa;
    Professor Louis Mpala of Université de Lubumbashi

  4. How are you and what about our projet?

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