Books by Georg Hegel
Books about Georg Hegel

Biography: Georg Hegel

Born in 1770 in Stuttgart, Hegel spent the years 1788-1793 as a theology student in nearby Tübingen, forming friendships there with fellow students, the future great romatic poet Friedrich Hölderlin and F. D. E. Schelling, who, like Hegel, would become one of the major figures of the German philosophical scene in the first half of the nineteenth century. These friendships clearly had a major influence on Hegel's philosophical development, and for a while the intellectual lives of these three were closely intertwined.

After graduation Hegel worked as a tutor for families in Bern then Frankfurt, where he wrote early works on religious themes. In 1801 he moved to Jena, the university town in the cultural hot-house of Weimar, to which Schelling had earlier moved. There he was "habilitated" and up until 1804 collaborated with Schelling. During this time Hegel's philosophy was strongly influenced by that of Schelling who in turn had been influenced by but was in the process of breaking away from J. G. Fichte. In 1802 Hegel published his first philosophical work, The Difference between Fichte's and Schelling's System of Philosophy in which he argued that Schelling's approach succeeded where Fichte's failed in the project of systematising and thereby completing Kant's transcendental idealism.

In 1807 Hegel published his Phenomenology of Spirit which showed a divergence from his earlier more Schellingian thought. Schelling, who had left Jena in 1803, interpreted a barbed criticism in the Phenomenology's preface as aimed at him, and their friendship abruptly ended. The occupation of Jena by Napoleon's troops closed the university and Hegel left, working for a short time as an editor of a newspaper in Bamberg, and then from 1808-1816 as the headmaster and philosophy teacher at a "gymnasium" in Nuremberg, during which time he wrote and published his Science of Logic. In 1816 he took up a chair in philosophy at the University of Heidelberg, then in 1818 the chair of philosophy at the University of Berlin, the most prestigious position in the German philosophical world. While in Heidelberg he published the Encyclopaedia of the Philosophical Sciences, a systematic work in which an abbreviated version of the earlier Science of Logic (the "lesser logic") was followed by the application of its principles to the Philosophy of Nature and the Philosophy of Spirit. In 1821 in Berlin Hegel published an expanded and developed version of a section of the encyclopaedia Philosophy of Spirit dealing with political philosophy, Elements of the Philosophy of Right. During the following ten years up to his death from cholera in 1831 he continued to teach at Berlin, and published subsequent versions of the Encyclopaedia. After his death versions of his lectures on philosophy of history, philosophy of religion, aesthetics, and the history of philosophy were published.

After Hegel's death, Schelling, whose reputation had long since been eclipsed by that of Hegel, was invited to take up the chair at Berlin, reputedly because the government of the day had wanted to counter the influence that Hegelian philosophy had developed among a generation of students. Since the early period of his collaboration with Hegel, Schelling had become more religious in his philosophising and criticised the "rationalism" of Hegel's philosophy. During this time of Schelling's tenure at Berlin, important forms of later critical reaction to Hegelian philosophy developed. Hegel supporters divided into "left-" and "right-wing" factions; from out of the former circle, Karl Marx was to develop his own "scientific" approach to society and history which appropriated many Hegelian ideas into a materialistic outlook. (Later, especially in reaction to orthodox Soviet versions of Marxism, many "Western Marxists" re-incorporated further Hegelian elements back into their forms of Marxist philosophy.) Many of Schelling's own criticisms of Hegel's rationalism found their way into subsequent "existentialist" thought, via thinkers such as Soren Kierkegaard (who attended Schelling's lectures). Furthermore, the interpretation Schelling offered of Hegel during these years itself helped to shape subsequent generations' understanding of Hegel, contributing to the orthodox or traditional understanding of Hegel as a "metaphysical" thinker in the pre-Kantian "dogmatic" sense.

In academic philosophy, Hegelian idealism underwent a revival in both Great Britain and the United States towards the end of the nineteenth century. In Britain, where philosophers like T. H Green and F. H. Bradley developed metaphysical ideas which they related back to Hegel's thought, Hegel was seen as one of the main targets of attack by the founders of the emerging "analytic" movement around the turn of the twentieth century, Bertrand Russell and G. E. Moore. For most of the twentieth century, interest in Hegel has been limited to his relation to other more popular philosophical movements like existentialism or Marxism, or to Hegel's social and political thought. In France, a version of Hegelianism came to influence a generation of thinkers, including Jean-Paul Sartre and the psychoanalyst, Jaques Lacan, through the lectures of Alexandre Kojève, an important precursor to the later "post-modern" movement. A later generation of philosophers coming to prominence in the late 1960s and after, tended to react against Hegel in an analogous way to that in which early analytic philosophers had reacted against the Hegel who had influenced their predecessors. In Germany, important Hegelian elements were incorporated into the approach of thinkers of the Frankfurt School, such as Theodor Adorno, and later, Jürgen Habermas, and that of "hermeneutic" thinkers like H. G. Gadamer. In the 1960s the philosopher Klaus Hartmann developed what was termed a non-metaphysical interpretation of Hegel which has played an important role in the revival of Hegelian philosophy over the subsequent period.



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