Lectures on the Philosophy of History, also translated as Lectures on
the Philosophy of World History (LPH; German: Vorlesungen über die
Philosophie der Weltgeschichte, VPW), is a major work by Georg Wilhelm
Friedrich Hegel (1770–1831), originally given as lectures at the
University of Berlin
University of Berlin in 1822, 1828, and 1830. It presents world
history in terms of the Hegelian philosophy in order to show that
history follows the dictates of reason and that the natural progress
of history is due to the outworking of absolute spirit.
The text was originally published in 1837 by the editor Eduard Gans,
six years after Hegel's death, utilizing Hegel's own lecture notes as
well as those found that were written by his students. A second German
edition was compiled by Hegel's son, Karl, in 1840. A third German
edition, edited by Georg Lasson, was published in 1917.
1.1 Written history
2 The text
2.1 German editions
2.2 English editions
3 See also
5 External links
Hegel begins by distinguishing three methods or modes of doing
history: Original History, Reflective
History and Philosophical
Original history is like that of
Herodotus and Thucydides, these are
almost contemporaneous writings limited to deeds, events and states of
society which they had before their very eyes and whose culture they
Reflective history is written at some temporal distance from the
events or history considered. However, for Hegel, this form of history
has a tendency to impose the cultural prejudices and ideas of the
historians' era upon the past history over which the historian
Philosophical history for Hegel, is the true way. Hegel maintains that
with philosophical history the historian must bracket his own
preconceptions and go and find the overall sense and the driving ideas
out of the very matter of the history considered.
Hegel's lectures on the philosophy of world history are often used to
introduce students to Hegel's philosophy, in part because Hegel's
sometimes difficult style is muted in the lectures, and he discourses
on accessible themes such as world events in order to explain his
philosophy. Much of the work is spent defining and characterizing
Geist or spirit. The
Geist is similar to the culture of people, and is
constantly reworking itself to keep up with the changes of society,
while at the same time working to produce those changes through what
Hegel called the "cunning of reason" (List der Vernunft). Another
important theme of the text is the focus on world history, rather than
regional or state history. Thinkers such as Johann Gottfried Herder
Johann Gottlieb Fichte
Johann Gottlieb Fichte (1762–1814) had written on
the concept and importance of world history and nationalism, and
Hegel's philosophy continues this trend, while breaking away from an
emphasis on nationalism and striving rather to grasp the full sweep of
human cultural and intellectual history as a manifestation of spirit.
Hegel explicitly presents his lectures on the philosophy of history as
a theodicy, or a reconciliation of divine providence with the evils of
history. This leads Hegel to consider the events of history in
terms of universal reason: "That world history is governed by an
ultimate design, that it is a rational process... this is a
proposition whose truth we must assume; its proof lies in the study of
world history itself, which is the image and enactment of reason."
The ultimate design of the world is such that absolute spirit, here
understood as God, comes to know itself and fully become itself in and
through the triumphs and tragedies of history. Hegel is clear that
history does not produce happiness - "history is not the soil in which
happiness grows. The periods of happiness in it are the blank pages of
History as the slaughter-bench" (Geschichte Als
Schlachtbank) - and yet the aims of reason are accomplished. Hegel
writes: "we must first of all know what the ultimate design of the
world really is, and secondly, we must see that this design has been
realized and that evil has not been able to maintain a position of
equality beside it." To see the reason in history is to be able to
account for the evil within it. He argued against the 'professional
historians' of the day such as Von Ranke. Hegel points out that the
understanding and consequently writing of history always relies on a
framework. Hegel chose to openly admit and explain his framework
rather than hide it as many historians choose to do.
According to Hegel, "World history... represents the development of
the spirit's consciousness of its own freedom and of the consequent
realization of this freedom.". This realization is seen by studying
the various cultures that have developed over the millennia, and
trying to understand the way that freedom has worked itself out
through them. Hegel's account of history begins with ancient cultures
as he understood them. His account of the civilizations relied upon
19th century European scholarship, and contains an unavoidable
Eurocentric bias. At the same time, the developmental nature of
Hegel's philosophy meant that rather than simply deprecating ancient
civilizations and non-European cultures, he saw them as necessary (if
incomplete or underdeveloped) steps in the outworking of absolute
spirit. Hegel's lectures on the philosophy of history contain one of
his most well-known and controversial claims about the notion of
World history is the record of the spirit's efforts to attain
knowledge of what it is in itself. The Orientals do not know that the
spirit or man as such are free in themselves. And because they do not
know that, they are not themselves free. They only know that One is
free.... The consciousness of freedom first awoke among the Greeks,
and they were accordingly free; but, like the Romans, they only knew
that Some, and not all men as such, are free.... The Germanic nations,
with the rise of Christianity, were the first to realize that All men
are by nature free, and that freedom of spirit is his very essence.
In other words, Hegel maintains that the consciousness of freedom in
history moves from despotism, to a sense that freedom is a privilege
of a few, to a robust notion that humanity is free in and of itself.
Hegel believes that the spirit of human freedom is best nurtured
within a constitutional monarchy in which the monarch embodies the
spirit and desires of the governed, and his reading of history locates
the rise of such forms of government in the Germanic nations of, for
United Kingdom and
Prussia after the Protestant
Reformation. Hegel's "one, some, and all" proposition follows the
basic geographical metaphor Hegel takes throughout his philosophy of
history, namely, "World history travels from east to west; for Europe
is the absolute end of history, just as Asia is the beginning."
When referring to the east, Hegel generally has in mind the historical
cultures of Persia, though at times he does reference
China and spends
a great deal of space discussing
India and Indian religions. However
he also said that the view of history (including his own) should be
open to change based on the 'empirical facts' available.
Because of the nature of the text (collections of edited lecture
notes), critical editions were slow in forthcoming. The standard
German edition for many years was the manuscript of Hegel's son Karl
Hegel, published in 1840. The German edition produced by Eva
Moldenhauer and Karl Michel (1986) essentially follows Karl
Hegel's edition. The only critical edition in German of the text of
the lectures is Georg Lasson's 4 vol. edition (1917–1920). This
edition was published repeatedly (last in two volumes in 1980) by
Felix Meiner Verlag, Hamburg. The long introduction was re-edited on
the basis of Lasson's publication in 1955, by Johannes Hoffmeister.
No full English translation of the complete lectures has ever been
produced. The first English translation was made from Karl Hegel's
edition, which lacked much material discovered later. This
translation, made by John Sibree (1857), is still the only English
version which contains not only the Introduction, but the shorter body
of the lectures according to Karl Hegel's 1840 manuscript. Though it
is incomplete, this translation is often used by English speaking
scholars and is prevalent in university classrooms in the
An English translation of the Introduction to the lectures was
Robert S. Hartman (1953) which included an introduction
and additional editorial footnotes. Hartman produced this
translation before Hoffmeister's critical edition was published, and
it is quite short, only 95 pages.
An English translation of Hoffmeister's critical edition of the
Introduction was produced in 1974 by H. B. Nisbet. This edition
presents the full text of the Introduction to Karl Hegel manuscript,
as well as all later additions included in the Hoffmeister edition of
the Introduction. As such, it is the only critical edition of any
portion of the lectures available in English. No translation of the
full edition of the lectures following Lasson has yet been produced.
Philosophy of history
^ a b Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich (1975). Lectures on the
philosophy of world history. Introduction, reason in history.
(translated from the German edition of Johannes Hoffmeister from Hegel
papers assembled by H. B. Nisbet). New York, NY: Cambridge University
Press. ISBN 978-0-521-28145-4. ISBN 0-52128145-8.
^ Magee, Glenn Alexander (2011). The Hegel Dictionary. London:
Continuum International Publishing Group. ISBN 978-1-847-06591-9.
ISBN 1-84706591-0. P. 67.
^ Lectures, p. 42.
^ Lectures, p. 28.
^ Lectures, p. 79.
^ The Hegel Dictionary, p. 218.
^ Lectures, p. 43.
^ Lectures, p. 138.
^ Lectures, p. 54.
^ Lectures, p. 197.
^ Moldenhauer, Eva and Karl Markus Michel (Ed.) (1986). Vorlesungen
über die Philosophie der Geschichte (in German). Frankfurt a.M.:
Suhrkamp Verlag. ISBN 3-51828212-3. CS1 maint: Extra text:
authors list (link)
^ Sibree, John (Ed. and Trans.) (1956). The Philosophy of World
History. New York: Dover. ISBN 0-48620112-0.
^ Hartman, Robert S. (Ed. and Trans.) (1953).
Reason in History, A
General Introduction to the Philosophy of History. Upper Saddle River,
NJ: Prentice-Hall. ISBN 0-02351320-9. LCCN 53004476.
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