Many of us must have heard about Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel probably in our high school or in college days. But only a few have much knowledge about his early life and adult life. If you are among such people, read on to learn more about why he is the “Aristotle of modern times.”
Birth and Early Life
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel was born on August 27, 1770, in Stuttgart, Germany. He lost his mother Maria Magdalena at the age of thirteen. His father Georg Ludwig was a revenue collection officer at the court of Karl Eugen, Duke of Württemberg.
Hegel joined the Stuttgart Grammar School in 1776 and graduated at the age of 18 years old. He then proceeded to Tubingen University in 1788 to study Philosophy and Classics. During his time at Tubingen, Friedrich Holderlin (poet) and Friedrich Wilhelm Schelling (philosopher) were very crucial to his development as a philosopher. After graduation from the University, he worked as a private tutor to an aristocratic family in Bern from 1793 to 1996.
Unable to secure paid employment, Hegel accepted an unsalaried lecturing position at the University of Jenna teaching logic and metaphysics. He got promoted to the position of extraordinary professor at Jenna (still unsalaried). To meet his financial obligations, he released his first work entitled Phänomenologie des Geistes. From Jenna, Hegel moved to Bamberger where he worked as an editor of a newspaper Bamberger Zeitung.
At around 40 years of age, Hegel married Marrie Helena Susana. They had two sons Karl Friedrich Wilhelm (1813) and Immanuel Thomas Christian (1814). He taught at the University of Heidelberg from 1816 to 1818. While still working at Heidelberg, he received an offer to work as chair of philosophy at the University of Berlin. He remained in Berlin until his death in 1831 during a cholera outbreak.
Hegel developed a new form of thinking and logic called “speculative reason,” which he used to counter the limitation of common sense and traditional philosophy to understanding philosophical problems and relation between reality and thought. He also employed a dialectical scheme that resolves the thesis of an issue with its opposing antithesis into a synthesis. The new synthesis becomes a thesis with corresponding antithesis and synthesis. The process continues ad infinitum until an “ultimate synthesis” known as the “ultimate idea” is found.
Popular Works by Hegel
Hegel wrote four major books which are Phänomenologie des Geistes, Wessenschaft der Logik, Enzyklopädie der philosophischen Wissenschaften, and Grundlinien der Philosophie des Rechts. His works are usually too abstract and difficult to grasp especially for people reading the translated versions of his books.
- Phänomenologie des Geistes: Hegel’s “Philosophy of Mind” was published in 1807. The book gives his account of the evolution of consciousness from sense-perception to absolute knowledge.
- Wessenschaft der Logik: The Wessenschaft der Logik (“Science of Logic”) was published in three volumes. The work explored the logical and metaphysical core of Hegel’s philosophy.
- Enzyklopädie der philosophischen Wissenschaften: The “Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Science” is the complete summary of Hegel’s philosophical system. It was intended to serve as a textbook and coursework for a university.
- Grundlinien der Philosophie des Rechts: Published in 1821, the “Elements of the Philosophy of Rights” contains Hegel’s political philosophy and thoughts on civil societies.
Apart from the four major books highlighted above, other works compiled from his lectures include Philosophy of History, Philosophy of Religion and Aesthesis.
Hegel contributed immensely to philosophy and science during his time. His presence was deeply felt in the early 19th-century German idealism movement and presently through his philosophy of “Hegelianism.”
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