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Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich (1770–1831)

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-DC036-3
Version: v3,  Published online: 2022
Retrieved July 24, 2024, from

Article Summary

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel is one of the most influential thinkers of the nineteenth century. His thought had a profound impact on later philosophers, social theorists and theologians, and Ernst Gombrich called him the ‘father of the history of art’ (Gombrich 1977: 7). Among those indebted to his work are Kierkegaard, Marx, Gadamer, Adorno, McDowell and Brandom. Hegel’s philosophy, however, has not always been well understood. He is rightly seen as the advocate of ‘dialectic’ – the process in which one-sided categories and phenomena turn into their opposites – and as a thinker who emphasizes the historicity of human life. Yet what is sometimes missed is the fact that his philosophy is one of freedom. In his system Hegel examines an extraordinary range of topics, including logic, nature, language, the state, history, art, religion and the history of philosophy, and all are conceived by him as – more or less explicit – expressions of freedom and reason. He finds freedom in the self-movement of animals and in human imagination, and he argues that it becomes explicit in the rights guaranteed by the rational state. Like Kant, Hegel also regards aesthetic experience as a distinctive form of freedom, and unlike Nietzsche, he sees freedom (rather than resentment) in religion, at least in its more developed forms (see Kant, I. §12; Nietzsche, F. §§7–9). Hegel’s philosophy was criticized by Karl Popper for preparing the way for modern ‘totalitarianism’ (Popper 1966 II: 31), but it is in fact concerned with freedom throughout its course.

Citing this article:
Houlgate, Stephen. Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich (1770–1831), 2022, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-DC036-3. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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