“George Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831) opposed Rousseau’s and Kant’s separation of reason and morality from the lawfulness of nature and tried to reintegrate them into a whole. In Reason in History he argues that history or the totality of the real is completely rational. The real is rational; the rational is the real. History is the rational process by which the Absolute Spirit (God) externalizes himself into nature and human history in a dialectical progress (of thesis [seed], antithesis [negation of seed and growth of sprout], and synthesis [flower]). In the dialectical unfolding of history the subjective spirit of laws, customs, and organizational structures mediate the representation or manifestations of the Absolute Spirit in the forms of Religion, Art, the State, and Philosophy until there emerges the final realization of the state of universal freedom. This growth starts in the orient where only one (the emperor) is free, to the Greek polis in which some citizens are free while the many are slaves, through the Roman republic, down to the Protestant and Lutheran form of Christianity and the French Revolution in which the need for all to be free is so brought to public awareness that it can be actually achieved in the German state of Hegel’s time. Hegel calls history a slaughter-bench. This means that by what he calls “the cunning of reason,” individuals motivated irrationally by their passions and interests, along with world-historical individuals like Caesar and Napoleon, cause terrific bloodshed in bringing about the end of history (universal freedom) of which only the philosopher Hegel has a comprehensive understanding” (Frederick Lawrence, Philosophers and Theologians, Boston College).
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