Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770 - 1831) MP

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Birthplace: Stuttgart, Baden-Württemberg, Deutschland
Death: Died in Berlin, Deutschland
Occupation: German philosopher, Prof. für Philosphie in Heidelberg und Berlin
Managed by: Yigal Burstein / יגאל בורשטיין
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About Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (August 27, 1770 – November 14, 1831) was a German philosopher, one of the creators of German Idealism. His historicist and idealist account of reality as a whole revolutionized European philosophy and was an important precursor to Continental philosophy and Marxism.

Hegel developed a comprehensive philosophical framework, or "system", to account in an integrated and developmental way for the relation of mind and nature, the subject and object of knowledge, and psychology, the state, history, art, religion and philosophy. In particular, he developed a concept of mind or spirit that manifested itself in a set of contradictions and oppositions that it ultimately integrated and united, without eliminating either pole or reducing one to the other. Examples of such contradictions include those between nature and freedom, and between immanence and transcendence.

Hegel influenced writers of widely varying positions, including both his admirers (Strauss, Bauer, Feuerbach, T. H. Green, Marx, F. H. Bradley, Dewey, Sartre, Küng, Kojève, Žižek, Brandom) and his detractors (Schelling, Kierkegaard, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Peirce, Popper, Russell, Heidegger). His influential conceptions are of speculative logic or "dialectic", "absolute idealism", "Spirit", negativity, sublation (Aufhebung in German), the "Master/Slave" dialectic, "ethical life" and the importance of history.

Life

Early years

Childhood

Hegel was born on August 27, 1770 in Stuttgart, in the Duchy Württemberg in southwestern Germany. Christened Georg Wilhelm Friedrich, he was known as Wilhelm to his close family. His father, Georg Ludwig, was Rentkammersekretär (secretary to the revenue office) at the court of Karl Eugen, Duke of Württemberg. Hegel's mother, Maria Magdalena Louisa (née Fromm), was the daughter of a lawyer at the High Court of Justice at the Württemberg court. She died of a "bilious fever" (Gallenfieber) when Hegel was thirteen. Hegel and his father also caught the disease but narrowly survived. Hegel had a sister, Christiane Luise (1773–1832), and a brother, Georg Ludwig (1776–1812), who was to perish as an officer in Napoleon's Russian campaign of 1812.

At the age of three Hegel went to the "German School". When he entered the "Latin School" aged five, he already knew the first declension, having been taught it by his mother.

In 1776 Hegel entered Stuttgart's Gymnasium Illustre. During his adolescence Hegel read voraciously, copying lengthy extracts in his diary. Authors he read include the poet Klopstock and writers associated with the Enlightenment such as Christian Garve and Gotthold Ephraim Lessing. Hegel's studies at the Gymnasium were concluded with his Abiturrede ("graduation speech") entitled "The abortive state of art and scholarship in Turkey."

Tübingen (1788-93)

At the age of eighteen Hegel entered the Tübinger Stift (a Protestant seminary attached to the University of Tübingen), where two fellow students were to become vital to his development—his exact contemporary, the poet Friedrich Hölderlin, and the younger brilliant philosopher-to-be Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling. Sharing a dislike for what they regarded as the restrictive environment of the Seminary, the three became close friends and mutually influenced each other's ideas. They watched the unfolding of the French Revolution with shared enthusiasm. Schelling and Hölderlin immersed themselves in theoretical debates on Kantian philosophy, from which Hegel remained aloof. Hegel at this time envisaged his future as that of a Popularphilosoph, i.e., a "man of letters" who serves to make the abstruse ideas of philosophers accessible to a wider public; his own felt need to engage critically with the central ideas of Kantianism did not come until 1800.

Bern (1793–96) and Frankfurt (1797–1801)

Having received his theological certificate (Konsistorialexamen) from the Tübingen Seminary, Hegel became Hofmeister (house tutor) to an aristocratic family in Bern (1793–96). During this period he composed the text which has become known as the "Life of Jesus" and a book-length manuscript entitled "The Positivity of the Christian Religion". His relations with his employers having become strained, Hegel gladly accepted an offer mediated by Hölderlin to take up a similar position with a wine merchant's family in Frankfurt, where he moved in 1797. Here Hölderlin exerted an important influence on Hegel's thought. While in Frankfurt Hegel composed the essay "Fragments on Religion and Love". In 1799 he wrote another essay entitled "The Spirit of Christianity and Its Fate" which was not published during his lifetime.

Career years

Jena, Bamberg and Nuremberg: 1801-1816

In 1801 Hegel came to Jena with the encouragement of his old friend Schelling, who was Extraordinary Professor at the University there. Hegel secured a position at the University as a Privatdozent (unsalaried lecturer) after submitting a Habilitationsschrift (dissertation) on the orbits of the planets. Later in the year Hegel's first book, The Difference Between Fichte's and Schelling's Systems of Philosophy, appeared. He lectured on "Logic and Metaphysics" and, with Schelling, gave joint lectures on an "Introduction to the Idea and Limits of True Philosophy" and held a "Philosophical Disputorium". In 1802 Schelling and Hegel founded a journal, the Kritische Journal der Philosophie ("Critical Journal of Philosophy") to which they each contributed pieces until the collaboration was ended by Schelling's departure for Würzburg in 1803.

In 1805 the University promoted Hegel to the position of Extraordinary Professor (unsalaried), after Hegel wrote a letter to the poet and minister of culture Johann Wolfgang von Goethe protesting at the promotion of his philosophical adversary Jakob Friedrich Fries ahead of him. Hegel attempted to enlist the help of the poet and translator Johann Heinrich Voß to obtain a post at the newly renascent University of Heidelberg, but failed; to his chagrin, Fries was later in the same year made Ordinary Professor (salaried) there.

His finances drying up quickly, Hegel was now under great pressure to deliver his book, the long-promised introduction to his System. Hegel was putting the finishing touches to this book, now called the Phenomenology of Spirit, as Napoleon engaged Prussian troops on October 14, 1806, in the Battle of Jena on a plateau outside the city. On the day before the battle, Napoleon entered the city of Jena.

Although Napoleon chose not to close down Jena as he had other universities, the city was devastated and students deserted the university in droves, making Hegel's financial prospects even worse. The following February Hegel's landlady Christiana Burkhardt (who had been abandoned by her husband) gave birth to their son Georg Ludwig Friedrich Fischer (1807–31).

In March 1807, aged 37, Hegel moved to Bamberg, where Niethammer had declined and passed on to Hegel an offer to become editor of a newspaper, the Bamberger Zeitung. Hegel, unable to find more suitable employment, reluctantly accepted. Ludwig Fischer and his mother (whom Hegel may have offered to marry following the death of her husband) stayed behind in Jena.

He was then, in November 1808, again through Niethammer, appointed headmaster of a Gymnasium in Nuremberg, a post he held until 1816. While in Nuremberg Hegel adapted his recently published Phenomenology of Mind for use in the classroom. Part of his remit being to teach a class called "Introduction to Knowledge of the Universal Coherence of the Sciences", Hegel developed the idea of an encyclopedia of the philosophical sciences, falling into three parts (logic, philosophy of nature, and philosophy of spirit).

Hegel married Marie Helena Susanna von Tucher (1791–1855), the eldest daughter of a Senator, in 1811. This period saw the publication of his second major work, the Science of Logic (Wissenschaft der Logik; 3 vols., 1812, 1813, 1816), and the birth of his two legitimate sons, Karl Friedrich Wilhelm (1813–1901) and Immanuel Thomas Christian (1814–1891).

Heidelberg and Berlin: 1816-1831

Having received offers of a post from the Universities of Erlangen, Berlin, and Heidelberg, Hegel chose Heidelberg, where he moved in 1816. Soon after, in April 1817, his illegitimate son Ludwig Fischer (now ten years old) joined the Hegel household, having thus far spent his childhood in an orphanage. (Ludwig's mother had died in the meantime.)

Hegel published The Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences in Outline (1817) as a summary of his philosophy for students attending his lectures at Heidelberg.

In 1818 Hegel accepted the renewed offer of the chair of philosophy at the University of Berlin, which had remained vacant since Fichte's death in 1814. Here he published his Philosophy of Right (1821). Hegel's efforts were primarily directed at delivering his lectures; his lecture courses on aesthetics, the philosophy of religion, the philosophy of history, and the history of philosophy were published posthumously from lecture notes taken by his students. His fame spread and his lectures attracted students from all over Germany and beyond.

Hegel was appointed Rector of the University in 1830, when he was 60. He was deeply disturbed by the riots for reform in Berlin in that year. In 1831 Frederick William III decorated him for his service to the Prussian state. In August 1831 a cholera epidemic reached Berlin and Hegel left the city, taking up lodgings in Kreuzberg. Now in a weak state of health, Hegel went out little. As the new semester began in October, Hegel returned to Berlin, with the (mistaken) impression that the epidemic had largely subsided. By November 14 Hegel was dead. The physicians pronounced the cause of death as cholera, but it is likely he died from a different gastrointestinal disease. He is said to have uttered the last words "And he didn't understand me" before expiring.[16] In accordance with his wishes, Hegel was buried on November 16 in the Dorotheenstadt cemetery next to Fichte and Solger.

Hegel's son Ludwig Fischer had died shortly before while serving with the Dutch army in Batavia; the news of his death never reached his father. Early the following year Hegel's sister Christiane committed suicide by drowning. Hegel's sons Karl, who became a historian, and Immanuel, who followed a theological path, lived long lives during which they safeguarded their father's Nachlaß and produced editions of his works.

Works

Hegel published only four books during in his lifetime: the Phenomenology of Spirit (or Phenomenology of Mind), his account of the evolution of consciousness from sense-perception to absolute knowledge, published in 1807; the Science of Logic, the logical and metaphysical core of his philosophy, in three volumes, published in 1811, 1812, and 1816 (revised 1831); Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences, a summary of his entire philosophical system, which was originally published in 1816 and revised in 1827 and 1830; and the Elements of the Philosophy of Right, his political philosophy, published in 1822. In the latter, he criticized von Haller's reactionary work, which claimed that laws were not necessary. He also published some articles early in his career and during his Berlin period. A number of other works on the philosophy of history, religion, aesthetics, and the history of philosophy were compiled from the lecture notes of his students and published posthumously.

Hegel's works have a reputation for their difficulty and for the breadth of the topics they attempt to cover. Hegel introduced a system for understanding the history of philosophy and the world itself, often described as a "progression in which each successive movement emerges as a resolution to the contradictions inherent in the preceding movement"[citation needed]. For example, the French Revolution for Hegel constitutes the introduction of real individual political freedom into European societies for the first time in recorded history. But precisely because of its absolute novelty, it is also unlimited with regard to everything that preceded it: on the one hand the upsurge of violence required to carry out the revolution cannot cease to be itself, while on the other, it has already consumed its opponent. The revolution therefore has nowhere to turn but onto its own result: the hard-won freedom is consumed by a brutal Reign of Terror. History, however, progresses by learning from its mistakes: only after and precisely because of this experience can one posit the existence of a constitutional state of free citizens, embodying both the benevolent organizing power of rational government and the revolutionary ideals of freedom and equality. Hegel's remarks on the French revolution led German poet Heinrich Heine to label him "The Orléans of German Philosophy".

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Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel's Timeline

1770
July 28, 1770
Stuttgart, Baden-Württemberg, Deutschland
1807
1807
Age 36
1811
1811
Age 40
1813
January 7, 1813
Age 42
Nürnberg, Middle Franconia, Bavaria, Germany
1814
September 24, 1814
Age 44
1831
November 14, 1831
Age 61
Berlin, Deutschland
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