Hegel and the Philosophy of History (Summary)

hegel history

Hegel invented the dialectic method. Here is a summary and an analysis of the book “Reason in History” by Hegel.

Hegel believes in the “rationality of the event”. Men who pursue their private and selfish interests are contributing to the achievement of history. Everything about it wants to demonstrate that history has meaning, and an analysis which we call “meta-historical” can prove it. The goal is the realization of the Spirit or, what seems a synonym, Reason. History is apparently chaotic, and the Spirit works with guile.

What can we learn from Reason in History ?

– The notion of historical evolution

– The existence of a sort of “invisible hand” that allows the Spirit to use men’s passions to achieve his goals (I do not know if Hegel had read Adam Smith);

– The notion of geographical determinism companies, already discussed by Montesquieu (Hegel quote at a time, I did not find out where): in this sense, there is a foreknowledge of future geopolitics;

– The “spiritualize” the people, presented as living beings, which clearly inspired the first geopoliticians Germans, for whom the state is a biological being that lives and grows (the concept of living space);

– The assertion of the superiority of Germanic culture (again, German trait resulting from the French Revolution, and the need for reassurance from France): it also evokes unpleasant future developments.


Of course, one can not attribute to Hegel the responsibility of development of some of his followers / readers. Similarly, I do not know if the first German geopoliticians have a current reference to Hegel (I believe likely, however). Still, the text of Hegel is that the meta-history, and is one of the first pieces of geopolitics as a Vauban or Montesquieu.

The entire first part is a reflection on the story (the events and those that tell of the events, and those who give meaning). For Hegel, history is the manifestation of the Spirit. “The question of the determination of reason itself in its relationship with the world merges with the ultimate end of the world. “(P 70)

Every people has its own principle and tends to him as if it were the end of his being, and once this is reached, it has nothing to do in the world.”

Universal history is the manifestation of the divine process of the Absolute Spirit in its highest figures: the gradual by which it attains its truth and becomes aware of itself. Peoples historical characters determined their collective ethic, their constitution, their art, their religion, science, are the configurations of the walk-out. Through these degrees, the infinite desire and the irresistible pressure of the Spirit World, as their articulation as well as their realization is its concept. ” 97

The idea and the human passions “together form the fabric and the thread of world history. The idea as such is the reality, the passions are the arm with which it governs. What links them is the freedom concrete

“It is now the great men who understand this universal historical upper and make it their goal. They are the ones who realize this goal which is the superior concept of the Spirit. That is why we must call them heroes. ” 120

“These great men seem to obey only their passion, their whim. What they want is the Universal. This is their pathos. The passion has become the energy of me, without passion, they would have produced nothing. ” 125

“What we call state is the individual spirit, the people, to the extent that it is structured in itself and form an organic whole.” 139

“This end, we have defined from the beginning: it is the Spirit as it is in its essence, the concept of freedom. This is the fundamental purpose and therefore the guiding principle of evolution, which gives it its meaning and importance “180

“It is consistent with the concept of the Spirit that changes the story to happen in time” 181

“In addition, the people as spiritual formation are in some ways, natural beings” 183. These sentences, before Darwin and in my opinion are as important as creating it in the first geopolitics.

Then comes the “geographical basis of world history” (pp 216-230), which appears as the geopolitical (determination of the geographical history). It evokes the classic theory of climate (cf. Montesquieu in The Spirit of Laws), he noted the importance of the relationship between land and sea (p 222), and even that “water, in fact, c ‘ is what unites “(p. 226) when the mountains apart.

It then describes the parts of the world, very dated: New World 230, 242 Old World, including Africa (245, with pages that do not pass today) Asia 269, Europe 275 sees a tripartite division between the south of Europe (275), the heart of Europe (276 “the world half-open by Julius Caesar) and Europe’s North-East (276).

And he concludes the “European humanity appears as, even according to its nature, more free, because no natural principle of this kind is manifested predominantly. (…) In Europe, however, what matters is the relationship with the sea. ” (277)


Cite this article as: Tim, "Hegel and the Philosophy of History (Summary), May 12, 2012, " in Philosophy & Philosophers, May 12, 2012, https://www.the-philosophy.com/hegel-philosophy-history-summary.

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