Saturday, October 31, 2020

On Hegel’s Philosophy of History

In his Lectures on the Philosophy of History, Hegel asserts that world history is the history of reason. To an unphilosophical eye, history might create the impression of irrational surges of emotion, mindless violence and chaos, and chance events. But a philosopher is capable of discerning the rational design towards which the disjointed and apparently mindless events of the past are driving humanity. The purpose of history is not to satisfy desires and spread happiness. Hegel writes: “The History of the World is not the theatre of happiness. Periods of happiness are blank pages in it, for they are periods of harmony—periods when the antithesis is in abeyance.” The suffering, the chaos, the trauma, the massacres, the instability—all the oppression that human beings have endured was for the purpose of fulfilling the design of the universal spirit. “That is to say, man is an object of existence in himself only in virtue of the Divine that is in him, — that which was designated at the outset as Reason; which, in view of its activity and power of self-determination, was called Freedom.” Human beings cannot defy the march of world history in which reason is immanent because the claim of the universal spirit rises above all particular claims.

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