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'How did Hegel envisage the course of history and upon what did he base his vision?'

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Introduction

'How did Hegel envisage the course of history and upon what did he base his vision?' 'The history of the world is none other than the progress of the consciousness of freedom.'1 'History is not a record of accidents and chance events but a rational process.'2 Hegel believes that history has meaning and significance. Hegel envisaged the course of history as progressive but marked by struggle. He gave a teleological account, as the end of history for Hegel was the development of the modern state, the 'final stage'. Individuals and societies became freer and rational the closer one came to Hegel's own time. The progression of freedom was embodied in the progression of the mind or spirit (Geist) towards absolute knowledge. He based his vision upon his assessment of periods throughout time, where he traced the development of reason and liberty. Hegel describes the course of history as the progress of the consciousness of the idea of freedom. Most historians of the nineteenth century viewed all history as the history of progress but as Hecker pointed out, Hegel's theory is radical as it welcomes change and sees struggle as the necessary condition of progress.'3 Hegel views history as moving forward in the development of 'auto-dynamic forces inherent in nature. He conceived nature as having a dynamic purpose, moved by the interaction of forces, the inter-play of which constitutes the movement and growth of human history towards a definite end - the fulfilment of the Absolute idea.'4 Hegel envisaged human history as the development of the mind and spirit. 'Freedom for Hegel is not freedom to do as we please; it consists in having a free mind. ...read more.

Middle

which was entrapped in legalistic regulations.24' Throughout history this alienation decreased as individuals were granted more freedoms and became more conscious of their power to change the universe. For Hegel, 'The history of the World accordingly represents the successive stages in the development of that principle whose substantial content is the consciousness of freedom.'25 Hegel compares the Oriental World as the first stage of the spirit, likening it to 'the spirit of childhood.' This natural spirit is still immersed in nature and is not yet self-sufficient; it is therefore not yet free, and has not undergone the process by which freedom comes into being.26 Hegel thus sees human history as beginning in the East, in societies fundamentally marked by darkness. Societies do not progress towards freedom and liberty but remain static and backwards. The Orientals did not gain the knowledge that Geist, in the form of Mankind, is free. In China individual identities were submerged into the state and under the influence of the Patriarchal family. In India the Caste System prevented the development of freedom. Persia had potential for growth in the consciousness of freedom but this was not realised.27 The Oriental World was doomed to being static and stagnant as consciousness was expressed in only one individual, the absolute despot. 'The tide of world history passed from the oriental world to the world of the Greek City states.'28 The second phase of the spirit is found in the Classical age. Hegel describes the Greek World as 'the youthful age of the spirit' and the Roman World as the 'spirit's manhood.' The consciousness of freedom first arose among the Greeks. ...read more.

Conclusion

He does not perceive Hegel was promoting a causal account of history with the sprit pushing to come to a full self-consciousness. He portrays Hegel, not as a metaphysical philosopher but rather as a historian providing an account of history. Hegel is in fact attempting to reconstruct history as a development of 'how social and political life may be embodied in institutions organized around the expression and development of freedom, or self-determination.' 48 Rather than understanding Hegel as analysing the Modern world as the end of all history, Pinkard notes that Modern life merely completes the development of political history. 'Hegel's claim about the final stage of history is thus neither a metaphysical nor a theological, quasi-eschatological thesis. It is rather the view that in so far as the conceptualisation of freedom is concerned, European modern life has reached a point in which there seems nothing in principle left to be developed.'49 Individual freedoms have moved a long way from the Oriental and Graeco-Roman Civilisation. Hegel has thus based his vision of history upon the stages of freedom for the individual of significant periods he has demonstrated as relevant. For Hegel, true reality is only found when individuals and societies enter into freedom, through the development of the mind. He envisaged the course of history as the development towards the consciousness of freedom as expressed in the political, cultural, and religious institutions of a nation - Volksgeist. He based his vision upon significant periods of history, emphasising the progression of freedom from the one to the few to many. He concluded that the closer one came to his own time the more free and rational individuals and societies became. Every period had given its contribution to the march of history. ...read more.

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