Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, from Reason in History Notes by Dr. Honora M. Finkelstein   Hegel brought together all the main currents of thought of his time. He speaks of the World Spirit, or Divine Mind of God, as the source of the purpose for history. This is a very metaphysical concept, and harks back to Plato and some of the Medieval scholastics as a resource. He also refers to this World Spirit as Reason, Logic, Idea, or the Absolute. Hegel's dialectic is where we get the idea of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis. In some cases, the idea (thesis) clashes with its opposite (antithesis), and the resulting resolution (synthesis) of the two becomes a movement into a new stage of development. Hegel presents three main phases of world history: what he calls the Asiatic, which is rule by monarchy; Greco- Roman, which offered freedom for a few; and Germanic-European, which was typified by nation states that offered freedom for all under the law. Hegel saw freedom, or what he perceived as obedience of all to the law of an ideal state, as the goal of history. He also saw the state as the realization of the Divine Idea, or perfection of God outpictured in the progressively more realized ideal state. In attempting to answer the question "What is the purpose of the world?" we must examine the content of the purpose and its realization. Hegel posited that both physical nature and spirit are part of history, and spirit is the essence of history. We are conscious of the realms of spirit and nature, for they unite in human nature. God is perfection, and manifests as thought, physical nature, and spirit. The essence of Spirit is Freedom, which is the sole truth of Spirit. History is the interpenetration of the secular world with the principle of freedom—historically, the Orientals knew that one is free, the Greeks and Romans knew that some are free, and the world of Hegel knew that all men are free. Historically, five things trigger action in order to bring freedom into the world: needs passions, interests, characters, and talents. Individual motives push toward these actions; however, history suggests that its failures are tainted with self-motivated aims. When the subjective desire unites with the rational will, it results in the moral whole, which is the State. The subjective desire or will causes actualization and realization. The Idea, which is the Divine element, can exist externally in the State. The State is the out-picturing, through history, of the interior Idea, the union of the universal and essential with the subjective will. The laws of ethics are rational and are also an out-picturing of the essence that is the Ideal. The state is the divine Idea made manifest. Man has a purpose and value only insofar as he is in consonance with the laws of the state, which are its morality and its Freedom. Service to the state is also part of the true morality. Presumably Hegel did not conceive of a state in which laws might be made that are fro the benefit of moneyed interests rather than for the good of the people. Made with Xara Website by Susan Smily