Hegel’s Lectures on the History of Philosophy

B.  Relation of Philosophy to Other Departments of Knowledge.

The History of Philosophy has to represent this science in that form of time and individualities from which its outward form has resulted. Such a representation has, however, to shut out from itself the external history of the time, and to take into account only the general character of the people and time, and likewise their circumstances as a whole. But as a matter of fact, the history of Philosophy does present this character, and that indeed in the highest possible degree; its connection with it is of the closest kind, and the particular appearance presented by a philosophy belonging to one special period, is only a particular aspect or element in the character. Because of this inward correspondence we have partly to consider more closely the particular relation borne by a philosophy to its historical surroundings, and partly, but pre-eminently, what is proper to itself, from which alone, after separating everything related however closely, we can fix our standpoint. This connection, which is not merely external but essential, has thus two sides, which we must consider. The first is the distinctly historical side, the second is the connection with other matters - the connection of Philosophy with Religion, for instance, by which we at once obtain a deeper conception of Philosophy itself.

1. The Historical Side of This Connection.

It is usually said that political affairs and such matters as Religion are to be taken into consideration because they have exercised a great influence on the Philosophy of the time, and similarly it exerts an influence upon them. But when people are content with such a category as "great influence" they place the two in an external relationship, and start from the point of view that both sides are for themselves independent. Here, however, we must think of this relationship in another category, and not according to the influence or effect of one upon the other. The true category is the unity of all these different forms, so that it is one Mind which manifests itself in, and impresses itself upon these different elements.

a. Outward and historical conditions imposed upon Philosophy.

It must be remarked in the first place, that a certain stage is requisite in the intellectual culture of a people in order that it may have a Philosophy at all. Aristotle says, "Man first begins to philosophize when the necessities of life are supplied" (Metaphysics, I. 2); because since Philosophy is a free and not self-seeking activity, cravings of want must have disappeared, a strength, elevation and inward fortitude of mind must have appeared, passions must be subdued and consciousness set far advanced, before what is universal can be thought of. Philosophy may thus be called a kind of luxury, in so far as luxury signifies those enjoyments and pursuits which do not belong to external necessity as such. Philosophy in this respect seems more capable of being dispensed with than anything else; but that depends on what is called indispensable. From the point of view of mind, Philosophy may even be said to be that which is most essential.

b. The commencement in History of an intellectual necessity for Philosophy.

However much Philosophy, as the thought and conception of the Mind of a particular time, is a priori, it is at the same time just as really a result, since the thought produced and, indeed, the life and action are produced to produce themselves. This activity contains the essential element of a negation, because to produce is also to destroy; Philosophy in producing itself, has the natural as its starting point in order to abrogate it again. Philosophy thus makes its appearance at a time when the Mind of a people has worked its way out of the indifference and stolidity of the first life of nature, as it has also done from the standpoint of the emotional, so that the individual aim has blotted itself out. But as Mind passes on from its natural form, it also proceeds from its exact code of morals and the robustness of life to reflection and conception. The result of this is that it lays hold of and troubles this real, substantial kind of existence, this morality and faith, and thus the period of destruction commences. Further progress is then made through the gathering up of thought within itself. It may be said that Philosophy first commences when a race for the most part has left its concrete life, when separation and change of class have begun, and the people approach toward their fall; when a gulf has arisen between inward strivings and external reality, and the old forms of Religion, &c., are no longer satisfying; when Mind manifests indifference to its living existence or rests unsatisfied therein, and moral life becomes dissolved. Then it is that Mind takes refuge in the clear space of thought to create for itself a kingdom of thought in opposition to the world of actuality, and Philosophy is the reconciliation following upon the destruction of that real world which thought has begun. When Philosophy with its abstractions paints grey in grey, the freshness and life of youth has gone, the reconciliation is not a reconciliation in the actual, but in the ideal world. Thus the Greek philosophers held themselves far removed from the business of the State and were called by the people idlers, because they withdrew themselves within the world of thought.

This holds good throughout all the history of Philosophy. It was so with Ionic Philosophy in the decline of the Ionic States in Asia Minor. Socrates and Plato had no more pleasure in the life of the State in Athens, which was in the course of its decline; Plato tried to bring about something better with Dionysius. Thus in Athens, with the ruin of the Athenian people, the period was reached when Philosophy appeared. In Rome, Philosophy first expanded in the decline of the Republic and of Roman life proper, under the despotism of the Roman Emperors: a time of misfortune for the world and of decay in political life, when earlier religious systems tottered and everything was in the process of struggle and disintegration. With the decline of the Roman Empire, which was so great, rich and glorious, and yet inwardly dead, the height and indeed the zenith of ancient Philosophy is associated through the Neo-Platonists at Alexandria. It was also in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, when the Teutonic life of the Middle Ages acquired another form, that Philosophy first became taught, though it was later on that it attained to independence.

Before that, political life still existed in unity with Religion, or if the State fought against the Church, the Church still kept the foremost place, but now the gulf between Church and State came into existence. Philosophy thus comes in at a certain epoch only in the development of the whole.

c. Philosophy as the thought of its time.

But men do not at certain epochs, merely philosophize in general, for there is a definite Philosophy which arises among a people, and the definite character of the standpoint of thought is the same character which permeates all the other historical sides of the spirit of the people, which is most intimately related to them, and which constitutes their foundation. The particular form of a Philosophy is thus contemporaneous with a particular constitution of the people amongst whom it makes its appearance, with their institutions and forms of government, their morality, their social life and the capabilities, customs and enjoyments of the same; it is so with their attempts and achievements in art and science, with their religions, warfares and external relationships, likewise with the decadence of the States in which this particular principle and form had maintained its supremacy, and with the origination and progress of new States in which a higher principle finds its manifestation and development. Mind in each case has elaborated and expanded in the whole domain of its manifold nature the principle of the particular stage of self-consciousness to which it has attained. Thus the Mind of a people in its richness is an organization, and, like a Cathedral, is divided into numerous vaults, passages, pillars and vestibules, all of which have proceeded out of one whole and are directed to one end. Philosophy is one form of these many aspects. And which is it? It is the fullest blossom, the Notion of Mind in its entire form, the consciousness and spiritual essence of all things, the spirit of the time as spirit present in itself. The multifarious whole is reflected in it as in the single focus, in the Notion which knows itself.

The Philosophy which is essential within Christianity could not be found in Rome, for all the various forms of the whole are only the expression of one and the same determinate character. Hence political history, forms of government, art and religion are not related to Philosophy as its causes, nor, on the other hand, is Philosophy the ground of their existence - one and all have the same common root, the spirit of the time. It is one determinate existence, one determinate character which permeates all sides and manifests itself in politics and in all else as in different elements; it is a condition which hangs together in all its parts, and the various parts of which contain nothing which is really inconsistent, however diverse and accidental they may appear to be, and however much they may seem to contradict one another. This particular stage is the product of the one preceding. But to show how the spirit of a particular time moulds its whole actuality and destiny in accordance with its principle, to show this whole edifice in its conception, is far from us - for that would be the object of the whole philosophic world-history. Those forms alone concern us which express the principle of the Mind in a spiritual element related to Philosophy.

This is the position of Philosophy amongst its varying forms, from which it follows that it is entirely identical with its time. But if Philosophy does not stand above its time in content, it does so in form, because, as the thought and knowledge of that which is the substantial spirit of its time, it makes that spirit its object. In as far as Philosophy is in the spirit of its time, the latter is its determined content in the world, although as knowledge, Philosophy is above it, since it places it in the relation of object. But this is in form alone, for Philosophy really has no other content. This knowledge itself undoubtedly is the actuality of Mind, the self-knowledge of Mind which previously was not present: thus the formal difference is also a real and actual difference. Through knowledge, Mind makes manifest a distinction between knowledge and that which is; this knowledge is thus what produces a new form of development. The new forms at first are only special modes of knowledge, and it is thus that a new Philosophy is produced: yet since, it already is a wider kind of spirit, it is the inward birth-place of the spirit which will later arrive at actual form. We shall deal further with this in the concrete below, and we shall then see that what the Greek Philosophy was, entered, in the Christian world, into actuality.

2. Separation of Philosophy from other Allied Departments of Knowledge (next section) — Contents

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