Introduction to the History of Philosophy

Source: Hegel’s Idea of Philosophy, by Quentin Lauer, S.J. with a new translation of Hegel’s Introduction to the History of Philosophy;
Translated: from Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Einleitung in die Geschichte der Philosophie, Hamburg, 1940.

THE MATTER UNDER CONSIDERATION HERE IS HISTORY. History’s form is the presentation of a succession of events and deeds. But what are the deeds proper to the history of philosophy? They are the activities of free thought; this means the way the intellectual world has come into being, been produced, developed. What we are to consider, then, is the history of thought.

There is an age-old assumption that thinking distinguishes man from the beast. This we shall accept. What makes man nobler than the beast is what he possesses through thought. Whatever is human is so only to the extent that therein thought is active; no matter what its outward appearance may be, if it is human, thought makes it so. In this alone is man distinguished from the beast.

Still, insofar as thought is in this way the essential, the substantial, the active in man, it has to do with an infinite manifold and variety of objects. Thought will be at its best, however, when it is occupied only with what is best in man, with thought itself, where it wants only itself, has to do with itself alone. For, to be occupied with itself is to discover itself by creating itself;’ and this it can do only by manifesting itself. Thought is active only in producing itself; and it produces itself by its very own activity. It is not simply there; it exists only by being its own producer. What it thus produces is philosophy, and what we have to investigate is the series of such productions, the millennial work of thought in bringing itself forth, the voyage of discovery upon which thought embarks in order to discover itself.

This says in general what our subject-matter is. Still, the statement is so general that there is need to determine more precisely our purpose and the manner of attaining it.

The general remarks we have just made already provide the occasion for further reflection, and it is proper to philosophical consideration to reflect immediately on what has been thought, not to let it be put to use in the way it has been unreflectively thought. As we have said, our subject-matter is the series of free thought’s productions, the history of the intellectual world. The statement is simple, yet it seems to involve a contradiction. The thought which is essentially thought is in and for itself; it is eternal. What truly is is contained only in thought, and it is true not only today and tomorrow but eternally, outside all time, and, to the extent that it is in time, it is forever, at all times, true. Now, right here the contradiction immediately appears, i.e., that thought should have a history. What is presented in history is mutable, has taken place, was once, and is now past, has sunk into the night of the past, is no longer. Thought, however, is not subject to change, it is not something that has been or is past, it is. The question, then, is: how can what is outside history, since it is not subject to change, still have a history?

The second reflection concerns the relation of philosophy to the other forms and products of the spirit. We have already said that man thinks and that precisely this is essential to him. We have also said, however, that thought has purposes other than those of philosophy, that it has to do with a large number of other objects which are also products or activities of thought. Religion, art, statecraft, and the like, are also works of the thinking spirit, and yet they must be kept separate from our theme. The question, then, is: how are these distinguished from the activities of spirit which constitute our subject-matter? Similarly: what historical relation is there between the philosophy of a given time and its religion, art, politics, etc.?

In this Introduction we shall bring out these two points of view in order to orient ourselves regarding the manner in which the history of philosophy is to be handled in these lectures. These two points of view provide a path to a third, to a division which permits a general overview of the total historical process. I shall not, however, concern myself with external reflections on the history of philosophy, such as its usefulness and other things which can be said regarding it. Its usefulness will be revealed in the revelation of philosophy itself.

At the end, however, since this is customary, I shall touch briefly on the sources for the history of philosophy. An Introduction should have only one purpose – to give a more precise picture of what our purpose is. The notion which is to be developed here is the concept itself. This concept does not admit of being proved here (since it is in and for itself); proof of it belongs to the science of philosophy, in the order of logic. The concept does, however, admit of being made acceptable and plausible by being related to other familiar notions (Vorstellungen) in ordinary cultivated consciousness. Still, this is not philosophical; it merely contributes to clarity.

First, then, we shall consider the concept, the purpose of the history of philosophy. Secondly, we shall consider the relationship of philosophy to other products of the human spirit, such as art, religion, statecraft, etc., and especially its relation to history itself.


What we shall here consider is a succession of the manifestations of thought. This is the first and, therefore, the most superficial way in which the history of philosophy appears. Following immediately on this comes the need to become acquainted with its purpose, with the universal through which the diversified plurality manifested in the succession is bound together in such a way that the multiplicity is so related to its own unity as to be formed into a whole, a totality. It is this unity which first of all constitutes the purpose or concept. We are quite correct, then, in wanting to know a purpose or concept in a determinate way before going into detail. We want first of all an overall view of the woods and only after that to know the individual trees. One who looks first at the trees and sticks only to them does not get an overall view of the woods and becomes lost and confused. The same is true of philosophies; they are infinite in number and are conflictingly opposed to each other. One would be confused, then, if one wanted to know first individual philosophies. It would mean failing to see the woods for the trees, failing to see philosophy for philosophies. Nowhere does this happen more readily and more frequently than in the history of philosophy. The multiplicity of philosophies frequently occasions a failure to know and esteem philosophy itself.

On an acquaintance such as this is built the sort of shallow know-it-all claim to show that nothing comes of the history of philosophy. One philosophy contradicts another; the very multiplicity of philosophies proves the inanity of the philosophical endeavor. This is said, presumably in the interests of truth or of what one thinks is the truth: the one thing to be sought is unity, i.e., truth, since truth is one, and the multitude of philosophies, each one claiming to be the true one, contradicts the principle which says that the true is in unity.

Thus, the chief consideration in this Introduction centers on the question: what is the situation here in regard to the contradiction between the unity of truth and the multiplicity of philosophies? What is the result of this long labor of the human spirit, and how is it to be comprehended? What sense do we want to give to our treatment of the history of philosophy?

The history of philosophy is the history of free, concrete thought – which is to say, of reason. Free concrete thought is concerned only with itself. Nothing can be called reason which is not the result of thinking – not, however, of abstract thinking, for that is the thinking proper to understanding, but of concrete thinking, which is reason. The question, then, should be expressed more precisely in this way: in what sense should the history of thinking reason be considered, i.e., what meaning is to be given to it? To this we can answer that no other meaning can be given to it than what is found in the sense of thought itself – or we can say that the question itself does not make sense. We can ask with regard to any thing whatever what its sense or meaning is. Thus, with regard to a work of art we can ask what the picture means, with regard to language what a word means, with regard to religion what a symbol or a ceremony means, with regard to other kinds of activity we can ask about their moral value, etc. The meaning or sense of which we speak is none other than the essential or the universal, the substantial in an object, which is the object concretely thought. Herein we always have a double aspect, an exterior and an interior, an external appearance which is intuitively perceptible and a meaning which, precisely, is thought. Now, because the object with which we are concerned is thought, there is here no double aspect; it is thought itself which does the meaning. Here the object is the universal; so we cannot ask about a meaning which is separate or separable from the object. The only meaning or determination which the history of philosophy has, then, is thought itself. Herein thought is the innermost, the highest, and one cannot, therefore, settle on a thought about it. With regard to a work of art we can reflect on it, advance considerations whether the form corresponds to its meaning; which means we can have a position regarding it. The history of free thought can have no other sense or meaning than that of speaking about the thought itself. The character which here takes the place of sense and meaning is simply the thought.

It is our task now to provide the more precise viewpoints which come into consideration when there is question of thought.

Here we must propose a series of thought-determinations, i.e., we must preface the whole thing with some thoroughly general, abstract concepts, which we shall come back to later, and by applying them get a more precise notion of the concept of history of philosophy. At this point, however, the abstract concepts in question are merely presuppositions; they are not to be treated logically, philosophically, or speculatively, nor are they to be proved. Here it should be sufficient to present these concepts historically and in a provisional way.

I. Preliminary Notions

The notions (Bestimmungen) in question are: thought, concept, idea or reason, and their development.

1. Thought as Concept and Idea

a. Thought. First, then, there is thought.

(1) As Concept. Thought is not something empty and abstract; it is determining, in fact self-determining. In other words, thought is essentially concrete. This concrete thought we call concept. Thought must be a concept; no matter how abstract it may seem to be, of itself (in sich) it must be concrete. As soon as thought is philosophical it is of itself concrete. From one point of view it is correct to say that philosophy deals in abstractions, insofar as it has to do with thoughts, which are abstracted from the sensible, the so-called concrete. From another point of view it is quite incorrect to speak in this way: abstractions belong to the reflection proper to understanding, not to philosophy; and it is precisely those who condemn philosophy for being abstract who are most immersed in the sort of reflections which are proper to understanding, even though they think they have to do with the concretest of contents. Because they reflect on the matter at hand (die Sache), what they have is a combination of the merely sensible and subjective thoughts – i.e., abstractions.

(2) As Idea. In more precise terms, concrete thought is concept. Still further determined it is idea. The idea is the concept insofar as it is realized. To be realized it must determine itself, and this determination is nothing else but itself. Thus, its content is itself. Its infinite relation to itself, then, means that only from itself does its determination come.

Now, the idea is what we call truth – a large word. To the unprejudiced it will ever continue to be a large word, and it will make his heart swell. Recently, of course, the conclusion has been reached that we are incapable of knowing the truth. The object of philosophy, however, is concrete thought, and when this is further determined it is, precisely, idea or truth. As for the claim that the truth cannot be known, this claim is made specifically (fur sich) in the history of philosophy, and when we come to it we shall examine it more closely. Here need only be mentioned that it is to some extent the historians of philosophy themselves who give the prejudice a semblance of validity. Tennemann, for example, who is a Kantian, is of the opinion that it is absurd to want to know the truth; and the proof of this is the history of philosophy. What is difficult to understand is that anyone with this conviction should work so hard at philosophy, could in fact continue to be concerned with it, with no purpose in mind. This sort of thing makes the history of philosophy a mere account of all kinds of opinions, each of which falsely claims to be the truth. Another prejudice says that we can, of course, know about the truth, but only after we have reflected on it (that truth is not known in immediate perception or intuition – neither in external sensible nor in so-called intellectual intuition – since every intuition is as such sensible). I should like to call attention to (appellieren an) this prejudice. Granted that it is one thing to be capable of knowing about the truth and another to know the truth. It is only by reflection, however, that I experience what the truth of the matter is. First, then, there is the contention that we cannot know the truth and, secondly, that we know truth only through reflection. If we give a more precise account of these contentions we shall have progressed further in the picture (Vorstellung) we are trying to give.

The first determinations we have arrived at, then, are that thought is concrete, that the concrete is truth, and that the truth can be the result only of thinking. To be even more determinate we can say that the spirit develops itself out of itself.

2. Idea as Development

The first point was that thought, free thought, is in itself essentially concrete. This implies that it is alive, that it moves of itself. The infinite nature of spirit is its own process in itself, which means that it does not rest, that it is essentially productive and exists by producing. More precisely we can understand this movement as development; the concrete as active is essentially self-developing. This involves making distinctions; and if we understand more precisely the character of the distinctions involved in the process something different necessarily emerges – the movement turns out to be development. These distinctions come out, even when we stop simply at the familiar notion of development; it is merely a question of reflecting on the notion of development.

a. Being-in-Itself. With regard to development, what immediately comes to our attention is that there must be something there that develops, which is to say something hidden – the seed, the tendency, the capacity, what Aristotle calls dunamis, i.e., possibility (not some superficial possibility as such, but real possibility), or, as it is called, the in-itself, that which is in itself and at first merely that.

Customarily we have in regard to what is in itself the high opinion that it is what truly is. To get to know God and the world is to get to know them in themselves. What is in itself, however, is not yet the true but only the abstract; it is the seed of what truly is, the tendency, the being-in-itself of the true. It is something simple, something which, of course, contains in itself multiple qualities, but in the form of simplicity – a content which is still hidden.

An example of this is the seed. The seed is simple, almost a point; even through a microscope it can scarcely be seen. This simple thing, however, is pregnant with all the qualities of the tree. In the seed is contained the whole tree, its trunk, branches, leaves, its color, odor, taste, etc. Nevertheless, this simple thing is the seed, not the tree itself; the fully articulated tree does not yet exist. It is essential to know that there is something utterly simple, which in itself contains a manifold, which latter, however, does not yet exist for itself. A more important example is the 1. When I say I, this is the utterly simple, the abstract universal, that which is common to all, for everyone is an I. Still, the I which each one is is the most diverse wealth of notions, drives, desires, inclinations, thoughts, etc. In this simple point, the I, all this is contained. It is the force, the concept of all that man develops out of himself. With Aristotle we can say that in the simple, which is in itself, in the dunamis, potentia in the tendency, all that develops is contained. In development no more comes out than what is already there in itself.

b. Being-there. What follows is that the in-itself, the simple, the hidden, develops and unfolds. For it to develop means to posit itself, to enter into existence, to be as something distinct. At first it is distinct only in itself, and it exists only in this simplicity or neutrality, like water which is so clear and transparent and yet contains within itself so many physical and chemical materials, even organic possibilities. Whether it is in itself and hidden, or whether it is revealed and, as such, exists, it is one and the same thing, or rather, one and the same content. The difference is simply one of form, but on this difference everything depends.

The big difference consists in this: Man knows what he is, and only when he does so is he actually what he is. Without this, knowing reason is nothing, nor is freedom. Man is essentially reason; man and child, educated and uneducated, each is reason; or rather, the possibility of being reason is present in each, is given. Still, reason is of no use to the child, to the uneducated. It is only a possibility; and yet, not an empty but a real possibility, with its own orientation to fulfillment. Only the adult, the educated, knows through experience that he is what he is. The difference is simply that in the one case reason is present only as a tendency, only in itself, whereas in the other case it is so explicitly, beyond the form of possibility and posited in existence.

The whole difference in world-history is reducible to this difference. All men are rational, and the formal element in this rationality is human freedom; this is man’s nature, it belongs to his essence. Still, among many peoples slavery has existed, to some extent it still does, and people are satisfied with it. Orientals, for example, are men and as such free, and yet they are not free, because they have no consciousness of their freedom but are willing to accept every sort of religious and political despotism. The whole difference between Oriental peoples and those who are not subject to slavery is that the latter know that they are free, that to be free is proper to them.

The former are also in themselves free, but they do not exist as free. This, then, introduces an enormous difference into man’s world-historical situation, whether he is free merely in himself or whether he knows that it is his concept, his vocation, his nature, to be as a free individual.

This, then, is the second point – simply this difference of existential separateness. In itself the I is free, but it is also free for itself; and I am, only to the extent that I exist as free.

c. Being-for-itself. The third determination is that what is in itself and what exists and is for itself are one and the same. This is precisely what is meant by development. If the in-itself were no longer the in-itself, then something else would be there, and a complete change would have taken place. In this case there is something and it becomes something else. In regard to development, it is true, we can also speak of change, but the change must be such that the other which results is nevertheless still identical with the first, such that the simple, the in-itself, is not annihilated. It is something concrete, something differentiated, but still maintained in the unity of the original in-itself.

This is what the seed does; it does not change completely but develops. If it changes completely, by being crushed or pulverized, then it cannot develop. This unity of what is present, the existing, and what is in itself is the essential in development. The unity of the differentiated, of the seed and that into which it has developed, is a speculative concept, where they are two and still one. It is a concept of reason; all other determinations in this regard belong simply to understanding. But abstract understanding cannot comprehend this unity; it sticks with the difference and can grasp only abstractions, not the concrete, the concept.

At the same time, development involves mediation; the one is only to the extent to which it is related to the other. What is in itself has the drive to develop, to exist, to pass over into the form of existence; and existence requires the mediation of this sort of tendency. Actually, nothing is immediate. In recent times much noise has been made about immediate knowledge, intuition, etc., but this is only a bad, one-sided abstraction. Philosophy has to do with the real, with concepts. The immediate is simply the unreal. In all that is called immediate knowledge, etc., it is easy to show that mediation is present. As soon as anything is true, it contains in itself mediation; just as mediation, if it is not merely abstract, contains immediacy.

If, in regard to realization, what came first was the in-itself, the seed, etc., and second, existence, i.e., what emerges, then third comes the identity of both, more precisely the fruit of development, the result of the entire movement; and this is what I call, abstractly, being-for-itself. It is the being-for-itself of man, of spirit itself, since a plant does not have being-for-itself, if we speak in a language which has reference to consciousness. Only spirit becomes truly for itself, identical with itself.

There we have the concept of development, a thoroughly general concept. It is vitality, movement as such. The life of God in Himself, the life of universality in nature and spirit, the life of whatever lives, the lowest as well as the highest, that is what development is. It is a self-differentiation, a bringing of itself into real being (Dasein), into being-for-another while still remaining identical with itself. It is the eternal creation of the world, which in another form is the generation of the Son, and it is the eternal return of the Spirit into itself – an absolute movement which is at the same time rest, absolute rest – eternal self-mediation. This is the being-with-itself of the idea, the capacity to return into itself, to join with the other and in the other to have itself. This capacity, this power, to be with itself in what is the negative of itself, is also the freedom of man.

3. Development as Concretion

What concerns us here more precisely is the formal. If absolute development, the life of God and of the Spirit, is only one process, only one movement, then it is merely abstract. But universal movement as concrete is a series of manifestations (Gestaltungen) of the Spirit. This series should not be pictured as a straight line but as a circle, a return into itself. This circle has as its circumference a large number of circles; one development is always a movement passing through many developments; the totality of this series is a succession of developments curving back on itself; and each particular development is a stage of the whole. Although there is progress in development, it does not go forward into (abstract) infinity but rather turns back into itself.

Spirit must know itself, externalize itself, have itself as object, must know itself in such a way as to exhaust its own possibilities in becoming totally object to itself. It must reveal itself completely, going down into its uttermost depths and revealing those depths. The higher spirit’s development is, the deeper it is; in this way it is really deep, not just in itself; in itself it is neither deep nor high. Development is precisely a self-deepening of spirit, such that it brings its own depths to consciousness. The goal of spirit is, if we may employ the expression, to comprehend itself, to remain no longer hidden to itself. The road to this is its development, and the series of developments form the levels of its development.

Now, to the extent that something is the result of a level in a development it is once again the starting-point of a new and further development. The end of one level is always the beginning of another. Goethe, therefore, is correct when he says somewhere, “What has been formed becomes ever again matter.

The levels are distinct; each subsequent level is more concrete than the preceding; and the lowest is the most abstract. Thus, in regard to spirit, children are the most abstract; they are rich in sensible intuitions but poor in thoughts. At the beginning of a lecture we usually have much sensible material, which is poorest in regard to thoughts. Our first thoughts are more abstract determinations of our thinking than are later ones. Thus, we first come up against the notion of thing. There is no thing; it is only a thought; and so in the beginning only such abstract determinations of our thinking emerge. The abstract is simple and easy. Subsequent stages are more concrete. They presuppose the determinations proper to previous stages, and they develop them further. Each subsequent stage of the development, then, is richer, augmented by these determinations and, thereby, more concrete. There is, then, no thought which does not progress in its development.

These are the notions (Bestimmungen) I wanted to present by way of preface to my remarks. I have not proved them, only given an ordered enumeration of them, seeking to make them plausible to those who follow our way of thinking.

Now we have to make an application of these notions and see their concrete consequences. For that reason I have proposed them. We now turn to what is more precise, more determinate, in the matter of history, i.e., of the history of philosophy.

II. Application of these Notions (Bestimmungen) to the History of Philosophy

1. a. In accord with these notions philosophy is thought brought to consciousness, occupied with itself, made into its own object, thinking itself, and that in terms of the various notions proper to it. Thus, the science of philosophy is a development of free thought, or rather, it is the whole of this development; it is a circle which returns into itself, remains entirely with itself, is entirely itself, and wants to return only to itself. When we are occupied with the sensible we are not with ourselves but with something other. It is different when we are occupied with thought; thought is with itself only. Philosophy, then, is the development of thought, undisturbed in its activity. Thus, philosophy is a system. In recent times, system has become a term of reproach, because from it one gets the impression that it clings to a one-sided principle. The proper meaning of system, however, is totality, and it is true only as such a totality, whose point of departure is the most simple but which makes itself ever more concrete through development.

b. Now, the history of philosophy is precisely that and nothing else. In philosophy as such, in the present, most recent philosophy, is contained all that the work of millennia has produced; it is the result of all that has preceded it. And the same development of Spirit, looked at historically, is the history of philosophy. It is the history of all the developments which Spirit has undergone, a presentation of its moments or stages as they follow one another in time. Philosophy presents the development of thought as it is in and for itself, without addition; the history of philosophy is this development in time. Consequently the history of philosophy is identical with the system of philosophy. Admittedly, this identity is at this point simply asserted; the proper speculative proof cannot here be given. The proof involves the nature of reason, of thinking, and this is to be taken up in the science of philosophy itself. The history of philosophy provides the empirical proof. Such a history’s task is to show that its own process is the systematizing of thought itself. In it will be presented what is presented in philosophy, simply with the addition of time, of the incidental historical circumstances connected with countries, various individuals, etc. When in time philosophy appears is a matter we shall consider in the second part of the Introduction.

Spirit in and for itself is quite completely, through and through, concrete. Since it is active, not only does its form consist in its becoming conscious of itself in pure thought, but it emerges in the totality of what belongs to its manifestation. (Gestaltung), a world-historical manifestation. When Spirit progresses it must progress in its totality, and, since its progress takes place in time; its total development, too, takes place in time. The thought which is fundamental to a given time is the all-pervading spirit. This latter must progress in consciousness of itself, and such a progress is the development of the whole mass (Masse), of the concrete totality, which is externalized and, therefore, takes place in time.

Since the history of philosophy has to do with pure thought it is itself a science, i.e., not an accumulation of knowledge ordered in a certain manner but a thought-development which in and for itself is necessary. It must, however, take into account the necessity that the emergence of thought take place in time. This, after all, is a course in history, and we must proceed historically, i.e., we must take up these manifestations (Gestaltungen) in their temporal succession, whereby they give the impression, in the manner in which they appear, of being contingent and unconnected. In so doing, however, we must emphasize the necessity inherent in the process of philosophy.

This is the sense, the meaning, of the history of philosophy. Philosophy develops through its history, and vice versa. Philosophy and history of philosophy mirror each other. To study the history of philosophy is to study philosophy itself, and this principally as a logic. We shall speak further on of the concrete. In order to interpret the history of philosophy in this way, one must, it is true, previously know what philosophy is and what its history is. Still, one must not take an a priori view of the history of philosophy based on the principles of one philosophy. Purely historically, thought shows the way it progresses for itself.

c. More precisely, then, how does the development of philosophy make its appearance in time? We said, with regard to thought, that there is no asking what its meaning is, since it is its own meaning; there is nothing hidden behind it – not, however, in the ordinary sense of that expression, for thought itself is the ultimate, the deepest, behind which there is nothing further; it is entirely itself. Still, thought also has an appearance, and to the extent that one distinguishes the appearance from the thought, it is possible to speak of thought’s meaning. One of the ways thought appears; after all, is in one’s own idea of it; another is the historical.

The first appearance of thought is such that thinking, or thought, appears as something particular. In addition to the fact that we think, that there are thoughts, there are sense-perceptions, drives, inclinations, determinations of the will, etc. We have, thus, other faculties or activities of the soul which possess a right equal to that of thinking. In this way, then, thought is there as a particular among particulars. In philosophy, however, an entirely different notion (Vorstellung) of thinking and of thought must be formed. Thinking is the activity of the universal. Insofar as in addition there are other activities, of course, this activity is particular. It is its true nature, however, to subsume under itself all the others. Thus, it is through thinking that man is distinguished from the beast. Feelings, drives, etc., are common to man and beast. Still, special types of feeling, such as religious, legal,’ or moral feelings, are proper to man alone. In themselves feelings are as such in no way either worthwhile or true. What is true in them – e.g., that a feeling is religious – derives only from thinking. The beast has no religion, but it does have feelings. Moreover, man has religion only because he is a thinking being. Thinking is the simply universal, and concrete thinking has in itself its own particularization, which is to say that in thought the particular is not equivalent to the abstract.

Connected with this last, another way that thinking appears is as subjective. Thought is proper to man alone – not, however, to man only as an isolated individual subject; we have to look at thought as essentially objective. Thought is simply the universal; even in nature, with its class-concepts and its laws, we recognize the presence of thoughts. They are, then, not only in the form that consciousness gives them but in and for themselves and, by that very fact, objectively. The world’s reason is not subjective reason. Thought is the substantial, the true, as compared with the singular, which is momentary, passing, temporary. To know the nature of thought is to eliminate the subjective manner in which it appears. This means, then, that it is not merely something particular, subjective, belonging only to our own consciousness, but rather the universal, the objective in and for itself.

A second appearance of thought is, as we have already mentioned, the historical, according to which the determinations of thought have emerged at a particular time, in a particular place, to a particular individual , with the result that the sequence in which thought is manifested seems accidental. We have already spoken of how such an impression is supported. We take up thoughts historically, in the way they have made their appearance in this or that individual, etc. Here there is a temporal development, but one which follows the inner necessity of the concept.

The only worthwhile way of looking at the history of philosophy, what makes it truly interesting, is seeing that it shows there is rationality in the world, even from this point of view. There is a strong antecedent presumption that this is so; the history of philosophy is the development of thinking reason; hence its growth can be presumed to have been rational. The temple of reason in its consciousness of itself is loftier than Solomon’s temple and others built by man. The building of it has been rational – not like the way the Jews or the Freemasons go about building Solomon’s temple.

One can bring with him to the enterprise the belief that the building process has been rational. This is a belief in providence – in a somewhat different way. What is best in the world is what thought has produced. It makes no sense, then, to see reason only in nature and not in spirit, in history, etc. If on the one hand we are of the opinion that providence governs the world and, on the other, hold that world-events in the realm of spirit – which is what philosophies are – are accidental, the second view (Vorstellung) contradicts the first. To put it more forcibly: the belief in providence is not serious; it is mere empty chatter. What has happened, however, has happened, because providence with its thoughts has been in charge.

2. a. The first conclusion we can draw from the foregoing is that in the history of philosophy we are not dealing with opinions. In everyday life, of course, we have to do with opinions, i.e., thoughts about external things; one has one opinion, another has another. But in the business of the world’s Spirit there is a completely different seriousness; it is there that universality is. There it is a question of the universal determination of the Spirit, nor do we speak of this or that one’s opinion. The universal Spirit develops in itself according to its own necessity; its opinion is simply the truth.

b. The second conclusion is the answer to the question: What is the situation in regard to diverse philosophies, about which we hear it said that they are a proof against philosophy itself, i.e., against truth? First of all we must say, there is only one philosophy. Now this, of course, has a formal sense, since each philosophy is at least philosophy to the extent that it really is philosophy – frequently what is called philosophy is simply chatter, arbitrary caprice, etc). just as different kinds of fruit are all fruit, so are we to look. upon the relation of various philosophies to the one philosophy. A more precise sense in which we can speak of many philosophies is to say that they are the necessary stages in the development of reason coming to consciousness of itself, a reason which is one in the way we previously understood it. The manner in which they succeed each other, then, is necessary. No philosophy, therefore, can make its appearance sooner than it does. It is true, of course, that in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries ancient philosophies were resurrected – this was necessary to the progress of Christian culture. Nevertheless, when past philosophies return again they are like mummies of earlier thoughts. The World-Spirit has progressed, and a past philosophy is not its proper garment, the form in which it finds expressed what it in fact is.

With regard to the refutation of one philosophy by another, a more precise characterization (Bestimmung) is required, one which will be made manifest in the history of philosophy itself, one which shows in what relation philosophies stand to each other and to what extent the position (Stellung) of their principle has changed. Refutation, as we have seen, involves a negation, namely that what had been believed regarding a system of philosophy no longer holds. Now, such a negation is of two types. In one form, when some philosophy or another is compared with an earlier one and the principle of the later one is affirmed, then the subsequent system shows the untenability of the earlier. In itself every principle of the understanding is one-sided , and such a one-sidedness is brought out by the fact that another principle is contrasted with it. This other principle, however is equally one-sided. In this situation there is present no totality as the unity in which they are reconciled; it exists only as completeness in the process of development. In this way, for example, Epicureanism stands in opposition to Stoicism, or the Spinozistic substance of absolute unity is opposed to that of the Leibnizian monad, in its concrete individuality. Thus, the self-developing Spirit integrates the one-sidedness of the one principle by making the other appear. The second, more profound form of negation consists in the unification of diverse philosophies into one whole in such a way that no one of them remains independent, but all appear as parts of the one. Their principles are united by being reduced to elements of the one idea; or they consist merely in moments, determinations, aspects of the one idea. This, then, is the concrete which unites the others in itself and constitutes the true unity of these diverse forms.

The concrete of which we speak is to be distinguished from the eclectic procedure, i.e., from a mere combining of diverse principles and opinions, like combining different pieces of cloth in one garment. The concrete is the absolute and complete identity of those differences, not an external combining of them – just as the human soul is the concrete in relation to souls in general, since the vegetable soul is contained in the animal and the latter in the human. Convergences (Knoten) such as these, where certain particularities, certain philosophies, are united in one, we shall become acquainted with in the history of philosophy. One such, for example, is the Platonic philosophy. If we pick up Plato’s dialogues we find that some are Eleatic, others Pythagorean, and still others Heraclitean in character; yet Plato’s philosophy has united in itself these earlier philosophies and in so doing has transformed their inadequacies. This is no eclectic philosophy but rather an absolute, true penetration into the unification of these philosophies. Another example is Alexandrian philosophy, which has also been called Neoplatonic, Neopythagorean, and Neoaristotelian – it unified in itself precisely these opposites.

c. A third conclusion to be drawn from what has been said up to this point is that we are not dealing with what is past but rather with actual thinking, with our own spirit. Properly speaking, then, this is not a history, since the thoughts, the principles, the ideas with which we are concerned belong to the present; they are ‘determinations within our own spirit. The historical, i.e., the past as such, is no longer, it is dead. The tendency to be abstractly historical, to be occupied with lifeless objects, has in recent times gained ground.

But the heart must be dead which finds satisfaction with dead bodies. The spirit of truth and life lives only in what is. The living spirit speaks: “Let the dead bury their dead;. follow me!” If I know thoughts, truths, cognitions, only, historically, they remain outside my spirit, i.e., for me they are dead; neither my thinking nor my spirit is present in them; what is most interior to me, my thought, is absent. The possession of merely historical knowledge is like the legal ownership of things which I do not know what to do, with. If we simply stop at the knowledge of what this or that philosophy has thought, of what has been handed down (uberliefert), then we surrender (uberliefert) ourselves, and we forgo what makes man to be man, we forgo thinking. We are, thus, occupied merely with the thinking and the spirit of others, we investigate only what has been truth for others. Now, we must think for ourselves. If our interest in theology is merely historical – if, for example, we learn only what Church councils, or heretics and non-heretics, have known about God’s nature – we can, of course, have had edifying thoughts, but we do not have the spirit properly speaking. To have this there is no need of theological erudition. When the historical tendency has taken over a given age, it can be taken for granted that the spirit has fallen into despair, has died, has given up the attempt to satisfy itself – otherwise it would not be concerned with the sort of objects which for it are dead.

In the authentic history (Geschichte) of thought it is thought with which we are concerned; there we have to consider how the spirit enters into its own depths in order to arrive at consciousness of itself, as man renders to himself an account of his spirit’s consciousness. In order to do this, man must be present to his own spirit. Here, however, I speak only against the merely historical (geschichtliche) attitude. In no way should this make the study of history as such something to be despised. We ourselves, in fact, want to take up the history of philosophy. Still, when an age treats everything historically (historisch), thus being constantly occupied solely with the world which no longer is and so wanders around in mausoleums, then has the spirit given up its own life which consists in its thinking itself.

Connected with the purely historical (historischen) manner of treating philosophy is the demand that one who teaches the history of philosophy be uninvolved (unparteiisch). This insistence on non-involvement means for the most part simply that the one who teaches history of philosophy shall act like a dead man in presenting philosophies, that he should treat them as something separated from his own spirit, something external, that he should himself be without thought in treating them. Tennemann, for example, conveys this impression of non-involvement. If we look at him more closely, however, we find him completely caught up in the Kantian philosophy, whose main contention is that the true is not to be known. In that case, however, the history of philosophy is a sorry affair, where one knows ahead of time that one must put up with unsuccessful efforts. Tennemann praises the most diverse philosophers for their erudition, their genius, etc., but he finds fault with them for not having adopted the Kantian point of view or, simply, for having philosophized. One should not, if one follows this view, be on the side of thinking spirit. Still, if one wants to study the history of philosophy properly, then non-involvement consists in not opting for the opinions, thoughts, concepts of individuals. But, one must be involved in philosophy and not be satisfied with limiting oneself merely to the knowledge of what others have thought.

Truth will be known (erkannt) only when with his spirit one is in it; mere knowledge about (Kenntnis) it does not show that one is in it.

To all this I should like to add a few remarks regarding the manner of treating the history of philosophy.

III. Consequences in Regard to Treating the History of Philosophy

It is obvious before we start that one semester is too short a time in which to come quite thoroughly to terms with the history of philosophy, a work of the Spirit which spans millennia. The field, therefore, has to be narrowed. From what we have already said concerning the kind of history we want to speak about, there are, in regard to its extension, two conclusions to be drawn.

1. We limit ourselves to principles and to their development in the various philosophies. This will be particularly true when we are treating of the earlier philosophies, not so much because of the lack of time, but rather because in them only principles can be of interest to us. They are the most abstract, simplest, and consequently also the most indeterminate principles – i.e., wherein determinateness has not yet been posited, even though in them all determinations are contained. To a certain extent these abstract principles are adequate; they go far enough to be of interest to us. Because, however, their development is not yet complete, qualitatively they are particular, i.e., in their application they extend only to a delimited sphere. Such, for example, is the principle of mechanism. Were we to consider what Descartes has to say about animal nature on the basis of this principle we should not be satisfied. Our own more profound concept demands for this a more concrete principle; it would not be enough for us to use this principle in explaining plant or animal nature. There is a sphere of reality suited to an abstract principle; thus the principle of mechanism is valid for inorganic nature, which belongs to the sphere of abstract existence. (The living is the concrete, the inorganic the abstract.) For a higher sphere, however, the principle of mechanism is inadequate. To give another example, the ancient abstract philosophies looked at the universe from the standpoint of the atomistic principle. Such a principle is totally inadequate, when there is question of life, of spirit. A consideration, therefore, of its relationship to life or to spirit is of no interest to us. From this point of view, then, it is philosophical interest which determines us to consider here only the principles of these philosophies.

2. In regard to older philosophers, then, we must confine ourselves exclusively to the philosophical, leaving out the historical, biographical, critical, etc. – thus disregarding what has been written about them, what is only peripheral to them. In this connection all sorts of extrinsic considerations have been injected, e.g., that Thales was the first to predict an eclipse of the sun, that Descartes and Leibniz were skilled in mathematical analysis, etc. All such considerations we eliminate.

By the same token the historical account of the way systems were disseminated can be of little concern to us here. We treat simply the content of philosophical systems, not their extrinsic history. We know, for example, a host of Stoic teachers who had a great influence in their own times and even developed this or that detail. We abstract from such details and pass over these men. To the extent that they were famous only as teachers, the history of philosophy is silent about them.

The second point to be taken up in the Introduction is the relationship of philosophy to other manifestations of spirit, the relation of its history to other histories.


As we know, the history of philosophy is not independent (fur sich) but is connected with history in general, with external history as well as with the history of religion, etc. It is natural, then, that we should recall the principal. moments of political history, the character of the time and the overall situation of the people, wherein philosophy comes info being. In addition, however, the connection with general history is internal, i.e., essential and necessary, not merely external; nor is it merely a question of one being simultaneous with the other (simultaneity is no relationship at all).

There are, then, two aspects we must take into consideration: first, the properly historical aspect of the relationship, and, secondly, the factual connection, i.e., the connection of philosophy itself with religion and with the other sciences which are related to it. These two aspects are to be looked at more in detail, in order to distinguish more precisely the concept which characterizes philosophy.

I. The Historical Status of Philosophy

1. With regard to the historical status of philosophy the first thing to be taken into account is the general relationship which the philosophy of an era has with the rest of the manifestations which characterize the same era.

It is customarily said that the political situation, religion, mythology, etc., are to be taken account of in the history of philosophy, because they have greatly influenced the philosophy of an era, and, in its turn, philosophy has had a great influence on them. If, however, one is to be content with categories such as “great influence,” the effect of one on the other, etc., all one has to do is to show an external connection, i.e., the point of view implies that each is for itself, one independent of the other. Here, however, we must take an entirely different view of this relationship: the essential category is unity, the inner connection of these diverse manifestations. We must be convinced that there is only one spirit, one principle which manifests itself just as much in the political situation as in religion, art, morality, social relations, commerce, and industry – in such a way that these diverse forms are but branches of one main trunk. This is the main point of view. The spirit is only one, it is the one substantial spirit of one period, one people, one era, but a spirit which takes multiple forms; and these diverse forms are the moments which are to be brought out. It is not to be imagined that politics, civil constitutions, religions, etc., constitute the root or the cause of philosophy, nor that conversely the latter is the foundation of the former. In all of these moments there is one character, which is the foundation of all and penetrates all. No matter how diverse the different aspects are, there is nothing contradictory in this. No one of them contains anything heterogeneous to the foundation, however much they may seem to be mutually contradictory. They are simply shoots coming from the same root; and philosophy is one of them.

2. Philosophy, then, is one aspect of the total manifestation of spirit – consciousness of spirit being its supreme flowering, since its effort is to know what spirit is. It is, in fact, the dignity of man to know what he is and to know this in the purest manner, i.e., to attain to the thinking of what he is. The result of this is a revelation of the place which philosophy holds among the other manifestations of spirit.

a. Philosophy is identical with the spirit of the era in which it makes its appearance; it is not superior to its era but simply the consciousness of what is substantial in it, or, it is thinking knowledge of what belongs to that era. By the same token an individual is not superior to his era; he is its son; what is substantial in it is his essence, he simply manifests it in a particular form. No one can escape from what is substantial in his era – any more than he can get out of his own skin. Thus, from the substantial point of view, philosophy cannot leap beyond its own times.

b. Nevertheless, philosophy does stand over and above its own era, which is to say, from the point of view of form, since it consists in the thinking of what is substantial in that era. To the extent that it knows the substantial, i.e., makes it an object over against itself, it has the same content but as a knowledge of it goes beyond. The difference, however, is simply formal; there is no difference in content.

c. Now, this very knowledge is the actuality (Wirklichkeit) of spirit – I am only to the extent that I know myself. It is the spirit’s self-knowledge which formerly was not present. Thus, the formal difference is also a real, actual one. This knowledge it is, then, which produces a new form in the development of spirit. In this context developments are simply ways of knowing. By self-knowledge spirit posits itself as distinct from what it is; it posits itself for itself [as independent], develops in itself. This involves a new difference between what it is in itself and what its actuality is; and, thus, a new manifestation emerges. In itself, then, philosophy is already a further determinateness or character of spirit; it is the interior birthplace of the spirit which is later to appear in actuality. Its concretion emerges in the history of philosophy itself. In this connection we shall see that what Greek philosophy was came to actuality in the Christian world.

Here, then, is the second determination, i.e., that philosophy is first and foremost simply the thinking of what is substantial in its own time, that it does not stand above that time but only brings out its content.

3. The third thing to be taken into account with regard to its historical situation has to do with the time when philosophy emerges, in comparison with other manifestations of spirit.

The spirit of an era is its substantial life; it is the spirit as immediately vital, actual. Thus, at a time when Greek life flourishes, we see the Greek spirit in the freshness and strength of its youth, unaffected by decadence. The Roman spirit we see during the era of the republic. And so it goes.

The spirit of the era is also the way a particular spirit is present as actual vitality. Philosophy, however, is this spirit’s thinking; and thought, no matter how a priori it may be, is essentially the result of spirit, for spirit is the vital activity which produces itself; in its progress it produces itself as a result. This movement contains a negation as an essential moment. If something is to be produced, then it must be produced from something else, and precisely that other is negated in the movement. Thus, thinking negates the natural way of living. The child, for example, exists as a human being, but still immediately, naturally; education, then, is the negation of this natural way, it is the discipline which spirit imposes on itself in order to raise itself from its immediacy. By the same token, thinking spirit as it begins its movement is in its natural form. Then, as it be comes reflective it goes beyond its natural form, i.e., it negates it; ultimately it realizes itself by grasping itself in concept. This is where thinking enters. The consequence of this is that the spirit with its realistic norms based on custom (Sittlichkeit), which constitute its vital force, is negated. This means that thought, which is the spirit’s substantial manner of existing, attacks and weakens simple custom, simple religion, etc., thus ushering in a period of decadence. Then, with further progress, thought recollects itself, becomes concrete, and in this way produces for itself an ideal world in contrast to the former real one. So, when philosophy is to make its appearance among a people, a rupture must have occurred in the actual world. Then philosophy remedies the decadence which thought had begun. The remedial action takes place in the ideal world, the world of spirit where man takes refuge when the earthly world satisfies him no longer. Philosophy begins with the decline of a real world. When it appears and – painting gray on gray – spreads its abstractions, then is the fresh color and vitality of youth gone. What it produces, then, is a remedy, but only in the world of thought, not in the earthly world. Thus the Greeks, when they began to think, withdrew from the state; and they began to think at a time when in the world around them there was nothing but turbulence and wretchedness, e.g., during the time of the Peloponnesian War. That was when the philosophers withdrew into their thought-world; as the people said of them, they became idlers. So it has been with almost all peoples; philosophy makes its first appearance when public life is no longer satisfying and ceases to hold the interest of the people, and the citizen finds it so difficult to take any part in government.

All this is an essential determination of philosophy, which the history of philosophy preserves. As the Ionic cities declined, Ionic philosophy blossomed. The external world no longer satisfied the spirit. In the same way among the Romans, philosophizing began with the fall of the republic, when demagogues took over the government, and everything was caught up in a dissolution of the old and a striving toward the new. It was not until the decline of the Roman Empire, which although so great, so rich, and so imposing, was internally already dead, that the earlier Greek philosophies experienced their highest cultivation in the work of the Neoplatonists or Alexandrians. In similar fashion with the decline of the Middle Ages we see the revival of older philosophies.

This brings us to the more precise connection between philosophy and the other forms of spirit’s existence.

II. More Precise Characterization of the Relationship between Philosophy and the Other Manifestations of Spirit

Our second point concerns the more precise and determinate connection between philosophy and other manifestations of spirit. We are confronted with sciences, art, mythology, religion, politics, etc., whose general connection with philosophy has already been treated. Now we want to look at the difference between philosophy and these other manifestations. We do this by delimiting the concept of philosophy, selecting out the moments which thus become important, and applying them to our own subject matter which is the history of philosophy. In so doing our purpose is to separate off and exclude what does not belong to the subject. It is easy enough to say that in the history of philosophy only philosophy itself, in the process peculiar to it, is to be considered, and that everything else, such as religion, etc., is to be left to the side. In general that is quite correct. Still we ask: what is philosophy? Much is put under that heading which we must exclude. If we are to look only at the name we should have to include much that has nothing to do with the concept of philosophy. As for religion, we can also say in general that we have to leave it to one side. In history, however, religion and philosophy have frequently been both connected with each other and in conflict with each other – in the Greek as well as in the Christian era – and their opposition constitutes a very definite moment in the history of philosophy. Properly speaking, then, philosophy only seems to leave religion aside. Historically speaking neither has allowed the other to go untouched; nor must we do so either.

In our investigation we want to look first at the sciences, or at scientific culture as such. After that we must look at religion and particularly at the more precise relationship between philosophy and religion. This relationship must be looked at openly, directly, and honestly; one must not give the impression of wanting to leave religion untouched. To give this impression is to attempt simply to hide the fact that philosophy has been opposed to religion. Religion – which is to say the theologians – pretends to ignore philosophy, in order not to be troubled in its own arbitrary reasonings.

1. Relation of Philosophy to Scientific Culture as Such

We begin, then, with scientific culture as such; more precisely with the empirical sciences, which are based on observation, experiment, and reasoning. We must look at them, of course, bearing in mind that this sort of thing has also been called philosophizing. What they have in common with philosophy, after all, is thinking. They belong within the framework of experience, but they are also characterized by thinking, since they strive to discover the universal in experience. Scientific culture, then, shares its formal aspect with philosophy. Religion, on the other hand, shares with philosophy its other aspect, the substantial, which is to say God, the Spirit, the Absolute. To know the essence of this world, of truth, of the absolute Idea, is common ground for both philosophy and religion.

With regard to the matter proper to scientific culture, on the one hand principles have been established as to what is to be done; this involves practical requirements (Gebote, Pflichten). On the other hand we recognize laws, forces, natural classes,’ causes. Matter, then, corresponds to what in the external world are forces and causes and to what in the spiritual world of morality is the substantial, the motivating, the enduring. A content such as this demands, as does philosophy, thinking; and whatever has been thought from this point of view has been called philosophy. Thus, in the history of philosophy what we first meet are the seven wise men of Greece. They, too, are called philosophers, principally because they enunciated a number of moral sayings and principles concerning general moral obligations and essential relationships. Then, in more recent times we see that man began to turn his gaze to things of nature. That was the case particularly in the period subsequent to that of scholastic philosophy. A priori reasoning about the things of nature based on religion or metaphysics was given up, and nature itself was investigated; it was observed, and an attempt was made to know its laws and forces. By the same token research was instituted into moral relationships, civil law, etc. – and this was also called philosophy. It was customary, for example, to speak of Newtonian philosophy, even though it concerned itself principally only with things of nature. In general, then, the form which characterizes philosophy is one according to which, from experience regarding nature, the state, justice, religion, etc., general principles are derived and are enunciated as formal, quite universal principles.

Philosophy, it is said, investigates universal causes, the ultimate grounds of things. Thus, wherever in the sciences universal causes, essential grounds, and principles are enunciated, the sciences have this universality in common with philosophy, and, to be more precise, such principles and grounds are derived from experience and from reflection on it (innere Empfindung). No matter how foreign to the principle of philosophy this last may seem to be, it is nevertheless true with regard to any philosophy that I have received it through my senses and through reflection on what they present to me (meine innere Empfindung) – i.e., through experience – and that on the basis of this experience alone I consider it true. This form of knowing, of taking into oneself, has appeared not only in opposition to religion but also in a negative relation to other philosophies; and this, too, was called philosophy, because it was opposed to whatever is merely positive. Newtonian philosophy comprises only what we now call philosophy of nature – a science based on experience and perception, containing knowledge of laws, forces, and universal properties of nature.

It was a great period in history which saw the emergence of this principle of experience, when man began to see for himself, to feel, to taste, to look on nature as worthwhile, to rely significantly on the testimony of his senses, to hold for true only what was known through the senses. This conviction of the immediate certitude afforded by the senses was the foundation for this so-called philosophy; it was from this testimony of the senses, after all, that the sciences of nature took their impetus. This reliance on the senses was opposed to previous ways of looking at nature; formerly the point of departure had been metaphysical principles. Because men now based their procedures on sensible representations they came into conflict with religion and the state. It was, however, not merely the testimony of the senses which they had set up against a metaphysics of the understanding; still another testimony was highly regarded – namely, that the true could count as true only to the extent that it was to be found in both the heart and the understanding of man. Through this kind of understanding, this thinking and feeling for himself, there resulted an even greater opposition to what was merely positive in religion and contemporary government. Man learned now to do his own observing and thinking, to form his own representations, opposing them to the fixed truths and dogmas of the Church and to then – accepted civil law – or at least he sought new principles to support the old civil law, in order to justify it in the light of these principles. In the precise context in which religion is positive had been found the validation of those principles according to which subjects owed obedience to the authority of the princes; it was the divine authority which gave validity to these principles, because rulers were appointed by God. The basis for this was found in the Jewish laws according to which kings were the anointed of the Lord. (The Mosaic laws had a special validity even with regard to marriage.) Against this whole positive position, against whatever had been imposed by authority, man’s own proper understanding and free thinking rebelled. Among those who thought this way can be counted Hugo Grotius who formulated a law of nations based on what was accepted as law by all peoples, i.e., the consensus gentium. According to this law the purpose of the state was posited as something proper to the state itself, as something immanent in man, rather than based on a divine command. What was accepted as law was derived from what is the ground for man’s being recognized as man, whereas previously everything had been regulated by authoritarian legislation (nach dem Positiven). Positing in this way a ground other than that of authority was called philosophizing, and for this reason philosophy was also called world-wisdom. Because this kind of philosophizing had as its object external nature and the rights of human nature, and because a content such as this owed its origin to the activity of man’s mundane understanding and reason, it was correct to call this world-wisdom. There is no question that philosophy does not limit itself to internal objects; it extends its interest to everything in the surrounding world and, thus, is occupied with mundane, finite things. On the other hand, however, it does not confine itself to the mundane; it has the same goal as religion; and the mundane which it has as its object is nonetheless a determinateness of the divine Idea. In recent times Schlegel has warmed over again the term world-wisdom as a name for philosophy. He intended it, however, ironically; what he meant was that philosophy must give way, when there is question of higher things – for example, of religion. In this he has had a number of followers.

In England under the heading of philosophy is understood natural science. Thus it happens that a journal (like Hermbstadts Journal), for example, which talks about agriculture (manure), economics, industry, chemistry, etc., and tells about discoveries in these areas, is called a philosophical review. By the same token optical instruments, barometers, thermometers, etc., are called philosophical instruments. Even theories, especially those concerned with morality, which are derived more from the feelings of the human heart and from experience than from the concept or from determinations of what is right, in England belong to philosophy. The Scottish moral philosophers in particular should be mentioned in this connection; they reason in a Ciceronian manner, taking as their starting point drives, inclinations, and immediate certainty, i.e., from the sort of thing which Cicero calls insitum natura. In the same way modern English theories of political economy, e.g., that of Adam Smith and of those influenced by him, are counted as philosophy. The result is that, at least in England, the name philosophy is respected, because there whatever is derived from general principles or can be taken out of the realm of experience and brought back to determinate principles is called philosophical. A short time ago a banquet was held in honor of Canning. In his speech of acknowledgment it comes out that he congratulates England, because there philosophical principles are employed in government. Thus, in England at least, philosophy is not a term used ironically.

Now, even though all these ways of viewing things go under the heading of philosophy, we must exclude them from our treatment of the subject, despite the fact that in all of them there is a principle which they have in common with philosophy, i.e., that in them it is one’s self which sees, senses, thinks, is present. Whatever the area may be, this is the great principle opposed to authority. In perception it is 1 myself who perceive; and the same is true of sensing, understanding, thinking. What is to have significance for man must be contained in his own thinking. Properly speaking, “in his own thinking” is a pleonasm; every man must think for himself, no one can think for another, any more than he can eat or drink for another. It is this moment of the self, plus the form which is produced in thinking, the form of universal laws, principles, fundamental determinations, in short the form of universality, that philosophy has in common with those sciences, philosophical points of view, representations, etc., of which we have been speaking; they are what has given to all of them the name philosophy.

2. Relation of Philosophy to Religion

The second sphere of those manifestations of spirit which are more closely related to philosophy is the area of religious representations in general. Here belongs primarily religion as such, then mythology and the mysteries, and even to a certain extent poetry. just as the first area of which we spoke had in common with philosophy its formal element, the I and the form of universality, so what is common here is the other side, i.e., the substantial element, the content.

In the various religions, peoples have left a record of the way they thought regarding the being of the world, the absolute, that which is in and for itself. There we find what they held to be the cause, the essence, the substantial, in both nature and spirit. There, too, we discover their opinions regarding the manner in which human spirit or human nature is related to such objects – to the divinity, the true.

In religion, then, we immediately observe two characteristics (Bestimmungen): first, how man is conscious of God, i.e., how in consciousness he represents God, this being the objective form or determination of thought whereby man sets the essence of divinity over against himself, represents it as something other than himself, as an alien being in the beyond. The second characteristic is to be found in devotion and cult, which constitute the overcoming of this opposition, whereby. man raises himself to God and becomes conscious of his unity with God’s being. This is the sense which cult has in all religions. Among the Greeks cult served rather to raise them to an enjoyment of this unity, since for them the being of God was not in itself something beyond them.

Religion and philosophy, then, have as an object in common what is true in and for itself – God, insofar as He is in and for Himself – and man in his relation to God. In religions, men have made manifest the consciousness they had concerning the supreme being. To this extent religions are the supreme work of reason. Thus it is absurd to believe that priests invented religion in order to deceive the people – as though men would permit anything to be imposed on them with regard to the ultimate and supreme being.

Although philosophy has the same object as religion, still in relation to each other they have developed many differences. The first question, then, is: how does philosophy differ from theology and religion in general? The second is: to what extent must we in the history of philosophy take the religious into account?

a. The Form of Philosophy Distinguished from That of Religion. First, then, the question how philosophy and religion differ from each other. In this connection I intend to present their general characteristics and – so far as possible – discuss them.

b. Divine and Human Spirit. Common to both is what is in and for itself, the universal, absolute Spirit. This is spirit, but at the same time it includes nature within itself; it is itself and the grasp of nature within itself. It is not identical with nature in the superficial sense in which the chemically neutral is, but is rather in its own self identical with – nature, or one with itself in nature. Such is its identity with nature that the latter, its negative, the real, is posited only as ideal. That is the idealism of spirit. The universality of spirit, to which both philosophy and religion are related, is absolute, not exterior, universality. It is a universality which penetrates everything, is present in everything. We have to represent spirit to ourselves as free, and freedom of the spirit means that it is with itself, has a rational awareness of itself. Its nature is to grasp the other in such a comprehensive way as to find itself in the other, to unite itself with itself in the other, there to possess and enjoy itself.

Here, then, is manifested the relationship of Spirit to the human spirit. No matter how fragile and isolated individuality may be represented, abstraction must simply be made from this sort of atomistic representation. When spirit is represented in truth it is what is rationally aware of itself (das sich selbst Vernehmende). The difference between the individual and the universal, then, is so to be expressed, that the subjective, individual spirit is the universal divine Spirit, to the extent that there is rational awareness of the latter, to the extent that the latter manifests itself in each subject, each man. The spirit which is rationally aware of absolute Spirit is, then, the subjective spirit.

If we take this determination as our point of departure, then as further determinations we have simply various forms of this rational awareness. What we call religious belief is the substantial, universal manner in which man is rationally aware of the divine Spirit. Apart from belief the divine Spirit is not what he is according to the teaching of the Church. In this way the divine Spirit is not in himself but is present in the spirit of man, in the spirit of those who belong to his community. Then it is that the individual spirit is rationally aware of the divine Spirit, i.e., of the essence of his own spirit, of his own essence, of what is substantial in him; and this essence is precisely the universal in and for itself, the enduring. That is the faith of the Evangelical Church – not an historical (historischer) faith, not a belief in historical (geschichtliche) things; rather this Lutheran faith is the spirit’s own faith, the consciousness whereby it is rationally aware of the substantial in spirit. According to a recent theory of faith it is said: I believe, I have immediate knowledge that I have a body. This, then, is called belief, that something determinate, some content or other is immediately in us, is produced in our consciousness. That is belief in the external sense. But the internal, the religious sense of belief is precisely the knowledge of the absolute Spirit of which we have been speaking; and this knowledge, as it is first of all in the human spirit, is immediate and, as a result, is immediate certitude. It is simply a testimony of man’s spirit, which is the profound root of the identity of spirit in general. Spirit generates (erzeugt) itself, manifests its own self, shows itself and gives testimony of itself also, of its unity with itself. It also has consciousness of itself, consciousness of its unity with its object, because it is itself its own object. Now, when consciousness of this object comes on the scene, develops, and takes form, the content in question can seem to be something given in sensation, sensibly represented, coming from outside; the way in mythology a myth has of coming into being according to an historical pattern. This pattern is external. To faith, however, belongs the testimony of the spirit. The content can, of course, come from outside, be given and received, but the spirit must give testimony to it.

To be more precise and to speak of the Christian religion, we know that Christ came into the world almost 2000 years ago. He said, however, “I am with you all days, even to the end of the world,” and “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, I am there in the midst of them.” Still, this was not to be the sensible presence of this individual person. He also said , when I am no longer with you, “the Spirit will lead you to all truth,” i.e., the relation of externality must first be removed; it is not the true relationship. Herein we find an elucidation (Erklarung) of what we said above.

On the one hand we have to do there with a representative consciousness, where the content is an object, and it is outside us, separated from us. On the other hand we have devotion, cult, the feeling of union with this object. The result is a certain ambiguity; at one time externality is stronger, at another, devotion. At one time the indwelling Christ is sent back 2000 years to Palestine and is simply an historical person in th at land and those surroundings. At another time, however, in devotion and in cult, the feeling of His presence is predominant. Consequently, at this point there is to be found a contrast in religion.

c. Representation and Thought. The form of philosophy differs from the aforementioned form of religion, and we must now get a more precise understanding of this difference. The fundamental connection between religion and philosophy is the nature of spirit itself.

(1) With regard to spirit the point of departure must be [the realization] that spirit is in manifesting itself; it is this one substantial identity, but at the same time, in manifesting itself it is differentiated within itself. This is where its subjective, finite consciousness comes in. (That which has its limit in another, be cause at its limit the other begins, is finite; and this is true only where there is a determination, a difference.) Spirit, however, remains free; it remains with itself in being manifested, with the result that it is not disturbed by reason of the difference. To spirit, that which is differentiated is transparent; it is something clear, not something obscure. To put it another way, for spirit there is nothing determinate in the sense that determination means difference. Now, when there is talk of a limit to spirit, from one point of view this is correct; man is limited, dependent, finite – except insofar as he is spirit. Finitude has to do with the other modes of his existence. To the extent that, even though he is spirit, his attitude is spirit less, he is involved with external things; but when he is spirit and truly spirit he is unlimited. The limits of reason are only the limits of this subject’s reason; but when man’s attitude is genuinely rational he is without limits, infinite. (Of course, infinity is not to be taken in the abstract sense, as a concept of understanding.) Because spirit is infinite it continues to be spirit in all its relationships, expressions, manifestations. The difference between universal, substantial spirit and merely subjective spirit is a difference for spirit itself. Both spirit as object and the content of spirit must be at the same time immanent in subjective spirit; and this can be only when the immanence is spiritual, not natural or immediate. This is the fundamental characteristic of Christianity, which sees man illuminated by grace, by the Holy Spirit (who is essential Spirit). Then it is that the spirit is immanent in man, is, thus, his own spirit. A living spirit such as this is, is, so to speak, phosphorus, the volatile, flammable material which can be ignited both from without and from within. It is ignited from without, for example, when man is taught the content of religion, when his emotions and imagination (Vorstellung) are aroused by such a teaching, or when he accepts it on authority. When his attitude is spiritual, he is on the contrary inflamed from within himself; because he looks for the content of religion within himself, it is from out of himself that he manifests it. Then he is his most intimate self.

(2) To go further, we must speak of the way in which spirit is objective to itself, of what it is for it to be for itself. The form in which it is present can vary; thus it can assume a variety of forms. From these diverse ways of appearing (Gestaltungsweisen) comes the diversity of forms of spirit and, thus, the difference between philosophy and religion.

In religion, spirit has its own peculiar form, which can be sensible, e.g., in the form of art, when art pictures divinity, or in poetry, where likewise the sensible representation constitutes the essence of the being-present. In general we can say that this way of manifesting spirit is representation. It is true, of course, that in religious representation thinking, too, is to some extent involved, but the representation contains thought in such a way that the latter is mingled with an ordinary external content. By the same token, law and morality too are, as it is said, suprasensible, but my representation of them takes its origin from custom, from legal prescriptions (Bestimmungen) which are already there, or from feeling. With regard to philosophy, then, the difference is that in it the same content is grasped, but the form is that of thinking. In religion there are two moments: (1) there is an objective form or determination of consciousness, whereby essential Spirit, the absolute, is present as external to subjective spirit, i.e., as its object, and is represented as historical or as an artistic image, separated in time and space; (2) there is the character or stage of devotion, of intimacy, wherein the separation is removed, the gap is bridged, wherein Spirit and object are one, and the individual is filled with the Spirit. Philosophy and religion have the same object, the same content, the same goal. But, what are in religion two stages, two modes of objectivity, i.e., art, faith and then devotion, are in philosophy united into one; for thought is (a) from the point. of view of the first character objective and has the form of an object; whereas (b) it has also lost the form of objectivity, such that in thinking, content and form are posited as unified. To the extent that what I think – i.e., the content of thinking – is in the form of thought, it no longer stands over against me.

In religion and philosophy, then, there is one substantial content, and only the manner of manifesting it in each is different. These two manifestations, however, are not merely different; in their difference they can appear to be opposed, even contradictory, because the content is represented as essentially linked to the image. Still, even within the framework of religion it is conceded that the different manner of presentation which characterizes religion is not to be taken literally. Thus, it is said: God generated His Son. The divine Spirit’s self-knowledge, His making Himself into an object, is here called generating His Son. In the Son the Father knows Himself, because the Son is of the same nature as He. This relationship, however, is taken from vital nature, not from the spiritual; its expression is characteristic of representation. It is said, of course, that the relationship is not to be taken literally; but it is simply left at that. So too, when the mythologies speak of the wars of the gods, it is admitted that this sort of thing is being said partly of spiritual and partly too of natural forces. Because they are opposed to each other they are in, this way imaginatively represented.

(3) It is natural that these diverse forms, as for the first time they appear in a determinate way, and are aware of the differences which separate them, should be inimical to each other; it is, in fact, inevitable. Thought, after an, first makes its appearance as abstract, i.e., as formally incomplete. The same is true of religion, since initial immediate religious consciousness, even though it is consciousness of spirit, of that which is in and for itself, still involves a sensible form and sensible attributes, i.e., it too is abstract. Thereafter thinking becomes more concrete, penetrates more profoundly into itself, and brings to consciousness the concept of spirit as such. Thus aware of itself, it is no longer inseparable from its abstract determination. The concept of concrete spirit is its own self-conception, or it involves an essential conception of itself, having determination in itself (determination being what is counted as belonging to understanding, to the essence of appearance). Within itself abstract understanding denies all determination and, thus, with regard to God retains what is left, which is no more than His abstract designation as supreme being. On the contrary, the concrete concept has nothing to do with such a caput mortuum; its object is concrete, active, self-determining, living spirit. Subsequently, therefore, concrete spirit recognizes in religion the concrete, determinateness in general, not the sensible but the essential. The Jewish God, for example, God the Father, is abstract. In a later stage of its development spirit recognizes what is essential in that. The concrete, however, is not merely God as such, but rather God determining Himself, positing another than Himself, and yet as Spirit He does not leave the other simply another but is with Himself in this other. Only this latter is the complete divine Spirit. What is concrete in religion, however, can be known and recognized only in the concept which is itself concrete. Therein lies the possibility of reconciling religion and philosophy, when abstract understanding struggles against the former.

The historical progress of this opposition is approximately the following. Thinking takes its start at first within religion’s representations and subsequently parallels them, with the result that the opposition is not yet conscious. Later, however, when thinking is strengthened and relies on itself, it declares its opposition to the form of religion and will not recognize its own concept therein, seeking as it does only itself. This fight against the form of religion took place early in the history of the Greek world. In as early a case as Xenophanes’ we see a philosopher most vigorously combating the representations of Greek popular religion; and later we see the opposition stiffen, as philosophers arose who expressly denied the gods and hence the ,divine character of the popular religion. Socrates was charged with having introduced new gods. As a matter of fact, his daimonion and the overall principle of his system were contrary to the form of Greek religion and of customary morality. Still, he held on to the practices of his religion, and we know that as he was dying he ordered that a cock be sacrificed to Aesculapius. It was only very late that the Neoplatonists recognized the universal content of the popular religion, which had been either expressly attacked or put aside by the philosophers. We see not only that the Neoplatonists gave to mythological representations a meaning proper to thought but that they also employed these representations as a sort of imaginative language for their own system.

The path which this opposition follows in the Christian religion is quite similar. At first thinking is dependent, unfree, tied to the religious form. Thus it is with the Church Fathers. With them, thinking develops the elements of Christian doctrine. (The latter becomes a system only in the hands of the Church Fathers who were also philosophers. The developed aspect of ecclesiastical faith emerged in a special way in Luther’s time. At that time and frequently thereafter in more recent times there was a desire to effect a return of Christian religion to its primitive form. This sort of thing has, it is true, a good sense, in that men were concerned with what is authentic and original in Christian teaching, something which was particularly necessary at the time of the Reformation. Nevertheless, it also involves the incorrect notion that the elements should not be developed.) The first step, then, was that thinking expanded the teaching and developed it into a system; subsequently the doctrine was fixed and made into an absolute presupposition for thinking. First, then, comes the development of doctrine; secondly comes its fixation. Only after that does the opposition of believing and thinking, of immediate doctrinal certitude and so-called reason, enter in. Thinking reached the point where it relied only on itself; the first thing the young eagle of reason did was to soar as a bird of prey to the sun of truth, from there to declare war on religion. Then, however, once more justice is done to the religious content also, in that thinking finds its completion in the concrete concept of spirit and enters into a polemic against abstract understanding.

Religion, then, has a content common to itself and to philosophy; it differs from philosophy only in its form. Thus, all that is required for philosophy is that the form of the concept be so far perfected as to be able to comprise the content of religion. This content is primarily what have been called the mysteries of religion, which is to say, the speculative element in religion. Under that heading is understood first of all something mysterious, something which must remain secret and is not to be made known. It is true, of course, that by their nature, i.e., precisely as a speculative content, mysteries are something mysterious for understanding; not, however, for reason. They are, in fact, precisely the rational element, in the sense of being speculative, i.e., in the sense of the concrete concept. Philosophy is opposed to rationalism, particularly in contemporary theology. Rationalism, it is true, is always talking about reason, but what it is really talking about is merely dry, abstract understanding. Nothing in it. is recognizable as reason, except the moment of self-thinking; but even that is a completely abstract thinking. This sort of rationalism is opposed to philosophy both in its content and in its form. From the point of view of content: it has made heaven empty – reduced the divine to a caput mortuum, and everything else to mere finite entities in space and time. Even from the point of view of form it is contrary to philosophy; for the form of this rationalism is argumentation (Rasonnieren), unfree argumentation, and it declares its opposition to philosophy in particular, in order to be able to continue this sort of argumentation forever. That is no philosophizing, no genuine conceptual thinking (Begreifen). Within religion the opposition to rationalism comes from supranaturalism, and this latter is in regard to true content like philosophy and in agreement with it, but different as regards form; for in supranaturalism the spirit is entirely absent, it has become wooden and accepts only positive authority for its corroboration and justification. The Scholastics, on the contrary, were not this sort of supranaturalists; in their thinking they put the dogma of the Church into the form of concept.

As a thinking of this content in the form of concept, over against the representation which is proper to religion, philosophy has the advantage of understanding both. It understands religion and can accord it a justification; it understands rationalism and supranaturalism. too; and it also understands itself. The converse, however, is not true; religion as such, because its point of view is that of the representation, recognizes itself only in representation, and not in philosophy, i.e., not in concepts, not in universal thought-determinations. Often enough no injustice is being done to a philosophy when the complaint is made that it is opposed to religion; frequently, however, the complaint is also unjustified, namely, when the complaint is made from the religious point of view, simply because religion does not understand philosophy.

Philosophy, then, is not contrary to religion; it grasps the latter in concept. For the absolute Idea, however, for absolute Spirit there must be the form of religion, for religion is the form proper to consciousness of the true, the way it is for all men. The structure of religion is (1) sense perception. and (2) mingling with the latter the form of the universal, i.e., reflection, thinking, but still, abstract thinking, which still contains much that is external. Thereafter a ‘transition is made to the concrete structuring of thoughts, there is speculation on the true, which is then in consciousness according to its true form. Nevertheless, the speculative element which enters into the structuring at this point is not the externally universal form of thinking which is common for all men; and so the consciousness of that which is in itself true must have the religious form.

This is the general justification of the religious form [of spirit’s manifestation].

Up to this point we have given an account of the difference between philosophy and religion. With regard, however, to what we want to treat of in the history of philosophy there are a few further remarks to make in connection with – and partly as a consequence of – what has already been said.

3. The Kinds of Religious Contents which Are to be Eliminated from Philosophical Consideration

a. The first remark concerns the simply (uberhaupt) mythological. It is said that mythology contains philosophical affirmations, and, it is also said, since in general religious forms of expression involve philosophical affirmations, philosophy must concern itself with such forms of expression. (i) In this regard the work of my friend Creuzer is well known; therein in a distinctively philosophical way he treated mythology and in general the religious representations, expressions, and usages of ancient peoples, showing what was rational in them. Now this method of treatment is attacked by others as an incorrect and unhistorical procedure. The objection is that it is not an historical fact that such philosophical affirmations are contained therein. Included in the mythological are also the mystery religions of the ancients, and in them we are presented with perhaps more philosophical affirmations than in mythology. That objection has already been taken care of by what was said earlier. It is clear enough that in mythology and in the mystery religions of the ancients such thoughts are to be found, since religions and, by the same token, the mythological elements in them are products of man, wherein he has bequeathed to posterity (niedergelegt hat) what to him was supreme and most profound – his consciousness of what the true is. Consequently there is no question that in the forms of mythology are contained reason, universal notions and determinations, and hence philosophical affirmations also. Now, when Creuzer is faulted for introducing such thoughts where they are not really present, for allegorizing, it is important to note that Creuzer shares with the Neoplatonists the tendency to seek philosophical affirmations in the mythological. That does not, however, mean injecting such elements; they are actually there. This sort of consideration, then, is rational and is to be raised to the absolute level. The religions and mythologies which peoples have developed are products of reason becoming conscious of itself.. No matter how naive or nonsensical they may seem, they still contain the rational moment; instinctive rationality is fundamental to them. The method employed by Creuzer and the Neoplatonists, then, is to be recognized as in itself the true and essential method.

Because, however, the mythological is the sensible, contingent presentation of the concept, what has been thought about it or developed out of it always continues to be bound to its external form. But the sensible is not the genuine element in which thought or concept can be presented.

This sort of presentation, then, is always inadequate to the concept. The sensible form must always be described from many sides, e.g., from those of history, of nature, and of art.

It involves so much by way of contingent addition, which makes it fail to correspond exactly with the concept and, in fact, to contradict the intrinsic concept. Nevertheless the Neoplatonists did achieve a new recognition of their own philosophy under the sensible image proper to mythology, and they employed such images as forms for the expression of their own concepts. It is natural to assume that in the explanation of those images, even when they are connected with an intrinsic concept, a good deal of error gets in, especially when it comes down to details, to the multitude of usages, activities, utensils, vestments, ritual sacrifices, etc.

Therein can be found something analogous to thought, a relationship to thought; but this simply shows how separate from each other are the image and its significance and how much contingency and arbitrariness can intervene and obscure the issue. Still, there is rationality here, and it must be taken into consideration. It is to be excluded, however, from our examination of the history of philosophy, for in philosophy we have nothing to do with such vague philosophical affirmations – i.e., with general ways of representing the true – or with thoughts which are merely contained in some presentation or other or lie hidden and undeveloped under some sensible image. We are concerned with thoughts which are externalized and only to the extent to which they are externalized – to the extent, then, that the sort of content proper to religion has appeared, been manifested, and come to consciousness. The difference is enormous. In a child, too, reason is present, but only as a capacity. In the history of philosophy, however, we are concerned with reason only insofar as it has been articulated in the form of thought. The philosophical affirmations which are contained only implicite in religion, then, do not concern us.

(2) We can also believe that many philosophical affirmations were to be found in the mystery religions; in any event they presented symbolically adumbrations of later, superior representations. Still, a good deal of the sensible is mingled in them. They probably belong to the very ancient remnants of nature-religion which have, in fact, retreated into darkness. In general what is retained in the mystery religions belongs to a stage of culture far below that to which the people have attained. In the Christian religion, mysteries essentially contain the speculative. The Neoplatonists called the speculative concept mystical. The terms muein, mueisqai (consecrate oneself, be consecrated) signified to be engaged in speculative philosophy. Consequently there is nothing unknown in these mysteries; their name signifies not something mysterious (Geheimnis) but rather consecration. Thus, all Athenians were consecrated into the Eleusinian mysteries (and philologically speaking the same observation is to be made, for the same notion [Vorstellung] holds there); Socrates alone is an exception. The only thing that was forbidden was to reveal these things publicly before strangers; with regard to some of them it was made a crime to do so. What we find in the Christian religion is similar; there dogmas are called mysteries. They are what is known of God’s nature and disseminated as doctrine. Thus, a mystery is not something unknown or hidden; it is something revealed, familiar, what everyone in the community knows; and it is by this knowledge that they are distinguished from members of other religions. Here, too, then, mysterium does not mean secret (since every Christian is in on the secret); it is simply another name for the speculative. For the senses, for sensual man with his desires and his ordinary understanding, it is, of course, a secret; for understanding finds only contradictions anywhere in the speculative; it finds difference impenetrable and cannot grasp the concrete. Mysterium, or the idea, however, is at the same time the resolution of contradictions. We are here concerned with mysteries, then, only to the extent that in them thought as thought, articulated in the form of thought, is present.

b. Mythical Philosophizing. It can also be claimed that myths are a way of philosophizing; and that they have also often been so. Mythical language is also deliberately used, as it is said, in order to evoke sublime ideas. Plato, for example, employs many myths. Jacobi, too, belongs to this number, since he employs the forms of Christian religion in his philosophizing and in this manner says the most speculative things. This form, however, is not the correct one or the one which suits philosophy. Thought which has itself as object must be, in its form too, object for itself; it has to have risen above its natural form and to have appeared also in the form of thought. There is a fairly prevalent opinion that Plato’s myths are superior to his more abstract mode of expression; nor is there any question that Plato does present them beautifully. When we consider them more carefully we see that his myths are partly the result of an inability to get thought across to human beings in a purer form. Partly, too, Plato speaks this way only to introduce his themes – when he comes to the principal theme, however, his manner of expression is different. Aristotle says: “Those who philosophize mythically do not deserve to be taken seriously.” That is true. Still, when Plato employs myths he certainly has good reasons for so doing. In general, however, the mythical form is not the one in which thought is best portrayed; it is only a subordinate way.

Just as the Freemasons have symbols which count as deep wisdom – deep in the way that we call a well deep when we cannot see the bottom – so men are easily convinced that what is hidden is deep. But, when something is concealed, it may well be the case that there is nothing behind the concealment. Thus, among the Freemasons what is totally hidden (not only from outsiders but also from insiders) is really nothing and requires neither a special wisdom nor science. It belongs precisely to thought, on the other hand, to manifest itself; it is its very nature to be clear. Manifestation is not, so to speak, a situation which can take place or not, such that thought would continue to be thought whether manifested or not – manifestation is its very being. [This paragraph inserted from Michelet’s first edition of 1833.]

Others have employed lines, numbers, and geometrical figures as symbols. A snake biting its own tail, for example, or a circle count as symbols of eternity. Such a symbol is a sensible image; spirit, however, does not need that sort of symbol, it has language. If spirit can express itself in the element proper to thought, then the symbolic is an incorrect, a false mode of presentation. When we talk about Pythagoras we shall come back to this point. This sort of thing is found among the Chinese, too; they use lines and numbers to signify thoughts.

So, the mythical as such and mythical forms of philosophizing are excluded from what we have to say.

c. The Place of Thoughts in Poetry and Religion. The third remark to be made is that religion as such, like poetry, contains thoughts. The form in which religion is presented is not merely that of art, as it is particularly in Greek religion; rather it contains thoughts, universal notions. By the same token, poetry (i.e., the art whose element is language) attains to the expression of thoughts; in poets, too, we find profound universal thoughts. Thoughts such as these – e.g., on fate in Homer and the Greek tragedians, or on living and dying, being and ceasing to be, birth and death – then, are clearly abstract and important thoughts, which also are often imaginatively presented, for example, in Indian poetry. Still, in the history of philosophy we are not to consider this mode of presentation either. One could speak of a philosophy of Aeschylus, of Euripides, of Schiller, of Goethe, etc. But, such thoughts are to an extent merely incidental and, thus, not germane to our presentation; they constitute general ways of representing the true, the vocation of man, morality, etc. To an extent, also, these thoughts have not attained to the form which is proper to them; and the form which is required is that of thought, wherein what is expressed must be the ultimate and constitute the absolute foundation. With regard to the thoughts we have just spoken about that is not the case; in them there is an absence of distinction from and relation to each other. Besides, in the case of the Indians, whatever has a relation to thought is shot through with confusion.

In addition we are not concerned with those thoughts which have their source in Christian religion or in the Church. The Fathers of the Church were, it is true, great philosophers, and the growth of Christianity owes a great deal to them. Still, their philosophizing moves within the framework of an already fixed and given doctrinal concept which is fundamental to it. In the same way we do not see among the Scholastics the sort of free thought which develops from itself and builds upon itself; rather we see that their thought is tied to all sorts of presuppositions.

This, then, is what I wanted to say by way of introduction to our treatment of the history of philosophy. Two points in particular have been emphasized in what we have said about the relationship which these last types of thinking have to philosophy. One of these concerned the formal element, self-thinking in general as it occurs in the natural sciences, in what might be called popular philosophy. In that case it was the form which is common to them and to philosophy; whereas the determination of content, the matter, is not developed from the thought itself, but comes from elsewhere, from nature or from feeling, or, as is often the case, sound common sense (Menschenverstand) is adopted as a criterion (as in Scottish philosophy). The other aspect was the substantial, which religion in particular shares with philosophy. In this case, however, what is lacking to the substantial element is the form of thought. Thus, what remains for philosophy is simply the substantial element in the form of thought.


II. The Beginning of the History of Philosophy

The question now to be asked is: where is the history of philosophy to begin? The answer to this question is already contained immediately in what has preceded. The history of philosophy begins where thought in its freedom comes into existence, where it cuts itself loose from its immersion in and unity with nature, constitutes itself for itself, where thinking goes into itself and remains with itself.

From the historical point of view this emergence of spirit is intimately connected with the flowering of political liberty; and political liberty, liberty within the state, begins where the individual feels himself to be an individual, where the subject knows himself in a universal manner, or where the consciousness of personality, of having in oneself infinite value, comes into the open – because I posit myself for myself and have value simply for myself. Herein is contained, too, free thinking of the object, the absolute, the essential universal object. To think means to put something into the form of universality. To think oneself, then, means to give oneself the determination of universality, to know oneself as universal – to know that I am a universal, an infinite – i.e., to know oneself as a free being relating oneself to oneself. That is precisely where the moment of practical political freedom comes in. Philosophical thinking is immediately connected with this sort of thing because it, too, appears as thought of the universal object. Thought is determined as something universal; which means (a) it makes of the universal its object or of the objective something universal. It determines the individuality of natural things, the way they are in sensible consciousness, as a universal, a thought, an objective thought. There we have the objective, but as thought. (b) Added to this is the second determination: I recognize this universal, thought knows that the universal happens. This more precise relation of recognition and of knowledge to the universal enters in only to the extent that the objective in question continues to be for me the objective and that I continue to grasp myself for myself. Insofar as I think the objective, it is mine; and even though it is my thinking, it counts for me as the absolutely universal. Insofar as it is present as objective, I have thought myself in it; I myself am contained in this infinite and at the same time. I am conscious of this. Thus, I retain the standpoint of objectivity and at the same time that of knowing, and I maintain the latter standpoint. That, in general, is the connection between political freedom and the emergence of freedom of thought.

Philosophy, then, makes its appearance in history when there exist free political institutions. In this connection the Orient first comes to mind. In the Oriental world, however, there can be no question of philosophy properly speaking: for, to characterize the situation briefly, spirit does arise in the Orient, but conditions are such that the subject, the individuality, is not a person, but is determined as being swallowed up in the objective. There the substantial relation is dominant. There substance is represented partly as suprasensible, as thought, partly as more on the side of the material. The relation which the individual or the particular has, then, is simply that of being a negative over against the substantial. The highest which such an individual can achieve is eternal blessedness, which consists in being simply submerged in this substance, in abdicating consciousness, and thus being annihilated as subject, with a consequent destruction of the difference between substance and subject. The supreme relationship, then, is unconsciousness. Now, insofar as individuals have not attained this blessedness but exist still in an earthly way they are excluded from the unity of the substantial and the individual. The relation they have is that of being determined as without spirit, without substance and – as regards political freedom – without rights. Will in this case is not substantial will but only one which is determined by the arbitrariness and contingency of nature (e.g., by the caste system); it is a being without inner consciousness.

There is the fundamental situation of the Oriental character. What is affirmative is simply substance, and the individual is without substance, it is accidental. Political liberty, rights, moral freedom, pure consciousness, thinking – all are absent. If these are to come about, it is necessary that the subject, too, posit himself as consciousness over against the substance and be recognized for what he is. But, in the Oriental character the subject does not count as thus knowing himself. The subject is not there for himself and he has in his own self-consciousness no value for himself. The Oriental subject can, it is true, be great, noble, sublime; still what characterizes him chiefly is that as an individual he is without rights and that what he makes of himself is determined either by nature or by arbitrariness. Nobility, sublimity, the utmost magnanimity of attitude, are .among the Orientals arbitrariness of character and by the same token contingent. Missing are such things as rights and moral standards, which consist in objective and positive determinations, to be respected by all, are valid for all, and in which all are accorded recognition. When the Oriental acts he has the advantage of complete independence, since for him there is nothing fixed and determined. The freer and more undetermined his substance is, the more arbitrary and independent is he. A free substance such as this no more has the character of an objectivity which is valid for all universally than it has freedom. What we call rights, moral standards, the state, are there present in a natural, substantial, patriarchal way, i.e., without subjective freedom. The kind of morality which we call conscience is also nonexistent there. What does exist there is a petrified natural order which permits what is worst to exist side by side with supreme nobility. The situation is such that in it supreme arbitrariness holds the highest place.

Consequently philosophical knowledge is not to be looked for in the Orient, since it is proper to philosophical knowledge to be conscious of, to know, the substance, i.e., the universal insofar as I think it, develop it within me, determine it, in such a way that in the substance I have my own determinations and am also contained subjectively or affirmatively. In this way the determinations in question are not merely subjective, not merely opinions, but just as they are my thoughts so too are they thoughts of what is, objective; they are substantial thoughts.

What belongs to the Orient, then, is to be excluded from the history of philosophy. Still, in the overall treatment, I shall, nevertheless, say a few words about it, particularly the Indian and the Chinese. Previously I have ignored Oriental thought, but recently it has become possible to pass judgment in its regard. Formerly it was customary to acclaim Indian wisdom and even to make a great fuss about it, without anyone knowing exactly why. Only now do we have more precise information, which corresponds naturally to its somewhat general character. It is not enough, how. ever, simply to contrast the universal concept with the former sort of vague conjecture; we must now, wherever possible, proceed historically.

Philosophy properly so called has its beginning only in the West. There the spirit is submerged in itself, immerses itself in itself, posits itself as free, and is free for itself. Only under such conditions can philosophy exist; and by the same token, only in the West do we find free political institutions. The happiness and the infinity which characterize the individual in the West are determined in such a way that within the substantial the subject holds its own, is not demeaned, does not appear as a slave, destined for annihilation in its dependence on the substance.

II. Progress in the History of Philosophy

In the West, then, we stand on philosophy’s own proper ground. There we must consider two great forms, we must distinguish two main periods: (1) Greek philosophy, and (2) Germanic philosophy. The latter is philosophy in the framework of Christianity or philosophy insofar as it pertains to the Germanic peoples, which is the reason why it can be called Germanic philosophy. Through the influence of the Germanic nations the other European nations – Italy, Spain, France, England, etc. – have taken on a new form.

Greek philosophy differs from Germanic philosophy just as much as Greek art does from Germanic art. Greek influence, however, reaches into the, Germanic world, and the Romans constitute the link between the two. In speaking .of Greek philosophy we must speak of it as settling in the Roman world, because Greek culture was adopted in the Roman world. The Romans, however, no more produced a philosophy of their own than a poetry of their own; even their religion is properly speaking Greek.

To characterize more precisely the two major contrasting forms we can say that the Greek world developed thought into the Idea, whereas the Christian or Germanic world comprehended the thought of Spirit. The line of demarcation is that between idea and spirit.

We can describe this advance more precisely in the following way. The first step in the process is necessarily the most abstract; it is the simplest and most impoverished, in contrast to the concrete. It is not yet diversified, not yet determined in a variety of ways; and, thus, the most ancient philosophies are the poorest of all. The first stage, then, is totally simple. After this, more precise determinations and figurations are constructed on this simple basis. When, for example, it is said that the universal, the absolute, is water or the infinite or being, then the universal has been determined as water, the infinite, or being. Still, the determinations themselves remain thoroughly general, non-conceptual, and undetermined. Likewise, when it is said that the universal is the atom, the one, this too is an indeterminate determination. The next stage in the development is the grasp of the universal as aware of itself, self-determining – it is thought as active in a universal way. What comes at this stage is more concrete, but it is still somewhat abstract. It is the nous of Anaxagoras or, better still, of Socrates, the .beginning of a subjective totality, where thinking comprehends itself, and nous is determined as being thinking activity. At a third stage this abstract totality has to realize itself, and that in diversified determinations (active thought is that which determines and diversifies), and these diversified, realized determinations are themselves elevated to totalities. On this level the universal and the particular are contrasted, as are thinking as such and external reality, or indications of externality, such as sensations, etc. Stoicism and Epicureanism become contrasting philosophies; and these contraries are united in a higher. This latter can consist in a destruction of the other two, as in skepticism; but the affirmative union of the two is their synthesis (Aufhebung) in a higher totality, in the Idea. This stage can be called a realization of the concept. The concept is the universal, which is determined for itself and yet retains its unity along with its determination into individualities in such a way that the latter are transparent to it.

Thus, when I say I, many determinations are involved, but the determinations are mine, they do not become independent; in them I continue to be the same myself. A further’ step is the realization of the concept, such that the determinations themselves become totalities (the infinite goodness of the concept), participating fully in the concept, with the result that the latter’s aspects become totalities separated from each other, whether indifferently side by side or in conflict with each other. This third level is one of unification, where the Idea is such that differences are concrete and at the same time are contained (or have been held) in the unity of the concept. Greek philosophy came that far. It closes with the intellectual, ideal world of Alexandrian philosophy.

In this world, however, in this idea of totality, one determination is still lacking. I said, you will recall, that the Idea is, that the concept determines itself, particularizes itself, that it develops its two major aspects, positing them as identical. In this identity the independent totalities which are the aspects are also posited as negative; and it is through this negation that the identity becomes subjectivity, absolute being-for-itself, i.e., actuality. In this way the Idea is elevated to Spirit. Spirit is the subjectivity which knows itself. It is its own object; and its object (i.e., itself) it makes into a totality. Thus, it is itself totality and knows itself as totality for itself. This principle of absolute being-for-itself or of freedom is the principle of the Christian world, wherein the one determination is precisely this, that as such man has an infinite worth. Christian religion expresses this more precisely by saying that each individual is to attain blessedness. Thereby an infinite worth is attributed to each individual. The principle of the second epoch, therefore, is the Idea knowing itself.

If we want to represent this advance to ourselves imaginatively we can speak of thinking as though it were space. First of all appear the most abstract determinations of space, i.e., points and lines; thereafter the union of these in a triangle. This latter, it is true, is already concrete, but still in the abstract element of surface; a stage which corresponds to what we called nous. The next stage is that the three lines which bound it become whole figures, i.e., become the realization of the abstract, of the abstract sides of the whole. At a third stage the three surfaces, triangular sides, are joined together into a body, a totality. That is as far as Greek philosophy goes.

Once we have such a body there enters in a distinction between the center of the [enclosed] space and that which fills it [its area]. This then results in a contrast between what is totally simple and ideal (which the center is) and what is real and substantial. The uniting of both, then, is the totality of the self-knowing Idea – no longer, however, a disinterested uniting, but such that the center is self-knowing personality over against objective, physical corporeity. Within this totality of the self-knowing idea the substantial is, on the one hand, essentially distinguished from subjectivity; and yet, on the other hand, the latter as self-positing also becomes substantial. At first, of course, subjectivity is merely formal, but it is the real possibility of the substantial. Subjectivity in and for itself consists precisely in this, that the subject has the determination of fulfilling its universality, of realizing it, and of positing itself as identical with the substance.

Thus, the principle of philosophy in the modern era on the one hand consists in the moment of ideality or subjectivity being for itself as such or in existing as singularity. With this there comes into being what we call subjective freedom. This latter, however, is at the same time universal, since the subject as such, i.e., man as man, is free and has the infinite determination of becoming substantial, which is the other determination found in Christian religion, namely that man has the capacity to be spirit. The sort of subjective and universal freedom which we see here is something entirely different from the partial freedom which we saw in Greece. Among the Greeks it was properly speaking only contingent that the subjectivity be free. In the Oriental world only one is free, i.e., the substance. The Spartan or Attic citizen is free, but among them there were also slaves, and so in the Greek world only some are free. What we are now saying is something else again; we say that man as man is free. In this way the characteristic freedom is completely universal. The subject as such is thought of as free, and the characteristic applies to all.

In the Christian religion the principle of which we speak has been rather expressed in the form of feeling and representation than articulated in the form of pure thought. The religion includes the belief that man as man, each individual, is an object of divine grace and mercy; thus each is a subject for himself and has an infinite, absolute value. More precisely, this principle is to be found in the fact that the Christian religion contains as a dogma the recognition of the unity between divine and human nature, a truth which has been revealed to men through Christ. Here man and God, the subjective and the objective idea, are one. This latter is the Germanic principle, the uniting of objectivity and subjectivity. The same teaching is already contained in a different guise in the story of the Fall. What is essential in this story is that the tree from which Adam eats is the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; the rest is simply imaginary. From this point of view the serpent did not deceive man, for God says: “See, Adam has become like one of us; he knows what is good and evil.” In that is contained the infinite, divine worth of subjectivity. Still, the unity of the subjective principle with substantiality, the unity of knowledge and truth, is not immediate; it is a process, the process of spirit. This means that in its unity subjectivity divests itself of its natural, immediate manner of being one and makes itself identical with what has been called the simply substantial (subjectivity as such is merely formal). Here, then, the goal of man is announced to be supreme blessedness and perfection – first of all in principle, in abstracto; the goal, then, is subjectivity which has in itself infinite worth, determined in regard to possibility.

We see, then, that speculative thought and religious representation are not separated, above all not so widely separated as is customarily believed. I have introduced such notions for another reason, i.e., in order that we be not of the opinion that as notions belonging to an earlier stage in the Christian world they are no longer of interest to us, even though we belong to that world. As a result of this, even though we may well have advanced beyond this stage we have no reason to be ashamed of our ancestors, for whom religious notions such as these were of supreme importance.

Properly speaking, then, we have two ideas, the subjective idea as knowing and the substantial or concrete idea; and the development or extension of this principle in such a way that it comes to consciousness in thought is the concern of modern philosophy. Here it is, then, that determinations are of a more concrete sort than they were among the ancients, determinations such as distinctions between thought and being, individuality and substantiality, freedom and necessity, etc. In modern philosophy, subjectivity is for itself but posits itself identically with the substantial or concrete, so that the substantial in question reaches thought. The knowing of what is for itself free is the principle of modern philosophy. There it is that this knowing, both as immediate certainty and as a knowing which is yet to be developed, is of particular interest, because through it the opposition between certainty and belief or even between belief and the sort of knowing that develops within itself is constructed. Thus a knowing which is first to be developed in some subject or other and also the belief which is a knowing are opposed to certainty or to the true in general. Consequently subjectivity and objectivity are opposed to each other. In both, however, the unity of thinking or subjectivity and truth or objectivity is presupposed. The difference is that in the first form it is said: existing man (i.e., natural man in his immediate ordinariness) cognizes the true in immediate knowing, in believing; the way he believes it is, so it truly is. In the second form, on the other hand, it is true that the unity of knowing and truth is also present, but at the same time there is the fact that man, the subject, raises himself above sensible consciousness, above the immediate manner of knowing, and only through thought makes himself what he is, thus attaining to truth.

On the whole, then, we have two philosophies: (1) Greek and (2) Germanic. With regard to the second of these we must distinguish between the period in which it makes its appearance as philosophy and the period of preparation. We can begin to deal with Germanic philosophy only at the point where it makes its appearance in a form peculiar to itself. Between the two great periods, then, lies a middle period, one of fermentation.

The point at which we now stand is the result of all the work that has been done over a period Of 2300 years; it is what the World-Spirit has brought before itself in its thinking consciousness. We should not wonder at the slowness of this. Universal, knowing Spirit has time, it is not in a hurry; it has at its disposal masses of peoples and nations whose development is precisely a means to the emergence of its consciousness. Nor should we become impatient because particular insights are not brought out at this time but only later, or that this or that is not yet there – in world-history advances are slow. Thus, insight into the necessity of such a long time is a remedy for our impatience.

We have, then, to consider three periods in the history of philosophy: (1) Greek philosophy from Thales, about 600 B.C. (Thales was born in either 640 or 629 B.C. and died in either the 58th or 59th Olympiad, i.e., about 550 B.C.), to the Neoplatonists, among whom was Plotinus who lived in the third century after Christ. It can be said, however, that this period stretched into the fifth century, at which time on the one hand all pagan philosophy is at an end – a fact which is connected with the great migration and the downfall of the Roman Empire (the death of Proclus, last of the great Neoplatonists, is put in A.D. 485 and the sack of Rome under Odoacer in 476) – whereas on the other hand Neoplatonism continues without interruption in the work of the Church Fathers – many philosophies within Christendom have as their only foundation Neoplatonism. The time-span, then, takes in about 1000 years. (2) The second period is that of the Middle Ages, the period of fermentation and of preparation for modern philosophy. Here belong the Scholastics. There are also Arab and Jewish philosophies to be mentioned, but the most important ones were those of the Christian Church. This period, too, lasts about 1000 years. (3) The third period, when modern philosophy makes its formal appearance, does not begin until the time of the Thirty Years’ War, with Bacon (d. 1626), Jakob Boehme (cL.1624), or Descartes (d. 1650). With Descartes thinking began to enter into itself. “Cogito ergo sum” are the first words of his system; and it is precisely these words which express the difference between modem philosophy and all that preceded it.


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