An Introduction to Hegel

An Introduction to Hegel

An Introduction to Hegel

An Introduction to Hegel

Excerpt

'A new idea introduces a new alternative; and we are not less indebted to a thinker when we adopt the alternative which he discarded. Philosophy never reverts to its old position after the shock of a great philosopher.' So White- head refurbishes the prefatory thesis of Hegel Phänomenologie des Geistes: a philosophy is to be judged by its fruits in subsequent speculation, not merely by the polemic of direct attack and defence.

It is hard to say how Hegel emerges from either test. Controversy, it is certain, has not cleared the air; for in the hands alike of his opponents and of many sympathetic expositors he tends to become less recognizable than any other philosopher. On the other hand, perhaps the most conspicuous traces of his influence upon subsequent speculation are to be found in the incompatible theories of thinkers who have each borrowed some fragment of the whole Hegelian system and interpreted or reconstructed it after their own liking. Sometimes it has been the same fragment. Both dialectical materialism and less technically formulated nationalistic trends of thought owe a debt to Hegel, and it is mainly a debt to his doctrine of Objective Spirit.

The work of the British idealists and that of modern Italian philosophy have been the best products of serious effort to criticize and develop Hegel, although Hegelianism was not the sole source of either. But it must be confessed that nowhere has any thinker arisen of sufficient calibre to absorb and develop Hegel's philosophy as a whole; or to oppose Hegelianism as a whole, to grasp and embrace the entire expressed or implied alternative which he rejected. Indeed, the present state of philosophical studies is oddly desultory and miscellaneous. The plain man has never quite succeeded in seeing in the quarrels of philosophers the symptom of a free and healthy speculative activity. In that there is nothing surprising; but if he should come to suspect that philosophers are beginning to understand each other . . .

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