Hegel: A Biography

 

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, as a child of an officer, was born in Stuttgart on August 27, 1770. Having studied on theology in Tübingen, he started teaching philosophy in Bern and Frankfurt. In 1805, he became a professor in the University of Jena. He studied on the philosophy of Immanuel Kant. He wrote a number of texts on Christianity. He became intellectually depressed as a result of studying on various trends. To get over his depression which was becoming overwhelming, he started studying more and more. Along with the Greek philosophy, he tended to modern history and politics. He learned economics. He got rid of the influence of Kantian philosophy by which he was impressed before, and looked on the main principles of Christianity with a new perspective. He often criticized Christianity in his papers. He reviewed his papers he wrote under the impression of Kantian philosophy. He saw that his old papers didn’t reflect the reality so he criticized Kant on the new ones.

After the death of his father, in 1801 he went to Jena and became a lecturer. In 1805, he became a professor in the University of Jena. He took the classes of young Friedrich Schelling who was a friend from Tübingen. He founded “The Critical Journal of Philosophy”, which was a kind of a literary journal, with Schelling. In this magazine, works and papers on skepticism written by Immanuel Kant, Johann Gottlieb Fichte and Friedrich Schelling were published. Hegel stated that even though he adopted Schelling’s opinions, he disagreed with him on many topics. He gave logic and metaphysics classes to the few students he gathered around him. The number of his students increased in a few years.

At first he seemed to believe in Schelling’s subjective idealism philosophy, then he established a different system by himself and defended it instead. He first explained this system of philosophy he had established in his work “Phanomenologie des Geistes” or “The Phenomenology of Spirit”. After staying in Nuremberg for a while, he worked in Berlin and Heidelberg University as a professor. Among the works he wrote in this period, ‘The Science of Logic’ and ‘The Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences’ drew great attention. He changed his occupation for a short time during this period, and became the political editor of the “Bamberger Zeitung”.

In 1808, he went to Nuremberg and became a headmaster in a secondary school. During his eight years as a headmaster, he transformed his ideas into a kind of abstract system in his work “Philosophical Propadeutic”. He also wrote “The Science of Logic” during this time. In 1816, he took charge in the chair of Philosophy in the University of Heidelberg and explained his philosophy as a whole in “The Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences”. In 1818, he took over the chair of Philosophy in the University of Berlin, which had been vacant since Johann Gottlieb Fichte’s death. In 1821, he published the “Philosophy of Right”. He explained his understanding of the financial and political society collectively in this work. He criticized other government systems other than constitutional monarchy, which he considered as the most reasonable form of the use of power.

From 1818 until his death, during his professorship, he taught the sub-branches of philosophy such as; philosophy of history, history of philosophy, philosophy of right, philosophy of religion. His and his students’ notes were collected by people who adopted his philosophy and published after his death under the name “Berliner Vorlesungen”. After visiting the Netherlands in 1822, Vienna in 1824 and Paris in 1827, Hegel started publishing a magazine called “Jahrbücher für Wissenschaftliche Kritik” (Yearbook for Scientific Criticism) in 1827. He was later affected by the groundbreaking effects of the 1830 Revolutions. In 1831, he received a medal from the King of Prussia, Friedrich Wilhelm III.

 

Hegel, in order to break out of the vicious cycle of the much-debated problems of philosophy, proposed for the first time in philosophy that history and structure were important. His impact can be seen on a wide range of people in very different positions, both the ones who appreciate him such as; Francis Bradley, Jean Paul Sartre, Hans Küng, Bruno Bauer, Max Stirner, Karl Marx and the ones who criticize him ruthlessly such as; Soren Kierkegaard, Arthur Schopenhauer, Friedrich Nietzsche, Martin Heidegger, Friedrich Schelling.

Hegel’s system is called ‘dialectical logic’. According to this, a thesis combines with another thesis (anti-thesis) and a new understanding arises that is called synthesis. Hegel found Immanuel Kant’s ideas to be inadequate. Unlike Immanuel Kant, Hegel believed that people could learn everything. According to Hegel, the world meant logic. As soon as people unravel the limits of logic, they would unravel the limits of mankind. According to Hegel, the only living philosophy was the philosophy of contradictions; the flower leads to the emergence of the fruit, but for the emergence of the fruit, the flower must disappear. In this case, the reality of reproduction is to be both the flower and the fruit. Death is both a removal and a condition for rebirth.

Hegel spent the last years of his life in Berlin. He became one of the last victims of the cholera epidemic during the summer and autumn of 1831. After a brief illness, he suddenly died at the age of 61 on November 14, 1831, in Berlin, Germany. Hegel, who looked old even in his youth, had trouble in speaking and he was uneasy even when he was lecturing. His idea had the aim of uniting the opposites, to collect and surpass all the fragmentary and contradictory ideas that preceded him. For this reason, he could be both idealist and realistic, and his system of thought commented by various philosophers in different directions. Hegel’s system of philosophical thought found supporters after his death as well as in his lifetime. It spread to other countries, especially France and Italy. His philosophical system, which was spread by the name of Hegelianism, affected the development of many different philosophical movements such as Existentialism, Marxism, Positivism and Analytical Philosophy.

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