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Introduction to Hegel's Logic - Andy Blunden

Introduction to Hegel's Logic - Andy Blunden

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Published by: Rainman1618 on Dec 28, 2011
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Introduction toHegel’s Logic
1. The Young Hegel and what drove him
Germany was fragmented andsocially and economically backward
In order to understand what Hegel was doing in his Logic, weshould first look at the circumstances of his life and the situation inGermany at the time.Hegel was born in Stuttgart in 1770, just 620 km from Paris. Sohe was 18 at the time of the storming of the Bastille and his earliestwriting, an essay on the prospects for advancing the Enlightenmentby launching a “folk religion,” were penned while a seminarystudent in 1793, shortly before Robespierre launched his ownmanufactured religion of the “Supreme Being.” This project fell flatand Robespierre was himself sent to the guillotine shortlyafterwards. Mainly under the influence of his friend, the poetHölderin, Hegel abandoned his youthful disdain for the Christianreligion and came to the conviction that, for all its faults, it wasChristianity which had ultimately opened the way for theEnlightenment and modernity.He completed his first published book, the
Phenomenology of Spirit 
, in Jena, just as the town was occupied by his hero NapoleonBonaparte – “The World Spirit on horseback” in Hegel’s words.Napoleon was born the same year as Hegel, but died in 1821shortly after the publication of Hegel’s
Philosophy of Right 
, whichculminates in the section on World History where Hegel describesthe role of world-historic heroes, “living instruments of the worldmind.” Napoleon introduced the
code civile
into Germany, andsmashed up its feudal structures. But the first uprisings of theFrench proletariat against the misery of bourgeois development inFrance, all took place after Hegel’s death, in the 1830s.
The industrial revolution in Britain roughly coincides withHegel’s lifetime, 1770-1830, but the Chartist Uprisings took placein the 1830s shortly after Hegel’s death. So Hegel saw therevolutionary impact of capitalism and the misery it brought with it,but he never knew a movement of the oppressed, a modern socialmovement. Also, some of the most brilliant women of the firstwave of feminism were amongst his circle of friends, and includedhis mother and sister, but Hegel himself never accepted the claimsof feminism. In fact, he had a dreadfully misogynist, essentialistposition on women.Germany did not have a state. Until 1815, Germany was part of what was still called the Holy Roman Empire, which stretchedfrom Nice up the French border to Calais, across to Gdansk,bordering the Russian Empire down through Prague to Rome. Itwas made up of a patchwork of over 300 small principalities, someCatholic some Protestant, each with their own class structure andtraditions and with no solidarity between each other or from theirown subjects. England to the North, Revolutionary France to theWest, Imperial Russia to the East and Austria-Hungary to theSouth. The armies of these great powers marched back and forthacross Germany, pushing the German princes around as pawns in apower game in which the Germans had no say whatsoever. Noneof the princes of these little states could count on their citizens totake up arms in their defence. Germany was helpless alongside itspowerful neighbors, and wallowed in social and economicbackwardness as Revolutionary France made history with its armiesand its politicians, and the English built an empire with theirmoney and their new inventions, whilst Germany remainedspectators in history. But this was the Germany of Goethe, andSchiller and Beethoven.Hegel drew the conclusion that the German Revolution wouldhave to be made with philosophy rather than with guns and mobs.And it was only relatively late in life (aged 28 in fact) that Hegelresolved to become a professor of philosophy and build his ownsystem. It was the fate of his own country, the problem of 
modernization and freedom for his native Germany, which was hisconcern.The Holy Roman Empire was brought to a close in 1815, justas the last volume of the
Science of Logic
went to press. And at theCongress of Vienna, in the aftermath of Napoleon’s eventualmilitary defeat, the German Federation was created with just 38components. This situation suited Hegel, and generally speaking,the most creative period of Hegel’s life was the period of theNapoleonic Wars, 1804-1815.We should also remember that Hegel never knew Darwin.
Origin of Species
was published almost thirty years after he died. Buthe was familiar with the theory of Lamarck, and he positivelyrejected the idea that human beings had evolved out of animals. Heknew of Lyell’s theory of geological formation and accepted thatthe continents were products of a process of formation. But heinsisted that there was change but no development in Nature. Heactually knew nothing of the pre-history of humanity and assurprising as it may seem for the historical thinker
 par excellence
, heclaimed that:
“even if the earth was once in a state where it had no livingthings but only the chemical process, and so on, yet the momentthe lightning of life strikes into matter, at once there is present adeterminate, complete creature, as Minerva fully armed springsforth from the head of Jupiter.... Man has not developed himself out of the animal, nor the animal out of the plant; each is at asingle stroke what it is.”
At the time, natural science offered no rational explanation forthe appearance of organic life out of inorganic life or of the originsof the human form, language and human history. It is to Hegel’scredit that he did not try to resolve the problem of what he knewlittle about by appealing to what no-one knew absolutely anythingabout. He relied almost entirely on the
intelligibility of human life
as itcould be observed: no foundation myths or appeals to a naturalorder beyond human society or appeals to Eternal Reason or Lawsof Nature. In that sense, Hegel’s is a supremely rational philosophy.

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