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Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (August 27, 1770 November 14, 1831) was a German philosopher, and a major figure in German Idealism. His historist and idealist account of reality revolutionized European philosophy and was an important precursor to Continental philosophy and Marxism His father was a revenue officer with the civil service, and he had a Protestant upbringing. He studied at the Stuttgart gymnasium where he became familiar with Greek and Roman classics. Hegel's father wished him to be a clergyman, and from 1788 to 1793 he studied theology at the seminary at the University of Tbingen. It was here that he first formed important friendships with Friedrich Hlderlin and Friedrich W.J. von Schelling. The intellectual lives of these three friends were closely entwined and they had profound influences on one another's philosophical foundations. Hegel developed a comprehensive philosophical framework, or "system", of Absolute idealism to account in an integrated and developmental way for the relation of mind and nature, the subject and object of knowledge, psychology, the state, history, religion, and philosophy. In particular, he developed the concept that mind or spirit manifested itself in a set of contradictions and oppositions that it ultimately integrated and united, without eliminating either pole or reducing one to the other. Examples of such contradictions include those between nature and freedom, and between immense and transcendence.


Hegel wrote a number of essays during his stay at Jena. In On the Scientific Modes of Treatment of Natural Law-Its Place in Practical Philosophy and Its Relationship to

the Positive Science of Law, often refered to as the essay on Natural Law, he criticizes both British empirical and Kantian formal approached to natural law. His argument is that empricism forms conclusions that are limited by its contexts and materials, therefore it is unable to form propositions that are universally valid regarding the concepts of reflective consciousness to social and political experience or the concepts of social and political institutions. The problem with formalist conclusions is that they remain insubstantial, and too abstract, failing to form a concrete link between human reason and human experience. Hegel felt philosophical science had the responsibility to definitvely link the develpment of the rational powers of the human mind to lived experience. Hegel worked as an editor of a newspaper in Bamberg, then from 1808-1815 he was a philosophy teacher and the headmaster at a gymnasium in Nuremberg. He was married in Nuremberg during this time, and he wrote and published Science of Logic. In 1816 he was appointed to chair of philosophy at the University of Heidelberg. In Heidelberg he published the Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences, in which appears an abgreviated version of Science of Logic and an application of its prinicples to the Philosophy of Nature and Philosophy of Spirit. In 1818 he took the prestigious position of chair of philosophy at the University of Berlin. In 1821 Hegel published Elements of the Philosophy of Right grounded on the section of the Encyclopaedia exploring the "objective spirit". In this major work in political philosophy Hegel gives an account of the nature of philosophy, setting out his approach to the nature and limits of human cognition. HEGEL,S POLITICAL WORK In his political work, Hegel describes three types of government: tyranny, found in underdeveloped states; democracy, found in states where there is no distinction between the public and private individual; and hereditary monarchy, found where a central government is combined with indirect representation through Estates. He felt hereditary monarchy to be the most appropriate form of political authority for the modern world. He saw the role of the State as expressing the Spirit of a society, as a realization of God in the world. His view was that any true religion would support this kind of kingdom of God on earth, so a religion's position could never be in opposition or dominance to the state. Friedrich W.J. von Schelling took the chair at Berlin after Hegel's death, reputedly because the government of the time wished to counter the enormous influence Hegel's philosophy had had on a generation of students. Although they had been close, Friedrich W.J. von Schelling was more of a religious philosopher than Hegel, and criticized Hegel's rationalism. Friedrich W.J. von Schelling's criticisms of Hegel's work influenced existentialist thought, primarily through the works of Kierkegaard, who attended Friedrich W.J. von Schelling's lectures. Friedrich W.J. von Schelling's interpretations of Hegelian philosophy has had a major influence on its subsequent study, contributing to the common understanding of it as a somewhat dogmatic metaphysics. Hegel had suppported progressive but non-revolutionary politics, however many of his admirers split into extreme political factions. Karl Marx was among them and, inspired by Hegel's work, was to develop his own scientific approach to society and history. Hegel is counted among the most influential philosophers in Western philosophical and political history.