Hegelian Idealism

By Brother John Raymond

Absolute Idealism, brought forth by Hegel, has had a major impact on our society. This philosophy forms the basis for the later developments of Marxism and the Evolutionary Theory. Hegel's desire was to present an all encompassing theory to bridge the finite with the infinite. He begins with the claim that sense knowledge can not explain itself so we must turn inward to our understanding to arrive at the true source of philosophical knowledge. The mind becomes the supreme process. Unlike the philosophers before him, Hegel takes the stand that we need a new way of thinking. We can take the irrational approach of contradicting ourselves. This is precisely the method we need to adopt. Thus, Hegel bases his entire thinking on the dialectical method. An early influence from Fichte helped to form this method. For Fichte, the non-ego must be opposed to the ego. We see this contradictory element in his work. Hegel takes Fichte's Absolute Ego and turns it into the real universe devoid of all personality and subjective properties. He renames the Absolute Ego the Absolute Spirit. Thus, Hegel uses the dialectical method to develop the Absolute Spirit. This method is also used to explain Nature and Spirit.

Hegel derives the Absolute Spirit using the dialectical method. This method consists of a thesis that leads to the antithesis, and vice versa, which are absorbed into the synthesis. Each stage in this process finds its truth in the one that follows. Hegel starts with Being which has no empirical content. Being can not be differentiated from what is not itself. When we think of Being, we think of nothingness. To think nothingness is to have pure thought. Hegel associates this pure thought with Being. For these two mutually exclusive realities to exist, they must be raised up to the higher unity of Becoming. Hegel proceeds to conclude from this that "'He is a God who becomes.'"1 God is reduced to the real universe. The outward manifestation of God is realized in History. World history is the realization of the divine plan. The internal manifestation of God is the dialectical process. The process will continue until God reaches full self-realization. This type of God reduces the individual to only having importance related to this ongoing process. One could conclude that wars are necessary conflicts to bring about this self-realization. For Hegel, there are two evolutionary processes taking place in History. The combination of Nature and Spirit evolve through the dialectical process to constitute the revelation of God. Thus, Hegel uses the dialectical method to derive the Absolute Spirit or God.

Nature is part of the ongoing process of God's self-realization. One of the aspects of Nature is Mechanics. Mechanics begins with Space and Time opposed to Matter and Motion. These become the higher truth of Free Matter. The second aspect of Nature is Physics. It begins with General individuality opposed to Particular Individuality. These evolve into Total Individuality. The third aspect of Nature is Organic Physics. Organics originates with Geological opposed to Vegetable nature. These are elevated to the Animal Organism. The overall dialectical process of Nature consists in Mechanics opposed to Physics. Nature is raised to Organic Physics by this synthesis. Thus, Nature becomes part of the divine plan of self-realization.

Spirit is part of the revelation of God. "Spirit is a moment in the evolution of the Absolute and is defined as self-identity."2 The first part of Spirit is Subjective Spirit. It begins with the soul which can be observed through the science of Anthropology. The soul passes through levels of consciousness. "This is the way in which Phenomenology of the spirit develops.'"3 Finally, absolute knowledge is attained. But, Spirit is more than just consciousness since "it knows and desires".4 Thus, spirit becomes the study of Psychology. The second part of Spirit is Objective Spirit. It begins with Right. "Right is the most elementary form of relationships among persons. Right evolves into Morality which is determined by-the reason behind an individual’s action. Morality develops into Social ethics. The third part of Spirit is Absolute Spirit It begins with Art, which is "the sensible manifestation of the Absolute".6 The higher state of Religion is the representation of the Absolute Idea. Art and Religion are raised to the level of concepts which is Philosophy. "Philosophy is the Absolute's knowledge of itself."7 The overall evolution of Absolute Spirit is a "synthesis of Subjective and Objective Spirit,

And also of Nature and Spirit".8 Thus, God becomes this entire evolutionary process of Absolute Spirit.

In conclusion, Hegel's philosophy can be reduced to the evolution of the Absolute Spirit towards self-awareness. The unfolding of God is brought about through a dialectical process. This process is most evident in Nature and Spirit. Fichte's influence on his former student is stronger in his earlier works. Hegel does depart considerably from this influence as he attempts to develop his theory to bridge the finite with the infinite. After Hegel's death, Darwin will pick up on this idea of a continual evolution taking place to achieve higher states. Marx will take Hegel's theory to the point of denying the existence of God. Thus, Absolute Idealism becomes a major turning point in man's quest to know God and himself more intimately.


  1. Julián Marías, History of Philosophy. Translated by Stanley Appelbaum and Clarence Strowbridge. (New York, Dover Publications, 1967) page 323.
  2. Ibid. page 324
  3. Ibid. page 325.
  4. Ibid. page 325.
  5. Ibid. page 325.
  6. Ibid. page 328
  7. Ibid. page 329.
  8. Ibid. page 327.

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