Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
Birthday: August 27, 1770
Died At Age: 61
Sun Sign: Virgo
Also Known As: G. W. F. Hegel
Born in: Stuttgart, Duchy of Württemberg, Germany
Famous as: Philosopher, Philosophy Historian
Spouse/Ex-: Marie von Tucher
father: Georg Ludwig Hegel
mother: Maria Magdalena Louisa Fromm
siblings: Christiane Luise Hegel, Georg Ludwig Hegel
children: Karl von Hegel
Died on: November 14, 1831
place of death: Berlin
City: Stuttgart, Germany
education: University of Tübingen
awards: Order of the Red Eagle 3rd Class
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel was a famous German philosopher who lived in the 18th century. He completed his theological studies from a Protestant seminary but was not inclined to become a clergy. He was deeply influenced by the French Revolution and Hellenic civilization during his younger days. He was interested in the study of Metaphysics, ‘Naturphilosophie’, Philosophy of History, Political Philosophy, Logic and Aesthetics. He carried out deep study of the works of Aristotle, Plato, Socrates, Kant and Fichte to seek knowledge. He went on to take private tuitions and subsequently lectured at the universities of Jena, Heidelberg and Berlin. He wrote several books and articles, which are considered as major philosophical works of his time. He is the founder of Hegelianism Historicism, ‘Naturphilosophie’ and belonged to the school of German Idealism coupled with Absolute and Objective Idealism. His thoughts included Absolute Idealism, Hegelian Dialectic and ‘Sublation’. At the time of his death, he was one of Germany’s most prominent philosophers. His views are highly regarded even today and are interpreted differently by right wing conservatives and left wing followers, who are more inclined towards an atheistic position.
Childhood & Early Life
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel was born on 27 August 1770 in the town of Stuttgart in the Duchy of Wurttemberg, South-Western Germany to Georg Ludwig and Maria Magdalena Louisa. His father was a secretary to Karl Eugen, Duke of Wurttemberg and his mother was the daughter of a lawyer. He was brought up in an atmosphere of Protestant pietism.
He had a sister named Christiane Luise and a brother, Georg Ludwig, who died as an officer in Napoleon’s Russian campaign. His mother died of bilious fever when he was thirteen years old and he and his father also suffered the disease and had a close shave with death.
He started his education at the age of three in the ‘German School’ and entered ‘Latin School’ two years later. His mother taught him Latin grammar at home before he switched schools, which put him ahead of his class.
He joined Gymnasium ‘Illustre’ at the age of six from where he completed his preparatory schooling. During this period he displayed outstanding academic ability and love for reading philosophy and poetry.
He joined a Protestant seminary (which was part of the University of Tubingen) at the age of 18 because his parents wanted him to join the clergy. Here, he became close friends with the poet, Friedrich Holderlin and the philosopher, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling, who were his roommates. They disliked the restrictive environment of the seminary and were influenced by the Hellenic civilization and the French revolution. Young Hegel was more interested in philosophy and eventually did not join the ministry.
After receiving his theological certificate from the Tubingen seminary, he became a home tutor in the house of an aristocratic family in Bern. However, he did not get along well with the family and took up a similar job with a wine merchant in Frankfurt. During this period Holderlin exerted influence on his thoughts which prompted him to write the ‘Life of Jesus’ and ‘The Positivity of the Christian Religion’. He also composed a few poems and essays on religion and philosophy in his free time.
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Hegel came to the University City of Jena in 1801 and took up a job at as an unpaid lecturer. By 1805 he was promoted to the position of Extraordinary Professor, unsalaried. During this period he made his living by publishing his book ‘The Difference between Fichte’s and Schelling’s Systems of Philosophy’ and contributing to the journal, ‘Kritische Journal der Philosophie’, which he co-founded with Schelling.
However, the University City of Jena closed when Napoleon’s army marched in and Hegel was forced to move to Bamberg, where he took up the job of an editor of a newspaper.
In 1808, he was appointed as the headmaster of a Gymnasium in Nuremberg where he worked for eight years. He introduced his book ‘Phenomenology of the Spirit’ as part the syllabus and started to work on the ‘Encyclopaedia of the Philosophical Science’ during this period. He also published his book ‘Science of Logic’.
He joined the University of Heidelberg in 1816 as a professor. He published his book, ‘The Encyclopaedia of the Philosophical Science in Outline’ in 1817 as a summary of his lectures for his students at the University.
In 1818, he took up a Chair of Philosophy at the University of Berlin, which was vacant since 1814. From here he published his book ‘Philosophy of Right’ in 1821. During this period his lectures attracted students from all over Germany and the world. He went on to be appointed as the Rector of the University in 1829, when he was 59. He was deeply disturbed by the riots for reform in Berlin during this period.
Hegel died in November 1831 due to cholera and a gastrointestinal complication. At the time of his death he was one of Germany’s most prominent philosophers. His views were highly regarded and divided his followers into right wing conservative interpreters of his work and left wing followers who moved towards an atheistic position. The notes of his students on the philosophy of aesthetics, religion and history delivered by him were published after his death as a major work of philosophy.
Hegel completed four major works in his lifetime, besides some articles and revision of his Encyclopaedia during the later part of his life.
‘The Phenomenology of Spirit’, published in 1807, gave an account of the evolution of consciousness from sense – perception to absolute knowledge.
‘Science of Logic’ is the core of his philosophy that was published in three volumes.
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‘The Encyclopaedia of the Philosophical Science’ is a summary of his philosophy, which was published in 1816 and later revised by him in 1827 and 1830.
‘The Elements of the Philosophy of Right’ is his political philosophy which was published in 1820.
Personal Life & Legacy
Hegel was very attached to his sister, and she later developed maniac jealousy of his wife when he got married to Marie Helena Susanna von Tucher at the age of 40. They had two sons, Karl Friedrich Wilhelm and Immanuel Thomas Christian, who later became a scholar like their father. His sister, Christiane, committed suicide by drowning shortly after his death.
He also had an illegitimate son named Ludwig Fischer who joined the Hegel household at the age of 10, when his mother died. He died while serving with the Dutch army in Batavia.
Absolute Idealism is an ontologically monistic philosophy associated with Hegel and his good friend, Friedrich Schelling.
Hegelian Dialectic is a threefold method of development that follows the sequence of a ‘Problem’ resulting in a ‘Reaction’ and finally reaching a ‘Solution’.
In his ‘Master and Slave’ concept he emphasises on the point that there has to be a balance between authority and responsibility. One cannot be complete without the other.
In his philosophy of ‘Sublation’ he talks of the necessity of preservation coupled with the essence of change that eventually leads to evolution and advancement of a civilization.
In 1831, he was decorated with the Order of the Red Eagle, 3rd Class, by Fredrick William III, for his service to the Prussian state.