Great Throughts Treasury

This site is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Alan William Smolowe who gave birth to the creation of this database.

Georg Hegel, fully Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

German Philosopher

"Education is the art of making men ethical... To this extent, habit is part of ethical life as it is of philosophic thought."

"Life as a sum of ends has a right against abstract right. If for example it is only by stealing bread that the wolf can be kept from the door, the action is of course an encroachment on someone’s property, but it would be wrong to treat this action as an ordinary theft. To refuse to allow a man in jeopardy of his life to take such steps for self-preservation would be to stigmatize him as without rights, and since he would be deprived of his life, his freedom would be annulled altogether. Many diverse details have a bearing on the preservation of life, and when we have our eyes on the future we have to engage ourselves in these details. But the only thing that is necessary is to live now, the future is not absolute but ever exposed to accident. Hence it is only the necessity of the immediate present which can justify a wrong action, because not to do the action would in turn be to cause not to do the action would in turn be to commit an offense, indeed the most wrong of all offenses, namely the complete destruction of the embodiment of freedom."

"I am free... when my existence depends upon myself. This self-contained existence of spirit is none other than self-consciousness, consciousness of one’s own being. Two things must be distinguished in consciousness; first, the fact that I know; secondly, what I know. In self consciousness these are merged in one; for spirit knows itself. It involves an appreciation of its own nature, as also an energy enabling it to realize itself; to make itself actually that which it is potentially."

"It is only man who is good, and he is good only because he can also be evil. Good and evil are inseparable, and their inseparability is rooted in the fact that the concept becomes an object to itself, and as object it eo ipso acquires the character of difference. The evil will wills something opposed to the university of the will, while the good will acts in accordance with its true concept."

"It is easier to discover a deficiency in individuals, in states, and in Providence, than to see their real import and value."

"Life has a value only when it has something valuable as its object."

"Patriotism is often understood to mean only a readiness for exceptional sacrifices and actions. Essentially, however, it is the sentiment which, in the relationships of our daily life and under ordinary conditions, habitually recognizes that the community is one’s substantive groundwork and end. It is out of this consciousness, which during life’s daily round stands the test in all circumstances, that there subsequently also arises the readiness for extraordinary exertions. But since men would often rather be magnanimous than law-abiding, they readily persuade themselves that they possess this exceptional patriotism in order to be sparing in the expression of a genuine patriotic sentiment or to excuse their lack of it. If again this genuine patriotism is looked upon as that which may begin of itself and arise from subjective ideas and thoughts, it is being confused with opinion, because so regarded patriotism is deprived of its true ground, objective reality."

"Mere customary life (the watch wound up and going on of itself) is that which brings on natural death. Custom is activity without opposition, for which there remains only a formal duration; in which the fullness and zest that originally characterized the aim of life are out of the question - a merely external sensuous existence which has ceased to throw itself enthusiastically into its object."

"Love means in general terms the consciousness of my unity with another, so that I am not in selfish isolation but win my self-consciousness only as the reunification of my independence and through knowing myself as the unity of myself with another and of the other with me. Love, however, is feeling, that is, ethical life in the form of something natural. In the state, feeling disappears; there we are conscious of unity as law; there the content must be rational and known to us. The first moment in love is that I do not wish to be a self-subsistent and independent persona and that, if I were, then I would feel defective and incomplete. The second moment is that I find myself in another person, that I count for something in the other, while the other in turn comes to count for something in me. Love, therefore, is the most tremendous contradiction; the Understanding cannot resolve it since there is nothing more stubborn than this point of self-consciousness which is negated and which nevertheless I ought to possess as affirmative. Love is at once the propounding and the resolving of this contradiction. As the resolving of it, love is unity of an ethical type."

"The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of men, is a demand for their real happiness. The call to abandon their illusions about their condition is a call to abandon a condition which requires illusions."

"The history of mind is its own act. Mind is only what it does, and its act is to make itself the object of its own consciousness. In history its act is to gain consciousness of itself as mind, to apprehend itself in its interpretation of itself to itself."

"The important question of how poverty is to be abolished is one of the most disturbing problems which agitate modern society."

"The nature of Spirit may be understood by a glance at its direct opposite - Matter. As the essence of Matter is Gravity, so, on the other hand, we may affirm that the substance, the essence of Spirit is Freedom... Matter has its essence outside itself; Spirit is Being-within-itself (self-contained existence). But this, precisely, is Freedom. For if I am dependent, I refer myself to something else which I am not; I cannot exist independently of something external. I am free, on the contrary, when my existence depends upon myself. This self-contained existence of Spirit is none other than self-consciousness - consciousness of one’s own being."

"To risk one’s lfie is better than merelyl fearing death, but is still purely negative and so indeterminate and without value in itself."

"The relation of love between husband and wife is in itself not objective, because even if their feeling is their substantial unity, still this unity has no objectivity. Such objectivity parents first acquire in their children, in whom they can see objectified the entirety of their union."

"When we speak of conscience, it may easily be thought that in virtue of its form, which is abstract inwardness, conscience is at this point without more ado true conscience. But true conscience determines itself to will what is absolutely good and obligatory and is this self-determination."

"Will without freedom is an empty word, while freedom is actual only as will, as subject... Mind is in principle thinking, and man is distinguished from beast in virtue of thinking. But it must not be imagined that man is half thought and half will, and that he keeps thought in one pocket and will in another, for this would be a foolish idea. The distinction between thought and will is only that between the theoretical attitude and the practical. These, however, are surely not two faculties; the will is rather a special way of thinking, thinking translating itself into existence, thinking as the urge to give itself existence."

"Philosophy in its final aspect is the totality of forms."

"An integral part of justice is the confidence which citizens have in it, and it is this which requires that proceedings shall be public."

"Age generally makes men more tolerant; youth is always discontented. The tolerance of age is the result of the ripeness of a judgment which, not merely as the result of indifference, is satisfied even with what is inferior, but, more deeply taught by the grave experience of life, has been led to perceive the substantial, sold worth of the object in question. The insight then to which - in contradistinction fro those ideals - philosophy is to lead us, is, that the real world is as it ought to be, that the truly good, the universal divine reason, is not a mere abstraction, but a vital principle capable of realizing itself."

"Length of time is something entirely relative, and the element of spirit is eternity. Duration, properly speaking, cannot be said to belong to it."

"Man, finite when regarded for himself, is yet at the same time the image of god and a fountain of infinity in himself. He is the object of his own existence - has in himself an infinite value, an eternal destiny."

"Precisely because the form is as essential to the essence as the essence to itself, absolute reality must not be conceived and expressed as essence alone, i.e. as immediate substance or pure self-contemplation of the divine, but as form also, and in the whole wealth of the developed form. Only then is it grasped and expressed as really actual. The Truth is the whole. But the whole is nothing other than the essence consummating itself through its development."

"Only that will which obeys law is free; for it obeys itself - it is independent and so free. When the state or our country constitutes a community of existence; when the subjective will of man submits to laws - the contradiction between liberty and necessity vanishes."

"Religion [cannot] maintain itself apart from thought, but either advances to the comprehension of the idea, or, compelled by thought itself, becomes intensive belief - or lastly, from despair of finding itself at home in thought, flees back from it in pious horror, and becomes superstition."

"The Absolute is Mind (Spirit) - this is the supreme definition of the Absolute. To find this definition and to grasp its meaning and burden was, we may say, the ultimate purpose of all education and all philosophy: it was the point to which turned the impulse of all religion and science; and it is this impulse that must explain the history of the world... It remains for philosophy in its own element of intelligible unity to get hold of what was thus given as a mental image, and what implicitly is the ultimate reality."

"The religious concentration of the soul appears in the form of feeling; it nevertheless passes also into reflection; a form of worship is a result of reflection. The second form of the union of the objective and subjective in the human spirit is art. This advances farther into the realm of the actual and sensuous than religion. In its nobles walk it is occupied with representing, not indeed, the spirit of God, but certainly the form of God; and in its secondary aims, that which is divine and spiritual generally. Its office is to render visible the divine; presenting it to the imaginative and intuitive faculty. but the true is the object not only of conception and feeling, as in religion - and of intuition, as in art - but also of the thinking faculty; and this gives us the third form of the union in question - philosophy."

"The history of the world begins with its general aim, the realization of the idea of spirit, only in an implicit form, that is, as nature; a hidden, most profoundly hidden, unconscious instinct; and the whole process of history (as already observed) is directed to rendering this unconscious impulse a conscious one... This vast congeries of volitions, interest and activities, constitute the instruments and means of the world-spirit for attaining its object; bringing it to consciousness, and realizing it."

"The truth of Being and Nothing is accordingly the unity of the two: and this unity is Becoming."

"Thus to be independent of public opinion is the first formal condition of achieving anything great or rational whether in life or in science."

"Time is the negative element in the sensuous world."

"To comprehend what is, this is the task of philosophy, because what is, is reason. Whatever happens, every individual is a child of his time; so philosophy too is its own time apprehended in thoughts."

"This is the seal of the absolute and sublime destiny of man - that he knows what is good and what is evil; that his destiny is his very ability to will either good or evil."

"To adhere to man’s absolute freedom - one aspect of the matter - is eo ipso to condemn slavery. Yet if a man is a slave, his own will is responsible for his slavery, just as it is its will which is responsible if a people is subjugated. Hence the wrong of slavery lies at the door not simply of enslavers or conquerors but of the slaves and the conquered themselves. Slavery occurs in man’s transition from the state of nature to genuinely ethical conditions; it occurs in a world where a wrong is still right. At that stage wrong has validity and so is necessarily in place."

"What experience and history teach is this - that peoples and governments never have learned anything from history, or acted on principles deduced from it."

"What is the true content of art, and with what aim is this content to be presented? On this subject our consciousness supplies us with the common opinion that it is the task and ima of art to bring in contact with our sense, our feeling, our inspiration, all that finds a place in the mind of man... Its aim is therefore placed in arousing and animating the slumbering emotions, inclinations, and passions; in filling the heart, in forcing the human being, whether cultured or uncultured, to feel the whole range of what man’s soul in its inmost and secret corners has power to experience and to create, and all that is able to move and to stir the human breast in its depths and in its manifold aspects and possibilities; to present as a delight to emotion and to perception all that the mind possesses of real and lofty in its thought and in the Idea - all the splendor of the noble, the eternal, and the true; and no less to make intelligible misfortune and misery, wickedness and crime; to make men realize the inmost nature of all that is shocking and horrible, as also of all pleasure and delight; and, finally, to set imagination roving in idle toyings of fancy, and luxuriating in the seductive spells of sense-stimulating visions."

"What experience and history teach is... that people and government have never learned anything from history."

"All finite things involve untruth; they have a notion and an existence, but their existence does not meet the requirements of the notion. God alone is the thorough harmony of notion and reality."

"Architecture paves the way, as it were, for the adequate realization of the God, toiling and wrestling in his service with external nature, and seeking to extricate it from the chaos of finitude, and the abortiveness of chance."

"In duty the individual finds his liberation; liberation from independence on mere natural impulse."

"Nothing great in the world has been accomplished without passion."

"Passions, private aims, and the satisfaction of selfish desires, are… most effective springs of action. Their power lies in the fact that they would respect none of the limitations which justice and morality would impose on them; and [they] have a more direct influence over man than the artificial and tedious discipline that tends to order and self-restraint, law and morality."

"Beauty is merely the Spiritual making itself known sensuously."

"The history of the world is none other than the progress of the consciousness of freedom."

"Religion is moral life rising to think, i.e. becoming aware of the free universality of its concrete essence… the consciousness of “absolute” truth."

"The march of world history stands outside virtue, vice and justice."

"We may affirm absolutely that nothing great in the world has been accomplished without passion."

"The rise of thought beyond the world of sense, its passage from the finite to the infinite, the leap into the super-sensible which it takes when it snaps asunder the links of the chain of sense, all this transition is thought and nothing but thought."

"An idea is always a generalization, and generalization is a property of thinking. To generalize means to think. "

"Genuine tragedies in the world are not conflicts between right and wrong. They are conflicts between two rights. "