Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Georg Hegel, fully Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

German Philosopher

"Not curiosity, not vanity, not the consideration of expediency, not duty and conscientiousness, but an unquenchable, unhappy thirst that brooks no compromise leads us to truth."

"The great thing however is, in the show of the temporal and the transient to recognize the substance which is immanent and the eternal which is present. For the work of Reason (which is synonymous with the Idea) when considered in its own actuality, is to simultaneously enter external existence and emerge with an infinite wealth of forms, phenomena and phases — a multiplicity that envelops its essential rational kernel with a motley outer rind with which our ordinary consciousness is earliest at home. It is this rind that the Concept must penetrate before Reason can find its own inward pulse and feel it still beating even in the outward phases. But this infinite variety of circumstances which is formed in this element of externality by the light of the rational essence shining in it — all this infinite material, with its regulatory laws — is not the object of philosophy....To comprehend what is, is the task of philosophy: and what is is Reason."

"The life of God — the life which the mind apprehends and enjoys as it rises to the absolute unity of all things — may be described as a play of love with itself; but this idea sinks to an edifying truism, or even to a platitude, when it does not embrace in it the earnestness, the pain, the patience, and labor, involved in the negative aspect of things."

"The goal to be reached is the mind’s insight into what knowing is. Impatience asks for the impossible, wants to reach the goal without the means of getting there. The length of the journey has to be borne with, for every moment is necessary... and because by nothing less could that all-pervading mind ever manage to become conscious of what itself is — for that reason, the individual mind, in the nature of the case, cannot expect by less toil to grasp what its own substance contains."

"Governments have never learned anything from history, or acted on principles deducted from it."

"World history is a court of judgment. "

"The task of conducting the individual mind from its unscientific standpoint to that of science had to be taken in its general sense; we had to contemplate the formative development (Bildung) of the universal [or general] individual, of self-conscious spirit. As to the relation between these two [the particular and general individual], every moment, as it gains concrete form and its own proper shape and appearance, finds a place in the life of the universal individual. The particular individual is incomplete mind, a concrete shape in whose existence, taken as a whole, one determinate characteristic predominates, while the others are found only in blurred outline."

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

"For the subject matter is not exhausted by any aim, but only by the way in which things are worked out in detail; nor is the result the actual whole, but only the result together with its becoming. The aim, taken by itself, is a lifeless generality; the tendency is a mere drift which still lacks actuality; and the naked result is the corpse which has left the tendency behind."

"The force of mind is only as great as its expression; its depth only as deep as its power to expand and lose itself."

"The significance of that 'absolute commandment', know thyself — whether we look at it in itself or under the historical circumstances of its first utterance — is not to promote mere self-knowledge in respect of the particular capacities, character, propensities, and foibles of the single self. The knowledge it commands means that of man's genuine reality — of what is essentially and ultimately true and real — of spirit as the true and essential being."

"The other side of its Becoming, History, is a conscious, self-meditating process — Spirit emptied out into Time; but this externalization, this kenosis, is equally an externalization of itself; the negative is the negative of itself. This Becoming presents a slow-moving succession of Spirits, a gallery of images, each of which, endowed with all the riches of Spirit, moves thus slowly just because the Self has to penetrate and digest this entire wealth of its substance"

"The heart is everywhere, and each part of the organism is only the specialized force of the heart itself."

"A philosophy without heart and a faith without intellect are abstractions from the true life of knowledge and faith. The man whom philosophy leaves cold, and the man whom real faith does not illuminate, may be assured that the fault lies in them, not in knowledge and faith. The former is still an alien to philosophy, the latter an alien to faith."

"What is reasonable is real; that which is real is reasonable."

"It must be observed at the outset, that the phenomenon we investigate — Universal History — belongs to the realm of Spirit. The term "World," includes both physical and psychical Nature. Physical Nature also plays its part in the World's History, — and attention will have to be paid to the fundamental natural relations thus involved. But Spirit, and the course of its development, is our substantial object."

"It is a matter of perfect indifference where a thing originated; the only question is: "Is it true in and for itself?""

"As the essence of Matter is Gravity, so, on the other hand, we may affirm that the substance, the essence of Spirit is Freedom. All will readily assent to the doctrine that Spirit, among other properties, is also endowed with Freedom; but philosophy teaches that all the qualities of Spirit exist only through Freedom; that all are but means for attaining Freedom; that all seek and produce this and this alone."

"The essence of the modern state is the union of the universal with the full freedom of the particular, and with the welfare of individuals."

"Although Freedom is, primarily, an undeveloped idea, the means it uses are external and phenomenal; presenting themselves in History to our sensuous vision. The first glance at History convinces us that the actions of men proceed from their needs, their passions, their characters and talents; and impresses us with the belief that such needs, passions and interests are the sole springs of action — the efficient agents in this scene of activity. Among these may, perhaps, be found aims of a liberal or universal kind — benevolence it may be, or noble patriotism; but such virtues and general views are but insignificant as compared with the World and its doings. We may perhaps see the Ideal of Reason actualized in those who adopt such aims, and within the sphere of their influence; but they bear only a trifling proportion to the mass of the human race; and the extent of that influence is limited accordingly. Passions, private aims, and the satisfaction of selfish desires, are on the other hand, most effective springs of action. Their power lies in the fact that they respect none of the limitations which justice and morality would impose on them; and that these natural impulses have a more direct influence over man than the artificial and tedious discipline that tends to order and self-restraint, law and morality. When we look at this display of passions, and the consequences of their violence; the Unreason which is associated not ,only with them, but even (rather we might say especially) with good designs and righteous aims; when we see the evil, the vice, the ruin that has befallen the most flourishing kingdoms which the mind of man ever created, we can scarce avoid being filled with sorrow at this universal taint of corruption: and, since this decay is not the work of mere Nature, but of the Human Will — a moral embitterment — a revolt of the Good Spirit (if it have a place within us) may well be the result of our reflections."

"Matter possesses gravity in virtue of its tendency towards a central point. It is essentially composite; consisting of parts that exclude each other. It seeks its Unity; and therefore exhibits itself as self-destructive, as verging towards its opposite ... Spirit, on the contrary, may be defined as that which has its centre in itself. It has not a unity outside itself, but has already found it; it exists in and with itself. Matter has its essence out of itself; Spirit is self-contained existence."

"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 realise itself; to make itself actually that which it is potentially. According to this abstract definition it may be said of Universal History, that it is the exhibition of Spirit in the process of working out the knowledge of that which it is potentially. And as the germ bears in itself the whole nature of the tree, and the taste and form of its fruits, so do the first traces of Spirit virtually contain the whole of that History."

"Aims, principles, &c., have a place in our thoughts, in our subjective design only; but not yet in the sphere of reality. That which exists for itself only, is a possibility, a potentiality; but has not yet emerged into Existence. A second element must be introduced in order to produce actuality — viz. actuation, realization; and whose motive power is the Will — the activity of man in the widest sense."

"A building is not finished when its foundation is laid; and just as little, is the attainment of a general notion of a whole the whole itself. When we want to see an oak, we are not satisfied to be shown an acorn instead. In the same way science, the crowning glory of a spiritual world is not found complete in its initial stages."

"In history an additional result is commonly produced by human actions beyond that which they aim at and obtain—that which they immediately recognize and desire. They gratify their own interest; but something further is thereby accomplished, latent in the actions in question, though not present to their consciousness, and not included in their design... This may be called the cunning of reason."

"A bad man is an untrue man, a man who does not behave as his notion or his vocation requires. Nothing however can subsist, if it be wholly devoid of identity between the notion and reality. Even bad and untrue things have being, in so far as their reality still, somehow, conforms to their notion."

"A good man is aware that the tenor of his conduct is essentially necessary."

"A person must translate his freedom into an external sphere in order to exist as Idea."

"A true hallowing should nullify the finite."

"A symbol is a sensuous object. There are two terms to be distinguished: the first is a conception of the mind; the second, a sensuous phenomenon, an image which address itself to the senses."

"A World-Historical individual is devoted to the One Aim, regard of all else. It is even possible that such men may treat other great, even sacred interests inconsiderately; conduct which is indeed obnoxious to moral reprehension. But so mighty a form must trample down many an innocent flower or crush to pieces many an object in its path."

"A party first truly shows itself to have won the victory when it breaks up into two parties: for so it proves that it contains in itself the principle with which at first it had to conflict, and thus that it has got beyond the one-sidedness which was incidental to its earliest expression. The interest that formerly divided itself between it and that to which it was opposed now falls entirely within itself, and the opposing principle is left behind and forgotten, just because it is represented by one of the sides in the new controversy that now occupies the minds of men. At the same time, it is to be observed that when the old principle thus reappears, it is no longer what it was before; for it is changed and purified by the higher element into which it is now taken up. In this point of view, that discord which appears at first to be a lamentable breach and dissolution of the unity of a party, is really the crowning proof of its success."

"A study of Logic is no more necessary to teach us how to draw correct conclusions, than a previous study of anatomy and physiology is required in order to digest."

"Actuality and thought (or Idea) are often absurdly opposed. It is necessary energetically to protest against these doctrines, for on the one hand Ideas are not confined to our heads merely, nor is the Idea, on the whole, so feeble as to leave the question of its actualization or non-actualization dependent on our will. The Idea is rather the absolutely active as well as actual"

"All cultural change reduces itself to a difference of categories. All revolutions, whether in the sciences or world history, occur merely because spirit has changed its categories in order to understand and examine what belongs to it, in order to possess and grasp itself in a truer, deeper, more intimate and unified manner."

"Action has a multitude of consequences. Thus the will has the right to repudiate the imputation of all consequences except the first, since it alone was purposed."

"All the categories of logic may be looked upon as definitions of the Absolute, or metaphysical definitions of God."

"America is therefore the land of the future, where, in the ages that lie before us, the burden of the World’s History shall reveal itself – perhaps in a contest between North and South America. It is a land of desire for all those who are weary of the historical lumber-room of old Europe."

"Amid the pressure of great events, a general principle gives no help."

"All unsatisfied endeavor ceases when we recognize that the final purpose of the world is accomplished no than ever accomplishing itself. Generally speaking, this is the man’s way of looking; while the young imagine that the world is utterly sunk in wickedness, and that the first thing needful is a thorough transformation. The religious mind, on the contrary, views the world as ruled by Divine Providence, and therefore correspondent with what it ought to be."

"Although the state may originate in violence, it does not rest on it; violence, in producing the state, has bought into existence only what is justified in and for itself, namely, laws and a constitution."

"An existent of any sort embodying the free will, this is what right is. Right therefore is by definition freedom as Idea. The crucial point in both the Kantian and the generally accepted definition of right (see the Introduction to Kant's Philosophy of Law) is the 'restriction which makes it possible for my freedom or self-will to co-exist with the self-will of each and all according to a universal law'. On the one hand, this definition contains only a negative category, restriction, while on the other hand the positive factor — the universal law or the so-called 'law of reason', the correspondence of the self-will of one individual with that of another — is tantamount to the principle of contradiction and the familiar notion of abstract identity. The definition of right which I have quoted involves that way of looking at the matter, especially popular since Rousseau, according to which what is fundamental, substantive, and primary is supposed to be the will of a single person in his own private self-will, not the absolute or rational will, and mind as a particular individual, not mind as it is in its truth. Once this principle is adopted, of course the rational can come on the scene only as a restriction on the type of freedom which this principle involves, and an also not as something immanently rational but only as an external abstract universal. This view is devoid of any speculative thinking and Is repudiated by the philosophic concept. And the phenomena which it has produced both in men's heads and in the world are of a frightfulness parallel only to the superficiality of the thoughts on which they are based"

"An action is an aim of the subject, and it is his agency too which executes this aim: unless the subject were in this way even in the most disinterested action, i.e. unless he had an interest in it, there would be no action at all... Impulse and passion are the very life- blood of all action: they are needed if the agent is really to be in his aim and the execution thereof. The morality concerns the content of the aim, which as such is the universal, an inactive thing that finds it actualizing in the agent."

"Animal wants and appetites are felt contradiction."

"And yet this violent bifurcation takes place in the way the philosophical idea is construed, such that, in order to make it impossible to misunderstand how the identity (which is, we are assured, the principle of speculative philosophy) is constituted, the explicit instruction and respective refutation ensue to the effect that, for instance, the subject is different (verschieden] from the object (Objekt], likewise the finite from the infinite, and so forth, as if the concrete, spiritual unity were in itself devoid of any determinateness and did not in itse/fcontain the difference, as ifsomeone did not know [nicht wulte] that subject and object [Objekt] or the infinite and the finite were different from one another, or as if philosophy, immersing itself in book learning [Schulweisheit], needed to be reminded that, outside school, there is wisdom for which that difference is something familiar."

"An idea is always a generalization, and"

"Animals are in possession of themselves; their soul is in possession of their body. But they have no right to their life, because they do not will it."

"Any idea is a universalization, and universalizing is a property of thinking. To universalize something means to think."

"Any idea is a generalization, and generalization is a property of thinking. To generalize something means to think it."

"Any philosopher who uses the word "and" too often cannot be a good philosopher."