Georg Hegel was a 18th-19th century German philosopher. He was a bit of a permastudent, having started school at age three and, once graduated serving as a tutor to a wealthy family, and then as a professor at a university. He made a few friendships along the way with other philosophical types and these people, as well as the exciting times in which he lived, such as Napoleon running around in Russia certainly influenced his thought as he debated the works of other philosophers as well as observed and admired the worldly events going on around. All this lead to him leading a school of thought called Hegelianism which, when you read the very brief summary of, seem to make sense except it refers to transcendental idealism. What on earth is transcendental idealism?
After an extensive Wikipedia binge, coupled with several Google searches for “definition of X” I figured out what Georg was trying to say, as much as one can with Wikipedia and Google and without a university level course. One of Hegel’s main ideas was that of Absolute idealism, which, as far as I can tell is a mix between Kuhn’s paradigms, Plato’s ideas of dialectic (Two opposing views coming together and forming something new) and idealism.
Hegel is notorious for being extremely hard to read and understand and his ideas require knowledge of the ideas that formed his ideas and the ideas that formed those ideas etc. For example, he claims to have proved that being and nothing were actually the same thing. Which makes very little sense to me right now. So my brief summary of his philosophy may not do the subject justice. Basically, people have a ‘self’ that is able to interpret the world around them, but only through ideas, not through anything ‘concrete’ (thus ensuring he would not become friends with logical positivists). For example, you can look at a red brick, but all that you can ‘know’ is the idea that the thing before you is, indeed, something called a brick that can be termed ‘red’. Change and progress happen when one idea (a thesis) and an opposite idea (an antithesis) come together and form something new (a synthesis) and this can describe all of human history and the history of thought and philosophy. I think. The broad strokes of his ideas, at least as I interpret them, seem to make sense, but I think that in order to truly understand Hegel much, much more study is required on my part.
I’m still not sure what Hegel was getting at, but regardless of my feeble mind’s interpretation of his life, he certainly had a large influence on the world. Immediately after he died his philosophy split into two camps, the ‘left’ and the ‘right’ with the left inspiring people such as Karl Marx, and the right inspiring people who wanted protestant orthodoxy. Am I the only one who thinks that Georg must have been either a philosophical god or totally insane to appeal to people as different as religions conservatives and the founder of communism?
In either case, I’m stuck with this philosophical giant/lunatic and will be presenting more on him later!