Hegel as Historian of Philosophy
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Although Hegel’s Lectures on the History of Philosophy have long provided a source of trenchant quotations illustrating Hegel’s philosophical views, and despite the fact that more than one author has pointed out that the best way to begin studying Hegel is with these Lectures, rarely do we find any study of just what he is trying to do in treating the history of philosophy and how he goes about doing it. That Hegel himself attached great importance to the history of philosophy is attested to by the fact that he repeated the course so often, revising the course, particularly the introductory lectures, over and over again.1 Nevertheless, we should look in vain were we to seek in the three posthumously published volumes of these Lectures a scholarly presentation or interpretation of past philosophical positions. Hegel was not the sort of historian who gives a disinterested account of exactly what each philosopher said.2 His task, as he conceived it, was rather to show that the development of pure thought so elaborately worked out in his Science of Logic has its exact counterpart in the empirically verifiable development of philosophy from the first faltering steps of Thales to the elaboration of Hegel’s own system. If the Phenomenology of Spirit, a “historical” account of the development of consciousness — not of philosophy — can be looked on as Hegel’s introduction to his Logic, so too can the History of philosophy be considered a different sort of introduction to the same Logic — not exhibiting the development of consciousness to the point where pure speculative thinking can begin but presenting an historical account of the development of speculative thinking itself.3
KeywordsModern Philosophy Logical Necessity Speculative Thinking Progressive Realization Progressive Identification
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