hegelHegel developed his own philosophy of history, explaining his belief that history is driven by improvement, and his religious views drove his secular ideas.  Hegel believed that humanity had to be freely and subjectively able to will what was right, but man reached the notion of what was right through reason because man could not learn from history.

Hegel’s idea of “the spirit of the age” was a largely religious concept.  He believed that every age has a different spirit because religion comes from man, and man creates his own religion according to the circumstances of the time.  The spirit of the age makes people conscious of cultural development, expressed in the laws, manners, customs, and actions of the time period.  Through the spirit of the age man becomes more self-conscious.

Hegel also developed a dialectic theory.  Man begins in a state of nature.  Man wishes to leave this bad state which is the first idea of progress.  Although man cannot change himself, he can change the world through an attitude of the will, but changing the world creates struggle.  This struggle creates a new reality.  As man becomes self-conscious, another idea of progress begins, so the dialectic cycle continues as new realities are created over and over again.

Hegel also created a new vocabulary.  Reason is the idea realizing itself.  Passion drives man to action, thus causing the movement from one reality to another.  Thought is the strands of understanding to comprehend history and reality in order to know that something better is possible.

Hegel’s new ideas help historians.  He expands the historical field of vision through the realization that all historical parts have meaning only in terms of the whole.  He also offers historians a dialectic pattern for history, and he justifies the ways of man to himself.

– Hannah S. Bowers