Lectures on the Philosophy of History  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Lectures on the Philosophy of History, also translated as Lectures on the Philosophy of World History (German: Vorlesungen über die Philosophie der Weltgeschichte), is the title of a major work by Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770–1831), originally given as lectures at the University of Berlin in 1822, 1828, and 1830. It presents world history in terms of the Hegelian philosophy in order to show that history follows the dictates of reason and that the natural progress of history is due to the outworking of absolute spirit.

The text was originally published in 1837 by the editor Eduard Gans, six years after Hegel's death, utilizing Hegel's own lecture notes as well as those found that were written by his students. A second German edition was compiled by Hegel's son, Karl, in 1840. A third German edition, edited by Georg Lasson, was published in 1917.

Theodicy

Hegel explicitly presents his lectures on the philosophy of history as a theodicy, or a reconciliation of divine providence with the evils of history. This leads Hegel to consider the events of history in terms of universal reason: "That world history is governed by an ultimate design, that it is a rational process... this is a proposition whose truth we must assume; its proof lies in the study of world history itself, which is the image and enactment of reason." The ultimate design of the world is such that absolute spirit, here understood as God, comes to know itself and fully become itself in and through the triumphs and tragedies of history. Hegel is clear that history does not produce happiness - "history is not the soil in which happiness grows. The periods of happiness in it are the blank pages of history"; "History as the slaughter-bench" (Geschichte Als Schlachtbank) - and yet the aims of reason are accomplished. Hegel writes: "we must first of all know what the ultimate design of the world really is, and secondly, we must see that this design has been realized and that evil has not been able to maintain a position of equality beside it." To see the reason in history is to be able to account for the evil within it. He argued against the 'professional historians' of the day such as Von Ranke. Hegel points out that the understanding and consequently writing of history always relies on a framework, be it religious, secular, 'postmodern' - that word is the very definition of ambiguity. Hegel chose to openly admit and explain his framework rather than hide it as many historians choose to do.


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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Lectures on the Philosophy of History" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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