Is there absolute knowledge

Summary of phenomenology of the Spirit

German idealism

Germany is the fatherland of idealism, a doctrine which was based exclusively on the spirit as the source of reality and which became the dominant philosophy between 1780 and 1830. Because idealism recognizes the spirit as the primacy of the world, it turns against philosophies such as materialism, which regards matter as a determining factor, or against empiricism, which explains the world from sensible facts. An important forerunner of idealism was Immanuel Kant who came to the insight that our cognitive process is more subjective than objective, that our cognition depends on the - limited - possibilities of our cognitive apparatus. This "critical idealism" was refined and changed by three great German philosophers: Johann Gottlieb Fichte coined "subjective idealism" and took Kant's statements to extremes: the whole of reality becomes the creation of the self. Friedrich Schelling with his "objective idealism" assumed a spiritual force that was completely independent of man and that he called God. Hegel finally put the crown on the idealism movement: In his "absolute idealism" spirit and matter are simply identical and - according to his dialectical theory of development - at the same time not identical. Today there are voices who believe that idealism was one big aberration.


Even after his first publication on the philosophies of Fichte and Schelling, Hegel was planning a paper on logic and metaphysics. The realization of this work, which he announced several times, probably did not begin before 1805. At that time, Hegel was already in Jena, where he wanted to do his habilitation. He had in mind to publish an extensive work entitled System der Wissenschaft. In February 1806 the sheets of a first part, entitled Phenomenology of the Spirit, landed at Hegel's publishers in Bamberg, together with a request from the author for an advance payment. The work was completed on the night of October 14, 1806, a politically explosive day on which Napoleon launched an attack on Prussia in the immediate vicinity of the city of Jena. Hegel's phenomenology became more and more extensive, and in a letter to Schelling, dated May 1, 1807, he openly admitted: "Working into the detail has, I feel, damaged the overview of the whole, but this itself is its nature after, such an entangled going over and over that even if it were better highlighted, it would still take me a long time before it became clearer and more complete. In January 1807, Hegel sent the preface to his publisher as the last part. The book was published in early April. Shortly after the publication, Hegel expressed the wish "to clean the ship of ballasts here and there and make it speedier".

Impact history

Hegel developed into a giant of philosophy. No philosopher after him held a similarly dominant position. This was also due to the social and political changes that occurred after Hegel's death in 1831: industrialization, uprising against the monarchy, revolutions and the rise of the individual scientific disciplines reduced the influence of post-Hegelian philosophy. As influential as Hegel was, he was also fiercely attacked by some. B. from Arthur Schopenhauer: "Hegel, stamped from above as a great philosopher, a flat, mindless, disgusting, disgusting, ignorant charlatan, who, with unprecedented impudence, smeared absurdity and nonsense which his hale followers trumpeted as immortal wisdom and were properly taken for it by fools, creating such a complete chorus of admiration as had never been heard before. "

Hegel's pupils, the so-called Hegelians, split into two larger groups. The right or old Hegelians were recruited from the bourgeois and conservative camp and differed most clearly from the left or young Hegelians in their interpretation of the philosophy of religion. They saw in Hegel the perfecter of Christian philosophy and wanted to make his doctrine fruitful for theology. The Left or Young Hegelians, on the other hand, saw a pantheistic or even atheistic worldview in Hegel's system. The best-known representatives of this group include Ludwig Feuerbach and Karl Marx. Feuerbach transformed theology (doctrine of God) into anthropology (doctrine of man) by describing God as a human projection and as a human ideal. Marx picked out some elements of the Hegel universe, freed them from their spiritualized must and turned them "upside down": It is not the spirit, but the material conditions that determine our life in the first place. The Hegelian dialectic was also the inspiration for Marxist historical determinism with its sequence of class struggles. Hegel's teaching received extensive criticism from existential philosophers, in particular from Sören Kierkegaard. 20th century philosophers such as Edmund Husserl, Martin Heidegger and Jean-Paul Sartre were heavily influenced by Hegel.