Hegel: ideology and supremacism in Western philosophy

Michelangelo, The Creation of Adam, fresco ('restored'), Sistine Chapel, 1508-1512

Michelangelo, The Creation of Adam, fresco (‘restored’), Sistine Chapel, 1508-1512

‘Christians…are initiated into the mysteries of God, and this also supplies us with the key to world history.’

G.W.F.Hegel, Lectures on the Philosophy of World History, Introduction: Reason in History,  Trans., H.B. Nisbet, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1984, 41

‘It was through Christianity that this Idea came into the world. According to Christianity, the individual as such has an infinite value as the object and aim of divine love, destined as mind to live in absolute relationship with God himself…’

G.W.F.Hegel, Hegel’s Philosophy of Mind, Part Three of the Encyclopaedia of the Philosophical Sciences (1830), Trans., William Wallace, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1971, 239-240

‘…human beings are freed through Christ and everyone has access to freedom.’

G.W.F.Hegel, Lectures on the History of Philosophy 1825-6 Volume I: Introduction and Oriental Philosophy, Together With the Introductions from the Other Series of These Lectures, Trans. Robert F. Brown and J.M. Stewart, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 2009, 195

‘Negroes are to be regarded as a race of children…They are sold, and let themselves be sold, without any reflection on the rights or wrongs of the matter….They cannot be denied a capacity for education; not only have they, here and there, adopted Christianity with the greatest gratitude and spoken movingly of the freedom they have acquired through Christianity after a long spiritual servitude, but in Haiti they have even formed a State on Christian principles. …

The Mongols, on the other hand, rise above this childish naïveté; they reveal as their characteristic feature a restless mobility which comes to no fixed result and impels them to spread like monstrous locust swarms over other countries and then to sink back again into the thoughtless indifference and dull inertia which preceded this outburst.’

G.W.F.Hegel, Hegel’s Philosophy of Mind, Part Three of the Encyclopaedia of the Philosophical Sciences (1830), Trans., William Wallace, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1971, 42-43

‘(the Chinese) have no compunction in exposing or simply destroying their infants.’

Ibid., 44

’It is in the Caucasian race that mind first attains to absolute unity with itself. …and in doing so creates world-history.’

Ibid.

‘The principle of the European mind is, therefore, self-conscious Reason…In Europe, therefore, there prevails this infinite thirst for knowledge which is alien to other races….the European mind…subdues the outer world to its ends with an energy which has ensured for it the mastery of the world.’

Ibid., 45

‘…the Old World exhibits the perfect diremption into three parts, one of which, Africa, the compact metal, the lunar principle, is rigid through heat, a land where man’s inner life is dull and torpid – the inarticulate spirit which has not awakened into consciousness; the second part is Asia, characterised by Bacchanalian extravagance and cometary eccentricity, the centre of unrestrained spontaneous production, formlessly generative and unable to become master of its centre. But the third part, Europe, forms the consciousness, the rational part, of the earth, the balance of rivers and valleys and mountains – whose centre is Germany. The division of the world into continents is therefore not contingent, not a convenience; on the contrary, the differences are essential.’

G.W.F.Hegel, Hegel’s Philosophy of Nature, Part Two of the Encyclopaedia of the Philosophical Sciences (1830), Trans., A.V. Miller, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 2004, 285

‘No philosophy in the proper sense (can be found in the Oriental world).’

G.W.F.Hegel, Lectures on the History of Philosophy 1825-6 Volume I: Introduction and Oriental Philosophy, Together With the Introductions from the Other Series of These Lectures, Trans. Robert F. Brown and J.M. Stewart, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 2009, 89

‘In the West we are on the proper soil of philosophy…One epoch is Greek philosophy and the other is Germanic philosophy, or philosophy within Christendom as related to the Germanic nations…’

Ibid., 91

‘…we find, on the part of Orientals, only reflections, only arid understanding, a completely external enumeration of elements, something utterly deplorable, empty, pedantic, and devoid of spirit…It is the same with Oriental ceremonies.

This is the general character of Oriental religious representations and philosophy. There is, as in their cultus, on the one hand an immersion in devotion, in substance, and so the pedantic detail of the cultus – a vast array of the most tasteless ceremonies and religious activities – and on the other hand, the sublimity and boundlessness in which everything perishes.

There are two Oriental peoples whom I wish to mention, the Chinese and the Indians.’

Ibid., 106

‘(It has been the Western philosophers who have developed) the treasure of rational knowledge.’

Ibid., 208

‘On the whole we have only two periods in the history of philosophy, namely, Greek philosophy and Germanic philosophy…Insofar as the European peoples belong to the world of thought, we can call them “Germanic peoples”.’

Ibid., 232

‘…Chinese and Indian philosophies…for (Hegel) do not belong to the history of philosophy in the full sense.’

Editorial note by Robert F. Brown in G.W.F. Hegel, Lectures on the History of Philosophy 1825-6 Volume II: Greek Philosophy, Trans. Robert F. Brown and J.M. Stewart, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 2011, 9

‘A culture which does not yet have a history has made no real cultural progress, and this applies to the pretended history of India over three and a half thousand years.’

G.W.F.Hegel, Lectures on the Philosophy of World History, Introduction: Reason in History,  Trans., H.B. Nisbet, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1984, 13

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