For Hegel, the world is thoroughly intelligible, and as such it must realize a rational system of categories. Hegel’s logic lays out what he takes to be this system. His philosophies of nature and spirit aim at explaining how the system is realized in natural and cultural phenomena. His term for the realized system is ‘Idea’ (Idee). The term is appropriate, because Hegel takes something from Plato. The Idea is the inner reason that makes the external reality, the reality of spatiotemporal objects, events, and actions, what it is. Hegel differs from Plato in not understanding the Idea as an intelligible world of forms separate from the sensible world and more real than the latter. He believes that forms are in things, as their immanent soul and essence. In this respect he draws a page from Aristotle. But in another respect he differs from both of these ancient philosophers and is distinctly modern: the realization of the Idea is for Hegel the self-realization of free reason—thought freely structuring itself, giving itself content, and actualizing itself. This process is one in which human beings can be participants; in fact it is only understandable in terms of responsible thinking in inquiry and action. For Hegel, a philosophically adequate account of this process both (1) carries out and completes Kant’s attempted self-vindication of human reason and (2) articulates the actualization of human freedom.
KeywordsCivil Society Social World Moral Consciousness Personal Freedom Full Realization
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