George Hegel

In his inaugural lecture in Berlin, Hegel said, "In religion the spirit becomes present to spirit. In religion, man abandons his limited and temporal aims, the pressure and delight of the present, and his essence becomes free by itself; the inner God is one with the outer." Born on August 27, 1770, as the son of a revenue officer with the Civil Services. Hegel became one of the most influential thinkers of the 19th century.

Brought up in an atmosphere of Protestant Pietism, he became thoroughly acquainted with the Greek and Roman classics while studying at Stuttgart, in Germany. He learned the elements of Latin from his mother by the time he entered the Stuttgart grammar school, where he studied until 18. A stimulating teacher of Greek and Latin, gave him a firm foundation, which enabled him to master Plato and Aristotle's works. Today, we read 19th and 20th century commentaries and translations of these philosophers; many of them inspired by Hegel. As a schoolboy he made a collection of extracts, alphabetically arranged, comprising annotations on classical authors, passages from newspapers, and treatises on morals and mathematics from the standard works of the period.

Equipped with a thorough knowledge of Latin and Greek, and already endowed with wide-ranging intellectual curiosity and a special interest in history, he went as a student to Tübingen in 1788, to read philosophy and theology. He entered the University of Tübingen as per his parent's wish. He arrived there one year after the publication of the second edition of the critique of Pure Reason and one year before the French Revolution. Here he studied philosophy and classics for two years and graduated in 1790.

At Tübingen, he was clearly bestraddled with 18th century rationalism with the Romantic Movement of that era. Though he took the theological course, he was impatient with the orthodoxy of his teachers. He was said to be poor in oral exposition. Though his fellow students called him 'the old man', he liked cheerful company and a 'sacrifice to Bacchus' and enjoyed the ladies as well. There he developed friendship with the poet Holderlin, his contemporary, and the nature philosopher Schelling, five years his junior. Together, they read the Greek tragedians and celebrated the glories of the French Revolution.

On leaving college, Hegel did not enter the ministry; instead, wishing to forgo leisure for the study of philosophy and Greek literature, he became a private tutor in Berne, Switzerland. For the next three years he lived there, with time on his hands and read books. He read Edward Gibbon, Baron de Montesquieu, as well as the Greek and Roman classics. He also studied the critical philosopher Immanuel Kant and was stimulated by his essay on religion, which is later reflected in his work.

Hegel was lonely in Berne and was glad to move, at the end of 1796, to Frankfurt, where Holderlin got him a tutorship. His hopes of more companionship, however, remained unfulfilled. Holderlin was engrossed in an illicit love affair and shortly lost his reason. Hegel began to suffer from melancholia and to cure himself, worked harder than ever, especially at Greek philosophy, modern history and politics. He read and cut clippings from English newspapers, worked on the internal affairs of his native Wurlemberg, and studied economics. Hegel was now able to free himself from the domination of Kant's influence and to look with a fresh eye on the problem of Christian origins. Two years later, his father died, leaving a financial legacy that was sufficient to free him from tutoring.

In January of 1801, he arrived at Jena, where Schelling had been a professor since 1798. The precocious Schelling, who was only 26 on Hegel arrival, already had several books to his credit. Schelling had been fighting alone in the university against the rather dull followers of Kant. Hegel had been summoned as a new champion to aid his friend. Hegel's delivered lectures in the winter of 1801-02, on Logic and Metaphysics, which were attended by about 11 students. Later in 1804, with a class of about 30, he lectured on the whole system, gradually working it out as he taught. After the departure of Schelling from Jena (1803), Hegel was left to work out his own views untrammeled.

Besides philosophical and political studies, he made extracts from books, attended lectures on physiology, and dabbled in other sciences. The most lasting fruit of his Jena experiences was his friendship with Goethe. At this time, Hegel published his first great work, The Phenomenology of Mind.

Unfortunately, his philosophical career was cut short after only six years when the university was closed with the advent of Napoleon. He had to leave the town and work for a year as a newspaper editor in Bamberg. This however was not a suitable vocation, and he gladly accepted the rectorship of the Aegidien gymnasium in Nuremberg, a post he held from December 1808 to August 1816 and one that offered him a small but assured income. There Hegel inspired confidence in his pupils and maintained discipline without pedantic interference in their associations and sports.

While he was at Nuremberg he met Marie Von Tucher (1791-1855). He married her in 1811 and entered a happy married life. His wife bore him two sons: Karl (1813-1901), who became eminent as a historian; and Immanuel, whose interests were theological. Marie gave birth to a daughter, who died soon after birth. Before his marriage, Hegel had fathered an illegitimate son, Ludwig (1807-31), who eventually came to live with the Hegels.

He accepted the chair at Heidelberg. There he published his Encyclopaedia of the Philosophical Sciences in Outline.

In 1818, Hegel accepted the renewed offer of the chair of philosophy at Berlin, which had been vacant since Fichte's death. There his influence over his pupils was immense and he then published his The Philosophy of Right. After this Hegel seemed to have devoted himself entirely to his lectures. Between 1823 and 1827 his activity reached its maximum. His notes were subjected to perpetual revisions and additions.

Strongly influenced by Greek ideas, Hegel also read the works of the Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza and the French writer Jean Jacques Rousseau. Although he often disagreed with these philosophers, their influence was evident from his writings.

In 1831, cholera spread to Germany. Hegel and his family retired for the summer to the suburbs, and there he finished the revision of the first part of his Science of Logic. On November 14, Hegel died after a day's illness, of cholera and was buried there.