Monday, April 9, 2012

Introduction to the Philosophy of History - G. W. F. Hegel and Leo Rauch

"In English, we like a word to have one and the same meaning throughout a given philosophic text. Hegel does not work that way."

When aliens come to this planet, we will have a hard work explaining how the works of an unintelligible philosopher have so much influence on the way we think. Every generation produces its own interpreter of Hegel's philosophy of History. Leo Rauch did it in the 1980s, just like Alexandre Kojève did it 20 years earlier. In an exercise that, if nothing else, shows how complicated is reading Hegel, Fukuyama actually interpreted Kojève's interpretation for his famous book The End of History.

The Philosophy of History is one of the most influential books on Western philosophy despite (or probably because of) its impenetrability. In this book, Hegel tries to prove logically that History has one objective: the establishment of a free and self-conscious social existence through the guidance of Providence, which Hegel equates with Reason and God. The most accomplished example of a political entity that has reached pure autonomy is, according to Hegel, the Prussian State. The election of Prussia is not casual.Hegel was actually in the payroll of the Prussian Government and received medals for his services to it during the Napoleonic invasions. Whether Hegel sincerely believed what he wrote about Prussia, or whether he did it keep his job and position is unclear. In any case, Hegel was the first in an endless series of public financed intellectuals who live out of public money and say that whatever the government does is the best.

Hegel didn't live enough to see Darwin's theory on evolution. It is impossible to assert whether Darwin's theory of evolution would have challenged or reinforced Hegel's ideas on the pre-determination of History. It is clear that the idea of History as a process pre-determined to reach an end can only be printed and be successful in a period of collective euphoria. Hegel presented it when Prussia was becoming the predominant power in History, and Fukuyama recycled it in the aftermath of the fall of the USSR. It is hard to accept, for instance, that History converges towards reason and autonomy in periods of humanitarian or economic crisis, or right after the Holocaust and World War II.

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