Russian Hegelianism

By Zula Keany

Hegel's Philosophy

  • first philosopher to think of history itself as a dialectical process
  • Man in himself is primitive, but free.
  • Man of himself rejects the barbaric freedom and creates laws and control.
  • Man in and of himself rises to morals and liberty under laws
  • Hegelian thought asserted that being is dynamic rather than static, unlike what Aristotle believed
  • The entire essence of being is becoming, what the being was and what it will be
  • The constitution is the collective spirit of a nation and the government and written constitution are the embodiment of that spirit.
  • "The State," he says, "is mind objectified. The individual mind, which, on account of its passions, its prejudices, and its blind impulses, is only partly free, subjects itself to the yoke of necessity—the opposite of freedom—in order to attain a fuller realization of itself in the freedom of the citizen."


    Knox, Sir T. Malcolm. "Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (German Philosopher)." Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d. Web. 10 Sept. 2014. <>.

    Souza, Marcelo P. "Hegel's Realization of the Spirit in History." Luminous Darkness. N.p., 15 Apr. 2014. Web. 11 Sept. 2014. <>.

    Mastin, Luke. "Modern Philosophy: Hegelianism." The Basics of Philosophy. N.p., 2008. Web. 12 Sept. 2014. <>.

    George Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831)

    Kant was born unto intellectual parents, from whom he learned Latin early on. He was encouraged to read and kept an alphabetical collection of clippings and annotations consisting of great literature, philosophy, and mathematics of the day.

    In school, Hegel was an excellent student whose thirst for knowledge would persist throughout his life. After graduating college in 1790, he situated himself as a tutor proximal to vast library, where he could devote his spare time to reading philosophy and Greek literature.

    Kant's essay on religion intrigued Hegel and inspired him to look into the development of Christianity from Jesus' rationalistic teachings to its modern authoritarian form. This marks the divergence from general philosophy to changes in knowledge, which led to his Dialectical Historicism.

    What is the Hegelian Dialectic?

    Hegelian Thought in Russia

    • Hegel's philosophies crept into Russia in the early 1800s
    • By the 1820s much of Russian politics was inspired by Hegel
    • Became prominent during the mid 1800s in debate between Slavophiles and Westernizers
    • Both sides utilized philosophy in interpreting the Russian Messianic mission
    • The Slavophiles advocated Russia’s unique way of development, viewing the Russian spirit as something great. The conservative ways supported viewing society as a whole rather than by its individual pieces and this would lead to progression of the greater good.
    • The Westernizers insisted on the need to follow in the wake of Western civilization and imitate the Western socio-political system, civil society and culture. The spirit of society was dynamic and changing, and Russia should not and could not exclude itself from the philosophical shift.
    • The spirit actualizes itself in the self-consciousness of human beings and in their progressive consciousness of freedom. For Hegel, it is a discernible pattern of history that the more ancient civilizations had a more limited concept of freedom, whereas democracy only appears in modern times.
    • Hegel’s conception of the state is therefore spiritual, not materialistic, and the “spirit of the nation” is constituted by the ideals that bind people together. All spheres of our lives – politics, technology, religion, art, philosophy, etc. – are expressions of the spirit of the nation.
    • This is an organic conception of society, in which there is what Hegel calls a principle of coherence between laws, politics, religion, culture, and so on, because the spirit of the nation in its own locus of development toward freedom will affect all these areas in a reasonably uniform way. For example, a nation that has an authoritarian religion will find it hard to have a democratic constitution.