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Georg Hegel (1770 – 1831) was a German Idealist of speculative logic, of dialectic, and absolute idealism. Truth is found neither in the thesis nor the antithesis, but in an emergent synthesis which reconciles the two.

Georg Hegel

Georg Hegel, philosopher of the dialectic

Sources of quotes: WikiQuote, EGS, GoodReads, BrainyQuotes,


Quotations from George Hegel

Nothing great in the world has ever been accomplished without passion.

To be independent of public opinion is the first formal condition of achieving anything great.

Amid the pressure of great events, a general principle gives no help.

History is not the soil in which happiness grows. The periods of happiness in it are the blank pages of history.What experience and history teaches us is that people and governments have never learned anything from history, or acted on principles deduced from it.

We learn from history that we do not learn from history.

Genuine tragedies in the world are not conflicts between right and wrong. They are conflicts between two rights.

The learner always begins by finding fault, but the scholar sees the positive merit in everything.

The history of the world is none other than the progress of the consciousness of freedom.

World history is a court of judgment.

Mark this well, you proud men of action! you are, after all, nothing but unconscious instruments of the men of thought.

When liberty is mentioned, we must always be careful to observe whether it is not really the assertion of private interests which is thereby designated.

The Few assume to be the deputies, but they are often only the despoilers of the Many.

Education is the art of making man ethical.

For philosophy alone, it seems to be imagined, study, care, and application are not in the least requisite, and yet, everybody allows that to know any other science you must have first studied it, and that you can only claim to express a judgment upon it in virtue of such knowledge. Everybody allows that to make a shoe you must have learned and practiced the craft of the shoemaker, though every man has a model in his own foot, and possesses in his hands the natural endowments for the operations required.

We do not need to be shoemakers to know if our shoes fit, and just as little have we any need to be professionals to acquire knowledge of matters of universal interest.

An idea is always a generalization, and generalization is a property of thinking. To generalize means to think.

Truth in philosophy means that concept and external reality correspond.

Mere goodness can achieve little against the power of nature.

To him who looks upon the world rationally, the world in its turn presents a rational aspect. The relation is mutual.

It is easier to discover a deficiency in individuals, in states, and in Providence, than to see their real import and value.

An idea is always a generalization, and generalization is a property of thinking. To generalize means to think

Animals are in possession of themselves; their soul is in possession of their body. But they have no right to their life, because they do not will it.

It is solely by risking life that freedom is obtained; . . . the individual who has not staked his or her life may, no doubt, be recognized as a Person; but he or she has not attained the truth of this recognition as an independent self-consciousness.

Truth is found neither in the thesis nor the antithesis, but in an emergent synthesis which reconciles the two.

If we go on to cast a look at the fate of world historical personalities… we shall find it to have been no happy one. They attained no calm enjoyment; their whole life was labor and trouble; their whole nature was nothing but their master passion. When their object is attained they fall off like empty hulls from the kernel. They die early, like Alexander; they are murdered, like Caesar; transported to St. Helena, like Napoleon.

Evil resides in the very gaze which perceives Evil all around itself.

When a father inquired about the best method of educating his son in ethical conduct, a Pythagorean replied: “Make him a citizen of a state with good laws

What is reasonable is real; that which is real is reasonable.

The significance of that ‘absolute commandment’, know thyself — whether we look at it in itself or under the historical circumstances of its first utterance — is not to promote mere self-knowledge in respect of the particular capacities, character, propensities, and foibles of the single self. The knowledge it commands means that of man’s genuine reality — of what is essentially and ultimately true and real — of spirit as the true and essential being.

No man is a hero to his valet. This is not because the hero is not a hero, but because the valet is a valet.

Not curiosity, not vanity, not the consideration of expediency, not duty and conscientiousness, but an unquenchable, unhappy thirst that brooks no compromise leads us to truth.

The great thing however is, in the show of the temporal and the transient to recognize the substance which is immanent and the eternal which is present…To comprehend what is, is the task of philosophy: and what is is Reason.

To be aware of limitations is already to be beyond them.

The essence of the modern state is the union of the universal with the full freedom of the particular, and with the welfare of individuals.

The goal to be reached is the mind’s insight into what knowing is. Impatience asks for the impossible, wants to reach the goal without the means of getting there. The length of the journey has to be borne with, for every moment is necessary.


COMMENTS on quotations from George Hegel

Hegel writes, Truth in philosophy means that concept and external reality correspond. That is closer to a definition of science than of philosophy; philosophy emphasizes the internal consistency of patterned thoughts. Hegel’s statement seems closest to a definition of common-sense.

It is easier to discover a deficiency in individuals, in states, and in Providence, than to see their real import and value. Hegel must value the underlying idea because he comes to it again, but in a different form. The learner always begins by finding fault, but the scholar sees the positive merit in everything. There are levels of deeper value which Hegel doesn’t plumb; for a scholar to see merit in an idea means that the idea is already available for his deliberations, and that implies there is a creator of the idea. It is the creator of the idea that is the more valued of the individuals involved, not the scholar who values the idea, not the student who only partially understands it, and finds fault in the idea’s limitations. Of the infinity of potential ideas, it is those minds who perceive its limitations. They are the ones who will make alternate statements of it, and find new ideas to compare and contrast to it and find new applications for it. Thus, the fault-finding learner and not the understanding scholar is more to be valued.

An idea is always a generalization, and generalization is a property of thinking. To generalize means to think. This comes closer to creative thinking, if the person doing the consideration of the idea is doing the generalizing, and not simply observing the generalizations made by others. Learning only has value if it has an application, and one of the key applications of learning is making an improvement on the basic idea being learned. Rote learning is a waste of time, effort, brain-cells, and money if it is never applied to solving some human problem. Not curiosity, not vanity, not the consideration of expediency, not duty and conscientiousness, but an unquenchable, unhappy thirst that brooks no compromise leads us to truth. There are an infinity of truths; it is only the application of discovered truth to human problems that has value to humans. Most humans would agree that even philosophers are human and would benefit by using their talents for finding solutions to their problems.

Governments have never learned anything from history, or acted on principles deducted from it. The problem for most individuals engaged in stressful events is that they don’t have time to think, they don’t have the slack-time to consider the general principles, and thus it is as Hegel writes, Amid the pressure of great events, a general principle gives no help.

Once the state has been founded, there can no longer be any heroes. They come on the scene only in uncivilized conditions. It is only in times of battle that heroes can arise, because only then are the laws of civilization momentarily suspended and the rights of others can be ignored. The heroes’ actions are rewarded in proportion to their violation of other people’s normal rights.

Animals are in possession of themselves; their soul is in possession of their body. But they have no right to their life, because they do not will it. This seems like a facile argument for the violation of an animal’s right to its own life. We eat the meat of animals because it tastes good and satisfies our inherent need for protein. Hegel’s argument is only a silly self-serving lie to ease his guilty feelings.

Truth is found neither in the thesis nor the antithesis, but in an emergent synthesis which reconciles the two. This is Hegel’s most famous idea, and it has been used in political rhetoric ever since he wrote it, but it only works when there develops a division of people into two factions. It is when the factions are of equal strength to the interested parties that deadly conflicts arise. Genuine tragedies in the world are not conflicts between right and wrong. They are conflicts between two rights.

Hegel’s idea that thesis opposed by antithesis yields synthesis is a generalization that potentially leads to new discoveries. It is similar to the statement by Niels Bohr, “The opposite of every great idea is another great idea.” This may sometimes lead to great discoveries, but this is obviously false in many cases, as in the 10 Commandments – Thou shalt not kill versus Thou shalt kill, and it must be applied as a search strategy and not as a law. In Hegel’s terms, there are an infinity of theses and an infinity of antitheses, every one of which might be put into opposition to every other one and create yet another infinity of infinities. This might challenge Gödel’s mind, but what problems does it resolve? My proposal to seek for the fundamental basis for examples of convergent-evolution is limiting rather than expansive, but as it is based on working solutions, it always leads to a workable solution.

No man is a hero to his valet. This is not because the hero is not a hero, but because the valet is a valet. This is only an interesting observation for Hegel, but it was a useful operating procedure for Alexander and Napoleon. The great men of history turned to ordinary ones to reveal what their enemies will do.