What is Hegelianism?
Question: "What is Hegelianism? What is a Hegelian?"
Answer: Hegelianism is a school of philosophy based on the ideas of G. W. F. Hegel, a German philosopher who lived in the early 1800s. A Hegelian believes and follows Hegel’s views. Hegel attempted to use pure logic—that is, rational abstract thought without empirical content—to explain being. This abstract method can make Hegelianism difficult to grasp. However, there are some solid concepts in Hegel’s doctrine that give a basic idea of what he taught and how Hegelianism compares to biblical truth.
Hegel thought that every concept and thing goes through a process of development and that, in order to fully understand something, we must see its full expression through this development. First, there is a state of being, then its opposite, and finally a higher form of that original state of being. Imagine a free man who becomes a slave and then many years later gains his freedom again. His first state is “being” free. Then, the opposite: slavery. Last, he becomes a free man, and the understanding of his freedom is much greater than it would have been had he never experienced slavery. In that example, Hegelianism focuses on the development of the individual through the process of enslavement and liberation. The process helps us fully understand the individual; in fact, Hegel believed that the process of “becoming” is a higher expression of reality than the simple act of “being.” This contradicts Aristotle’s philosophy that being is higher than becoming, because that which is becoming has yet to attain perfection.
Perfection is not something that human beings can attain, so perhaps Hegelianism is closer to the truth when we are speaking exclusively of human reality vs. divine reality. Human beings live to strive and move forward; we improve and gain higher understanding through our experiences. But God is already perfect and complete in Himself; therefore, when describing God’s reality, perhaps Aristotelian philosophy (that being is a higher form of existence) is closer to the truth. Being, in the context of God’s infinite and perfect Being, is indeed higher than becoming. In theology, the word aseity describes God’s self-existence. God does not need to change or to become anything, because He is already complete (Number 23:19; Exodus 3:14; John 1:1, 3; 5:26). But, for man, “becoming” is the better state of existence. A man should not stay as he is; ideally, he should learn, grow, and change and he moves closer to the Perfect (Hebrews 10:10, 14).
Hegelianism is a highly politically charged philosophical system. Some Hegelian schools have used Hegel’s ideas to promote radical ideas; others have used the same philosophy to promote reactionary ideas. Setting aside the practical or political outcomes of Hegelianism, Hegel’s doctrine is simply a way to understand mortal and temporal reality by observing the process of development that seems to affect all aspects of mortal and temporal life.
Recommended Resource: Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview by William Lane Craig & J.P. Moreland
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Questions about Worldview
What is Hegelianism? What is a Hegelian?