Hegel's Conception of the Study of Human Nature: H. B. Acton


It is easy to understand why Hegel's philosophy should be little studied by English-speaking philosophers today. Those who at the beginning of the twentieth century initiated the movement we are now caught up in presented their earliest philosophical arguments as criticisms of the prevailing Anglo-Hegelian views. It may now be thought illiberal to take much interest in this perhaps excusably slaughtered royal family, and positively reactionary to hanker after the foreign dynasty from which it sometimes claimed descent. Hegel was a systematic philosopher with a scope hardly to be found today, and men who, as we say, wish to keep up with their subject may well be daunted at the idea of having to understand a way of looking at philosophy which they suspect would not repay them for their trouble anyway. Furthermore, since Hegel wrote, formal logic has advanced in ways he could not have foreseen, and has, it seems to many, destroyed the whole basis of his dialectical method. At the same time, the creation of a science of sociology, it is supposed, has rendered obsolete the philosophy of history for which Hegel was at one time admired. In countries where there are Marxist intellectuals, Hegel does get discussed as the inadvertent forerunner of historical and dialectical materialism. But in England, where there is no such need or presence, there do not seem to be any very strong ideological reasons for discussing him. In what follows I shall be asking you to direct your thoughts to certain forgotten far-off things which I hope you will find historically interesting even if you do not agree with me that they give important clues for an understanding of human nature and human society.

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