System and History in Hegel


The role of history in Hegel’s system is puzzling. On one hand, Hegel argues that truth is necessarily the outcome of development, and to that extent historical. On the other hand, however, this development is said to be a mere “play” of the Idea with itself. Moreover, Hegel’s claim in Enc. §14 that the historical development of spirit follows its systematic development not only implies that the systematic structure of the Idea precedes its historical unfolding but also makes history deterministic. This article argues that if we want to preserve the primacy of the system over its history while at the same time avoiding determinism, we need to amend Hegel’s position in light of the Aristotelian distinction, ignored by Hegel, between hypothetical and absolute necessity

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Klaus Brinkmann
Boston University

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