Saturday, April 26, 2008

Recent Readings: Hegel

I usually read a variety of things at the same time--I often have stacks of books that I have started. So, today I am reading some good old Ugaritic texts (though not in Ugaritic--alas, that is a language I have not picked up) while reading Hegel's Introduction to the Philosophy of History. Here are some excerpts from Hegel that have so far caught my eye, and maybe someone would like to comment on:

"When we are occupied with a remote world of the past, that world becomes present to the mind through the mind's own activity--and that recaptured world is the mind's reward for its labor. The events vary, but they are connected into one pattern in their universal and inner meaning. This is what negates the event as past, and makes it present. Pragmatic reflections, abstract though they might be are thus what is in fact present, and they bring the accounts of the past to life in our present-day world. But whether reflections of this kind are really filled with interest and vitality depends on the mind of the author."

"Rulers, statesmen, and nations are told that they ought to learn from the experience of history. Yet what experience and history teach us is this, that nations and governments have never learned anything from history, nor acted in accordance with the lessons to be derived from it. Each era has such particular circumstances, such individual situations, that decisions can only be made from within the era itself. In the press of world events, there is no help to be had from general principles, nor from the memory of similar conditions in former times--for a pale memory has no force against he vitality and freedom of the present. In this respect, nothing is more trite than the repeated appeal to Greek and Roman examples, which was so commonplace at the time of the French Revolution. No difference could be greater than that between the nature of those ancient peoples and our own time."

Contrast this last statement with that of Hume in Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding VIII, I: "Would you know the sentiments, inclinations, and course of life of the Greeks and Romans? Study well the temper and actions of the French and the English.... Mankind are so much the same, in all times and places, that history informs us of nothing new or strange int his particular."

Then, especially for people who study religion or have an interest in religion, check out this final, short quotation from Hegel: " modern times we have come to the point where philosophy has to take up the defense of religious truths against many types of theological doctrine."

And, I guess so people can grasp the contrast in my readings, here is something from the Canaanite epic, Aqhat:
"She [Anat] stamped her feet and left the earth;
then she headed toward El,
at the source of the two rivers,
in the midst of the two seas' pools;
she opened El's tent and entered
the shrine of the King, the Father of Time."

1 comment:

w said...

Just reading this post broke my head a bit! ;) It's interesting stuff, but I think, as usual, I need to know some more.

I like the first quote. The past coming alive and events being interconnected really just remind me how so many things in the universe are connected and how so many things are more significant than we may realize in some way or another.

The second quote does remind me that there are a lot of differences between the ancient civilizations that we're directed to look toward, but even within those differences, I think that the Hume quote is probably more true. There will always be individual situations that history may not be able to help with, but I do think that with a lot of things people are more similar then different.

Remember, that I don't have much history or philosophy knowledge, so I'm really just working with what was posted. ;)

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