The Influence of Hegel

The far reaching influence of Hegel is due in a measure to the undoubted vastness of the scheme of philosophical synthesis which he conceived and partly realized. A philosophy which undertook to organize under the single formula of triadic development every department of knowledge, from abstract logic up to the philosophy of history, has a great deal of attractiveness to those who are metaphysically inclined. But hegel’s influence is due in a still larger measure to two extrinsic circumstances. His philosophy is the highest expression of that spirit of collectivism which characterized the nineteenth century, and it is also the most extended application of the principle of development which dominated nineteenth-century thought in literature, science, and even in theology. In theology especially Hegel revolutionized the methods of inquiry. The application of his notion of development to Biblical criticism and to historical investigation is obvious to anyone who compares the spirit and purpose of contemporary theology with the spirit and purpose of the theological literature of the first half of the nineteenth century. In science, too, and in literature, the substitution of the category of becoming for the category of being is a very patent fact, and is due to the influence of Hegel’s method. In political economy and political science the effect of Hegel’s collectivistic conception of the State supplanted to a large extent the individualistic conception which was handed down from the eighteenth century to the nineteenth. Whether these changes are for good or for ill remains to be seen. Some of them have certainly wrought so much evil, especially in theology, in our own day, that one can hardly dare to hope that they will in the future be productive of much benefit to philosophy or to scientific method.