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The Philosophies of Georg Hegel and Herbert Spencer

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Essay title: The Philosophies of Georg Hegel and Herbert Spencer

The Philosophies of Georg Hegel and Herbert Spencer

The Philosophy of Georg Wilhelm Hegel (1770-1801)


Georg Wilhelm Hegel aspired to find a philosophy that would embody all human experiences with the integration of not only science, but also religion, history, art, politics and beyond. Hegel's metaphysical theory of absolute idealism claimed that reality was the absolute truth of all logic, spirit, and rational ideas encompassing all human experience and knowledge.

He believed that in the history of philosophy, many sought to compete with each other's thoughts in order to find the one true and universal philosophy. But he also argued that each philosopher's views were integral to the development and growth of the truth. Hegel's principles were also founded on historicism; in order to fully understand any aspect of life, one must look past all superficial observations and understand the aspects' history and background.. Hegel's philosophies attempted to tie in these basic fundamentals with mankind's unending pursuit for the absolute truth to form a single unified system.


Hegel was influenced by developing biological fundamentals in that organisms were interdependent upon each other and their environment making them all part of a hierarchy in life. He related this to society and human reason by believing that nothing could function in isolation and that everything and everyone was part of a larger whole: the Nation-State. He asserted that an individual's moral ideas would be identical to that of the Nation-State. Hegel believed in the assimilation of one's moral ideas and social ethics to the government's because it incorporated all political, economic, and social aspects of an individual's culture. Hegel's philosophy opposed rationalism in that instead of celebrating the independent, individual person, he believed that people had the need to become part of something larger beyond themselves.

Political Philosophy

Hegel believed in the existence of two types of freedom, formal freedom and substantial freedom. Formal freedom was based on an individual's natural rights to liberty whereas substantial freedom was based on an individual's ability to coincide their ideals to that of their government. According to Hegel, the latter was the only and true source of happiness. In contrast, if one could not identify with the society they lived in, they would live in alienation. Hegel believed that individualism would lead to alienation and would eventually lead to the death of unity and a conformed society.

Hegel's political views rejected the ideas of individualism and placed the Nation-State at the absolute and supreme authority. He believed that a person's primary duty was to serve the Nation-State by participating in its culture, politics, and religion.


Hegel uses his triadic theory of dialectic, which came from an accumulation of ideas from his predecessors, to construct the ideas of his philosophies. This theory contained three parts: the thesis was the first stage or affirmation, the antithesis was the contradiction or denial, and the synthesis was the final stage which overcame both the thesis and antithesis to emerge a higher, more rational idea.

The Philosophy of Herbert Spencer (1820-1903)


Spencer based his philosophy on the idea that nothing in life was permanent, and that people and knowledge evolve naturally and continuously over time. He strongly promoted the importance of individual freedom which he felt was a natural right, and at the same time tried to incorporate this with his organicistic view of life. In his works, Spencer also attempted to interconnect philosophy with other ideas like biology, psychology, and sociology.


The words "survival of the fittest" should be credited to Spencer, who was an important influence on many of Darwin's works. Spencer was a Social Darwinist, which was a theory that spun-off the ideas of natural selection. This theory stated that humans struggled to compete with each other and that wealth was an attribute of the strong and poverty a sign of inferiority. He believed that human nature progressed through a combination of these struggles, improvements, and changes over time, and were passed on from generation to generation.

Spencer was a passionate defender of the Law of Natural Freedom which states that "every man has freedom to do

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