During the 19th Century, to coincide with social revolutions and upheavals, many of major European philosophers, i.e., Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and Marx, concentrated their attention on history and tried to put history into a larger philosophical perspective.
Current events in Egypt has brought to my mind some of what Hegel wrote.
Each historic event has three stages:
1. Thesis – the original position or status quo. Applying this to Egypt this was the state of Egypt before the current rebellion began. This is the status quo.
2. Antithesis – this is the resistance to the status quo. In Egypt this is the protesters and demonstration in rebellion against the established authority. They offer another alternative.
3. Synthesis – This is the outcome, which will be a combination of the two above, but there will exist a higher order. I think we’ve already begun to see this in Egypt with all the reforms that have already taken place, and now Mubarak has left Egypt. Egypt remains with the same society, but with changes–a synthesis–of the thesis and the antithesis, which will result in a higher order.
According to Hegal this is how all historic events proceed. I really have simplified Hegal here. He goes on and talks about one of his most famous terms: Geist.
Geist is something like a world soul, and in my understanding not totally unlike God. Except for the fact that the Christian idea of God is something that is unmoving and never changing in a changing world. Geist in Hegel’s world is always changing and moving towards a higher plain, just like the world seems to be doing the same. The way that Geist moves to a high plain is by these historic world events reaching a Synthesis, which moves world history forward. World history is always moving forward, according to Hegel, towards some kind of higher goal. It’s as if Geist is using the world to advance itself, but as Geist advances so does the world. The externalization of Geist is history. Geist
The events of the 20th century put Hegel’s history theories into doubt. No one could see how World War I and II could be moving the world to a higher plain. The 20th Century was one of the most violent in human history if not the most violent because of the advancements in technology. However, from a different perspective, perhaps this was just a fast growing period for Geist. From our current perspective, it’s hard to see how WWI and II and things like dropping the atom bomb moved the world forward. But, in another one or two hundred years, our perspective may be different. It seems to me that history changes as our perspective changes and time changes perspective.
It seems to me that on the personal level, adversity often works itself out and makes one stronger, and thus we move ahead and become more mature. I think Hegel’s historical philosophy is the same idea only on the universal level. Hegel’s God is one that is involved with the world, not an indifferent one.
I’ve been watching on MSNBC all the footage on the jubilation of Mubarak leaving Egypt and tears come to my eyes.