Hegel on Dignity

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Hegel's central holding in The Philosophy of History centers on God's work finding realization on Earth (457). That is, the history of the world, or Universal History unfolds as, "the exhibition of Spirit in the process of working out the knowledge of that which it is potentially" (17-8). Through this Universal History, which takes the dialectic form, freedom for man ultimately comes to be conscious of itself and realized on Earth , the same as it is in heaven (65). Thus, the "idea" of freedom realizing itself and embodying reason's "sovereignty over the world" (16) is the ultimate goal of history and is the benchmark for progress. Hegel's conception of human dignity is quite similar to that of Kant, who holds that men must all men must live by the maxim, "So act that you can will that your maxim could become universal law, regardless of the end" (On History 124). Hegel's ideal realization of dignity comes as every man transcends his passions and employs reason as the sole basis of his actions. Reason, for Hegel, is "these general conceptions, deduced from actual and present consciousness – The Laws of nature and the substance of what is right and good" (441). Hegel states that history naturally drives men to transcend their passions and individual self interest, as "the history of the world is the discipline of the uncontrolled natural will, bringing into obedience to a Universal Principle and conferring subjective freedom" (104). This history ultimately culminates in human dignity, as all men bow to reason, which is "thought conditioning itself with perfect freedom" (13) Reaching this state of human dignity, for Hegel, is the work of history. Man is initially imperfect, as "by Nature man is not what he ought to be; only through a transforming process does he arrive at truth" (424). At this stage in Universal History, men are driven solely by their passions; they allow their own self-interest to dictate their actions, as "Nothing therefore happens,...
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