Encyclopedia of Educational Philosophy and Theory

2017 Edition
| Editors: Michael A. Peters

Hegel and Philosophy of Education (I)

Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-287-588-4_327

In European eighteenth century the reform of pedagogy or the education of chidren and youth was one of the most important themes discussed in families, social gatherings and a variety of auditoriums. These debates reached the nineteenth century centered on an incompatibility between the necessity of disciplining chidren and youth and, at the same time, guaranteeing the development of moral or ethical autonomy. To Bernard Bourgeois (1978) the philosophy instituted by G. W. F. Hegel is both “a pedagogical philosophy and the pedagogical philosophy” (pp. 9–10). For Hegel the education process consists of becoming conscious of the need of limiting one’s impulses in order to realize oneself as an ethical being. The educational process takes the immediate subjectivity [without mediation, undetermined, in itself, singularity or individuality] to, from the exterior, conduct it to the mediate subjectivity [educated man: “citizen”], determined by the rationality that manifests itself in the State (Staat/Volksgeist). That’s why Hegel says that the educated man is a moral, ethical, universal; that is, he is saying that the essence of the educational process is found in the universality of the spirit of the people (Volksgeist/Staat), in which the “good and bad, fair and unfair contents, are determined, for usual cases of private life, in the laws and costumes of the State” (Hegel 1946, p. 77). These contents express the proper morality [Moralität] of each social class and the harmonization of the interests of the classes in a rational state.

This “major history” is the efetivation of a movement that is beyond all historical people, being over and above each immediate moral community. It is the realization of the idea that, in its substance, is the universal spirit (der Geist; God). In this history, the universal spirit was initially joined to matter in an undetermined way – nature; physis – and, by an act of will, perceived thyself limited by materiality. This experience in the material world was made by Asiatic, Greek-Roman and German peoples, and in these peoples some individuals accomplished the task of self-consciousness of the spirit. These individuals give a positive answer to the problem of existing morality, exceeding the undetermined dissatisfaction of other men – who just complain, express their dissatisfaction, remaining in the negativity – these individuals overcome, those difficulties and make a new morality.

Do historical individuals know the state of the world? Are they able to predict the course of history?

Hegel supports that “the state of the world is not known. […] The others follow this soul’s conductor, because they feel that in him is the irresistible power of his own internal spirit” (Hegel 1946, pp. 78–79). For Hegel, historical individuals are practical; they are not theoretic or philosophic. They act aiming to achieve their private interests, but these, even though they do not know, are of the absolute spirit. Since trap of the reason – producing the self-consciousness of people spirit.

Since the real educators of people are their heroes, educational processes are necessarily formal. The child and the young have an immediate subjectivity that needs to be adapted to the proper morality spirit of the people. Thus, the familial and scholarly education can only be initially formal discipline (Zucht), since it must adapt, in an external way, each singularity to the morality of people. This discipline, however, is not arbitrary and is not abstract, because it is the people spirit that requires it and it is, in itself and by itself, the manifestation of the universal spirit. The universal spirit requires that each individual overcomes himself as a being, as wish impelled by the matter that he also is, to become a complete spirit, that knows which are his needs and, because of that, knows how to restrain himself and limit himself. This discipline is not, in fact, something that is taught only in the schools, since it is the needed expression of the people spirit’s morality. The school must maintain and develop this morality and, in the case of schools that lead to higher education, expose its reasons. Moreover, the schools that lead to higher education must train the students in the disciplined intellectual work required by science and philosophy. The restless young spirit, that is, found in gymnasium, must be restrained and, by a pedagogic trap, conducted through classic literary studies to the comprehension of the morality which has its principles in the spirit of the Greek people (cf. Bourgeois in Hegel, 1978, pp. 43–57). The same is not required in technical schools adequate to the interests of the classes of manual workers. This division of schools according to the social classes does not imply any depreciation of those who take university courses, because the social division of work does not imply any essential difference among men, because the individuals have their function designated and, therefore, their duty designated; and their morality consists of behaving according to this duty (Hegel 1946, tome I, p. 75).

In fact, for Hegel, university does not distinguish men; any distinction comes from their acts. These acts are qualified by their knowledge of the people spirit. Schooling is only one of the possible paths to the formation of the individual, because ethical acts (of morality, civility, citizenship) depend on the conformation of the individual to the people spirit, being in a common life [civil society], particularly through the reformed Christian religion. Notice that, for Hegel, philosophy and sciences are not efficient agents of transformation of the world. This transformation is only made by practical men, historical individuals, who are not philosophers and do not need philosophy. For Hegel, philosophy is, in fact, the “notary” of history, that is, takes note of what has already happened. It is like the owl of Athens, which only wakes up at nightfall.

The educated man reaches universality which objectivates itself completely in the State composed by free men – aware of their needs and, therefore, capable of self-limiting. Only in the State [State/Volksgeist] man has rational existence. All education tries to ensure that the individual does not continue being something subjective, leading him to make himself objective in the State.

[…] The truth is the unit of the general will and of the subjective will; and the universal is in the Laws of the State, in the universal and rational determinations. (ibid., pp. 88–89)

Moral life is the essence of the State. Through the unification of the subjective will as the general will, the will is both an activity and the principle by which social life is established. The life of the State “implies the need of the formal culture and, therefore, of the birth of sciences, as well as of a poetry and of with art in general” (ibid., p. 139). These formal human activities need to be cultivated in schools; the same happening with philosophy which is the thought of the thought. Since the universal thought is destroyer, keeping only the principle of the spirit – the liberty – we have that the educational task is the one which destroys the immediate subjectivity so that the universality of thinking goes on its course – alienation determined by the people spirit. But this is not an infinite path, because it has an end [terminus], which “is to turn to itself” (ibid., p. 145). That’s why Hegel states that: “all individual needs to go through in his distinct fields, which are the bases of his conceot of sprit …” (ibid., p. 147). The schooling education is, then, the form of the culture (Kultur) and the educationally formed man is the one who lives the universality of the culture, lives the content-substance of the people spirit.

As we saw, although Hegel does not propose a philosophy of education, his philosophical system is a pedagogy that leads the singularity of his state of almost philosophical unconsciousness to his state of consciousness. Not by chance he wrote and rewrote the Encyclopædia (Hegel, 1970), a manual through which he taught philosophy starting from the immediate consciousness of his listeners and leading them to philosophical consciousness. Certainly that manual required and requires comments that clarify its movements, which is the way whose starting point is in the idea-logic from which goes through idea-nature to reach the idea-spirit, the three moments – or syllogism – of the thought that thinks itself.


  1. Encyclopédie des sciences philosophique en abrégé. Tradução Maurice de Gandillac. Paris: Gallimard, 1970. (Classiques de la Philosophie).Google Scholar
  2. Hegel, G. W. F. (1946). Lecciones sobre la filosofia de la historia universal. Tradução: José Gaos. Buenos Aires: Revista de Occidente Argentina. (2 tomos).Google Scholar
  3. Léonard, A. (1971). La structure du système hégélien. Revue philosophique de Louvain, 69, 495–524.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Textes Pédagogiques. Tradução e Apresentação: Bernard Bourgeois. Paris: J. Vrin, 1978 (Bibliothéque des Textes Philosophiques).Google Scholar

Recommended Reading

  1. Léonard, A. (1974). Commentaire Littéral de la Logique de Hegel. Paris/Louvain: Librarie Philosophique J. Vrin/Éditions de l’ Intitut Supérieur de Philosophie.Google Scholar
  2. Rosenfield, D. L. (1983). Política e Liberdade em Hegel. São Paulo: Editora Brasiliense.Google Scholar

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© Springer Science+Business Media Singapore 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Universidade Estácio de SáRio de JaneiroBrazil