Sacrifice, Abandonment, and Historical Nihilism

Hegel’s Middle Path

in Journal of the Philosophy of History
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Historical consciousness leaves us with the problem of historical nihilism: individuals feeling sacrificed and abandoned by the flow of time. This paper considers this problem, while considering Hegel’s philosophy of history as a useful response. The attempt to construct meaning in history can provide a sense of reconciliation with the movement of history. This paper describes the problem of historical nihilism. It explains Hegel’s response to the problem as a middle path. And responds to criticisms that have been leveled against Hegel and his understanding of the way that historical consciousness can provide reconciliation to the sacrifice and abandonment that occurs in history.

Sacrifice, Abandonment, and Historical Nihilism

Hegel’s Middle Path

in Journal of the Philosophy of History




Albert CamusThe Myth of Sisyphus (New York: Vintage1991) 50.


Jean-Paul SartreNotebooks for an Ethics (Chicago: University of Chicago Press1991) pp. 20ff.


Theodore AdornoNegative Dialectics (New York: Continuum1994) 320.


See Immanuel Kant“Conjectures on the Beginning of Human History” in Kant’s Political Writings (Cambridge: Cambride University Press1991) 231. I have discussed the moral imperative of hope in Kant’s philosophy of history in both of the following: Andrew Fiala Practical Pacifism (New York: Algora Publishing 2004) chapter 9; and Andrew Fiala The Philosopher’s Voice (Albany ny: State University of New York Press 2002).


Søren KierkegaardEighteen Upbuilding Discourses (Princeton: Princeton University Press1992) p. 7 and p. 214.


Friedrich NietzscheThe Gay Science (New York: Vintage Books1974) § 307.


G.W.F. HegelPhilosophy of History (Sibree trans. New York: Dover1956) 10; G.W.F. Hegel Philosophie der Geschichte (Stuttgart: Reclam 1961).


LachsA Community of Individuals (New York: Routledge2003) 142.


HegelPhilosophy of History33.


HegelPhilosophy of History55. The German reads: So ist der Geist in ihm selbst sich entgegen; er hat sich selbst als das wahre feindselige Hindernis seiner selbst zu überwinden; die Entwicklung die in der Nature ein ruhiges Hervorgehen ist ist im Geist ein harter unendlicher Kampf gegen sich selbst” [Hegel Philosophie der Geschichte 107].


G.W.F. HegelPhilosophy of Right (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press1991) § 324 Remark. The German edition consulted is G.W.F. Hegel Grundlinien der Philosophie des Rechts oder Naturrecht und Staatswissenschaft im Grundrisse in Werke vol. 7 (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp Verlag 1970). Subsequent references to Hegel’s Philosophy of Right will be cited by Hegel’s section numbers (including “Remarks” and/or “Additions” to these sections).


HegelPhilosophy of History49; Werke 68.


See for example Rene GirardViolence and the Sacred (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press1977).


See for example Giorgio Agamben“The Time that is Left” Epoche 7: 1 (Fall 2002).


HerderYet Another Philosophy of History188.


HegelPhenomenology of Spirit p. 45.


HegelPhenomenology of Spirit p. 487.


HegelLectures on Natural Right and Political Science (trans. Stewart and Hodgson, Berkeley: University of California Press1995) § 164 Remark.


G.W.F. HegelPhilosophy of History (Sibree trans. New York: Dover1956) 33; G.W.F. Hegel Philosophie der Geschichte (Stuttgart: Reclam 1961) 78.


HegelPhilosophy of History35–36.


HegelPhilosophy of History36.


HegelPhilosophy of History36.


HegelPhilosophy of History37.


Karl PopperThe Open Society and Its Enemies (Princeton: Princeton University Press1971) vol. 2; Paul Ricoeur Time and Narrative (University of Chicago Press 1988) vol. 3; Michel Foucault Society Must be Defended: Lectures at the Collège de France 197576 (New York: Picador 2003); Slavoj Zizek Less Than Nothing: Hegel and the Shadow of Dialectical Materialism (London: Verso 2012); Nicolas Berdyaev Slavery and Freedom (New York: Charles Scribners 1944); Albert Camus The Rebel (New York: Vintage 1991); William James “Great Men and their Environment” Atlantic Monthly October 1880 (reprinted online: ); Sidney Hook The Hero in History (New York: John Day 1943; Cosimo reprint 2008); John Lachs A Community of Individuals (New York: Routledge 2003).


HegelLectures in the Philosophy of Religion: Determinate Religion (Berkeley: University of California Press1996) 111.


See Michael O. HardimonHegel’s Social Philosophy: The Project of Reconciliation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press1994).


HegelPhilosophy of History37.


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