Conspectus of Hegel’s Book Lectures On the Philosophy Of History

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Author(s) Lenin
Written 1915

Lenin Collected Works, 4th Edition, Moscow, 1976, Volume 38, pp. 303-314
Publisher: Progress Publishers
First Published: 1930 in Lenin Miscellany XII



(Edition of E. Gans)

Materials: Notes of the lectures 1822-1831.

Hegel’s manuscript up to p. 73, etc.

P. 5[1]...“Speeches ... are transactions be-

tween people”... (hence these speeches

are not mere talk).
7—The French and English are more edu-
cated (“they have more ... nationalculture”),—but we Germans rack our

brains to discover how history oughtto be written, rather than writing it.

shrewd and


9—History teaches “that peoples and gov-
ernments of a people have never

learned anything from history; each pe-

riod is too individual for that.”
very clever!
“But what experience and history

teach is this—that peoples and gov-

ernments have never learned any-

thing from history, or acted accord-

ing to the lessons that could have

been drawn from it. Each period has

such peculiar circumstances, it is

a state of things so unique that one

must and can judge of it only on

the basis of itself.”

p. 12—“reason governs the world....”
20:The substance of Matter is Gravity.

The substance of Spirit is Freedom.

22.“World history is the progress of the

consciousness of freedom—a progress

which we have to know in its ne-


24—(approach to historical materialism).

What guides the actions of men? Above

all, “Selbstsucht”[3]—motives of love,

etc., are rarer and their sphere nar-

rower. What, then, is the outcome of this interweaving of passions, etc.?

of needs, etc.?
28“Nothing great in the world has been

accomplished without passion....” Pas-

sion is the subjective and “therefore

the formal side of energy....”

28i.f.[4]—History does not begin with

a conscious aim.... What is important

is that which
29...appears unconsciously for mankind as

the result of its action....

29...In this sense “Reason governs the


30...In history through human actions

“something else results in addition

beyond that which they aim at and

obtain, beyond that which they direct-

ly know and desire.”
30...“They” (die Menschen[5]) “gratify
their own interest, but something fur-

ther is thereby brought about, which

was latent in their interest, but which

was not in their consciousness or in-

cluded in their intention.”

(cf. Engels[6])

32...“Such are the great men in history,

whose own particular aims contain

that substantial element which is the

will of the World Spirit....”

“great men”
36—the religiousness and virtue of a shep-

herd, a peasant, etc., is highly honour-

able (examples!! NB), but ...“the right

of the World Spirit stands above all

special rights....”
Here in Hegel is often to be

found—about God, religion, moral-

ity in general—extremely trite ideal-

istic nonsense. 97: “the gradual abolition of slav-

ery is better than its sudden re-


50.The constitution of a state together

with its religion ... philosophy, thought,

culture, “external forces” (climate,

neighbours...) comprise “one substance,

one Spirit....”
51In nature movement takes place only

in a cycle (!!)—in history, something

new arises....
62.Language is richer among peoples in

an undeveloped, primitive state—lan-

guage becomes poorer with the advance

of civilisation and the development

of grammar.
67:“World history develops on a higher

ground than that on which morality

has its position (Stätte)....”
73:An excellent picture of history: the
sum of individual passions, actions,

etc. (“everywhere something akin to

ourselves, and therefore everywhere

something that excites our interest for

or against”), sometimes the mass of

some general interest, sometimes a

multitude of “minute forces

(“an infinite exertion of minute forces

which produce a tremendous result

from what appears insignificant”).

very good
Sehr wich-

tig![7] seebelow this

The result? The result is “exhaustion.”fully[8]
P. 74. End of the “Introduction.”
P. 75—“The Geographical Basis of World

History” (a characteristic heading):

75—“Under the mild Ionic sky,” a Homer

could more easily arise—but this is

not the only cause.—“Not under Turk-

ish rule,” etc.


cf. Plekha-

82—Emigration to America removes “dis-

content,” “and the continued exist-

ence of the contemporary civil order is

guaranteed...” (but this Zustand[10]

“riches and poverty” 81)....
82.In Europe there is no such outlet:

had the forests of Germany still been

in existence, the French Revolution

would not have occurred.

102:Three forms of world history: 1) des-

potism, 2) democracy and aristocracy,

3) monarchy.
Subdivisions: The Oriental World—The

Greek—The Roman—The German

World. Empty phrase-mongering about

morality, etc., etc.

China.Chapter I (113 to 139). Description

of the Chinese character, institutions,

etc., etc. Nil, nil, nil!
India—to 176—To...
Persia(and Egypt)—to 231. Why did the

Persian Empire fall, but not China

or India? Dauer[11] is not as such

vortreffliches[12] (229)—“The imperish-

able mountains are not superior to the rose that quickly loses its petals

in its fleeting existence.” (229) Persia

fell because the “spiritual view of

things” began here 230, but the Greeks

proved superior, “higher principle” of

organisation, “self-conscious freedom.”


232:“The Greek World” ... the principle

of “pure individuality”—the period of

its development, flowering and decline,

encounter with the succeeding organ

of world history” (233)—Rome with

its “substance” (ibidem).

world history

as a whole

and the




234:The geographical conditions of Greece:

the diversity of its nature (in con-

trast to the monotony of the East).
242—The colonies in Greece. Amassing

of wealth. Want and poverty “always”

bound up with it....
Wealth and


246.“The natural, as explained by men,

its internal, essential element, is the

beginning of the divine in general”

(in connection with the mythology of

the Greeks).
Hegel and


251:“Man with his requirements behaves

in a practical way in relation to ex-

ternal nature; in making it serve for

his satisfaction, he wears it away, there-

by setting to work as an intermediary.

For natural objects are powerful and

offer resistance in many different ways.

In order to subdue them, man intro-

duces other natural objects, thus turn-

ing nature against itself, and he in-

vents tools for this purpose. These hu-

man inventions belong to the spirit,

Germs of



in Hegel

and such a tool must be regarded as
higher than a natural object.... The

honour of human invention for sub-

jugating nature is ascribed to the Gods”

(among the Greeks).



264:Democracy in Greece was bound up

with the small size of the states.Speech, living speech, united the cit-

izens, created Erwärmung.[14]

“Hence” in the French Revolution

there was never a republican consti-

322-323. “He” (Caesar) “removed the in-

ternal contradiction” (by abolishing

the republic, which had become a

“shadow”) “and created a new one. For

world rule had hitherto reached only

to the rim of the Alps, but Caesar open-

ed a new arena: he founded the theatre

which was now to become the centre

of world history.”
Hegel and


tions” in


And then on the murder of Caesar:
...“In general, a political revolu-

tion is, as it were, sanctioned in man’s

opinion if it is repeated” (Napoleon,

the Bourbons).... “By repetition that

which at first appeared merely a mat-

ter of chance and possibility becomes

something real and confirmed.” (323)
catego-ries of the

possible and


versus act-

uality and


in history
“Christianity.” (328-346) Banal, cleric-

al, idealistic chatter about the greatness

of Christianity (with quotations from

the Gospels!!). Disgusting, stinking!

420-421: Why was the Reformation lim-

ited to a few nations? Among other

reasons—“the Slav nations were agri-cultural” (421) and this brings with

it “the relation of lords and serfs,”

less “Betriebsamkeit,[15]” etc. But why

the Romanic nations? Their character(Grundcharakter[16] 421 i.f.)

429:...“Polish freedom likewise was noth-

ing but the freedom of the barons

against the monarchs.... Hence the

people had the same interest against

the barons as the kings.... When free-

dom is mentioned, one must always

be careful to see whether it is not really

private interests that are being spoken

of.” (430)


439:On the French Revolution... Why did

the French pass “immediately from the

theoretical to the practical,” but not

the Germans? Among the Germans, the

Reformation had “schon Alles gebes-

sert,”[17] abolished “das unsägliche Un-

recht,”[18] etc.
441:For the first time (in the French

Revolution) humanity had arrived at

the conclusion “that man bases himself

on the head, i.e., on thought, and

builds reality accordingly....” “This

was ... a glorious dawn....”

In considering further the “course of

the Revolution in France” (441) Hegel

stresses in freedom in general—freedom

of property, and of industry (ibid.).

...The promulgation of laws? The will

of all.... “The few should represent

the many, but they often merely re-

press them....” (442) “The power of the

cf. Marx and


majority over the minority is to

no less degree a great inconsistency”

444:...“In its content this event” (the French

Revolution) “is world historical....”

“Liberalism,” (444) “liberal institu- tions” (443) spread over Europe.
p. 446—
446:“World history is nothing but the

development of the notion of free-


Most impor-

tant is Ein-


where there

is much that

is magni-

ficent in the


of the


In general the philosophy of history

yields very, very little—this is compre-

hensible, for it is precisely here, in

this field, in this science, that Marx

and Engels made the greatest step for-

ward. Here most of all, Hegel is obso-

lete and antiquated.

(see the next page[21])


“If then, finally, we regard world history from the standpoint of the category through which it should be considered, we have before us an endless picture of human life and activity under the most varied circumstances, with all kinds of aims and the most diverse events and destinies. In all these occurrences and events we see human action and effort in the forefront; everywhere something akin to ourselves, and therefore everywhere something that excites our interest for or against. Sometimes it attracts us by beauty, freedom and richness, sometimes by energy, sometimes even vice succeeds in making itself important. Often there is the comprehensive mass of some general interest that cumbrously moves forward, but still more often the infinite exertion of minute forces, which produce a tremendous result from what appears insignificant; every where the motleyest spectacle, and as soon as one vanishes another takes its place.

“But the immediate result of this consideration, however attractive it may be, is exhaustion, such as follows after a very varied spectacle, a magic lantern show; and even if we accord to each individual representation its true worth, the question nevertheless arises in our minds, what is the final aim of all these particular events, is each one exhausted by its special aim, or ought one not rather think of a single ultimate aim of all these events; behind the loud noises at the surface is there not going on the labour and production of a work, an internal, quiet, secret work in which the essential force of all those transitory phenomena is stored up? But if one does not bring thought, rational cognition, to world history from the beginning, one must at least approach it with the firm unshakable faith that it has reason in it, or at least that the world of the intellect and self-conscious will is not a victim of chance but must reveal itself in the light of the self-knowing idea.” (73-74)[22]

((NB. In the Preface, p. XVIII, the publisher, i.e., the editor, Ed. Gans, states that up to p.73 the text was written by Hegel in 1830; the manuscript is an “Ausarbeitung[23]))

  1. Hegel, Werke, Bd. IX, Berlin, 1837.—Ed.
  2. feeble—Ed.
  3. self-interest”—Ed.
  4. in fine—at the end—Ed.
  5. human beings—Ed.
  6. See F. Engels, Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy, Chapter IV (see Marx and Engels, Selected Works, Vol. II, Moscow, 1958, p. 391).
  7. very important!—Ed.
  8. See p. 313 of this volume.—Ed.
  9. Regarding the influence of geographical conditions on the development of society see G. V. Plekhanov, “Fundamental Questions of Marxism,” Chapter VI, and “N. G. Chernyshevsky,” Chapter II.
  10. order—Ed.
  11. duration—Ed.
  12. something excellent—Ed.
  13. Lenin is evidently comparing the formulations of Hegel and Feuerbach, who approach the question of the origin of religion from opposite standpoints. See, for example, Feuerbach’s thesis: “in a deified being, he (i.e., man-Ed.) objectifies solely his own being.” [See Feuerbach’s Essence of Christianity: Introduction §2, The Essence of Religion in General]
  14. ardour—Ed.
  15. industriousness”—Ed.
  16. fundamental character—Ed.
  17. already changed everything for the better”—Ed.
  18. unspeakable injustice”—Ed.
  19. Lenin is probably referring to the following passage in Marx’s work The Civil War in France: “Instead of deciding once in three or six years which member of the ruling class was to misrepresent the people in Parliament, universal suffrage was to serve the people, constituted in Communes....” (See Marx and Engels, Selected Works, Vol. I, Moscow, 1958, p. 520.)
  20. introduction—Ed.
  21. On the next page of the manuscript the excerpt “Hegel on World History” begins.—Ed.
  22. Hegel, Werke, Bd. IX, Berlin, 1837.—Ed.
  23. elaboration”—Ed.