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Hegel, Marx and Nietzsche: Comparative Analysis

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel was born on 27th August, 1770 in Stuttgart, Germany and died on 14th November, 1831, in Berlin. At Tübingen he studied theology and after that pursued contemporary philosophy and Greek classics. He also served as private tutor for 7 years and then became a university professor in 1801 at Jena. A year later he worked as a newspaper editor in Bamberg. In 1816 he became the philosophy professor at Heidelberg and 2 years later was transferred to the University of Berlin. His important works include “Logic”, “Phenomenology of Spirit” and “Philosophy of History” (Beiser, pp. 45-46).

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Hegel, along with Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling and Johann Gottlieb Fichte created German idealism. He also developed Hegelianism which was based on Hegel’s belief that rational categories can be used to express all reality. He wanted to reduce all reality to a mere synthetic entity within a system of transcendental idealism. His comprehensive philosophical system or framework accounts through a developmental and integrated manner relating nature and mind, the object and subject of knowledge, and philosophy, the state, religion, history and art. He introduced the concept of spirit or mind that can manifest itself through oppositions and contradictions to be ultimately united and integrated, like that of freedom and nature, and transcendence and immanence. Hegel’s philosophy contained a triadic development within every thing and concept. He styled the 3 stages as – in itself or An-sich, out of itself or Anderssein and in and for itself or An-und-für-sich (Beiser, 124). Hegel’s philosophies can be divided into a number of categories:

  1. Division of philosophy
  2. Philosophy of nature
  3. Philosophy of mind
  4. Philosophy of history
  5. Philosophy of absolute mind (Beiser, p.76).

Karl Heinrich Marx

Karl Heinrich Marx was born on 5th May, 1818 in Trier and died on 14th March, 1883. He was very intelligent as a school child and thus pursued law in Bonn and Berlin and then completed his PhD in philosophy. After his doctorate, although he wanted a scholastic job, he turned towards journalism, rapidly involving him with social issues and politics and finally considering the communist theory. (Rockmore, p. 17) Considered to be the founder of modern communism, among Marx’s notable works include “The Communist Manifesto”, “On the Jewish Question”, The Economical and Philosophical Manuscripts”, “Thesis on Feuerbach”, “The German Ideology”, and “Contribution to a Critique of Political Economy”. (Rockmore, p. 116).

Marx’s view of human nature formed the basis for his philosophy. Basically, to him human nature involved a transformation of nature. He termed the process of transformation as “labour” and the capability of transforming nature as “labour power”. (Rockmore, p. 145) He believed that this transformation is a simultaneous mental and physical action. Marx’s philosophy depended on the distinction among the following:

  1. The forces or means of production, meaning literally certain things like natural resources, required for producing material goods.
  2. Relations of productions, meaning the social relationships that people commit to by acquiring and using the forces of production (Rockmore, p. 120).

Being a materialist and a scientist, Marx did not believe in purely subjective classes, i.e. those groups of individuals who intentionally identified with each other. He tried to define classes with respect to objective criteria, like their contact with resources, referring to whether certain groups possessed any means of production. Marx was also very concerned about how individuals related to their primary resource, specifically their individual labor power (Rockmore, p.78).

Friedrich Nietzsche

Friedrich Nietzsche was born on 15th October, 1844, in Röcken, Prussia and died on 25th August, 1900. He entered preparatory school in 1858 through a scholarship and excelled at classical studies, religious studies and German literature. After graduating in 1864 he continued to study classical philosophy and theology at the University of Bonn. Nietzsche was appointed as the Chair of Classical Philology at 24 years of age at University of Basel but due to severe health problems he had to resign in 1879. (Mencken, ii-iv) However, in 1889, Nietzsche exhibited signs of insanity and had to live his last years under the guidance of his sister and mother. Among his notable works were “Ecce Homo”, “Thus Spoke Zarathustra”, “Übermensch” andHuman, All Too Human.” (Mencken, pp. 24-26).

The philosophy developed by Nietzsche is referred to as Nietzscheanism and it politically and intellectually influenced every part of the world during the beginning of the 20th century. Nietzsche mostly believed in and utilized topics like social criticism, psychology, religion, ontology, epistemology and morality. Although he directly did not exhibit his philosophy, it is quite evident from his common view of our world which can be estimated through his works.

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Nietzsche had a very evocative style and also he often made outrageous claims due to which his philosophy generated universal passion. Reviewing Nietzsche’s earliest works we find that he emphasized on an opposition towards Dionysian and Apollonian impulses of art. His major currents included the figure of Dionysus, will to power, a claim that God is dead, radical perceptions and the division between the moralities of master and slave. His work on the “thought of eternal recurrence” (Mencken, 102) is sometimes also considered to be the pride and glory of Nietzschean philosophy.

Works cited

  1. Beiser, Frederick C. Hegel. New York: Routledge, 2005.
  2. Mencken, H. L. The Philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. London: Sharp Press, 2003.
  3. Rockmore, Tom. Marx after Marxism: the philosophy of Karl Marx. London: Wiley-Blackwell, 2002.

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