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cunning of reason

Subject Philosophy

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405106795.2004.x


M etaphysics, philosophy of history According to Hegel , the absolute idea or spirit accomplishes its end through the interactions and competitions of particular things, although reason itself cunningly avoids being dragged into the struggle. It remains in the background to control the whole process without being the object of explicit awareness. Reason does not work directly on the subject or lower itself to becoming a particular thing, but nevertheless achieves its goal. Particular things are merely means used for the end of reason, but are themselves parts of a necessary process. The play of contingency serves to realize the necessary plan or the inner teleology of the world. In the area of history, everyone pursues his own purpose and falls into battle with others, but eventually history develops its own pattern out of particular and selfish human actions. “It is not the universal idea which places itself in opposition and struggle, or puts itself in danger; it holds itself safe from attack and uninjured in the background and sends the particular of passion into the struggle to be worn down. We can call it the cunning of reason that the Idea makes passions work for it, in such a way that whereby it posits itself in existence it loses thereby and suffers injury.” Hegel, Die Vernunft in der Geschichte ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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