Subjective Will

Subjective will refers to the multitude of individual wills of the people that comprise the State. It is separate from universal will, although the two can become linked. Hegel also refers to subjective will as "caprice" to point out this fickle, arbitrary nature. Also see Passion.

Universal Will

Universal will refers to the overall drive of Spirit, Reason, or the State. It is separate from subjective will, although the two can become linked.

Original History

The first historical method Hegel explains. Original history is written by a historian who is living at the time being written about. The spirit of the historian is an essential aspect of the spirit of the society that is the subject of the historian’s account.

Reflective History

The second historical method Hegel mentions. Reflective history is written after the time covered in the history has passed, and therefore it involves a remove at which the historian can analyze and interpret (reflect upon) the events being covered. Reflective history is divided into four sub-methods: universal history, pragmatic history, critical history, and specialized history.

Universal History

Form of reflective history that seeks to provide an account of the whole history of a people, or even of the world. The extremely broad scope of universal history necessitates an intense compression of complex events into simple statements, with the primary factor being the "thought" of the historian as they work to give a coherent, universal account.

Pragmatic History

Form of reflective history that involves an ideology or interpretive method on the part of the historian, who uses historical events to back up a pointed argument.

Critical History

Form of reflective history that seeks to re-interpret existing historical accounts. Critical history is a kind of history of history, which tests the accuracy of given accounts and perhaps poses alternative accounts.

Specialized History

Form of reflective history that focuses on one thread in history, such as "the history of art.”

Philosophic History

Philosophic history is the third major category of history that Hegel describes—and the one that Hegel employed himself. Its focus is the larger process by which Spirit unfolds in the world as history.


Hegel uses the term morality (in contrast to "ethics") to denote the subjective form of duty to others (in contrast to a form of duty based on the universal principles of the State).


Spirit is the central concept in Hegel's method of philosophic history. The concept unifies the three concepts of freedom, Reason, and self-consciousness, which are interdependent almost to the point of identity.


The concept of the "universal," or universality, is extremely wide-ranging in Hegel, but in general it denotes that which transcends the subjective and the particular.


Idea remains a somewhat unclear concept. Hegel often used nearly interchangeably with "Spirit." In general, he uses the term in the context of a summarized, effective form of the very loose concept of Spirit—almost as a practical, active version of Spirit. See Rational Idea.

Rational Idea

Variation of ‘idea.” When discussing Reason, Hegel often expands “idea” to rational idea to imply that Reason is not only an abstract concept but also a driving force in human history.


State is the form abstract Spirit "takes in actuality." It is the "material form" of the rational goal of Spirit. As such, the State is a union between the Idea (the universal principle of rational freedom) and human interests or passion (the particular, subjective wills of individuals).


Hegel discusses nature primarily as an opposing term to the State and the history whose material is the State. Nature does not truly "develop" in the sense of progress toward perfection, though it does "bring forth new forms" of the same essential content.

State of Nature

Hegel disparages this concept (promoted in part by Schlegel) in which prehistoric man is supposed to have lived in a naive, peaceful state with full knowledge of God. For Hegel, there is no such thing as a "natural" State, since the State necessitates universal concepts and culture.


Dialectic denotes a kind of progress-through-negation, in which Spirit destroys realizations of itself to rise again in a new and more fully realized form.


Passion is Hegel's term for the subjective will as it occupies an individual completely. Someone's passion is their encompassing goal, the cause that defines them, and therefore a means to self-knowledge. The ideal for any State is to realize the union of these subjective passions with the universal principle on which the State is based.

World-Historical Individuals

This is Hegel's phrase for people who play a major role in world history—people such as Julius Caesar and Napoleon Bonaparte.

Popular pages: Introduction to the Philosophy of History