Hegel famously speaks of the idea in the third section of his Doctrine of the Notion, this playing a central role in his system. It seems natural to suppose a close relation to what is traditionally referred to as Plato's doctrine of ideas (or theory of forms). I am wondering where in print anyone (preferably Hegel himself) would have expanded on the relation between Hegel's Idea and Plato's Ideas.

I see that in Hegel's "Lectures on the History of Philosophy" in the section on Plato there is this paragraph, which might be read as being about this relation:

In this account of Philosophy, we at once see what the so much talked of Ideas of Plato are. The Idea is nothing else than that which is known to us more familiarly by the name of the Universal, regarded, however, not as the formal Universal, which is only a property of things, but as implicitly and explicitly existent, as reality, as that which alone is true. We translate eidoς first of all as species or kind; and the Idea is no doubt the species, but rather as it is apprehended by and exists for Thought. Of course when we understand by species nothing but the gathering together by our reflection, and for convenience sake, of the like characteristics of several individuals as indicating their distinguishing features, we have the universal in quite an external form.

While not very explicit, I suppose we may take the singular Idea in the second sentence as being Hegel's concept. Maybe Hegel found it too obvious to need highlighting that where he speaks of "Idea" he speaks in Plato's tradition? But then, Hegel notoriously has his ideosyncrasies, so I am left wondering.

Could anyone provide me with pointers to passages that would further clarify the (intended or perceived) relation between Hegel's Idea and Plato's Ideas either in the primary or in the secondary literature?

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    Please,in turn, be reminded that I am asking not about Descartes' or anyone's, but about Hegel's concept of idea. Hegel's "the idea" is explicitly defined to be the "unity of Notion and reality" (see §1636 here: marxists.org/reference/archive/hegel/works/hl/hlidea.htm ) Indeed, the standpoint that ideas are real is what gives the German Idealism -- that Hegel is a major representative of -- its very name. So it's certainly not the case that Hegel would regard the idea as less real than Plato, and it is Hegel who I am asking about. Feb 17, 2015 at 12:46
  • (My previous comment now seems out of context, it was in reply to a comment which meanwhile seems to have been deleted.) Feb 17, 2015 at 13:31
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    Some suggestions : Alfredo Ferrarin, Hegel and Aristotle (2001), page 106, for H's comments on Plato's Idea. See : Alexandre Kojève, Introduction to the Reading of Hegel (French ed.1947), for a "platonic reading" of H. Feb 18, 2015 at 16:22
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    See also Frederick Beiser, Hegel (2005), passim and page 66 : "For Hegel identifies the idea not with Plato’s archetype but with Aristotle’s formal–final cause. Hegel saw Aristotle, not Plato, as the proper founder of absolute idealism". Feb 18, 2015 at 16:24
  • Thanks! I'll be looking into these. You should turn this from a comment into a reply! Feb 18, 2015 at 17:44

2 Answers 2


Platos theory of Forms is expanded, criticised and defended most fully in his late dialogue Parmenides. One of the themes of this dialogue is to understand the relationship of the Forms and the World.

(At least to me, the theory of Forms is a Pythagorean theme that was picked up by Plato).

At one point Socrates considers the Forms as being immanent in Nature, this is picked up and expanded by Aristotle in his Physics and Metaphysics as hylomorphism, which is a considered as an indivisible union of form and substance. This appears to connect with Hegels notion (begriff).

Its a curious feature of the Parmenidian Dialogue that he mentions the master/slave relationship as an Idea; this ties this dialogue in some way with Hegel, as he infamously/famously describes this as a dialectic.

Another theme of the dialogue, is a sustained meditation on the One vs the Many; that this is a contrary pair, is yet another Pythagorean theme. At one point a question is raised are the Ideas/Forms themselves, One or Many; as the Forms participate in each other.

As One, it's compared from the All or Whole (that which has parts); two themes treated again by Aristotle; and also from the Infinite (that which is not finite, the finite being understood as that being traversable) again treated by Aristotle.

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    That's a good point as far as circumstantial evidence is concerned, since Hegel explicitly highlights the Parmenides dialogue as a key influence on his system. Feb 17, 2015 at 16:59

I have been working on Hegel for about 2 years and just now made this connection. It appears to me that Hegel is best understood as combining both Aristotle and Plato in a neo/Kantian/heretical Christian model.

Hegel agrees with Plato that the material world is dependent on the world of "intellectual structures" (gestalt, begriffe and idee) thus placing that "eidos" in both the human intellect (bewusstein) and in matter.

In this way Hegel combines both Plato and Aristotle. He accepts the Platonic view that the world of intellectual forms is reflected in material reality. He places these forms in the material world (ala Aristotle's hylomorphisms). He then gives life to those forms and provides a detailed description of the dynamic and changing structure of those forms.

It appears to me that commentators have focused on his dialectic rather then his structures. Hegel is, as I now understand him, best viewed as the "Newton of the intellectual form."

  • I made an edit to ease readability. You are welcome to roll it back or to continue editing. You can see the versions by clicking on the "edited" link above my photo. One thing I would recommend is to add references and perhaps even quotes from Hegel to give evidence for your position. Also if you are reading any source that takes a similar view that you do include that source as a reference. These references strengthen your answer and give the reader a place to go for more information. Welcome! Jul 25, 2018 at 4:14

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