On account of this general connection between political freedom and the freedom of Thought, Philosophy only appears in History where and in as far as free institutions are formed. Since Mind requires to separate itself from its natural will and engrossment in matter if it wishes to enter upon Philosophy, it cannot do so in the form with which the world-spirit commences and which takes precedence of that separation.

G.W.F. Hegel, Lectures on the History of Philosophy, Introduction, B.3, 'Commencement of Philosophy and its History', I, tr. E.S. Haldane, 1892, London: Kegan Paul el al.: 95-96.

  • 3
    Source and some thoughts of your own would be standard.
    – user14511
    Dec 8, 2022 at 10:03
  • 3
    Philosophy is possible only in a free world. Dec 8, 2022 at 11:07
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    @MauroALLEGRANZA: A good philosopher makes it free.
    – Marxos
    Dec 8, 2022 at 20:40
  • that world spirit and history do not begin with philosophy.
    – user63756
    Dec 9, 2022 at 18:48
  • Due to me limited education, I can see only 2 solid reasons why anyone would be puzzled by Hegel's comments. The fact that philosophers have been, erroneously I feel, compared to lux (light) is telling in many, many, interesting ways. May 12 at 10:17

1 Answer 1


Philosophy is a way of thinking, debating, and reasoning that does not simply happen spontaneously in all human societies or at any point in historical development. It is not simply making plans, taking orders, worshiping gods, making artifacts, fighting enemies, or reciting myths and oral epics.

It requires a certain lawful freedom to debate social conventions. It requires at a minimum education and writing, abstract concepts, and some intercourse with others who hold different opinions about which they may speak openly. This in turn requires certain legitimate institutions affording the safety, time, freedom, and mental capacities to philosophize. It even requires particular urban spaces: the agora of Socrates or the stoa of the Stoics or the Lyceum of Aristotle or various monasteries or coffee shops or lecture halls.

Though philosophy surely has many sources, it is likely that formal law courts were an early model. A court of law where matters are argued, rather than settled by decree or force is an institution that requires historical development of a concept of "freedom" and "right" that were of concern to Hegel.

For Hegel, this marks a literal separation of consciousness from matter or animality or "engrossment" within casual laws and mechanical reactions, an emergence that is only made visible with recourse to writing and a written history. Hegel would thus argue that philosophy in the Western tradition simply could not occur in societies without such institutions.

Having said all that, your question sounds suspiciously like a homework assignment or exam. If you do not think about it and come up with an answer yourself, you are not philosophizing or availing yourself of all those institutions noted above. Admittedly, Hegel is difficult, but there are many good secondary texts that can assist in freeing oneself from "engrossment" in matter and convention.

  • I'd describe Socrates as exactly contrasting philosophy to formalised motived debates that rely on rhetorical tactics, like the prosecution & defence trying to win over the jury. Socratic Dialogue requires a mutual enquiry into truth, superceding other motivations. Which is more like science.
    – CriglCragl
    Sep 9 at 15:02

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