It’s Hegel channelling Luther again. Let’s go with the SparkNotes summary, which both seems about right and will save me hours of unremunerated toil:
Major historical events occur when there is a clash (on the part of an individual or a group) between these accepted abstract ideals and possible alternative ones. The emergence of such new concepts is “a moving force of the productive Idea,” the immediate instrument of Spirit in history. The individuals who introduce these world-impacting concepts are “world-historical individuals” like Caesar or Napoleon. The personal will and passions of such individuals coincide to some degree with the will of the World Spirit, and they aim, whether they know it or not, at “what the time intrinsically demands.” These “heroes” gain their personal passions in part “from a source whose content is hidden” rather than from tradition or the status quo.
These heroes are able to lead only because they articulate a passion that others recognize as their own (since it is an articulation of the next step in the universal Idea). Though the hero may not be conscious of it, he is bringing the “unconscious Spirit” to consciousness, and therefore to actualization. Hegel disputes any assumption that these individuals gain happiness from their actions, but he also discards the “psychological” view that would focus on their quirks and immoral passions; focusing on these only expresses “envy” of the heroes, and fails to recognize that they were being used for a higher purpose.
Does Ginsberg see herself as a little Napoleon, or is that just me?
This is what is meant by “being on the wrong side of History”: Clinging to “accepted abstract ideals” when Great Men – oops, Great Persons – come along with passions and will, who Just Know they are “a moving force of the productive Idea”. We wrong side of history types keep coming up with *reasons* that the current little Napoleons might NOT be the Chosen Tool of the unconscious Spirit, but might rather be, well, Napoleons. No, no, no – reason doesn’t figure into it.
Note the lack of any reason or logic words in the above quotation, and, indeed, in Hegel’s writing in general. This is not a bug, but a feature. Facts? Syllogisms? Structured argument of any kind? Our insistence on such things, which we quaintly call ‘being reasonable’ and ‘making sense’ are, in themselves conclusive proof that we are little men, local and ahistorical.
Thus, as any number of people have pointed out, enlightened Supreme Court opinions do not have to make sense. Penumbras? Or Ginsburg’s rage that feminism has been set back? That these are not rational opinions based in law is, again, a feature, not a bug. If you are a World Historical Individual, you are by definition moving beyond what can be understood within the accepted abstract Idea, which, after all, was the result of the last round of the dialectic – we’re moving ahead into the next synthesis, which contains and suspends the contradictions of the current thesis and antithesis.
The one thing I will give old Hegel – he was clear that we humans, by the nature of reality, could not predict the synthethis. In other words, because the Spirit is in the process of unfolding the new Idea, that idea cannot yet be clear to us (thus, the unconscious nature of the actions of World Historical Individuals). Cheerleading the upcoming synthesis as the concrete reality of our *current* dreams would have seemed to Hegel to be the height of foolishness and hubris. There’s no predicting the future. It took Marx’s impatience with this drawback to lead him to assert that, no, we CAN see the future, we World Historical Individuals can see how the dialectic will resolve itself. Again, that there is no evidence that anything we do is tending in any way toward a resolution into a Worker’s Paradise isn’t a drawback – it doesn’t have to make sense, or, more accurately, it has to not make sense within the accepted abstract ideas.
Note also the preemptive absolution of any personal failings. If you’re on the right side of History, you can go ahead and be morally repulsive – you got bigger fish to fry.
My only complaint is just how tiny the individuals in our current mob of World Historic Individuals are (which is why it takes so many of them, it seems). Ginsberg? Sandra Fluke? Obama? That’s the best the Spirit can do? I feel a little like Uncle Screwtape, complaining about insipid modern sinners, not like the old days when people dared sin big – we proponents of accepted abstract ideals are to suffer a death of a thousand cuts at the tiny, frail hands of a mob of intellectual and moral midgets.
Thus, we have an alternately screeching and mewling mob of self-identified World Historical Individuals, who see no point in making a logical argument or even addressing the concerns of those On The Wrong Side of History – what would be the point? Logic advances nothing; it is Will and Passion all the way down.
When the Will triumphs, people die.