Volume 73, Issue 2, December 2019
Human Beings as Ends-in-Themselves in Hegel’s Philosophy of History
In this paper the author asks why Hegel considers history’s “slaughter bench” to be one its redeemable features and how this is compatible with his conception of human value, specifically his simultaneous insistence that human beings are not to be regarded as ever mere means for historical development, but as ends-in-themselves. The author answers these questions by comparing his conception of human value to that in Kant’s formula of humanity, to which Hegel clearly alludes, and situating Hegel’s conception inside his philosophy of history. The argument is that Hegel thinks human beings are never mere means because they aim at freedom simply in virtue of holding convictions, however misguided these may be, in this way sharing in the aim of history’s own development. The article concludes by bringing Hegel’s account of human sacrifice to bear on W. G. Sebald’s On the Natural History of Destruction.