Sunday, 16 December 2012

Hegel in Berlin (Part One)

This post is the first of several, dealing with Hegel's time in Berlin from 1818 to 1831. The material is drawn from Karl Rosenkranz's Life of Hegel (1844), the first biography of Hegel. During this time Hegel taught at Berlin University and was involved in the development of Prussian politics, culture and society. Many of his posthumously published lectures date from this period, during which his original works included the Philosophy of Right (1821), the second and third editions of his Encyclopaedia of Philosophical Sciences (1827, 1830) and some notable contributions to journals.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Hegel in Heidelberg

This is an account of Hegel's time in Heidelberg from 1816 to 1818, drawn from Karl Rosenkranz's Life of Hegel (1844), the first biography of Hegel. It includes discussions of Hegel's essays on Jacobi and on the Wurtemberg Estates. I exclude from this the chapter on the first edition of the Encyclopadia (1817), which I have translated in a previous post.

Monday, 15 October 2012

First edition of the Encyclopedia

There follows a complete translation of the very brief chapter on the first edition of Hegel's Encyclopaedia of Philosophical Sciences (1817) in Karl Rosenkranz' Life of Hegel (1844) taken from his coverage of Hegel's time in Heidelberg. The standard English translations of the Encyclopaedia are of the later editions rather than of this edition of which Rosenkranz speaks so highly. William Wallace translated the later editions of the Encyclopaedia Logic (1873) and Philosophy of Mind (1894), with the Encyclopaedia translation only completed in the 1970s with AV Miller's Philosophy of Nature. In this light, Rosenkranz' preference for the first edition is worth pondering.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Brief notes on the Science of Logic

These are my notes from the brief chapter on Hegel's Science of Logic in Karl Rosenkranz' Life of Hegel (1844). This gave rise to an interesting exchange of views on the Hegel-list on the nature of the Logic, which we concluded was a logic of experience-as-a-whole rather than a pure development of abstract concepts (as my version of Rosenkranz suggested) or a deceptive removal of layers of abstraction to return to a common sense view of the world (as alleged by Friedrich Trendelenberg and Andrew Seth later in the 19th century).

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Hegel and John Macmurray on Personhood and Society

There follows my review from the John Macmurray Newsletter 30, Autumn 2012, of Esther McIntosh's book John Macmurray's Religious Philosophy (Farnham: Ashgate, 2011). In my view Macmurray's thought contains some views deriving ultimately from Hegel, in particular the Form of the Personal, whilst other ideas are adopted from French phenomenology and the British idealist tradition. The review follows the structure of the book and addresses in turn: the nature of persons; child development; society and politics; and religion.

The John Macmurray Fellowship can be found here.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Hegel in Nuremberg

This post covers my reading of Hegel's period at Nürnberg, including his rectorship at the Aegidiengymnasium and marriage, drawn again from Book II of Karl Rosenkranz's Hegels Leben (1844). I will reserve comments on the Science of Logic for a separate post.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

John Macmurray’s Early Milieu

This post reproduces Stephen Cowley's article in the John Macmurray Fellowship Newsletter 24 (2009). The article relates some central ideas of the personalist philosopher John Macmurray (1891-1976) to those of his British Idealist teachers in Glasgow (see photo above, from Kelvingrove Park) and Oxford. The Idealist movement flourished in Victorian and early 20th century Britain, seeking to develop ideas drawn from Kant and Hegel by way of a critique of contemporary empiricist and scientific thought on society and the nature of the mind.

The John Macmurray Fellowship website can be found here.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Hegel in Bamberg

There follows an account of Hegel's time in Bamberg as editor of the Bamberger Zeitung, drawn from Karl Rosenkranz's Life of Hegel (1844), followed by Rosenkranz's analysis of Hegel's essay on The German Constitution in the subsequent chapter, which later commentators state that he misdates to this period and which certainly has a less mature style than he attained in the Phenomenology and Critical Journal articles.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Hegel in Jena (Part Two)

This post covers the remainder of Hegel's time in Jena, drawn from chapters 7-14 of Hegels Leben (1844) by Karl Rosenkranz, down to publication of the Phenomenology of Spirit (1807) and the fleeting encounter with Napoleon.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Hegel In Jena (Part One)

This post summarises chapters 1-7 of the middle book of Hegels Leben (1844) by Karl Rosenkranz that cover Hegel's time in Jena, including publication of the Critical Journal of Philosophy. This middle book as a whole starts with Hegel's arrival in Jena in 1801 and takes us up to his departure from Heidelberg for Berlin in 1818.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Hegel's early views of Religion

Here is a further summary of my reading of Karl Rosenkranz's Life of Hegel (1844), the first biography of Hegel from whom later biographers draw extensively. This post covers the end of Part One and briefly describes Hegel's system of ethical life and philosophy of religion prior to publication of the Phenomenology of Spirit in 1807.

The early Logic, Metaphysics and Philosophy of Nature

Here is a further summary of my reading of Karl Rosenkranz's Life of Hegel (1844), the first biography of Hegel from whom later biographers draw extensively. This post covers the start of chapter 19 of Part One, by far the longest chapter in the book describing Hegel's philosophical system and philosophy of nature prior to publication of the Phenomenology of Spirit in 1807.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

The Owl of Minerva and Cencrastus

In a blast from the past, I added a brief review of Michael Rosen's Hegel's Dialectic and its Criticism (1985) to Amazon. You may wish to improve on my memories, as at present what follows is the only review:

Monday, 18 June 2012

2012 Baccalauréat questions

The French baccalauréat exam subjects for 2012 are now known.  No mention of Hegel, but two of his favourite authors, Rousseau and Spinoza, are amongst the subjects commented on:

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Hegels Schwester by Alexandra Birkert

I recently found an intriguing book by Alexandra Birkert called Hegels Schwester (Stuttgart: Thorbecke, 2008) concerning Christiane Luise Hegel (1773 to 1832), sister of our own Hegel. The back cover says:

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Three Canadian Hegelians

Robert C. Sibley's Northern Spirits: John Watson, George Grant, and Charles Taylor: appropriations of Hegelian political thought  (McGill-Queen’s:  UP,  2008) clearly deserves a mention here given the general theme of this blog. At present this is based on publicly available information.  

New translation of the Phenomenology of Spirit

Here is a link to a recent radio interview with Jean Pierre Lefebvre, whose revised French translation of the Phenomenology of Spirit (Flammarion, 2012) - the second of four into that language - has just been published:

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Johannes Hoffmeister (1907-55), a Hegel Scholar in Paris

This post reviews a book (not the above) on Friedrich Hölderlin edited by German Hegel scholar Johannes Hoffmeister and published in Paris in 1943 when Hoffmeister was teaching German literature there, with contributions from a range of German and French scholars, including Maurice Boucher and Martin Heidegger.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Autobiographical sketch by Hegel from 1804

The following autobiographical sketch is from Johannes Hoffmeister’s edition of Hegel’s correspondence. I have never seen this in English, despite its interest. Hoffmeister thinks the original was probably attached to a letter to Goethe in September 1804:

Friday, 9 March 2012

Our review of a biography of Alexandre Kojève

This is a review of Marco Filoni's The Sunday Philosopher, the most recent biography of French Hegel scholar Alexandre Kojève (1902-68), which supplements the work of Dominique Auffret on the same subject. The review was originally posted on the email list in 2011:

Our review of a biography of Jacques D'Hondt

This post is a review of Fiorinda Li Vigni's recent biography of the French Hegel scholar Jacques D'Hondt, originally posted on the discussion list, where it gathered a little reaction.

Fiorinda Li Vigni.  Jacques D’Hondt and the Journey of Hegelian Reason. Paris: Harmattan, 2005.


I recently came across an interesting book on the prolific French Hegelian Jacques D’Hondt by Italian scholar Fiorinda Li Vigni. The title is Jacques D’Hondt and the Journey of Hegelian Reason (Paris: L’Harmattan, 2005) originally published in Italian in 2001, though it also contains an interview with D’Hondt by Li Vigni from 2002 and a complete bibliography of D’Hondt’s writings from the 1960s to 2005. D’Hondt was born in 1920 and I think is still alive. [Note: died 2012.] His work has been translated into several languages, but in English only Hegel in his Time: Berlin 1818-1831 (1968) appeared, translated by John Burbidge in 1988 and a short article ‘On Rupture and Destruction in History’ in the Magazine Clio (Indiana, 1986). There are several things worth saying of about equal importance, so in no particular order:

Firstly, a lot of Italian work on the history of philosophy has appeared recently, including Andrea Bellantone’s  Hegel in France (2011) and Filoni’s book on Kojève that I discussed on this list . The Italians seem to train philosophical scholars well in history and languages and support them financially and these books are part of the fruit of it. Their work is more interesting than that of native French scholars to my mind, as the French currently seem to look to analytic philosophy as a model - partly as English is so widely taught and posts in American universities are so well funded I suspect - at the expense of their own traditions. So Italy is a good place to look for a modern example of how to support philosophical work.

Turning to D’Hondt, Li Vigni reports that he was born in 1920 and taught in Poitiers (above) in western France, where the main French centre for Hegel studies was based for many years. His interest in Hegel arose from Marxism, but he has long since gone beyond any doctrinaire approach. In the wake of the French ‘Hegel-Renaissance’ of the 1930s (Wahl, Hyppolite, Kojève, Sartre, etc) which drew from existentialist readings, he sought to ‘rehabilitate’ Hegel more fully for a French left wing audience in three ways – his politics, relations to French literature and his religious views. Firstly, he rewrote Hegel’s biography, stressing Hegel’s positive response to the French revolution and liberal views in the Berlin period. This biographical work he characterised as a ‘police investigation’ and included s a study of Hegel’s masonic acquaintances, a version of which I think made its way into English in the work of Glenn Magee.

Hegel's Politics

On the political question, Li Vigni draws attention to the subsequent publication of student notes of Hegel’s lectures on the philosophy of right by Karl Heinz Ilting (1973) which confirm to some extent D’Hondt’s views that Hegel was more liberal in his spoken views than in the published Philosophy of Right (1821) which had to pass the Prussian censors. D’Hondt seems to draw on Prussian police records, though these seem to relate more to Hegel’s students than to Hegel himself. Some of these lectures have appeared in English and French since 1973 and they clearly might add something to our understanding of Hegel’s politics. In terms of the accuracy of our ideas of the practical situation in which Hegel taught, this is clearly significant work.

Hegel and the French

D’Hondt also discusses Hegel and the French at some length. Much of this is of purely French interest, but it represents a lot of work that has not made it into English probably for that reason. The highlights are that Hegel’s central view of the parts of culture as interrelated owes something to Montesquieu; the description of ‘the way of the world’ in the Phenomenology can be related to Voltaire’s story ‘Le Monde comme il va’. Hegel was influenced in his descriptions of French courtiers by Marivaux and perhaps Fénélon’s Télémache, as well as by Diderot. D’Hondt follows Kojève in making the French revolution a central reference point, but thinks he can identify the histories of the revolution that Hegel relied on to interpret events in the papers.


The last main area of D’Hondt’s interest in Hegel himself is religion. Here he gives some weight to the idea that Hegel concealed his ‘true’ unorthodox views, but he is far from reductive and talks of a ‘double language’ which can be taken either as worldly metaphor or as having a sort of intended metaphysical content.

Evaluation of D'Hondt

Li Vigni then discusses D’Hondt’s work on its own account, as he has also participated in French debates over a period of over 40 years from a broadly Hegelian perspective. She addresses three main aspects of this. Firstly, he has tried to relate Hegel’s concept of dialectic to Bergson’s idea of the temporal standpoint of the agent rather than observer. Personally, I think Bergson’s exposition is ultimately a-conceptual and mystical and thus doesn’t have the potential to add to the sum of human knowledge, such as we find in the dialectical grasp of concrete situations in Hegel. Secondly, she covers D’Hondt’s critique of ‘structuralist’ and ‘post-structuralist’ thinkers particularly Foucault where he argues to some effect that the idea of ‘rupture’ (where one historical epoch or set of ideas succeeds another by force of arms, so to speak, rather than developing as an intelligible response to changing human needs) is inferior to a Hegelian dialectical approach that sees human wishes as giving rise to successive ideologies, which then become ‘set in bronze’ by the ‘understanding’ (Verstand) and hence need to be recast by ‘reason’ (Vernuft). I think this is well said and probably deserves to better known as Foucault is better known in Anglophone academia than D’Hondt. Indeed, this was the subject of the D’Hondt article that appeared in English in Clio in 1986. Thirdly, Li Vigni covers D’Hondt’s approach to French Marxism, where he took issue with Althusser’s metaphors of base and superstructure in understanding ideologies. So much for that.

D'Hondt in his own Words

D’Hondt and Li Vigni state that D’Hondt’s Hegel – Biographie (1998) represents his mature thought and often succeeds his earlier positions. At the end of the interview she asks about the principal changes or breaks in his theoretical views that he has seen or made over his life, particularly recently, on which he has abstained from commenting. He replies:

“A prudent abstention is certainly the right  phrase. Taking account of my personal education, the conditions it was carried out in, the situations it led me into and the consequences of this destiny, I almost always had the impression of not being the best placed to propose and expound any conclusions whatever on social and political phenomena and also on the development of philosophical ideas. For a long time I was a provincial, reduced to a modest and precarious university post and I was very impressed by the sometimes serious, but always brilliant, character of the ideological representatives of my time. And so I always had the feeling that I needn’t bother with it, that it wasn’t my field and that I had simply – and this is what I did – to form my opinions for myself, and then, also, carry out my job as a teacher: to comment on the opinions of others, make them more accessible to a wider public and notably to a public of students who need to be taught.

Consequently, I consciously and voluntarily practised this abstention through modesty, through lack of character perhaps, through human respect, through consciousness of the fact that others were more able than me to carry out this task and that they were in any case better placed to carry it out effectively. There also I was deceived, because the great intellectuals in whom I placed my trust and whom I thought would succeed in resolving the problems that concerned me, they didn’t resolve them either. I very much hesitated to say it, and I only very partially said it, very moderately and almost confidentially. There was in the contemporary philosophers that I knew a sparkling, brilliant attitude – a Sartre, an Althusser - these were astonishing intelligences, wells of learning. They had read everything; they had notoriety, authority; people listened to them. I expected from them that they would answer my questions, not that I would have an answer to the questions of others. If they had replied well to my questions, I would have commented on their replies, so that everyone would agree to them. That didn’t happen. They developed, by and by, doctrines that I found lacking in relation to what I had expected, and at the same time, I had nothing else to propose. So I contented myself by commenting on the great authors, notably the two great authors to whom I devoted myself – Hegel and Marx – and this didn’t fall badly for me. They were truly inexhaustible authors and you can enrich yourself and others in studying them.

In these conditions, theoretical changes are relatively modest. The word “rupture” (break) is not so suitable. There were ruptures at the outset: I broke very young in some way intellectually with my social and cultural surroundings, and then latterly I could break with the narrow character of my first studies. But these are less breaks than extensions. Being who I was, I expanded my activities, I expanded at the end my editorial activity, but these are not really breaks, except then, of course, the final break due to the collapse of “real socialism” [i.e. the Soviet collapse, 1989] and what I had expected from it. There was thus a sort of fortunate enlargement of my way of thinking, of my scholarship, of my activities over a long period, and then at the end a brusque shrinking of all that. There is the state of perplexity. This word is the one I use most of the time to characterise the state I’m in. Not a total perplexity, I still make judgements, here and there, on little things. But I have become even more prudent in what concerns the large problematics.”


So all in all, D’Hondt comes across as a modest man whose Hegel scholarship probably deserves to be better known, certainly by anyone concerned with Hegel’s politics or his reception in France. Much of his work though – e.g. on Bergson and Foucault - is of local or passing interest. I would take seriously his and Li Vigni’s view that his ‘Hegel Biographie’ (1998, above) is the best source of his mature views on Hegel, which are thoroughly grounded in a lifetime’s scholarship and independent of those of Terry Pinkard and Horst Althaus. I also draw the conclusion that we should read Hegel himself, as much secondary literature is written from dogmatic or refuted viewpoints.

Our review of Domenico Losurdo on Hegel

This post is a review of Domenico Losurdo's important book Hegel and the German Catastrophe (Paris: Michel, 1994), posted on the email discussion group in 2011.