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:

I, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, born in Stuttgart the 27 August 1770. My parents, Georg Ludwig Hegel, civil servant in the finance administration, and Christiane Louise, nee Fromm, oversaw my intellectual development through private lessons as well as by courses at Stuttgart Gymnasium, where ancient and modern languages were taught, as well as the first elements of the sciences. At the age of 18, I was admitted to the Theological Seminary of Tuebingen. After two years devoted to the study of philology under the supervision of Schnurrer and to philosophy and mathematics under Flatt and Beckh, I became Bachelor in Theology and studied theological sciences thereafter for three years under the supervision of Le Bret, Uhland, Storr and Flatt, until I sat the theological exam at Stuttgart and was admitted among the candidates for the Ministry; I had chosen a pastoral career agreeably to my parents wish and had remained faithful to the study of theology by personal inclination, because of its relation with classical literature and philosophy. After my admission, I chose among many activities related to my state that which, independently of the pastoral function properly so called and the office of preacher, gave me the leisure to devote myself to ancient literature and philosophy and provided me the opportunity to live in other countries and foreign surroundings. I found this opportunity thanks to two posts as tutor that I accepted at Berne and Frankfurt and which left me enough time follow the progress of the science which I had made the goal of my existence. After passing six years in these two positions and after the death of my father, I decided to devote myself entirely to philosophical science, and the renown of Jena left me no choice as concerned the place where I would have at the same time the opportunity to develop for myself what I had learned and to try myself out in a teaching career. I wrote here a study on the Difference between the Philosophical System of Fichte and that of Schelling and of the insufficiency of the former and I soon after received the authorisation of the curators, thanks to the public defence of my dissertation De Orbis Planetarum. I published, in collaboration with Professor Schelling, the Critical Journal of Philosophy, in two volumes, in which appeared by me:

The Introduction
How Common Sense takes Philosophy
On Ancient and Modern Scepticism
The Philosophy of Kant, Jacobi and Fichte
On the Way natural Law has been treated until now

A private teacher of philosophy for three years, I gave various courses on philosophy and, I believe, last winter, before a numerous audience. The Ducal Mineralogical Society accepted me last year as second assessor and the Natural Science Society recently admitted me as a member.

Given that, among my various studies, the science of philosophy has become a vocation for me, I can only wish to be named professor of philosophy by the honourable curators.

[From Correspondance III, Hamburg, 1954; Paris: Gallimard, 1967, 344-45. The unfavourable reference to Fichte may be because of his having been dismissed from Jena in 1799 and the favourable reference to Jena because of Goethe’s responsibility for it. It is interesting that he claims sole authorship of the Introduction to the Critical Journal.]

All the best
Stephen Cowley