Sunday, 23 June 2013

The Hegelian School and its Proselytism


This post outlines the influence exercised by Hegel on and through his former students in his Berlin period. The information is drawn from Karl Rosenkranz's Hegels Leben (1844), the first major biography of Hegel.

BOOK THREE BERLIN
Chapter Thirteen
The School and its Proselytism

Insensibly, Hegel acquired power. It became the accepted thing to hear his words, which he spoke, not without pain, from the professorial chair bustling with papers. He acquired hearers, not only from Germany and Poland, but from Greece and Scandinavia. Some came to hear him with the idea that being able to "Hegelianise" would help them win a position via the ear of the Minister or one of his counsellors, but for the most part the enthusiasm was genuine.

Berlin lends itself to the creation of "schools" and such a one emerged in Hegel's case more than was desirable. It is inevitable that the creator of a system should draw hearers amongst those still forming their ideas. Beyond that, the reports Hegel had written for the Minister of Public Instruction, on:
- Philosophy Teaching in the Gymnasium
- The Logics of Esser and Calker
contributed to his air of authority. (see Hoffmeister's Berliner Schriften for these reports.) So did his opposition to Beneke's appointment and support for Boumann's appointment and of a faculty prize for Mussmann. [Calker and Beneke were pupil and follower of Fries respectively. Beneke was a theologian who thought psychology the basis of the sciences and who followed Schleiermacher. Ludwig Boumann later edited the Philosophy of Spirit (SW7) and jointly with Förster the Vermischte Schriften (SW16/17).]

Opponents and original thinkers were dismissed as "bad particularity". New ideas were found already in the system and assigned to it as "moments". Hegelianism was fitted to form a school, for it had:
- a developed system of categories
- a history of philosophy
- an encyclopaedic aspect.
Thus it allowed engagement with a variety of subject matter (through the first and third) and a response to objections from outside, but subsuming them as 'moments' of which the system was the culmination. People were thus called to develop philosophy itself.
"The theologian, the jurist, the naturalist, the linguist, the politician, the historian, the aesthetician; were all called to collaborate in the great work. The master had need of companions, and the companions had the prospect of becoming masters themselves in their specialty." (575)
Such companions included: Vatke, the theologian who knew Marheineke; DF Strauss; Saling, author of Justice in its Historical and Spiritual Development (1827); Pohl the mathematician; Kapp, author of Christ and World History (1823); Benary the philologist; Marheineke; Sietze; Göschel; Hinrichs; Poley; Veit; Gans; Hotho; Mussmann; Michelet; and Rötscher.

Hegel's benevolence, seriousness, exhortations and example all helped forward scholarship in a variety of fields, which were transformed significantly though incompletely. It also gave the school a kind of unity.

Some were studious, others more poetic, others narrow journeymen. There were the considered, the exalted and the empty vessels. When these latter tried to correct him, he became despotic. They began to discredit the "Hegelian school", for they had only passively absorbed what in Hegel had the force of achievement. Friedrich Gruppe wrote a satire on this in 1831 in The Winds, or an altogether absolute Construction of World History, composed using the Horn of Oberon by Absolutus von Hegelingen. Zeller consoled Hegel over this comedy, which they both saw. Gruppe became a philosophy professor after 1844.

Allowances made however, even these young hearts felt a new life in Hegel's doctrines. Rosenkranz writes:
"That the negative is an immanent determination of the Absolute itself; and for this sole reason suppressed by it; the knowledge of the necessity of pain for the mind, but also of the mind's power, capable of bearing with contradiction, of overcoming it, of emerging victorious from all struggles, even the hardest, to be reconciled with itself; the certitude that the enjoyment of pure and simple truth is already possible in this life and that the Divine fills also this present reality, on the sole condition of having the eyes and ears of the mind to see and hear it. - This certainly became the principle of the intellectual and moral renaissance of a number of men gravely affected by a vague nostalgia, by the climate of the "beautiful soul", by superstitious belief..." (577-78)
The Confessions of Kapp and the poems addressed to Hegel by students on his birthday and other occasions bear witness to this influence, which was as important as his purely scientific influence. Rosenkranz reproduces some the poems - reflective, admiring, verging on the idolatrous at times. These birthday celebrations reached their height in 1826 and a letter of Hegel to his family then in Nuremberg describes the event. He sat for a bust, there was a convivial gathering, gifts were offered, poems read and music played. Newspaper reports of this, combined with celebrations of Goethe on the following day (28 August) generated a reaction.