Sunday, 18 October 2015

Neo-hegelianism in Germany before 1945 (Part Two)

We continue our series of posts based on French scholar Sylvie Hürstel's Au Nom de Hegel (2010) on juridical neo-hegelianism in Germany before 1945. Here we locate the idea of a "Hegel-renaissance" as a potential successor to the Neo-Kantian movement.

In the Name of Hegel

This is a summary of the first part of Chapter 1 of Sylvie Hürstel's Au Nom de Hegel on the emergence of neo-hegelianism, with some comments by myself in square brackets.

Contexts of Emergence of Neo-hegelianism

To show how neo-hegelianism arose, we will now describe how neo-hegelian thinkers saw themselves in relation to the "Hegel-renaissance" and as a successor to the neo-Kantians. [In our next post, we address the philosophy of right in particular and the “ideas of 1933”.] Neo-hegelianism defined itself in terms of these contemporary debates and was seen from outside in terms of them. For example, the philosophical lawyer Julius Binder was amongst the first to speak of a “Hegelian renewal” in the context of juridical debates in Weimar. 

Neo-hegelianism and the "Hegel-renaissance"

The neo-hegelian movement tried to justify its own emergence, in hegelian manner, by reference to history and the philosophical development of concepts. This is self-referential, but at the same time a movement naturally locates itself by reference to other movements, e.g. the Hegel-renaissance by reference to neo-kantianism and, in juridical neo-hegelianism, to issues arising in relation to the legal profession in terms of institutions and ideologies.

Prominent Hegel scholars of the era were: Georg Lasson, Richard Kroner, Hermann Glockner and Theodor Haering. Hürstel writes of her work [derived from her thesis on Julius Binder and the Göttingen school of jurists]:
“The detailed study of “philosophical neo-hegelianism” as a whole and the question of its relations with “legal neo-hegelianism” would merit on its own account an exhaustive inquiry which, for material and methodological reasons, will not be the center of this study.” (30n)
[It is indeed a large subject.] She considers the Nazi regime unfavourable to philosophy in general and to Hegelianism in particular – for this was seen as a forerunner of Marxism. Yet Nazi ideology was malleable. In this regard, we will look at the cases of Alfred Rosenberg and Franz Böhm. [Rosenberg was a political ideologist, Böhm a philosopher with some similarities to existentialism.]

After the political excitement of the 1840s and the Vormarz period, Hegel was considered a “dead dog” according to Marx (Capital, Vol 1, 2nd edition, 1873). After that, the term “neo-hegelian” was coined in the 1870s (Wilhelm Tobias and Edouard von Hartmann used it) as a foil to neo-kantianism. This was before there was anything substantial for it to refer to.

Then, around the turn of the 20th century, there appeared:

  •  Kuno Fischer – Hegel’s Life, Works and Teaching (1898)
  •  Wilhelm Dilthey – The [Hi]story of Hegel’s Youth (1906)
  •  Hermann Nohl (Ed.) – Hegel’s Early Theological Writings (1907)
  •  Wilhelm Windelband – Akadamierede (1910)

  • In these works, textual scholarship went hand in hand with a revival of interest in Hegelian ideas. Windelband spoke of a “renewal of Hegelianism". In Italy, Croce published his famous book What is Living and What is Dead in the Philosophy of Hegel (1907). 

    This new era of Hegel scholarship was held to have learned from historicist and positivist views of history, as well as from neo-kantianism and Lebensphilosophie ("philosophy of life", an informal and unsystematic style of philosophizing associated with Wilhelm Dilthey). It succeeded a long period during which Hegel’s metaphysics was dismissed by these schools of thought. 

    There was at this era a particular tension between neo-kantianism and Lebensphilosophie. Heinrich Levy, in The Hegel-renaissance in German Philosophy (1927) sees Dilthey, Spranger, Husserl, Litt and Troelsch as springing from Lebensphilosophie; whilst there were Neo-kantian schools at Marburg, Freiburg and Heidelberg. 

    Heinrich Levy's "Die Hegel-Renaissance"
    A Dutch reviewer (Logos, 1930) thought Levy cast his net too widely for “Hegelians”. Even casual use of Hegelian terminology is enough for him. There was an “ambiant” interest in Hegel, but few who explicitly called themselves Hegelian. Some sought a “synthesis” of preceding philosophical trends, for which Hegel’s name might be invoked. 

    The contemporary Hegel scholar Georg Lasson was a pastor and head of the Hegel-Archiv in Berlin. [Lasson published editions of many works by Hegel, including versions of the Jena manuscripts.] His pamphlet Was heisst Hegelianismus? (1916) was published by the Kant Society. 
    Georg Lasson's "Was heisst Hegeliaismus?"
    Lasson's father had been a professor of philosophy at Berlin from 1897. Lasson notes in the pamphlet that there is a fear of Hegel’s name amongst professional philosophers. Two others, Richard Kroner in From Kant to Hegel (1921-24) and Hermann Glockner in the first volume of his Hegel (1929) express much the same attitude. Later, Lasson said in 1931 that “it was the great [ethical] reversals which took place in the reality of our lives that gave life again to Hegel.” (“Hegel and the Present”, Kantstudien, 1931) This was the result of the great war. [A similar process was observed in Great Britain by John Macmurray. WW1 was a decisive event in many ways.] Lasson wrote:
    “The deepest cause of resistance to Hegel lies at the end of the day in an almost visceral rejection of his principle; for the concept of absolute mind is located in a totally different sphere from that in which philosophical research today is accustomed to move: the sphere of subjective reflection and the theory of knowledge.” (35; Kantstudien, 1931) 
    Richard Kroner too thought Fichte and Hegel neglected – for only thought that assisted empirical disciplines was valued. Yet he was being studied again (Hegel zum 100 Todestage, 1932). Glockner thought Hegel was regarded with suspicion in Germany because of the social role of his philosophy prior to 1848 (Hegelkongress in Haag, 1931, 67-68). Glockner noted only two Hegelian authors in his talk given in 1930: Richard Kroner and Julius Binder – and mostly the former. 

    Hermann Glockner published several essays on the theme. In English they are:
    Crises and transformation in the History of Hegelianism (Logos, 1924-25)
    Report on the State and Situation of Hegelian Philosophy (Hegelkongress in Haag, 1931)  
    Hegel-renaissance and Neo-hegelianism: a secular treatment (Logos, 1931)
    After 100 years: the Problematic of Hegelian Philosophy (Kantstudien, 1931)
    The German philosophy journal "Logos".
    Glockner interpreted Hegel at this time in the light of Dilthey as an exponent of Lebensphilosophie, even as an irrationalist. Kroner makes a remark of a similar cast. We must, Glockner says of Hegel: “make him get down from the pedestal he himself mounted and look him in the eyes.” He summarizes his own position:
    “My viewpoint, my “hegelianism” (if I may so speak) distinguishes itself by the fact that I return to Hegel across the 19th century [...] One must lose nothing; all the principles – and thus even the principles of the 19th century – must be retained.” (38, Krisen, 1924-25, 357)
    [In my view, such strength of direct speech and the scope of the thinking indicated in these and many similar remarks identify Glockner as a significant and neglected philosophical interpreter of modernity over the last two centuries. His most original work though, is based on aesthetics and so not covered by Hürstel. - SC] In short, the terms “Hegel-renaissance” and “neo-hegelianism” are not systematically defined by the actors themselves, but are porous receptacles for an indefinite project of “synthesis” or renewal of old ways of thought in different and changed circumstances.

    Neo-Hegelianism and Neo-Kantianism

    We have seen that the term “Neo-Hegelianism” derived from neo-Kantianism at the latter half of the 19th century. Let us look more closely into this. Kuno Fischer was one of the fathers of neo-Kantianism who also wrote on Hegel (1898). Georg Lasson discusses Kant and Hegel in his article Was heisst Hegelianismus? (1916) already cited. Richard Kroner writing soon after said:
    “Thus Hegel only completed the Kantian approach by showing that all experiences are only experiences that the spirit makes of itself and through which it comes to self-consciousness and the concept of its reality.” (39)
    Hermann Glockner regarded Kroner’s book (From Kant to Hegel) as the major classic of neo-Hegelianism, for Kroner presents the path from Kant to Hegel as necessary. In 1931 Glockner wrote:
    "70 years ago, a “return to Kant” was the order of the day and a whole series of able thinkers then formed the movement today turned into “neo-Kantianism”. It is this “neo-Kantianism” one thinks of today when one sketches the outlines of neo-Hegelianism, or even when we believe we see it ready to go to work [...] We must be clearly aware of the limits of this analogy and in particular make of the term “neo-Kantianism” a precise concept. [...] Whoever today seeks to speak with authority of neo-Hegelianism [...] must first clarify what he understands by neo-Kantianism.” (39)
    [Hürstel relies heavily on Glockner for her presentation of neo-Kantianism. In fact, she does not even name the main practitioners of it directly.] Glockner wrote expansively: 
    “The Kant of the neo-Kantians must be placed under certain postulates and revised in virtue of his own principles; the Hegel of the neo-Hegelians must be understood and surpassed by reason of his own conceptions.” (40)
    [This, I take it, means that we must apply the methods of the two philosophers rather than, or as well as, accepting their doctrines.] Elsewhere, Glockner attempts to move beyond the reference to Kant in justifying his Hegelian position. We must, he thinks, focus on the opposition to neo-Kantianism to justify a Hegelian standpoint. He writes:
    “Every follower of Dilthey knows well that neo-Kantianism leads to nothing and also knows why, but he knows basically very few things about Kant himself – whence the lack of clarity on his [Kant’s] principles, principles that one must master if one wishes to be able to understand how Hegel “surmounted” them, that is to say, surpassed and preserved them at the same time! Without Kant, no Hegel. This can appear paradoxical, but today in Germany the Hegelian question is above all a Kantian question.” (40, from Report, 1931)
    Glockner then, is seeking some Kantian rigor faced with the generalities of a Lebensphilosophie. He is seeking a “third way” independent of Dilthey’s Lebensphilosophie and Kroner’s development of neo-Kantianism. There is an opportunity for Hegelianism to redefine itself. He wrote:
    “I do not consider neo-Kantianism as a crisis of Hegelianism, for the simple reason that Hegel is not possible without Kant. [...] Kant is not opposed to Hegel, but simply before him. The neo-Kantian philosophy is useful however to uncover the logical faults of historical Hegelianism. It will lead, passing by the old and the young Hegel, to a renaissance of Hegel in his entirety, or even, if you wish, to a renaissance of German idealism.” (41, from Crises, 1924-25) 
    Glockner wishes to use a historical, even chronological approach to resolve intellectual differences, says Hürstel, [ – without justification other than the above quote] and this gives a “Hegelianizing" turn to his presentation of German idealism and to the hostility to Hegel at the end of the 19th century. Thus he equates the revival of Hegel with that of German idealism at the end of the passage. [This, it seems to me, puts too much weight on this passage and is unconvincing as a reading of it, for it neglects Glockner’s references to possibility and to logical faults, which are metaphysical-logical rather than historical in nature. This is an instance of her underestimation of Glockner. - SC] Hürstel calls it a “programmatic call” in 1924 realized in Glockner’s and Haering’s two volume books on Hegel (1929-40 and 1929-38 respectively). These books “stress Hegel’s subjective evolution” (41), seeing continuity in his outlook. There is a danger, she thinks, in a presentation that sees only continuity and necessity in the path from Kant to Hegel and identifies what happened as a philosophical achievement. 

    In any case, there emerged something of a game of mirrors between neo-Kantianism and the would-be revivers of Hegel by means of the path “from Kant to Hegel” interpreted as a necessary evolution. One must take the adversary’s part in order to supplant him. However, the situation remained problematic for the Hegelians. 

    In our next post, we turn to the philosophy of right and the "ideas of 1933".