Monday, 28 March 2016

Rudolf Haym on Hegel

Rudolf Haym (1821-1901)

This post summarizes the illuminating introduction by Pierre Osmo to his French translation of politician and Hegel scholar Rudolf Haym's famous biography and commentary Hegel and his Time (1857).

Introduction (Stephen Cowley)

Rudolf Haym’s Hegel and his Time (1857) is a major 19th century commentary on Hegel. It is subtitled “Lessons in the Origin, Development, Nature and Value of the Hegelian Philosophy” and contains 18 “lessons” (i.e. chapters). Haym (1821-1901) rejects the progressively systematic form of Hegel’s philosophy and is a central figure for reflection on the relation between philosophical system and a dialectical openness to experience. His approach to Hegel is known indirectly in English through his deep influence on Walter Kaufmann. Incidentally, “Haym” rhymes roughly with “time” or “thyme” - long vowel - in English. The following is a summary of the introduction to Pierre Osmo's French translation (Gallimard, 2004). After Osmo's opening remarks, there are sections on:
  • Rudolf Haym in his Time
  • Political Commitments
  • Haym outside Politics
  • On Biography in General
  • The Politics of Biography in Particular
  • Haym and History
  • The Theses of Hegel and his Time
  • Conclusions
It may be worth adding here,for purposes of comparison, György Lukács' brief evaluation of Haym. Lukács writes:
"Haym's own philosophical development belongs to the period before 1848; in his youth he experienced the dissolution of Hegelianism and the powerful influence of Feuerbach. For this reason, he had at least a glimmering of insight into the real situation and, unlike the neo-Hegelians of the Age of Imperialism, he did not consciously strive to distort and falsify history." (The Young Hegel, 77)
These are harsh words against some of Lukács' contemporaries. However, it is true that Haym's book on Hegel has a rare clarity, perhaps introduced by his political activism, that it share with Lukács' The Young Hegel (1948, English, 1975). The stress Lukács places on the influence of Feuerbach is noteworthy as it identifies a key non-Hegelian influence and ranges over both pure philosophy and religion. Haym’s book was militant in tone and provoked Karl Rosenkranz’s Defence of Hegel. In contrast, Rosenkranz decried the influence of politics on Haym's work.

Rudolf Haym and Hegel

Rudolf Haym was born in Grünberg, Silesia. He wrote many biographies. The one on Schopenhauer (1864) castigates Schopenhauer’s conservatism in politics, pessimism and egoism. In fact, he was kinder to Hegel than to Schopenhauer. He also wrote Die Romantische Schule (1870), Herder (1884) and much besides (see below). He was professor of philosophy and literary history in Halle from 1868 (and an extraordinary professor for long before that). Osmo intends to draw on Haym’s posthumous memoirs Aus meinem Leben [From my Life] (1902) which tell us a good deal about Haym’s relation to Hegel.

Osmo says that Hegel and his Time was like a fire-ship to Hegel’s reputation. Haym was not Hegel’s first critic though, and the Hegelian “school” had split before 1857. Rosenkranz noted that the book was well received.

Haym’s outward biography of Hegel is drawn largely from Rosenkranz’s Leben Hegels [Life of Hegel] (1844), which I have already summarized on this blog. He reports one anonymous accusation against Hegel (that Hegel became chancellor of Tübingen through corruption), but does not substantiate it. Rosenkranz said that Haym just gave a critique of Hegel’s politics. Haym though claimed to have revised Rosenkranz on the basis of unpublished material (Nachlaß) that Karl Hegel (Hegel’s son) had made available to him, as regards Hegel’s development (Werdeproceß). 

Haym in his Time

Rudolf Haym’s father was a small property owner who had studied theology. He was a moderate liberal, Hellenist and constitutionalist. He had enthused over the 1830 revolutions and admired Schleiermacher. 

His mother taught him French and he read Télémache (a political satire) in French and Florian. Haym lost an eye when he was six. He attended a gymnasium (high school) in Berlin, studied ancient languages and was expected to study theology. He excelled in languages (Greek, Latin) but was poor in mathematics. His first encounters with Hegelianism were through a Young Hegelian admirer of Edouard Gans and a follower of Schleiermacher’s theology of feeling (Gefühlstheologie).

In 1839, he attended Halle University. Here he studied philosophy in the Hegelian manner through three courses: Hinrichs on aesthetics; Schaller, a pupil of Rosenkranz, on the history of philosophy; and Johann Erdmann on psychology. Schaller was the author of Philosophy of our Time (1837). He spoke of Erdmann – the famous historian of philosophy – “Erdmann, who knew nothing of Socratic ignorance and could not at all convey his convictions to us.” (18)

Haym’s later dislike of France was purely political, as he rejected the French revolution. Personally, he read French and was close to French protestant circles in Berlin, as was Rosenkranz.

Haym also knew Arnold Ruge, editor of the Halle Jahrbücher and then a Docent (tutor) at Halle. Haym also read David Strauss’ Life of Jesus (1835). This exists in English and there is a recent translation by Hegel translator Peter Hodgson. This strengthened his “rationalism” and he spent eight days in prison for his role in advocating Strauss’s return to university life. In 1841, he read Feuerbach’s Essence of Christianity, which raised doubts in him. From this time, he turns his attention from theology to philology and concrete questions of history. 

Haym returned to Berlin and attended classes by the Hegelians Marheineke, Vatke and Michelet. He reads classics (Greek and Latin, Plato to Hegel) and wrote a doctoral thesis on Aeschylus. His examiner was JG Droysen, the translator of Aeschylus and Aristophanes and the author of a History of Hellenism (1836-43), History of Prussian Politics (1855-86) and a Summary of the Theory of History (French trans. 2002). Haym became a schoolteacher in 1845. He says that at this time:
“I thought the thoughts, wrote and spoke in the language of the Phenomenology [...] the book of books, as I called it.” (19)
However, a colleague’s approach to Hegel’s language changes his attitude by demythologizing it. He studied Wilhelm von Humboldt and comes to see language as more significant than art. This is reflected in his later thesis (Habilitationschrift). He writes a pamphlet, Feuerbach and his Philosophy (1846) on Feuerbach’s Nature. From 1850, he lectures on Humboldt. By stages, Haym disengages himself from Hegel. The “Young Hegelians” were getting older. In addition, this all had a political significance from him, to which we turn next.

Political Commitments

Osmo writes of Haym: "We must recall the principally political context of which his philosophical commitment will inevitably be a tributary." (21) In my view, this requires an enlarged view of the politician, in which for example, there is a dialectical relationship between the politician as product of an educational system and the mature politician as having oversight of that system.

Philosophy itself between 1844 and 1857 was invoked in German politics (this is the period between Rosenkranz' and Haym's biographies of Hegel). Philosophy related to religion, the sciences, history in general and its own history in particular. Osmo summarizes the political situation:
"Politically, this period is that of Vormarz, where the nationalist and liberal currents are seen to expand, leading to the Vorparliament, then that of the Frankfurt parliament and its failure, the 1848 revolutions, and lastly the progressive assertion of Prussian supremacy over the process leading Germany towards its unity - the highest goal that lends its significance to all the conflicts of the era." (21-22)
The Zollverein (customs union) was widely supported. Coal, iron, cotton, steam power, commerce, banking, cartels, railways, are all growing. Haym uses a commercial vocabulary to describe Hegel and Schelling's projects: they have a business with "conceptual capital", "customers", etc; and Eduard Gans translates Hegel's philosophy into the "single currency" of freedom. Haym is mindful of the social significance of the "great technical discoveries of the century" (22). He remembers the uprising of the Silesian weavers (Haym was from Silesia).

Germany was not unified at this time, save by language. The precondition of unity was a constitution capable of overcoming particularism. This was to be done by universal suffrage. There was a political opposition between the radical republicans ("revolutionaries") and constitutional monarchists. In March 1848, the Frankfurt parliament undertook to write a constitution. It found Prussian, other state particularisms and the monarchical principle standing in its way and in the path of federalism. 

Frankfurt Parliament, 1848

In these circumstances, nationalism and pan-Germanism (Alldeutschtum) fermented. There is social unrest and a socialist movement both along the Rhine and in Berlin. In Frankfurt, civil servants and intellectuals are the majority, with Jesuit influence alleged. The parliament in Berlin finds conservatives ("unitarists") opposing revolutionaries. Religion is discussed and plays a role. In Berlin, most delegates are Lutheran. Prussia and Austria are both European powers. A greater Germany (including Austria) and a smaller Germany (without Austria) are proposed. Soon, the Frankfurt parliament dissolves. The dominant movements are now conservatives, liberals and socialists. The liberals occupy the center ground and Haym supports them.

For Haym, Hegelianism is a philosophy that reigned over philosophy as such in the Vormarz era and Hegel and his Time includes his reflections on this. Jacques Droz (the leading 20th century French historian of the era, author of German Revolutions of 1848, (1957)) says that in 1848 absolutism was opposed by liberalism. The former was characterized by police surveillance, press censorship, bureaucracy and arbitrary justice. 

Philosophy and theology lay behind the politics of the era, according to Droz. Ecclesiastical liberalism led to political liberalism. Lutheran pastors in Saxony and Silesia opposed the dogmatic Lutheranism and Pietism of the state, favoring a Christian state as advocated by Friedrich Wilhelm IV. Groups of Lichtfreunde ("friends of light") drew on the ideas of the Young Hegelians and Schleiermacher. German Catholicism offered a similar political project, dependent on church unification. 

The Lichtfreunde looked to Halle, a center of rationalism since Hegel's day, where Wisliceny edited the review Kirchliche Reform. Haym wrote articles for this review. Lessing was admired. Haym met Max Duncker (1811-86), who was imprisoned as a student, was later a historian and finally director of the Prussian archives. 

The Schleswig-Holstein question increased Haym's nationalism. He edits a volume of speeches by Prussian orators from the first united Prussian Landtag. He meets the politician Hansemann and is torn between a political career and university life. 

When revolution breaks out on 18 March 1848 in Berlin, Haym does not want constitutional monarchy swept away along with absolutism. Hansemann joins the Camphausen government in Berlin on 29 March 1848. Haym is elected, aged 27, as a national liberal representative in Frankfurt. He composes Die Nationalversammlung (i.e. The National Assembly, 3 volumes). This is modelled on Lamartine's Histoire des Girondins and the conclusion on Macaulay's History of England. Duncker writes the introduction; Gervinus, Dahlmann and Droysen contribute. 

After the end of the Frankfurt parliament, Haym is without work. He has fallen out politically with Hansemann. He takes his Habilitation (academic teaching qualification), then turns to journalism as editor of a party paper, Konstitutionelle Zeitung, under Duncker and Droysen. He writes in an incendiary way and is expelled from Berlin. Dilthey said that his pen was "feared throughout Germany" (they were friends and there is a Dilthey/Haym correspondence for the period 1861-73). 

Haym writes on Hegel before turning again to public life. In a tour of Germany, many Hegelians (Droysen, Kuno Fischer, D F Strauss, Gervinus) reject him, though Eduard Zeller follows him. This leads to the Preussische Jahrbücher, founded in 1858.

Haym outside Politics

Haym left politics for university life. He himself describes his move away from Hegel. He comes to prefer Lessing's Nathan for its naturalness, clarity and tolerant spirit. This he prefers to the "opaque solemnity" of the Phenomenology, with its clumsy, overly ornate and fussy language that "progresses only by winding around itself" (Aus meinem Leben, 153). He rereads Fichte in the new edition just appeared. He applies Humboldt's theory of language to the philosophy of religion. This is around 1848.

He works on a 231 page article on "Philosophy" for an Encyclopaedia. In this, he uses dialectic to present the history of the subject as a progress. He casts doubt on the use of Logic to express what is basically an intuition of the Absolute. He is skeptical about "constructing the universe". Absolute knowledge, he thinks, is a postulate, not a result. Instead of Hegel, he bases philosophy on three pillars: language (Humboldt), art (Schiller) and religion (Schleiermacher). Comparative grammar will replace Logic and the critique of reason will become a critique of language. Haym uses Feuerbach's History of Modern Philosophy from Bacon to Spinoza for history and draws on Trendelenburg to criticize Hegelian Logic. He recounts that: "The world of Hegel collapsed for me." (31; Aus meinem Leben, 158-59). He also admired Fichte, writing that there remained for him: 
"the ethical pathos of Fichte, the urgency of sensibility in Feuerbach, the ideas, deep and subtle of Humboldt, brilliant of Schiller. All that danced before my eyes like a motley pattern of colors, incapable of uniting itself into a figure with well drawn outlines. [...] History was supposed to end in a system, yet this system only referred back in its turn to history." (31)
The Italian Hegel scholar Claudio Cesa thinks this was a central problem for Haym: a paradox of system and critique. In Halle in 1851, he taught courses on history of philosophy and English philosophy since Bacon. He draws on Bacon's attack on scholasticism in Hegel and his Time, having re-evaluated English empiricism and the political success and empire then associated with it. By 1857, Haym had moved further from philosophical system towards history. 

Hegel and his Time (1857) is the second of a series of biographies and biographical essays. These include pieces on Humboldt (1856), Gentz and the philosophy of history, Schopenhauer (1864), Ulrich von Hutten, Schiller, Arndt, Macaulay, Fichte, Varnhagen von Ense, Herder (1884) and Duncker (1892). In each of these he strives to:
"relate philosophy to history, to establish the connection between historical-cultural and individual developments, to proceed to characterizations as living as possible, in portraits as instructive as possible, of the existence and actions of men who played an important role in public life." (32, Aus meinem Leben, 281-82).

On Biography in general

There is a unity of sorts in the above biographies by Haym, though his work on Hegel is in a class of its own. There are several precedents. An early essay on the "Protestant friends" at Halle seems modelled on Goethe's essay on the art historian Winckelmann. Gentz was a politician of the Restoration in whom Haym took a psychological interest. He wrote:
"To explain this phenomenon, starting from the circumstances of the time, to place him [Gentz] in the procession of German literature and the intellectual life of Germany, to characterize him in all his aspects, taking the measure from the standpoint of national politics as of morality - that was a tempting task for which I could believe myself well qualified. (33, Aus meinem Leben, 217)  
He also draws on Macaulay as a model, as in his Parliamentary Sketches. There is a hope of rising from the singular to the universal. This is the main residue of Hegelianism in Haym's biographical oeuvre. Osmo comments:
"the consciousness is still alive that, agreeably to the lesson of Hegel, singularity can be raised to universality. It is probably this remainder of Hegelian conviction that persists in the Haymian art of biography, if we have to characterize it in its turn, as its deepest feature, and establishes, in this aspect, its belonging to philosophy. It is the concern for the link between the singular and universal that requires the unification of a totality of aspects (psychological, moral, political, traits of the era as much as the person); it is precisely to satisfy it that he uses characterization, which one must understand as the heart or soul of the method." (33-34)  
[So from "The oratory of A was based on the conviction that P and was decisive in the advent of Y (singular), we conclude that "Things of type A and P (oratory, convictions) together can bring about things of type Y (political events)" (universal) - SC]

Haym says that he learned this by his work on Gentz. It is related to a yet broader ambition. Haym wrote:
"By temperament and inclination, but at the same time through a desire to provide an orientation to the overclouded present, through the requirement of finding an indicator, a sign in the past for the tasks of the near future, the project was born of a history of the development of the German spirit in a realistic sense. [...] I had thought of interpreting the present and future of Germany by means of a coherent exposition of German intellectual life from the first stirrings of a livelier national consciousness, beginning with the appearance on the scene of Klopstock and Lessing." (34, Aus meinem Leben, 225)
He limits himself to "significant personalities", e.g. Wilhelm von Humboldt. For his work on Humboldt, he used the biography of Schlesier. In his preface to this, he describes his idea of a character portrait (eine Charakeristik):
"We have no concept of a character portrait that is not essentially historical. An individual is only visible in so far as he develops before our eyes. He develops above all from the kernel of his own nature; he develops at the same time as the chances of outward life take him, in contact with the cultural influences of the century, in connection with events and general historical conditions. Consequently, we could not attempt to provide a character portrait of Wilhelm von Humboldt without giving as complete and precise a description of his life as possible, nor draw such a portrait without placing it at the heart of the development of the German spirit and German life." (35, Haym, Humboldt, Lebensbild und Charakeristik, 1856, iv)
He says much the same in Aus meinem Leben about his work on Hegel. He contrasts this with Feuerbach's work on religion, which he thinks lacks historical and psychological focus. This is an error, he thinks. Instead, we must look at the conditions of life of philosophically productive periods, explain the conception and birth of ideas from specific circumstances. Haym says of his work on Hegel:
"It is an example of this kind of treatment, an extract of a history of philosophy, which my analysis of Hegel's philosophy was supposed to constitute; it had to be the endeavour of reconstruction from his origins, beginning from the circumstances of the time and the dispositions fairly attributable to this personality." (36, Aus meinem Leben, 255-56)
In his first and last lessons [of the book], he distances himself from contemporary materialists - Moleschott, Vogt, Büchner. This is not the "dialectical materialism" of Marx. At the same time, Haym instances Feuerbach's examples of demystification - Plato's ideas and the statues of the Acropolis, Kant's categorical imperative and the discipline of Frederick the Great's Prussian state and army.

The Politics of Biography in particular

Haym gave lectures on the subject of Hegel and his Time twice, in 1855 and 1856. He describes the origin of the book in his memoirs:
“Thus this work, all at once, took place in an old history of the development of the German spirit in a realist sense, and received besides the meaning of a definitive dissolution (Abrechnung) of the philosophical faith of my youthful years. [...] To draw at last into the light my relations with Hegel had long been the most pressing concern of mine. On the whole, it had been long since I broke with his dialectic, with its construction of the world. The more my experience of real things had grown, the less the model seemed appropriate to me. I had exhausted myself in vain attempts to make of it something new and different. – More and more, my mistrust extended to all forms of systematic philosophizing, to philosophy in general, as far as it made itself out fit to embrace the universe, be it in rigid or flexible concepts.” (Aus meinem Leben, 254-58)  
Several things are going on here. Haym is backing away from the faith of a whole generation. But is he doing history or philosophy? Haym reflects:
“It is legitimate for the philosopher to shed light on the contradictions and logical faults of the system, to seek more indisputable formulations to resolve the enigma of the cognition of being; it was legitimate for him to try to surpass the great dialectician himself on the ground of abstraction itself, to pursue his work in a new way. [...] It is another task that falls to the historian. He has to show that, despite everything, this muddled conceptual framework was not nothing, but really something, woven certainly from valuable materials, starting from a pure, living reality. (Ibid, Osmo, 39)
[To my mind, there is some Carlylean color to the prose here which I have tried to reflect.] The historian sees a value even in a philosophy that he rejects, in other words. He leaves philosophy to save it from itself – that is to say, from its abstraction. There is a paradox here. At the same time, Haym wishes to free Germany from Hegelianism in the same of national liberalism, but also to free himself personally. He writes:
“It was natural that such a heavy-armoured book won me on the whole as many enemies as friends. It took a position in the scholarly struggle and in the political struggle. It was just as much a declaration of war against speculation as for liberalism and the national politics.” (Aus meinem Leben, 257-58)
Here we see politics using history for a political purpose, i.e. acquiring power for a political party. This may make us uneasy in reading Hegel and his Time, as it did Rosenkranz. Let us consider history as such before enlarging on this.

Haym and History

We have seen Rudolf Haym speaking of his knowledge of reality, but this was acquired largely through political activity, which may produce passions that stand in the way of impartial knowledge.

History in Haym’s day, Osmo says, had a metaphysical past, a positivist present and a hermeneutical future. This is reflected in the citations and plan of Haym’s book.

The metaphysical past included the work of philosophers, e.g. Herder, whose Yet Another Philosophy of History (1773) and Ideas for the Philosophy of History of Humanity (1784-91) are evoked; Kant’s essays on history and section 83 of the 3rd Critique; Fichte’s writings on the French revolution, Addresses to the German Nation and Fundamental Aspects of the Present Age. Haym discusses Hegel’s Philosophy of History directly in Lesson 17. History is not, Haym comments, a logical circle of ideas.

Then there is the present of the German historical school associated with Leopold Ranke (1795-1886), who like Theodor Mommsen (1817-93) had been influenced by Niebuhr. Ranke had written a History of the Roman and German Peoples 1494-1535, a History of the Popes and a History of German in the Time of the Reformation. Ranke sees both a relation to God specific to each epoch, whilst insisting on sticking to the facts. History should record how it really was (“wie es eigentlich gewesen”). Several representatives of the Frankfurt parliament were members of this school of history, in particular Dahlmann, Droysen and Duncker. Droysen had attacked the wars of liberation and the Restoration in 1846. In 1858, he published a summary of his views on history, which he thought inseparable from politics, for this is its subject. Thus neither can it be wholly divorced from action. Freedom and unity are goals of historical agents (i.e. liberalism and nationalism). 

This identifying of intuitions resulted in the hermeneutics of Wilhelm Dilthey (who also drew it from Schleiermacher, whose biography he wrote). Closer than these to Haym was Wilhelm von Humboldt, whose main relevant works were Considerations on Universal History (1814), On the Motive Causes in Universal History (1818) and The Task of the Historian (1821). [This last was published in French by Jean Quillian, who also wrote L’Anthropologie philosophique de G de Humboldt (Lille: UP, 1991).] In The Task of the Historian, Humboldt wrote: 
“The element in which history moves is the sense of reality, which includes the feeling of the fleetingness of existence in time, that of dependence with regard to antecedent and concomitant causes, but also, inversely, the consciousness of inner mental freedom and rational knowledge that reality, despite its apparent contingency, is strongly bound by inner necessity.” (44, Quillian, 71)
We understand what we have to do as historical agents, in other words. There is a paradox that a multiplicity of facts must be grasped as a unity in order to lead to action. This Humboldt calls “the Idea” (e.g. the Idea of national individuality in ancient Greece). Haym commented:
“According to the beautiful essay of Wilhelm von Humboldt on The Task of the Historian, one must examine throughout the ideal content of history only and straight from the facts. Only the pure sensibility of the scholar who knows how to vivify in himself everything that is human will be enabled to draw from these latter, without changing them, the ideas that inhabit history.” (45, Hegel und Seine Zeit, 515 (Fr.))    
Haym seems to draw even the idea of national individuality from Humboldt when he writes in Hegel and his Time:
“It is the dialectic of our practical and theoretical development that presses us beyond absolute idealism towards the ideal richness of an exploration and consideration of human history. The truth of absolute teleology is the understanding of the practical aspiration of our race to the ever more complete achievement of its destiny.” (45, Hegel und seine Zeit, 534 (Fr.)).
This view can perhaps be referred back to Haym’s self-conception, thinks Osmo.

The Theses of Hegel and his Time

We are dealing here with “an approach to philosophy through history” and a political purpose on Haym’s part. Some theses are explicative, but these are secondary to those that would displace Hegelianism from its place in Germany for its lack of vitality. Hegelianism itself is counter to the flow of history, a reactionary force of repression and regression. For Haym, it is above all a philosophy of the Restoration. This thesis in fact absorbs all others and is that for which the book is remembered. Osmo writes:
“This thesis is certainly that in which Haym realizes the “grasp of the foundation” by which the historian is supposed to extract the Idea that “dwells in history” from the facts and without altering it, thanks to which subjectivity and objectivity correspond.” (47)
Instead, Haym thinks we must look back to look forward, turning with Humboldt from logic to grammar, with Kant from “reason” to understanding, then back through Feuerbach to Bacon’s empiricism. There is a return to Kant even in Helmholtz’s then famous theory of perception, he notes. This tells us more about Haym’s time than about Hegel’s, thinks Osmo. Yet we can free ourselves from Haym’s time and its perspective, as in the works on Hegel of Eric Weil, Joachim Ritter, Jacques D’Hondt, Domenico Losurdo and Jean-François Kervégan (L’Effectif et le Rationnel, 2007). [These are well known scholars in France.]

Hegel confused his own spirit with his system. Haym thus identifies most with Hegel’s early period – the Hellenism and Christianity of the period before Jena. From these sources, there was nourished in Hegel a platonizing sense of the cosmos, the harmony and beauty of the whole, and a Lutheran sensibility of the vitality of spirit. These are progressively constrained by a spirit of system that appears in Jena. History is chased out by logic. Formalism chases life firstly out of logic itself (though the real is still conceived to have a dialectic), then from art, religion and the state.

Osmo notes schematically that Haym’s reading of the Logic makes a key distinction of what is real from what is thought that affects his overall interpretation of reality and reason (see Lesson 13). He also misunderstands Hegel’s notions of will and freedom, which facilitates his approach to Hegel’s practical philosophy.

The other famous remark from the book is on the Phenomenology, that it is a “psychology thrown into confusion and disorder by history, and a history cut in pieces by psychology.” (Lesson 11, 305) Yet the Phenomenology has not been forgotten. [This is particularly so in France as a result of Hyppolite’s famous translation.] History has avenged itself on Haym in this respect, for want of a deeper reflection on Hegel’s concept of time, or so says Osmo.


In this article, we have located Haym’s biography of Hegel in relation to his life and politics. What of its value? Hegel’s first biographer, Karl Rosenkranz, thought it a “disastrous error”, adding in his Defence of Hegel:
“It is not science that Dr Haym has need of, but a political act. His pathos is filled with the ardent desire he has of it.” (Life of Hegel, 700)
Haym applies a “psychological mode of explanation” that is unsuited to philosophy or science, objects Rosenkranz. There is a real animosity in Haym, alongside perspicacious and subtle analyses. He began as a Young Hegelian, a follower of Arnold Ruge and David Strauss. He was imprisoned and thereafter for long excluded from academia. At last, he became liberal-national, which was conceived as “progressive” in its day. Hegel was, at least lately, conservative and supported by Prussian absolutism.  Haym thus felt that Hegel’s system was a brake on developments and thus needed to be dissolved. This however, is in turn a psychological explanation of Haym.

The main philosophical value of Hegel and his Time is precisely that it opens a space for reflection on the role of system in philosophy. Haym struggled politically and in his historical work against absolutisms. Yet there is a sense of the Absolute that coheres intellectually with rejection of political absolutism. Hegel aspires to the absolute to deliver the relation of real and rational from contradiction, at least its destructive side (for contradiction is also the movement of life). Only within a system can contradiction be identified, contraries be held together, deplacements of contradiction be traced. This is the more so when philosophy concerns itself with history. 

The contemporary work of Marx (Class Struggles in France (1850) and The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (1852)) and Engels (The German Peasant War of 1525 (1850) and Revolution and Counter-revolution in Germany (1852)) used Hegelian concepts of dialectic to examine history. Here though, there is no return to Feuerbach or Kant, though they are as political as Haym. Both seek to determine the objective – Haym intervening in philosophy, Marx and Engels in history. This activity mediates their confrontations and thoughts of contradiction. 

Their respective means are different though. Haym was little interested in the contradictions of civil society, as against politics. He is not sensible of his own contradictions or of the challenges his work issues theoretically. The historian Jacques Droz noted this. Droz wrote:
“The most outstanding representative of what in Germany is called “classical liberalism”, Rudolf Haym, who had belonged to the liberal left at the United parliament of 1847, maintained during the 1848 revolution that the state must rest on intelligence and wealth, and thus remain in the hands of a cultured aristocracy. He also rejected with horror universal suffrage, that risked “compromising morality, shaking the foundations of society, perpetuating the revolutionary era that we now have the duty to close.” [...] To the Prussian electors of 1849, he did not hesitate to ally himself against the democrats with the conservatives. [...] During the period of limited Union [...] he came out for a constitutional but not parliamentary monarchy and compromised himself strongly in favor of Prussia, without however, observing that it was incoherent to pursue a revolutionary policy at the national level and a reactionary one at the interior Prussian level. Haym remained the most outstanding representative of this “German intellect” that wished to be progressive, but that was opposed to integrating the “lower” classes of society into political society.”
Haym himself said at the end of Aus meinem Leben [From my life] from which we have drawn our account of his work on Hegel:
“Universal suffrage is an institution under which no state can survive in the long run, and that we will have to find the means to eliminate, sooner or later, if the German Empire (Reich) does not want to be torn off its hinges.”
[In my view, this was a mistake on Haym’s part. Universal suffrage is justified by the distribution of knowledge across all classes of society as well as for the reason that it is a symbol that the state values all its citizens. Nonetheless, expert opinion also has a value and this too is reflected in modern political practice. 

For me, one interesting result is that the view of Hegel as someone who expressed youthful “intuitions” in his mature work, which is usually associated with Wilhelm Dilthey and is also found in modern biographies, in fact dates back to Haym. The particular form which it takes in Haym is the idea that Hegel was overtaken by a “spirit of system”. I think this hypothesis is likely to shed light on a detailed reading of Hegel’s mature system. I also think though, that using unpublished material as a “key” to works like the Phenomenology is not a legitimate interpretative tactic. Hegel intended his work to be comprehensible as published – though with difficulty – and for this reason we should prioritize published work in explaining his ideas.

Some of Haym’s book is worth sharing more widely, though much is a recapitulation of material I have already posted from Rosenkranz and which is widely available in modern Hegel biographies. I intend to post some selections in further blog posts, as time permits.]