Thursday, 29 September 2016

Rudolf Haym on the Phenomenology of Spirit

Title page of Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit (1807)
This post summarizes the main chapter on Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit in Rudolf Haym's classic book Hegel and his Time (1857).

Introduction (Stephen Cowley)


This post summarizes Rudolf Haym’s discussion of the body of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit (as opposed to the Preface) in his classic commentary Hegel and his Time (1857). It's most famous sentence is: "To say it all, the Phenomenology is a psychology thrown into confusion and disorder by history, and a history cut to ribbons by psychology." This indicates a key theme of the analysis. 

This book marked a major step in the dissolution of the Hegelian school, the justification of Marx’s description of Hegel as a “dead dog” (Afterword to 2nd edition of Capital, 1873). It is echoed and varied by Karl Popper. The main interest for me however, is the analysis of themes in the text itself. 

We cover the whole of chapter 11 of Haym's book. I have included extensive direct quotation of key passages, indicating my own comments by square brackets. Page references are to the French translation of Pierre Osmo (Hegel et son Temps, Gallimard, 2008) and to the most recent French translation of the Phenomenology (B. Bourgeois, Paris; Vrin, 2006) or the Miller translation for better known passages. 

The Phenomenology of Spirit


We now turn to the content and meaning of the Phenomenology of Spirit. We apply the criterion to Hegel that Hegel himself suggests. Haym says, perhaps in Kantian terms:

Diese Philosophie nicht kann, was sie soll und nicht ist, was sie will.
“This philosophy cannot [do] what it should, and is not what it wants [to be].” (294)

Haym summarizes Hegel’s task: “To put it briefly, he now finds necessary what yesterday he had found superfluous – to justify scientifically the viewpoint of absolute knowledge. Faced with his students, he found it to be a practical necessity. He recognized it, in his hostility to romanticism that inclined him to a more rigorous scholarship, as a theoretical necessity.” (294)

[See PhG, Miller, para 27 for the latter point: Science cannot “start immediately with absolute knowledge as from a pistol.”] Hegel is answering the question of Plato’s Theaetetus (145e) – in what does science consist? He revisits the tracks of Bacon and Descartes in investigating the beginnings of knowledge, and settles accounts with skepticism. He wishes to take Kant’s critical method fully on board, before going beyond it. 

This gives rise to a paradox. If the Phenomenology precedes science, it is merely an illusion and not science itself. But if it is not science, how does it help us? It is the coming about of science, an exposition of the coming to be (Werden) of science. As a professor, he had made introductory remarks to students, i.e. engaged with (purportedly) non-philosophical consciousness. In his writings, he had discussed the empirical sciences, common sense, philosophies of faith and the subjective idealism of Kant and Fichte. Haym says: “In writing and speaking, he tried besides to construct his point of view historically, and often accorded in doing so a quite particular attention to the cultural phenomena of the present and recent past.” (295)

Hegel had studied particularly the history of philosophy. He had first lectured on history of philosophy at Jena in Winter 1805. His historical sense had earlier led him to seek the essence of religion in its history. Now he does the same with philosophy. Hegel had written: “Man inevitably attaches the eternal, in his thought of the eternal, to the contingency of his thought.” (296, citing Positivity of the Christian Religion, Rosenkranz, 113)

One philosophical system arises from another through criticism. [This is only partly true, surely: there is also reference back to experience. – SC] The diversity of systems is the progressive development of one truth culminating in the present. In the Phenomenology, he collects the diverse currents that contributed to his own thought into a compact form. Haym says:

“The Phenomenology prepares and contains an attempted demonstration of the viewpoint of absolute knowledge. This it does by means of a practical-psychological pedagogy of non-philosophical consciousness. It does it in the form of a relentless critique of different scientific and philosophical viewpoints. It does it by providing fragments from the history of philosophy. It does it lastly by unfolding a succession of portraits of world history, a panorama of states of culture belonging in part to the distant past and in part to the most recent modernity. It is didactic in being critical, and it is critical in being historical. It is all that, properly seen, not in a juxtaposition, but all in one, at the same time and concomitantly.” (296)

This required much invention and an informed, methodical and systematic mind. What we seek is to unfold what Hegel has arbitrarily put together and to understand his methodology.

Two methods of demonstration


Haym next makes a distinction between the transcendental-psychological demonstrations in the text and the historical demonstrations. Amidst the tangled branches of the text, these are the two central modes of argument in the Phenomenology, he argues:
“Two of these demonstrative motifs, first of all, stand out from the rest when one tries to prune this copse that they form, but they only stand out however, to combine together still more compactly. It is a matter of transcendental-psychological and historical demonstration. Hegel himself qualifies the first as the true kernel of the Phenomenology, the pillar supporting the whole, and to which the rest serve merely as vestments. Hegel himself indicates likewise to what degree historical proof is based on and immediately interwoven with it.” (297)
Haym continues: “That an “examination of the reality of knowledge”, a critical orientation leading to the true viewpoint of knowledge, must essentially and from the outset, tread the same ground as that occupied by the transcendental philosophy, is in the nature of things.” (297)

This relates back to Kant and his successors. Kant had divided this examination among three books (i.e. the three Critiques) and Hegel too ranges across diverse forms of mental activity. Fichte and Schelling had made this into a methodical journey of discovery; Schelling had proposed a “pragmatic history of consciousness”. Hegel generalizes this task. He says that he wants to “consider the universal, self-conscious mind in its formation.” (297, PhG, Miller para 28) The Phenomenology is “the science of the experience of consciousness” (298, PhG, title page), i.e. it describes what must happen to consciousness in its various stages. There are stations, classes and tasks to be done on the way.

The Phenomenology recounts history as it was lived, the origin of absolute knowledge based on the nature of consciousness, from the seed of sense-certainty to the fruit of culture, from the embryo to the grown creature. These steps are a) from sense-certainty, through perception to understanding; b) self-consciousness to reason; c) spirit in ethical life, culture, art and religion; to d) absolute knowledge.

The historical deduction


Now to this basic plan there is added a second, historical justification of the final standpoint of absolute knowledge. In Haym’s words:
“Now this basic plan of the Phenomenology immediately supports a second. Into the transcendental-psychological deduction, there is interleaved the historical construction of the supposedly highest scientific viewpoint. And it is true that the legal title to proceed to this intercalation rests on a presupposition that Hegel at first spares himself from proving, but which is very strictly at one with his whole vision of the world – with the aesthetic idealization of the world. Here, according to Aristotle, is the difference between the dramatic and epic poet and the historian, the latter describes events as they really happened; the former [two], on the contrary as they could perchance have happened according to an internal probability – oiov av genoito [Poetics, 5165].” (299)
Aristotle’s distinction illustrates the distinction between a factual and a reasoned presentation. Haym continues: “Helped by his [Hegel’s] tendency to merge the concrete and the abstract, [his worldview] sees absolutely no leap in the fact that it identifies spirit in general, universal mind, with the spirit of world history.” (299; German 237)  Hegel sees the different forms of consciousness succeeding and developing one from another and sees world history in the same terms. Haym writes:
“The presupposition is not far to seek; the steps and the developmental process of the individual consciousness and consciousness in general present themselves at the same time as epochs of history, as the development of the world spirit spreading itself out in time. The transcendental-psychological history of consciousness is essentially identical to the history of the self-education [Bildung] of the world. The whole of humanity, in the course of the centuries of its existence, had essentially to go through the same apprenticeship, carry out the same works that make up the steps of the individual and the moments of consciousness considered in itself.” (299) 
This is how Hegel expresses this thought, in his own ponderous and obscure terms:
“The goal, absolute knowledge, or mind knowing itself as mind, has to bring to a successful conclusion on its path the inward commemoration of spirits such as they are in themselves and the organization of their kingdom. Their preservation, alongside their free existence appearing under the form of contingency, is history, but on the side of their conceptualized organization, the science of knowledge as appearing.” (299-300; PhG, Miller, para 808)
Haym comments: “The Phenomenology turns by this fact into a palimpsest; above the first text and between its lines, we find a second. We can make good progress in the work without finding anything other than a critical analysis of natural necessity, turning always and everywhere on the viewpoints of consciousness.” (300)

When we reach the self-consciousness chapter though, we find a description of consciousness under the despotism of eastern peoples, then a characterization of stoicism and skepticism. Then the historical manner recedes again. Haym says:
“Soon the signs of a show of historical description become more uncertain and fade out. It seems that the “unhappy consciousness”, supposed to develop starting from the skeptical consciousness, is straightforwardly a universal form of consciousness, but the more we accustom our eyes to the shadowy outlines of the sketch, the more the matter is beyond a doubt: we are dealing in truth with a characterization of the ecclesiastical and monastic ethics of medieval Christendom.” (300) 
And so it continues with the Phenomenology. There is an abstract characterization of the Athenian bourgeoisie, but as shadows there spring forth the characters of Sophocles’ Antigone. It is like a collection of ancient statues and columns, arranged in a fresco. We move on to the legal and political spirit of Rome and the later Roman Empire (PhG, Fr. 355), France and the absolute monarchy (Fr. 363). Again: “The cloudy traces thicken; whilst we advance on tiptoe through the in-itself and the for-itself, we are thrown up all of a sudden against a well known figure: it’s a matter, in Diderot’s dialogue Rameau’s Nephew, of that accomplished and sprightly musician mad with his own coarseness and wit.” (301)
Rameau's Nephew by Didierot

Then there comes the German Enlightenment and its struggles with orthodoxy (Fr. 387 et seq). The scene changes to “Absolute Freedom and the Terror”, the September blood-letting, the rule of St. Just and Robespierre (Fr. 431); the world of Kant and Fichte, German literature in the romantic era and its wake (Fr. 441). Then we proceed through Christianity to “absolute knowledge” – both the highest viewpoint and that of the current day, according to Hegel.

This has been compared to Dante’s Divine Comedy (Rosenkranz, Leben, Fr. 27, 345). We are taken by the hand of the author through realms of spirits past. Hegel himself concludes the Phenomenology: “Conceptualized history forms the inward memory and the Calvary of absolute spirit, the reality, truth and certainty of its throne, without which it would be a recluse deprived of life.” It is only “from the chalice of this realm of spirits that climbs towards it the froth of its own infinitude.” (302, PhG, Miller, para 808)

Christ at Calvary
Dante’s poem too is made from the stuff of experience. Hegel, if anything though, is more fantastical. With Dante, we know we are dealing with a poem. With Hegel, we have the appearance of sober wisdom. Haym comments: “but we run the risk of taking the work of the philosopher as a sober wisdom and perhaps, in carrying to our lips the chalice of this kingdom of spirit, of breathing in and tasting a lasting drowsiness of which we cannot heal ourselves.” (302)

Confusion of the two sides


We need to pause, recover our spirits and refer to the power of understanding. Haym summarizes: “A transcendental physiology of human consciousness is given to us. In the second place, we are given a history of the stages of the culture of mankind.” (302)

These are by way of a royal road to prove the standpoint of absolute knowledge. If it were to be shown that this standpoint was the richest, a consummation, we might accept it as such. Or if history were shown to lead to absolute idealism as a necessary goal, we could rejoice. But this is not the case in the Phenomenology. Haym continues:
“We are not pushed onto either of the two paths, but we pretend to take a road of proof that is neither purportedly philosophical, nor purportedly historical. It is not even the case that the historical phenomena are associated with psychological facts by way of simple clarification or example, or inversely, that the latter are developed only to characterize the former more sharply. It is on the contrary in the confusion that surreptitiously prevails between the steps of the psychological process and those of the march of world history that the distinctive character of the Phenomenology consists. The gallery of stages of culture in world history shows itself to be a construction introduced from outside into the space of psychological facts. The psychological facts appear as artificially interwoven into the historical facts. It is precisely this, which constitutes the appeal of the Phenomenology, that at the same time withdraws from it, as a whole and in detail, all probative value." 
For history is one thing, psychology another. The simply philosophical exposition of the necessary stages of consciousness would require that one confines oneself to the purity and generality of its forms. But in history, where the consciousness of whole masses prevails, formed by thousands of fortuitous occurrences, dependent on thousands of concrete facts – in history these pure forms appear precisely nowhere.” (302-03)

To put Diderot’s rambling musician and perceiving spirit on the same level fundamentally corrupts the science of transcendental psychology. Likewise, one cannot include the fanaticism of a Marat or Robespierre as a necessary stage of the development of consciousness in general, the threshold of which each individual must in some way cross on the path to absolute knowledge.

One might argue that pure consciousness is an abstraction. What exists is always something concrete, determinate. Haym says: “Perhaps then, the true science of appearing spirit, that is to say the true phenomenology, is to be sought consequently in the history of culture uniquely and alone.” (303-04) 
But then we would have to take out the material in the Phenomenology that obviously pertains to transcendental psychology.

What happens is that first Hegel’s practical sense in the System of Ethical Life, here his historical sense and after his religious sensibility ascend into the aether of the Idea, but thereafter lose their natural truth, like a preserved specimen loses its natural color. Haym looks forward and back: “We will see that the Hegelian philosophy of religion denudes itself of its religious character; we have seen how his political doctrine constructed a state impossible in practice. History does not meet with a better fate.” (304)

What is described is not history as it really happened, but as it might or ought to have happened if it were consonant with the theory of consciousness in the abstract. Historical figures are thrown in pell-mell and chosen arbitrarily, as they happen to be familiar to the author, or fresh in his mind from his recent reading. They are made symbols of supposedly necessary stages of consciousness. Evincing his own interest in British history, Haym remarks: “It remains that, when the spirit of the French revolution is elevated to this rank, one cannot but wonder why, for example, the characteristic spirit of Puritanism in its struggle against Charles I would not appear worthy of the same consideration.” (305) If the transition from Greek antiquity is of such importance, why not the time of Machiavelli, Tasso, etc.

And what is valid for the choice counts also for the order. The chronological order – e.g. from the court of Louis XIV and XV to the French revolution – blots out the dialectic of transition from one psychological figure to another. When the purely psychological or logical order is to the fore, distant historical facts are placed together. In a famous phrase, Haym says:
“To say it all, the Phenomenology is a psychology thrown into confusion and disorder by history, and a history cut to ribbons by psychology. The viewpoint of naive romanticism was to not demonstrate the Absolute. To wish to demonstrate it, at the price of a confusion, was the viewpoint of reflective romanticism, consequently shameful and dissimulating. Here again, the festival of absolute knowledge is celebrated. To celebrate this solemnity worthily, a romantic masquerade is organized. There parade in long procession before the throne of the Absolute historical figures disguised as spirits of a psychological nature, and once more psychological figures under the masque of historical figures. Just as absolute knowledge itself is no other than a thinking consideration of things, but daubed over and imbued with an aesthetic conception of these latter, a romantic-fantastical confusion of what is the concern of the poet and what is the concern of the philosopher, so the phenomenological road leading to knowledge consists equally of lastingly carrying out the poetic transposition of abstract powers into concrete historical powers, or rather of threading them through, without ceasing to interweave and intermix them.” (305-06) 
Absolute knowledge is supposed to contain all reality within itself in the purity of the concept. So too do the abstract phenomenological figures tend to sublimate their shadowy existence into palpable phenomena. At times there are extraordinary successes, but overall the jousting of abstraction and poetry at best, like conceptual poetry, achieves but a cold symbolism.

As many enigmatic figures are stuffed into the Phenomenology as into Faust Part Two [which Hegel did not know]. Both works have the same hybrid nature. There is a baroque mixture of abstruse logical formulae and bold poetic forms in the Phenomenology. Haym adds:
“One can conceive – be it said in passing – that this hybrid nature of the work shows through also in the style of the Phenomenology. [...] The work is visibly written with a concern for style, but at what a distance does this diction stand from a noble proportion between the form of sense and the form of thought, where a true equilibrium would have to be discerned between the aesthetic spirit and the reflecting spirit. The language of the concept becomes only heavier, with Hegel wishing at the same time that it should carry the load of intuition. This alliance is neither free nor natural; we have here a mixture of the two that is obtained by chasing them violently together. The grandiose enterprise fails which aims to sew living figures onto a base of abstraction; everywhere formalism enslaves form; everywhere is betrayed either the inability of our systematician, or the intrinsic impossibility of bringing beauty to the understanding, of making the object of the understanding beautiful.” (306)

Evaluation of the Transcendental Proof taken in itself


Setting that aside however, let us consider the transcendental proof of absolute knowledge on its own merits. Let us assume for the time being then, that the historical material is merely illustrative. Let us assume that, in Haym’s words: “The path that we are made to travel here through world history is only the means of completing the given impulses to a historical construction of absolute knowledge that we meet in a scattered state in the previous writings of Hegel.” (309)

In brief, the Eastern peoples’ lack of freedom was succeeded by the harmony of Greek life. From the disintegration of this was born the Christian vision of the world. This however, took a form of inwardness and subjectivity which is retained both in Protestantism and the Enlightenment. Hence: “It is the mission of the present to correct this one-sidedness, and to combine in absolute knowledge the realism of the ethical and aesthetic spirit of the Greeks and the idealism of the absolute religion of Christianity.” (309)

Similarly, the history of universal consciousness revisits the philosophical critiques of the Difference essay and the Critical Journal. It is somewhat extended and made to appear part of a continuous history. There was a salient point in his whole critique of modern skepticism, common sense, Enlightenment and the philosophies of Kant, Jacobi and Fichte. Specifically:
“It was in abstracto the demonstration that all these modes of thought started from the viewpoint of the Absolute. It was in concreto the bringing to the fore of the non-coincidence, in the end, of the rational and the real, of idea and phenomenon, of subjective and objective, of the non-idealization of the world and the non-realization of the Idea, of the fact that one arrives everywhere only at the ought-to-be and at infinite progress, that reality, natural as well as ethical, is disfigured into a thing devoid of life and beauty.” (308)
The same critiques that were used to test the reality of knowledge in the history of consciousness are used in the Phenomenology as a proof of absolute knowledge. The same criterion of the coincidence of subjective and objective recurs in both. Consciousness differentiates itself from the object known. It asks if the object (being in itself) corresponds to its being for us (concept). In the Phenomenology, consciousness repeatedly corrects itself until concept and object are identical in absolute knowledge. Haym thinks that this presupposes what it sets out to prove. [The exposition becomes more obscure here. I wonder if the relation of subject and object is not being misconceived through neglect of the active side of life by Hegel, but perhaps also and in another way by Haym. – SC] 

Haym says: “He excludes from the outset the possibility that the relation of cognition to the object, as the inverse relation, is incommensurable, that the coincidence of subject and object could only be accomplished by other powers of the mind.” (309) He rests on the presupposition that only an identity of idea can be the final goal, and this not as art or religion, but in the form of knowledge containing all reality. The exposition thus lingers in practice over the political and artistic life of the Greeks, and on art and religion in general. Haym comments:
“Why though? It is because precisely these phenomena form the basis and real background of the fiction of a knowledge which, as knowledge, has to have the same effects and the same character as the concrete ethical and political life of the Greeks, as the aesthetic humor of the artist and the contemplation of the man of piety.” (309)
This presupposition [of absolute knowledge] also affects the beginning:
“It is the whole of reality that must become identical to consciousness, fill its space with neither a gap nor remainder. There must then, from the beginning, be introduced the stuff of reality. The Hegelian history of consciousness cannot, like that of Fichte, take wing from the center of the mind simply certain of itself, in the certainty (Gewissen) of thought. His certainty is of an aesthetico-religious order; its standard and its compass are the presumption in favor of the Hellenic form of spirit, the schema of the living identity of nature and spirit, of reality and Idea. His departure thus takes place from the natural consciousness that has for concrete content what has a sensible existence.” (309)
[In other words, the Phenomenology does not begin with Fichte’s abstract-metaphysical act of self-assertion (“I am I”), but with the consciousness that says “Here is a tree, here is a house.”] Haym continues: “But it is in the second place, the universalizing activity of cognition that claims to see through the totality of what is. It must be in consequence that the stuff of reality be both introduced from the beginning, and denuded of its realness from the beginning.” (309-10)

Schelling also had concrete artistic and religious activity metamorphose into thought at the end of his System of Transcendental Idealism (1800) and start of his Exposition. So in the Phenomenology, sense knowledge is metamorphosed into the mocking ghost of “here” and “now”. Haym cites Ludwig Feuerbach’s Contribution to the Critique of the Philosophy of Hegel (Werke II, 211 et seq). [There is an English version in Feuerbach, The Fiery Brook: Selected Writings (Ed. Hanfi. London: Verso, 2012). Haym is influenced in places by Feuerbach's materialist interpretations.]

Finally, the middle sections and course taken are also determined by the tendency to the whole. Haym writes: “This course too is nothing other than the transfiguration (Verklärung) deployed all along the journey in stages, and from this fact apparently progressive, of sense certainty into mental certainty, that is to say into a knowledge that would be in essence bursting with intuition, into a knowledge that Kant could only conceive in the form of a problematic intellectus archetypus.” (310)

Thus we start from the world as given, progress to a standpoint of the world as made by us and end in one where it appears as given such as it is made. Fichte calls this last an aesthetic standpoint. It is a counterfeit of the artistic process.

The Pedagogical Element


No proof emerges from this of absolute knowledge – none in which it is not already presupposed that is. The nature of the journey brings to light though, the pedagogical element of the composition of the work. The book is supposed to be also an education of naive consciousness into philosophical consciousness – a practical introduction. As a wheel in a mechanism can serve several purposes, so we find the didactic element entangled with the historical-psychological motive.

Even supposing that this ladder is solidly planted in everyday consciousness and that the rungs are made of double wood (i.e. transcendental psychology and history) and thereby strengthened, what guarantee is there that the ladder leads to truth? Haym asks: “Has he [Hegel] not said often enough that taking the matter objectively, there is only a single foundation of the Absolute, namely that contained in its organic deployment, that is to say, in the accomplishment of science, in the exposition of the system?” (312)

The Phenomenology as introduction, first part and whole of the system


The whole is seen in the manner of our discernment of its parts. Hence: “There is no true knowledge apart from the standpoint of absolute knowledge. There is no philosophy before philosophy. All philosophical demonstration, if it is to be really demonstrative, must take place in the element of absolute knowledge.” (312-13) The hardest task is “to connect the step that proves the absolute standpoint with what does not prove it. [...] It is a matter of building a porch before the temple of truth whilst making this porch itself part of the temple. [...] Such is the task: all at the same time to work only with preparations for the system, to make this preparation part of the system itself and, to finish, make this part the entire system.” (313)

This sheds a new light on the matter. Fragments of cultural history are metamorphosed into an account of the forms in which absolute spirit fashioned its own content in time. The proof turns out to be an exposition of the road travelled by absolute spirit in the reflection of human consciousness, of the way absolute substance accomplishes its own process. In Haym’s words: “we find ourselves completely immersed in the aether of absolute cognition. [...] The putting to the test of the reality of cognition or the transcendental history of consciousness turns out to be the exposition of the road travelled by absolute spirit in reflecting human consciousness.” (313)

It is only from a one-sided viewpoint that this phenomenological amalgam appeared as a dislocated history of the world and culture, or as a critical theory of cognition, or as a practical propaedeutic to philosophy. Haym comments: “What wonder if neither one nor the other has appeared to us to be pure and genuine.” (314)

From being before the system, we now find ourselves within it. We can now see one and the same Absolute in its multifarious reflections, both appearing in time and constantly there. The mirror of these reflections may be neither very flat nor very reflective, where the individual in need of education is concerned: it works best with human consciousness as such. The Absolute so reflected is spirit, that is, substance and subject. It is one and the same in its different reflections.

As spirit – i.e. substance and subject – by nature appears, so its appearance and essence are able to coincide. Haym says: “It follows from this that the appearance of the Absolute in consciousness is going to coincide with the essence of the Absolute itself exactly as a copy and its original. The reflection of the Absolute in consciousness will be rather the complete self –display of the Absolute." (314-15)

The first part of the system can thus be treated as the whole. The rest of the system is the unfolding and completion of what is already in the Phenomenology.

Failure of the Demonstration


Such then is our examination of the composition of the Phenomenology. Haym comments:
“if we abstract from the spirit in which it was conceived and from our admiration for the artist’s knowledge with which so many threads were both woven together and ordered, we cannot fail to feel also a complete deception. It is necessary to put an end to all illusion that would wish to see an effective proof in this attempt to prove the Absolute.” (317) 
We can try the steps, but we are already sailing on board the barque of the Absolute. Haym adds: “This whole phenomenological genesis of absolute knowledge is no other than [the] presence of the Absolute which unfolds itself before us, in the methodical way proper for it according to its nature as spirit, self-development of the Absolute such as it mirrors itself in consciousness and in history.” (317)

The psychological and historical color of the Phenomenology comes from this reflection. The higher law of the progression comes from the universal nature of the Absolute, to be both substance and subject, unfolding in the schema of in-itself, for-itself and in-and-for-itself, through the gaudiest of contents both psychological and historical. Haym summarizes: “This means, to put it briefly, that we are, in this claimed and supposed proof of absolute knowledge, only the dupes of this absolute knowledge and its method.” (317)

The self, without whose free certainty of itself there is no truth or conviction, is illicitly there at the start of the Phenomenology, when it is supposed to be there only at the end. Hence: “Our self as such sees itself transposed in the Absolute, that is to say, in the totality of all that is collected into an aesthetic contemplation: deprived of “itself”, deprived of all critical freedom, we only participate in the illusory self-criticism of that being.” (317) [Could it not be there in the beginning, but not in a high degree, or not recognized or recognizable as itself? – SC] Haym says: 
“The demonstration that the Hegelian philosophy provides in the Phenomenology is a vicious circle, if it is one. From the first step, at the threshold of the Phenomenology, the enchanted circle of this system closes on itself. From here, the Absolute grabs hold of us, never to let us go, to stifle forever out intellectual conscience. By the end of the Phenomenology, we find ourselves in a world completely bewitched.” (317)  
It is as though we have risen above our proper station, Haym seems to think, with the standpoint of historical agency also lost. He says:
“Absolute knowledge knows no form of consciousness above itself; they all have to submit themselves to it as forms overcome. It is the same for the historical present. It has, properly speaking, no future ahead of it, but only behind it, a past. History is no longer the pursuit of an aspiration of humanity; it is no longer the work leading towards the light of a higher freedom; it is a game of freedom with its own existence that, in the exchange, is eternally the same.” (318)
We live the life of the gods. It is the same with ethics, the same again with art. Satisfaction and reconciliation are done deeds.

Hegel’s attitude to contemporary events and the interests of the nation


This was our philosophy, resting on our classic poetry, at the very moment when a foreign conqueror broke the power of the greatest German state and was on the point of crushing a second German state [Prussia and Austria respectively]. The infamous cupidity and cowardice of the West German princes had taken him for a protector. Haym appeals in this “not simply to your understanding, but to your good sense and feelings.” (318) He writes: “What did it matter that the monarchy of Frederick the Great was cast down and that the “cold tyranny from abroad” consolidated itself in our German provinces, provided that it did not remain hidden from the world that “substance” is “at the same time subject” and that, newly born of absolute knowledge, spirit leans to perfect its form in the purity of its own aether.” (319)

Thus Haym comments on the battle of Jena and Hegel’s admiring letter to Niethammer about Napoleon. Hegel’s “great fear” is for his manuscript. It was a victory of culture over barbarism, he wrote three months later. For Haym, this breathes and unscrupulous coldness. Hegel diagnosed the German indifference to the Empire lucidly, but did not rise above it. He admired Napoleon, like Aristotle admired Philip of Macedon. Goethe’s attitude was similar (Letter to Zellmann 23 Jan 1807, Corr. I, 130). Haym interprets the situation:
“Driven from the favorable ground for a sane national and political development, the German spirit sought out a country in the world of ideas. In this world, it laid the ground stones of the most sumptuous and glittering reality, of a Pantheon of images and thoughts. It takes its ease in the imaginary reconciliation of the ideal and the real. If nonetheless it finds something missing here, it is simply the truth of the real and of power.” (321)
Confronted with something so unprecedented as real power, both the philosopher and the poet simply stood back in amazement, easily reconciled to our own idea of heroic greatness. This may excuse the individual, who shared the attitude of most of the nation, but does it not condemn the mode of thought that led to such results? “Absolute idealism” endorsed a man who had no time for any ideology. [Napoleon had disparaged the French idéologues.] The philosophy that built its idea of the state on Athens and Sparta, where individuals identified themselves unreservedly with the whole, turned out itself to be devoid of patriotic feeling in practice. In theory, it admired the free and noble Greek republics based on national feeling. In practice, patriotic Sittlichkeit was wanting.

The contrast with Fichte, whose idealism rivals Hegel, is striking. Fichte’s soul rose up against the degradation of his country. He cast aside dusty metaphysics and delivered his Discourses to the German Nation (delivered in December 1807 to March 1808) to awaken national feeling in Berlin. Haym says; “The idealism of Fichte carried weight, the impetus was rooted in character, the feeling of independence and freedom; whilst the idealism of Hegel is a product of aesthetics and the intellect that gives itself a good conscience by means of aesthetics. That is why the latter does not hold up under the test of reality.” (322)

It would have failed the test of the coming revolution too, if this had not relapsed into servitude and the lie of the Restoration. 

Conclusion (Stephen Cowley)


[This last sentence is a reference to the 1848 revolution in Germany. Hegel does have a view of war and revolution, but regards them as valid only when pushing against a regime on the point of collapse (Phenomenology Preface and Philosophy of Right). The struggle of right and right, as it occurs in Antigone, he classes as tragic. There is a brief response to Haym's concluding patriotic vituperation in Lukacs' The Young Hegel (IV, 2, 450).

Osmo refers in this connection to the work of Martial Guéroult on Fichte and his reception. Fichte's use as a patriotic icon owes much to Treitschke’s Fichte und die Nationale Idee (1862). Treitschke was Haym’s successor as editor of the Preußische Jahrbücher. In general, Haym's text is at the threshold between the view of Germany as a land of poets and scholars and the land of "blood and iron" that became dominant after Prussia's wars under Bismarck with Denmark (1863), Austria (1866) and France (1870). In Britain, this led to the "Two Germanys" theory of writers like J.H. Muirhead, whilst others like L.T. Hobhouse condemned German intellectual traditions wholesale. In another tradition, the view of idealism as impractical is also associated with Marxist writers, including John Macmurray in the 1930s.

Haym's essay as a whole is well worth digesting for the light it throws on the problems that readers face in encountering the obscurities of  Hegel's text. - SC.]