Thursday, 22 September 2016

Rudolf Haym on the Preface to the Phenomenology

Title page of Rudolf Haym's Hegel und seine Zeit (1857).
Rudolf Haym was a central figure in the reception of Hegelian ideas and the dissolution of the Hegelian school in Germany. The chapters of his book, Hegel and his Time (1857), on Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit (1807) are of particular interest in their own right. This post summarizes Haym's analysis of the Phenomenology Preface.

Introduction (Stephen Cowley)

Rudolf Haym's Hegel and his Time (1857) is subtitled: "Lessons on the origin, development, nature and value of the Hegelian philosophy". The early chapters repeat Karl Rosenkranz's biography which we have already covered on this blog and are made problematic by issues over dating of manuscripts. We break in on the story in 1803 when Hegel is at Jena and just finished co-editing the Critical Journal of Philosophy with Schelling. 

The most famous sentences in Haym's book are that: "He understands the Hegelian philosophy who has perfectly made himself master of this Preface" and: "To say it all, the Phenomenology is a psychology thrown into confusion and disorder by history, and a history cut to ribbons by psychology." We will devote one post to an explication of each of these utterances.

Conveniently, the treatment of the Phenomenology is broken between two chapters, dealing respectively with the Preface and the body of the book. Haym’s starting point for analyzing the Phenomenology is by contrast with the Critical Journal written by Hegel and Schelling. He quotes from Hegel's Introduction to the latter:
“The same [way] as the idea of a fine art does not owe its birth or discovery to artistic criticism, but is quite simply presupposed, so in philosophical criticism, the idea of philosophy is itself the condition and presupposition without which the latter would only until the end of time have subjectivities to oppose to subjectivities, and not the absolute to the conditioned.” (246)
It is this unexplained presupposition that Hegel finds inadequate in the Phenomenology, proposing instead to give a genetic explanation of his philosophical standpoint. My references to Pierre Osmo below are to Haym's French translator (Hegel et son Temps, Paris: Gallimard, 2008). Page references are to this edition. I add some remarks of my own in square brackets. The following summary of Haym begins part way through Chapter 10.

The Preface to the Phenomenology of Spirit

With the end of the Critical Journal of Philosophy, Hegel lectured at Jena in the Winter semester of 1803. This course was successful, as he wrote to Schelling at Wurzburg. The lectures covered the whole of the system, that is to say, Logic and Metaphysics, Philosophy of Nature and Philosophy of Mind. The architecture of the whole is drawn in ever-clearer outlines. Neglected or abandoned wings of the building receive detailed treatment. Hence, we will refer back to these lectures.

As to method, the dialectical interest is greater in the surviving lectures. There is more reflection and reason in the development of ideas. Haym comments: 
“The Docent [tutor] must very soon find that one cannot require of the student that he should come to occupy, with a single leap, the standpoint of the Absolute: one must offer him a ladder that will allow him to raise himself to it.” (276)
One cannot toy with students, as he had done up to now with the reading public. Moreover, mistrust of a proof of philosophy leads to mistrust of proof within philosophy. The subject must not become a Delphic Oracle. Hence arose the Phenomenology of Spirit, completed in 1806: “the work, the reading of which made martyrs of a generation of disciples thirsty for knowledge.” (276) Nowadays, it is read no more than Klopstock’s Messiah, or some medieval tome. [Klopstock sounds like a pre-romantic poet similar to Alexander Pope in English literature. Haym's funeral oration for the Phenomenology has proved premature. - SC] 

Haym summarizes: “I have just described the experiences and needs from which the Phenomenology issued. It is the precipitate and result of the development that took place in the mind of its author between 1803 and 1806.” (276) [Haym has earlier described how Hegel moved away from the romantic philosophy of Schelling following the latter’s departure from Jena in 1803, with the natural bent of his mind for sound scholarship and rational proof reasserting itself.] 

Schelling expected much of the book, but in the meantime Hegel had moved away from Schelling. Haym says; “In effect, the Preface to the Phenomenology is nothing else, from the outset, than a detailed and thorough taking leave from the philosophy of romanticism.” (277)

The difference between Schelling and Hegel’s system of philosophy is what is played out here. Haym remarks: “He understands the Hegelian philosophy who has perfectly made himself master of this Preface.” (277) 

Polemic against the lack of method

Hegel objects to the [German romantics’] idea of genius in philosophy. Haym explains that the romantic movement in German literature began in poetry and had invoked the idea of creative genius. Hegel commented: “but the creative activity of this genius, if it has a meaning, gave rise in place of poetry to a trivial prose or else, when it pushed further, to senseless discourses.” (277) It is the same with philosophy. A philosopher, says Hegel:
“who believes himself too good for the concept [i.e. reason] and stands, in the absence of this latter, for a thought capable of intuition and poetry, brings to market only the arbitrary combinations of an imagination merely disorganised by thought – images which are neither fish nor flesh, neither poetry nor philosophy.” (277)
Haym refers as context to an essay by Hegel, Maxims on the Journals of German Literature (Werke 17, 397; Suhrkamp Bd 2, 568), where Windischmann, Görres and Steffens are named for their “empty formalism”. Hegel continues in the Preface:
“The beautiful, the holy, the eternal, religion and love, these are the bait required to awaken the desire to bite; it is not the concept, but ecstasy, not the necessity of the thing in its cold forward march, but enthusiasm and its fermentation, that are supposed to mark the support and progressive diffusion of the richness of substance.” (278)
This prophetic discourse criticized here is mistrustful towards horos [Osmo explains this means “limit” in Greek. However, it also perhaps evokes Schiller’s magazine Die Hören (1795-97), which signaled a transition from romanticism to classicism in German literature, also containing Schiller’s Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Man, contributions from Goethe and others. – SC] Haym sees in these passages an honorable correction of Hegel’s previous disdain for “the understanding”. The understanding gives power; its ability to separate produces clarity and makes science accessible to everyone. It is a lack of content and method that characterizes the opposed philosophical enthusiasm.

[Unfortunately, owing to the material, the following discussion is unavoidably somewhat formulaic. - SC] That in the Absolute all is one (“A = A”) is no great discovery, a mere night in which all cows are black. Haym sees something Swabian in this humor.

To call the understanding electricity, the animal nitrogen, etc, are bold comparisons, but no more. It is like a painter with only two colors, one for history, one for countryside. Haym comments that the general contrasts made here are clear enough, as with Hegel’s earlier treatments of the philosophy of reflection and the subjectivism of Kant, Fichte and Jacobi. 

History of the anti-romantic point of view

Hegel, with his curious historical consciousness, proceeds to give a historical construction to justify his standpoint. As we have seen, the Absolute standpoint passes with Hegel for a restoration of the wholeness of vision he associates with the Hellenic world and Christianity. This counts as a victory over the northern principle of Locke and Voltaire, Iffland and Kotzebue, Kant and Fichte. Haym writes:
To take our stance in the Absolute and progress from subjective idealism to absolute idealism means, for him, to do justice to the aesthetic era of the present day, which burst in our country in the new works of art and poetry and their reception.” (281) 
[This refers back to Haym’s account of Hegel’s development and the literature associated with Goethe and Schiller.] Hegel retains his welcome for this new era, but now, he adds, we are only at its beginning, not its completion. It is only our thirst, only our imagined distance from the absolute, that has made us grateful for the drops of water offered by romanticism.

New formulation of principle and method

Turning to philosophy as such, Hegel says: “The Absolute must be conceived as spirit.” “The true must be grasped not only as substance, but equally as subject.” “The true is only real as system.” Thus method is at the heart of philosophy. This may sound like Mephistopheles, disguised as Faust, giving a course on the method of academic studies. [Schelling had written on this very subject.] Haym comments on Hegel’s formulae above in the light of his previous chapters: “They no longer pass to our eyes as a cabalistic multiplication table, but will appear solely as a summary version of a vision of things of which, not only the meaning it expresses, but its historical advent and real content render perfectly intelligible to us.” (282)

That “the Absolute is as much substance as subject” indicates that we must grasp the world not only through intuition, as did Schelling, but correct this by reference to Kant and Fichte's idea of self-consciousness. We do not only behold the world aesthetically, but investigate it with our powers of reflection. We see not only an aesthetic harmony, but retain the treasures of reflection – of Protestantism and the Enlightenment.

As Hegel moves from a youthful ideal of philosophy to real accomplishment and systematic exposition, we find the dialectic both illustrated and reflected on for its own sake, in its typical movements of becoming-other and return-to-self., which counters other tendencies of seeing things intuitively as a whole, or as parts in  relation. The material, being decanted, finds its own limits in the outlines of a system. It is as though he is saying: “The Absolute is spirit, to the degree that it is also subject as much as substance.” (284)

The dialectic is the skeleton of the system. Another method seems to have been at work in the earlier System of Ethical Life (i.e. one drawn from Kant and Schelling). In the meantime, Hegel has mastered the art of general formulation. The Absolute as subject-substance is his first word; that substance should come forth as subject, and the subject return to substance, is his method.  It knows itself through intellectual intuition and an antithetic-synthetic process taken from the Wissenschaftslehre. In the Phenomenology, we read that the living substance is being that has become subject in the measure in which: “it is the movement of positing itself or the mediation of becoming-other-than-itself with itself.” The mediation that constitutes absolute knowledge: “is no other than equality moving with itself, or again, it is a reflection on itself, the moment of self being for self.” (285) Knowledge is the “immanent self of the content”. The concept is “the own self of the object”. For absolute knowledge, being is mediated throughout, it is “substantial content, that is just as much immediately my personal property, or the concept.” Truth is “the movement of self-reflection in itself”. The embryo is man, but not man for himself. [These are citations of the Preface.]

System and method are the same. The system deploys the Absolute as spirit, but the movement of spirit is the dialectical method. Hegel summarizes and rejects other methods. His aim is a Bacchic delirium where members outside the circle fall down. [This is not necessarily praise, when you think of it. - SC] He opposes this to external knowledge, methods drawn from mathematics, and “construction” in the philosophy of nature. Hegel says:
“The movement of being is in part a making something other of itself to the point of becoming the content of this other, and in another part, it takes this displacement into itself, i.e. this other being that it has become. To put it otherwise, it transforms itself into a [logical] moment and simplifies itself into something definite. In this movement, negativity is the differentiation and positing of the definite being; in retiring into itself, it is the becoming of determined simplicity. (286)
Haym observes that this method produces both a broadness of vision and evenness of style.

Aristotelian traits of this formulation

As a result [of his positive view of system], Hegel introduces a comparison to the systematizing works of Aristotle. These preceded the conquests of Alexander the Great. Haym compares Alexander and Napoleon as ancient and modern threats to freedom. Plato’s philosophy, he thinks, was nourished by the generation of Pericles, his ideas were summaries of the statues in the Acropolis, his dialectic reflected the movement of the people (ekklesia) of the day.

In Aristotle, that world is gone. Plato’s poetic idealism becomes scientific prose in Aristotle. So in Germany Hegel takes the aesthetic sensibility of the previous generation and decants this ferment into sober wisdom. It was often said that the relation of Schelling and Hegel was like that of Plato and Aristotle. Hegel himself uses Aristotelian terms (e.g. in the Natural Law essay) and studied Aristotle closely at this time. The concept of end (telos) is key to Aristotle. These are immanent in reality. There is a natural order of ends [as described at the outset of the Nicomachean Ethics, where bridle making is subservient to horse riding, for example]. This is so in physics as in ethics. [Hegel also retains many Aristotelian features in the philosophy of nature.]

There is a fluidity in Hegel’s presentation that reflects the movement of the subject matter. He is speaking not of abstractions but of the real. What is subject is also real, i.e. effective (wirklich). Haym writes:
“He [Hegel] directly and completely used being subject and being real (wirklich), self-positing of the self and the real as synonyms. On this point, the agreement with Aristotle is unmistakable. The Idea, says the latter as against Plato, is what bears in itself its own realization; it is essentially, according to its realized truth, energeia [i.e. real as opposed to potential].” (289)
[See Aristotle Metaphysics Theta 6, 1048a 30-62, & Met. Delta 2]. For Hegel too, as against Kant, the Idea is not opposed to reality, but realizes itself. It is the real as such, the active part. In seeing nature as a realm of final causes, rather than just a beautiful appearance, Aristotle runs ahead of Greek objectivity. Hegel rather returns to Greek objectivity, but incorporating Aristotle. He call the subjective moment of the dialectic (the concept) on several occasions das Seinsollen (what should be). This too is basically the end. Self-movement is thus an idea common to both Aristotle and Hegel. Haym states: “From now on, Hegel can thus directly identify his determination of the absolute as spirit with the Aristotelian determination which makes of telos or end the highest principle of being.” (290) Hegel wrote: “The absolute is the becoming of itself, the circle that presupposes its own completion as the end and has it as its beginning, and only becomes real by means of its being carried out and completed.” (290)

Hegel also uses Aristotelian terminology when he writes: “Reason is the ordered carrying out of an end” “The end is the immediate at rest, the unmoved that sets itself in motion. Thus it is subject.” (290, PhG, ss23,26) In identifying end and subject, he identifies Aristotle and Fichte. Haym writes:
“I think that, after the analysis of the Preface to the Phenomenology, what Hegel wants in general has become sufficiently clear to us. Science must cease to imagine; it must become again authentic science, rigorous, well-tempered. The pretended intuition of genius must not puff itself up with importance at the expense of intellect. Philosophy must yield itself to the discipline of a certain method. We must correct and discipline Schelling by means of Fichte. The aesthetic culture of the present must sober itself up and enrich itself by use of the reflective culture that preceded it. It must progress beyond the Enlightenment and Romanticism towards a deeper culture that, by uniting them both, embraces both in the same regard. The way of thinking of Antiquity, with all its beauty and objectivity, must become familiar to us again; and yet, it must at the same time be that, from the mode of thinking of the new era, that of Protestantism, the intelligibility as well as the subjectivity of consciousness be reintegrated into the education of the way of thinking of the coming generation.” (290-91)


There is much agreement about this [the need to move beyond the Enlightenment and Romanticism] nowadays. The Enlightenment is agreed to be dry and impoverished, romanticism slack and vacuous. Yet it can be asked whether we would have come to this agreement without Hegel.  A philosophy not borne up by the life of the nation can be of no effect. It can only work in the present day. Haym states:

“The Hegelian philosophy has not escaped this destiny. It did not and could not put into effect what it proclaimed as its own aim. [...] It could not bring to our nation the noble balance of aesthetic and reflective culture that is its social justification.” (292)

“Substance” and “subject” [i.e. the material and habitual preconditions of mental life and that mental life itself] are still not conjoined for us. Haym comments:

“in its principle, this philosophy remained romantic, in its execution, it plunged into the worst of reflection and the most arid of scholasticisms. It succeeded only in projecting the formalism of aesthetic intuition onto the formalism of the Enlightenment; far from leading to the [inter]penetration of the two opposites, it only brought these latter to a transient balance by means of an artificially concocted arrangement. The interlinking of these two cultural motifs is an illusion, the deceptive Fata Morgana of a future cultural form to the realization of which , at this very moment, our nation works, almost in despair. On the other hand, it was transformed into the effective expression of an era [the Restoration] that was in truth merely a caricature of its ideal. As much by its romantic as by its scholastic side, as much by this duality of sides as by the inextricable way of joining them together, it became the philosophy of the Restoration, and it adapted itself to the quietism of this latter, quite as much as to its sophistry.” (292-93)

Haym undertakes to demonstrate this in relation to Hegel’s four main published texts, the Phenomenology, Science of Logic, Encyclopaedia and Philosophy of Right in context, with the latter of which Hegel lands in Berlin, capital of the Prussian state. He offers a prospectus:

“When, with this last, we will have accompanied our philosopher to the capital of the Prussian state, we will be able to provide a perfect appreciation of the real content, the ethical and spiritual value, of this conceptual edifice. Yet this content must first reveal itself in its principle by analysis of the Phenomenology. To undertake this analysis will be our next task.” (293).
[In the next post, we move on to the body of the Phenomenology.]