Wednesday 14 June 2023

Haym's Defection from the Hegelian Logic

French translation of Hegel und seine Zeit (1857).

This is an analysis of Rudolf Haym’s clear-sighted lecture on Hegel's Science of Logic from his classic book Hegel and His Time (1857). 

Introduction (Stephen Cowley)

Hegel’s Science of Logic is written from a standpoint of pure reason aside from common sense which it then attempts to reconstruct. However, this standpoint lacks the authority of common sense and Hegel modified and summarised his position by the time he came to teach logic in Berlin. Furthermore, the logical doctrines that Hegel thought necessary to understand the Phenomenology of Spirit (1807) are already contained in its Preface – i.e. the unity of reason defined as “purposive activity” and the universality of mediation which justify the incapacity of the two-term proposition as a vehicle of truth and consequent role for systematic thought as a precondition of practical judgement.  The Phenomenology contained much of the content of the later system. Hence my strong preference is for the later Encyclopaedia Logic in which superfluous or repetitive discussions are omitted. 

In the reception history of Hegel's logic, Haym’s essay was significant for the critical literature. Karl Rosenkranz’s treatment of the Science of Logic in Hegels Leben (1844) had been perfunctory. Haym’s book led to a response by Rosenkranz (1858). The dispute shortly gave rise to Aloys Schmid’s Entwicklungsgeschichte der Hegel’schen Logik ("History of the Development of Hegelian Logic", 1858) which compared their respective approaches. This made its way into English through Edward Caird’s Hegel (Blackwoods, 1883) and his monumental Critical Philosophy of Immanuel Kant (1889). This paved the way for John Macmurray’s distinction of the mechanical, organic and personal forms that are reminiscent of the three books of the Logic and the main constructive achievement of 20th century philosophy in the Scottish idealist tradition.

One should not overlook the dubious common ground that Haym shares with Hegel. In particular, pure being, a supposed universal applicable to both God and Creation, obscures the radical nature of the distinction between them and thus facilitates the omission of theology from the philosophical sciences.  Haym incorporates ideas about religion, language and logic from Ludwig Feuerbach, William von Humboldt and Friedrich Trendelenburg into his criticism of Hegel. He sees Hegel’s work against the theological “rationalism” of Halle and the political backdrop of his own “national liberalism”. In the concluding part of the chapter, Haym accuses Hegel of relapsing into a new scholasticism in his attempts to conceptualise living reality. Haym’s dubious empirical approach to the universal aspect of knowledge is an aspect of the nationalist trend of thinking in 19th century Europe. His reference to world views (Weltanschauungen) towards the end is a precursor to Wilhelm Dilthey’s early use of the concept – Haym and Dilthey corresponded for many years. The subjective bias of Dilthey’s influential “hermeneutics” of the humanities sought to insulate the lived world from its theological justification. Hegelian critiques of its broadly neo-Kantian standpoint can be seen as attempts to do justice to the power of reason to vindicate religious rationalism.

Incidentally, there has been some interesting work recently on what Hegel learned of Logic at school in Stuttgart – which appears to have contributed to his lifelong project of reforming logic, more perhaps than his better-known college courses at Tübingen. As a result, there may be scope for a comparison with Condillac’s logic and thereby with the philosophy of Hegel’s Scottish contemporary James Mylne. All three thinkers share an interest in the origin and evolution of ideas.

Sub-headings in what follows are mine and added for clarity. Page references are to Pierre Osmo’s French translation.


Caird, Edward. The Critical Philosophy of Immanuel Kant. 2 Vols. Glasgow: Maclehose, 1889.

Caird, Edward. Hegel. Edinburgh: Blackwoods Philosophical Classics, 1883.

Haym, Rudolf. Hegel und seine Zeit: Vorlesungen über Entstehung und Entwickelung, Wesen und Werth der Hegelschen Philosophie. 1857. French trans. Hegel et son temps. Pierre Osmo. Paris: Gallimard, 2004.

Hegel, G.W.F. The Science of Logic. 1812-16. Eng. trans. Johnson & Struthers, London: Allen, 1929; A.V. Miller, 1969; di Giovanni, Cambridge: UP, 2010. 

Rosenkranz, Karl. Hegels Leben. 1844. Franch trans. Vie de Hegel. Pierre Osmo. Paris: Gallimard, 2004.

Hegel in his Time (1857) – Chapter 13: Logic – Summary and Discussion

Haym begins by discussing the history of Hegel’s engagement with logic and the standpoint of the Science of Logic. He notes that Hegel’s Logic varied considerably between the manuscript which he attributes to 1800 and the published Science of Logic (1812-16). In the manuscript, the division is into:

  • Relation (Beziehung)
  • Relationship (Verhältniss)
  • Proportion
  • System of Principles
  • Metaphysics of Objectivity
  • Metaphysics of Subjectivity

In the Science of Logic, this becomes the familiar Being, Essence and Concept. The sections both increase in number and change order. Primary headings become secondary headings and vice versa. The later sections are more difficult to recognise still.

The Standpoint of the Logic

Haym discerns a wavering in Hegel between subjective reflection and the relations of the ideas themselves. The project aims at the idea of absolute spirit. We must first conceive true cognition; and secondly prove that this exists objectively as absolute spirit. However, Hegel speaks from a synoptic viewpoint, beyond the opposition of subjective thought and objective reality. Haym says: “The Phenomenology presented philosophical consciousness as the consciousness of the identity of Thought and Being.” (357) Once this is established, the boundary between logic and metaphysics is thereby broken down. In 1806, Hegel lectured under the title “Speculative philosophy” on both phenomenology and logic, passing straight from absolute knowing to pure being (Vie de Hegel, 290). The Phenomenology exhausted the Kantian project of relating thought-determinations to the limits of subjectivity. Now, the Science of Logic examines the thought-determinations themselves. Haym comments:

“Logic, freed from the subjectively limited character, will become itself a rehabilitated metaphysics. In treating in the two first parts of the determinations of Being and Essence, it directly takes the place of the old ontology, whilst also encompassing the rest of metaphysics, the thought essential to the bare representations of the soul, the world and God.” (358)

As there is a new starting point in the Logic as against the Phenomenology, so there is a new conclusion that in turn reacts back on the content. A logical spirit prevails over the concerns of concrete mind. The material of the Science of Logic is enriched by Hegel’s studies of nature and mind. Haym says: “He has drawn the same profit as a grammarian or lexicographer from a more extended reading of authors.” (359) Thus he finds examples. He has noticed forms of thought in the concrete disciplines. The etymological and syntactic parts of logic are extended. Intermediary steps are added. At first, for example Hegel discussed causality. This is now refined into: cause and effect; force and its expression; and inner and outer. Mechanism, chemism and life are treated in the Science of Logic.

In addition, Hegel draws content from the history of philosophy. Hence ideas from Leibniz and Wolff, Kant and Fichte appear, as do those of Schelling, Spinoza, atomism and skepticism. Kant and the philosophy of reflection receive particular attention. Haym says:

The refutation of Kantianism runs from one end to the other of the Science of Logic. This relates to Kant as the first of the great works of Kant related itself to Wolff and Hume. In Kant, Hegel sees his forerunner, as did Kant in Hume. It is, he thinks, the great merit of the critique of reason to have drawn attention to the immanent dialectical nature of reason. That though, is just why the true critique of reason can consist only in a self-critique of this latter. The danger and error is not to be seen in reason becoming transcendent, but in the fact that it recoils with fright before its own content and folds itself up in transcendental relations. Its negative result then resolves itself into a positive result: the critique of reason transforms itself into the system of reason.” (360-61)

The Science of Logic also engages with the philosophy of romanticism. Indeed, it systematises the result of this engagement. The Phenomenology Preface was an “antiromantic manifesto”: its scientific consequences are now developed. The Preface to the Science of Logic tells us that the time to affirm the new principle in its undeveloped intensity is past. The principle must be developed into a science: Haym writes:

“When he paid homage to this scientific disposition in the Phenomenology, it was to emerge anew, in the conclusion, into the Schellingian viewpoint. In the Logic, this viewpoint is the starting point that produces in its course a content of which the system of identity had no inkling. That system, on the contrary, with its way of keeping house by living on loans and credit, with its dry and brutal formalism, its elegant superficiality and its spirited lack of thought, is attacked on all fronts.” (361)

Even its principle is overtaken, abandoned in a subordinate field of thought. The Science of Logic also has a distinct idea of philosophical presentation and a literary form adapted to this. Much additional thinking as intervened between the Phenomenology and the projected system. As a result, only the first part of the system proper (i.e. the Logic) appears. Haym comments: 

“The scholastic form, veiled in the Phenomenology by the poetic presentation of the different stages of consciousness and by obscurely depicted form of expression, deliberately takes centre stage. All affectation, all pretension and all mannerism have disappeared from the style of the Logic. The intention is to speak in a language as clear and scholarly as possible.” 

Hegel is not in competition with the poets. No polish is added to the subject matter. There are plenty of subdivisions, synoptic passages and indications of the content, plenty of remarks to prevent misunderstandings, obviate objections and relate concept and image. Indeed the formal separation of text and remarks makes a change from the Phenomenology.

The figures of the Logic also have historical existence: they are powers underlying nature and spiritual life (per the Introduction). The form of the whole puts Haym in mind of the artistry of Nuremberg, where the book was written, e.g. the architecture of Adam Kraft (1450-1509) and Peter Vischer (1460-1528), their towers and churches, marked by both grandeur of design and workmanlike concern for detail.

There is a problem in this work though: the system arose from a youthful ideal of life and reality characterised by beauty and order (the cosmos). The labour of reflection has drawn the freshness and colour from this. Hence the original idea is difficult to recognise. Haym writes:

“What was soft and supple has become ossified: around the kernel several layers of rind have grown; the more the system is improved philosophically, the more it hides from view what it contained of the simply intuitive and sensible. We have to observe this logic as it presents itself. We have besides to employ all the strength of memory and perception not to let the human significance escape behind the philosophical conception, the real kernel behind the form.” (364-65)

Hence it is a flawed work.

Logic and Metaphysics – Two views

Let us look at the identification of logic and metaphysics. The content of the Logic is variously said to be:

  • Pure essentialities
  • Pure knowledge in its full development
  • The concept in its conceptualising thought

These comprise truth itself. The coincidence of knowledge and essence is one of form and content. The Logic is simply enlarging on the viewpoint of absolute knowledge in the Phenomenology. Haym rejects this latter in an earlier chapter. Hence, he says, we can see both what the standpoint is and the error it contains. The error is to grasp reality in thought, when this is beyond the capacity of pure or unaided thought. Haym says: “The most extreme spiritualism constantly in struggle with the strongest tendency to reality, such is, briefly, the astonishing spectacle that is offered to us.” (366)

It is, Haym says, Plato and Aristotle together. We are presented both with Platonic ideas whose essence is their nature as ideal, but equally there is an Aristotelian turn, as the Ideas are simply the principle of the One in the Many, or powers animating the matter of reality to be tested by their validity in practical reality. They are the basis and internal scaffolding for forms of spirit, but then again essences in a metaphysical realm.

The empire of pure thought is called the truth “as it is without a veil in and for itself” (366); the Logic itself is: “the presentation of God as he is in his eternal essence before the creation of nature and a finite spirit.” (366), but then we are said to be dealing only with “forms” and “shadows”, and “isolated system of abstractions” (Haym, 304, 366; WdL, 55) which only have existence and reality in the world we have left.

Insufficiency of Logic alone

The dualism of this conception becomes clear when we consider the relation of the *Logic* to the *Realphilosophie*. When he discusses this, Hegel says that Logic deals with an absolute form whose reality lies in itself. Where then, does this philosophy have its seat – in metaphysics, or in physics and ethics? We get more light only when we turn to the transition from Logic to Philosophy of Nature. Here we find that the reality immanent to the concept and the reality of the phenomenal world are different. Haym says: “It is precisely this that puts an end to the duplicity of this whole philosophy relative to reality. If it wishes to persist in what recurs as the refrain of its Logic, namely that the concept is not simply true reality, but all reality, then logic must be the whole of philosophy, then the system must conclude with it.” (367) Yet the concept, saturated already with reality, now needs another reality than its own. The Idea becomes:

  • “creator of nature”. It
  • “releases itself freely outside itself”
  • “resolves to determine itself as outward idea”.

Haym finds this better expressed in an early sketch of the logic. He writes:

“It remains that these expressions through which the Idea personifies itself are visibly in contradiction with the whole character of the Logic. In truth, we are at the end of the Logic just where we were at the end of the Phenomenology. Already in absolute knowledge, this reality opposed to consciousness as an objectivity valid on its own account is supposed to be defeated. In the “absolute Idea”, the absolute unity of consciousness and reality is supposed to be realised in its turn. The true state of the question is that absolute knowledge, in the Logic is exclusively occupied with abstract determinations, that the absolute Idea, according to Hegel’s expression, is “enclosed in pure thought”, that the Logic is “the science of the divine concept alone” and that, to reach reality, we must proceed to a completely new start. (368-69)

There is all the difference between a reality that is the fruit of imagination and the living reality of intuition.

Hegel says: “The pure truth becomes, as last result, also the beginning of another sphere and another science.” (369, WdL, 267) This confession by which subjectivity is suppressed contrasts violently with the prolix stress throughout the Logic on the self-sufficiency of the concept and its immanent reality. On the one hand, sensible reality is something “above which we must be raised as a condition of thinking the truth.” (369) Thus Hegel commiserates with Kant for whom sensible reality had too much power for him to withdraw from it and come to the examination o the categories in and for themselves and to a speculative philosophy.. This attitude is maintained throughout the Logic until the conclusion, “until it ends by suddenly realising that a whole world of reality still faces it, against which even the absolute Idea, the most filled with reality of all the logical categories, is something “that remains held in pure thoughts”!” (369) Haym comments:

“It is not simply at the borders, but even in the body of the Logic itself, that one can observe in its continuity this alternation of thought and reality.” (370)

The determinations of thought “realise” themselves, but this is then interpreted spiritually and reduced to a game. Over and over again, abstractions are lowered into reality, only to evaporate again into the aether of abstraction.

How then, is the illusion of logical categories containing all reality maintained throughout the book? In the Phenomenology, it is supported by the historical, ethical, political and religious content, with the last step to absolute knowledge a mere leap into an abstract attitude of mind. We need to characterise the Science of Logic more closely: to see what the nature of the categories is, and what it is supposed to be (wie beschaffen sie sein sollen).

Metaphysical Germany 

Haym says: “Each people and each century has certain aesthetic, ethical and social ways of seeing in which it moves.” (371) He illustrates the point: the age of Pericles is one thing, that of Cicero another. Chinese taste is not ours. Goethe’s poetry marked a change from the time of Gellert and Glein. Religions too differ. He writes: “It is not at first evident, but it is no less certain, that the forms in which the activity of thinking of different peoples and races proceeds also vary.” (371) This vanishes with respect to generalities and abstract mechanisms. Thus everyone can understand Aristotelian syllogisms. Inflected languages change the way relations between concepts are seen. This is written at the start of the period of European nationalism and it becomes evident that it tends to downplay the role of reason in history. French translator Osmo relates this to Wilhelm von Humboldt’s theories of language, as in his essay On the national Character of Languages (French: Seuil, 2000) Haym argues that English habits of thought (as seen in Bacon and Locke) are different from German ones (e.g. Kant and Hegel). Different fundamental and auxiliary concepts are at work. Haym summarises:

“The world of concepts that a people surrounds itself with is a product of its nature, its history, its language, its literature: not only the moral, aesthetic, religious, political forms of thought differ, but also the general forms of thought, up to a certain point as a function of the diversity of peoples and eras. Now it is above all the poets and thinkers who develop and make objective to a nation its forms of feeling, intuition and thought.” (372)

This may happen without an express intention. Philosophy though, knows what it is doing. Haym explains: “A philosophical grammarian could equally compile a summary and provide a systematic overall view of the forms of thought and general concepts which a nation relies on when it reasons, as much in everyday life as in science.” (373) – This sounds like Wittgenstein already in the mid-19th century.

Someone convinced of the existence of absolute knowledge would be ill-suited to such a task, for he would need at the same time a sharp awareness of his being historically conditioned, and besides of his age as the result of those that preceded it.

Hegel was such as person. In his eyes, Goethe and Schiller had shown the German people their inner life, as Sophocles and Aristophanes did to the Athenians. Hegel wishes to do the same for the general concepts and thoughts of his nation, “to put again in their own hands, so to say, a vocabulary and a grammar of its pure thought.” (373) Something of the sort existed already in the writings of Wolff, but with the progress of thought – both critical and positive, through philosophy and poetry – it had become unusable. Hegel observes that it is a spectacle:

“to see a cultured people deprived of metaphysics, like a temple otherwise provided with many ornaments, but without the holy of holies.” (373-74, SoL, 114)

However, Haym offers no solution to this problem seen by Hegel.

Content of the Logic

Haym turns next to the content of the Logic: as for Quality, there is:

  • Being (Sein) – Nothing – Becoming
  • Dasein – Finitude – Infinitude
  • Fürsichsein – One and Many – Attraction and Repulsion

And then follows Quantity, followed by Measure. This is all titled Being. Then follows Essence, the whole being called Objective Logic. There follows Subjective Logic, comprising:

  • Concept - Judgement – Syllogism (“Subjectivity”)
  • Mechanism – Chemism – Teleology (“Objectivity”)
  • Life – the True – the Good (“The Idea”)

The order is not considered arbitrary, but necessary. Each step is aufgehoben in its successor, i.e. both overcome and preserved (zugleich überschritten und zugleich erhalten ist). This is considered a “genetic exposition”, the “self-movement of the content” (375). The categories are like sails and we must abandon ourselves to their movement.

Lastly, this self-movement makes up a system. It is not a progress to infinity in a straight line, but a circle. The last term, the “absolute Idea”, contains the content of all that precedes it.

This is different from what we find in Aristotle or Wolff. Let us compare them. Aristotle lists as categories: substance, quantity, quality, relation, place, time, position, possession, action and passion. Formerly, logic and metaphysics were distinct, being the study of the form of thought and the most general concepts of thought respectively. Both the form and content of thought are distinct from reality. Categorisation involves abstraction. Post-Leibnizian metaphysics was essentially nominalist. General concepts found a value in Kant’s ethics, via their Stoic content, based on freedom and limited transcendentally. The universal predicates (of Aristotle above) originate in the thinking self. It is mental activity that gives existence and stability to the categories of quantity and quality, whilst reality is amenable to their application.

Hegel’s Vision of Logic

Now all this was not in line with life, art and religion, which instead suppress their distinctions. A character portrait shows the man as a whole, it does not dissect him into predicates, for example. In each trait we see something of the others.The greatest imitation of life is dramatic poetry. The old and new gods in Aeschylus, the divine and human law in Sophocles – confront each other and are reconciled. Such poetry is dialectical. The separate ideas of Socrates and Plato were a reaction to this. Haym writes:

“Now Hegel’s overall vision consists in nothing other than wishing to naturalise and nationalise (einbürgern und nationalisieren) the forces of life, art and religion on the soil of the understanding.” (378)

This is what goes by the name of absolute knowledge in the Phenomenology, and absolute Idea in the Logic. Thus, first the categories are thought separately, as by the understanding (Verstand). Then they are thought as though real, i.e. dialectically. Hegel wishes thereby to render fixed thoughts fluid (379, c.f. PhG, s37). It is like the difference between inflected and isolating languages (Humboldt’s distinction). The relation of an isolated concept to all others is a key point for Haym. The ancient philosophers, as Hegel noted in the Phenomenology Preface (s37), began by identifying universals at work in concrete experience, whereas in modern times we already have these as abstract terms. They are on everyone’s lips. The task of today is to loosen this fixity. This, says Haym, is “the most significant” indicator of the background of the dialectic.

Logical Method

Haym says: “It is by immersing them in the concrete, in making the link to their forgotten origin come forth from the heart of living universal connectedness that relates them to reality and which has become invisible, that one renders the categories dialectical, or aestheticises them.” (380) (By “aesthetic” here and later, Haym means sense experience in general, as in Kant’s “Transcendental Aesthetic”. The suggestion of beauty of form is not absent though.)

The intuition of their sensuous significance glides under their frozen abstractness. Hegel looks retrospectively at their real etymology in experience. Another passage from the *Science of Logic* is instructive, when Hegel writes: “Only entities empty of thought are thus separable, being and nothing themselves, and it is them which the common understanding prefers to the truth, to the inseparability of one from the other that we have everywhere before our eyes.” (381, SoL, 1.1.c (Becoming, Remark 1)) The reference to “reason” is here in fact seen to be a reference to aesthetic experience, to the “aesthetisation of the work of the understanding. Haym comments:

“That Being and Nothing pass into each other and give rise to Becoming is only possible because I correct the abstraction by casting an eye on concrete reality. It is the intuition of space, time and movement, still more, it is the image of natural appearance and disappearance that allows the Logic to affirm that the category of Becoming is the “truth” of the categories of Being and Nothing.” (381)

The dialectic is supposed to arise from the pure concepts themselves, Haym argues, but really it is reality in the background that facilitates the transitions. This is clear in the Remarks, but a close reading of the main text reveals the same thing. A whole world of sensuous intuition is there for who wishes to see it, and it grows like a snowball through the text. This is clear in “Measure”, “Positive and Negative”, let alone in “Life” and “Chemism”. Even strict hegelians now concede this. (In the Encyclopaedia Logic, Hegel acknowledges the role in the generation of ideas, but not in their justification.) Hegel taught that his dialectic is the principle of all natural and mental vitality but, on the contrary, it is natural and spiritual vitality that is the principle of the dialectic. Haym cites Trendelenburg for proof of this. On the whole, there is more vitality in real life than in Hegel’s Logic where, for example, transformations are unidirectional.

History and Logic

Haym writes: “The Logic, briefly, has a course similar to that of history, and this because history becomes, as such, the matter and guiding thread, the concrete agent of the dialectic.” (383) As early as “Being”, the story of the Eleatics and Heraclitus are presented as the historical counterpoint of the logic of being, nothing and becoming. So with Infinity, Substance, etc. Philosophical systems are so to speak necessary points of view conceived at varying levels of abstraction. In turn, Spinoza’s Substance is replaced by “the Concept”. By this time, Hegel had already lectured (at Jena) on the history of philosophy. These points of view appear in the history of philosophy. Haym remarks:

“These definitions of the Absolute are effectively placed at the centre of world views, be they stated in more or less pure way, be they established with more of less consequence. [...] It is the business of logic to present in a whole the necessary succession of determinations of the Idea and its realisation. It is the business of the history of philosophy to show how the same determinations are arranged in a series in the way of happening in time. The history of philosophy is a closed system, the same system in a temporal projection, that logic exhibits as the atemporal system of pure reason. [...] This is the naive confession of the source from which the Logic drew in part its subject-matter and more than in part its form and movement. [...] The categories acquire their general dialectical fluidity by filling themselves with natural and spiritual reality through the thin canal of abstraction.” (384-85)

The supposedly “pure” thought derives its energy from memorised historical reality. As the propaedeutic to the system (i.e. the Phenomenology) was “woven principally from psychological and historical patterns” (385), so is the system itself hatched from a background in sensible, historical reality. In comparison to the Phenomenology, Haym continues:

“The fabric of the Logic, because it is not woven on the large and solid support of consciousness, is much more subtle. The trickery of which the understanding is hereby made the toy, is essentially the same; the confusion that reigns here, the arbitrariness with which it is sometimes the reliance on history, sometimes the support of intuition that comprises in a general way the centre of gravity of the dialectic, are the same.” (385-86)

There is a unitary pattern of the mind seeking unity in opposition.

Reception of the Logic

Hegel’s philosophy held sway for a long time. It could not have done so, Haym remarks, without an admixture of truth alongside the error. It worked like the Catholic church, he suggests: it offered a single, universal system of belief. The Catholic church preached renunciation amidst its secular life. Hegel’s philosophy too fled reality, but found itself amidst reality nonetheless. (Haym’s negative views here may be tangentially related to his interpretation of the “unhappy consciousness” as a critique of Catholicism.) Haym writes:

“The Logic, to express it briefly, is the attempt, successfully carried out, *to render inwardly and concretise abstract thought as such in extracting it from the fullness of the whole of human nature and the plenitude of the real.*” (386)

However, this is a contradictory task. It is in poor taste from the standpoint of religion and aesthetic feeling. It is confused in its principles and corrupts the intellectual conscience. Nonetheless, it is a major intellectual initiative. It is, says Haym, “in a general fashion one of the events the most heavy with consequences at the heart of the movement of the German spirit.” (387) Before Hegel, thought was marked by an abstract rationalism. The rights of “pure thought” were confined to formal logic, which had only an auxiliary role in the discovery of truth. Kant divided sensibility and understanding, delimiting reason and religion. Haym compares the change to connecting steam power to a railway line, or electric current to a grid. In living nature, this separation does not exist. Nature is dialectical. Even pure reason has recourse to language for its expression, and language is drawn from the concrete life of man. All our forces of mind contribute to language, which opens onto the world of objects.

Haym’s French translator Osmo notes that this view of language references von Humboldt, on whom Haym also wrote a biography which reflects this view of language. Von Humboldt was Hegel’s colleague in Berlin. I would add that a reconciliation with the work of Condillac in France (on whose British reception I have written elsewhere) on the origins of reason in sensibility might also be a source of useful comparisons. The danger is that the leading role of reason is lost in the striving after mental unity: the form of the personal is submerged in the organic notion of life.

A true philosophy must acknowledge its continuity with intuition, imagination and the totality of living feeling. Such a philosophy would not be so much a critique of pure reason as of living human nature. It takes all the forces of the mind to grasp the truth. Hegel’s era took this route and the Science of Logic is itself a fallacious step in the direction of wholeness. The Hellenic revival and new poetry in Germany are in debt to this awakened intelligence. Schiller and William von Humboldt exemplify it for Haym, as does Goethe’s approach to science.

Hegel wrote his Logic at an equal distance between the old scholasticism and the new poetic understanding of man, with an inventory of concepts drawing from living existence, their order owing something to history. All his mental energies go into each step. It was a codification, and a trivialisation into a teachable mechanical format, of lived experience. All our thoughts are set in motion by any one determination, but this is expressed in a mechanical dialectic, a determinate schema. Like Francis Bacon (Novum Organum), Hegel found syllogism inadequate, but eventually relapsed into scholasticism. He expressed this dissatisfaction when he repeatedly says that the proposition and syllogism do not express the True.

Laocoon, in the Vatican.

Goethe summarised his view of art in Laocoon (1798). Osmo cites Goethe’s Écrits sur l’art (ed. Todorov, 1996). Laocoon is a statue in the Vatican. In his essay on it, Goethe said: “A genuine art work remains, like a work of nature, always infinite for our intellect.” (390). We cannot exhaust it in words. Hegel thinks he has solved this problem by inventing a “speculative understanding”. Yet in addition to the crudeness of the attempt, Haym remarks, there is a danger of sophistry in the execution. Haym says:

“To concede to the understanding the legal right and capacity to carry out what is properly the business of the living spirit is to concede to it a power which, according to its nature, it can only misuse.” (391)

It is only owing to his determination and personal character that vulgar sophistry is avoided. His background scholarship and objectivity direct Hegel to the real basis of the concepts. Yet even here, there are lapses into superficial associations of ideas. The language games of the Cratylus and Euthydemus are at work in places. Only the difficulty of mastering the system stands in the way of its misuse. Who nowadays, Haym asks, with any spark of freedom or sense of reality would yoke himself to Hegel’s system for the sake of the sophistries it facilitates? The role of “pure thought” in determining just these relations of general concepts will be seen as a superstition.

We might have learned, with difficulty, through Goethe and Schiller, Herder and Jacobi, the limits of understanding faced with living reality. Hegel’s awareness of life, of totality, add to our awareness of this limitation. This is an achievement, though arguably one surpassed by Herbart, who offers a transcendental critique of the living human spirit. Hegel in comparison is confused. He sees contradiction as the essence of things. For Herbart, the removal of contradiction leads to the truth.

Hegel’s achievement will last when the name of “Hegelian” is forgotten, Haym concludes. He is a major philosopher, perhaps less a major thinker. As we have noted above in our remarks on Dilthey and the neo-Kantian alternative, we beg to differ.

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