The Identification of Vernunft and Wirklichkeit in Hegel

The Owl of Minerva 25 (1):23-45 (1993)

It is well known that Hegel’s Philosophy of Right initiated, when it first appeared, a dispute about his philosophy in general that has not abated to the present day. The initial grounds for this dispute included: Hegel’s often virulent attacks, in the Philosophy of Right, on contemporaries such as Fries, Hugo, and von Haller; the question of his political stance within Prussia, which was then rapidly developing into a reactionary, authoritarian state; in other words, the question of Hegel’s political accommodation, the question of his attitude to natural law, and so on. For a long time, therefore, the philosophical dispute was shaped by the political interests of the day. The struggle against Hegel’s philosophical system as a whole even resorted to personal defamation of the philosopher, so that, by revealing personal weakness, his system and the influential school of followers he had attracted could be discredited. Likewise, the diverse attempts at an adequate assessment of the historical influence of Hegel’s philosophy have come to a head. The two main questions, also deriving their inspiration from differing interpretations of the Philosophy of Right, are: How legitimate are the various Marxist references to Hegel as either the forerunner of Marxism or its principal opponent? How legitimate is the accusation that Hegel, by developing a totalitarian theory of the state, prepared the ground for twentieth century fascism, especially National Socialism? As previous research has pointed out, an adequate assessment of such relations will have to deal very carefully with Hegel’s position in his own day. For example, apart from his attitude to the situation in Prussia, his attitude to the most important event of the age, the French Revolution, must be examined. Furthermore, comparative perspectives must be established, so that the distinctive shape of Hegel’s philosophy of right can be seen clearly, against the background of the European constitutional debates of the day. In the last analysis, however, the essence of the disagreement still stems from the problem of the proper political classification of Hegel’s philosophy of right.
Keywords Major Philosophers
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ISBN(s) 0030-7580
DOI 10.5840/owl199325118
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