Hegel Tutor in Switzerland Autumn 1793 - 1796
[I focus on matters that are overlooked in the dated English biographies (particularly Walter Kaufmann's) with which I am most familiar. - SC]
The main thing missing from this chapter is reference to Hegel's German translation of the revolutionary book about the rights of the citizens of Vaud that later biographers refer to. I'm not sure if Rosenkranz knew about this and doesn't mention it or if it was only discovered later - and of course, perhaps he mentions it later on.
Rosenkranz explains how Hegel knew a politically active lawyer in Stuttgart and a painter in Berne in Switzerland, where he tutored. He observes that Hegel lived in many interesting towns and was not settled in one. In 1795, he visited Geneva, which is in the French speaking part of Switzerland, and also the Bernese Alps. The material on Hegel's response to the Swiss mountains thus goes back to 1844 when Rosenkranz' book appeared. I didn't know he had been to Geneva. He did not admire the sublimity or grandeur or calmness of the mountains - they are dead, he said, and do nothing for the imagination. He liked the streams though, as an eternal becoming and Rosenkranz relates this to his philosophy, as he often tries to do, more or less plausibly. However, Rosenkranz also reports Hegel as saying that 'physico-theology has nothing to say in the presence of such mountains' which I would have said is really the thought of the sublime appearing under another guise.
Referring to other fragments of the Berne period, Rosenkranz cites Hegel as contrasting the "Christian legend" with "Greek myth". This suggests to me that he was still uncertain in his religious opinions at this time. Rosenkranz interprets the text as indicating that "his faith is yet troubled". Of course it is reasonable that Hegel's opinions would develop over time and this seems to have been the case. Laurence Dickey has another more orthodox interpretation of this early text (I think it's the 'Fragments on folk-religion' that is being referred to). In the next chapter, he discusses Hegel's reading at this time.
Theological and Historical Studies of the Swiss PeriodRosenkranz remarks that Hegel's works are products of an artistry that places an individual fact in a universal context; Schelling's in contrast are more spontaneous effusions of the joy of discovery. He intersperses his narrative with interesting comments of this kind. He discusses theology and history turn about.
Hegel develops the idea of a "positive" religion, in which an external authority pronounces on expressions of piety. This refers to the material since published in English in Hegel's Early Theological Writings (ed. Knox, OUP). However, Rosenkranz also describes some of Hegel's background reading, which included:
- Mosheim (Ecclesiastical History, presumably)
- Spinoza (Tractatus Theologico-Politicus)
- Marivaux' Novels
In the light of the absence of reference to the Old Testament in the Phenomenology, it is interesting to note Rosenkranz's observation that Hegel's opinions on Jewish history fluctuated wildly. Thus he writes on Abraham and Moses in The Spirit of Christianity and its Fate, ignores it in the Phenomenology, sees it as close to the German spirit in the Philosophy of Right, likens it to Greece and Rome in the Philosophy of Religion and to Persia in the Philosophy of History. Some of this is explicable by the development of his own views.
On Christianity proper, Rosenkranz notes that Klopstock's Messiah had appeared in 1773 along with many similar writings and Hegel too writes a Life of Jesus that sees him as a moral teacher with miraculous matter excluded and ignoring Paul's Letters. At Tübingen Hegel had preferred Socrates to Jesus for Socrates inaugurated no ceremonies and did not bind his disciples to himself, but in Berne he changes his mind. He writes a 'Critique of Positive Religion' (In English 'Positivity of the Christian Religion') between November 1795 and April 1796 that asks: how is a popular religion possible? how can imagination and understanding both be satisfied? what is the balance of public and private religion? how are Church and State to be related? The deeper his love for the "historical Christ" says Rosenkranz, the more frustrated he became with doctrine. Of course, this makes Hegel an originator of the whole "historical Jesus" line of thought, as indeed he was. Hegel writes of not forcing sensibility in line with fixed doctrine, or having a Sunday and a week-day self out of relation. He thinks the early Christian community of goods inapplicable in a modern state and asserts that "Christian equality" is often an empty symbol.
- Gibbon - Decline and Fall (famous for its account of Christian origins)
- Montesquieu, L'Esprit des Lois
- Hume - History of England (a conservative account of its subject)
- Schiller - Thirty Years War (lest we forget that Schiller was also a historian)
- Reynal - Histoire des Deux Indes
Correspondence of Hegel and Schelling (1794-95)This chapter features four early letters of Hegel to Schelling from Hegel’s Berne period, that is, before the famous one shortly before he joined Schelling in Jena. Part 1 of Rosenkranz’s book covers the period prior to the move to Jena around 1800 when his public life began. One interesting thing about these chapters is the degree to which they reproduce material often thought of as not printed until the 20th century by Nohl and others in Germany. In fact, much of it was available in Rosenkranz, either in summary or in the original. The other main interesting point is Rosenkranz’s own take on Hegel’s development, often in pithy remarks at the start of the chapters.
Rosenkranz begins by observing that, while Hegel was deepening his knowledge by reflecting on his reading, he did this at this time without outward violence of changes of direction. Hegel progresses, rather than skipping from extreme to extreme, he puts it. To my mind, this indicates some mix of a historical method and a placid or scholarly temper in Hegel that stays close to the facts he is absorbing. Rosenkranz also expresses this by saying that Hegel ‘made himself a stranger to himself’, proceeding by observation.
Whilst in Berne, Hegel absorbed Schelling, Kant and Fichte, Plato, Aristotle and Spinoza. Of course, many of Fichte and more so Schelling’s works were still to appear at this point. Next, Rosenkranz illustrates his view of Hegel by a comparison with Schelling, citing a Carl Bachmann who in 1810 compared Schelling to Plato and Hegel to Aristotle.
This was taken up in English by Hutcheson Stirling in his Secret of Hegel (1865). Rosenkranz says Schelling broke with subjective idealism, but often only by way of presentiment: quoting poets and using scholastic terms (often in Latin). Schelling was awarded a doctorate in 1792 and published in 1793. Hegel wrote to him the following year. Rosenkranz reproduces Hegel’s letters but not Schelling’s replies – Schelling was still alive at this point of course and still harboured some resentment against Hegel and may not have permitted this. Of the four letters:
The first letter (Dec 1794) amounts to little. Hegel writes to renew acquaintance, asks about a position and about responses to Kant on religion, news of the French guillotine, etc. Schelling replies.
The second (Jan 1795) observes that he (Hegel) has been studying Kant and thinks it would be ‘interesting’ to disturb ‘the theologians’ in their ‘gothic temple’ with Kantian ideas. He mentions Fichte’s Critique of All Revelation (1792) that was at first mistaken for a work of Kant’s. He asks how far, starting from the Kantian moral law we might revise the idea of God. He still speaks of reason, freedom and the ‘invisible church’ as watchwords. Schelling replies.
The third letter (April 1795) turns to politics and speaks contemptuously of a self-electing ‘sovereign council’. He predicts that Kant will cause a revolution of ideas in Germany, though the idea of God as ‘absolute self’ will remain esoteric. He has been studying Kant’s ‘postulates of practical reason’ (that is, God, freedom and immortality) along with some printed sheets of Schelling and intends to go further into Fichte’s Wissenschaftslehre (1794), saying that people will be taken by vertigo by the extreme altitude from which Fichte writes. The ideas of human dignity and freedom have taken root and in this sense he relates his political experiences to the significance he attributes to Kant’s philosophy. Here philosophical proof, religion and politics go hand in hand. He disapproves of the fact that the Church taught human depravity to the benefit of despotism. (If I might interject a comment here, this is early evidence of the ‘revolution of ideas’ mentioned in the Science of Logic and elsewhere being that inaugurated by Kant and which he associates political reform. It also strikes me as a bit hard on the Church, given that the rulers were subject to original sin as much as the ruled, but we must allow Hegel to speak to his own experience.) Hegel also refers to Schiller’s Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Man and mentions that Hölderlin has been studying under Fichte at Jena.
The fourth letter (August 1795) mentions Schelling’s early writings ‘The Self as Principle of Philosophy’ and ‘The Possibility of a Form of Philosophy in General’ and is worried that people will not give up the idea of a not-self readily even when Kant’s ideas hit home. (If I might interject again, this seems plausible enough and has been one of the central weaknesses of the German idealist tradition from then to now.) Hegel mentions rumblings against Fichte in Jena and interestingly describes himself as being weak on Church history. The chapter breaks off with the end of this fourth letter.
Correspondence of Hegel with HölderlinRosenkranz recounts how Hölderlin found another tutoring job for Hegel at Frankfurt-an-Main in Western Germany which Hegel accepted on Hölderlin’s word – a bit of a hostage to fortune you would think and the reader is left waiting to see how things turn out in Frankfurt.
Rosenkranz reproduces a letter from Hegel in this connection that he dates to summer 1796, but Osmo thinks this should be corrected to November 1796 as it replies to one dated October 1796 from Hölderlin. In the letter, Hegel writes that a teacher should form character, but can only do so in harmony with the parents and he comes across as quite insightful and speaking from experience, which of course he was. He is happy to rely on Hölderlin as regards salary, which sounds like naivety speaking. The family with whom he is to stay are the Gogels.
Finally, Rosenkranz reproduces Hegel’s poem Eleusis which he dates to August 1796 and interprets it in the context of his affection for Hölderlin. Osmo notes that Jacques d’Hondt disputes this interpretation and sees the significance of the poem as ‘free-masonic’, which strikes me as a bit far fetched as a contrast given that it’s inscribed “To Hölderlin”. (Osmo cites d’Hondt’s Hegel: a biography (1998) for this and thinks D'Hondt ‘profoundly reworked’ our ideas of Hegel over many years.) Osmo notes also that the revised date of the letter might separate it from the poem.
In the lines of the poem itself, Hegel refers to the freedom and leisure that night gives him from the busy-ness of the daylight world (an echo of his overburdened working hours at Berne, perhaps). He wants ‘free truth’ and not peace with dogmas – the scholar may seek only love and wisdom, rather than being a toy of the merchant or sophist – and Hegel worries over his ability to speak what he has discerned of the infinite. Again, the chapter breaks off with the end of the poem.
Life as a Tutor in Frankfurt-am-Main: New Year 1797 to end of 1800
After his period in Berne in Switzerland, Hegel returned to his family in Stuttgart where, we have it from his sister, he was withdrawn and morose. He then proceeded on northwards up to Frankfurt, hoping for more leisure, books and stimulating companionship. He stayed with a merchant family the Gogels in the Roßmarkt – I daresay the RAF bombed this flat in the war, but I think Goethe’s house survived, so you never know. Rosenkranz points out that the same town was the cradle both of Goethe’s poetry and Hegel’s philosophy. However, it appears later that he misallocates some texts from the Jena period to Frankfurt, so that conclusion is not quite sound. Nor is his conclusion that Hegel did indeed have more leisure in Frankfurt for the same reason, though it may be true nonetheless. The fact that his sister’s view is not corroborated might allow for a more favourable view of the Berne period too, but I am told that the Berne period has been investigated on its own account subsequently.
In Frankfurt, says Rosenkranz, Hegel’s speculative talent took wing and his political ambitions were kept alive. However, again the misallocation of texts casts doubt on the former of these assertions. Politically, a friend died at the battle of Wagram fighting Napoleon in a Hessian regiment.
Hegel met Hölderlin again and witnessed his “catastrophic” affair with Suzette. He also met a Herr Sinclair who expressed concern about the subjectivity of idealism. He also met many other people who are less remembered. Sinclair later expressed his ideas in a book Truth and Certainty (1811). Hegel was receptive to such “Christian romanticism” as Rosenkranz describes it. I don’t think Sinclair has ever been much discussed in English.
Rosenkranz describes Hegel’s thought as having moved on from rationalism and Fichte to a “speculative mysticism” at this time. Again the apparent misdating of texts vitiates the reliability of this conclusion. Hegel spoke of Ceres, goddess of grain (fertility) in his early poem Eleusis and now
turns to nature-poetry. In one striking image, he says “spring menaces...”; and in another that nature in winter is in mourning. This perhaps presages his willingness to read meanings into natural phenomena, though of course it doesn’t justify it.
Political StudiesRosenkranz summarises Hegel’s political experience at this time by noting that he was from a civil service family and had seen a university town at Tübingen and then a patriarchal hereditary aristocracy at Berne. Frankfurt in contrast, was run by a monied merchant aristocracy. Hegel admired the (mixed) English constitution, as was then common, and also the development of commercial relations there. He followed debates on the English poor law in journals (R doesn’t mention which ones, which is a shame as they’re mostly available online these days) and the Prussian civil code. He also knew of arguments on penal sanctions including solitary confinement. (If I might interject here,
this is very probably a reference to the English prison reformer Howard, who sought to reform prisons by instituting solitary confinement, which proved worse for prisoners than some of the punishments it replaced, though it was well-intended.)
In Frankfurt, Hegel wrote a commentary on Steuart’s Principles of Political Economy (1767) using the German translation (Tübingen, 1769-72). Osmo says this commentary is now lost. It is important that not all Hegel’s writings have come down to us and Rosenkranz is a valuable source of information on the lost material. For example, this lost commentary justifies Laurence Dickey’s use of a comparison with Steuart that is also developed in Paul Chamley's Economie Politique et Philosophie chez Steuart et Hegel (Paris, 1963). It suggests to me that Hegel was perhaps out of step with the main line of liberal thought on the subject deriving from Adam Smith. The lost commentary addressed several aspects of civil society that reappear only in the Philosophy of Right (1821), including:
- division of labour
- state power
- poor relief and police
Also in the Frankfurt period, Hegel worked on an essay on ‘The German Constitution’. Here he vaguely contrasts an indeterminate outward hope with an enduring outward political reality that is inadequate to it. The German emperor has ceased to be a source of law (‘Recht’) and has declined to a particular amongst particulars; whereas the character of law is to be universal. This universal in Germany is thus present only as thought, not as effective reality. (To interject again: this was translated by T.M. Knox and if I recall rightly also contains quite a bit of empirical material.)
Finally, Hegel also wrote in a more practical political vein an essay ‘That the Württemberg Magistrates should be elected by the People’. However, friends suggested revisions and then advised against publication. Rosenkranz describes him as wavering between Plato and Rousseau (I’m note sure what that means). He evokes general images of hypocrisy setting aside justice through self-interest – that sounds like the the sort of youthful idealism that he later characterised in ‘Virtue and the Way of the World’. However, the text has been more adequately commented on elsewhere, so I will hold my horses.
Return to the Critique of Positive ReligionIn 1799 and 1800, politics gives way again to religion in Hegel’s thoughts, but this time in a more moderate spirit in which there is a role for ‘positivity’, which is to say for the intrusion of outward fact in the form of both traditional doctrinal content and public expression. The precise autobiographical validity of this chronology has since been subject to doubt owing to questions over the dating of texts, however, I here recite the story as presented by Rosenkranz. The main text he deals with is in fact dated.
Hegel thus now takes the standpoint of a ‘philosophy of religion’ within which the concept of religion is developed and in the light of which its historical expressions are interpreted. Rosenkranz cites the ‘system-fragment’ of 1800 to back this up. This was later published by Hermann Nohl in Hegels Theologische Jugendschriften (1907) and is available in English at the back of TM Knox’s Early Theological Writings (1948).
Hegel’s concept of religion now goes something like this: we place God outside ourselves and relate to him, though LOVE, as of something infinite, unified and alive. The finite as LIFE (I capitalise some of the key terms) thereby raises itself above oppositions and thus sees or discerns the infinite. Hegel’s vocabulary here validates (practical, mental) ‘life’ as a basic context in which concrete concepts arise and make sense. Here, continues Rosenkranz, even the oppositions of life (in the limited biological sense) and death, or of thought and what-is-thought must be abandoned; the true infinite is not to be held at a distance as one term in an opposition that WE have conceived. At this point Hegel opposes reason (that holds onto the infinite) and understanding (that draws distinctions). Rosenkranz describes this description of Hegel’s as an ‘abstract characterisation’ of religion.
Developing the theme of ‘positivity’ (outwardness), Hegel now thinks that religion needs an ‘objective focus’ (culte/cultus) – as e.g. in a temple – that is connected to a subjectivity (that is, a religious consciousness imbued with the significance of the outward facts of ceremony, etc). The conditions of religion, he says, are to be freed from ‘absolute objectivity’ and the concerns of finite life. In this context, the meaning of SACRIFICE consists of a giving up of the finite, setting nothing finite aside as real. In addition to this, what is not sacrificed loses its particularity by being SHARED. (If I might interject here, the theme of ‘sacrifice’ is often noted as something assumed and pmnipresent in the ancient world, from Abraham to that Greek bloke who sacrificed his daughter Iphigenia at the start of the Trojan war to the Atonement itself - on some interpretations. Even we speak of ‘sacrificing ourselves’ to a goal, which is both the same and different to my mind. In addition, Hegel’s insightful interpretation of sharing was new to me and seems highly plausible.)
Song, dance and joyful feeling bring subjectivity into play. Hegel here cites phrases from Fichte’s Appeal to the Public (1799), the essay that ended his tenure at Jena; and also the lines ‘What the heaven of heavens does not encompass finds its place in Mary’s heart.’ This text (the system-fragment) is dated September 1800.
The chapter includes in this mystical way with the observation that ‘the infinite is not the totality of the finite’ (for that is only a ‘finite infinite’, so to speak). This sounds like the sort of thing Bob Wallace sometimes says and sounds like a significant development of the ideas both of infinity and totality, both of which are fairly key for Hegel sating back to his ‘hen kai pan’ (all and one) days.
The next chapter is particularly interesting and much longer than the others. More on it to follow.
[I partially reproduce here some comments from Beat Greuter on Carl Bachmann occasioned by my chapter 14 above in the public domain at email@example.com and my reply in acknowledgement:
"Bachmann wrote a book on "System der Logik" (1828) based on Aristotelian logic. After Hegel's death he wrote another book "Ueber Hegel's System und die Notwendigkeit einer nochmaligen Umgestaltung der Philosophie" (1833) where he repeated that the system of philosophy by Hegel has not yet come to an end. [....] It is very interesting that it was just Karl Rosenkranz - 10 years before he wrote his Hegel biography - who replied to Bachman's "Ueber Hegel's System und die Notwendigkeit einer nochmalige Umgestaltung der Philosophie". Bachmann was at this time - what an irony of destiny - a professor for philosophy at the university of Jena while Rosenkranz had the same position in Königsberg, one of Kant's successor. Rosenkranz entitled his reply a "Sendschreiben an den Hofrath und Professor der Philosophie, Herrn Dr. Carl Friedrich Bachmann in Jena" (1834). [...] On the following website you can find the Google books written by Bachmann. I do not think that there are English translations.
I also find out that Bachmann's "Anti Hegel" (1835) was an answer to
Rosenkranz's "Sendschreiben" I mentioned before. [...] " ]
Stephen Cowley replied:
"Many thanks for the corrections and supplementary information. Pierre Osmo gives a certain amount of information about Karl Friedrich Bachmann (1785-1855) who is mentioned several times in Rosenkranz’s book. In addition to citing the comparison with Aristotle, Rosenkranz particularly mentions Bachmann as one of 30 students attending Hegel’s Winter 1804 course in Jena that covered his whole system. He later notes Hegel’s gratitude for Bachmann’s early positive account of the Phenomenology in the Heidelberger Jahrbücher (1810). In 1858 in his reply to Haym, Rosenkranz also names Bachmann as one of five protestant polemicists which Osmo takes to refer to his book ‘Anti-Hegel’ (1835) which provoked a reply from Feuerbach as his earlier one did from Rosenkranz himself.
All this adds to my knowledge of the richness of early German reactions to Hegel. Bachmann’s use of ‘formal logic’ sounds similar to the early work of Trendelenberg on Aristotle that took an anti-Hegelian line. Frege comes at things from a more abstract, Meinongian angle, as far as I remember. Rosenkranz’s own view (which I will come to later) is that mind is a central concept for Hegel with propositional thinking an offshoot of this. Bachmann seems to have moved from comparing Hegel with Aristotle on the grounds of his interest in worldly matters of fact to contrasting him with Aristotle for not doing justice to the meaning of fixed terms – but as I don’t have access to the original texts I can’t usefully comment further." ]