The Young Hegel. Georg Lukßcs 1938
Part IV. The Breach with Schelling and The Phenomenology of Mind (Jena 1803-1807)

4.1 The growing estrangement between Schelling and Hegel up to the final breach

OUR previous discussions have made it plain that, while Hegel and Schelling joined forces in an attack on subjective idealism, they were by no means at one on all questions of philosophy. Differences of opinion did not make their appearance during their collaboration and up to 1803, the year of Schelling’s departure for WŘrzburg. They can only be discovered by a thorough scrutiny of the writings of the two men, and this, as we have seen, is no easy task since this was the period when Hegel was experimenting with Schelling’s conceptual system. Not until the Lectures of 1805-6 do we find that Hegel has freed himself from Schelling’s terminology.

When Hegel finally disengaged his own philosophical approach and language, he launched a polemic against Schelling’s followers and disciples, and also against Schelling himself, a polemic that was conducted with increasing acerbity as time went on. For this transitional phase we are able to draw on Hegel’s Notebook, the dating of which we have already discussed (p. 254f) . Furthermore, we can also refer to the lecture fragments from the last years in Jena. These fragments, which Rosenkranz has published with the title Didactic Modification of the System, are of great importance.

If we wish to understand the disagreement that arose between Hegel and Schelling we must not be misled by the framework of our own analysis which made it necessary to follow Hegel’s development step by step, while invoking Schelling’s philosophy only as a foil or as the object of Hegel’s criticism. This may well have created the impression that Schelling’s thought remained static at this period and that Hegel’s final criticism, his blunt rejection of Schelling’s philosophy in 1807, implied a denial of the Schelling with whom he had joined forces in 1801 in an attack on subjective idealism.

It is not possible for us to give an account of Schelling’s inner development here. All we can do here is to indicate briefly the main phases of his thought during the period under discussion. As we know, the point of departure for Hegel’s collaboration with him was, his System of Transcendental Idealism (1800). His next work, Presentation of My System of Philosophy, was the one closest to Hegelian thought and provides evidence of Schelling’s efforts to appropriate the principles of Hegel’s dialectics. But we very soon perceive the emergence of quite opposite principles in Schelling. These become manifest partly in his growing tendency to make arbitrary constructs in the philosophy of nature and partly in the increasing weight he places on aesthetics – a result of grounding ‘intellectual intuition’ in aesthetics. This tendency was already apparent in his first system but it now brought him into closer proximity to the Romantics’ cult of genius. A further tendency diametrically opposed to Hegel is to be found in his growing receptivity to mystical ideas which likewise had their roots in the Romantic movement which had glorified the theosophy and nature philosophy of Jacob B÷hme. This increased proximity to Romantic ideas at first went no further than a mystical Platonism, in the Jena dialogue Bruno of 1802. But no sooner had he arrived in WŘrzburg than he published a new work, Philosophy and Religion (1804) in which his now thoroughly religious mysticism was frankly asserted. This work is of the first importance for an understanding of his development since it already contained the seeds of the purely reactionary philosophy of his later years. Thus Schelling had turned away from the principles they had shared, from the common attempt to extend the dialectics of objective idealism in a progressive sense, even before Hegel embarked on his attack. Objectively, the parting of the ways had come with the publication of the last-named work of Schelling’s. Schelling’s other major publications during the last part of his stay in Jena include the Lectures on the Methods of Academic Study (1802) and the Philosophy of Art (1802-3). They define the intermediate stages of Schelling’s progress towards religious mysticism, although it is only fair to remark that the Philosophy of Art in particular contains a vast amount of valuable material and is one of Schelling’s greatest achievements. Thus if we now turn our attention to Hegel’s increasingly forthright criticism of Schelling we must pay due heed to the fact that this reflects not only Hegel’s development, but Schelling’s own development in the opposite direction. Furthermore, in our discussion of their controversy we must bear in mind that we have no documentary evidence and no recorded statement by Hegel relating to a number of questions on which their disagreement was obviously at its greatest. Moreover, we are not thinking here of fortuitous gaps in our knowledge, but of the fundamental divergence in method between Hegel’s attack on the subjective idealism of Kant, Jacobi and Fichte, and the manner in which he later criticized Schelling. As we have seen, the attack on subjective idealism was comprehensive. It began with the most general problems concerning the nature of philosophy and went on to quite specific issues of moral philosophy and the philosophy of law and society. In contrast to this, his criticism of Schelling, even in his private notebooks takes issue only with the central problems of philosophical method. If we compare the Jena publications of Hegel and Schelling – and we shall quote a few more examples of their most characteristic ideas – it will be plain to everyone that their opinions had already diverged greatly at that period. But it is precisely on such objective disagreements that we are left in the dark. Whether and to what extent they were aired in conversation is not known to us, and Hegel himself does not make the slightest allusion to conversations of that sort in his private diaries.

In these differences of approach, in this restriction to the fundamental questions of philosophical method, we can see how greatly Hegel had gained in assurance since the days of the debate with Fichte. At that time he was concerned to extend his method systematically and to apply it to the various spheres of knowledge (society, history, nature). This process took place in and through the campaign against subjective idealism By now, however, the task of self-clarification was complete. He was no longer interested in demonstrating the superiority of his method by exposing his opponent’s weaknesses and his own strengths by testing it out on all sorts of concrete issues. A further factor was that while moral and political philosophy had constituted an important part of the philosophy of subjective idealism they were marginal in Schelling’s system. At stake now were the great central methodological questions raised by objective idealism. It is obviously Hegel’s view that if these were settled then all was settled as far as philosophy was concerned.

Nevertheless, it is important to quote one or two passages from Schelling which have no direct bearing on Hegel’s criticisms, but which are rendered necessary by our own approach. We have shown in some detail the close connections between Hegel’s views on history, economics and society, and his philosophical views, and how the latter arose out of the former and acquired their specific philosophical form through them. It is obvious that similar connections, if in a much modified form, must have been present also in Schelling – as indeed in every other philosopher. Obviously it cannot be our task to establish these connections in Schelling’s thought – that must be left to the Schelling specialists. But it is of interest to give just one or two examples which make it clear that the disagreement with Hegel was not just confined to the questions of philosophical method on which Hegel concentrated, but that it extended to all the problems of the philosophy of history and society. It is important to stress this for the additional reason that the more recent bourgeois literature on Hegel makes it easier to blur the distinctions between the dialectical methods of Hegel and Schelling by completely trivializing the differences of opinion on these other questions. (This process can be seen at its worst in Heller, but it is a standing feature of the more recent literature on Hegel.)

Let us just glance at Schelling’s views on society in Jena. His Lectures on the Methods of Academic Study must obviously include something about the problems of history and society. What he does is to make a purely formal equation in which he transforms the harmony of necessity and freedom into ‘stages of being’ (Potenzen) of the real and the ideal. The upshot is that this unity is embodied, in real terms, in the perfect state and, at the level of the ideal, in the church. This pair of opposites is then formally related to antiquity and the modern world, thus revealing Schelling’s fundamental inability to grasp the specific character of modern civil society:

‘That so-called civil freedom has produced only the saddest mixture of freedom and slavery, but not the absolute and hence free existence of the one or the other.’

On the surface what we have here is Schelling’s total failure to understand those problems of modern civil society and its economy that were so vital to the development of Hegel’s philosophical system. But behind his incomprehension we may detect other tendencies when we look at his views about the Enlightenment, the Revolution and the tasks of philosophy vis-Ó-vis both. He reviles the Enlightenment for its ‘dearth of ideas’ and refers to it as the philosophy of common sense. This he defines as

‘the understanding instructed in lofty and vacuous reasoning by a false and superficial culture.’

The victory of that understanding is a disaster, according to Schelling:

‘The elevation of the common understanding to the position of judge in matters of the reason, leads necessarily to ochlocracy in the realm of science and sooner or later this ends with the general uprising of the mob.’

According to Schelling another dangerous conception of philosophy attempts to orientate it towards the useful. The task of philosophy is to wage war incessantly on all such tendencies:

‘If anything at all is able to offer some resistance to the approaching flood in which more and more visibly high and low have been commingled, ever since the mob began to write and every plebeian elevates himself to the rank of judge, it is philosophy whose natural motto is: odi profanum vulgus et arceo. [I hate the vulgar rabble and drive them away]

These quotations could be multiplied with ease. We believe, however, that the position is perfectly clear: on the one hand, Hegel never took the trouble to attack views of this sort as expressed by Schelling; on the other hand, anyone who has followed Hegel’s development in Jena will be aware that Hegel’s views are diametrically opposed to those expressed here.

Of course, in the period leading up to the Phenomenology there is an extensive series of satirical passages attacking the reactionary Romanticism of the Schelling school, and also of Schelling himself. In particular, Hegel criticizes their flirtation with mystical and religious concepts, the denigration of the understanding in philosophy, the playing with forms and the barbaric confusion of feeling and understanding. Here are some of Hegel’s observations on these matters:

‘Just as there was a cult of the genius in literature, so now we seem to have a similar cult of philosophical genius. They mix some carbon, oxygen, nitrogen and hydrogen together, wrap it up in paper which contains some writing about polarity, give it a wooden pigtail of vanity and shoot it off like a rocket – and then they have depicted the empyrean. There we have G÷rres and Wagner. The crudest empiricism mixed with formalistic ideas about matter and polarities, adorned with senseless analogies and intoxicated aperšus.’

In lectures written at the same time Hegel attacks mysticism, which he finds even worse.

‘There is indeed a poor middle thing standing between feeling and science, a speculative feeling, or an idea which cannot free itself from feeling and imagination, but which is no longer just feeling and imagination.’

And he goes so far in his contempt for would-be profundity that he noted down this aphorism:

‘Whatever has a deep meaning, is worthless for that very reason.’

But for all this Hegel makes a clear distinction, especially in his lectures, between Schelling’s supporters and Schelling himself. We have seen that Hegel always respected Schelling’s historical achievement of taking the first steps in objective idealism. At this period he was obviously of the opinion that Schelling was still on the right road and that he was still open to logical argument. Even the letter accompanying a presentation copy of The Phenomenology of Mind only contained criticism of Schelling’s followers and not of Schelling himself. And as the reader will recollect, this was at a time when Schelling was making experiments in magic with a divining rod, experiments which Hegel viewed with extreme scepticism for all the politeness and restraint in which he couched his letters on the subject. He made up for this by the open mockery with which he treated the Schelling school in his lectures. He warns his listeners to beware of the magniloquent, orotund language of the school, for, he says,

‘the secret will one day be revealed that behind the imposing fašade of expression, very vulgar thoughts lay hidden ... I cannot introduce you ... to the profundities of this philosophy, for it has none, and I say this lest you be imposed upon and deceived into believing that there must be some sense in these ornate and weighty words. ... In actual fact this formalism can be acquired in half an hour. For example, instead of saying something is long, say it has length, and that this length is magnetism; instead of broad, say it has breadth and that it is electricity; instead of thick, corporeal, say that is enters the third dimension; instead of pointed, say that it is the pole of contraction; and instead of saying, the fish is long, say it belongs in the scheme of magnetism, etc.’

But these are just preliminary skirmishes. On the essential issues, however, Hegel did not spare Schelling, for all that he respected him and he still believed he was not irrevocably lost. Hegel directed his attack at the central pillars of Schelling’s philosophy.

Chief among these is the problem of whether knowledge of the absolute can be achieved and by what means. That there can be such knowledge was common ground between Hegel and Schelling, and this was what they had fought for against subjective idealism. The point at issue, then, was how to acquire such knowledge. As we know, ‘intellectual intuition’ was the means preferred by Schelling. The stronger his aesthetic and later his religious preoccupations became, the more immediate this knowledge became. Thus in Philosophy and Religion he asserts that

‘it is only called intuition because the soul which is one and the same as the absolute, can have none but an immediate relationship with it.’

Now the immediacy of ‘intellectual intuition’ has two very important consequences. In the first place, it is placed in blunt opposition to ‘ordinary’ conceptual modes of cognition. The fact that both art and religion are the exclusive ‘organs’ by which to perceive the absolute underscores Schelling’s tendency to drive a wedge between normal thought and cognition of the absolute. This yearning to have done with thought, with understanding and reason is what constantly calls forth Hegel’s mockery, and it is easy to see his indignation with this self-important mystical irrationalism. Thus we find the following passage in his Notebook:

‘If the absolute, while out for a stroll, should slip and fall from its own proper sphere into the water, then it will become a fish, an organic, living thing. And if it were to slip and fall into the realm of pure thought – for even pure thought is supposed not to be its proper realm – then it would come blundering in, a wicked, finite thing, which one would be too ashamed to mention, if it weren’t one’s job, since for once it cannot be denied that an actual logic is present. Water is such a cold, wicked element, and yet life thrives in it. Is thought such an inferior element? Must the absolute really be so badly off in it and behave so badly in it?’

In the implied contempt felt for the understanding Hegel detects a fear of the understanding as something barbaric. He therefore places the aristocratic philosophy of irrationalism on the same plane as ordinary illiteracy.

‘The barbarian is astonished when he hears that the square on the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the squares on the other two sides. He thinks it could really be otherwise, draws away from the understanding in fear, and prefers to hold fast to his intuitions. Reason without understanding is nothing, but understanding in the absence of reason is still something. The understanding cannot be dispensed with.’

Hegel never tires of repeating that truth, knowledge of the world as it really is, knowledge of the absolute, is only to be gained by advancing along the road from immediate intuition via understanding and reason. Anyone who really strives for knowledge should not allow himself to be deterred by the apparent abstraction, the apparent barrenness and poverty of conceptual thought as opposed to the immediate vitality of intuition, for only if he passes along the road described above will he discover that the correctly defined concept comes from life and returns to life.

‘The individual well knows the truth of his individuality which precisely prescribes the course of his existence, but consciousness of life in general is something he expects from philosophy. Here his hopes appear to be shattered when, instead of the richness of life, mere concepts appear, and instead of the wealth of the immediate world, the most desiccated abstractions. But the concept is itself the mediator between oneself and life since it teaches us to discover life in it, and itself in life. Of course, this is a matter of which science must convince itself.’

In these passages the polemic against Schelling is quite evident. But in addition to them there is a whole series of statements from the period leading up to the Phenomenology in which Hegel directly or indirectly, attacks Schelling’s cognitive method, without mentioning Schelling but in such a way as to leave no doubt that it is the premises underlying Schelling’s position that are being undermined. This can be seen above all from the way in which Hegel strives – the more energetically as time goes on – to subordinate art and religion to philosophy as modes of cognizing the absolute, and to deny that they are adequate to the task on their own. Since art was the point at which the identity of subject and object was most patently made manifest in Schelling’s view, such passages may undoubtedly be held to contain an indirect attack on his theory of ‘intellectual intuition’. This polemic even influences Hegel’s own intellectual style. From this point on art always remains the most immediate and hence the lowest form of apprehension of the absolute. However, in his later works, and starting in The Phenomenology of Mind, Hegel emphasizes that despite the inadequacy of art, its content remains absolute truth. In the Lectures of 1805-6 his animus against Schelling’s philosophy is such that he concentrates almost entirely on the inadequacies of art as a cognitive instrument. He refers to art as

‘an Indian Bacchus which is no clear, self-knowing spirit. ... It is, therefore an element inadequate for spirit. Hence art can only give its configurations a limited spirit.... This finite medium contemplation, cannot encompass infinity. It is only an intended infinity ... it is only intended, not true representation. The necessity, the shape of thought is not contained in it. Beauty is the veil that conceals the truth, rather than what presents it.’

We repeat, Hegel corrected this one-sided view by the time he came to write the Phenomenology. And we have only quoted it to show the reader how far his dislike of Schelling’s ‘intellectual intuition’ would take him in this transitional period.

Hegel’s passion throughout this polemic is to be explained by the fact that ‘intellectual intuition’ was not just a particular cognitive mode, but something which had the most far-reaching consequences for the entire system of philosophy, for an understanding of the relations of man to the truth and to the absolute. This brings us to the second important consequence of Schelling’s view of the absolute. ‘Intellectual intuition’ goes hand in band with an aristocratic theory of knowledge. Schelling repeatedly argues that authentic philosophical truth, knowledge of the absolute, is attainable only by a few chosen people, by geniuses. One part of philosophy, the most important part, simply could not be acquired by learning:

‘However, this very principle of the antinomy of the absolute and of merely finite forms, the conviction that in philosophy art and production can no more be separated than form and content in poetry, demonstrates that the dialectic too has a side from which it cannot be learnt, and that it too is founded upon the productive faculty, no less than what might be called, in the original sense of the word, the element of poetry in philosophy.’

The connection between this theory of knowledge and Schelling’s views on society, on the Enlightenment and Revolution, which we have already quoted, is obvious. His aristocratic theory of knowledge is designed to create an unbridgeable gulf between the ‘chosen’ and the mob, just like the gulf the Restoration attempted to create in the realm of politics. Thus Hegel’s passionate tone is based, on the one hand, on his determination to liberate philosophy from every sort of irrational mystification and self-important obscurity; on the other hand, it has its roots in politics. Modern society as Hegel understands it and as it emerged from the French Revolution exists not only objectively and in itself, but also subjectively and for itself, it is the incarnation of the world-spirit. And that means that the self-discovery of the spirit in the modern state and modern society must not only be objectively true in itself, but it must be knowledge available to every individual. In his lectures Hegel makes this idea quite explicit:

‘It should briefly be noted that, as the science of reason, philosophy is of its very nature, by virtue of its general mode of existence, available for all. Not all can attain to it, but that is not in question, any more than that few people become princes. That some men are placed higher than others is a scandal only if it is claimed that they are creatures of another kind and that nature had created them so.’

Thus the connection between Hegel’s theory of knowledge and his general political attitudes is evident. It also provides additional proof that Hegel’s universal class could not possibly have reference to the hereditary feudal nobility. Furthermore, it is plain that the purely philosophical disagreement between Hegel and Schelling had its roots in profound social and political differences of opinion.

Hegel’s repudiation of the predestined genius did not go beyond the recognition that the knowledge of the absolute is possible for all, and that every individual can acquire it. Actually to do so requires significant intellectual labour, in Hegel’s view. Nevertheless, one of the outstanding tasks of philosophy was to develop a methodology which would facilitate this task. In his private notebooks Hegel proposed this programme:

‘The partition between the terminology of philosophy and ordinary consciousness has still to be broken through.’

It is this programme that Hegel carried out in the Phenomenology. In the Preface to that work Hegel states:

‘Science on its side requires the individual self-consciousness to have risen into this high ether, in order to be able to live with science. and in science, and really to feel alive there. Conversely, the individual has the right to demand that science shall hold the ladder to help him get at least as far as this position, shall show him that he was in himself this ground to stand on. His right rests on his absolute independence, which he knows he possesses in every type and phase of knowledge, for in every phase, whether recognized by science or not, and whatever be the content, his right as an individual is the absolute and final form, i.e. he is the immediate certainty of self and thereby is unconditioned being, were this expression preferred.’

The entire Phenomenology is dedicated to the fulfilment of this programme. And even in this preliminary statement there is a peremptory rejection of Schelling’s philosophy of immediacy. And directly following this passage we find the celebrated criticism of Schelling’s ‘intellectual intuition’ which is referred to as

‘the sort of ecstatic enthusiasm which starts straight off with absolute knowledge, as if shot out of a pistol, and makes short work of other points of view simply by explaining that it is to take no notice of them.’

This criticism represents a sharpening of the distinction, long familiar to us, between the dialectics of Hegel and Schelling. The disagreement turned on the nature of contradiction and supersession. We have already discussed it on a number of occasions. We have seen how Schelling is concerned to reconcile the contradictions in such a way that no element of contradiction survives, whereas Hegel’s concept of the identity of opposites is that of both identity and non-identity. This implies that contradictions are not extinguished in the unity, nor do moments or parts lose themselves in the absolute, but instead they are superseded in the well-known Hegelian use of the concept, i.e. they are annulled, preserved and elevated to a higher level.

Now in the Preface to the Phenomenology what Hegel reproaches Schelling with is precisely this obliteration of the various moments in the absolute. He criticizes Schelling for causing to be swallowed up in the empty gulf of the absolute:

‘To pit this single assertion, that “in the absolute all is one” against the organized whole of determinate and complete knowledge, or of knowledge which at least aims at and demands complete development – to give out its absolute as the night in which, as we say, all cows are black – that is the very na´vetÚ of emptiness of knowledge.’

And Hegel goes on to give a thorough analysis of immediacy, which he combats from the vantage-point of his own belief that man is the product of his own activity and so can only reach his real existence at the end and not at the starting-point of the process. This transformation of existence into activity also annuls Schelling’s rigid antithesis of positive and negative

‘True reality is merely this process of reinstating self-identity, of reflecting into its own self in and from its other, and is not an original and primal unity as such, not an immediate unity as such. It is the process of its own becoming, the circle which presupposes its end as its purpose, and has its end for its beginning; it becomes concrete and actual only by being carried out, and by the end it involves.’

It is not without interest to pause here and look back at the discussion of a few years previous to this between Schelling and Fichte. At that time Fichte reproached Schelling with introducing distinctions, and what was worse, quantitative distinctions, into the absolute.

He wrote to Schelling:

‘I can define the difference between us in a few words. – According to you, I maintain that the absolute exists in the form of quantitative distinctions. This is indeed what you maintain; and it is just for that reason that I find your system mistaken.... That is just what Spinoza does, and every other type of dogmatism.... The absolute would not be the absolute if it could exist in any form whatsoever.’

This remark makes the bond between Kant and Fichte absolutely plain. Although the Fichtean Ego is an attempt to overcome the Kantian Thing-in-itself, it shares at least one thing with it: the absence of qualities of any kind. Fichte does indeed claim to achieve a sort of self-knowledge of the Ego through his own version of ‘intellectual intuition’. But since he denies his absolute every kind of quality, determination or modification, this self-knowledge is evidently illusory. Formally indeed Fichte repudiates Kant’s idea that the Thing-in-itself cannot be known, by saying that something can be known; but what it is that is known, its content, he does not say and so this knowledge remains as empty as Kant’s renunciation of knowledge of the absolute.

In comparison Schelling’s objective idealism represents a great step forward, since according to him all sorts of concrete, recognizable attributes and determinations are to be conferred on the absolute. That is to say, he is moving towards the view that knowledge of the absolute should be knowledge of objective reality. (We recollect Hegel’s later criticism of the Thing-in-itself. It was precisely the relation he established between thing and attribute that was to prove so fruitful for the theory of knowledge.) The philosophical importance of the common struggle waged by Schelling and Hegel in those first years in Jena lay in their refusal to accept the vacuous and self-defeating abstractness of Fichte’s view of absolute knowledge and their resolve to invest it instead with a wealth of determinations. Thus the first stage of the argument hinged on whether absolute knowledge had recognizable determinations or not. Schelling and Hegel were in total agreement that it could and did. The disagreements between them, and they already existed, referred on the one hand to the way in which this knowledge could be acquired, and on the other hand, to the nature of such knowledge. It is easy to understand that at this stage the divergences of opinion receded before the need to defeat the common enemy.

Thus Hegel’s criticism of Schelling assumes that this battle has now been won; the new disagreement moves on a higher plane than the earlier argument. It is interesting to see Hegel taking up Fichte’s argument about quantitative determinations in the absolute. But he does so from quite a different angle: what appeared to Fichte as going beyond the bounds of knowledge appears to Hegel as an abstraction, a failure to gain sufficiently concrete knowledge of the absolute. Rosenkranz summarizes one passage from Hegel’s lectures of 1805-6 as follows:

‘He spoke publicly of Schelling, referred with great warmth to his great achievements, but criticized the merely quantitative distinction of division in the absolute; this he said meant all was indifferent, a mere predominance of one factor or another so that there was no true distinction.’

This restriction of the distinctions in the absolute is one of the sources of Schelling’s formalism. He cannot possibly incorporate the richness of life, of objective reality within his concept of the absolute. He must therefore content himself with inane arguments such as, e.g. , the idea that nature represents the predominance of the real over the ideal. Obviously, formalistic pronouncements of this sort can never do justice to the movement of objective reality. It is not fortuitous that, following the criticism of Schelling just referred to, Hegel goes on to reproach Schelling for his lack of dialectics.

If we now look back at Hegel’s criticism of Schelling we can see that all his methodological objections cluster around one great point: that Schelling’s use of their common concept of the absolute fails to do justice to the richness and vitality of the real world. His critique of Schelling’s formalism becomes concretized in the Phenomenology in the following requirements of philosophical method:

A table of contents is all that [the schematic] understanding gives, the content itself it does not furnish at all. If the specific determination (say even one like magnetism) is one that in itself is concrete or actual, it all the same gets degraded into something lifeless and inert, since it is merely predicated of another existing entity, and not known as an imminent living principle of this existence; nor is there any comprehension of how in this entity its intrinsic and peculiar way of expressing and producing itself takes effect. This, the very kernel of the matter, formal understanding leaves to others to add later on. Instead of making its way into the inherent content of the matter in hand, understanding always takes a survey of the whole, assumes a position above the particular existence about which it is speaking, i.e. it does not see it at all. True scientific knowledge, on the contrary, demands abandonment to the very life of the object, or, which means the same thing, claims to have before it the inner necessity controlling the object, and to express this only.’

Here we can see the real philosophical connection between Hegel’s dialectic and that sympathy for the empiricists which we have frequently observed during the Jena period. Hegel regards the correspondence between existing reality and the conclusions reached by a philosophy as a decisive criterion for the correctness of the philosophy concerned. In a diary entry from the Jena period he gives a survey of the rapid succession of philosophical systems. The relation of each system to empirical reality, is evidently the decisive factor hastening or retarding its downfall:

Science. Whether a person possesses it or not is something of which he can assure himself and others. Whether it is true or not is decided by those around him, the contemporary world and then posterity, after the former has already bestowed its praise. Yet as civilization has advanced, consciousness has risen so far, the barbarian slowness to comprehend has become so much smoother and swifter that a few years suffice to bring about that posterity. Kant’s philosophy has long since been judged and found wanting, whereas Wolff’s system lasted 50 years and more. Fichte’s philosophy has been placed even more quickly and the essence of Schelling’s thought will soon be revealed. Its sentence is almost upon us since many already understand it. But these philosophies succumbed less to proof than to empirical experience which showed us how far they could take us. They blindly educate their supporters, but the texture becomes thinner and thinner until they are surprised by its transparency. It has melted like ice, slipped through the fingers like quicksilver before they knew what had happened. They have simply lost their grip on it and anyone who looks at the hand that proffered so much wisdom sees only that the hand is empty and scornfully goes his way.’

The objective idealism of Schelling and Hegel has this common feature that the category of the whole, of totality, plays a decisive part. But today, when the most reactionary philosophy of all plays totality off against causality, erecting it into a bulwark of obscurantism (as in the works of Spann) it is vital to take a closer look at Hegel’s conception of totality and to show that it has nothing in common with these reactionary positions, indeed that in the debate with Schelling the reactionary elements in the latter’s conception of totality are criticized and overcome.

We have already drawn attention to the importance of the element of preservation in Hegel’s conception of supersession. This is very evident in his analysis of the relations between the parts and the whole. Here we see once again the high esteem in which Hegel holds the specialist knowledge of the particular sciences. His dialectics does not set out to negate them, to erect a philosophy quite separate from them. It aims rather to preserve their real significance and to place them within an overall context of knowledge. It is for this reason that he writes the following in his Notebook:

Bad reflection is the fear of immersing oneself in the subject-matter; it always goes beyond it and returns to itself. As Laplace says, the analyst follows where his calculations lead him and so he loses sight of the task, i.e. the overall view, the whole on which the parts all depend. And it is not just the dependence of the parts on the whole which is important, but also that each moment, independently of the whole, is the whole – and this is what immersion in the subject-matter involves?’

Only when we realize this can we appreciate the freedom of Hegel’s concept of totality from reactionary features. In the Phenomenology he states his position quite unambiguously:

‘The truth is the whole. The whole, however, is merely the essential nature reaching its completeness through the process of its own development. Of the absolute it must be said that it is essentially a result, that only at the end is it what it is in very truth; and just in that consists its nature, which is to be actual, subject or self-becoming, self-development. Should it appear contradictory to say that the absolute has to be conceived essentially as a result, a little consideration will set this appearance of contradiction in its true light. The beginning, the principle, or the absolute, as at first or immediately expressed, is merely the universal?’

This abstract universal is the immediate knowledge of Schelling’s ‘intellectual intuition’. In the passage immediately following this quotation Hegel illustrates its emptiness by remarking that the phrase ‘all animals’ cannot pass for zoology. We have now seen that Hegel regards independent research into all the empirical sciences as indispensable for philosophy. But this is not to say that philosophy is no more than a collection of factual knowledge; its task rather is to articulate their interconnections. So that when Hegel emphasizes the philosophical significance of mediation what he is doing is to establish the same relationship between the parts and the whole on the formal, philosophical side, that he has earlier defined in terms of content and subject-matter. For this reason, Hegel supplements the definition of truth as the whole, as the result and end of the process, with a definition of mediation and reflection:

‘For mediation is nothing but self-identity working itself out through an active self-directed process; or, in other words, it is reflection into self, the aspect in which the ego is for itself, objective to itself. It is, pure negativity, or, reduced to its utmost abstraction, the process of bare and simple becoming. ... We misconceive therefore the nature of reason if we exclude reflection or mediation from ultimate truth, and do not take it to be a positive moment of the absolute. It is reflection which constitutes truth the final result, and yet at the same time does away with the contrast between result and the process of arriving at it. For this process is likewise simple, and therefore not distinct from the form of truth, which consists in appearing as simple in the result; it is indeed just this restoration and return to simplicity.’

In our discussion of Hegel’s Jena period we spoke at length about Hegel’s positive attitude towards what he called philosophical reflection and we showed then that Schelling’s misconception of the principle led o a quite different philosophical outlook. For this reason Hegel, looking back at this period in his lectures, remarks that Schelling’s refutation of subjective idealism took place without philosophical consciousness of its implications. Schelling, Hegel says by way of conclusion,

‘postulates the speculative idea quite generally without any development and then proceeds at once to its embodiment in the philosophy of nature.’

These diametrically opposed ideas about knowledge of the absolute reflect diametrically opposed views of the course of history. We have earlier quoted statements by Schelling about the philosophy of the Enlightenment, the French Revolution and modern civil society. Hegel’s opinions on all these subjects have been explored in detail. No extended argument is required to show that Schelling’s rejection of the Enlightenment and his negative view of reflection in the cognition of the absolute are but the two sides of the same coin. And the same may be said of the relation between his other opinions about society and history, on the one hand, and his philosophical positions, on the other. Whereas the development of Hegel’s dialectic went hand in hand with the growth of his historical consciousness, Schelling’s attachment to the immediacies of ‘intellectual intuition’ resulted in an increasingly anti-historical posture.

This contrast between the two calls for special emphasis, today when bourgeois scholars increasingly take the view that historicism was the product of Romanticism and the philosophy of the Restoration. Even if Hegel is graciously allowed the title of historicist, thus modifying Ranke’s stern judgment, this is only permitted at the cost of assimilating Hegel to the so-called historicism of the Romantics. But in what does Schelling’s celebrated historicism consist? In his one-sided and exaggerated emphasis on continuity in history-along the lines of the ideological opponents of the French Revolution. So one-sided is he that all the so-called disruptions of that continuity (and this includes the Reformation as well as the French Revolution itself) are held to be purely negative; they are regarded as mere disturbances in the smooth evolution of history. Such assumptions could only result in a reactionary pseudohistoricism and it is no wonder that Fascists such as Mehlis have become great admirers of Schelling’s philosophy of history.

Hegel’s view of history, in contrast to this, shows the uneven progress of man through conflicts and contradictions and as the result of his own activity. The unity of the process is the unity of continuity and discontinuity, i.e. revolutions are for Hegel an integrating moment of this uneven but progressive movement. In his theory of history and his praxis as a historian he followed the tradition of the Enlightenment (Gibbon, Montesquieu, Voltaire, Rousseau, Herder and Forster among others) and through his new consciousness of the contradictions in history he raised it to a new level. He thus inaugurated the historicism of the last great phase of bourgeois ideology, the phase which spans the works of the great French historians and extends to the discovery of class conflict in history and to historical materialism, while Schelling’s view of history is one of the sources upon which the reactionary Romantic pseudohistoricism of the nineteenth century drew for inspiration.

This concludes our survey of the principal methodological differences between Schelling and Hegel at the time of the breach between them. We must now go on to discuss another essential question which is, raised by the divergence of Hegel’s views not only from those of Schelling but from those of all the philosophers and thinkers of the age of classical idealism. We refer to Hegel’s creation of a dialectical logic. The finished product, of course, lies beyond the scope of this study, since the Logic was completed in Nuremberg years after the Phenomenology was written. But the methodological problem is already present in Jena as a crucial issue, indeed as the apex of his conceptual system. It is well known that the Phenomenology was published as the first part of a philosophical system and that the Logic was to be its sequel. This unity must have been apparent in Hegel’s lectures in Jena. Rosenkranz writing about them, remarks,

‘Hegel’s abstract of the whole which he made as an aide-mÚmoire to delivery, is still extant. He established continuity between the Phenomenology and the Logic by regarding the former as an introduction to the latter and by advancing from the concept of absolute knowledge directly to that of existence.’

Once one is accustomed to the thought that the dialectical method is the great achievement of classical German Idealism and that Hegel’s Logic is its greatest monument, then it may come as something of a surprise to learn that the demand for a dialectical logic and or the transformation of logic into dialectics was Hegel’s own personal achievement and that he stands out in altogether dramatic contrast to his predecessors. Objectively, of course, there were very powerful trends towards dialectics. The so-called Transcendental Philosophy of Kant, Fichte and Schelling is shot through with dialectical tendencies. But in the minds of Kant, Fichte and Schelling this Transcendental Philosophy is thought of as existing alongside logic. The dialectical problems are dealt with there, while the old formal logic lived out its venerated or despised existence unchanged side by side with the newly emerging science.

Of course, it is not possible for us to analyse all the implications of the attitudes towards logic held by Kant, Fichte and Schelling. It must suffice if we illustrate the state of affairs at the time when Hegel was working on the Phenomenology by quoting some of the characteristic statements of his predecessors, mainly to demonstrate that they did not think of the problem of dialectical logic as one that needed attention.

In the Preface to the second edition of the Critique of Pure Reason Kant discusses the problem of logic. He states that since Aristotle logic has not been required to retrace a single step, nor indeed has it advanced a single step, unless we care to count certain external and needless improvements affecting its elegance rather than its certainty. In logic as in the other branches of philosophy Kant is concerned to draw dividing lines between its various aspects as clearly and firmly as possible. He comes to this view of the nature of strict, formal logic:

‘The sphere of logic is quite precisely delimited, its sole concern is to give an exhaustive exposition and a strict proof of the formal rules of all thought, whether it be a priori or empirical, whatever be its origin or its object, and whatever hindrances, accidental, or natural, it may encounter in our minds.

‘That logic should have been thus successful is an advantage which it owes entirely to its, limitations, whereby it is justified in abstracting – indeed, it is under obligation to do so – from all objects of knowledge and their differences, leaving the understanding nothing to deal with save itself and its form.’

The Transcendental Philosophy which, according to Kant, is concerned with the objects of the world must leave this safe territory. This leads Kant to a situation in which he makes all sorts of contributions to dialectical logic without ever becoming aware of the existence of a problem, without ever noticing that formal logic must be transformed into dialectical logic if the logical problems of objective reality, of the world of objects and relations, are to be satisfactorily solved.

The confusion which Kant thus introduced and which neither Fichte nor Schelling saw for what it was invested the whole of the Transcendental Philosophy with a certain vagueness and ambivalence. On the one hand, it was clearly not a ‘logic’ since it was concerned with objects and their relations, but, on the other hand, it was unlike all other special sciences concerned with objective reality since it focused on objects and object-relations in general, and on the premises upon which they were ‘posited’. This turned the Transcendental Philosophy into an apparently infinite and elastic thing. Looked at from this angle, the supersession of Kant by Fichte, and of Fichte by Schelling, always takes the form of a broader interpretation of the nature and method of Transcendental Philosophy, an interpretation which is then presented as the authentic and only true meaning of the science. From the other side, however, Kant in his debate with Fichte, and Fichte in his debate with Schelling, held on to the original concept of Transcendental Philosophy and so each attacked his predecessor or successor from a vantage-point whose ultimate principles and frontiers were indefinable from the outset, since a definition would only be possible if the relationship between logic and dialectics could be clarified.

It is this lack of clarity in the ultimate principles of the philosophy which makes these discussions so incomprehensible to the modern reader. A further puzzling consequence is that time and again one or other of the disputants makes a ‘sudden’ appeal to the logic which is otherwise ignored. A very typical example of this can be found in Fichte’s polemic against Schelling’s impermissible extension of Transcendental Philosophy to cover the problems of a philosophy of nature. In a letter to Schelling, he writes:

‘A philosophy of nature may indeed proceed from an already existing concept of nature: but in a comprehensive system of knowledge this concept and its philosophy can only be inferred from an absolute by the law of finite reason. However, an idealism which could tolerate a realism co-existing with it would be worthless: or if it were anything it would have to be a universal formal logic.’

Thus confronted by the first signs of a dialectics of nature Fichte could see nothing but the old dilemma: either he must retain the dialectics of the Theory of Science in which case nature would be treated as a ‘small province of consciousness’, or he will be forced to admit a formal logic which can be used as the philosophical foundation of an empirical natural science.

If we turn to Schelling’s attitude to the problem, what is most striking is how little he understood of Hegel’s central ideas even at the time of their closest collaboration. In the Lectures on the Method of Acedemic study Schelling broaches the topic of the relations between dialectics and logic and it is obvious that what he has in mind here is the dialectical logic that Hegel was just beginning to develop. How little he understood of it becomes obvious from his discussion. We have earlier quoted his thesis that the dialectic has an aspect which cannot be learned but which is accessible only to the genius, the philosophical ‘initiate’.

‘Such a dialectic does not yet exist. If it were to set out merely the forms of finite reality in their relations to the absolute, it would be a form of scientific scepticism: even Kant’s transcendental logic cannot be called that.’

It is very clear from this how Schelling envisaged the nature and significance of the logic that Hegel had obviously already conceived: as the dialectical dissolution of all finite concepts, a procedure which would lead to the abolition of rational knowledge and thence to the leap into immediate knowledge, ‘intellectual intuition’. The allusion to Kant’s transcendental dialectic is surely not fortuitous. In the antinomies of the transcendental dialectic Kant dissolved all absolute knowledge of the principles governing the phenomenal world into nothing, he laid the philosophical foundations for the theory that things-in-themselves were unknowable – so, as to open the way to attain the absolute with the aid of ‘practical reason’ and faith. Schelling rejects Kant’s solution here as half-hearted and partial.

Typically, however, he somehow contemplates a similar solution himself. For the task of dialectical logic is to found a ‘scientific scepticism’, i.e. the repetition of the Kantian antinomies at a higher level. This ‘scientific scepticism’ will pave the way not for subjective faith, but for the objective intuition of the absolute. But the collapse of the world as something knowable and with it of the method of cognition retains the framework of Kantian dualism, albeit in a modified form. In Kant the two aspects of the dualism were knowledge of the phenomenal world and subjective faith in the absolute; in Schelling they are the self-annihilation of knowledge derived from the understanding and the supra-rational self-contemplation of the identical subject-object. The sphere of intuition is raised far above any imaginable category of the understanding – how could there be a logic to fit it, a logic concerned with the ultimate principles of human knowledge? The abolition of contradictions, the new theory of contradiction is in Schelling’s eyes not the kernel of the new philosophy but merely a ‘propadeutic’ overture to it. (This makes clear just how far Schelling’s rejection of the categories of reflection had taken him.) It follows inexorably from this that for Schelling the only logic to survive alongside his sceptical dialectic is the old formal logic. The latter is a purely empirical science, the former, as in Fichte, just a part of a universal Transcendental Philosophy.

These quotations from the writings of Hegel’s most important predecessors make it quite plain that they neither saw nor understood anything of the specific problems connected with dialectical logic. What Hegel, and he alone, perceived was that the existing content of even the most abstract categories makes it possible to discern and portray them in movement; that in consequence the absence of content in traditional formal logic is merely a borderline case, just as repose is only a borderline case of movement; that therefore all the problems of both objective reality and man’s subjective knowledge form the subject-matter of this logic and, finally, that only in and through this logic could the problems encountered by classical German idealism in its efforts to overcome metaphysics be finally resolved. These things were Hegel’s exclusive intellectual property and before him they were not even formulated as problems, let alone solved.

It would be a rewarding and interesting task to follow the gradual emergence of these ideas to the point where they finally crystallized into a definite programme. There can be no doubt that there are many signs of such an approach in the first part of his stay in Jena, above all in the doctoral theses and in parts of the Jena Logic. But the polemical activities of this first period and his hunger for information about the most varied branches of human knowledge (it was in this period that he acquired his very solid grounding in the natural sciences) prevented him from elaborating his views in any systematic fashion. Only his later preparations for the construction of a philosophical system brought a final clarification of the central task of philosophy. This programme is made fully explicit in the Phenomenology as is the relationship of the Phenomenology to dialectical logic as contained in the idea that the latter is an introduction to philosophy proper.

We limit ourselves here to quoting Hegel’s own statement of his programme in the Phenomenology. In the Preface he declares logic to be identical with speculative philosophy? This assertion is then concretized in the following way:

‘Philosophy, on the contrary, does not deal with a determination that is non-essential, but with a determination so far as it is an essential factor. The abstract or unreal is not its element and content, but the real, what is self-establishing, has life within itself, existence in its very concept. It is this process that creates its own movements in its course and goes through them all; and the whole of this movement constitutes ... its truth.... It might well seem necessary to state at the outset the chief points in connection with the method of this process, the way in which science operates. Its nature, however, is to be found in what has already been said, while the proper exposition of it is the special business of logic, or rather is logic itself. For the method is nothing else than the structure of the whole in its pure and essential form.’

Here then Hegel explicitly defines logic as the essence of philosophy in which the philosophical method informing the entire edifice and the order of all its substantive categories are contained within an overall process. The idea that logic is the authentic philosophy is both the premise, the continuation and the consummation of The Phenomenology of Mind, which constitutes an introduction to it. A little later in the Preface Hegel concretizes the method of logic and its relation to phenomenology i.e. to the content of its objects, still further.

‘Thus, then, it is the very nature of understanding to be a process; and being a process it is rationality. In the nature of existence as thus described – to be its own concept and being in one – consists logical necessity in general. This alone is what is rational, the rhythm of the organic whole: it is as much knowledge of content as that content is concept and essential nature. In other words, this alone is the sphere and element of speculative thought ... This nature of scientific method, which consists partly in being inseparable from the content, and partly in determining the rhythm of its movement by its own agency, finds, as we mentioned before, its peculiar systematic expression in speculative philosophy.’

Thus The Phenomenology of Mind is conceived as an introduction to this speculative philosophy whose essence we now see to be identical with that of dialectical logic. Of course, the Phenomenology is an introduction of a peculiar sort. In what follows we shall describe its method in detail, but its fundamental idea has already become plain from what has been said: its aim is to chart the course to be taken by ordinary consciousness if it is to raise itself to the heights of philosophical consciousness. If then, according to Schelling, access to authentic philosophy is the privilege of an elite which is precipitated into an immediate knowledge of the absolute thanks to an act of ‘intellectual intuition’, according to Hegel, we find both that the absolute itself is objectively a process and its, product, and that the acquisition of subjective human reason, the vantage-point from which the absolute can be attained, is likewise a process and its product.

Just as this introduction differs qualitatively from all previous introductions to philosophy, so too the relation of its content to philosophy diverges radically from previous definitions. Earlier introductions were either purely formal so that the actual content was provided in the philosophy proper, or, as in Schelling, the philosophy put forward contents that were radically different from the ‘profane’, finite knowledge that had gone before.

In Hegel’s eyes, however, philosophy is always and everywhere the same: it is always the expression of the essential contents of reality in their dialectical self-movement. It follows that the introduction to philosophy must comprehend exactly the same contents as philosophy itself. Thus to scale the heights of philosophy with the aid of the ladder which Hegel had, in his own words, provided in the Phenomenology, meant to digest mentally the contents of reality at the various stages of human consciousness in its long march upwards towards the absolute. And even though these contents re-appear at different stages in a modified form, they remain the same as those with which objective philosophy, dialectical logic, has to concern itself. Furthermore, the various stages of consciousness which, in the Phenomenology, are manifested as ‘configurations of consciousness’, have nothing fortuitous about either their nature or the order in which they make their appearance. When the positions they represent are generalized they have the same contents as philosophy itself, only their sequence differs from the order in dialectical logic. But since the reality underlying both the Phenomenology and the Logic is the same, the contents of each must necessarily match up in the last analysis, albeit in a complex, irregular and unmechanical way. Thus the path to philosophy in Hegel runs through philosophy itself.

In the concluding pages of the Phenomenology Hegel describes this process himself..

‘While in The Phenomenology of Mind each moment is the distinction of knowledge and truth, and is the process in which that distinction is cancelled and transcended, science [i.e. logic – G.L.] does not contain this distinction and supersession of distinction. Rather, since each notion has the form of the concept, it unites the objective form of truth and the knowing self in an immediate unity. Each individual moment does not appear as the process of passing back and forward from consciousness or figurative (imaginative) thought to self-consciousness and conversely: on the contrary, the pure shape, liberated from the condition of being an appearance in mere consciousness – the pure concept with its further development, – depends solely on its pure characteristic nature. Conversely, again, there corresponds to every abstract moment of science a mode in which mind as a whole makes its appearance. [i.e. the phenomenological mode. – G.L. ] As the mind that actually exists is not richer than it [i.e. science] so, too, mind in its actual content is not poorer. To know the pure concepts of science in the form in which they are modes or shapes of consciousness – this constitutes the aspect of their reality, according to which their essential element, the concept, appearing there in its simple mediating activity as thinking, breaks up and separates the moments of this mediation and exhibits them to itself in accordance with their immanent opposition.’

It is abundantly clear, then, that the method of the Phenomenology evolves out of Hegel’s attack on Schelling’s philosophy. Of course, its implications go far beyond the controversy that occasioned them and have a validity of their own. At the same time, the polemical parts of this, the final product of the Jena period could easily bear the title: Difference between the Hegelian and the Schellingian System of Philosophy. With the Phenomenology the dramatic process of differentiation within classical German Idealism comes to an end: the era of Hegelian philosophy had begun.

Our discussions up to this point have attempted to clarify the profoundly original nature of Hegel’s method in The Phenomenology of Mind. If we have done this successfully then all the philological quibbles of bourgeois scholars with their frantic and pedantic search for the ‘forerunners’ of the Phenomenology will require no further demolition. And if it were merely a matter of the philological games played by idle scholars we could indeed leave the matter there. However, as matters stand, these philological labours are just a part of a larger campaign to make the idea of classical German Idealism as a coherent unity plausible. And this in turn implies denying the uniqueness of the Hegelian dialectic, which after all is the predecessor of dialectical materialism, and attempting to reduce it either to the level of Kantian agnosticism or of the irrationalism of the Romantics. In the face of efforts such as these, the emphasis on the methodological originality of The Phenomenology of Mind is not without a certain historical significance.

Later on, for those readers who may be interested in the details, we shall provide a note of the essential data concerning the so-called antecedents of Hegel. On the point of principle, however, all that need be said is that the idea of the Phenomenology was in the air. The wide range of motifs drawn together in the Phenomenology and which we shall examine in due course, were not the arbitrary inventions of Hegel, but were very, definite problems of the age.

But it is one thing for a number of thinkers to be concerned with the same problems and another to establish whether their various questions and answers can be said to have exercised a determining influence. And it is only the latter that we dispute. Ever since Kant, the idea of dialectical relations had been in the air, and yet as we have seen, Hegel was the first to put the problem on a scientific basis.

There is a similar situation in regard to the problems of the Phenomenology itself. There are two general areas of interest here. On the one hand, the dialectics of the categories of the understanding and their mutual supersession in Kant necessarily raised the question of what path led to that dialectic and from there to knowledge of the absolute. On the other hand, the constant growth of a sense of history, and of historical knowledge led to the need for a view of history as a unified process leading up to the present and above all for a map charting the unified and necessary development of human thought and of philosophy. (Winckelmann, Herder and Schiller are the men whose work in the history of art and literature prefigured developments in the history of philosophy.) All these are the general tendencies of the age which, it is scarcely necessary to say, had the most varied influence on The Phenomenology of Mind. But that is by no means to admit that these very fragmentary and episodic writings before Hegel had any influence on the particular method of the Phenomenology and it simply will not do to take up some highly conjectural connections and affinities so as to make all sorts of dubious inferences about how the history of this period of philosophy should be treated now.

The most recent attempt of this kind is that of Hoffmeister who sets out to build a bridge between the ‘Ages of Reason’ in Schelling’s System of Transcendental Idealism and the Phenomenology. His argument lacks all cogency. From the point of view of form, because Schelling constantly confuses the subjective (phenomenological) and the objective (logical) sides of the problem, whereas the Phenomenology is concerned above all with the consistent methodological elaboration of the subjective side; and because Schelling does not even develop his idea to its logical conclusion since his ‘Ages’ come to an end just where Hegel begins: at the philosophy of praxis. And his argument falls from the point of view of content, because all the problems arising from the relation between human praxis (labour) and the growth of consciousness are wholly absent. Of course, there are passages in Kant that point in the same direction. The Critique of Pure Reason ends with a fragmentary section entitled ‘The History of Pure Reason’ But it contains only isolated suggestions for a scheme of the history of philosophy in which the historical element is emphasized least, since he is more interested in producing a typology of the various possible responses to the crucial problems of philosophy.

From the other side, Kroner sets out to prove Fichte’s claims to be regarded as a forerunner. Fichte does indeed speak at one point of a ‘pragmatic history’ of the spirit. But a closer examination reveals that, even more than in Schelling, this is just an isolated idea from which Fichte nowhere draws any significant methodological conclusions. It is undeniable that ideas of this sort have their roots in the same tendencies and problems of the age that influenced the Phenomenology, but this has nothing to do with ‘influences’ in any specific sense.

Worthy of more serious attention, on the other hand, are certain ideas in the works of Goethe and Schiller. In a letter to Schiller of 24 January 1798, Goethe describes how his work on the theory of colours has given him some important new ideas.

‘When the series of mental events which in fact go to make up the history of the sciences are spread out before us, we cease to laugh at the idea of writing a history a priori: for everything is in fact developed from the human mind as it moves backwards and forwards, from nature as it now advances and now holds back.’

In view of the profound affinity existing between Goethe and Hegel in other respects such a meeting of minds is undoubtedly of interest. Even more important are certain of Schiller’s ideas expressed in the Philosophical Letters. For this is the only case in which a forerunner of Hegel is in a certain sense acknowledged as such. In its last part Schiller’s work contains a number of philosophical poems from one of which Hegel quotes freely in the final passage of the Phenomenology.

aus dem Kelche dieses Geisterreiches
schaumt ihm seine Unendlichkeit.’

But even the ideas scattered through the Philosophical Letters which do have affinities with Hegel are only really interesting from the point of view of Schiller’s own development, of his earnest and often successful efforts to free himself from the limitations of Kant’s subjective idealism. As the ‘prehistory’ of the Phenomenology they add very little to our understanding of Hegel.


Further reading:

Hegel: The Phenomenology of Mind