The YOUNG HEGELIANS (German : Junghegelianer), or LEFT HEGELIANS (Linkshegelianer), or THE HEGELIAN LEFT (die Hegelsche Linke), were a group of German intellectuals who, in the decade or so after the death of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel in 1831, reacted to and wrote about his ambiguous legacy. The Young Hegelians drew on his idea that the purpose and promise of history was the total negation of everything conducive to restricting freedom and reason; and they proceeded to mount radical critiques, first of religion and then of the Prussian political system. They rejected anti-utopian aspects of his thought that "Old Hegelians" have interpreted to mean that the world has already essentially reached perfection.
* 1 Left and Right Hegelianism * 2 History
* 3 Philosophy
* 3.1 Main members
* 3.2 Younger members
* 4 Legacy * 5 See also * 6 Notes * 7 References * 8 Further reading
LEFT AND RIGHT HEGELIANISM
The German philosophers who wrote immediately after the death of Hegel in 1831 can be roughly divided into the politically and religiously radical 'left', or 'young', Hegelians and the more conservative 'right', or 'old', Hegelians. The Right Hegelians followed the master in believing that the dialectic of history had come to an end—Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit reveals itself to be the culmination of history as the reader reaches its end. Here he meant that reason and freedom had reached their maximums as they were embodied by the existing Prussian state. And here the master’s claim was viewed as paradox, at best; the Prussian regime indeed provided extensive civil and social services, good universities, high employment and some industrialization, but it was ranked as rather backward politically compared with the more liberal constitutional monarchies of France and Britain.
The Young Hegelians drew on both Hegel's veneration of Reason and Freedom (as the guiding forces of history) and his idea that the 'Spirit' overcame all that opposed reason and freedom. They felt Hegel's apparent belief in the end of history conflicted with other aspects of his thought and that, contrary to his later thought, the dialectic was certainly not complete; this they felt was (painfully) obvious given the irrationality of religious beliefs and the empirical lack of freedoms—especially political and religious freedoms—in existing Prussian society.
It is important to note that the groups were not as unified or as self-conscious as the labels 'right' and 'left' make them appear. The term 'Right Hegelian', for example, was never actually used by those it was later ascribed to, namely, Hegel's direct successors at the Fredrick William University (now the Humboldt University of Berlin ). (The term was first used by David Strauss to describe Bruno Bauer—who actually was a typically 'Left', or Young, Hegelian.)
It was the outcry caused by David Strauss\' The Life of
The radicalization and politicization of the movement occurred when the new king, Frederick William IV , upon whom the Young Hegelians had pinned their hopes of political reform, came to power in 1840 and curtailed political freedom and religious tolerance more than before. In philosophy the radicalization took the form of a breach with Hegel’s doctrine of the Prussian state as the fulfillment of history. In religion it manifested as a rejection of Christianity even in its most diluted pantheistic form and an adoption of atheism (led by Bauer and Feuerbach). In politics the Young Hegelians dropped much of Hegel's political theory and for the most part turned to republicanism – the exceptions being Moses Hess , who mixed Hegelianism with communism, and of course Marx and Engels. In all these areas a central change was the adoption of certain ideas of Johann Gottlieb Fichte , especially the notion that the self-transcendence of the world by man was a possibility and duty, but one that could never be conclusively fulfilled.
Although they spread democratic ideas throughout
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The Young Hegelians interpreted the entire state apparatus as ultimately claiming legitimacy based upon religious tenets. While this thought was clearly inspired by the function of Lutheranism in contemporary Prussia , the Young Hegelians held the theory to be applicable to any state backed by any religion. All laws were ultimately based on religious tenets.
As such, their plan to undermine what they felt was the corrupt and despotic state apparatus was to attack the philosophical basis of religion.
David Strauss wrote Das Leben Jesu (The Life of Jesus/The Life of
Jesus, Critically Examined) in 1835, in which he argued – in a
Hegelian framework – against both the supernatural elements of the
Gospel and the idea that the Christian church was the sole bearer of
absolute truth. He believed the Gospel stories were mythical responses
to the situation the Jewish community at the time found themselves in.
The idea that 'infinite reason' or 'the absolute' (i.e. broadly
Hegelian notions of God) could be incarnated within a finite human
being was particularly absurd. Moreover, the original teachings of
Bruno Bauer went further, and claimed that the entire story of Jesus
was a myth . He found no record of anyone named "Yeshua of Nazareth"
in any then-extant Roman records. (Subsequent research has, in fact,
found such citations, notably by the Roman historian Tacitus and the
Jewish historian Josephus , although these citations are not
contemporaneous with Jesus' life and are viewed by some as forgeries.)
Bauer argued that almost all prominent historical figures in antiquity
are referenced in other works (e.g.,
his plays), but as he could not find any such references to Jesus, it
was likely that the entire story of
Ludwig Feuerbach wrote a psychological profile of a believer called Das Wesen des Christentums (The Essence of Christianity). He argues that the believer is presented with a doctrine that encourages the projection of fantasies onto the world. Believers are encouraged to believe in miracles, and to idealize all their weaknesses by imagining an omnipotent, omniscient, immortal God who represents the antithesis of all human flaws and shortcomings.
Carl Nauwerck (de) was a German orientalist, theologian and lecturer of Hegelian philosophy in Berlin who lost his teaching license along with Bruno Bauer in 1842.
As an advocate of a free and united
Max Stirner would occasionally socialize with the Young Hegelians, but held views much to the contrary of these thinkers, all of whom he consequently satirized and mocked in his nominalist masterpiece Der Einzige und Sein Eigentum ( The Ego and Its Own ).
Another Young Hegelian,
August Von Cieszkowski
August Cieszkowski focused on Hegel's view of world history and
reformed it to better accommodate Hegelian
Philosophy itself by
dividing it into Past, Present, and Future. In his Prolegomena to
Historiosophy, Cieszkowski argues that we have gone from
In The Realm of Understanding and the Individual (Das Verstandestum und das Individuum), Karl Schmidt examined the history of Hegelianism and derived the truth that, "I am only myself." At the end of the dialectic, where the individual exists "by grace of spirit, the law of spirit is applied to spirit itself, and is dragged to its grave". The individual remains as the evidence of the