Hegel’s Heidelberg Writings Reviewed


This text — first in a projected series, under the general editorship of Michael Baur — presents two essays from Hegel’s stint at Heidelberg in 1816-18. One essay, previously untranslated, reassesses the philosophical significance of F.H. Jacobi, who had been roundly criticized by the young Hegel in Faith and Knowledge (1802). The other, partially translated by T.M. Knox in Hegel’s Political Writings (Oxford, 1964), is an extended polemic against the Proceedings of the Assembly of the Württemberg Estates, 1815-16. The series aims to offer “translations of the best modern German editions of Hegel’s work in a uniform format suitable for Hegel scholars, together with philosophical introductions and full editorial apparatus” (p. i). This inaugural volume gets things off to an excellent start.

The rest of the review is here.

19 thoughts on “Hegel’s Heidelberg Writings Reviewed

  1. Very cool. That’s the ol’ F. H. Jacabi of the infamous pantheism controversy, the thing that put Spinoza back on the, or I should say, at the center of the European philosophy map.

    • The more I read about those days, the more I think that things like that “pantheism controversy” were as much of a philosophical disturbance and a big deal as the “new international movement of speculative realism” is these days – a few people knew about it and talked about in private letter and some public venues, but mostly it went unnoticed…

      • I think you vastly underestimate what the charge of “atheism” meant and was at the time. It was a stain of a very high degree.

        And, unlike the “international movement” you speak of, these letter writers were some of the greatest philosophical minds of the Era. They even include of course your favorite, Kant.

        I’m not sure where your reading is being done, but I read heavily into this last year and it seems at least quite arguable that nearly every philosophical position of German Idealism (with the exception of much of Kant himself) in the next 50 years is traceable to either a distancing or an embrace of the Spinoza-heresy.

  2. Or, perhaps I should add somewhat in agreement…

    The controversy itself was almost nothing. A few quibbling fellows trying to wrestle over the legacy of Lessing, and Jacobi trying to get a name for himself. It was nothing that doesn’t occur regularly in any philosophy department.

    What is is absolutely amazing was how this little tiny tempest over what Lessing really meant and believed set off a firestorm of philosophical rancor and huge creativity. Its like calling the gun shot that killed Archduke Ferdinand an untimely death. For some reason it thrust Spinoza (or really, a version of Spinoza) front and center into German questions about God, atheism, church authority and political freedom. And these questions came to be acted out in a rather spectacular way in philosophy.

    • Yeah, I don’t yet really understand Hegel, but as far as I can tell, he was being sincere when he said, “to be a follower of Spinoza is the essential commencement of all Philosophy.”

      Beiser’s “The Fate of Reason: German Philosophy from Kant to Fichte” ( The Fate of Reason: German Philosophy from Kant to Fichte ) is fascinating on “the pantheism controversy.”

      I think Mikhail’s point is more generally a point about how little philosophy matters to what actually happens in the world. . . I don’t know though, I think it’s possible that literary romanticism was influenced by the post-Kantian situation (this is Safranski’s take) and in this manner Kant influenced wider bourgeois culture. That’s probably about it though.

      • Hmmm. Herder was directly influenced by both the pantheism controversy and Spinoza, and had deep influence on the Sturm und Drang and Weimar Classicism movement. In fact there was a huge Romanticism branch of Spinozism, including the embrace of Spinoza by Goethe.

        As for what actually happens in the world, I’m not sure how one draws that line. Philosophy regularly provides the framework for the justification and conception of political action. To compare the pantheism controversy to Speculative Realism is actually kinda silly and seems to prove the opposite point. There is a difference between effects when the philosophical issues at stake express deep fissures in society.

      • Thanks, Kevin. You already said what I was going to say in terms of the size of the debate. And I totally agree with you about the qualities of the minds involved and so on. I know this might be self-serving, but do you know much about Spinoza-Maimon connection? I mean it’s all over the secondary literature, but I haven’t had a chance to really explore it.

  3. From what I remember about Maimon and Spinoza, and this is from a few years ago, it was from him that Hegel got the reading of Spinoza that Spinoza’s metaphysics was an acosmism, that is, there is NO world or created thing, fundamentally in Spinoza. This composes Hegel’s primary criticism and proposed advancement over Spinoza.

    This of course is a highly skewed reading of Spinoza, and no doubt influenced by the Pantheism “pan” and “hen” version of Spinozism that followed. Maimon’s contribution to Hegel, by my recollection, was likely influenced by his own Kabbalism. There are correspondences between Spinoza and Kabbalah, and Maimon was an avid Kabbalah philosopher (again by my recollection). It seems likely that the charge of acosmism was linked to this, at least in my opinion.

    • Yes, Maimon held that Kabbalah was a sort of verbiage for Spinozism (he says this in the Autobiography), albeit, interestingly, also apparently a sort of Aristotelianism (He expressly compares the sephirot to the ten categories). Unfortunately this is about as deep as he goes into it in what is in English. His early work and perhaps his Maimonides commentary wd be the place to look, both written in Hebrew. But Socher does give a good overview and there’s also a sort of epilogue on kabbalah in Buzaglo. Maimon in the Autobiography is highly critical of “Jewish superstition,” which can mean Talmudic exegetics or Hasidic ecstasy, depending on the context, and while I don’t think he was just playing this up for his German readership, there was something in both the kabbalah and in Maimonides that drew him back over and over again.

  4. Pingback: Notes on the Pantheism Controversy « Mitochondrial Vertigo

  5. Just reading over my notes I posted above I was struck by this portion near the end:

    Hegel: “Spinoza is the high point of modern philosophy; either Spinozism or no philosophy”

    1. Moving in the direction of Herder, Hegel tried to change what he perceived to be a Spinoza static, abstract unity into an active, living Spirit: something of the ancient anima mundi.
    1. i. The importation of the Negation, and teleological world progress.
    2. Hegel writes to Schelling in 1795 of the ““storm that is gathering above the heads of the oppressors and gods of the earth”.
    1. i. Schelling writes back “I have become a Spinozist!” tempered by his Fichtean appropriation of Spinoza’s Absolute, and “There is no personal God, and our supreme effort lies in the destruction of our personality, the passage into the absolute sphere of being.”

    This is an incredible confluence: Fichte, Schelling, Herder, Hegel.

  6. Let us not forget that the “pantheism controversy” also gave us that immortal figure of thought, the “leap of faith,” which Jacobi bequeathed to Kierkegaard.

    For what it’s worth, I see Badiou as the Spinoza of our age. Substance=the mathematical. Conatus=the event & fidelity. He’s Spinoza minus “deus sive natura”. I know this is a bit freewheeling, but there it is.

    • Hmmm. Badiou’s criticism of Spinoza is extremely weak, so at least in my view to view him as a Spinoza given his Hegelianism it is quite odd to view him as the Spinoza of our age. Why would he be the Spinoza of our age and not the Hegel of our age, for instance?

      • My equation is, I admit, impressionistic. But if one wants to play the game of contemporary philosopher X = earlier philosopher Y, which is sort of a fun exercise (and sort of helps some things fall into place, at least provisionally), I think Badiou is more Spinoza than Hegel, because there is no telos in Badiou; it’s all Epicurean clinamen. As it happens, I’m sort of Jacobian on this. I think B. has articulated a very compelling (modern) rationalism, (and by modern I mean, etsi deus non daretur); not that I would go so far as to say that anyone who isn’t Badiouian is just kidding themselves, as Jacobi seems to say of Spinoza. But his account of ontology (=the mathematical) is very different from the promiscuous Geist. Badiou’s Hegel has gone thru Marx’s somersault (–it’s all sive natura, no deus). However, I hasten to say, Kevin, that I defer to you in matters Spinozan.

      • Yet he imports Hegel’s negation which is the primary criticism of Spinoza by Hegel, and the very thing that Spinoza makes a firm stand against. Further, mathematics – Badiou’s gold standard – in Spinoza are mere “aids to the imagination”. One could say that he is some sort of amalgam of Hegel and Spinoza, but Badiou himself took a strong stand against Spinoza (as a way of composing a direct attack upon Deleuze), and his entire Event approach is, at least to my ear, quite unSpinozist.

        Anyways, a great analogy to one is rings hollow for another. Discussing the analogy might bring light, but it may not convince. Analogies can be like jokes, you either get them, or you do not.

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