Feb 132003

Andrew Sullivan calls Hegel “one of the great liberals” (as in classical liberal) today. This is Hegel he’s talking about, theorist of the apotheosis of the State, official Prussian court philosopher and lickspittle to Friedrich Wilhelm III. Hegel, who proved, philosophically, that there was no planet between Mars and Jupiter, that magnetizing iron increases its weight, and that Newton’s theories of gravity and inertia contradict each other. What is Sullivan thinking? But he does provide me with an excuse to quote a mighty stream of invective from Schopenhauer, who knew Hegel personally, which no blogger can match:

Hegel, installed from above by the powers that be, as the certified Great Philosopher, was a flat-headed, insipid, nauseating, illiterate charlatan, who reached the pinnacle of audacity in scribbling together and dishing up the craziest mystifying nonsense. This nonsense has been noisily proclaimed as immortal wisdom by mercenary followers and readily accepted as such by all fools, who thus joined into a as perfect a chorus of admiration as had ever been heard before. The extensive field of spiritual influence with which Hegel was furnished by those in power has enabled him to achieve the intellectual corruption of a whole generation.

(Thanks to Karl Popper’s The Open Society for the material.)

(Update: Arthur Silber comments.)

(Another: Eddie Thomas, mirabile dictu, defends Hegel.)

  5 Responses to “19th Century Fisking”

  1. I’ve got to try harder…

  2. No one could ever inveigle
    Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
    Into offering the slightest apology
    For his Principles of Phenomenology.


    Yes, I was surprised to see old G.W.F.H. described as a liberal. I don’t know much about Hegel but I know enough to avoid him. He seems to be a big favourite with totalitarian thinkers of the "historically inevitable" persuasion. Hegel is one of those philosophers who is so complex and obscure (i.e. he can’t write for toffee), that it seems to me people who study him seriously have no option but to become Hegelians, otherwise they would have to accept they’d spent five or ten years of their lives in vain (see also, Heideggerians). Hegel’s one redeeming feature is that his philosophy inspired Raymond Queneau to parody it in his best novel Les Fleurs Bleues.

  3. Sure. The Open Society is a screed against "historical inevitability," which Popper calls "historicism."

    I haven’t read Queneau, but Hegel strikes me as being beyond parody.

  4. Damn, these are fighting words! Don’t worry, I will work up a response to this invective and make Hegelians out of all of you!

  5. Not Mistah Popper. He dead.

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