Hegel and German Idealism

Instructor: Michael Stevenson
Goethe-Institut New York
30 Irving Place
New York, NY 10003

It is difficult to imagine a more ambitious or even hubristic philosophy than that of G.W.F. Hegel. Filled with the revolutionary fervor of the turn of the 19th century, Hegel no doubt viewed himself as the messianic figure that he, along with Schelling and Hölderlin, had prophesied earlier in an odd little manifesto that they composed while seminarians and roommates at the Tübinger Stift: “A higher spirit, sent from heaven, must found this new religion among us, it will be the last, greatest task of humanity.” They conceived of philosophy as a “monotheism of reason” whose goal was to “penetrate even to the depths of God’s mind,” to uncover and make explicit the how and why of the whole of existence. Hegel came to believe that his “Absolute Idealism,” grounded in a logic he called “dialectics,” had accomplished this task.

Many were converted to Hegelianism. But even his most contemptuous critics agreed with his most faithful disciples on one count: Hegel simply could not be ignored. It is hardly an exaggeration to say that much of 19th century European intellectual history is a story about those who were with and against Hegel, about the saints, apostates, and heretics of the new religion. Marxism, both Kierkegaard’s and Nietzsche’s versions of existentialism, phenomenology, and the rise of scientific positivism and materialism are all in an important sense transformations of, reactions to, or attempts to get free of Hegel’s all-encompassing system.

In this class we will situate Hegel’s Absolute Idealism in relation to the earlier idealistic systems of Kant and of those figures, like Fichte and Schelling, who, in the latter’s words, were convinced that Kant had “given us the correct results, though the premises were still missing.” We will then survey Hegel’s major epistemological and metaphysical ideas before investigating what role they play in his philosophy of history, which was so influential in the development of Marx’s historical materialism and of German social theory in general.

The Goethe-Institut New York is pleased to host Hegel and German Idealism , a class presented in collaboration with the Brooklyn Institute for Social Research as part of an ongoing partnership.

Course Schedule

Friday, 6:30-9:30pm
April 01 — April 22, 2016
4 weeks


Registration Closed

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