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The Reformation, the Revolution, and the Restoration in Hegel's Political Philosophy* LEWIS WHITE BECK THE LASTEXPLICITLYPOLITICALDISQUISITIONin Hegel's Phenomenology of Mind is that on the French Revolution and its unresolved problems of anarchy, factionalism, and dictatorship. What is of permanent value in the Revolution is the ideas of 1789 and the monitory lessons to be learned from 1792. But of how the fruitful ideas of 1789 are to be given another political actuality there is not a word. The immediately following chapter does not, as one might reasonably expect, deal with Napoleon in his role of bringing the lessons of the French Revolution to feudal and imperial Germany, whose political institutions had been rendered ineffectual and anachronistic by the Revolution. Rather, Hegel turns his attention from the conception of political freedom altogether, and deals with the moral world-view which is above politics. He does not see Kant in the light of Heine's later metaphor, "the German Robespierre." Rather, he says, the determinate element of the will "is lost with the disaster and ruin that overtake the self in the state of absolute freedom; its negation is meaningless death, sheer horror of the negative with nothing positive in it, nothing that gives it filling.''1 But the "universal will as such which it now knows itself to be" is "not will as revolutionary government or anarchy struggling to establish an anarchical constitution nor itself as a centre of this faction or that.''2 This will which is universal and above faction is the Kantian pure will. It is formally like Rousseau's general will, but whereas the French tried to give that conception "practical effect," in Germany it remained "tranquil theory''a from which no political legislation or institution can be derived;4 the political sphere is transcended in a realm of religion and philosophy. Hence the political dialectie of the Phenomenology ends where "absolute freedom leaves its self-destructive sphere of reality and passes over into another land of self-conscious spirit, where in this unreality freedom is taken to be and is *Originally presented to a symposium on Hegel's political philosophy sponsored by the Institut Internationale de Philosophie Politique at the University of Heidelberg, September 12, 1970. I have made some revisions as a result of a critique by Professor H. S. Harris, from which I learned much which I could not embody in the paper; and from the Introduction by Karl-Heinz Ilting to his new edition of Hegel's political writings (Hegel: Rechtsphilosophie, Edition Ilting, vol. I [Stuttgart: Frommann Holzboog, 1973]). 1 Phiinomenologie des Geistes (Lasson ed., 1911), pp. 385-386 (Baillie translation, 1949, p. 608). 2 Ibid., p. 386 (Baillie, p. 609). Philosophie der Weltgeschichte (Lasson ed. [1923]) II, 922 (Sibree translation [London and New York, 1900] p. 443). 4 Philosophie des Rechts, w (Knox translation, 1952). [511 52 HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY accepted as the truth.''5 There is a fertile ambiguity in this expression "another land"it means another region of spiritual life, that of art, morality, religion, and philosophy, but it also means another earthly country, Germany, as Hegel later pointed out.6 The chapter on the French Revolution is a gem, but it is a gem which has not been put into a setting which will allow it to be seen and appreciated in its full splendor. To see the French Revolution in its proper setting--to see what led "inevitably" to it and what "inevitably" issued from it--one must turn to the Philosophy of History and Philosophy of Right, There is one question Hegel asks in the former work, the answer to which provides a clue to the fuller understanding of the Revolution and its place in the dialectic of history. It is: why did the Revolution occur in France and not in Germany?7While Hegel explicitly warns us that it is open to the understanding to choose which of an endless member of factors it will regard as responsible for a complex event like the French Revolution,8 he ventures an answer which, in brief, is: because the Reformation occurred in Germany and not in France. II. The French Revolution is the latest form in which...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1538-4586
Print ISSN
0022-5053
Pages
pp. 51-61
Launched on MUSE
2008-01-01
Open Access
No
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