Yoshie Furuhashi furuhashi.1 at osu.edu
Mon Aug 7 11:17:09 PDT 2000

Michael Pollak wrote:

>But if Jim is arguing that because the terms emerged from the right, they
>have to stay there, I would have to strongly disagree. After all, Hegel
>was the greatest of the conservative Lebensphilosophers.

Hegel, in his youth, wasn't a conservative, however. He was born in 1770, and after he went to college he became friends with Holderlin, Schelling, Schlegel, etc., who all shared a romantic enthusiasm for the French Revolution (1789). According to Stephen Houlgate, Hegel wrote to Schelling in April, 1795:

"From the Kantian system and its highest completion I expect a revolution in Germany. It will proceed from principles that are present and that only need to be elaborated generally and applied to all hitherto existing knowledge....I believe that there is no better sign of the times than this, that mankind is being presented as so worthy of respect in itself. It is proof that the aura of prestige surrounding the heads of the oppressors and gods of this earth is disappearing. The philosophers are proving the dignity of man. The peoples will learn to feel it."

This is a ringing (if naive, when judged by our hindsight) endorsement of the ideals of bourgeois revolutionary thought, and _by the standards of his days (especially in Germany)_, it was the antithesis of conservatism.

Even after Hegel became a kind of "post-Enlightenment" thinker, his early works such as the _Phenomenology of Spirit_ were not written in the spirit of conservative defense of ruling ideas.

Only later in his life Hegel's works became conservative in the strict sense, his thought becoming in the main a historicist defence of the status quo & hierarchy of nations, which had as much to do with Germany's evolution as changes in Hegel's philosophy.

In contrast, Heidegger's thought was from the beginning reactionary in the proper sense of the word, reacting negatively against Marxism and then-powerful working-class revolutionary movements in Germany and elsewhere. If Hegel was a champion of progress and modernity even in his conservative stage of life (to say nothing of his youthful admiration of French revolutionaries), Heidegger was a reactionary modernist (as National Socialism was) through and through, yearning for a spiritual overcoming of what he thought of as ills of modernity.


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