‘The Philosophical Propaedeutic’ by Georg W. F. Hegel

Published by Blackwell Publishers in 1986.


What is remarkable about Hegel’s creative activity (in the period 1808-12) is the diversity of its contrasts: his thinking and writing of Science of Logic was going on while he was caught up in the daily tasks of newspaper editorship and then of school-teaching and administration.

The contrast is enhanced if we include his Philosophical Propaedeutic here, and place it against Science of Logic. (We can regard them as having been written almost simultaneously.) The latter book is intended for the learned specialist, and is concerned with elucidating the ultimate structure of reality in the most abstract terms. As a work of philosophy it is technical to an extreme; it is his most recondite work, making no concessions to the difficulties a reader might encounter.

The Philosophical Propaedeutic, on the other hand, was intended for the student at secondary school and junior college, and is concerned in part with the concrete social values embedded in social morality and religion. As a work, it is entirely accessible and “open”, and it represents Hegel’s attempt to lead his students from their view of the immediate social reality up to an all-encompassing world-view. There is a further contrast in the fact that it was not written as a book at all, but as a series of lecture-notes, and was put together as a book by Karl Rosenkranz, nine years after Hegel’s death.

Obviously it was because there was no university post for him that he accepted the position of Rector and Professor of Philosophy at the Aegidien Gymnasium in Nuremberg, in 1808. Yet his acceptance was not accompanied by the attitude of fame de mieux — as though “the speculative Pegasus were being harnessed to the wagon of schoolwork.” Rather, he accepted with enthusiasm. Since Napoleon had suppressed the freedom of university activity in Germany, a gymnasium post offered the only field for creative intellectual expression connected with teaching. Bavaria had been made a part of the new Confederation of the Rhine, established by Napoleon when he dissolved the Holy Roman Empire. Hegel supported the French cause as a hoped-for way of liberating German thought and civilization (especially in heavily Catholic Bavaria).

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