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Related to Neo-Hegelianism: Absolute idealism
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a trend in idealist philosophy from the late 19th century through the first third of the 20th. Its adherents sought to create an integrated world view based on a reinterpretation of the philosophy of G. W. F. Hegel. Neo-Hegelianism became popular in nearly all the countries of Europe as well as in the United States but, depending on different sociopolitical conditions and theoretical premises, it assumed diverse forms in each country.

In Great Britain, the United States, and the Netherlands, neo-Hegelianism developed from a belated—in comparison with Germany, Russia, France, and Italy—interest in traditional Hegelianism, which became popular in these countries in the 1870’s and 1880’s. Therefore, it is more difficult to distinguish British, American, and Dutch orthodox Hegelians from their neo-Hegelian counterparts, who attempted to combine Hegelianism with new philosophical trends.

In Great Britain, the transition from Hegelianism to neo-Hegelianism was represented by (if one excludes J. Stirling, who first introduced Hegel’s philosophy to the English), E. Caird, J. Caird, F. Bradley, R. Haldane, and J. Baillie, and to a certain extent by B. Bosanquet, J. McTaggart, and R. Collingwood. The principal features of this transition were as follows.

(1) Attempts to interpret idealist dialectics in the spirit of a bourgeois-liberal reconciliation of contradictions and to regard the Hegelian world view in its entirety as a religious teaching and as the “theoretical form” of Christianity (E. Caird).

(2) The use of Hegelianism to overcome English positivism (J. Caird). In this regard, the dialectical method served as a means of analyzing appearance and materiality in order to attain true reality, that is, a reality beyond empirical experience (Bradley).

(3) A tendency to surmount the extremes of Bradley’s absolute idealism and a striving to defend the rights and freedom of the individual. This tendency was evident in the moderate personalism of Bosanquet and the radical personalism of McTaggart, both of whom sought to combine Hegelian teachings about the absolute with the affirmation of the metaphysical value of the individual.

(4) The attempt, made by Haldane, among others, to interpret Hegel in the spirit of relativism (absolute historicism). Haldane sought to interpret Hegel’s dialectical method as a phenomenological method (in the sense of the “phenomenology of the spirit”) for defining conceptually the stages of human experience. Collingwood adopted and further developed this interpretation.

In the United States, where interest in Hegelianism was first manifested by the St. Louis school headed by W. T. Harris and was to a certain degree dependent on the work of the British Hegelians, neo-Hegelianism was—for such philosophers as B. Bowne and J. Royce—part of the movement from Hegelianism to personalism.

Neo-Hegelianism received its most traditional treatment in the Netherlands, where it was associated with G. Bolland, a prominent popularizer of Hegelian teachings. Bolland was one of the first on the European continent to proclaim the end of neo-Kantianism in philosophy. He rejected the tendency to polarize the philosophies of Hegel and Kant; he regarded Hegel and Kant as the “beginning and end of the classical period of thought.” In particular, Bolland considered Hegelian logic to be the completion of Kant’s critique of reason. Bolland’s interpretation of the philosophy of Hegel from a religious viewpoint was in many ways similar to German “right-wing” Hegelianism of the 1830’s and 1840’s.

Neo-Hegelianism in Italy emerged at the end of the 19th century and was of a dual nature. Its founders, B. Croce and G. Gentile, polemized with each other for many years. Their different viewpoints on the solution of social problems divided Italian neo-Hegelianism into two camps: the bourgeois-liberal, headed by Croce, and the totalitarian, headed by Gentile.

Two basic stages are clearly visible in the evolution of Italian neo-Hegelianism. The first stage, from the emergence of Italian neo-Hegelianism to the end of World War I, was characterized by Croce and Gentile’s joint condemnations of Marxist materialism and positivism under the slogan “revival of idealism”; they both called for the restoration of the Hegelian concept of the state. The second stage, from the end of World War I to the beginning of World War II, was characterized by a heightening of philosophical and political differences between Croce and Gentile. These differences led to the political split of Italian neo-Hegelianism into two currents: Croce opposed Mussolini’s fascist regime, while Gentile became an active ideologist of fascism. In order to overcome the relativistic tendencies concealed in “absolute historicism,” Croce emphasized the objectivist, rationalist, and ethical aspects of his neo-Hegelian views. Gentile, on the other hand, developed subjectivist and irrationalistic tendencies, which led to total relativism in his philosophy.

In Germany, neo-Hegelianism arose from social factors in many ways analogous to those that determined Italian neo-Hegelianism. However, in terms of its theoretical development, German neo-Hegelianism differed markedly from Italian neo-Hegelianism. German neo-Hegelianism arose as a reaction to the methodological formalism of neo-Kantian epistemology and as a realization of the incapacity of the latter to unite in an integrated world outlook the theory of knowledge with the philosophy of history (philosophy of culture) and natural science and “the science of the spirit.”

At the turn of the 19th century, the most prominent neo-Kantians, both from the Marburg school (H. Cohen, P. Natorp, E. Cassirer) and the Baden school (W. Windelband and H. Rickert, who were the first in Germany to speak of the revival of Hegelianism), arrived at conclusions that led directly to neo-Hegelianism. W. Dilthey, who published a book in 1905 about the young Hegel, was influential in the formation of German neo-Hegelianism.

During World War I, the idea of the “common flow” of German idealist philosophy, which terminated with Hegel arose in Germany (G. Lasson). However, German neo-Hegelianism, which derived from diverse philosophical tendencies, did not evolve into an integrated whole. R. Kroner, a student of H. Rickert, in his “renewed” Hegelianism sought a solution to the problem of correlating the “rational” with the “irrational”—a problem that had been posed by neo-Kantianism.

Dilthey’s student G. Glockner, an editor of Hegel’s works and the leader of German neo-Hegelianism, intensified the irrationalistic tendency in the theory of knowledge and as good as drowned epistemology in the philosophy of aesthetics.

Problems of the philosophy of history, the philosophy of culture and, in particular, state and law (T. Haering, T. Litt, J. Binder, F. Rosenzweig, F. Blaschke, H. Heller, and G. Giese) played an extremely important role in German neo-Hegelianism. The problem of the relation of the individual to the human community was resolved by German neo-Hegelians in the spirit of sharp criticism of the lack of cohesion (atomization) in bourgeois society. They asserted the primacy and even the absolute supremacy of the community (nation, state) over individuals.

German neo-Hegelianism attained its greatest expression during the 100th anniversary of the death of Hegel (1931). Leaders of German neo-Hegelianism (Kroner, in particular) headed the international organization of neo-Hegelians, the Hegelian Alliance (1930), and presented major papers at the first (the Hague, 1930) and second (Berlin, 1931) Hegelian congresses. The third congress was held in Rome in 1934. The advent of national socialism in Germany resulted in a political split, which was followed by the dissolution of German neo-Hegelian theory. The majority of antifascist neo-Hegelians were forced to emigrate from Germany. Attempts to revive neo-Hegelianism after World War II in the Federal Republic of Germany (T. Litt, H. Wein) were unsuccessful.

I. A. Il’in was the leading representative of Russian neo-Hegelianism. He sought to unite the Russian religiophilosophical tradition, which had begun with V. S. Solov’ev, with the most recent trends in Western philosophy—above all, with the ideas of E. Husserl—in a transformed Hegelian teaching. Influenced by the crisis of bourgeois liberalism in the West, Russian idealist legal consciousness also tended to abandon neo-Kantianism in favor of neo-Hegelianism. In his Kant and Hegel in Their Teachings on State and Law (1901), P. I. Novgorodtsev resolved the problem of the individual’s relation to the state by proposing that the individual and the state should mutually restrict each other’s rights.

In France, neo-Hegelianism arose considerably later than in other European countries. The appearance in 1929 of J. Wahl’s The Misfortune of Consciousness in the Philosophy of Hegel may be considered the beginning of French neo-Hegelianism. A. Kojeve’s lectures on Hegel (1933–39) were very popular. Those attending Kojeve’s lectures included J. P. Sartre, M. Merleau-Ponty, J. Hippolyte, R. Aron, and A. Fessard, all of whom later helped disseminate “renewed” Hegelian ideas. Closely allied with existentialism, French neo-Hegelianism became influential among the intelligentsia. J. Hippolyte, who translated Hegel’s Phenomenology of the Spirit (1939) and Philosophy of Law (1941) into French, sought to link Hegel’s teachings with Sartre’s existentialism.

On the whole, neo-Hegelianism as an independent current in philosophy came to an end in the 1930’s. However, certain neo-Hegelian tendencies invariably appeared later in diverse currents of modern bourgeois philosophy and sociology.


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The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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