Idealism, Politics and History

Kelly, George Armstrong. Idealism, Politics and History. Cambridge, 1969.


[Hegel] aspired to be the Aristotle of modern thought and the Proclus of Christian speculation. His deep involvement in the structure of knowledge and the rationale of all historical life – whose qualitative opposition he mediated with his dialectic or logic of the “real” – reached toward the concrete unity of thought and being, faith and knowledge, action and reflection, life and morality, the eternally true and the eternally present, and, most palpably, the reconciliation of the classical and Christian traditions. Indeed the great drama of Hegel’s work lies in the Sophoclean manner in which he conceived these vast confrontations – an aesthetic power felt most deeply in the Phenomenology. The excitement in Hegel is not that he presumed to solve the riddle of the universe, but rather that his expressions of unification and resolution – the notions of Vermittlung (mediation) and Versöhnung (reconciliation, etymologically related to Christ as the appearance of God in time) – bob like corks, seaworthy, but diminutive, upon an ocean of Trennung (separation), Entzweiung (bifurcation), Entäusserung (alienation), and Zerrissenheit (dismemberment). Philosophical science itself is that arduous Golgotha which conquers history and redeems the time through the perfect correspondence of thought that has become will and will that has become thought. Thought maintains itself upon the turbulent sea: “The resolution to philosophize hurls itself pure into thought (thought by itself is a lonely thing), it hurls itself as into a shoreless ocean; all bright colours, all landmarks are swallowed up.” “The pole star,” Hegel continues, “is the star of the spirit carried within.” For all his undoubted emphasis on the collective values of people, state and religion – the sittlich and cultural organon of world-historical civilizations – Hegel’s grasp of reality and existence was no less lonely than Rousseau’s; both sought to build the epiphanic point of truth into a cosmos of truth where the ego could have peace, achieving mentally what both thought to have once existed objectively in a sunnier Aegean clime.

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