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The impact of the French Revolution on European thought is arguably too eccentric, particular, and profound to characterize with any degree of uniformity or indeed certainty. As a massive historical event of cataclysmic proportion, the revolution irrevocably altered the most basic instituions of political, social, and civil life. Its consequences, both for private individuals and for state actors, were conditioned by very particular and specific contexts. For this reason, it may be argued that the revolution not only lends itself more naturally to historical rather than philosophical explanations, it necessitates them. In this light, the philosophical recovery of the French Revolution produced accounts of its meaning that inevitably grappled with perceptions and understandings of history, human agency, and time. Moreover, such accounts suggested that the forces of change were not self-explanatory and that they must be considered as ideas in themselves. For many British observers, the French Revolution was perceived as a distorted memory of their own political and cultural past, of Great Rebellions and Glorious Revolutions. For those who watched anxiously, or adulantly, in German states, the revolution in France was seen as a novel event and as a harbinger of things to come. But whether to embrace the winds of change or to retreat from them was the salient question. To the extent that the British and German experiences suggested very different conceptions of revolutionary change, it is possible to argue that while the revolution produced a conservative reaction to radical Enlightenment in Prussia, English responses were moderated by a longer set of reformist traditions and grounded in a new and self-conscious awareness of the meaning of history.
Seen from a broad historical perspective, Hegel's political philosophy, as expounded in his 1821 Philosophie des Rechts, was a grand synthesis of all the conflicting traditions of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Its theory of the state wedded liberalism with communitarianism; its doctrine of right fused historicism, rationalism and voluntarism; its vision of ideal government united aristocracy, monarchy and democracy; and its politics strove for the middle ground between left and right, progress and reaction. Such an account of Hegel's achievement is not an ex post facto rationalisation; it is a simple restatement of his intentions. For Hegel saw himself as the chief synthesiser, as the last mediator, of his age. All the conflicts between opposing standpoints would finally be resolved – their truths preserved and their errors cancelled – in a single coherent system. The power of Hegel's political philosophy lay here, in its syncretic designs, in its capacity to accommodate all standpoints; any critique of the system, it seemed, came from a standpoint whose claims had already been settled within it.
The Cambridge Companion to Hegel and Nineteenth-Century Philosophy examines Hegel within his broader historical and philosophical contexts. Covering all major aspects of Hegel's philosophy, the volume provides an introduction to his logic, epistemology, philosophy of mind, social and political philosophy, philosophy of nature and aesthetics. It includes essays by an internationally recognised team of Hegel scholars. The volume begins with Terry Pinkard's article on Hegel's life, a conspectus of his biography on Hegel. It also explores some topics much neglected in Hegel scholarship: such as Hegel's hermeneutics and relationship to mysticism. Aimed at students and scholars of Hegel, this volume will be essential reading for anyone interested in nineteenth-century philosophy. The bibliography includes the most important English-language literature on Hegel written in the last fifteen years.
Any student who approaches Kant's philosophy of religion for the first time is bound to be daunted by the task. The obstacles are wide, deep, and long. They are wide because Kant thought about virtually every aspect of religion. They are deep because he thought through all these issues with systematic thoroughness and relentless rigor. And they are long because Kant began to think about religious issues as early as the 1760s, and his thinking underwent several transformations through the decades. If these challenges are not enough, Kant's thinking appears in a formidable corpus of writings. His mature religious philosophy is expounded in his three critical works, the Canon of the Critique of Pure Reason, the Dialectic of the Critique of Practical Reason, and the Doctrine of Method of the Critique of the Power of Judgment. The most important mature work, the only one entirely devoted to the philosophy of religion, is his 1793 Religion within the Boundaries of Mere Reason. Apart from these systematic works, there are several important essays of the 1780s and 1790s; there are also the lectures on theology, and last but not least the lectures on ethics, which are crucial for their religious themes.
Of all areas of philosophy, ethics was perhaps the most important for Schleiermacher. Throughout his career he remained devoted to the subject. One of his first endeavors was a translation of Books 8 and 9 of Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics. It was his main interest in the early Halle and Schlobitten years, when he wrote essays on such topics as the meaning of responsibility, the highest good, and the purpose of life. The romantic writings of his early Berlin period (1796-1802) - the Monologen, Athenäumsfragmente, and Vertraute Briefe - were manifestos for “a moral revolution.” Schleiermacher's first published treatise in philosophy, his 1803 Grundlinien einer Kritik der bisherigen Sittenlehre, was a thorough going critique of past ethics. Once his academic career began, ethics remained at the center of his agenda. In Halle and Berlin he would lecture on philosophical ethics eight times.
Any student of Schleiermacher’s ethics immediately confronts a formidable obstacle. For all the importance he gave to the subject, Schleiermacher never published his own system of ethics. He had long nurtured plans for a system, but they never came to fruition. The Grundlinien was only a critical preparation for his system.
Another edition and translation of the political writings of the German romantics is that of Hans Reiss, The Political Thought of the German Romantics (Oxford: Blackwell, 1955). In a very short compass Reiss collects writings from all phases of Romanticism, including selections from Fichte, Novalis, Savigny and Mueller.
There is a good translation of all of Schlegel's early published fragments by Peter Firchow: Philosophical Fragments (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1991). The unpublished notebooks have been translated and edited by Hans Eichner, Literary Notebooks, 1797–1801 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1957).
There is an old but complete translation of Schleiermacher's Monologen: Soliloquies, edited and translated by H. L. Friess (Chicago: Open Court, 1926). There is also a new excellent translation of Schleiermacher's Ueber die Religion: On Religion. Speeches to its Cultured Despisers, edited and translated by Richard Crouter (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988).
The political thought of the German romantics covers a long period, beginning in the 1790s and extending into the 1830s. Since the most important and interesting texts from this period could not all be included in one volume, I have chosen material from a single phase of romantic thought. This is the period from 1797 to 1802, the most fertile and formative period of Romanticism, which is generally known as Frühromantik. Even within this period, it has been necessary to be selective because of the wealth of material. I have therefore concentrated upon the most important writings of three leading figures of the early romantic circle: Novalis, Schleiermacher and Friedrich Schlegel. Selecting texts from this period alone, and from these thinkers alone, provides a coherence and unity that would be impossible to achieve in a more comprehensive anthology.
Within my chosen parameters I have attempted to be as exhaustive and thorough as possible. I have included all kinds of writings relevant to the early political thought of Novalis, Schleiermacher and Schlegel: fragments, lectures, essays and treatises. No claim is made, however, to provide all the early political writings of the German romantics. I have had to exclude two major works from the early period: Schelling's Deduktion des Naturrechts (1796–7) and Schleiermacher's incomplete manuscript Versuch einer Theorie des geselligen Betragens (1799). Though these works are interesting and important, they are not suitable for an introductory edition. Schelling's Deduktion is comprehensible only to someone who has a good grasp of Fichte's early philosophy; and Schleiermacher's Versuch is best understood after reading the Monologen, which have been translated in part here.
The Early Political Writings of the German Romantics contains all the essential political writings of Friedrich Schlegel, Schleiermacher and Novalis during the formative period of romantic thought (1797 to 1803). While the political thought of the German romantics has been generally recognised as important, it has been little studied, and most of the texts have been until now unavailable in English. The early romantics had an ambition still relevant to contemporary political thought: how to find a middle path between conservatism and liberalism, between an ethic of community and the freedom of the individual. Frederick C. Beiser's edition comprises all kinds of texts relevant for understanding the political ideas of the early romantic circles in Berlin and Jena - essays, lectures, aphorisms, chapters from books, and jottings from notebooks. All have been translated anew, many for the first time.