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4 - The Young Hegelians: Philosophy as Critical Praxis

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  15 August 2019

Warren Breckman
Affiliation:
University of Pennsylvania
Peter E. Gordon
Affiliation:
Harvard University, Massachusetts
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Summary

In 1837, David Friedrich Strauss intervened in the enormous controversy that had raged around his book The Life of Jesus, Critically Examined since its appearance in 1835. The book was indeed provocative. Not only did Strauss deny the divinity of Jesus Christ as the incarnate son of God. He even left in doubt that Jesus, the man, had actually existed in history. The book shook the Hegelian School to its core, and, surveying the fractures that had emerged, Strauss identified a ‘left’, ‘right,’ and ‘center.’ The crucial dividing line rested on a matter of great concern to Hegel and his followers, namely the relationship between philosophy and Christian doctrine. “There are three possible answers to the question of whether and to what extent the idea of the unity of divine and human nature proved the gospel to be history,” wrote Strauss: “the concept proves either the entirety of the history, merely a part of it, or none of it. If each of these answers and directions were indeed represented by a branch of the Hegelian school, then, using the traditional analogy, the first direction, as standing closest to the long-established system, could be named the right, the third direction named the left, and the second named the center.” On the left, he placed only himself. That situation did not long endure. The radicalization of the Hegelian left proceeded so rapidly that, by 1841, Strauss had broken his ties with the Deutsche Jahrbücher, the main journal of the Hegelian left, no longer able to tolerate the criticisms and gibes of other leading figures such as Arnold Ruge, Ludwig Feuerbach, and Bruno Bauer.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2019

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