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7 - Ein Menschenleben: Hegel and Stirner

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 August 2009

Douglas Moggach
Affiliation:
University of Ottawa
Lawrence S. Stepelevich
Affiliation:
Professor, Emeritus Villanova University
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Summary

One of the most enduring of literary themes is that which sets out the course of a human life as a series of discrete stages. It makes an early appearance in the ancient story of the Sphinx, who asked “What walks on four legs in the morning, on two at noon, and on three in the evening?” Oedipus answered: “Man.” The theme was repeated in literature from century to century.

Hegel repeated the theme in the course of his lectures on the third part of his Enzyklopädie der philosophischen Wissenschaften, the Philosophy of Mind. The subject is taken up, in detail, in Paragraph 396 of Hegel's Encyclopedia. In these lectures, Hegel enumerates four stages of individual development: childhood, adolescence, maturity, and old age. It is of interest to note that Johann Caspar Schmidt, who assumed the pseudonym Max Stirner, would have been familiar with Hegel's treatment of the topic, as he had, in the spring semester of 1827, heard Hegel himself lecture upon this very subject. These lectures must have affected Stirner quite strongly, as his own description of the stages in a human life are not only congruent with Hegel's presentation but also played a powerful role in the formation of his own thought.

Here is Hegel's summary of the first three stages of a human life:

He begins with Childhood – mind wrapped up in itself. His next step is the fully developed antithesis, the strain and struggle of a universality which is still subjective (as seen in ideals, fancies, hopes, ambitions) against his immediate individuality. […]

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The New Hegelians
Politics and Philosophy in the Hegelian School
, pp. 166 - 175
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2006

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