Published online by Cambridge University Press: 16 March 2021
This chapter argues that key aspects of Hegel’s critique of the French revolution were anticipated by the German Burkeans. In a debate on theory and practice in the 1790s, conservatives including Rehberg, Gentz, and Möser argued that the abstract ideals of the rights of man and popular sovereignty, which they associated with Kant and the Enlightenment, resulted in the Terror when put into practice. This assessment resonated in Hegel’s critique of Kant’s supposed abstract arbitrary will and voluntarism, on which he blamed the revolution’s excesses. In the process of making this claim, Hegel misquoted Kant in a way that suggests he was primarily arguing against the view Kant set out in 1793 in the debate with the Burkeans. The theory and practice controversy gives a new angle on key aspects of Hegel’s mature philosophy, such as the Doppelsatz, which seeks to reconcile conventionalist aspects defended by the conservatives with an appeal to rational justification associated with Kant.
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