The Philosophy and Politics of Bruno Bauer

By Douglas Moggach | Go to book overview

5
“ONLY THE OUGHT IS TRUE”: HEGEL,
SELF-CONSCIOUSNESS, AND REVOLUTION

Among Bauer's numerous texts of 1841, Die Posaune des jüngsten Gerichts über Hegel, den Atheisten und Antichristen (The Trumpet of the Last Judgement upon Hegel, the Atheist and Antichrist) 1 is the most significant formulation of the ethic of historical perfectionism, and of its relation to the Hegelian system. It applies this ethic in defence of the revolutionary task of the present. The doctrine of infinite self-consciousness defines the relation of subjectivity to the world as an affirmation of human freedom against all transcendent powers. It asserts the claim to the conscious reshaping of the self, the state, andsociety, in the light of universal purposes. These purposes are now conceivable in their generality and scope because of the progress of history andphilosophy, securing the vantage point from which the present may be submitted to apodeictic judgement and criticism. The experience andlimits of the French Revolution, andthe systematic achievements of Hegel, open new horizons for an enlarged Sittlichkeit and authentic individual autonomy. Bauer's text outlines a political programme, the critique of the church, the existing state, and conciliatory liberalism, in the interests of republican transformation, with constant reference to the Jacobin example. In describing the ethics of the revolutionary process, the text stresses the principled and ruthless critique of all existing relations; the refusal to compromise; the needto provoke escalation of conflict in order to generate a clean and decisive break between opposedprinciples, culminating in the revolutionary overthrow of the old order. 2 The antithetical character of this ethical programme is rooted in the historical process of self-consciousness. What the present demands is opposition to alienation and heteronomy in all their forms.

The text, published anonymously in October 1841, is redolent of Luther's polemical style. 3 In it, Bauer assumes the guise of an archconservative, pietist opponent of Hegel. In this imposture, he rails against the Hegelian system as a thinly veiledatheism andJacobinism, thus substantiating the criticisms of Hegel's conservative opponents. 4 He acknowledges Heinrich Leo, author of Die Hegelingen, 5 as a precursor of his pietist

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