Hegel and the Transformation of Philosophical Critique

By William F. Bristow | Go to book overview

Introduction

It is very unhappy, but too late to be helped, the discovery we have made,
that we exist. That discovery is called the Fall of Man. Ever afterwards,
we suspect our instruments … Once we lived in what we saw; now, the
rapaciousness of this new power, which threatens to absorb all things,
engages us. Nature, art, persons, letters, religions—objects, successively
tumble in, and God is but one of its ideas.

R. W. Emerson, ‘Experience’1

When Hegel arrives at the university at Jena in 1801, he takes up his position in the shadow of his friend from their days together as theology students at the Tübingen Stift, F. W. Schelling. Schelling is at the time the philosophical luminary reigning and holding court at the university at Jena, the most recent in the brief line of luminaries that also includes K. L. Reinhold and Fichte. Schelling is also recognized at the time as the leading philosopher in the resplendent circle of Romantics that had formed in Jena. In Hegel's first philosophical publication in his new position at Jena, entitled ‘The Difference Between Fichte's and Schelling's Systems of Philosophy’, published in 1801, Hegel attracts to himself some of Schelling's reflected light. The intellectual public gratefully receives the essay for performing the needed service of differ– entiating Schelling's so–called ‘identity philosophy’, associated with Romanti– cism, from the Kantianism of Fichte's system, and of highlighting the former's virtues in contrast to the latter's vices. Hegel also publishes in those early Jena years (1802–3) a number of unsigned articles for the Critical Journal of Philo– sophy, which was a short–lived journal jointly edited by him and Schelling and generally regarded as an organ of Schelling's philosophy. Though it would be a significant misunderstanding to see Hegel in his early Jena publications

1Ralph Waldo Emerson: Essays and Lectures, ed. by Joel Porte (New York: Library of Amer– ica, 1983) 487.

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