The Innovations of Idealism

By Rüdiger Bubner; Nicholas Walker | Go to book overview

8
CLOSURE AND THE UNDERSTANDING
OF HISTORY

This chapter undertakes to elucidate three basic issues. Starting from a discussion of Hegel’s philosophy of history as the exemplary expression of a historically oriented form of thinking, I examine the judgements that Hegel’s nineteenth century successors passed upon his project. For there were basically two ways in which they typically reacted to the appearance of definitive closure that marked the Hegelian standpoint (Section I). Then I analyse the specific claim that is actually mounted by Hegel’s system with respect to historical time (Section II). And, finally, I attempt to clarify the task of historical reflection regarding the formal structures that underlie the controversial claim to historical closure on the part of philosophical thought (Section III).


I

The controversy concerning the definitive and conclusive character of Hegel’s philosophy effectively broke out almost immediately after his death. The ‘Young Hegelians’ argued for the necessity of developing Hegel’s philosophy beyond the systematic shape it had assumed in the hands of its original creator, and finally completing it as a ‘philosophy of action’ oriented to the future. This approach, now adopted from the perspective of political praxis, effectively repeated an argument that had already been broached with regard to systematic philosophical issues in the wake of Kant’s thought. For at the very close of the eighteenth century, the early idealists, starting from the ‘premises’ that Kant himself had supplied, undertook the task of enthusiastic speculative reconstruction in philosophy in the name of a renewal of metaphysics. The transcendental philosophy of Kant had intended to ground the possibilities and limits of metaphysics as a science of pure reason. But Kant himself,

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