Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Popper's misreading of Hegel, continued.

""""No conception is bandied about more unscrupulously in the history of ideas than “Influence.” Popper’s notion of it is so utterly unscientific that one should never guess that he has done important work on logic and on scientific method. At best, it is reducible to post hoc, ergo propter hoc. Thus he speaks of “the Hegelian Bergson” (p. 256 and n. 66) and assumes, without giving any evidence whatever, that Bergson, Smuts, Alexander, and Whitehead were all interested in Hegel, simply because they were “evolutionists” (p. 225 and n. 6).

What especially concerns Popper — and many another critic of German thinkers — is the “influence” that the accused had on the Nazis. His Hegel chapter is studded with quotations from recent German writers, almost all of which are taken from The War Against the West by Kolnai. In this remarkable book Friedrich Gundolf, Werner Jaeger ( Harvard), and Max Scheler are pictured as “representative of Nazism or at least its general trend and atmosphere.” Kolnai is also under the impression that the men who contributed most “to the rise of National Socialism as a creed” were Nietzsche “and Stefan George, less great but, perhaps because of his homosexuality, more directly instrumental in creating the Third Reich” (p. 14 ); that Nietzsche was a “half-Pole” (p. 453); that the great racist H. S. Chamberlain “was a mellow Englishman tainted by noxious German influences” (p. 455); and that Jaspers is a “follower” of Heidegger (p. 207 ). It would seem advisable to check the context of any quotations from Kolnai’s book before one uses them, but Kolnai generally gives no references. Popper writes:

I am greatly indebted to Kolnai’s book, which has made it possible for me to quote in the remaining part of this chapter a considerable number of authors who would otherwise have been inaccessible to me. (I have not, however, always followed the wording of Kolnai’s translations.)

He evidently changed the wording without checking the originals or even the context.

Popper uses quotation after quotation from Kolnai to point out supposed similarities with Hegel, but never stops to ask whether the men he cites had read Hegel, what they thought of him, or where, in fact, they did, get their ideas. Thus we are told that the idea of “fame is revived by Hegel” (p. 266 ), for Hegel spoke of fame as a “reward” of the men whose deeds are recorded in our history books — which would seem a trite enough idea that could also be ascribed to scores of sincere democrats — but Popper goes on: “and Stapel, a propagator of the new paganized Christianity, promptly [i.e., one hundred years later] repeats [sic]: ‘All great deeds were done for the sake of fame or glory.'” This is surely quite a different idea and not trite but false. Popper himself admits that Stapel “is even more radical than Hegel.” Surely, one must question the relevance of the whole section dealing with Stapel and other recent writers; this is not history of ideas but an attempt to establish guilt by association on the same page — in the hope, it seems, that semper aliquid haeret.

It is also the height of naïveté . A quick dip into a good dictionary of quotations would have shown Popper a great many closer parallels to Stapel than he found in Hegel. Perhaps the most extreme, and also the most memorable, formulations are found in some poets whose influence would be hard to gauge. Shakespeare writes:

Let fame, that all hunt after in their lives, Live register'd upon our brazen tombs.

And though these lines occur in one of his comedies, Love’s Labour’s Lost, he certainly did not think meanly of fame. Ben Jonson even went a step further in Sejanus ( I, ii): “Contempt of fame begets contempt of virtue.” And Friedrich Schiller voiced a still more radical view — in a poem that many German school children learn by heart, Das Siegesfest, which deals with the Greeks’ celebration of their triumph over Troy:

Of the goods that man has cherished
Not one is as high as fame;
When the body has long perished
What survives is the great name.

For every Nazi who knew Hegel’s remarks about fame there must have been dozens who knew these lines. Does that prove Schiller a bad man? Or does it show that he was responsible for Nazism?

Besides, Popper often lacks the knowledge of who influenced whom. Thus he speaks of Heidegger and “his master Hegel” (p. 270 and asserts falsely that Jaspers began as a follower “of the essentialist philosophers Husserl and Scheler” (p. 270 ). More important, he contrasts the vicious Hegel with superior men “such as Schopenhauer or J. F. Fries” (p. 223 ), and he constantly makes common cause with Schopenhauer against the allegedly proto-fascist Hegel, whom he blames even for the Nazis’ racism — evidently unaware that Fries and Schopenhauer, unlike the mature Hegel, were anti-Semites. (important point. The aged Hegel supported abolition, a pan-african congress, and liberation of some type for jews, though objected to some aspects of jewish racketeering, and financial schemes)

Hegel’s earliest essays, which he himself did not publish, show that he started out with violent prejudices against the Jews. These essays will be considered in the next chapter; but they are not represented in Scribner’s Hegel Selections and hence were not exploited by Popper. Nor have they exerted any perceivable influence. When Hegel later became a man of influence’ he insisted that the Jews should be granted equal rights because civic rights belong to man because he is a man and not on account of his ethnic origins or his religion. (yes).

Fries, who was Hegel’s predecessor at the University of Heidelberg, has often been considered a great liberal, and Hegel has often been condemned for taking a strong stand against him; it is rarely, if ever, mentioned in this context that Fries published a pamphlet in the summer of 1816 in which he called for the “extermination” of Jewry. It appeared simultaneously as a review article in Heidelbergische Jahrbücher der Litteratur and as a pamphlet with the title “How the Jews endanger the prosperity and the character of the Germans.” According to Fries, the Jews “were and are the bloodsuckers of the people” (p. 243 ) and “do not at all live and teach according to Mosaic doctrine but according to the Talmud” (p. 251 ) of which Fries conjures up a frightening picture. “Thus the Jewish caste ... should be exterminated completely [mit Stumpf und Stiel ausgerottet] because it is obviously of all secret and political societies and states within the state the most dangerous” (p. 256 ). “Any immigration of Jews should be forbidden, their emigration should be promoted. Their freedom to marry should ... be limited... . It should be forbidden that any Christian be hired by a Jew” (p. 260 ); and one should again force on them “a special mark on their clothing” (p. 261 ). In between, Fries protests: “Not against the Jews, our brothers, but against Jewry [der Judenschaft] we declare war” (p. 248).

This may help us to understand why Hegel, in the Preface to his Philosophy of Right, scorned Fries’s substitution of “the pap of ‘heart, friendship, and enthusiasm'” for moral laws. It would certainly have been unwise of the Jews to rely on Fries’s brotherly enthusiasm.

Hegel’s often obscure style may have evened the way for later obscurantism, but Fries’s and Schopenhauer’s flamboyant irrationalism was, stylistically, too, much closer to most Nazi literature. It does not follow that Fries influenced the Nazis. He was soon forgotten, till, in the twentieth century, Leonard Nelson, a Jewish philosopher, founded a neo-Friesian school that had nothing to do with Fries’s racial prejudices. The one influential thinker whom Nelson succeeded in leading back to Fries was Rudolf Otto, the Protestant theologian, who is best known for his book on The Idea of the Holy. What makes that book so notable is its fine description of the “numinous” experience; but the confused discussion of “The Holy as an A Priori Category” and the romantic notions about “divining” are indebted to Fries.

Popper, though he has written an important book on Die Logik der Forschung, “The Logic of Research,” does not find it necessary to check his hunches by research when be is concerned with influences in his Hegel chapter. He simply decrees that Hegel “represents the ‘missing link,’ as it were, between Plato and the modern form of totalitarianism. Most of the modern totalitarians are quite unaware that their ideas can be traced back to Plato. But many know of their indebtedness to Hegel” (p. 226 ). Seeing that the context indicates a reference to the Nazis and that all the totalitarians cited in this chapter are Fascists, not Communists, Popper only shows his ignorance of this brand of totalitarianism.

Hegel was rarely cited in the Nazi literature, and, when he was referred to, it was usually by way of disapproval. The Nazis’ official “philosopher,” Alfred Rosenberg, mentioned, and denounced, Hegel twice in his best-selling Der Mythus des Zwanzigsten jahrhunderts. Originally published in 1930, this book bad reached an edition of 878,000 copies by 1940. In the same book, a whole chapter is devoted to Popper’s beloved Schopenhauer, whom Rosenberg admired greatly. Rosenberg also celebrates Plato as “one who wanted in the end to save his people [Volk] on a racial basis, through a forcible constitution, dictatorial in every detail.” Rosenberg also stressed, and excoriated, the “Socratic” elements in Plato.

Plato, unlike Hegel, was widely read in German schools, and special editions were prepared for Greek classes in the Gymnasium, gathering together allegedly fascist passages. In his introduction to one such selection from the Republic, published by Teubner in the series of Eclogae Graecolatinae, Dr. Holtorf helpfully listed some of his relevant articles on Plato, including one in the Völkischer Beobachter, which was Hitler’s own paper. Instead of compiling a list of the many similar contributions to the Plato literature, it may suffice to mention that Dr. Hans F. K. Günther, from whom the Nazis admittedly received their racial theories, also devoted a whole book to Plato — not to Hegel — as early as 1928. In 1935, a second edition was published.

Whether Hegel did, or did not, influence the Nazis may not be particularly relevant to Popper’s central theses in his book — but then most of his book is not. His often stimulating ideas are amalgamated with a great deal of thoroughly unsound intellectual history; and Section V of his Hegel chapter (eighteen pages) is representative of the latter. It is also representative of scores of similar attempts by authors who have less to offer ...."""

Hegel? Popper? Play-tow? Who dat? Cracker mutha-f-ers. ah got a bas-setball jones

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