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Hegelianism, Russian

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-E045-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved May 18, 2024, from

Article Summary

In Russian intellectual history the so-called ‘remarkable decade’ of 1838–48 (P.V. Annenkov’s expression) could be characterized as a truly ‘philosophical epoch’. Speculative philosophy was seen by then as directly relevant to all important questions of national existence. A similar situation obtained then, in exactly the same years, in the lands of partitioned Poland. In both countries all philosophical discussions revolved around Hegel, whose system was perceived as the culminating point in the development of Western philosophy. In Russia the fascination with Hegelianism was widespread and profound, reaching distant provincial centres and leaving its mark on literature. ‘Philosophical notions’, wrote Ivan Kireevskii in 1845, ’have become quite commonplace here now. There is scarcely a person who does not use philosophical terminology, nor any young man who is not steeped in reflections on Hegel’. Herzen provides an identical testimony. Hegel’s works, he wrote,

were discussed incessantly; there was not a paragraph in the three parts of the Logic, in the two of the Aesthetics, the Encyclopaedia and so on, which had not been the subject of desperate disputes for several nights together. People who loved each other avoided each other for weeks at a time because they disagreed about the definition of ‘all-embracing spirit’, or had taken as a personal insult an opinion on the ’absolute personality and its existence in itself’.

(Herzen [1853] 1968: 398)

This vivid reception of Hegelianism was a socially important phenomenon, meeting several deep-seated psychological demands of the young Russian intelligentsia. First, as in Germany, speculative idealism provided the intelligentsia with a sort of compensation for the paralysis of public life under authoritarian government. Second, Hegelian philosophy was welcomed as an antidote to introspective day-dreaming and attitudes of Romantic revolt; in this context Hegelianism was largely interpreted as a philosophy of ’reconciliation with reality’. Somewhat later this conservative interpretation of Hegelianism was replaced by a Left-Hegelian philosophy of rational and conscious action; at this stage Hegelianism came to be a powerful instrument in the struggle against Slavophile conservative Romanticism. Both as a philosophy of reconciliation and as a philosophy of action Russian Hegelianism was above all a philosophy of reintegration; a philosophy which helped young intellectuals in overcoming their feeling of alienation and in building bridges between their ideals and reality.

Citing this article:
Walicki, Andrzej. Hegelianism, Russian, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-E045-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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