DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-DC037-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved May 18, 2024, from

1. The Hegelian School in Germany 1816–40

Initially, Hegel’s influence was naturally most strongly felt in Germany, and can be seen in the relatively rapid formation within the philosopher’s lifetime of something like a ‘Hegelian school’. The representatives of this school procured a considerable influence for themselves not only through the personal prestige of Hegel, but also through the foundation of important journals more or less expressly designed to propagate and disseminate the philosophical principles of Hegel himself and apply them to central theoretical and practical issues of the day. But the very comprehensiveness and richness of Hegel’s systematic synthesis placed his more original students in an ambiguous and paradoxical position. Eduard Gans wrote ‘Hegel has left behind a number of gifted students but no successor. For philosophy has now for the first time completed the cycle of its existence; further advance can only be expected as the further intelligent penetration of the material of knowledge.’

One of the earliest explicit champions of Hegel’s thought was Georg Andreas Gabler (1786–1853), a student from Hegel’s Jena period 1801–07, who later succeeded to Hegel’s chair in Berlin (1835) and was one of the few students to write intensively on (part of) the Phenomenology, with the Kritik des Bewußtseins (Critique of Consciousness) (1827). When Hegel moved to take up his first chair in Heidelberg in 1816 he also found an ardent supporter in the theologian Karl Daub (1765–1836), who expounded a thoroughly Hegelian approach to religious questions with Die dogmatische Theologie jetziger Zeit (The Dogmatic Theology of Our Times) (1833). But it was essentially during his final Berlin period (1819–31) that Hegel began to develop a proper ‘School’ around him, with the founding of a Gesellschaft für wissenschaftliche Kritik (Society for Scientific Criticism) in 1825 and the consequent launching of the journal Jahrbücher der wissenschaftlichen Kritik (Yearbook of Scientific Criticism) under the editorship of Hegel and his more prominent students. The journal explicitly began to disseminate a Hegelian line on contemporary philosophical and cultural issues and was soon dubbed the ‘Hegel newspaper’ by its opponents.

Other followers at this time who produced Hegelian interpretations in the fields of ethics, history of philosophy, speculative theology, law and political thought were Leopold von Henning (1791–1866) with his Prinzipien der Ethik in historischer Entwicklung (Principles of Ethics in Historical Development) (1824), Karl Ludwig Michelet (1801–93) with the Geschichte der letzten Systeme der Philosophie in Deutschland (History of the Most Recent Systems of Philosophy in Germany) (1837–38), Philipp Karl Marheinecke (1780–1846) with Die Grundlehren der christlichen Dogmatik als Wissenschaft (The Fundamental Doctrines of Christian Dogmatics as Science) (1827) and, one of the most interesting and original, Eduard Gans (1798–1839). Gans had become a friend of Hegel’s in Heidelberg and strongly under his influence produced his major work Das Erbrecht in weltgeschichtlicher Entwicklung (The Law of Inheritance Considered in its World-Historical Development) (1824–35) which forcefully pursued Hegel’s own criticism of the ‘Historical School’ of jurisprudence defended by Karl von Savigny. Gans also lectured on the philosophy of world history from a liberal-progressive Hegelian perspective as well as upon law and may well have been a powerful influence upon the young Karl Marx who heard him lecture in Berlin in the mid-1830s (see Marx, K. §2). These early protagonists of Hegel’s thought are sometimes described as the ‘Old Hegelians’ because they represented the first generation of the ‘School’, by contrast with the later so-called ‘Young Hegelians’ of the 1840s, but the label is often quite uninformative about the substance of their teachings or their political and religious persuasions.

Karl Rosenkranz (1805–1879) was another of these early disciples who remained perhaps most faithful to the original Hegelian vision but also showed himself an independent thinker in his wide-ranging oeuvre. Rosenkranz consciously strove to defend and re-articulate Hegel’s position in all its dialectical complexity and, unlike most of Hegel’s followers, laid particular stress upon Hegel’s fundamental debt to Kant and aspects of the Enlightenment heritage. Rosenkranz expressed his faith in the Hegelian ‘middle’ in declaring that ‘only all of his students taken together are the equal of Hegel; each one on his own account merely represents a one-sided moment of Hegel’ (Rosenkranz 1840a: xxxv).

Citing this article:
Stern, Robert and Nicholas Walker. The Hegelian School in Germany 1816–40. Hegelianism, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-DC037-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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