Postmodernism, Part 17: Hegel – Freedom is Slavery

What is postmodernism? Is it a problem?  The following continues a series of posts explaining postmodernism.  It is based on the excellent Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault, by Prof. Stephen Hicks (with support from Bertrand Russell’s History of Western Philosophy.)

Previous posts:

Enlightenment and Darkness

Rousseau’s Revolutionary Politics

Right Collectivism

Erstwhile

Marxist postmodernism seeks to overthrow modernism.  Modernism’s political philosophy proposes reason, individualism, liberal democracy, and free markets.  Postmodernist philosophy is based on the metaphysical nihilism of (Nazi) Martin Heidegger.

Postmodernism’s radical left politics don’t flow naturally from Heidegger’s subjectivist philosophy.  Postmodernism’s leftist political philosophy is explained by twentieth century Marxists’ crisis of faith in the face of undeniable Marxist catastrophe.  Postmodernists took refuge in an earlier totalitarian collectivist, Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

jean-rousseauJean Rousseau

Rousseau’s political philosophy features socialism, totalitarianism, and unthinking religious fervor.  He was a Counter-Enlightenment totalitarian collectivist, who damned reason and civilization, sacrificed the individual to the state, called for intolerant state religion, despised political and economic liberalism, and embraced dictatorship.  His ideas inflamed the French Revolution and gave rise to Napoleon.

Napoleon gave Germany an epic case of post-traumatic stress disorder.  Napoleon gained power and trounced Germany.  He ended the Holy Roman Empire, occupied German territories, and imposed foreign values on them.  Germans blamed the Enlightenment for invading the dark forests of deeply rooted German traditions.

German Counter-Enlightenment minds gave Rousseau a German spin.  Kant espoused a sort of feudalistic militarism, where Nature uses human warfare for human progress.  Johann Herder (Kant’s student) disagreed, arguing for multiculturalism, moral relativism, German (not universal) progress, and nationalism.  Johann Fichte (Kant’s student) also disagreed, arguing for Ego (German subjective reality), public education as totalitarian collectivist indoctrination, and German (collective) freedom.

Hegel: Freedom is Slavery

Hegel was the fellow who reinvented reason.  He and Kant had split over how to defend God.  Kant used logic to kill objective reality.  Hegel objected because this denied universal truth.  He wanted it back.  So, Hegel used his dialectic to reinvent reason.  Reason was the universe acting through individuals, with contradictions clashing in a process of cultural evolution.

Hegel decided to give Rousseau the dialectic treatment plus a healthy dose of German idealism.  He was a Rousseau fanboy, but the French Revolution had proved to be weak beer.  To change the world, Rousseau’s collectivist totalitarianism needed a German shot in the arm.

hegelHegel

Hegel (like Rousseau) argued for state religion – in a literal sense.  He claimed that history was progress towards divine perfection (the Absolute Idea).  “God governs the world,” he taught, “the carrying out of his plan is the History of The World”.  The State “is the Divine Idea as it exists on Earth”, he said, “One must worship the state as a terrestrial divinity”.

Hegel (going beyond Rousseau) sacrificed the individual on the altar of his state religion.  “If the state claims life, the individual must surrender it,” he parroted Rousseau. Individuals “are thus sacrificed”, he wrote, “under the category of means to an ulterior end”.

Hegel reinvented freedom (echoing Fichte).  True freedom is the obedience of the law. “Law is the objectivity of Spirit; volition in its true form, ” Hegel taught, “for it obeys itself – it is independent and so free”.  (In other words, freedom is God’s.  God’s laws are the nation’s laws.  Individuals have a duty to God and country, which are one and the same.)

Hegel (like Rousseau) endorsed dictatorship (of “world-historical individuals” – like Napoleon).  The dictator “is devoted to One Aim”, he wrote, and “may treat other great, even sacred interests, inconsiderately; conduct which is indeed obnoxious to moral reprehension.”  (The dictator is above morality.)  “But so mighty a form must trample down many an innocent flower”, he said.  (The dictator is above morality and will slaughter innocents to realize God’s plan.)

Hegel (like Fichte) divined that history was culminating in the German people.  The Spirit had developed in three phases: the Orientals, the Greeks, the Romans, and the Germans.  “The German world knows that All are free”, he wrote, “The German spirit is the spirit of the new world.  Its aim is the realization of absolute Truth as the unlimited self determination of freedom”.

Two important takeaways from Hegel are: his dialectic and totalitarian ethnic nationalism.  Both components would be taken up by the Collective Right and the Collective Left.

Commentary

Hegel was profoundly influential.  His ideas (seemingly bizarre, unhinged, even lunatic) would shake the world, killing tens of millions.

Importantly, from a subjectivist philosophical point of view, there is nothing inherently wrong with holocaust and genocide.

Next

Romanticism and industrialization birth Socialism. Next: Part 18, Antichrist.

Postmodernism, Part 16: Fichte’s School of Nationialism

What is postmodernism? Is it a problem?  The following continues a series of posts explaining postmodernism.  It is based on the excellent Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault, by Prof. Stephen Hicks (with support from Bertrand Russell’s History of Western Philosophy.)

Previous posts:

Enlightenment and Darkness

Rousseau’s Revolutionary Politics

Right Collectivism

Erstwhile

Marxist postmodernism seeks to overthrow modernism.  Modernism’s political philosophy proposes reason, individualism, liberal democracy, and free markets.  Postmodernist philosophy is based on the metaphysical nihilism of (Nazi) Martin Heidegger.

Postmodernism’s radical left politics don’t flow naturally from Heidegger’s subjectivist philosophy.  Postmodernism’s leftist political philosophy is explained by twentieth century Marxists’ crisis of faith in the face of undeniable Marxist catastrophe.  Postmodernists took refuge in an earlier totalitarian collectivist, Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

jean-rousseauJean Rousseau

Rousseau’s political philosophy features socialism, totalitarianism, and unthinking religious fervor.  He was a Counter-Enlightenment totalitarian collectivist, who damned reason and civilization, sacrificed the individual to the state, called for intolerant state religion, despised political and economic liberalism, and embraced dictatorship.  His ideas inflamed the French Revolution and gave rise to Napoleon.

Napoleon gave Germany an epic case of post-traumatic stress disorder.  Napoleon gained power and trounced Germany.  He ended the Holy Roman Empire, occupied German territories, and imposed foreign values on them.  Germans blamed the Enlightenment for invading the dark forests of deeply rooted German traditions.

Kant gave Rousseau’s totalitarian collectivism a German spin: feudalistic militarism.  Life is suffering.  Morality is selfless duty unto death.  Nature uses human warfare for human progress.

Johann Herder (Kant’s student) disagreed with Kant on human progress.  Herder was a romantic who espoused multiculturalism, moral relativism, and German progress (not universal progress, like Kant) .  He was a patriot and nationalist who warned against infectious foreign ideas.  His own nationalism proved contagious.

Napoleon’s foreign occupation set German nationalism aflame.

Fichte’s School of Nationalism

Johann Fichte, was the father of German nationalism.  He (like Herder) was Kant’s student (but parted ways with Kant over ultimate reality).  Fichte espoused public education – for totalitarian collectivist indoctrination.  He called on Germans to reclaim German freedom (against foreign ideas).

Fichte (Kant’s student) parted ways with Kant over ultimate reality.  Kant had trashed the idea of knowing objective reality (leaving only subjective reality).  Fichte trashed ultimate reality, altogether.  He argued that subjective reality (Ego) was ultimate reality.  (Any other “reality” exists only because Ego supposes it.)

johann-fichteJohann Fichte

Fichte was the father of German nationalism.  Ego (Fichte’s subjective ultimate reality) was German.  “To have character and to be a German,” Fichte taught, “undoubtedly mean the same thing”.  (If Ego’s subjective reality is ultimately reality, then this is subjectively “true”).

Fichte espoused public education for collectivist indoctrination.  Rousseau had proposed public education for social indoctrination.  Fichte expanded on this, arguing that education must “mold the Germans into a corporate body” that joins “all its individual members by the same interest”.  He wrote, “Free will is the first mistake of the old system”.  He argued that education should completely destroy freedom of will, and produce unthinking obedience.

Fichte espoused public education for totalitarian indoctrination.  Education should make each of us a “fixed and unchangeable machine,” he said, “a link in the eternal chain of spiritual life in a higher social order” (very medieval).  He taught that education must replace individualism with nationalism and a classless society.

Fichte called on Germans to reclaim German freedom (against foreign ideas).  The Germans “bravely resisted the oncoming world dominion of the Romans,” he said, “Freedom to them meant just this: remaining Germans … with the original spirit of their race”.  To him, freedom is about nations (not individuals).

Commentary

Fichte’s ideas profoundly influenced Germany, nationalists, and collectivists (Left and Right).  Fichte (unlike Herder) was racist and antisemitic.

In unfettered subjectivist philosophy, anything goes.  Nothing flows naturally from subjectivist philosophy – not individualism, not collectivism, not nationalism, not racism.  Subjectivist philosophy is entirely subjective (truth, morality, everything).  That is the context of Fichte’s racism, antisemitism, totalitarianism, everything.  (To the subjectivist, why not?)

Next

Collectivists turn “freedom” into slavery.  Next: Part 17, Hegel – Freedom is Slavery.

Postmodernism, Part 15: Herder’s Volksgeist

What is postmodernism? Is it a problem?  The following continues a series of posts explaining postmodernism.  It is based on the excellent Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault, by Prof. Stephen Hicks (with support from Bertrand Russell’s History of Western Philosophy.)

Previous posts:

Enlightenment and Darkness

Rousseau’s Revolutionary Politics

Right Collectivism

Erstwhile

Marxist postmodernism seeks to overthrow modernism.  Modernism’s political philosophy proposes reason, individualism, liberal democracy, and free markets.  Postmodernist philosophy is based on the metaphysical nihilism of (Nazi) Martin Heidegger.

Postmodernism’s radical left politics don’t flow naturally from Heidegger’s subjectivist philosophy.  Postmodernism’s leftist political philosophy is explained by twentieth century Marxists’ crisis of faith in the face of undeniable Marxist catastrophe.  Postmodernists took refuge in an earlier totalitarian collectivist, Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

jean-rousseauJean Rousseau

Rousseau’s political philosophy features socialism, totalitarianism, and unthinking religious fervor.  Rousseau’s Counter-Enlightenment was the polar opposite of Enlightenment thinking and values.  He was a totalitarian collectivist, who damned reason and civilization, sacrificed the individual to the state, called for intolerant state religion, despised political and economic liberalism, and embraced dictatorship.

Napoleon gave Germany an epic case of post-traumatic stress disorder.  Rousseau’s ideas inflamed the French Revolution and Reign of Terror.  Napoleon gained power and trounced Germany.  He ended the Holy Roman Empire, occupied German territories, and imposed foreign values on them.  Germans blamed the Enlightenment for invading the dark forests of deeply rooted German traditions.

Kant gave Rousseau’s totalitarian collectivism a German spin: feudalistic militarism.  Life is suffering.  (We deserve it.  So, get over it.)  Morality is selfless duty unto death.  (So, unthinkingly obey your masters.)  Life is cheap.  (So, make death count.)  Human progress is warfare until judgment day.  (The dark forest of Kant’s German traditions had such deep roots they seemingly reached back to pagan Germanic warrior cults.)

Napoleon’s foreign invasions were setting the brooding German Counter-Enlightenment thinkers on fire.

Sturm and Drang

Enlightenment scientific rationalism sparked a passionate reaction against logic and reason.  This is why Rousseau’s passions so inflamed the German Counter-Enlightenment thinkers (hence, Kant).  In the arts, Rousseau inspired the passionate Romantic movement.  Philosophy and the arts entwined in fierce embrace.

The Romantic movement began with the German Sturm and Drang (“storm and drive”).  It included philosophy, music, and literature.  Its proponents included Wagner,  the composers Haydn and Mozart, and the legendary Goethe (who had been up close and personal with the French Revolution and Napoleon’s invading troops).  Sturm and Drang elevated, nature, youth (dying young), violent emotion, and the humble.

Rousseau and Sturm and Drang inspired many Counter-Enlightenment thinkers (who influenced the collectivist Right) and Romantic thinkers (who influenced the collectivist Left).

Herder’s Volksgeist

Johann Herder (the “German Rousseau”) discovered multiculturalism, moral relativism, and the German Volksgeist (the national spirit).  He was Kant’s student (but left Kant for being too reasonable).  Herder was a multiculturalist and moral relativist.  He warned against infecting German culture with diseased foreign ideas.

Herder studied under Kant but became a disciple of Johann Hamann (Kant’s friend and colleague).  Hamann and Kant both distrusted the Enlightenment and reason.  However, Hamann thought Kant’s subjectivism was still too cozy with reason.  Herder followed Hamann in abandoning reason.

herderJohann Herder

Herder discovered the German Volksgeist (national spirit).  Kant thought Nature’s grand plan used warfare for universal human progress.  Herder rejected the idea of universal human progress.  What mattered (to him) was German progress.

Herder was a multiculturalist and moral relativist.  Each Volk (people) has its own distinct culture, morality, and destiny.  So, there’s no such thing as universal progress because there’s no universal yardstick.  (Each culture has its own yardstick.)

Herder warned against infecting German culture with foreign ideas (in a nonjudgmental way).  When we “start dwelling on wishful dreams of foreign lands,” he taught us, we’re just asking for trouble: “symptoms of disease, of flatulence, of unhealthy opulence, of approaching death!”  Foreign ideas (the Enlightenment, etc.) were like a disease that threatened to sicken and kill the Germans.

Herder was a patriotic German nationalist.  He was not a racist.

Commentary

Herder greatly influenced the German arts.  His writings helped inspire the Sturm and Drang movement.  His studies of German language and myths, in search of deeper meanings, would influence many others.

Just as romanticism would inspire totalitarian collectivism, Herder’s ideas would be borrowed and twisted to terrible ends (as Herder had feared).

Next

Germans continue brewing the Collectivist Right.  Next: Part 16, Fichte’s School of Nationalism.

Postmodernism, Part 14: Kant Goes Medieval

What is postmodernism? Is it a problem?  The following continues a series of posts explaining postmodernism.  It is based on the excellent Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault, by Prof. Stephen Hicks.

Previous posts:

Enlightenment and Darkness

Rousseau’s Revolutionary Politics

Right Collectivism

Erstwhile

Marxist postmodernism seeks to overthrow modernism.  Modernism’s political philosophy proposes reason, individualism, liberal democracy, and free markets.  Postmodernist philosophy is based on the metaphysical nihilism of (Nazi) Martin Heidegger.

Postmodernism’s radical left politics don’t flow naturally from Heidegger’s subjectivist philosophy.  Postmodernism’s leftist political philosophy is explained by twentieth century Marxists’ crisis of faith in the face of undeniable Marxist catastrophe.  Postmodernists took refuge in an earlier totalitarian collectivist, Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

jean-rousseauJean Rousseau

Rousseau’s political philosophy features socialism, totalitarianism, and unthinking religious fervor.  Rousseau’s Counter-Enlightenment was the polar opposite of Enlightenment thinking and values.  He was a totalitarian collectivist, who damned reason and civilization, sacrificed the individual to the state, called for intolerant state religion, despised political and economic liberalism, and embraced dictatorship.

Rousseau and the French Revolution were major tipping points.  Rousseau’s ideas had inflamed the French Revolution and Reign of Terror.  Finally, Napoleon rose to power.

Napoleon gave Germany an epic case of post-traumatic stress disorder.  His armies trounced Germany.  He ended the Holy Roman Empire.  He  occupied German territories.  He imposed foreign values on the Germans.  The Germans blamed the Enlightenment for their humiliation.

German Counter-Enlightenment thinkers brooded on this mess.

Into the Woods
teutoburg-forestRoman defeat at Teutoburg Forest

The dark forests of German culture and tradition had very deep roots.  The now defunct Holy Roman Empire was the heritage of Charlemagne and Charles “The Hammer” Martel.  One thousand years before, they had defeated the Islamic invaders of Europe and begun driving the invaders from Spain.  Seven centuries before that, the Germanic tribes had defeated the Roman invaders, ending their conquest of northern Europe.

Now, a foreign invader had conquered them.  Napoleon personified the Enlightenment (to them), uprooting and burning their traditions, forcibly planting his foreign ideas in the German soil.  Deep in the dark German forests, the Counter-Enlightenment ruminated on its fate.

Kant Goes Medieval
immanuel-kantImmanuel Kant

When last we saw our Counter-Enlightenment hero, Immanuel Kant (defender of the faith) had smote the Enlightenment a crippling blow.  He had taken logic’s razor and deftly sliced away the idea of objective truth, leaving reason staggering about, blind in one eye.  Now, only subjective truth remained.  Then, Kant took his subjectivity and went medieval on the Enlightenment.

Kant was a Rousseau fanboy.  He read and reread Rousseau’s books (mooning over Rousseau’s romantic Emile).  He hung Rousseau’s picture on his wall (like a Counter-Enlightenment poster boy).  Kant had some liberal ideas and had cheered on the French Revolution (in a not very Prussian way).  However, Rousseau’s passionate idealism got Kant fired up.

Kant was passionate about cherished German ideals: feudalism and militarism.  Prussia was the last bastion of feudal German militarism.  Prussia had a cherished military heritage (from the medieval Teutonic Knights to Frederick the Great).  It had been a bulwark against foreign invaders.  Otherwise, Prussia was largely a cultural and intellectual backwater (uneducated, feudal, and warlike).

Kant longed for the feudal Prussian ideal, when life was cheap, and folks suffered happily, until their masters sent them to die in war.  (Ah, those were the days.)  This was “the hidden plan of Nature”.  This was human progress.

ragnarokKant’s human progress:  Ragnarök

Human life is cheap, and we should suffer happily.  We play our role, then “nature abandons individuals to complete destruction,” Kant tells us.  Our suffering matters not.  “Nature is utterly unconcerned that man live well,” he instructed, “Nobody should wish that [life] should be longer than it actually is.”  We deserve to suffer (for the original sin of reason).

Human greatness is achieved (collectively), through war.  Nature “uses [war] to bring about the development of all man’s capacities,” Kant instructs us, “War is an indispensable means for bringing [culture] to a higher stage.”  Each of us is just “an animal that … has need of a master”, he wrote, “who will break [our] self will and force [us] to obey a universally valid will”.  This is morality – selfless duty unto death.

And so, we should make war until judgment day (when Heimdallr blows his Gjallarhorn).

Commentary

Kant was no Enlightenment liberal.  He shared much in common with Rousseau – passionate idealism, collectivism, the general (universal) will, and unthinking duty.  To Rousseau’s totalitarian collectivism, Kant added a peculiar German twist.

Kant (defender of the faith) added, not only a feudal Prussian militarism, but also a pagan Germanic morality (a warrior cult and death wish).  His ideals seem to regurgitate pagan Germanic warrior myths of Valhalla and Ragnarök (judgment day).

Other German thinkers and politicians would take up these themes, helping lead to German reunification, Nazism, the World Wars, and the Soviet destruction of Kant’s home town of Königsberg in the Second World War.  Today, Königsberg is the Russian city of Kaliningrad.

Next

German brooding continues. Next, Part 15: Herder’s Volksgeist.