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The philosophy of Hegel knows nothing of ethics under this name; upon its Pantheistic ground no really personal freedom can find foothold, although it makes all possible endeavors to find scope therefor. The reality of freedom appears essentially only under the form of necessity, as that right which, on the part of the subject, is duty; ethics appears only as the Doctrine of Right; its scientific significancy lies in its decided advance beyond the previous subjective stand-point (which appears even yet in Kant) to the objective validity and reality of morality in the family, in society and in the state, as real moral forms of humanity. In the fact, however, that only the State is conceived as the highest realization of objective morality, lies also the one-sidedness of the view, inasmuch as the full reality of moral freedom remains unrecognized.—The Hegelian school has not developed philosophical ethics beyond the positions 346of the master; its application to theological ethics by Daub and Marheineke presents the unrefreshing picture of a vain attempt at harmoniously reconciling irreconcilable contradictions.—The school of Pantheistic radicalism, which is nominally connected with Hegel but is in reality based rather on Spinoza, has produced no real system of ethics, but only narrow-minded and absurd essays on particular ethical topics.
The ethics of Hegel, as presented in his “Philosophy of Right,” (1821; better by Gans, 1833),—the field occupied by which constitutes a part of the Philosophy of the Spirit,—rests on the Pantheistic current set in motion by Spinoza, and appears in higher scientific maturity than in Schelling.—The rational spirit, as the unity of the objective consciousness and of the self-consciousness, is the true free-become spirit; it cognizes every thing in itself and itself in every thing,—is, as reason, the identity of the objective All and the ego. In that the rational spirit recognizes rationality in nature, and hence nature as objective reason, it is theoretical spirit. But reason knows its own contents also as its object, objectivizes the same, posits them outwardly, that is, the spirit is practical spirit—volitionates. But in so far as it is determined to this volitionating by no other object foreign to itself, but determines itself simply by virtue of its rational being, it is free spirit. Hence the spirit posits itself outwardly from within, objectivizes itself in freedom, realizes itself in an objective manner. This its realization is not nature, but is essentially of a spiritual character, is a spiritual world, a kingdom of the spirit which exists not merely in the ego, but has an objective reality the creator of which is the free rational spirit; the objective-become spirit is the historical world in the widest sense of the word. The freedom of the rational spirit is, however, with Hegel, by no means a real freedom of choice; such a freedom finds in the Pantheistic world-theory no legitimate place; it is only the spirit’s active relating to itself, its being independent upon any other external entity, but it is nevertheless essentially at the same time 347necessity. Thus the free spirit creates a world as the objective reality of freedom,— a reality, however, which has a general significancy transcending the individual being,—becomes a power over the individual spirit, assumes the form of necessity, whereby the individual subject is determined in his freedom, and which consequently must be recognized by the individual as the higher factor,—is a general will over against the individual will,—is right, which becomes for the individual, duty.
The Philosophy of Right falls into three parts. (1) The free will is primarily immediate, as individual will. The subject of right is the person, which stands to other persons primarily in an excluding relation. The person confers upon itself the reality of its freedom posits a special sphere of its subjective freedom in property. I declare an objective entity as my own, and hence as that upon which another has no right. This is primarily as yet an outward and not necessary action; it lies not in the essence of the thing itself that I declare it as my property; hence right in this sphere is the merely formal, abstract right. The freedom of the subject is assured and recognized by the fact that other subjects must concede the validity of my freedom, my property, my right; freedom receives thus a general significancy, becomes right. The freedom of individual subjects is regulated by law, is reduced to general harmony. But that the reality of this right rests primarily on the subjective will, and that the general will is the product of the individual will, is as yet an irrational state of things, and abstract right advances now, (2), to morality, wherein the individual will becomes the product and expression of the general will, but on the basis of freedom, through free recognition. In the first sphere the subjective freedom of the individual is bound by the right of the other, and hence trammeled. But in the free recognition of this right, the bondage, the trammeling element, is thrown off; right and law are no longer a merely outward limiting element, but become the personal law of the subject, the contents of his free self-determination. In the mere fulfillment of right the disposition does not come into question; I may concede to another his right unwillingly, and hence immorally; so soon, however, as right becomes morality, the disposition, the intention, 348becomes the chief thing, and the outward act a merely secondary matter. A man may be forced to right, but not to morality; only free, cheerful action is moral. That which in the sphere of right is wrong, becomes in the moral sphere moral guilt. The intention of the moral action directs itself primarily upon the rational subject himself, wills his welfare; but, as rationality has a general significancy, this intention looks also to the general welfare, to the realizing of the rational will and hence of rationality in general, that is, to the good. To realize the good, is for the individual subject, duty,—is no longer a merely outward law, but an inner, freely appropriated one. The good as the unity of the notion of the rational will and of the particular will of the individual subject, is the end, the goal of the universe.
But in the accomplishing of this duty of realizing the good, the subject finds himself involved in a multitude of contradictions and conflicts; the outer objective world is, as related to the subject, a something different from and independent of him; hence it is doubtful and fortuitous whether or not it is in harmony with the subjectively moral ends,—whether or not the subject finds his well-being in it. The abstract right was a merely outward and formal one; morality is a merely inward subjective something,—has harmony only as a postulate, as an “ought;” the good is, as yet, only the abstract idea of the good; hence there is need of a third, higher stage wherein the subjective and the objective phases are united, where the postulate of the harmonizing of the two spheres is realized, where the ought is also reality, where the good is no longer an abstract general something over against which the subject stands as yet as an isolated individual, but where the good has attained to reality, where freedom has become nature, and law has become custom. This brings us, (3), to the sphere of customariness—the completion of the objective spirit. In customariness the spirit enters into its true reality; the person finds the good outside of himself, as a reality to which he subordinates himself, as a moral world. Thus Hegel, deviating from the ordinary usage of language, distinguishes morality [moralität] from customariness [sittlichkeit], conceiving the former as the merely subjective and individual morality, and the latter 349as civic or social morality. In the sphere of morality man is considered as an individual who determines himself according to abstract moral laws; in that of customariness he is considered as an essential member of a moral community, of a moral whole, so that he now fulfills not abstract laws, but the requirements of the concrete-become spirit of a moral, social reality. Hence the end of customariness is primarily and immediately, not the individual, but the moral whole. The moral organisms constituted by reason as become objective, present themselves in the three development-stages of the family, of civil society (in which the individual subjects are bound together only by legal relations), and of the state, in which appears the full reality of morality.—The state is the moral substance as conscious of itself,—the objectively-realized moral and rational spirit, the union of the principle of the family and of civil society, the outer full realization of freedom,—inasmuch as here the moral reality rests no longer (as in the case of the family) upon a nature-ground, and no longer (as in the case of civil society) upon merely outward legal relations, but upon the common consciousness wherein the individuals are conscious of themselves as organic members of the whole. Hence the state is the per se rational existence, the highest manifestation of moral reason in general.—Hegel conceives the state in higher significancy than antecedent philosophers, namely, not as a mere means for the end of the individual citizens, but as end per se, to which the individual must sacrifice his particular and finite ends. This is a decided advance, especially in contrast to the utterly perverse and entirely anti-Christian state-doctrine of the eighteenth century, when it was regarded as perfectly self-evident that the state has no other task than to serve the interests of individuals, whether the interests of the individual citizens of a state, or the interests of a class in society, or those of a prince, but not to fulfill a moral idea. But the state is also here the ultimate and highest form. of all morality, as, indeed, Hegel recognizes no higher existence yon-side the finite reality of the natural All, but not an absolutely self-existent, infinite, personal spirit. The purely moral reality of the church,—which in its purely spiritual interests is far above the necessary outward limitations 350of the state, far above classes of society and national boundaries, and has a super-mundane eternal goal, and which, as resting absolutely upon freedom, does not exert coercive power,—finds no room for itself in Hegel’s system. All morality, without exception, appertains to the state, and all reality of the church must be merged into it,—a doctrine which of course was especially favorable to the absolutism of politics then in vogue. All that was usually ascribed to the church in its significancy for the moral, falls here to the state, while religion is regarded only as the basis, but not as the essential reality, of the moral spirit. “The state should be reverenced as an earthly-divine element; the state is divine will as present and developing itself into the real form and organism of a world.” Hence with Hegel, as also with the Greeks, morality is merged in the state, and has no significancy beyond it. “What man has to do, what the duties are which he has to fulfill, is, in a moral community, easy to determine: nothing else is to be done by him than that which is prescribed, expressed, and made known, in his relations.” That this moral community may also be morally a very perverted one, and that consequently man may be morally obligated to resist it, and that even the most perfect actual state, does not embrace the whole field of the moral community-life,—of all this the Hegelian system takes no account. In the carrying-out of the classification of the moral subject-matter, the “Philosophy of Right” varies largely in many places from the presentation given in the “Encyclopedia” and in the “Phenomenology of the Spirit.” The transition from morality to customariness seems artificial and very arbitrary. The freedom of choice here largely brought into requisition is entirely without justification in the system, and even contradictory thereto. The classification itself is also not rigorously kept apart, nor indeed can it be; the sphere of right falls largely into that of civil society, in so far as there is any real attempt at carrying it out; and the protection of right, which according to Hegel falls into the sphere of civil society, is utterly impossible without the state. Furthermore, it is worthy of note that Hegel, in perfect consistency with the principle naturally following from his system, namely, that “all that is real is also rational,” regards 351war, not as an evil, but as a phenomenon necessarily connected with the highest moral community-life or the state, and, hence, as entirely rational, and which simply expresses in act the frailty and finiteness inherent in all finite being, and which has in the moral sphere the same inner necessity and normalcy, as death in the nature-sphere; war is death exalted into the moral sphere.246246 Phanomenol., p. 358; Phil. des Rechts, pp. 417, 427, sqq.
The Hegelian school, dividing itself soon after the master’s death into a right wing, which progressively drew nearer to the Christian consciousness, and into a left wing, which sank lower and lower in the direction of radicalism and destructiveness, has not produced any very important results in the ethical field. (Michelet gave a “System of Philosophical Ethics,” 1828; Von Henning presented the “Principles of Ethics,” historically, 1824); Vatke (“Human Freedom in its Relation to Sin and to Grace,” 1841) develops, in opposition to Julius Müller’s “Presentation of the Christian Doctrine of Sin,” the Hegelian view in a very ingenious manner, without, however, succeeding in reconciling the unfreedom essentially inherent in the Pantheistic System with the general consciousness of moral freedom of choice; evil, though regarded as ultimately to be overcome, is yet held to be an absolutely necessary incident of the good. Daub and Marheineke undertook, in their ethical works,247247 Daub: Prolegomena zur Moral, 1839; System d. theol. Moral., 1840; Marheineke: System d. theol. Moral., 1847. the vain and thankless task of giving to the Pantheistic ground-thoughts of Hegel such a turn, and of clothing them in such forms of expression, as to make them appear as a higher scientific expression of the Christian doctrines. But the rapidly disenchanted age soon saw clearly enough the impossibility of this undertaking. Daub’s Ethics, as edited from his lectures in an easy and often conversational style, though proposing to present Biblical ethics, is yet unwilling to derive the moral law from the Scriptures, but seeks for it only in reason, regarding it as inherent therein, and forces the Biblical teachings, frequently with violence, into conformity to the already adopted system; the lofty self-complacency of the philosophizing theologian looks often contemptuously down upon 352the churchly consciousness, and oftener still, artfully explains away its significancy. Marheineke divides ethics into the doctrine of the law as the objective phase, into the doctrine of virtue as the subjective phase (virtue being taken as the harmonizing of the will with the law) and into the doctrine of duty. Despite a very pretentious style, the positive contents, consisting in many places merely in a loose series of single, and not always ingenious, and sometimes even insipid, observations, are really quite barren, and often involved in violent self-contradiction.
The left wing of the Hegelian school,—which strayed still further from the master in the direction of a vulgar Pantheism based on Spinoza, and which does not rise in the ethical field even to the honest consequentiality and earnestness of Spinoza, but, for the most part, sinks back into the most vulgar freethinking of French materialism,—has shown itself utterly unfruitful in ethical works; it has made itself felt, on the field of ethics, less by scientific productions than by impudent assertion. David Strauss is unwilling to admit the fatalistic necessity of all the individual phenomena of life, so consequentially affirmed by Spinoza; but he gives scope, without hesitation, to chance and to arbitrary discretion, and affirms (of course without any justification in his system) even the freedom of the human will. What the world had not as yet known, Strauss presumes to assert, and takes the liberty of blankly contradicting the principle of Spinoza, that the human will is a causa non libera, sed coacta. In his view, Pantheism alone guarantees the free self-dependence of man. If God is immanent in the world, and hence also in man; if, as in the Christian world-theory, the finite stands over against the absolute Agent as a distinctly different object, then is this finite (the world) only in a condition of absolute passivity; but in Pantheism the absolute actuosity lies in the collectivity of finite agencies, as their own activity. While in monotheism it holds good, that as truly as God is almighty so truly are men unfree, in Pantheism it holds good that as certainly as God is- self-active so truly are men also so, in whom He is so.248248 Glaubenslehre, ii, 364. What the drift of this special-pleading inference is, appears at once from the following observations: 353“This holds good, of course, only of our conception of the divine essence; whether it holds good also in the reciprocal relation of finite things, where Spinoza denies it, is another question, and one which does not concern us in this place.” He makes, however, in this connection, in order to maintain against Spinoza the freedom of the will, also the following very curious observation: “Spinoza declares individual man as unfree, for the reason that only that determinedness of his essence and activity remains to him which all other things leave to him; but in this connection he overlooked the fact that also, conversely, only that much remains to all other things which the individual leaves to them; this is of course not freedom of choice, but it is also not coercion.” The honest Spinoza would doubtless have shaken his head in astonishment at this naïve objection.—Strauss, naturally enough, recognizes also, as the highest moral reality, the state as separated from the church and as entirely swallowing it up within itself; in the place of the worshiping of God must be substituted art, and especially the theater; for genuine morality, that, is, for the life in the state, religion is not only superfluous but hurtful; for whoever thinks he has, outside of his duties as a citizen of the state, still other duties as a citizen of heaven, will, as a servant of two masters, necessarily neglect the first class of duties.249249 Glaubenslehre, ii, 615 sqq. In this expression of opinion he gives to governments a very significant hint, as to how dangerous for the state is an ecclesiastically pious disposition in the people, and how great is the duty of an enlightened government to guard against it.—Lewis Feuerbach, who finds in religion only a morbid delusion, namely, in that man regards his own being as a divine object, declares religion, and especially the Christian religion, as the destruction of morality, inasmuch as it makes the validity of the moral law dependent on religious faith. Nature is every thing, and exclusively so; to follow the voice of nature is the highest principle of morality. This voice, however, teaches us love to our fellow-men, whereas religion teaches only hatred against those who believe differently from us, and directs the love and activity of man, not toward other men, but toward a non-existing being—God; only the religionless man 354can have universal love to man, which is per se always practical atheism, namely, a denial of God in heart, in sentiment, and in act. For a scientific justification of these wonderful assertions we seek in vain; morbid bombast supplies its place. That this theory of morality must lead to the vulgarest enjoyment-seeking, is perfectly natural; and Feuerbach himself explains himself as to the nature of this morality of human love, very clearly, thus: “When I am hungry then nothing is more important to me than the enjoyment of food,—after the meal, nothing more than rest, and after rest, nothing more than exercise; after exercise, nothing more than conversation with friends; after the completion of the work of the day, I court the Brother of Death as the most beneficent of beings; thus every moment of the life of man has something,—but nota bene!—something human in it.”250250 Werke, i, 355.
Thus the philosophy of “modern science” has returned, in rapid circuit, back to the morality of French materialism, to the practical morality of Philip of Orleans under Louis XV. The more advanced and almost insane productions of the still more “radical” circle, especially of the circle of “emancipated” ones,—which formed itself around Bruno and Edgar Bauer, and by whom even Feuerbach was soon stigmatized (Max Stirner) as belonging among “theologians, “believing hypocrites” and “slavish- natures,”—belong not in the sphere of a history of science, but, at best, only in that of the history of the morals of the nineteenth century.
We will mention additionally, in passing, only the materialistic world-theory, which, though not directly springing from the Pantheistic philosophy, yet coincides with it in its ultimate results, and which has its origin more in the empirical study of nature than in philosophy, and which in its moral views has sunk back to the French materialism of the Systéme de la Nature (Moleschott, Vogt, Büchner, etc.). If spirit is simply a phenomenon. of brain-force, and if man is nothing more than a highly organized animal, then the moral catechism is very easy and short. Vogt declares it as presumption in man to pretend to be any thing essentially different from the brute; man belonged originally to the ape race, and has only gradually 355developed himself somewhat more highly. Man is guided and impelled, just as the brute, by his own nature, that is, bly the laws of his material existence, and with inner irresistible necessity; every so-called act of the will is strictly a necessary product of the material conditions of the brain and of the outer sensuous impressions, as determined by nutrition and by the peculiarity of the brain-substance. Hence also there can be no manner of moral responsibility; all so-called sins and crimes are only “consequences of a defective nutrition and of an imperfect organization of the brain.” The distinguishing between morally good and evil actions is merely a self-deception; “to comprehend every thing involves also the justifying of every thing,” says Moleschott. Hence, the moral amelioration of man takes place solely through suitable and strengthening nutrition. “The more fully we are conscious that by the proper proportioning of carbonic acid, ammonia, and the salts, etc., we are contributing to the highest development of mankind, so much the more are also our efforts and work ennobled.” Upon eating and drinking, these writers naturally enough lay very great emphasis; it appears to them as a sacred rite, and Moleschott is not ashamed even to compare it with the holy eucharist. It was also reserved for this writer to stigmatize the Christian world-theory and Christian custom as detrimental to the public good, and for this, among other reasons, that thereby the national wealth suffers a considerable loss from the practice of burying corpses in special graveyards, whereas the bodies of the dead should rather be used for manuring the fields. Those who look always for the truth simply in a “progress” beyond that which has hitherto been known and practiced, can perhaps inform us what the next further progress beyond this world-theory will lead to.
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