hegel

"One may be allowed a certain glee over Thersites’ fate."

From Hegel's Lectures on the Philosophy of History -- "By fulfilling their own great purpose in accordance with the necessity of the universal Spirit, these world-historical men also satisfy themselves. These two things belong inseparably together: the cause and its hero. They must both be satisfied ... It is psychological pedantry to make a separation and, by giving passion the name of addiction, to suspect the morality of these men. By saying they acted only from morbid craving, one presents the consequences of their actions as their purposes and degrades the actions themselves to means. Alexander of Macedon partly conquered Greece and then Asia; it is said, therefore, that he craved conquest, and as proof it is offered that he did things which resulted in fame. What schoolmaster has not demonstrated that Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar were driven by such passions and were, consequently, immoral? From which it immediately follows that he, the schoolmaster, is a better man than they because he has no such passions, and proves it by the fact that he has not conquered Asia nor vanquished Darius and Porus, but enjoys life and allows others to enjoy it too.

"These psychologists are particularly fond of contemplating those peculiarities that belong to great historical figures as private persons. Man must eat and drink; he has relations with friends and acquaintances; he has emotions and fits of temper. “No man is a hero to his valet de chambre,” is a well-known proverb; I have added – and Goethe repeated it two years later – "but not because the former is no hero, but because the latter is a valet.” He takes off the hero’s boots, helps him into bed, knows that he prefers champagne, and the like. Historical personages fare badly in historical literature when served by such psychological valets. These attendants degrade them to their own level, or rather a few degrees below the level of their own morality, these exquisite discerners of spirits. Homer’s Thersites, who abuses the kings, is a standing figure for all times.

"Not in every age, it is true, does he get blows – that is, beating with a solid cudgel – as in the Homeric one. But his envy, his egotism, is the thorn that he has to carry in his flesh; and the undying worm that gnaws him is the tormenting thought that his excellent intentions and criticisms get absolutely no result in the world. One may be allowed a certain glee over Thersites’ fate."

"The philosophy of art is therefore a greater need in our day than it was in days when art by itself as art yielded full satisfaction."

A brief excerpt from Robert Pippin's After the Beautiful: "There are many reasons to be skeptical that anything of value can result from trying to project Hegel into the future like this. After all, anyone who has heard anything about Hegel has probably heard that he said two things: that philosophy was its own time understood in thought, and some summary of the following remarks.

In all these respects art, considered in its highest vocation, is and remains for us a thing of the past. Thereby it has lost for us genuine truth and life, and has rather been transferred into our ideas instead of maintaining its earlier necessity in reality and occupying its higher place. What is now aroused in us by works of art is not just immediate enjoyment but our judgment also, since we subject to our intellectual consideration (i) the content of art, and (ii) the work of art’s means of presentation, and the appropriateness or inappropriateness of both to one another. The philosophy of art is therefore a greater need in our day than it was in days when art by itself as art yielded full satisfaction. Art invites us to intellectual consideration, and that not for the purpose of creating art again, but for knowing philosophically what art is.

"If one considers the history of modernist art after Hegel, there is something both ominously prophetic and yet clearly hasty about Hegel’s remarks. The tone of pessimism in the remark can seem to us more like something simply obvious. It seems trivially true that the fine arts do not and cannot matter to us as they mattered in the tragic festivals of ancient Athens or in religious practices or in the dreams of the Frühromantik. We have invested our hopes in science, technology, medicine, market capitalism, and, to some lingering extent, in religion, but certainly not in art. And Hegel had not even anticipated two other threats to the vitality and autonomy of art: that an art-buying leisure class of the bourgeoisie would become the principal patrons of the arts, nor did he anticipate how mass consumer societies would radically alter the conditions for art’s production and appreciation. Yet, on the other hand, the revolutionary vitality of the modernist moment itself and the continuing vitality of art forms like film and photography are evidence enough that art has not become a thing of the past."

Beauty and the Understanding in Hegel's Phenomenology

"The activity of dissolution is the power and work of the Understanding, the most astonishing and mightiest of powers, or rather the absolute power. The circle that remains self-enclosed and, like substance, holds its moments together, is an immediate relationship, one therefore which has nothing astonishing about it. But that an accident as such, detached from what circumscribes it, what is bound and is actual only in its context with others, should attain an existence of its own and a separate freedom -- this is the tremendous power of the negative; it is the energy of thought, of the pure “I.” Death, if that is what we want to call this non-actuality, is of all things the most dreadful, and to hold fast what is dead requires the greatest strength. Lacking strength, Beauty hates the Understanding for asking of her what it cannot do. But the life of Spirit is not the life that shrinks from death and keeps itself untouched by devastation, but rather the life that endures it and maintains itself in it. It wins its truth only when, in utter dismemberment, it finds itself." (Phenomenology of Spirit §32)

The Bible as Hegelian

"To give another example: why am I a totally atheist Christian? You know, in one sense Christ brings freedom. I think the only way to understand it is in this way. You are desperate: Christ was crucified, you are alone, you cannot count on divine help, I follow Hegel here; what dies on the cross is not just the son of God, it's God himself. Crucifixion means: there is no higher power pulling the strings secretly, it means we are left to ourselves. And you say: it's horrible, we are alone, blah blah. Yes, but that's the freedom God gave us. You see, to see the very thing that appears as catastrophe is the highest divine gift. Which is why I think the Bible is Hegelian. It's not as if you at first have bad news and then good news -- no -- the message of Christ is: you think this is bad news? Look again and you will see that this very news is good news. I die, I erase myself. It's bad news, yes, but -- it's your freedom; you cannot rely on me. It's good news." (Slavoj Zizek at New York University: September 26th, 2014)

William James: philosopher of laughing gas

Benjamin Breen in the Paris Review — After huffing a large amount of nitrous oxide, James set out to tackle a prominent bugbear of 1880s intellectual life: Hegelian dialectics. He came up with a stream of consciousness that centered on a kind of ecstatic binary thinking:

Don’t you see the difference, don’t you see the identity? Constantly opposites united! The same me telling you to write and not to write! Extreme—extreme, extreme! Within the extensity that “extreme” contains is contained the “extreme” of intensity Something, and other than that thing! …. By George, nothing but othing! That sounds like nonsense, but it’s pure onsense! Thought much deeper than speech … ! Medical school; divinity school, school! SCHOOL! Oh my God, oh God; oh God!

From Knox's translation of Hegel's Lectures on Aesthetics

An interesting remark from the section on music: "Hegel studied and loved painting, but in music he was less at home. His predilection for opera (especially Rossini and Mozart) and his lack of enthusiasm for instrumental music may explain or be explained by his views on the human voice. The fact that he never mentions Beethoven, his exact contemporary, is not surprising, because he is by no means the only person to have a distaste for contemporary music. If he ever heard Beethoven's music, he probably regarded it, as I regard e.g. Prokofiev's, as restless and incoherent." (p. 893)