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Most introductory texts or lectures of Nietzsche mention the connection between his thought and Nazi ideology (supposedly due to his sister's promoting his thought as being pro-Nazi). But Nazis don't get mentioned at all in similar texts regrading Hegel. For example Nazis are mentioned the Wikipedia (5 times) and SEP (4 times) articles on Nietzsche, but the Wikipedia and SEP articles on Hegel never mentions the Nazis. One has to do some more in depth research before coming across any references to Hegel being "adopted" by the Nazis.

Yet listening to lectures on Hegel's philosophy, it was immediately obvious that his philosophy could be interpreted as supporting nationalism in general and German nationalism in particular. His association with romantic nationalism and German romanticism, his concept of national spirit (Volksgeist) and how the spirit of the time had "settled" on the German people, and his ideas about race seem to be very amenable to being interpreted as supporting Nazi ideology.

For example in "The Philosophy of Right", he says:

The spirit now grasps the infinite positivity of its own inwardness, the principle of the unity of divine and human nature and the reconciliation of the objective truth and freedom which have appeared within self-consciousness and subjectivity. The task of accomplishing this reconciliation is assigned to the Nordic principle of the Germanic peoples.

On the other hand, the link between Nietzsche and Nazi ideology seemed much more tenuous.

So why does Hegel "escape" the charge of being a precursor to Nazism while Nietzsche has to be constantly defended from it?

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    See the posthumous Will to Power published (and re-arranged) by Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche. – Mauro ALLEGRANZA Dec 20 '16 at 21:26
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    Mauro's on the money -- the influence of Nietzsche's sister really cannot be understated. – Joseph Weissman Dec 20 '16 at 21:27
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    Nietzsche was interpreted not just by his sister. Nietzsche's follower Spengler was a big influence and in Prussia and Socialism he celebrated "true German socialism" vs "English" Marxism. Generally Hegelianism, not just Marx's, was more associated with the political left, Nazi's rival, Hegel was further removed in time, and his writings are less distillable into ready made mottos. – Conifold Dec 20 '16 at 22:14
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    "it was immediately obvious that [Hegel's] philosophy could be interpreted as supporting nationalism in general and German nationalism in particular" - it isn't obvious at all to me. Hegel is a universalist, intellectualist, religious, seemingly very far from the Nazi spirit. Can you elaborate on the obviousness? – Ram Tobolski Dec 20 '16 at 23:00
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    @RamTobolski see edit. – Alexander S King Dec 21 '16 at 5:51
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I feel as though you want an answer to this question that analyzes Nietzsche's work against Hegel's and shows how each one could be used to support Nazi ideology. However, I don't think that is the right way to answer this question. The reason that Nietzsche's work was appropriated by the Nazis more often than Hegel's was has nothing to do with the merit or content of their philosophies. The reason is a matter of historical setting. Personally, I don't think that an intellectually honest reading of Hegel's or Nietzsche's work can be used to support Nazi ideology. That being said, intellectually dishonest readings are very common and it is a matter of fact that the Nazis used a lot of dishonest readings of Nietzsche's work to promote their own ideology.

I believe that there are two reasons Nietzsche is more often than Hegel associated with Nazism. The first reason is contained within part of your question:

Yet listening to lectures on Hegel's philosophy, it was immediately obvious that his philosophy could be interpreted as supporting nationalism in general and German nationalism in particular.

It is certainly true that Hegel's philosophy could be used to support Nazi ideology (however dishonest of a reading you need to have). It is a matter of historical fact, however, that it wasn't. Or, at the very least, that it wasn't on as large of a scale as Nietzsche. Nietzsche's sister became his editor after his mental collapse and she edited a lot of his manuscripts to fit her own, as well as her German nationalist husband's, ideology. As Mauro and Joseph point out in the comments to your question, her editorial influence on his writings is integral to the Nazi's appropriate of his work. The timing for his work to be incorporated into the growing German nationalist movement coincided perfectly with his sister's ability to promote his work for her own ideology. Sure, a dishonest reading of Hegel might fit Nazi ideology just as well, but Hegel didn't have an editor publishing collections of his manuscripts whom also wanted to strengthen the German nationalist movement at that time.

The other reason, I believe, lies in their different writing styles. Nietzsche loved aphorisms and his most famous quotes are widely known, even by people who have no familiarity with his work. On the other hand, Hegel wrote incredibly dense treaties that used a lot of philosophical terminology and grandiose sentences. While Nietzsche filled his books with sentences such as:

What is done out of love always takes place beyond good and evil.

Hegel wrote sentences such as:

These apocalyptic utterances pretend to occupy the very centre and the deepest depths; they look askance at all definiteness and preciseness meaning; and they deliberately hold back from conceptual thinking and the constraining necessities of thought, as being the sort of reflection which, they say, can only feel at home in the sphere of finitude.

The Nazis were infatuated with propaganda. They wanted to refine it, in many ways similar to how one would work to refine an art form. One thing that the study of the effects of propaganda shows is that people, especially less educated people, are more effected by short and sweet phrases than by long dense works of literature. Giving people collections of slogans, aphorisms and the like works much better than giving people a three hundred page dissertation about phenomenology.

At the end of the day, I feel as though Hegel's work was too inaccessible to the average German for its use as propaganda. Propaganda lies at the center of Nazi ideology and I believe they would have been drawn more towards philosophers who would help them achieve that goal. Nietzsche's proclivity towards succinct aphorisms as well as his sister's motivation to promote German nationalism is what caused the Nazis to appropriate his work on a large scale. Hegel's work is absent of both of these factors.

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    +1 for the line "Hegel did not have an editor." As a Hegel researcher, I feel that. – virmaior Dec 30 '16 at 8:37
  • There is also a direct link in the person of Elizabeth Neitzsche, who used her brother's writings (and an association with Wagner) to make a reputation, and involved herself in pre-Nazi German Nationalist politics to the extent that Hitler attended her funeral. The number of dishonest readings of Nietzsche may have less to do with the content and more to do with the estate-holder in charge of the packaging. – jobermark Jun 1 '17 at 22:46
  • I think when I wrote this I didn't have any reputation and could only post two links, I'll go back and put more substantial links in eventually. – Not_Here Jun 1 '17 at 22:47
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    @PhilipKlöcking 'Some of my (in this case her) best friends are Jews' is almost always taken as proof, not refutation of anti-Semitism. As Falkner pointed out of Confederates: racist nationalists generally hate the race but love the individual. – jobermark Jun 1 '17 at 22:53
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    @PhilipKlöcking I am basing this on a biography by someone with a strong feminist agenda, which is also not very good in other ways. So she may have made her subject out to be brighter and more independent than she actually was. You are more likely to be right. I am just pointing out that this counterargument never works -- people expect less of people they think lesser, so they may be more forgiving of them individually, and end up liking them more. If this does not then change their opinion of the stereotype, they are truly racist. – jobermark Jun 1 '17 at 23:59
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I'm not quite sure how to integrate this (it's not an answer per se) but rather an encyclopedic addition based on two things I've run across.

Maybe this can be a collection of text references to people commenting on Hegel and the Nazis? (or perhaps this doesn't fit within the SE model and should be deleted).

Thulstrup's Kierkegaard's Relation to Hegel (1979 or 1980) - comments on the point that Hegel is too obscure for this to become likely (I no longer have the page reference).

Jon Stewart's Kierkegaard's Relation to Hegel Reconsidered (Cambriduge University Press: 2003) states on page 6 quotes the Danish professor Søe's History of Philosophy from Renaissance to the Present as stating that "[Hegel] is the main presupposition for ... the view of modern life in Nazi Germany" (fourth edition, p. 137).

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The actual answer rests with the words of Adolf Hitler himself. Hitler openly declared his hostility against Hegel, and Hitler openly declared that Nietzsche was his favorite philosopher. (See Hitler's Table Talks.) The quislings of Hitler followed his words to the letter.

  • I agree with you on Hegel. Regarding Nietzsche, we can't blame him because Hitler liked him (not that you did). Nietzsche in his right mind would have been disgusted by Hitler based on what I've read about him. – Gordon Aug 11 '17 at 16:53
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Hegel: Has reasons for saying Germans were exemplary, i.e., not mere prejudices.

Nietzsche: Denies reason and truth. Denies the measure of good and bad.

Yet listening to lectures on Hegel's philosophy, it was immediately obvious that his philosophy could be interpreted as supporting nationalism in general and German nationalism in particular.

I can only provide a crude sketch to give the reader a outline of the work that would be involved in understanding this issue properly:

As Leo Strauss said it, there is no racial aspect in Hegel. No racism of any kind. The point being, everything in some sense can be made to appear anything else. For example that softness can be said to be like hardness, for the reason that they both involve the sense of solidity or touch. But if we understand a philosopher, a philosophic work, we go beyond the semblance and the sophistic use of it. For Hegel, prior to the biological notion of race, there was no notion of organic defects, the driving issue in Nazi eugenics. For Hegel anyone could, so to say, turn, and join the consciousness of another civilization, or as we say today, culture. Had nothing to do with biology. Except in a very small sense, in the way a redwood planted in the north might turn out different than one in a southern clime. Same with weather's effect on man as universorum, of man as man.

So if one looks at it philosophically one agrees with Schmitt, Hegel died on the day the Nazi's came to power. By contrast to Hegel, the great Rationalist, i.e., one who held there was a moral development leading to a universal common good of all men, the end of moral or, one could say, cultural, development of man as man, Nietzsche held there was no such universal end. So, if there is no universal delineation of laws, manners of acting, in short no universal way of life, then it follows that anything goes. This kind of bewilderment, which still persists in our own time, whereby anyone who says anything in the style of a dogmatic is quickly informed that one has the right to one's own opinion on everything. Nietzsche was greatly responsible for articulating this view, which, during the Weimar manifested as the most free, de facto, society that ever existed (considering the censorship in America was in fact very great and legal for the states, not for the Federal authority, during that period) and so the cauldron from which Nazism came.

This is a sketch by which I intend to show the reader how, in essential antipathy to the non-philosophic reader, who sees in everything, as it were, everything, and especially the reflection of the current optic which assumes, e.g., race has always been race, the serious reader, which is more closely approximated by the university account, reads according to the way the texts were understood by their authors and by people at the time.

The spirit now grasps the infinite positivity of its own inwardness, the principle of the unity of divine and human nature and the reconciliation of the objective truth and freedom which have appeared within self-consciousness and subjectivity. The task of accomplishing this reconciliation is assigned to the Nordic principle of the Germanic peoples.

Hegel welcomes all to join the rational society, the one that has achieved the moral peak. That's no different for him than if one were to say that the discoveries of Descartes can be taught to anyone, the anylitical geometry, for instance. But, yet, it was derived by a Frenchman, and one wants to prove that in the development of World History, it had to be so. That is the point of the particularization of the Germans, not Nationalism or Jingoism, and of the whole work of Hegel. One might, to see things as Hegel did, consider the fact of post-Hegelian German scientific inventions, not as a matter of Patriotism, but of sheer wert-frei, value-free, reality.

  • This may be a quite extensive comment on Hegel, but I do in fact not see how this answers the main question. It argues why Hegel should not be associated with nazism, but there are few words on Nietzsche. Especially the editorial work and personal ties of Elisabeth with Nazism are not even mentioned, although the main reason. His early form of existentialism could just as well be used by leftists and is hardly a valid point in this context. – Philip Klöcking Jun 1 '17 at 22:41
  • There's a whole paragraph about Nietzsche. " Nietzsche held there was no such universal end. So, if there is no universal delineation of laws, manners of acting, in short no universal way of life, then it follows that anything goes." &c. Especially the crucial "Nietzsche was greatly responsible for articulating this view, which, during the Weimar manifested as the most free, de facto, society that ever existed" The stuff about his sister is superficial &, Nietzsche can not be held responsible for that in any case. – user26700 Jun 5 '17 at 23:11

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