10

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?

12
  • 2
    See the posthumous Will to Power published (and re-arranged) by Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche. Dec 20 '16 at 21:26
  • 2
    Mauro's on the money -- the influence of Nietzsche's sister really cannot be understated.
    – Joseph Weissman
    Dec 20 '16 at 21:27
  • 4
    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
  • 4
    "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? Dec 20 '16 at 23:00
  • 1
    @RamTobolski see edit. Dec 21 '16 at 5:51
5

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.

1
  • 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
3

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).

3

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.

2
  • 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
1

If you read Hegel’s Philosophy of History, you can see how it influenced German nationalism in the 19th century and laid the groundwork for both Nietzsche’s philosophy and even Nazism. At one point he explains why the Protestant reformation took place in Germany instead of France by blaming French impurity (as being the mixture of Germanic and Romanic heritage) for their reliance on external authority. Clearly thought the ‘purely’ Germanic people’s (including the English and Scandinavians) were a superior race.

0

Nietzsche was a founding postmodernist. Hegel was architypically modernist.

I would argue Nazism aspired to Futurism, while relying for it's intuition-led group-think on channelling stone age instincts - but new technology has required new instincts, like Silicon Valley & it's emergent religiius rights at Burning Man.

Hegel pervaded the philsosophical atmosphere of old Germany, part of the grounding not just of Nazism but also Marxism. Whereas, Nietzsche if asked, 'What are you rebelling against?' would have said 'What have you got?'

Nazism, like Trumpism, was a magpie philosophy (to be flattering about them). Look at the absorption of socialist language to please the Sturmabteilung, until the Night Of The Long Knives when the new militia, the SS, was powerful enough to dispense with them. There was no moral compass, there were no crimes or compromises or propaganda or threats that were unconscionable. Consistency or coherence were irrelevant. It was the lived rulership of psycopathy. And when people say, 'It can't happen here', look to Trump. It's atavism of the fall of the Roman Republic, and the easy answers of tyrants, until they have their boot on your neck.

I think Nietzsche would have been embarrassed to see how his writing could be used by people he hated. Whereas Hegel would have seen Nazis as the logical culmination of the German geist. Nietzsche's ideas could operate in a post-truth world, picturing everything as power relations, and be superficially appealing to these immoral powerful. But fundamentally, Nietzsche's appeal is not to historical necessity, but to conscience; not only about morality, but about truth. To see truth as only about power, is to be the lion. To recognise that our truths construct our world is to be the child:

"Man's maturity: to have regained the seriousness that he had as a child at play."

After crossing dangerous ground, this is about reaching the part of ourselves that cannot be corrupted. The part which plays, and learns. And cannot be coerced into a stasis of bullies & boredom that will end that, and limit our potential to grow. That recognises the need to keep walking the tightrope between apes, & angels.

1
  • 1
    I upvoted this answer because it responds to the 'spirit' or in writing class what is termed the 'controlling' idea or argument behind the question. It has been said the Nazis adopted whatever fragments of thought or art that suited their purposes. This can be claimed for both Nietschze and Wagner
    – user37981
    Nov 17 '20 at 4:25

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.