Hegel, Popper, and the Right

HegelOn this day back in 1730, the proto-Romantic philosopher Johann Georg Hamann was born. One of the founders of mathematical logic, Giuseppe Peano was born in 1858. Novelist Theodore Dreiser was born in 1871. Composer Rebecca Clarke was born in 1886. Here is her Morpheus, which is beautiful:

One of the great surrealist Man Ray was born in 1890. Novelist C. S. Forester (not E. M. Forster) was born in 1899.

And Leo Penn was born in 1921. Who was he? A TV director. He is better known as the father of musician Michael Penn and actors Sean Penn and Chris Penn. I bring it up only to show what ridiculousness the whole idea is of meritocracy. I don’t much care for Chris, but I think Sean is very talented, and Michael is a great songwriter. But example and access have profound advantages. I especially have a hard time believing that Chris and Sean would have become actors, given that neither of them were very attractive. This doesn’t take away from what they’ve accomplished. But it ought to take away from this notion that any kid in America can grow up to be president because it just ain’t so.

Daryl Dragon of Captain & Tennille is 71 today. He is suffering from a “mild form of Parkinson’s disease” which limits his public appearances, although he and Tennille are still married after all of these years. Actor Tuesday Weld is 70. Actor Paul Reubens is 61. (I would have said “great actor” before watching Mystery Men last night.) Actor Peter Stormare is 60. Here he is as Lucifer in Constantine:

And actor Aaron Paul is 34.

The day, however, belongs to the great philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel who was born on this day in 1770. I disagree with a great deal of his work, but there is no question of the importance of the work. However, there is an unfortunate tendency to disparage his work today. This mostly comes from Karl Popper, who basically painted Hegel with an extremely broad brush, claiming that he was nothing but a relativist. This allowed him and others (e.g. Leonard Peikoff) to argue that Hegel was responsible for communism and fascism.

I don’t understand about this conservative attack on Hegel. His major work seems to go right along with conservative ideology. Absolute idealism, for example, is the idea that thought and existence are interrelated. I don’t accept this, but most conservatives don’t even think it is an issue. His historical dialectic is one of the slow advance of progress—yet another idea I reject but which conservatives hold so tight it must be the case that deep down they too know it is garbage. And his master–slave dialectic means just about anything you want it to, and conservatives love that kind of thing. So what is the problem?

Regardless, Hegel was an important thinker in his own time and all the way to today. And I say that as one who doesn’t find him persuasive. But the same can be said for much of Aristotle. People have to be given their due.

Happy birthday Hegel!

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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