Hegelian Glee-Watch: Dumber than Dumbo Edition

Our plucky hero gives a Johnsonian refutation of subjective idealism:

Not even the animals are so stupid as these metaphysicians, for they fall on the things, take hold of them, seize them, and consume them.

– Hegel, Encylopedia §246

For a slightly more developed account, see Terry Pinkard’s ‘Inside, Outside and Forms of Life: Hegel and Wittgenstein’, which is where I came across the quote.

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3 thoughts on “Hegelian Glee-Watch: Dumber than Dumbo Edition

  1. Strikingly, if ironically, Schopenhauer armed with his Philosophy of Will, and thus an admirer of the Will in animals, exacts a similar criticism of Hegel himself, and Idealism in general. He too felt that Hegel did not throw himself enough upon things:

    “What was senseless and without meaning at once took refuge in obscure exposition and language. Fichte was the first to grasp and make use of this privilege; Schelling at best equalled him in this, and a host of hungry scribblers without intellect or honesty soon surpassed them both. But the greatest effrontery in serving up sheer nonsense, in scrabbling together senseless and maddening webs of words, such as had previously been heard only in madhouses, finally appeared in Hegel…”

  2. This gives me an opportunity to mention my favourite flute-based ad hominem:

    Hear, for example, with what almost venerable innocence Schopenhauer still presented his task, and draw your own conclusions as to how scientific a “science” is whose greatest masters still talk like children and old women:—“The principle,” he says, the fundamental proposition on whose content all philosophers of ethics are actually at one: neminem laede, immo omnes, quantum potes, juva [hurt no one; rather, help all as much as you can]—is actually the proposition of which all the teachers of morals endeavor to furnish the rational ground …. the actual foundation of ethics which has been sought for centuries like the philosopher’s stone.— The difficulty of furnishing the rational ground for the above-quoted proposition may indeed be great—as is well known, Schopenhauer too failed to do it—; and he who has ever been certain how insipidly false and sentimental this proposition is in a world whose essence is will to power may like to recall that Schopenhauer, although a pessimist, actually—played the flute …. Every day, after dinner: read his biographers on this subject. And by the way: a pessimist, a world-denier and God-denier, who comes to a halt before morality—who affirms morality and plays the flute, affirms laede-neminem morality: what? is that actually—a pessimist?

    Nietzsche, Beyond Good & Evil, ch.5

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