From Philosophy And Polity: ‘Historicism In German Political Theory’

Full piece here.

A good summary of historicism:

‘I believe that naturalist historicism is most exemplified by Kant’s writings, and this historicism is warped first by Hegel and next by Fichte by adding the element of ‘the chosen people’ as Germans. Marx alters this naturalist historicism to reflect a more economic approach, replacing conflicting natural desires with class-struggles and the Germans with the Proletariats.’

and in conclusion:

As we have seen, common in each author is the idea that humanity is pushed along a course by forces beyond ourselves. Whether these are based in nature, some world-spirit, national identity, or class struggle, we are nonetheless driven towards our complete development. The differences lie in the level of this development. Kant believes our capacity lies at the global level, eventually enveloping each and every human being. But Hegel and Fichte stunt this historicism and narrowly present it as the development of the German state and nation. In doing so, they neglect human development on the whole and attempt to bypass complete human development and resolution. However, Marx returns the discussion to a global level, and removes the German ethnocentrism injected by Hegel and Fichte. By doing so I believe he opens the door to a more robust and thorough view of humanity’s development, one unfettered by national identities and arbitrary borders.

Does the pursuit of meaning, and absolute meaning through man’s post-Enlightenment use of reason alone, and the lure of historicist logic and German political organization need counterweights…or are they obviously already here?

Is Leo Strauss a useful path?  The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy seems to have some doubts:

In the end, how one evaluates the circular nature of Strauss’s questions and answers will depend upon how seriously one takes Strauss’s diagnosis of the “theologico-political predicament of modernity.” If one does not think Strauss has made a serious case for the dire intellectual and political implications of this predicament, then one will not be persuaded that Strauss has done much more than creatively re-read some pre-modern philosophers, for better or for worse. If on the other hand, one finds Strauss’s diagnosis of the “theologico-political predicament” persuasive, one might think that Strauss has accomplished quite a lot by raising the questions of truth, revelation, and nature anew in a day and age in which discussion of these matters seems to have been deemed mute.

Any thoughts and comments are welcome.

Addition:  As a reader points out, I’m quite aware the quote above is from someone quite sympathetic to Marxism.

Related On This Site:  Some discussion of  Isaiah Berlin’s attempt to address the dangers of historicist logic/the perfectibility of man once such an idea becomes the seed for political organization: A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty” …

Ayn Rand borrowed heavily from Kant:  Link To An Ayn Rand Paper: The Objectivist Attack On Kant

Peter Singer discusses Hegel and Marx

Getting a better hold on Strauss and his definition of historicism?:  Some Tuesday Quotations From Leo Strauss…See the comments: Harry Jaffa At The Claremont Institute: ‘Leo Strauss, the Bible, and Political Philosophy’

How does Natural Law Philosophy deal with these problems, and those of knowledge?

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2 thoughts on “From Philosophy And Polity: ‘Historicism In German Political Theory’

  1. Chris,

    Sorry for the delay in commenting!

    Thank you for the kind mention in your post; it is quite flattering to be held as the exemplar for discussions on historicism! I did want to clarify, though, that my reference and treatment of Marx (in response to a reader’s comment) is not meant to be sympathetic to Marxism qua Marxism. Rather, the trajectory of my argument is that there is a trend within German historicism that begins with a global perspective, i.e. of mankind that then falters with Hegel and Fichte, who arbitrarily inject nationalist tones into this historicism. It is for this reason that I might sympathize with Marx (though I would not use that word myself) since he returned the German historicist tradition to a global rather than nationalist scope.

    Once again, though, thank you so much for the reference. I hope you enjoy the rest of my posts!

  2. Jared, thanks for the clear, concise and well-written explanation of historicism, and the clarification. The site is looking good.

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