Thursday, June 15, 2017

Irony and Idealism: Rereading Schlegel, Hegel, and Kierkegaard (NDPR review)

G.W.F. Hegel (1770-1831)

Putting below excerpts which characterize the review overall hopefully saving the reader time in looking at the review as a whole. Link to the review in its entirety is after the excerpts.

Rush begins by noticing the developments in the academic discussion of German romanticism that have taken place over the last twenty years. Once mostly the province of literary scholars, the field of German romanticism also came to acquire in this period remarkable new interest within the Anglophone philosophical world. 
One question raised by this new philosophical attention, of course, is just what is meant by "romanticism"... 
Rush is particularly interested in what is now usually characterized as "early" German romanticism, a term employed above all to distinguish between pre- and post-Napoleonic phases of German romanticism and centering (depending on how one counts these things) on the small town of Jena and the years 1796-1801. Although the ambit of even this more restricted cultural phenomenon involves a fairly wide constellation of figures (Novalis, Ludwig Tieck, Wilhelm Heinrich Wackenroder, Friedrich Schleiermacher, August Schlegel, etc), Rush keeps his focus on three main authors: Friedrich Schlegel, who emerges at the center of Jena romanticism; Hegel, who came to Jena late and whose idealist approach is often taken simply to be in opposition to romanticism; and Kierkegaard, whom Rush sees as offering a kind of synthesis that is both responsive to and critical of its romantic and Hegelian sources. 
The key term for Rush's consideration of romanticism within its own development and in relation to idealism is the romantic figure of irony. His argument here is that a proper understanding of the romantic notion of irony lies behind post-Jena philosophical developments from Hegel to Kierkegaard. On this view, Schlegelian irony is seen less as a poetic mode than a primary way of exploring subjectivity: Rush's stress is on Schlegelian irony in the context of individual agency and what he calls the "first-personal sense of lived regulative cognitive and cultural orientation." 
Hegel's notion of dialectic in this context is understood as having an "uncomfortable proximity" to Schlegel's sense of irony, although Rush thinks the Hegelian system must be characterized as "retrospective and autotelic" in contrast with the Schlegelian system of fragments which is "prospective and tentative" (p. 10). On Rush's view, Hegel might be seen as a sort of "irresolute romantic," one who tries to nail down philosophical stability too soon and at a cost to the chaos that Schlegel can take on; the "really resolute romantic" would be one who denied the sort of resolution that Hegel craves. 
The book's two long chapters on Schlegel and Hegel are followed by a shorter chapter that presents Kierkegaard as offering a synthetic view. As Rush argues, Kierkegaard's "controlled" notion of irony allows him both to make use of Hegel's line of critique against Schlegel and to employ Schlegelian resources in turn against Hegel. Key here is Kierkegaard's notion of "spheres of existence" (aesthetic, ethical, religious) and the transitions among them.
Link to review HERE.