IASH Intellectual and Literary History Public Seminar Series, "The Future of History"

About the Beginnings of Dialectical Philosophical History (1800-1850)

When and under what circumstances was historical writing first structured by a set of exemplary philosophical oppositions—between the spiritual and material, the rational and temporal, ideas and social existence—such that history could be presented as world-historical progress towards human self-consciousness? In discussing this question the paper will pay due attention to those accounts that have answered it in terms of the reception of Hegelian philosophy by such historians as Leo, Rothe, Gans, and Droysen. But it will also depart from these accounts by arguing that this reception cannot itself be understood in terms of Hegelian philosophical history—as a dialectical mediation of rationalist philosophy and empiricist history. It should instead be seen as the work of a particular academic-intellectual faction engaged in cultural and political combat with rival factions, especially the empirical and ‘philological’ historians, and most notably Leopold von Ranke and his school. It will thus be suggested that when dialectical philosophical history emerged in 1820s-30s Protestant Germany, it was in the context of a particular cultural-political battle with empirical-philological historians. The roots of this conflict lay deep in German religious, philosophical, and political history, but its specific configuration was provided by post-Napoleonic struggles to reshape German politics and culture. It is understandable that academic intellectual work should be characterised in terms of disinterested research and free discussion within an open academic public sphere. On this occasion, however, it would appear that important intellectual developments were driven by combat between internally closed and mutually hostile intellectual factions bent on cultural and political domination in and through the university.

Ian Hunter is an emeritus professor in the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities. He is the author of a number of studies on the history of early modern political, philosophical, and religious thought, most notably, Rival Enlightenments: Civil and Metaphysical Philosophy in Early Modern Germany (Cambridge 2001). He has also published a number of papers on the history of post-Kantian philosophy in the modern humanities and social sciences. His current work, on intellectual movements as cultural-political factions in the politics of early 19th century Germany, has resulted in a recent paper—‘About the Dialectical History of International Law’ (Global Intellectual History 2016)—and forms the basis of the present seminar.


4.00pm Thursday 6 April 2017
Seminar Room, Level 4 Forgan Smith Tower
University of Queensland, St Lucia
For further information, please contact iash@uq.edu.au or 07 334 69492

All welcome.


Seminar Room, Level 4 Forgan Smith Tower, University of Queensland, St Lucia