Marriage counselling from Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

“Cultural Marxism” comes in for a hammering on MercatorNet from time to time. I argued last year that it was a “a bogeyman invoked by conservatives to explain events as varied as the FBI’s trouble with Trump, the evolution of the rock group U2, transgender rights, and the results of the abortion referendum in Ireland.” 

Marx was a bad dude, but much of his philosophy was an extension of the insights of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, who died in 1831. So let’s just take a peek at “cultural Hegelianism” and its effects upon marriage.

If you think that modern philosophers have a monopoly on obfuscation, think again.

A rival 19th Century philosopher, Schopenhauer, observed acidly about Hegel: "Should you ever intend to dull the wits of a young man and to incapacitate his brains for any kind of thought whatever, then you cannot do better than give Hegel to read”. A 20th Century philosopher, Theodor Adorno, called one of his major works “literally incomprehensible.” To be fair to Hegel, there are philosophers who believe that he should be ranked amongst the greatest thinkers of all time. Still, the consensus seems to be that his prose is a duel to the death between Godzilla the incomprehensible and Mothra the unfathomable.  

Nonetheless, there are flashes of clarity. All the way back in the early 1800s we had Hegel arguing that there is no natural foundation for restrictions on sexuality and for monogamous marriage. They are just way stations in the inexorable advance of Progress. Marx had a good teacher. 

And despite his obscurity, Hegel is said to be making a modest comeback. Not a good idea. Lest it get too much traction, the harpies of #MeToo should descend upon on the Philosophy of Right, in which he discusses the family. It’s not often that one reads stuff like this nowadays.  

The difference between men and women is like that between animals and plants. Men correspond to animals while women correspond to plants because their development is more placid and the principle that underlies it is the rather vague unity of feeling. When women hold the helm of government, the state is at once in jeopardy, because women regulate their actions not by the demands of universality but by arbitrary inclinations and opinions. (Philosophy of Right, paragraph 166)

Memo to #MeToo trolls: All references to Hegel in universities urgently need trigger warnings. His books should be heaped up and burnt; his portraits defaced; his busts smashed or melted down.

All this is by way of introducing a philosopher in Hegel’s thrall. This hilarious post appeared recently on Reddit. The author is a 33-year-old German physicist married to a 36-year-old philosopher. They were married three years ago and lived together for three before that.

Here’s the problem: despite their closeness, neither spouse knows anything about the other’s interests. She tried to show him that Hegel misunderstood a basic concept in physics. Unfortunately, he “got angry and stormed out of the house," she writes. "I haven't seen him since (this was about a day ago) and texted him and haven't heard back.”

She goes on:

On top of this, his obsession with Hegel himself has reached the point of creepiness. At one point he literally told me that all other work either agrees with Hegel so is redundant, or disagrees with Hegel and is wrong. He keeps a framed picture of Hegel on the nightstand in our bedroom. In fact, he even changed his phone's background from a picture of me to this same picture of Hegel. I feel like I am competing with a 200 year old philosopher for my husband's attention.

At this point, the marriage tiff sounds like an argument over transgender issues -- one side is confident of her facts, while the other luxuriates in beautiful theories. Not that this is likely to trouble a true Hegelian. The master was once interrupted by a student who exclaimed: "But Herr Professor, the facts are different." To which Hegel replied, "So much the worse for the facts." The physicist continues about her husband: 

He has told me repeatedly that Hegel makes empirical science unnecessary and implied that my work is a waste of time and that I should just be studying German idealism instead and read people like "Fichte" and "Schelling" (who are apparently very popular in Germany but I've never heard of them). Why is it okay for him to belittle my field but I can't offer mild criticism of his?

The Reddit post recently sent #Hegel trending on Twitter briefly. Some said that it could be “fake news”, just a parody of academic obsession.

Possibly. But the key point -- the blind destructiveness of ideologies which ignore scientific facts -- is well made.

Michael Cook is editor of MercatorNet.


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