Hegel to Niethammer
Nuremberg, March 24, 1812

Source: Hegel: The Letters, Clark Butler and Christine Seiler ed., Purdue Research Foundation, 1984.

Hope lets [no one] come to shame, the Bible says. But I add: it often keeps us waiting long. Once again Easter is here, and I am still no further than before. ...

A first part of my Logic will appear by Easter Fair this year. It contains the first book, on Being, a branch of ontology; a second book is on the theory of Essence, and the third book is on the theory of the Concept. I am still vacillating between working up a version for gymnasium use and doing one for the university. I have no more idea how to write something of a preparatory or introductory nature than I would have a concept of how to introduce geometry without actually teaching it myself. In the official explanations added in fall 1810 to the directive it is clearly indicated that one is not to lecture systematically on a whole but is to institute practical exercises in speculative thinking. Yet this seems to me what is most difficult. Transposing a concrete object or actual circumstance into the speculative [key], drawing it forth and preparing it to be grasped speculatively – all this comes last just as much as does judging a composition by the bass line in music instruction. By practical exercises in speculative thinking – I can only understand treating actual pure concepts in their speculative form, and this is the innermost [content] of logic itself. Abstract thinking, the understandable abstract concept in its determinateness, can or must precede speculative thinking; but the series of such concepts is once again a systematic whole. Gymnasium instruction might be limited to this. On the whole there is probably already too much philosophy taught in the gymnasiums. In the lower class it very well could be eliminated. At this level I lecture on abstract legal concepts, and then on those of ethics [Moral]. And inasmuch as the pupils grasp these concepts in their determinateness, formally speaking they obtain training in abstract thinking, though I cannot yet call this speculative thinking. In the middle class I lecture one year on psychology – under which I take up first the doctrine of consciousness – and the other year on logic according to the above division into Being and Essence. It would seem sufficient to me if, in the middle class, the theory of law and duties were taught in the first year and psychology in the second year, with the encyclopaedia taught in the upper class, beginning with logic. Yet there should be no talk of the Absolute, the [point of] indifference, intellectual intuition, and such sublime topics. Quite generally, the aim should not be to teach youth at this age the absolute standpoint of philosophy. The true [philosophical] content is to be sure contained in what I have indicated should be taught, just as no formal exercise, as I have mentioned, can occur without [bringing in] the thing [itself] and content. One can neither think without thoughts nor conceive without concepts. One learns how to think by receiving thoughts into one’s head, to conceive by acquiring concepts. Thoughts and concepts must be learned as well as the distinction between the singular and plural, that between first, second, and third person, and such and such parts of speech; or as well as the Creed and catechism. It is in such a spirit that I would undertake this work. Dialectical [reason] introduces itself here on its own; and within it – insofar as what is positive in [negative] dialectical [reason] is apprehended lies speculative [reason]. Dialectical [reason], on the one hand, could only be taught on an occasional basis and, on the other, could be taught more through the deficiency of this or that thought determination than according to its real nature, since what counts for youth is primarily positive contents. Let me know your thoughts on these views of mine so I can orient myself more precisely as to what is to be done. I would have long ago wished to compose an outline for the theoretical teaching of geometry and arithmetic as it should be given in the gymnasium, since in the course of my teaching both in Jena and here I have found that – without mixing in here philosophy, which absolutely has no place – this science can be treated more intelligibly and systematically than is typical. In the usual case one simply fails, for want of a theoretical guide, to see how everything is derived and where it leads.

Our friend [Gotthilf Heinrich] Schubert never ceases to insist that his only wish is to be free of his rectorship [in Nuremberg’s modern gymnasium]. Yet he is never persuaded to take any official step in this direction, no doubt because if he took such a step he fears the supplementary income he receives as rector would be withdrawn – which could not very well happen if the initiative were to come from above. It is amazing how clever the saints can be. Is our local modern gymnasium to continue on its present basis? ... Yours, Hegel


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