German Idealism

Paul Redding

in The Oxford Handbook of the History of Political Philosophy

Published in print May 2011 | ISBN: 9780199238804
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191728365 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Philosophy

 German Idealism

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  • History of Western Philosophy
  • Social and Political Philosophy


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Politically, idealism would eventually be replaced by “materialism” in Karl Marx's transformation of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel's “absolute idealism,” while philosophically idealism was replaced by various anti-idealist doctrines in the twentieth century. But idealism still has its advocates, one recent supporter, in claiming “idealism as modernism,” essentially reinstating Friedrich Schlegel's assessment. For such a view, idealist philosophy, like the French Revolution and modern literature, is grounded in the characteristically modern idea of human freedom. This article discusses some of the implications for political thought to be found in three leading idealists from the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries: Immanuel Kant, Johann Gottlieb Fichte, and Hegel. It examines Kant's “idealist” philosophy and its consequences for political theory, his transformation of the natural law and social contract traditions, Fichte's application of the “Wissenschaftslehre” to political philosophy and his views on intersubjective recognition, Hegel and the logical foundations of political philosophy, the will and its right, ethical life and the structure of the modern state, and Hegel's political solution of constitutional monarchy.

Keywords: Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel; idealism; Friedrich Schlegel; political thought; Immanuel Kant; Johann Gottlieb Fichte; political theory; political philosophy; will; intersubjective recognition

Article.  10442 words. 

Subjects: History of Western Philosophy ; Social and Political Philosophy

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