This morning I was re-reading The Idea of Nature and found Collingwood writing:
"Hegel, nailing to the counter in advance the lie that he regarded his own philosophy as final, wrote at the end of his treatise on the philosophy of history, 'That is as far as consciousness has reached.'"
I put down the book and thought to myself, "Hmm, I bet Rothbard didn't like Hegel, and when there is a thinker Rothbard didn't like, and a common lie told about him, you can make a lot of money betting that Rothbard repeated that lie."
So I fetched my copy of Classical Economics from the shelf and looked up Hegel. Yep, right there on 355: "According to Hegel, the final development of the man-God [an idiotic phrase made up by Rothbard that Hegel never uses], the final breakthrough into totality and infinity, was at hand." (Although it might not seem so at a glance, this is the same claim as Collingwood is calling a 'lie', since Hegel's philosophy was final if and only if history had reached its conclusion.)
But what was really shocking was just how bad the entire section on Hegel is. First of all, in the course of reading this multi-page trashing "one of the greatest systematic thinkers in the history of Western philosophy," it becomes clear that Rothbard never read a single work by Hegel, because every quote is from a secondary source. Furthermore, it seemed he only used three of those: a 64-page biographical sketch of Hegel by Raymond Plant, Robert C. Tucker's Philosophy and Myth in Karl Marx, and Karl Popper's The Open Society and Its Enemies. (That's all I could find, but I admit I only looked at the notes in the back of the main chapter discussing Hegel.) The first of these is obviously a lightweight work and is used just for a couple of quotes. The second author I had never heard of. A Hegel scholar? I looked him up, and he's... wait for it... a Sovietologist!
And Popper, we know, was quite important in the philosophy of science, but also well-known as a disastrously bad intellectual historian. In fact, in 1959, Walter Kaufmann exposed Popper's "critique" of Hegel as based on ludicrously bad scholarship -- although Popper did do a little better than Rothbard in actually having looked inside of a book by Hegel before trying to rip him a new one, he apparently based almost all of his comments on a single, badly translated volume of excerpts from Hegel's works intended for college students. About Popper's "critique," Kaufman writes: "Popper's treatment contains more misconceptions about Hegel than any other single essay. Secondly, if one agrees with Popper that 'intellectual honesty is fundamental for everything we cherish,' one should protest against his methods; for although his hatred of totalitarianism is the inspiration and central motif of his book, his methods are unfortunately similar to those of totalitarian 'scholars.'"
Kaufman is especially harsh on Popper's use of "quilt quotations," one of which Rothbard himself pulls from Popper:
"Sentences are picked from various contexts, often even out of different books, enclosed by a single set of quotation marks, and separated only by three dots, which are generally taken to indicate no more than the omission of a few words. Plainly, this device can be used to impute to an author views he never held... Popper writes like a district attorney who wants to persuade his audience that Hegel was against God, freedom, and equality — and uses quilt quotations to convince us.
"The first of these (p. 227 ) consists of eight fragments of which every single one is due to one of Hegel’s students and was not published by him. Although Popper scrupulously marks references to Gans’s additions to the Philosophy of Right with an 'L' and invariably gives all the references for his quilt quotations — e.g., 'For the eight quotations in this paragraph, cf. Selections ...' — few readers indeed will recall when they come to the Notes at the end of the book that 'the eight quotations' are the quilt quotations that they took for a single passage. And Popper advises his readers 'first to read without interruption through the text of a chapter, and then to turn to the Notes.'"
And here's a final excerpt from Kaufmann's "evisceration" of Popper: "No conception is bandied about more unscrupulously in the history of ideas than 'Influence.' Popper’s notion of it is so utterly unscientific that one should never guess that he has done important work on logic and on scientific method."
So, not having bothered to open a single book by Hegel, Rothbard yanks from Popper disjointed, out-of-context quotes, many of which were not even written by Hegel, and uses the to make a totalitarian monster out of the man, the same Hegel who wrote things like:
"Commonplace thinking often has the impression that force holds the state together, but in fact its only bond is the sense of order which everybody possesses.”
And who held:
"Hegel stresses the need to recognize that the realities of the modern state necessitate a strong public authority along with a populace that is free and unregimented."
Some totalitarian, huh?
So, one of Rothbard's two main sources on Hegel was known, by 1959, to have totally botched his chapter on Hegel, while the other was a Sovietologist whose work on Hegel seems to have been mostly a preliminary to getting to Marx! But Rothbard is determined to throw in original nonsense as well. He complains that Hegel was not a "patriotic Prussian" for rejoicing upon seeing Napoleon marching through Prussia, ignoring the fact that Hegel was not only not a patriotic Prussian, he was not a Prussian at all! (He was Swabian.) And amazingly, with no documentation whatsoever, he claims that Hegel thought Ancient Greece was "free of all division of labor"! For that to be true, Hegel, a Hellenophile, would have to have not realized that Plato wrote philosophy, Herodotus history, Sophocles drama, and that someone else made all those sculptures and someone else again those vases, and he would have had to have thought that slaves had identical jobs to freemen. That seems a little farfetched, but then, we can't check it out, because there is just no indication at all of where this "fact" came from.
Good job, Murray.
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