Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy, Vol 15, No 1 (2019)

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Before Hegel: Schiller, Novalis, and the Concept of Aufhebung

Hammam Aldouri


Philosophical explorations of the concept of Aufhebung (sublation, supersession) immediately prior to its formulation in Hegel’s work have remained relatively absent within the context of both Hegel scholarship and German Idealism studies. Hegel is often simply represented as the originator of the concept and the latter is understood almost exclusively within his oeuvre. This essay addresses this lack by offering an exposition of the notion as it unfolds in two works from 1795-1796: Friedrich Schiller’s Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Man and Novalis’ Fichte Studies. In these works, we find distinctive examinations of Aufhebung understood as the name of a process in which a subject comprehends itself in relation to its own processual development. My guiding premise is that without an adequate comprehension of the way in which Aufhebung is constructed and comprehended in the last years of the eighteenth century, we cannot establish the vantage point from which to reconstruct Hegel’s early conception of the notion, a conception which begins to emerge in his earliest Frankfurt writings in 1797, as a contribution to the constellation of post-Kantian conceptions. 

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