M. N. Roy Jawaharlal Nehru



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GREAT POLITICAL THINKERS

  1. place since his day, and the institution of reformatories and industrial schools, derived impulse from him and have proceeded on the princi­ple that he laid down."30

  2. Another respect in which Bentham was in advance of his day was in his belief that punishment should fit the criminal and not the criminal the punishment. He believed that punishment should be graded according to the nature of the crime, the previous character of the offender, his parentage, the circumstances in which the crime was committed, the motive of the criminal, and the kind of persons to whom the injury was done. Punishment thus was to be certain and impartial in its imposition. As a matter of fact, according to him, the only valid test of the adequacy of a punishment was its ability to secure public welfare.

  3. Although Bentham wrote on the various aspects of the political state of his day, his distinctive field was, however, that of ethics and jurisprudence—what may be called the realm of the supra-political. His distinctions in the various species of law contributed decisively to the elimination of ethical and juristic conceptions from the domain of the science of the state. The complete separation of jurisprudence from political science he did not work out. He was too keenly con­cerned in various phases of practical reform to make a perfect job of his theory. The necessary advance in this direction was made by a disciple of Bentham—a less original and less picturesque, but hardly a less acute intelligence—John Austin.

  4. Bentham's Contribution to Political Theory


    1. ibid., p. 11.

    2. Wayper, C. L. : Political Thought, Chap. II.

    Apart from all the reforms which Bentham advocated, his main task was to liberate political theory from medieval political vocabu­lary. He provided one of the most powerful of weapons against the coming of what William James used to call the 'Bitch Goddess'. He insisted that the state existed for man, not man for the state. And he proclaimed that where there were happy citizens could the state be considered good. "The interest of the community then is what ?" Bentham asked. And he answered, ' The sum of the interests of the several members whc compose it."—This is the greatest contribution of Benthamism to political theory, that it sees every question in terms of the men and women whose lives it will affect and never in terms of abstractions. It applies an empirical and critical method of investi­gation to concrete problems of law and government and extends the experimental method of reasoning from the physical branch to the moral. And it denies the infallibility of the superior person who foists his own morality or type of happiness upon others. "Winnow­ing the grain from the chaff need not be such a dusty process as to blind Englishmen to the debt they owe to Jeremy Bentham."11

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  6. GEORG W. P. HEGEL (I 770- I 83 I)



  7. His Career and Works

  8. Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, the most outstanding advocate of the organic theory of the State, was born at Stuttgart in 1770. His father was a subordinate official in the department of finances of the State of Wurttemberg ; and Hegel himself grew up with the patient and methodical habits of these civil servants whose modest efficiency had given Germany the best-governed cities in the world. The youth was a tireless student. He made full analyses of all the important books he read, and copied out long passages. True culture, he remarked, must begin with resolute self-effacement, as in the Pythagorean system of education, where the pupil, for the first five years, was required to keep his peace.

  9. His studies of Greek literature gave him an enthusiasm for Attic culture which remained with him when almost all other enthusiasms had died away. "At the name of Greece," he wrote, "the cultivated German finds himself at borne. Europeans have their religion from a further source, from the East ;. . . .but what is here, what is pre­sent—science and art, all that makes life satisfying, and elevates and adorns it—ws derive, directly or indirectly, from Greece." For a time he preferred the religion of the Greeks to Christianity ; and he anti­cipated Strauss and Renan by writing a Life of Jesus in which Jesus was taken as the son of Mary and Joseph, and the miraculous element was ignored. Later he destroyed the book.

  10. In politics, too, he showed a spirit of rebellion hardly to be sus­pected from his later sanctification of the status quo. While studying for the ministry at Tubingen, he and Schelling hotly defended the French Revolution, and went out early one morning to plant a Liberty Tree in the market-place. "The French nation, by the bath of its revolution", he wrote, "has been freed from many institutions which the spirit of man has left behind like its baby shoes, and which there­fore weighed upon it, as tbey still weigh upon others, like lifeless feathers." It was in those hopeful days, "when to be young was very heaven," that he flirted, lik Fichte, with a kind of aristocratic socialism, and gave himself, with characteristic vigour, to the Roman­tic current in which all Europe was engulfed.

  11. Hegel had a chequered career. He had to earn his bread for some time by tutoring in Berne and Frankfort. In 1803, he was appointed as a lecturer at Jena University, but in 1806 when Napo-

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  1. leon's victory over the Prussians threw the scholarly little city into confusion and terror and when French soldiers invaded Hegel's home, he took to his heels like a philosopher, carrying with him the manuscript of his first important book. The Phinomenology of Spirit. For a while he edited a paper at Bamberg ; then, in 1812, he became head of the gymnasium at Nurenburg. It was there, perhaps, that the stoic necessities of administrative work cooled the fires of roman­ticism in him, and made him, like Napoleon and Goethe, a classic vestige in a romantic age. And it was there that he wrote his Logic (1812-1816), which captivated Germany by its unintelligibility, and won him the chair of philosophy at Heidelberg. At Heidelberg he wrote his immense Encyclopaedia of the Philosophical Sciences (1817), on the strength of which he was promoted, in 1818, to the University of Berlin. From that time to the end of his life he ruled the philoso­phic world as indisputably as Goethe the world of literature, and Beethoven the realm of music.

  2. While at Berlin University, Hegel's status increased so high that he acted as the official philosopher of Prussia, exercising an influence such as few professors have ever done. Here he wrote his Philosophy of Right and delivered lectures which after his death were published as the Philosophy of History, working out that theory of the state which has gone marching down the years, airing new and strange political philosophies, and giving ever louder expression to his own convenient conviction that the heir of all the ages was the Prussian monarchy and that the latest fills of time were those daily thumbed over by the busy bureaucrats of Berlin.

  3. Hegel was hailed not merely as the official philosopher of Prussia, but as the philosopher of the age, just as Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas had for so long been regarded as the philosophers of their times. Critics called him 'a flat-headed, insipid, nauseating, illiterate charlatan, who reached the pinnacle of audacity in scribbling to­gether and dishing up the craziest mystifying nonsense." They applied to his writing Shakespeare's words "such stuff as madmen tongue and brain not." They held an opinion about his theory of the state that it grew "not in the gardens of science but on the dunghill of servility." Although German philosophers have always been notorious for the acrimony of their philosophic discussions, many of his critics believed that Hegel had synthesized all knowledge as Aristotle and Aquinas had done in their day, that he had found the fundamental laws which govern all reality. He said of himself : "Although I could not possibly think that the method which I have followed might not be capable of much perfecting, of much thorough revising in its details, I know that it is the only true method. It is clear that no method can be accepted as scientific that is not modelled on mine." He was fully confident that he had solved all the riddles of the universe. And his opinion of himself was regarded as the truth, so much so that after his death his devoted disciples wondered what was left for

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  1. philosophy. Even English philosophy, which traditionally was of that empirical kind for which he had no liking and which he considered a trashy over-the-counter commodity fit only for a nation of shop­keepers, felt his influence, and in Green, Bradley and Bosanquet tackled the difficult problem of how to express his philosophy in English without making it appear gibberish.

  2. Hegel's great influence on philosophy, on political philosophy, on politics, is not to be denied. Unfortunately, he is as difficult to understand as he is important. Language has frequently been accor­ded pride of place among the major arts of deception. Chinese scholars of old were not above indulging in the genial joy of writing so obscurely as to tax the erudition of their correspondents. But it ha? been left for German philosophers, appealing to a people conditioned by language and leaning to the view that obscurity and profundity are synonymous terms, to make occassional Chinese academic naughti­ness their habitual practice, and there is no more trenchant commen­tary than Hegel's works on that most inappropriate of Nazi slogans : "Deutsch sein heiszt Klar sein"—"to be German is to be clear." A technical terminology more shapeless, ugly and impenetrable than any other jargon, a truly awful style made still more unseemly .by a love of ponderous paradox, yet adequately matched by that wonder­fully involved construction that makes the Philosophy of Right such a difficult book to follow, these are the hall-marks of Hegelian writing.

  3. The climax of German idealism in political philosophy was reached in the speculation of Hegel. The extraordinary genius of this thinker surpassed in breadth and profundity that of ever Kant and Fichte. Like these two predecessors, Hegel developed nis political principles as part of a comprehensive system of philosophy.

  4. Influences on Him

  5. Among the writings which most influenced his later opinions were the works of Kant and Fichte, the works of the Greek philoso­phers, especially Plato and Aristotle, and the writings of such French thinkers as Montesquieu and Rousseau. From all these authors he extracted those notions which fitted in best with his already strongly developed statist tendencies. It is not surprising at all that Hegel should be affected by the writings of Kant and Fichte, for these two men were then the two great lights in the German philosophical firmament. The young students of Hegel's generation regarded both men as Titans in the world of thought. In later life, Hegel sharply criticized both these masters and regarded himself as their superior. Nevertheless, he remained deeply indebted to both the Kantian and Fichtean systems and many of his doctrines are intelligible only in the light of the ideas thrown out by these two men. In common with Kant and Fichte, Hegel rejected the English type of philoso­phizing, with its reliance upon sensation, experience and experiment. Like his predecessors, he believed that ultimate Reality could and



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  1. should be known by abstract reason—and a touch of intuition. In common with Fichte and Fichte's interpretation of Kant, Hegel believed that ultimate Reality and the problem of the universe could be solved, in fact had been solved, through his own philosophical system. Though Hegel differed radically from Fichte in detail, he agreed that the whole universe is spiritual or mental in character. Hegel also took over from Kant and from Fitche the all important doctrine that 'freedom' meant action in accord with reason, freedom to the right thing rather than freedom to do as one chose. In the field of metaphysics he strove to incorporate in his own system a reinterpretation of Plato's doctrine of ideas and of Aristotle's doctrine of forms. In the field of politics the influence of Plato and Aristotle was equally strong. In common with these great thinkers, he proclaimed that 'man is a political animal' ; that the state is not the artificial creation, but the natural and necessary outgrowth of human activity ; that man's natural state is political, not pre-political. Both Plato and Aristotle were statists ; both believed that the state should have con­trol over the individual ; that the individual can have no rights against the state. Hegel, for all his philhellenism, rather disliked the democratic feature of ancient Athens. He preferred to accept the ideas of Plato and Aristotle that the government should be in the hands of the 'better classes'. In Rome, as opposed to Greece, we find at least in an elementary state the doctrine of individual rights. In Roman political and legal philosophy we find the doctrine that "the government should rest upon the consent of the governed," and that all officials derive their author^y from the people. It is no wonder that Hegel felt far more drawn to the Greek than to the Roman tradition.

  2. Thought—the Ultimate Reality

  3. Hegel starts with the curious assumption that "thought and being are one," by which he means that thought is the only ultimate Reality in the universe. It follows that a knowledge of thought and of the laws of thought will solve all the vexed problems of existence-As thought and being are one and the same, logic must obviously be the same as or at least include metaphysics. To Hegel all true science is merely the concrete application of logical principles. The fields of art, ethics, economics, jurisprudence and politics are all subject to rational logical laws and can best be studied by the rational logical approach. The Hegelian school resolutely "rejects the view that judgments of value are incapable of being logically supported-It is true that values are relative to feeling. But feeling can be sub­jected to criticism. . . .This means that there is a logical standard by which standards of value are determined." In other words, reasofl or logic can tell us not merely what is false or true in the field of society and the state, but, also what is good and bad in art. By h» reliance upon reason in solving all social and political problems-



  1. GBORG W. F. HEGEL

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  1. Hegel seems to be in close accord with his predecessor, Fichte. But there is a marked difference between Fichte and Hegel. The ration­alism of Fichte was revolutionary, that of Hegel was conservative. By the use of reason Fichte created in his own mind a picture of an ideal state—of the state and government as it should be—and then contrasted this picture with the states and governments he saw around him. Again and again, he emphasized that the existing states and governments were far from rational and hence far from ideal, and he also insisted that we should strive to transfrom the irrational makeshift states of the present into conformity with the ideal picture of the state, given by reason. To Hegel this was a very dangerous doctrine and smacked too much of the principles laid down by the French revolutionaries. To Hegel the primary purpose of reason and logic in the field of social and political studies is to show logically and rationally how existing economic, social and political institutions have originated and to give a logical and rational analysis of these institu­tions as they exist at present. Above all, and this is an important point, Hegel strove to show that existing economic, social and political institutions rest upon an essentially rational basis—and being rational they are ipso facto good, and must be joyfully accepted by all thinking human beings. Having satisfied himself that these Jaws are rational, the thinking man will come to the conclusion that they are also good. This leads Hegel to the startling conclusion that "the insight to which . . . .philosophy is to lead us is that the real world is as it ought to be." In his curious use of the powers of the reason Hegel appears to adopt a decidedly static and conservative attitude towards political affairs. He was a strong defender of pow&is and wanted to maintain status quo. But he also favoured changes in the social and political fabric of his own time. He, on several occasions, reminded that wc were no longer living in the Middle Ages and that it was useless and rather ridiculous to preserve institutions which had come down from mediaeval times and which were no longer suitable to the modern times. In 1802, he violently attacked the existing organization of the Holy Roman Empire or old German Empire, and demanded radical changes in its constitution. In 1816, he warmly defended the proposed new constitution for Wurttemberg and vigorously attacked those persons who clung blindly to the political institutions of the 'good old days.* In 1830, shortly before his death, he discussed the English Reform Bill (eventually passed in 1832), and though he radically disagreed with many of its detailed items, he willingly admitted that some kind of reform was essential.

  2. Hegel, the Super Rationalist

  3. Keeping in view these two different trends of thought in Hegel, one can pertinently ask as how one can reconcile Hegel the con­servative with Hegel the reformer. The answer is that Hegel, like most persons in similar position, claimed that he wished neither stagnation nor revolution, but evolution—that he welcomed change.



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  1. but that change, in most cases, must be slow and gradual, the gradual dropping of outmoded institutions, the gradual development of new institutions to fit the exigencies of the times. Reform thus never means the destruction of the existing system abruptly. These changes must come spontaneously, more or less unconsciously, in accord with an intuitive or instinctive feeling demanding improvement. In a word, Hegel, the super rationalist, declared that all real progress in human affairs is not based upon conscious reason, but upon blind instinct. For him reason and intuition are ultimately and fundamentally identical.

  2. Hegel thoroughly despised the methodology used by the classical English philosophers—that knowledge of external reality was to be derived from sensation and experience ; by the careful observation and accumulation of sense data ; by the analysis and the grouping together of the sense data in such z '"ay as to build up the tentative theories and hypotheses ; and finally by testing these tentative theories and hypotheses by experiment and further observation. As a young man, he attacked Newton and the Newtonian physics because of its empirical and experimental character. As an old man, he wrote another work dealing with the English system of government and again attacked the English method of treating political problems by a slow, seemingly irrational, trial and error method. In its place, he relied partly upon abstract reason, partly upon instinct and intuition and partly upon tradition. Theoretically he placed more emphasis upon an abstract reasoning. To Hegel "the rational is the real and the real is the rational." Anything in the universe which is irrational is ipso facto false—a delusion of the senses. This means that the rational is real or the good and the good is rational—that any system of government which has no rational basis is bad ipso facto. Hegel felt that he had proved that the Prussian system of government was more or less ideal when he had proved that it was essent'ally rational in character.

  3. Distinction between Understanding and Reason

  4. Hegel distinguished sharply betwe-n understanding and reason, as did Carlyle. Understanding for Carlyle was "more mechanical and uncreative deduction and inference of given premises." Reason, on the other hand, was "direct spiritual perception, the ability to pene­trate behind the shadows of formal logic and see the fundamental realities which lie beneath." Hegel's distinction was very similar though not identical. For him understanding "was the mode of mind which seeks precision above all things and insists upon clear distinc­tions. As such, it is a necessary factor of every philosophical method . . . .But its truth is not the whole truth. Beneath these distinctions there is identity ; and to see this is the work of reason." Reason gives us a deeper insight into the real nature of things than under­standing with its formal ratiocination.



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  1. Distinction between Creative and Reflective Reason

  2. Hegel also distinguished between creative and reflective reason. Creative reason to Hegel was unconscious reason, reason unaware of itself. Most of what we call experience, most of what we call artistic or active instincts of the mind, were called by Hegel creative reason. It is unconscious reason which has built up the family, society, the state. It is unconscious creative reason which permits and will permit further development of human institutions. It is creative reason which brought the state into being, which allowed it to grow, and which sustains it at the present time. On the other hand, the reflective reason reconstructs thought and by a conscious effort of thought the fabric which, blinded by the very force of its creative power, it has ceased to recognize as its own. It reviews with open eyes the ground it had originally traversed blindfold, retracing the whole circle of progress and marking how each step necessarily follows from those that had gone before. Reflective reason, because of the very fact that it is conscious, cannot be creative. It can only analyse and compre­hend the work which the creative reason has already accomplished. Hegel's doctrine that political progress must be made unconsciously and instinctively and not in dependence upon logical systems was, of course, directed against the rationalists of the French Revolution and their demands for a state based upon the laws of reason.

  3. The History of Philosophy

  4. Along with reason and instinct Hegel also emphasized the need of history and tradition to solve the political and other problems. In stressing tradition, Hegel broke sharply not only with such liberal thinkers as Locke, Bentham and Rousseau, to whom history is the story of the past abuses, but also with such thinkers as Kant and Fichte with whom Hegel had otherwise much in common. The re­verence for tradition Hegel took over from Montesquieu and Burke, but he developed their doctrines very considerably, and in this modi­fied form traditionalism became an integral part of the Hegelian system. To Hegel the best way to study philosophy or religion or science is to study the history of philosophy and religion and science. To him the history of philosophy is itself philosophy, for the history of philosophy, the study of the appearance and development of philosophic concepts, gives us the only possible solution of most philosophic problems. The historic attitude is equally important in approaching the problems of ethics, of society, of government. "The wisest men of antiquity have laid it down that wisdom and virtue con­sist in living conformably to the customs of one's own people." And history in Hegel's hands is made to prove that Germany and especially Prussia is the heir of all the ages, or that the Germans are the chosen people of the World Spirit, and that the social and political aspira­tions of past ages have reached their fruition in the Prussian system of government.



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