Historical Development of Continental Philosophy’s Existentialism and Phenomenology as a Response to Hegelian Idealism

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Historical development of Continental philosophy’s existentialism and phenomenology as a response to Hegelian idealism

Absolute Idealism left distinct marks on many facets of Western culture. True, science was indifferent to it, and common sense was perhaps stupefied by it, but the greatest political movement of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries— Marxism—was to a significant degree an outgrowth of Absolute Idealism. (Bertrand Russell remarked someplace that Marx was nothing more than Hegel mixed with British economic theory.) Nineteenth- and twentieth-century literature, theology, and even art felt an influence. The Romantic composers of the nineteenth century, for example, with their fondness for expanded form, vast orchestras, complex scores and soaring melodies, searched for the all-encompassing musical statement. In doing so, they mirrored the efforts of the metaphysicians; whose vast and imposing systems were sources of inspiration to many artists and composers. As we have said, much of what happened in philosophy after Hegel was in response to Hegel. This response took different forms in English-speaking countries and on the European continent—so different that philosophy in the twentieth century was split into two traditions or, as we might say nowadays, two “conversations.” So-called analytic philosophy and its offshoots became the predominant tradition of philosophy in England and eventually in the United States. The response to Hegelian idealism on the European continent was quite different however; and is known (at least in English-speaking countries) as Continental philosophy. Mean while, the United States developed its own brand of philosophy—called pragmatism—but ultimately analytic philosophy became firmly entrenched in the United States as well. Within Continental philosophy may be found various identifiable schools of philosophical thought: existentialism, phenomenology, hermeneutics, deconstruction, and critical theory. Two...
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