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G. W. F. HEGEL

Ray Pettas
Perfection does not belong to earthly things, they say. Well, the more true about men. Jealousy, ill feelings and resentment soon appeared among the young and proud disciples...


The history of Philosophy tells us about a great deal of peculiar people, the so-called philosophers, grey, humourless and quite often absent-minded men who are constantly ‘thinking’, exercising their mind on the deepest questions of Life. Any of us who ever had to study them and their theories probably could not but feel a hopeless idiot, doomed to ignorance by the limits of his brain. This portrait must not be very far from describing the well-known G.W.F. Hegel, German philosopher, born in Stuttgart and author of the significant Phenomenology of the Spirit.

Like most men like him, he was gifted, not only of a reckless mind and the strongest sense. He possessed the most dangerous gift of proselytism. In other words, a multitude of disciples followed him, like a Roman legion its Emperor, blind and faithful soldiers ready to draw the sword for defending their Master. We’re not interested in them, our story might just forget them and get to a quite decent happy end. But - but there were many people who were somewhat compelled to take interest in them, that is, all the people in Berlin, where Hegel lived and taught during his last thirteen years of life. Life was never quiet again, over there, so we’re forced to forget the happy end and tell a different story.

Perfection does not belong to earthly things, they say. Well, the more true about men. Jealousy, ill feelings and resentment soon appeared among the young and proud disciples, so that they eventually split into two opposite parties, as any phylosophy book describes, the Hegelian Right and the Hegelian Left. Both composed by the brightest pupils of the old Master, they were equally loved by him. When he came across them, either inside the University or in the city streets, he used to greet them with great pleasure, joyfully waving his hand. As you may have noticed, we said ‘his hand’ rather than ‘his hands’, because he used to greet with just one, that was his right one for the Left and his left one for the Right. Unfortunately, it is said that when he reached his last age, old and doddering, he could no more tell right from left, as well as Left from Right, often greeting the Left with his left thinking it right, or the Right with his left thinking he was seeing the Left and using his right, or even the Left with his right, missing right and left because the Left looked Right and he wanted to use his left.

The parties were often at war one with the other, their reputation soon grew. Many people left the Right, so that it was called the "left Right", while the Left ideas seemed better and made more sense, and it gained the name of "right Left". To cut it short, the Left was right but the Right wasn’t wrong, as they felt right.
Students would often wander in Berlin, all together on large coaches. Unfortunately, they were not all German, but there were some Englishmen, too. It happened that the Left kept the right and the Right kept the left and one day, when some Left coming from left keeping the right hit upon some Right keeping the left, thinking they were right, the world trembled. Some of the right Left was thrown right, near the left Right. They rushed to the right, but the Right had left, so the left Left, or better the left Left that had left, having no right to remain, though some Right still lingered, turned right. The right left Right and the left right Left looked right and left, then the fight began. It was horrifying. A man lost his right hand, so he fought with his left one, though he was right-handed: he fought Right and Left, right and left. Another one ran out, his hands up, shouting "I left the Right, right ?". Some from the left wanted to break out, so they asked some people the right way. Someone from the Left answered "Right to the left, gentlemen".

The mess increased even more, when the Old Master happened to walk by. "Who’s Left ?" he said, since he wanted to tell Left from Right among all the people. Someone from the right and from the Right was left, so he said "Me, I’m left", but his friends thought he was a spy and they started beating him too.
No-one was left.

© Ray Pettas 2002
email: raypettas@supereva.it

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