Hegel's Early Theological Writings (1790-1800)
HEGEL'S EARLY THEOLOGICAL WRITINGS 31 duke was a pupil of the 'enlightened despot.' Frederick II of Prussia, and in the latter period of his rule he indulged in an enlightened absolutism. The spirit of the enlightenment went forward in the schools and universities that he promoted. Religious and political problems were discussed in terms of eighteenth century rationalism, the dignity of man was extolled, as was his right to shape his own life against all obsolete forms of authority and tradition, and tolerance and justice were praised. But the young generation that was then attending the theological University of Tiibingen-among them Hegel, Schelling, and Holderlin -was above all impressed by the contrast between these ideals and the miserable actual condition of the German Reich. There was not the slightest chance for the rights of man to take their place in a reorganized state and society. True, the students sang revolutionary songs and translated the Marseillaise; they perhaps planted liberty trees and shouted against the tyrants and their henchmen; but they knew that all this activity was an impotent protest against the still impregnable forces that held the fatherland in their grip. All that could be hoped for was a modicum of constitutional reform, which might better balance the weight of power between the prince and the estates.