‘Relation of Negation’ (1830): Hegel with Hartung — Hal Odetta


The year before Hegel (in 1831) died, a little-known German educator named Gotthilf Hartung passed away on December 1830. An 1832 obituary gave his complete name as Carl Constantin Gotthilf Hartung, and he was 31 years old.

I stumbled onto Hartung while tracing the development of the phrase or concept of “false consciousness”/falsches Bewußtsein in either Marxist or non-Marxist traditions. The earliest usage I found—as “diesem falschen Bewustsein”—was in Hartung’s ‘The Heuristic Method in Teaching Popular Logic’. (1) After looking through this work it became apparent to me that, from the perspective of doing serious philosophical education and popularization of logic, it is high time not just to bring this work back to light but to also consider it beside Hegel’s body of work.

For one thing, several of their concepts echo each other: beside Hegel’s “phenomenology of spirit”, we can place Hartung’s “workshop of the spirit”; beside Hegel’s “relationship of the Notion”, we can place Hartung’s “relations of the Negation”; beside Hegel’s “relationships and differences of consciousness”, we can place Hartung’s “relationships of perception and distinction”; and so on—unmistakable themes with “family resemblances”. (2)

Teaching logic to schoolchildren
But here, there is a move from a Hegelian world concerned with exploring the dialectical dance of the Negative to a Hartungian world concerned with the practicalities of teaching “popular logic” to school-children without sacrificing rigor. And in the “heuristic teaching method” he designed to teach logic, the pedagogical perspective is to take care that the self-reliance and the free, exploratory structure of the child’s mind is not negated in the process of “educating” it.


Hartung’s minimal signs
Is there some Lacan in Hartung? Almost none. But note how he appreciated the importance of using the most minimal signs (letters and arithmetic signs) in order to signify complex ideas:

Now, in order to arrive at a general expression for the relation of [these] ideas, we can put a couple of letters instead of these two ideas, [if they] are connected with each other in the original categories. (Emphasis mine.) (3)

In order to indicate that B is not contained in A […], we [may] use the minus sign … (Emphasis mine.) (4)

Why is Hartung not in Wikipedia?
Up to this time, the only “substantial” information I have been able to gather about Hartung has only been confined to these three sources: a death notice from a local school newspaper, an obituary (5); and a very short historical note (not more than one hundred words) of his “teaching through questions” and “catechetical” approach in a recent book on “Negative Pedagogy” (6).

In the Wikipedia entry on “Heuristic”, only twentieth-century figures are noted as the earliest shapers of the concept: Herbert A. Simon, Amos Tversky, and Daniel Kahneman. So aside from his historically important book on “heuristic” pedagogy, I only know that Gotthilf Hartung was once the headteacher of a German secondary school and that he was part of a local Educational Council of the town of Erfurt.

Where Hartung failed Hegel (and Lacan/Žižek)
We can be certain that Hartung, while a contemporary of Hegel and also a fellow German, was outside the Hegel-Event. While he was keen about the value of the “negative” in the analysis of concepts, and while he had practical designs for maximizing this in teaching, his limits lie in his failure to discover the vintage-Hegelian “negation of negation”. Note in the following comments of Hartung the sad trace of such a “non-discovery”:

Why are negative characteristics not good? Because they are negative, anything contradictory can be obtained; and consequently, they actually denote nothing.

And one can also add a lot of negative features to every object, with the determinations just going on to infinity. (Emphasis mine.) (7)

Hartung, in this particular segment, got stuck in “bad infinity”!

Hal Odetta is a pen name. He is an anthropologist who teaches at the University of the Philippines and works with the Manobo indigenous peoples of Mindanao.

(1) Its full title is: Entwickelung der heuristischen Lehrmethode an dem Gebäude einer populären Logik : eine Anleitung, denkend lehren, und lehrend denken zu lernen, für Lehrer an Gelehrtenhöhern und niedern Schulen und Alle, welche die Unterrichtskunst mit gutem Erfolge üben wollen (Leipzig : J. F. Leich, 1830); henceforth: Entwickelung/1830.

(2) Hegel: Phänomenologie des Geistes, Hartung: Werkstatt des Geistes; Hegel: Verhältnis des Begriffs, Hartung: Verhältnisse der Verneinung; Hegel: Verhältnisse und der Unterschiede des Bewußtseins; Hartung: Wahrnehmungs- und Unterscheidungs-Verhältnisse.

(3) [Entwickelung/1830, p. 268] Um nun zu einem allgemeinen Ausdrucke für das Verhältniß jener Vorstellungen zu gelangen, dürfen wir nur statt der beiden Vorstellungen, die im kategorischen Urtheite mit einander verbunden sind, ein Paar Buchstaben setzen.

(4) [Entwickelung/1830, p. 271] Um nun zu bezeichnen, daß in diesem Falle B nicht in A enthalten sei, wollen wir uns des Minuszeichens (–) bedienen.

(5) The two available reference to Hartung’s life that one can see in the digital, online world: a brief one-line notice of his death and a three-page obituary: (a) Allgemeine Schul-Zeitung. Ein Archiv für die Wissenschaft des gesammten Schul-, Erziehungs- und Uuterrichtswesens und die Geschichte der Universitäten, Gymnasien, Volksschulen und aller höheren und niederen Lehranstalten. Zweite Abtheilung. Für Berufs- und Gelehrten bildung. Herausgegeben von Ludwig Christian Zimmermann, Doctor der Philosophie und Conrector am Gymnasium in Darmstadt, und Ernst Zimmermann, Doctor der Theologie und Grossherzoglich Hessischem Hofprediger. Jahrgang 1831. Darmstadt. Druck und Verlag von Karl Wilhelm Leske; p. 175; (b) Neuer Nekrolog Deutschen; Achter Jahrgang, 1830. Zweiter Theil. Mit zwei Portraits, Ilmenau 1832. Druck und Verlag von Bernh. Fr. Voigt. [Bernhard Friedrich Voigt; pp. 861-863.

(6) Patrick Buhler, Negative Padagogik: Sokrates und die Geschichte des Lernens (Paderborn: Ferdinand Schoningh, 2012), p. 115.

(7) [Entwickelung/1830, p. 358] Warum taugen also die negativen Merkmale nicht? Weil sie negativ auf alles Widersprechende bezogen werden können, folglich eigentlich nichts bezeichnen. Man kann aber auch einem jeden Gegenstande eine Menge negativer Merkmale beilegen, so daß die Bestimmungen durch solche ins Unendliche gehn würden.

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