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Bettina von Arnim's Romantic Philosophy in Die Guenderode

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>31/12/2022
<mark>Journal</mark>Hegel Bulletin
Issue numberSpecial Issue 3
Number of pages24
Pages (from-to)371-394
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date28/09/21
<mark>Original language</mark>English


This article puts forward a philosophical interpretation of Bettina von Arnim's epistolary book Die Günderode, in the following stages. First I situate von Arnim's work in relation to women's participation in early German Romanticism and idealism. The ideal of Symphilosophie, which was integral to Romantic epistemology, created possibilities for women to participate in philosophical discussion, albeit not on equal terms with men. This suggested that perhaps Symphilosophie between women could be more equal and reciprocal. However, interpreters have considered the Sym- in Günderrode and von Arnim's Symphilosophie more than the -philosophie, whereas here I foreground Die Günderode's rich philosophical content. I trace the stages in the unfolding dialogue between Günderrode and von Arnim and identify von Arnim's philosophical standpoint as it emerges from this dialogue. For Günderrode, finite beings are attracted together and can only fully unite by dying and superseding their boundaries. This feeds into a gigantic cosmic process through which the earth spiritualizes itself, progressively transcending its own materiality. Von Arnim likewise thinks that all finite beings are dynamically interconnected within the earth's creative process. But, unlike Günderrode, von Arnim thinks that finite beings can realize their interconnectedness within life without needing to die, which means in turn that material nature can rise into successive levels of spirit without its materiality having to be superseded. This metaphysical difference orchestrates many other philosophical disagreements between the two women. I then conclude that on balance, and with significant qualifications, Die Günderode embodies a successful Symphilosophie between women, but that von Arnim is simultaneously pointing out the fragility of Symphilosophie. The more independence dialogue partners have, the more liable they are to move away in new directions and abandon or outgrow the conversation, just as Günderrode turns away from von Arnim by the end of the book.