Date of Award

Summer 2009

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Director

Michael Carhart

Committee Member

Jane Merritt

Committee Member

Maura Hametz

Call Number for Print

Special Collections LD4331.H47 L465 2009


After the Reign of Terror, the German thinker J.H. Jacobi saw only two options for Europe: faith in God or nihilism, the belief in nothing. His ultimatum between faith and nihilism for the modern era called into question for some thinkers the entire revolutionary project and its ideals of reason and self government. Two answers to Jacobi's ultimatum were put forth by the German philosophers Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel who rejected both faith and nihilism, and instead crafted a vision of progress, and Arthur Schopenhauer who opted for nihilism. Jacobi's ultimatum, and Hegel and Schopenhauer's answers to it, opened up new paths for German thinkers to follow in their assessment of post-Revolutionary Europe, these being faith, teleology and nihilism.

This paper will argue that Hegelian teleology was adapted by Hegel's more radical followers during the 1830s and 1840s to situate the events of the postrevolutionary era in a larger historical progression, so as to give the events, along with history itself, a purposeful movement toward a goal. Teleology was used to steer a course through the unappealing boundaries of' traditional Christian faith and the new threat of nihilism. However, after the European-wide revolutions of 1848, the teleological theories of the Hegelians collapsed. Schopenhauer, atter a thirty year hiatus, was believed by some to best articulate the changes of their time. Yet for a short time, Hegel's teleology was used to give meaning to, in many respects, an infant and rootless society.


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