Du Bois and Hegelian Idealism

Idealistic Studies 51 (2):149-167 (2021)
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Abstract

In a crossed-out section in his Fisk University commencement address on Otto von Bismarck, W. E. B. Du Bois mentions that Hegel was one of the figures that influenced him early on in his intellectual development. I argue that although Du Bois uses Hegelian language and employs a Hegelian conception of history in his address “The Conservation of Races,” he abandons both in his essay “Sociology Hesitant.” He became critical of the teleological conception of history because it rests on determinism, which in his view denies the possibility for social change. With what I call his “mystical holism,” Du Bois is at odds with Hegel’s methodological holism, a distinguishing characteristic of absolute idealism. Du Bois’s dynamic idealism, which grows out of opposition to Hegelian idealism, leaves us with hope for a world without racism or at the very least in a better position to develop idealism as an anti-racist system of philosophical thought.

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Kimberly Ann Harris
University of Virginia

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