Hegel to his bride

Nürnberg, Summer 1811

...I have hurt you with some of the things I said. This pains me. I have hurt you by seeming to condemn as principles of your way of thinking and acting moral views that I must condemn.--About this I now only say to you that on the one hand I condemn these views insofar as they cancel the difference between what the heart likes and duty, or rather eliminate the latter altogether and destroy morality. But just as much--and this is the main point between us--I beg you to believe me that I do not ascribe these views insofar as they have consequence to you, not to your self, but that I look on them as lying only in your reflection without your thinking, knowing, and realizing them with their consequences--that they serve you to excuse others (to justify is something else--for what one can excuse in others one does not therefore consider to be permitted to oneself; but what one can justify is right for all, including ourselves).

Regarding myself and the manner to my explanation, do not forget that when I condemn maxims I lose sight too easily of the manner in which they are actual in the determinate individual--in this case, you--and they stand before my eyes in their generality, in the their consequences and ramifications and applications of which you are not thinking--much less that all these were for you contained in them. Moreover, you know yourself that even though character and the maxims of insight are different, it still is not indifferent what maxims insight and judgment employ. But I know just as well that maxims, when they contradict the character, are still more indifferent in the female than they are in men.

Finally, you know that there are evil men who torment their wives only to have constant visual proof of their behavior, namely their patience and love. I do not believe that I am evil in this way; but if such a dear soul as you are ought never to be hurt, I might almost not regret how I hurt you, for I feel that the deeper insight that I have thus gained into your nature has further increased the intensity and thoroughness of my love. Therefore be comforted also by the realization that whatever in my replies may have been unloving and untender vanishes insofar as I feel and recognize you ever more deeply to be through and through lovable, loving, and full of love.

I must go to class. All the best--dearest, dearest, blessed and fair Marie.

Your Wilhelm