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Lakeland, Paul F. "Reason in Religion: The Foundations of Hegel's Philosophy of Religion, by Walter Jaeschke." Theological Studies
Table of contents

As indicated in the book's title, the discussions accord with broader themes of the Hegelian debates under consideration, namely, politics , religion , and art.


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As one proceeds through the essays themselves, however, one discerns a clear emphasis on the political significance of these early Hegelian debates. No fewer than half of the essays address the politics or political implications of early Hegelianism. Where these issues are not of direct significance, they are addressed indirectly, in the context of various religious and moral debates.

Of course, equal representation is by no means an editorial requirement of a text devoted to post-Hegelian debates, which were decidedly political in nature, regardless of their specific content.

8. The system: philosophy of spirit

In his essay on the Left Hegelians' role in the Christian German state, for example, Warren Breckman offers an insightful deconstruction of modern democracy in terms of the theological debates about the concept of personality that took place among the early Hegelians.

He argues that these debates provided the political momentum for the liberal ideal of a secular, egalitarian, "disembodied" state power in opposition to a centralized Prussian authority. In a similar work, Norbert Waszek examines the formidable influence of early Hegelians on contemporary theories of political opposition. Challenging the conventional view that such a theory is not available in Hegel, he demonstrates the influential role of Eduard Gans in advancing core principles of Hegel's Philosophy of Right within these debates.

Gans, who is typically cast in the shadow of his student, Karl Marx, is also the focus of Bienenstock's essay on the "social question" -- the problem of extreme disparity between wealth and poverty -- that became a focus of post-Hegelian political philosophy. By locating the issue within the broader context of the revolutionary momentum that French Saint-Simonism was gaining in Germany, Bienenstock reveals in Gans' appropriation of Hegel a response to the social question that is more practical, and potentially more promising, than the familiar response found in Marx.

Yet, in notable contrast to the richness and depth of the political and theologico-political debates contained in this volume, disappointingly, the section on art comprises only two essays. This is surprising in view of Hegel's inclusion of art within the realm of Absolute Spirit as a more dialectically advanced form of self-awareness than the political domain of Objective Spirit.

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This gives the impression that, after Hegel, the question of art's philosophical status becomes consigned to the margins of these debates. However, this contradicts both the general objective of the text as well as Moggach's specific claim that, for the early Hegelians , "the linkage between art and the forms of objective spirit. But the focus of the work is clearly politics, which, again, is not in itself a fault, though a more accurate title for the volume might have read: " Politics and Other Hegelian Debates.

Anchoring the various debates discussed in this volume is a heightened sensitivity to, and justifiable skepticism of, the division of Hegelian philosophy into so-called "Left" and "Right" schools of thought. Though such divisions took shape during Hegel's lifetime, it was David Friedrich Strauss who, in defending his highly-criticized theological publication, The Life of Jesus , identified and articulated the development of "Left," "Right," and "Center" positions within early post-Hegelian thought. Originally, the distinctions were meant to reflect the competing interpretations of Hegel's conception of spirit , or Geist , in accordance respectively with Christian metaphysics, secular humanism, or a middle position between the two.

But, as Moggach rightly stresses in his Introduction, this theological schism soon perpetuates radical interpretive fragmentation along the Left-Right divide in the political, philosophical, and cultural spheres of Hegelian thought.

The essays in this volume not only recognize the difficulties that these traditional categories present for a modern understanding of Hegelian philosophy, but take an unprecedented initiative to unravel the theoretical and ideological complexities that constitute these divisions. Behind the oversimplified designations of "Left" and "Right" Hegelianism, they present the intellectual landscape of this period as comprised of numerous ideological "group formations" that materialize and dissolve in response to a set of highly contingent circumstances, such as regional affiliation, nationalist sentiment, intellectual circles, and various cults of personality.

Similarly, Stewart challenges conventional wisdom about Left and Right Hegelianism by drawing on a host of lesser-known voices within the canonical religious debates that spawned such division. It is, according to Hegel, Christianity. And didn't he, after all, call it 'absolute'? But Hegel himself said that everything happens twice in History; and yes, yes, Now, this last observation, in my opinion, is not, strictly speaking, dialectical. For Hegel, the fact of this 'twiceness' is itself a part of the process of the education of Man in History. It is the educative value of ahem 'dialectical repetition' that is of philosophical importance.

Indeed, dialectically speaking, the same lesson could occur times instead of merely twice, and so long as the lesson was eventually learned a dialectical sublation would have occurred. Some are coming to think that the rise of a new Universal Religion today would be an educational repetition in this precise dialectical sense. A close study of all three volumes of Hegel's 'Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion' would perhaps clarify for Hegelianism what is and what is not to be expected of this endeavor.

This small review cannot even pretend to rise to that level of depth and detail. Instead, in this review I will concentrate on how Hegel chose to end his Lectures on Christianity in order to bring out some of what he meant by Spirit - and Community. Specifically, the situation of the Christian Community in his time.

And also, a little on the Relation between Spirit and Christ.


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  6. But first, A Note on the Text: This book is comprised of four lectures given by Hegel in , , and These separate lectures have been redacted by our team of editors and translators from Hegel's own Manuscript Ms. Hegel published very few books. Much of the material that we have today regarding Aesthetics, History, Philosophy and Religion comes from various editions of his manuscripts and also the notes and transcripts of students.

    He never titles these lectures "Die absolute Religion". Why is any of this important? Our editor explains as follows: "[ The representational forms of religious expression, even of the Christian religion, must be "sublated" annulled and preserved in philosophical concepts. Thus in Hegel's scheme of things there is an absolute knowledge the science of speculative philosophy but a consummate religion.

    Whether religion as such is to be superseded by philosophy is another question Now, in the course of these lectures, Hegel does occasionally use the phrase 'absolute religion' regarding Christianity. Thus, while for Hegel only Philosophy can attain Absolute Knowledge, the term 'absolute' when applied to a Religion, or so I would maintain, is, and can only be, an honorific that philosophy occasionally elects to bestow.

    Another decision that I found particularly interesting is the decision of our editor's to never translate Vorstellung as either 'picture-thinking' or 'conceptual-picture'. We are told that: "Some adjustments in the translation of specific terms have occurred in Volume 3 as compared with Volume 1, occasioned partly by the different context in which they occur and partly by the experience of the translation team.

    I have the paperback. And all page numbers in this review refer to this paperback edition. Volume I, as a hardcover, appears in One finds oneself wishing for a fuller discussion of the 'experiences' that occurred which led to changes in the translation of certain words in the third Volume We have employed 'image' and 'imagination' as when one has a hundred thalers in one's 'imagination' , 'view' e.

    To maintain the distinction between Vorstellung, Begriff, and Idee, we never use 'notion' for Begriff, or 'idea' for Vorstellung, and we avoid such expressions as 'conceptual picture' or 'picture thinking' for Vorstellung.

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    Begriff is consistently translated as 'concept,' Idee as 'Idea,' and in its technical sense Vorstellung remains 'representation'. I am not blaming the editors for anything here. Choices naturally have to be made between readability and painstaking accuracy. But every translation is an interpretation, whether it wants to be or not. For instance, the mere identification by the editors of 'non-technical contexts' requires an interpretation of the text. Now, everywhere Hegel used the term 'Vorstellung' in these lectures he would have been well aware that the resonances of its previous uses were available to the attentive student.

    Philosophy of religion

    Again, this is not a criticism of this translating team. All translation involves this risk. I really would have liked to have seen that done here at least for the equally crucial term 'Vorstellung' In any case, what one ends up suspecting is that just as the Philosopher Hegel 'honors' Christianity by occasionally calling it 'absolute' so too our editors, here in the third volume, have elected to 'honor' Christianity the 'Consummate Religion'! Note that the following symbols are used throughout by the editors of these lectures: [ Now, what will perhaps first surprise the modern reader most is the extent to which, according to Hegel, philosophy stands alone in the world.

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    It is radically distinguished from both the faithful common people and the 'Enlightened' throughout the concluding remarks on Spirit and Community of each of our four lectures. The next surprise is the crucial importance of the believing community for religion. It is no accident that these lectures always end with the Community and Spirit. And perhaps the last surprise is how greatly Hegel feared Christianity, thanks to her Theologians, failing this very Community!

    Now, this Community, according to Hegel, must be thought of as virtually that is to say, possibly endless! In the manuscript we read the following: "In a formal sense [the following sequence applies to historical phenomena]: origin, preservation, and perishing, with the latter following upon the former.

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    But ought we to speak here of this sequence [if] the kingdom of God [has been] established eternally? If so, then perishing or going under would [in fact] be a passing over to the kingdom of heaven [and would apply] only for single subjects, not for the community; the Holy Spirit as such has eternal life in its community.

    To speak of a passing away would mean to end on a discordant note. While the Risen Christ merely saves individual souls Now, for Hegel, Spirit is always a living moving thing. By saying that the 'Spirit has eternal life in its community' Hegel has 'immortalized' the community and has thus transformed each of its sublimations i. So, while individuals merely die and go to Heaven, the Community Itself sublimates itself into a higher form - it is eternally becoming its own heaven. Well then, it's 'all good' right?

    At this point in the margins of the manuscript Hegel unexpectedly compares modern times that is, his time to ancient Rome. Just as Pilate asked, 'What is truth? I acknowledge only what I believe subjectively. With Universalism, both secular either liberal or socialist and religious Christianity most especially , abandoned in our postmodern times there is only 'bread and circuses'; that is to say, the market and entertainment. By 'philosophers' Hegel here means most especially the Kantian view but also the whole of contemporary 'enlightened' philosophy.

    This comparison with Rome is no mere aside. It was in Rome, in the milieux aptly described here by Hegel, that Christianity itself rose to prominence and became a World Religion.

    Perhaps one could be forgiven for drawing the conclusion that whenever a genuine lived universalism evaporates from the scene of history into a sky bereft of all save private obsessions, then the world is ripe for the rise of a new universalism. But certainly the common people of Hegel's time and also the theologians were fighting against this decadence?