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German Thought


Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences


Hegel Themes

see Hegel Interpretation for a discusion of his life & work.

Recognition and Social Ontology edited by Heikki Ikäheimo and Arto Laitinen (Brill Academic) This unique collection focuses on the unexamined connections between two contemporary, intensively debated lines of inquiry: Hegel-inspired theories of recognition (Anerkennung) and analytical social ontology. These lines address the roots of human sociality from different conceptual perspectives and have complementary strengths, variously stressing the social constitution of persons in interpersonal relations and the emergence of social and institutional reality through collective intentionality. In this book leading theorists and younger scholars offer original analyses of the connections and suggest new ways in which theories of recognition and current approaches in analytical social ontology can enrich one another.

Reviewed by William Rehg for Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

In assembling the contributions to Recognition and Social Ontology, the editors aim to bring together "two contemporary, intensively debated fields of inquiry: Hegel-inspired theories of recognition (Anerkennung) and analytic social ontology" (1). Considering the difficulty of this goal, the collection does rather well overall. Robert Brandom, whose own work deeply embodies the analytic engagement with Hegel, provides the lead contribution. Brandom's chapter in turn provokes critical reactions in several subsequent chapters. A number of chapters attempt to show how Hegel can inform analytic social philosophy. And chapters that do not explicitly focus on Hegel nonetheless contribute to the analysis of mutual recognition.

The editors assign the essays to three parts, the first two of which are dominated by the figure of Hegel. Appropriately so, given that the most famous discussion of social recognition occurs in Hegel's account of the life-and-death struggle for mutual recognition. Hegel's treatment sits at a crucial point in his Phenomenology of Spirit, where he makes the transition from contemplative to practical engagement with the world. Opening the first section, on the ontology of personhood, Brandom and Robert Pippin each offer penetrating reflections on that particularly obscure transition in Hegel. It helps to begin with Pippin, who situates Hegel's text in its broader context. As Pippin explains, Hegel's abrupt move from perception to life is not arbitrary, but rather represents an attempt to go beyond Kant's formal "I think" to engaged consciousness. For Hegel, consciousness is not mere self-certainty or self-observation; it is, first of all, the practical relation-to-self of a living creature for whom things are potential means or threats to survival. Consequently, at this basic level consciousness is desire, a taking of things as objects for an interested subject. But these takings are fallible, open to correction. For a creature that acts not merely on immediate desires but on its conception of its desires, that is, on reasons, in a context of other such creatures, desires face the possibility of challenge -- and hence are subject to the normativity of others' recognition.

At issue for Brandom and Pippin is this move from desire through recognition to self-consciousness. As both commentators note, a creature is essentially self-conscious insofar as what it really is "in itself" is partly constituted by what it is "for itself," that is, its self-conception, some features of which are essential to its sense of self. For Hegel, essential features are those for which one would risk one's very life -- hence his famous image of the struggle unto death. Brandom regards that image as metonymy, a dramatic example of the more general point that one's self-conception hangs on personal commitments for which one is willing to take risks and make sacrifices. Self-transformation through experience -- that is, learning -- unfolds as a process of identifying and choosing between incompatible commitments. Because practical commitments have conceptual content, Brandom's reading brings Hegel into the former's inferentialist semantics, according to which conceptual contents are cashed out in terms of normative networks of inferential commitments that are modified in the course of social interaction.

For Brandom, then, the trick is to explain how recognition mediates the transition from desire to normative commitments. If desiring means taking a thing as something of significance for oneself, then we can understand recognition as a species of desire, namely my taking you to have (for me) the practical significance of being a subject capable of attributing practical significance to things. For human beings, Brandom argues, that kind of "taking" has normative implications for one's own desiring: I can take you as taking an object as having "X"-significance only if I acknowledge your authority to do so also for my own takings. Brandom's subsequent analysis -- too complex to trace out here -- relies on a formal-logical argument that if such recognition is transitive (such that if A recognizes B, then B recognizes A), then reciprocal recognition must involve self-recognition, and thus self-consciousness.

Pippin objects that Brandom's inferentialist framework does not do justice to Hegel's text. Brandom's "divergences" lead him to miss the significance that the struggle unto death had for Hegel, as a struggle between "opposed self-consciousnesses" (74). On Hegel's premises, the transition from desire to self-consciousness via recognition "has to be a profound contention that can, initially or minimally conceived, only be resolved by the death of one, or the complete subjection of one to the other" (75).

Pirmin Stekeler-Weithofer also criticizes Brandom, charging him with the cognitive naturalism that dominates contemporary cognitive science. According to Stekeler-Weithofer, Hegel went beyond Kant in developing a logic that included "generics" (Hegel's category of Allgemeinheit), such as "cows eat grass" and "human beings are language-users." Generics are neither a priori analytic statements nor universally quantified empirical statements, but rather express a community's joint knowledge about various concepts. Because Brandom's "scorekeepers" lack joint normative commitments to generics, their recognition of linguistic moves is merely factual, lacking any normative basis for distinguishing between their taking a linguistic move as valid and its really being valid. Thus Brandom's view collapses into behaviorism, more specifically a "social regularism" (95). Stekeler-Weithofer goes on to show how joint commitments operate even at the level of perception. Kantian "Intuition" (Anschauung) presupposes the uniquely human capacity for joint conduct, more specifically a learning process in which child and adult exercise a joint attention subject to mutual control, each party checking the propriety of the other's reactions to the object of attention. Thus perception itself is a social practice that presupposes mutual recognition.

The second part of the book widens the scope of discussion. Three of the four chapters examine the relevance of Hegel for contemporary thought. Ludwig Siep opens with a helpful critical overview of recent attempts by Brandom, Pippin, Pinkard, Honneth, Taylor, and Ricoeur to put Hegel's conception of mutual recognition to work on contemporary concerns. Siep has doubts about this trend. The idea of recognition, he argues, lacks the resources to deal with three problems in social philosophy: distributive justice, cultural pluralism, and the relationship between humanity and nature.

Heikki Ikäheimo argues that Hegel can make a positive contribution to contemporary Anglophone social philosophy. Because the social ontologists in that tradition (e.g., Tuomela, Gilbert) begin with fully formed persons, they lack the means to analyze fundamental social phenomena that are constitutive of persons. Hegel's account of mutual recognition fills that gap: a systematic analysis of the internal relationships between the constitution of persons and the constitution of the social world. Ikäheimo devotes most of his chapter to addressing some obstacles to a positive Hegel reception, in particular the obstacle posed by Hegel's Aristotelian "normative essentialism," which holds that (a) some features of "the human life-form are essential to it"; (b) these features can be realized to different degrees; (c) the more they are realized, the better; and (d) such essential features have an immanent tendency to realize themselves (159). Ikäheimo shows how normative essentialism matches our commonsense. Thus, going beyond Brandom and Pinkard, Ikäheimo argues that mutual recognition, understood as an essential ideal immanent in human life-forms, is realized to the degree that fear of the other becomes respect, and instrumentalization of the other becomes love.

Paul Redding likewise hopes to rehabilitate Hegel for contemporary philosophy, in particular by using the idea of mutual recognition to rescue Hegel from the "spiritualistic" metaphysics often attributed to him. However, rather than secularize Hegel's view of the Christian doctrines of the Trinity and Incarnation as immature expressions of Absolute Spirit, Redding argues that these religious images are necessary for resolving the "Kantian paradox" -- Kant's idea of the divided autonomous self as "subject only to those laws it gives itself" (231). Redding's conclusion appears no less paradoxical: as the locus of moral imperatives, "in some sense" God exists only in virtue of our recognition; nonetheless, we must not think of God merely as our own creation (232).

Turning to Karl Marx, Michael Quante delves into a striking early text on exchange relationships and recognition. Like Hegel, Marx takes an essentialist approach with ethical implications. But his analysis of market relations goes beyond Hegel's. Whereas Hegel saw market relations as an abstract form of mutual recognition, in which contracting parties recognize each other as free, Marx shows how market actors are mutually estranged from their essential "species-being." Although each party produces goods that meet the other's needs -- which reflect the human species-being -- each party is motivated, not by concern for the other's need, but only by a selfish desire for the other's product. Thus exchange involves a struggle for recognition in which each party strives to get the better of the deal, that is, to have the other recognize the greater worth of its product and consent to the exchange. According to Marx's "evaluative counter-proposal" (261ff), in a fully human exchange we would respond directly to each other's neediness, motivated by the consciousness of producing for each other's human realization. Though Marx's analysis seems impossibly utopian, it shows how a market mentality perverts our sense of human dignity: rather than recognize our shared humanity in our mutual neediness, we value self-reliant individuals and disdain the needy.

With the exception of the last chapter, Hegel plays no direct role in the third part of the book. Leading off the section, Margaret Gilbert draws on Charles Taylor's analysis of public space. Building on Taylor, Gilbert argues that mutual recognition can arise in very simple situations, for example, when two people sharing a table at a library acknowledge each other's presence with a nod. The two readers do not merely share common knowledge of each other's presence. By their brief mutual acknowledgement, they enter into a joint commitment to "recognize as a body" each other's presence (278). The readers thereby form a plural subject of intention. Gilbert concludes by briefly extending this analysis to the phenomenon of joint attention.

Italo Testa focuses on "recognitive powers" as constitutive of the recognized objects and properties. Should we take such talk literally -- does recognition bring the object into being ex nihilo? Recalling Plato's Euthyphro, Testa poses a paradox: "Is something X because it is recognized as X, or is something recognized as X because it is X?" (302) His solution starts by distinguishing three dimensions of recognition: (1) a cognizing subject's perceptual reidentification of an object, (2) the subject's relation to self, which involves both reidentification and attestation, and (3) the reciprocal recognition between two or more subjects who reciprocally identify each other and attest their identities in relation to shared norms, where "norms" includes norms of respect, role obligations, and conceptual relations that govern self-descriptions and attributions of social status. Building on Searle, Testa argues that a strong anti-realist solution to the paradox is implausible along the first, perceptual dimension. Because the three dimensions are not independent, Testa concludes that reciprocal forms of recognition also must involve "reactions to properties given and perceived as real" (303). That said, an adequate realist solution must still make room for the effect of recognition on its object. Testa thus proposes an expressivist solution: as an "expressive labor of determination" of objects (including persons), recognition "is always the expression of something that is given but in an indeterminate form and whose determination is not independent of the labor of determination" (304).

Arto Laitinen takes the analysis of recognition still further, distinguishing four "aspects of taking someone as a person": the belief that X is a person; the moral opinion that choices regarding the treatment of X are morally significant; the willingness to treat X accordingly; and the "unselfish Recognitive Attitudes," such as respect and concern, that explain such willingness (313). He then goes on to qualify the "Ambitious View" associated with some Hegelians who stress the co-constitutive relationship between mutual recognition and socioinstitutional reality. Laitinen argues that mutual recognition, though normally a necessary condition for group agency and institutional cooperation, is not sufficient. He closes by further delineating other forms of recognition (of reasons, principles, and institutions) and their relationship to interpersonal recognition.

Titus Stahl picks up the theme of institutional power, understood as a kind of authority. Drawing on Searle, Stahl starts with the idea that a person's institutional power is a capacity "created through a system of status functions which entitles the person to issue demands upon the actions of others" (351; emphasis removed). That capacity is constituted by members' acceptance, that is, their willingness, in the relevant circumstances, to accept the authority's evaluations of their behavior and sanctions for noncompliance with institutional norms. Following Gilbert and Tuomela, Stahl argues for the collective character of such acceptance, which he links with a kind of mutual recognition, distinct from Hegel's idea. More precisely, Stahl's "recognition account" of institutional power holds that the collective acceptance of institutional power depends not only on the recognition of the authority's status but, at a deeper level, on acceptance of the system of rules in which the authority operates. The latter counts as collective acceptance, however, only if members collectively accept both rules and their interpretation and application. Stahl concludes that "Institutional authority is constituted through the collective acceptance of power, and this collective acceptance of power is, in turn, constituted through the mutual recursive acceptance of normative authority between the participants in an institution" (364). Stahl closes with some implications of this analysis for sociological methodology and social critique.

The last essay, by Vincent Descombes, returns to Hegel. Descombes wants to understand the paradoxical question in Hegel's Philosophy of Right, "Who is to frame the constitution?" For Hegel, the question does not make sense: either the would-be framers are an atomistic collection of individuals, who thus lack the moral unity that a political constitution presupposes, or they already identify themselves as a people, a Volk, in which case they already exist as a constituted "moral unity," whose unwritten constitution exists in its Volksgeist. Descombes insists that this term does not refer to a superagent, but simply to the shared laws, manners, and customs by which the people identify themselves as a group. To further clarify the idea, Descombes opposes Montesquieu to Searle. The former distinguishes laws, as the act of a political legislator, from the social manners and customs that arise impersonally, in the sense that they do not originate in any personal intention. Searle's theory of institutions suggests a middle ground: a way to think of manners and customs as a result of collective intentionality, without invoking political metaphors of legislation. But Searle's model, Descombes argues, fails to account for the origin of institutions. Hegel's paradox returns: a group cannot take itself to have instituting powers unless it is already "instituted as a 'we'" (388). Thus Hegel has the last word: objective spirit retains priority over subjective spirit.

Phenomenology of Spirit


Volume 1: Introduction and The Concept of Religion

by Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

edited by Peter C. Hodgson

University of California Press

$25.00, paper, 494 pages, index



Volume 2: Determinate Religion

by Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

edited by Peter C. Hodgson

University of California Press

$25.00, paper, 825 pages, Bibliography of Sources, index



Volume 3: The Consummate Religion

by Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

edited by Peter C. Hodgson

University of California Press

$65.00, cloth, 825 pages, glossary, index


paper edition

When one returns to Hegel’s writings themselves the problem of proper translation and modern critical editions is still a work very much in progress, at least in the English translation of the philosopher. A century and a half after the appearance of the first edition of Hegel’s philosophy-of-religion lectures in 1832, there was still lacking an edition of these lectures adequate to the demands of critical interpretative scholarship. This lack had been expressed rather sharply during the preceding decade of Hegel scholarship, especially in Germany. But the need could not have been met even today were it not for a fortunate development, namely, the recent discovery of important new sources. A decade earlier, only Hegel’s original manuscript of 1821 and the lecture series of 1824 could have been included in a new edition, but today the last two series, those of 1827 and 1831, can also be taken into account (the latter only in outline form). Eventually a new edition was published concurrently in German, English, and Spanish. Jaeschke was completing his work on the critical edition of the Wissenschaft der Logik and would have time to devote to the new project. The key editorial work would be done by him, with as much assistance as possible from Ferrara and Hodgson. Not only would the editorial burden be lightened somewhat, but this would be a unique venture in international collaboration. The new edition is based upon four lecture series—1821, 1824, 1827, 1831— each separated and published as autonomous units on the basis of a complete reediting of the sources. Hegel’s conception and execution of the lectures differed so significantly on each of the occasions he delivered them that it was impossible to conflate materials from different years into an editorially constructed text, as was attempted both in the Werke and by Lasson, without destroying the structural integrity of the lectures and thus emasculating the textual context in terms of which valid interpretative judgments could be rendered. This basic weakness has skewed all previous attempts at interpreting Hegel’s lectures on the philosophy of religion.

This three volume edition attempts to give critical shape to Hegel’s lectures on religion in a way not previously accessible to scholars. A careful reading will suggest that Hegel’s work was very much a work in progress. That the philosopher’s mind was not so completely made up as some have supposed and that he offers some interpretative insights that religious studies programs could definitely profit. The ambitious project to include an edition of the lectures in both German and English. Such a project was abandoned and Peter C. Hodgson completed his translation of the third part, for which Lasson editorial work in the German provided a more adequate text, correcting the most serious problems on the basis of materials to be furnished by Jaeschke editions. This study edition was published by Scholars Press in 1979 under the title The Christian Religion, and was reissued in thoroughly revised and retranslated form as volume 3 of the present edition.

This edition makes possible for the first time a comprehensive comparison of the structure of the four series of lectures Hegel presented on the philosophy of religion, as well as an analysis of the development in his conceptualization and treatment of this subject. The editors use the term "development" intentionally, since they wished to avoid two misleading views: that the first, incomplete, and "immature" version found in the manuscript is worked out with greater "maturity" in the later lectures; or that Hegel’s originally fresh and creative insights give way to an increasing "scholasticism of the concept" during his latter days in Berlin. In their view, the manuscript is by no means a philosophically immature document, despite its external form. On the other hand it is a mistake to suggest that Hegel became increasingly rigid and set in his ways of thinking as he repeated the lectures. Just the opposite is the case: the later lectures display an unusual vitality and flexibility, a willingness to rework the whole in order to take into consideration new materials and new issues, and to find a form that matches the concept of religion itself. But the concept is already present, both germinally and explicitly, in the original manuscript, and thus Hegel’s basic philosophical conception of religion does not significantly change during the Berlin period, even though his conception of the philosophy of religion does.

All four lecture series Hegel’s Introduction and in Part I of the lectures, The Concept of Religion begin with a brief prefatory depiction, couched in rather poetic terms, of what religion is wherever it is found, namely, the consciousness of God and occupation or concern (Beschaftigung) with God. This is the only part of the original manuscript repeated without much change in the subsequent lectures. Following these opening remarks, the introductions all address several themes in a similar order: the relation of philosophy of religion to philosophy and religion; the theological and philosophical situation of the time, which furnishes specific issues to be addressed by these lectures; and a survey of the three main parts of the ensuing treatment. But the specific way these themes are articulated differs considerably from one year to the next, with only occasional reliance on the original manuscript after 1821.

Following the prefatory remarks, the manuscript inserts a special sheet, arguing that the purpose of the philosophy of religion is to know God despite the widely held prejudice of the time that nothing can be known of God. Following this insertion the manuscript returns to what was originally intended as the first task of the Introduction, namely, to treat the relation of the philosophy of religion to religion. This relation consists in philosophy’s recognition that religion is already everywhere present and presupposed in human experience, and that therefore philosophy’s task is to comprehend religion, not produce it. While the existence of religion may be self-evident, in another sense it must be demonstrated. For the moment the most important question facing the philosophy of religion is how religion as such or religious consciousness is related to everything else in human experience and consciousness. If the "theoretical" task of the philosophy of religion is to cognize God and religion, then its "practical" task is that of addressing the profound conflict that has developed in the modern world between the sacred and the secular. This is what is taken up in the longest section of the Introduction. While Hegel’s primary concern is to analyze this conflict or opposition, the analysis also contains an implicit criticism of the prevailing theological tendencies of the Enlightenment and its aftermath— deism, rationalism, pietism—which in Hegel’s view utterly failed to heal the conflict. The conflict comes down, finally, to an opposition between religion and scientific cognition: religion tends to withdraw into the realm of the noncognitive, i.e., feeling, intuition, piety, "faith." This is the "discord of our time," which it is the task of speculative philosophy of religion to heal. The theologians cannot heal it since, in defending themselves against the onslaughts of science and criticism, they have given up all content in religion: they are like blind men, able to describe everything about a painting but the picture itself. The Introduction concludes with a brief "division of the subject", which offers not so much a survey of the ensuing parts of the lecture as a summary of the moments of the concept of religion, which serve as the speculative basis of the "division".

Following the Preface, the 1824 lectures introduce a new Section, which is concerned to define the subject matter of this "new" discipline: its content is not just God as such but religion. However, "God" and "religion" are intimately associated. Therefore the idea of God is also the concern of the philosophy of religion. But the idea of God is the "result" of the whole of philosophy that precedes the philosophy of religion, and is given to the latter discipline as a kind of presupposition—to be considered now, however, not as an abstract but as an utterly concrete idea, as infinitely appearing spirit. Then Hegel develops more explicitly the polemic against the theological and philosophical views of his time that is already implicit in the Introduction. Although his target is ostensibly rationalist theology and historicist theology, it is evident that the real polemic is being increasingly directed against Schleiermacher. After a brief interlude on the relationship of the philosophy of religion to positive religion, Hegel abruptly returns to the conflict with prevailing philosophical and theological views.

The work stands as a major contribution to any philosophy of religion.

In Volume Two: "Determinate Religion"

Hegel devoted detailed attention to precisely this part of his lectures is evidenced by the abundance of primary sources and literature he utilized. These sources are documented by the editorial annotations to this edition as well as the Bibliography of Sources for Hegel’s Philosophy of Religion printed at the back of the volume. The editors also offer a fairly detailed comparative analysis of the structure and development of Hegel’s treatment of "Determinate Religion" in each of the lecture series. This kind of analysis is the first step in arriving at a valid critical assessment of Hegel’s work. Such assessments of Volume Two have been virtually nonexistent, and for good reason: a critical text has not been available.

A clear understanding of the structure and development of Part II of the lectures is of special importance for two reasons. First, the earlier editions (both the Werke and Lasson) gave the mistaken impression that Determinate Religion was divided into only two main sections, "nature religion" and "the religions of spiritual individuality," whereas it is clear that Hegel intended to give Part II a triadic structure. The twofold structure reflects only the lectures of 1824, and the analysis of these lectures show that Hegel began them with the threefold structure in mind, shifting to the twofold arrangement as he went along, even though Roman religion did not properly fit under the category of "spiritual individuality." In 1827 and 1831 Hegel restored the threefold arrangement, but with significant changes introduced in the last series.

In the second place, and of greater significance, is the fact that Hegel never did arrive at a satisfactory arrangement for Determinate Religion. For Part III ( The Consummate Religion) he arrived at his mature conceptualization in 1824, while for Part I (The Concept of Religion) he achieved it in 1827. But in the case of Part II, he introduced significant structural changes in 1831, which offered a quite different context for interpreting the Oriental and Near Eastern religions (including Judaism).

While we of course do not know whether Hegel would have reorganized Determinate Religion yet again upon a subsequent offering, it is evident that 1831 does not provide a fully satisfactory arrangement, especially with regard to Jewish and Roman religion. At the same time, one senses a growing fascination with the history of religions, and it would not be inappropriate to suggest that this topic, rather than the concept of religion or the Christian religion, was at the cutting edge of Hegel’s interest when he died in the fall of 1831. His evident willingness to incorporate new data and experiment with new schemes underscores the fact that for him philosophy was a kind of "conceptual play" based on imaginative variation in order to arrive at new insights. The hermeneutical questions remained open and lively from the earliest to the latest texts contained in this volume, and it is hoped that the reader will sense and share in the excitement they convey.

Greek to Roman religion as follows. Free spirit must come to recognize that "its value no longer consists in its being merely the free spirit of the Greeks, of the citizens of this or that state, but humanity must be known freely as humanity, and God is the God of all humanity, the comprehensive, universal spirit" .This happens when one of the limited folk-spirits "raises itself to become the fate of all the others." It does so through pretensions of universality, through the politics of world mastery and of oppression, so that other peoples become conscious of the weakness of their gods. "The fate that overthrew the world of the Greeks was the world of Rome."

But this fate was in fact an advance. The way to the cleansing of spirit of its finitude was through the absolutization of finitude, with the result that the whole world of the finite gods finally collapsed. The Romans orchestrated this Gotterdammerung, and this was their service to the history of religion. Much that was good also perished in this collapse—the happiness, serenity, and beauty of Greek religion, the transcendence, sublimity, and holiness of the God of Israel, the vitality and diversity of the religions of other peoples. The "monstrous misery," the "universal sorrow" thus produced by the Romans was to serve as "the birth pangs of the religion of truth".

Jaeschke points out that Hegel gave a rigorously logical structure only to the first lectures, those of 1821, which arranged Determinate Religion into a triad corresponding to the three basic categories of logic, namely, being, essence, and concept. He never provided a convincing justification for this arrangement and did not repeat it. While retaining the triadic division (with one exception), in the later lectures he experimented with a variety of quasi-logical structures, applied quite flexibly and openly. Hegel has frequently been criticized for imposing a dialectical, ideal-genetic method on the history of religions.

But according to Jaeschke, Hegel’s method was neither initially dialectical nor in any way genetic; rather it was typifying, in part typologizing. On the basis of his typification and typology of the religions, Hegel attempted a systematic, to be sure dialectical, arrangement of the types through the application of a variety of conceptual schemes. But far from imposing an abstract, preconceived, a priori structure on the history of religion, he approached this subject matter as an experimental field in which virtually nothing should not be tried, at least once. What he in fact offered, in Jaeschke’s view, was less a history of religion than a geography of religion. To be sure, religion is fundamentally historical, but its historicity follows from the historicity of human spirit. Contra Hegel, argues Jaeschke, we must recognize that there is no single history of human spirit and therefore no single, unified history of religion. At best, what we can attain is a history of religions, or better, histories of religions—a diversity of histories that cannot be organized under a single, encompassing philosophical conceptuality, namely, the logic of the concept of religion itself. Hegel’s claim to be able to do this was falsified by his actual achievement in the successive lectures, which should have made it clear, according to Jaeschke, that the objective of a logical construction of the history of religion could not be attained. Hegel’s geography of religion was in fact closer to the truth than the chimera of a universal history of religions, such as has been attempted again recently by certain theologians in the name of Hegel.

With this interpretation there is good cause to follow but we should want to add that the relationships and points of contact among the religions remain important questions for theology and philosophy of religion, together with a dear recognition of their differences and of the relativity of perspectives. A unitary history of religion, especially one that culminates in a single highest religion, is no longer acceptable. But structural analogies and fundamental thematic similarities certainly exist, which make possible an encounter and dialogue among the religions, and perhaps even mutual transformations. For the sake of the future of humanity, such a dialogue, inducing mutual criticism and enrichment, is essential; and for the sake of such dialogue, Hegel’s detailed interpretations and experiments in arrangement continue to be of singular interest. Few interpreters of religion have pressed so rigorously to uncover fundamental presuppositions and principles, similarities and differences, possibilities and limits. Hegel himself provides the clue to the Reconstruction of his own logical construction of the history of religion. By following this clue, we may yet discover what hermeneutical treasures are hidden in these lectures. In many ways part two may offer approaches to pluralistic dialogue and discourse between the religions.

Consummate Religion is probably the least suitable of any of the titles. While there are indeed similarities between "consummate" (in the sense of "final" or "perfect") and "absolute," the two terms have distinct nuances. Christianity is the "consummate" religion in the sense that the concept of religion has been brought to completion or consummation in it; it simply is religion in its quintessential expression. But while the object or content of religion is the absolute, religion itself does not entail absolute knowledge of the absolute: that is the role of philosophy. 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.

As an alternative to all of the philosophical (or system-related) names for this religion, one might employ as a title its historical name, "the Christian religion," which also occurs in the texts of the lectures. This was in fact the solution adopted by the volume that was a forerunner to this one, The Christian Religion: Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion, Part III: The Revelatory, Consummate, Absolute Religion. However, in the context of the systematic structure of the philosophy of religion, and of the place of religion in the philosophical system as a whole, the historical names of the religions are out of place, and Hegel used them only rarely (though he does indeed speak of the "Christian religion" more freely than he does of the others). Certainly very concrete historical realities lie behind Hegel’s philosophical redescriptions, but the redescriptions are designed precisely to elicit a grasp of the distinctive stage of consciousness present in each religion, and for this purpose the historical names are of little service. In any event, to maintain consistency with Volumes 1 and 2, it is appropriate that Volume 3 be entitled The Consummate Religion. To bring out the fact that Hegel commonly used two titles or names for Part III, the title could have been The Consummate or Revelatory Religion, thus approximating the complete title as found in the manuscript. But such a title is unwieldy, and it is advisable in any case to maintain consistency with Volume 3 of the German edition, which is titled Die vollendete Religion.

For all intents and purposes, what is offered here is a new edition, not a revision of The Christian Religion as issued in 1979. While distinguishing the sources (indeed more clearly and accurately than the Lasson edition, on which it was based), The Christian Religion wove them together under a common set of section headings. This was feasible since Hegel treated the topics of Part III in roughly the same order in all of the lectures. Just as important, all of the texts have been completely reedited on the basis of the original sources, and the translations are based on the newly edited texts.

In summary he goal of the dialectical cosmic process can be most clearly understood at the level of reason. As finite reason progresses in understanding, the Absolute progresses toward full self-knowledge. Indeed, the Absolute comes to know itself through the human mind’s increased understanding of reality, or the Absolute. Hegel analyzed this human progression in understanding in terms of three levels: art, religion, and philosophy. Art grasps the Absolute in material forms, interpreting the rational through the sensible forms of beauty. Art is conceptually superseded by religion, which grasps the Absolute by means of images and symbols. The highest religion for Hegel is Christianity, for in Christianity the truth that the Absolute manifests itself in the finite is symbolically reflected in the incarnation. Philosophy, however, is conceptually supreme, because it grasps the Absolute rationally. Once this has been achieved, the Absolute has arrived at full self-consciousness, and the cosmic drama reaches its end and goal. Only at this point did Hegel identify the Absolute with God. "God is God," Hegel argued, "only in so far as he knows himself." Much of the glib absolute that makes much of Hegel not readily approachable to the average philosophical reader should become more open ended and less imperialistic as these critical editions suggest more nuanced readings of the philosopher.

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