On How God Does Not Die in the Idea. the Hegelian Project of the Philosophy of Religion

By Tofan, Ioan Alexandru | Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies, Spring 2009 | Go to article overview

On How God Does Not Die in the Idea. the Hegelian Project of the Philosophy of Religion


Tofan, Ioan Alexandru, Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies


In what follows I intend to sketch the Hegelian project of the Philosophy of Religion (Religionsphilosophie) mainly by following two coordinates: on the one hand, my aim is to approach it starting from Hegel's main "dialogue partners" - Christian Wolff and Kant - and from the critique of speculative philosophy on the scenarios of the Illuminist theologies. On the other hand, the first part completed, the discussion will pursue a different route, namely, that of a classical topic discussed by Hegel in his lectures: the relation between philosophy and religion. I am trying to show how Hegel "solves" the tension between the two by lending it a hermeneutic dimension, thus opening up reflections on religion to the encyclopedic segment of the philosophy of spirit.

Key Words:

representation, concept, philosophical theology, philosophy of religion, spirit, Enlightenment, speculative philosophy, ontological argument

"Religionphilosophie": Antecedents of a Project

The Hegelian project of the philosophy of religion needs not be discussed starting solely from his lectures delivered after 1821 in Berlin. Consistent discussions, whose object is religion, may be found in his writings as far back as the Jena period, representing an important moment in the development of the speculative perspective on religious fact. The distinctiveness of the lectures lies in the fact that they assume programmatically the expression "Religionphilosophie," thus bringing the Hegelian scenario to bear upon the entire history of the discipline's development in the context of German philosophy at the end of Modernity. A very brief sketch of this history allows for a more accurate location of the Hegelian discourse and an elaboration of the "questions" it answers. Two introductory remarks come into focus. Firstly, given the importance and vastness of the issues of the Lectures ..., I intend to focus on these alone, resorting to the early texts referring to religion only to the extent to which they are essential in clarifying the contents of the lectures themselves. The text may very well be seen as a dialogue with W. Jaeschke's essential comments on the Hegelian philosophy of religion. One particular position to these comments - to which I am much indebted in my attempt to understand the Hegelian text - cannot but repeatedly be taken into account.1

The term "Religionphilosophie" appears as such at the end of the German Aufklärung, the continuation of a discussion regarding "theologia naturalis"2. Nevertheless, the project is not definitely individualized from the very beginning. In one of its first uses, in S. von Storchenau, the philosophy of religion debates issues such as natural theology, its relation to revealed theology, or the rejection of Protestantism. As such, philosophy serves religion as an apologetic instrument, in an external relation, under the principle of subordination. The debate on the philosophy of religion starts from this point and on to the decisive influence of Reinhold's contribution: the maintenance of the term, but at the same time, its accommodation of a different universe than the philosophical discourse, Kant's "ethical theology". Reinhold, in Briefen über die Kantische Philosophie, rejects à la Kant the theoretical claims of the philosophy of religion, considering them related to metaphysical suppositions, and assigns it instead the task of systematizing the principles of moral life. J. Ch. G. Schaumann introduces the philosophy of religion in the canon of philosophical disciplines and paves its way to a "university career" by stating that its existential principle is the possibility of being in harmony with the moral doctrine of the Gospel. Since the present lines are not meant to record the discussions regarding the philosophy of religion, but only to set the frame for defining its purpose and object, names such as J.F. Kleuker, who rejects the possibility of adjusting moral philosophy to the Gospel principles, or F. …

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