Ethics and Religion in Hegel. or on How Reason Speaks Differently Than It Thinks

By Adamut, Anton | Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies, Spring 2011 | Go to article overview

Ethics and Religion in Hegel. or on How Reason Speaks Differently Than It Thinks


Adamut, Anton, Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies


Abstract: Hegel is often considered as obscure author. This means that for him, reason speaks differently than it thinks. It is at stake, first of all, the Hegelian terminology and the invocation of Heraclitus. It is interesting that Hegel himself had spoken out against an obscure terminology and against the abuse of abstractions. Initially, as a professor, he was not taken very seriously. He was a bad story-teller, although an exceptional thinker. He could not narrate, however, he could explain. But, people would eventually understand, since Hegel was one obsessed with method. For him, the method had a far greater significance than the system. In the present text, I will focus on these things, trying to see whether Hegel was, indeed, obscure and if, for him, reason really does speak differently than it thought. For this, I have chosen a few fragments that I believed to be exemplary from Hegelian philosophy. The purpose is to show that Hegel is not, however, as Papini maliciously named him, a philosopher of the incomprehensible. On the contrary! And the considerations on Hegelian ethics do not come to help, as an application of the theme that I assumed as starting point for the present text.

Key Words: ethics, religion, philosophy, spirit, phenomenology, dialectics, dominance, servitude, Hegel

Introduction

At the beginning of the Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion, Hegel affirms that the object of the philosophy of religion is the highest and it answers to the domain where all mysteries of the world are solved and where all the contradictions of thought become peaceful. Primarily, man is mind, is thought in general and, more precisely, a concrete thought. Moreover, the multiple forms of sciences, arts and man's interests emerge from here. However, the supreme center is to be found in religion, i.e., in Hegel's opinion, in the intuition of God. Religion thus becomes the beginning and the end and everything in religion is presented as a strive towards this unique object - God. Strive including the ethical one, is absolutely free, so free that it becomes goal for itself. This is the object of the philosophy of religion. In what regards the content of the philosophy of religion, philosophy was criticized that it reduces the value of the content of the revealed religion, case in which philosophy could, itself, through natural light, make God accessible. Of curse, philosophy does not destroy the dogma and Hegel knows this very well. He does know, however, something even better: namely that theological significance may be easily accepted and understood if it is passed through the filter of ethics. For him, Ethics is the one that keeps the essential. The modernity which is referable to Hegel is linked to the fact that he offers a privilege to ethics. It is important to believe that a concept of transcendence is at work, no matter how we name it.

Is Hegel obscure?

For Schopenhauer, philosophy's reputation is re-established by Kant. Hegel will take into account the degradation of philosophy, with his new tribalism and with the authority of the Prussian state behind. Hegel is nothing but a clown, states Popper, a clown inspired by hidden motifs and who imagines himself as a creator of history1. Hegel writes in an illegible manner, he has no talent, he understands Plato sporadically and he shows a desultory and bad understanding of Plato, hence the "bombastic Platonism" practiced by him, therefore, he is an opponent of the open society. Peter Singer is not as vehement: the rational state described by Hegel is not the Prussian state, even if the philosopher is not exactly a liberal2.

An extremely relevant "note on Hegelian language and terminology" could be found in Koyré3. Right at the beginning of the note, in some kind of "phenomenological" synthesis (since phenomenology is, as Singer understands it, the study of how things appear to us), Koyré says that Hegel's interpreters, even if they do not agree on anything that comes from his philosophy, reach an agreement:

* on the intrinsic difficulty of his thinking;

* on the extra difficulties (extrinsic) required by the understanding of Hegelian language and terminology (the language seems untranslatable even for Germans). …

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