College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences Theses and Dissertations

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G. W. F. Hegel, religion, romanticism, morality, Immanuel Kant


The question of the role of religion in Hegel’s philosophical legacy has long been a fraught one. Beginning with the schism between so-called Right and Left Hegelianism, two lines of interpretation have developed in nearly diametric opposition. On the one side, Hegel’s system is regarded as the culmination of the tradition of rationalist theology, attempting a fully rational demonstration of the validity of Christian doctrine. On the other, it is proclaimed to be comprehensible only when stripped of its “mystical” elements, of which his validation of Christianity is a considered particularly problematic instance of what Kant called “ontotheology”—a doomed attempt to make the logical categories of human reason adequate to an absolute, unquestionable ground. More recently, a similar divide separates those who offer a traditional, metaphysical reading with the controversial religious dimension intact and those who attempt to decipher a revised view without the metaphysical implications. Despite radically divergent views of their respective value for contemporary thought, a near universal consensus has seemingly persisted on one fundamental point: that Hegel himself understood the relation between philosophy and religion to be one of mutually consistent but inherently separate modes of considering the same ultimate truth. In other words, regardless of what is thought to be living or dead in Hegel's philosophy, it is taken almost for granted that it can be understood in isolation from his comments on religion. I argue that the “Religion” chapter of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit presents a challenge to this consensus in its concept of representation (Vorstellung) as the unified ground of both religion and reason. I examine the structure of this concept in connection with the role of "perversion" in the history of the philosophy of religion.