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His viewpoint is neither traditionally Christian and therefore subject to Church doctrine, nor strictly pagan and therefore subject to strict rationality. Hegel's working out of the thesis and antithesis of life and death, and the synthesis, which is love, is a kind of mystical interpretation of the Christian mysteries. What Hegel could not understand in light of objectivity destroyed, he attempts to explain in light of Love as the synthesis of life and death. Again, it is the crowning of passion as ultimate arbiter. Love cannot be explained except as it is accountable only to itself. Thus, Hegel may say that God is Love without risk of corrupting his doctrine. What Hegel fails to do, however, is unite it with reason, as Gardner states is necessary for a complete picture. Passion, according to Hegel, is still the de facto ruler. Passion, since it is essentially God-like, cannot be ruled. Therefore, Love cannot fully be explained but only yielded and submitted to. The effects of such a line of thought are, of course, full of ramifications.
Nonetheless, Hegel attempts to redirect such ramifications by rationalizing passion's power, especially in the Christian mysteries -- mysteries, which in the old world, had well enough shown the necessity of curbing passion under the direction of the will of God, which was both reasonable and good. Hegel, however, is left to let passion direct itself and explain why such is necessary through the use of reason. He does so using Mary Magdalene as an example, the sinner whose grief over her sin contradicts her joy at being forgiven. This sense of contradiction is her love, which extinguishes her guilt and manifests itself as 'this bliss of love drinking reconciliation from its effusion'" (Bjerke 2011:78). Hegel's reasoning is obviously more a romantic ode to the power of love and less a rational meditation on the Christian essence of forgiveness and gratitude.
However, Hegel is not long to fall out of love with Love: since his emotions govern his intellect instead of his intellect governing his emotions, Hegel cannot fail to do so: "He shifts his attention from love to what he calls the Concept, ostensibly because love falls apart when it reflects on itself whereas the Concept achieves a higher synthesis. In retrospect, however, what appeared as love's failure to reflect on itself was actually the failure of Hegel's identity philosophy more generally" (Bjerke 2011:79).
The introduction of the Concept allows Hegel to assert a kind of objectivity into the equation. But his Concept leads him, however, to a kind of idealism.
Hegel and the Family
Hegel's Concept is Love given an objective standard. As Bjerke identifies: "Hegel continually praises love when it attains its rational shape and criticizes faulty versions of love in which love's particular and universal moments are not reconciled" (Bjerke 2011:82). By identifying Love with a Concept (even if it is idealistic), Hegel is able to reconcile what was previously irreconcilable. Hegel takes Love out of the abstract and gives it an object, much in the same vein as the medieval world gave man a final end. The purpose becomes rooted, not in itself, but in the family -- which is, in a sense, the root of love. As lovers grow old and die, their love is continued in the new life that comes from those lovers. The family is a unit that perpetuates love, and love vice versa perpetuates the family. Life and death are not part of one unifying system unless that system understands Love within the framework of a higher concept. Thus, Bjerke states, Hegel
repeatedly faults Schlegel, for example, for exalting the particular drives of the individual over the rational shape of marriage. He also attacks those understandings of love that err on the side of the abstract universal. This includes the view of marriage as contract, various religious abstractions, and the 'monastic attitude' that is characteristic of Platonic love or philosophical contemplation.22 These attitudes are hostile to the moment of natural life, whereas love in its reflected form harmonizes the particular and the universal. (Bjerke 2011:82)
Here, Hegel follows Rousseau. By elevating passion he again undermines that which he wishes to create: the perpetuation of love. Yet, he insists that such love be existent without vows. Vows, it is assumed, are of the rational societal order, and impinge upon the freedom of the passions to pursue their own end. Hegel fails to realize that the end of passion is diametrically opposed to the end of reason, at least according to the hierarchical medieval model of human nature.
Thesis, Antithesis and Synthesis
Hegel's intellectual proposition in favor of life meets its antithesis is nature's insistence upon degeneration and death. The synthesis of life and death is the Spirit, which by way of Experience, acts as the unifying structure for life and death. While Hegel does attempt to free his philosophical outlook from the mechanistic rigor of his modern predecessors by asserting a final end based upon teleological causation (as medieval philosophy would have done), his rationale is less rational than his ancient forbearers: the scholastic's first causes would have been with God, Who is Love, but Who is also Primarily Rational -- not Passionate. Hegel still insists upon primacy of the Spirit (passion).
Hegel does so by stretching his definition of Reason, which is his synthesis of Schelling, Leibniz and Fichte with a new theory of Negation: "By extensively working out the meaning of negation, Hegel was successfully elucidating reality and its principle of Spirit as a gradual, historical process with the series of steps in which Spirit evolves as self-actualizing. Reality is now understood not by either-or, but by the perpetual motion between the contradictories as from one to the other" (Life). The synthesis, for Hegel, allowed Spirit to be the Absolute that he was looking for -- the safety for which his philosophy pined.
Hegel's dialectic was, of course, modeled on his modern philosophers' work. Hegel adopted the thesis, antithesis, synthesis dialectic in view of Kant and Fichte. However, Hegel insisted that science was equal to philosophy and had to have concrete principles, not abstract explanations. Like Kant, though, Hegel's method is Reflection-based: "In reflection, the opposition between the being and thinking, the dichotomy between the finite and infinite, may never be resolved. Therefore, the Absolute is transcendent and the human reason cannot recognize the authentic nature of the things" (Life). As Hegel himself would dictate:
In this synthesis all the process and its essential elements are contained as its necessary moments. They are articulate, mutually related, distinguished and brought in an organic unity. This is the live Reality and is also called das lebendige Subject als der Geist (Spirit). The world (=Reality) is only known adequately as this process of dialectical movement. In reality as a whole we distinguish die Idee, die Welt und den Geist, (The Idea, The World and The Spirit), but they are one and the same in the primordial way of this process. (Life)
Hegel's philosophy is then applied to Christianity, and modern theology is born.
Hegel's Christian meditations differ from their medieval counterparts on one significant point, which is the nature of historicity. Hegel places history above or outside of God and Christ, viewing God and Love as reactants to history and, in a sense, victims of history. The medieval contention that God did not have to serve humanity by become man but rather chose to do so is in Hegel's view reduced to a kind of fatalism, in which God the Spirit was forced out of the abstract into the Concrete by the synthesis of Love and Reality: "The death of Christ marks the reversal of historical consciousness, the point at which God 'puts death to death' and where world-spirit begins to realize itself in the ethical realm" (Bjerke 2011:86). Thus, according to Hegel, as Christ put death to death, Love also (since God is Love) overcomes death. Love becomes the beginning and the end, and since love is concomitant with passion, passion does too, undercutting the medieval notion of God and man as primarily rational actors. Hegel's vision of man is modeled on Romantic/Enlightenment doctrine.
In conclusion, Hegel maximizes modern philosophy as established by Kant, Fichte and others by rooting it in the concrete elements of medieval Christianity; but his synthesis of medieval theology and modern philosophy produces a new modern theology, in which reason is reduced and passion elevated. Hegel's Spirit takes primacy over the medieval notion of God, becoming the self-sufficient, self-fulfilling raison d'etre.
The abstract becomes concrete at the expense of reason in Hegel's dialectic.
Bjerke AJ, (2011), 'Hegel and the Love of the Concept,' HeyJ LII, 76-89.
Life (of Hegel), n.d.,
Smith, MK, (2008), 'Howard Gardner and multiple intelligences,' the encyclopedia of informal education,
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