The Metaphysical and Theological Commitments of Idealism: Kant, Hegel, Hegelianism

In Douglas Moggach (ed.), Politics, Religion, and Art: Hegelian Debates. Northwestern University Press (2011)
It is sometimes said that changes in academic philosophy in the twentieth century reflected a process in which a discipline that had been earlier closely tied to institutional religion became increasingly laicized and secularized.1 In line with this idea, the idealist philosophy that had flowered within British philosophy at the end of the nineteenth century can look like the last and ill-fated attempt of a Victorian religious sensibility to guard itself against a post-Darwinian God-less view of the world and ourselves.2 Such a view generally represents, I believe, the attitudes of many contemporary philosophers to British philosophy prior to the transforming work of Russell and Moore of about one hundred years ago. Against the luxuriant and mystical metaphysics of the idealists, fuelled by religious longing, the “new philosophy”, it is thought, affirmed the brute materiality of the world and its independence from mind, be it divine or human. A similar development is commonly understood as carrying from Hegel through the “young Hegelians” to the mature Marx. Thus for Feuerbach, for example, Hegel’s idealist doctrine that “nature or reality is posited by the idea” was “merely the rational expression of the theological doctrine that nature is created by God”.3 Hegel’s philosophy had thus provided a “last place of refuge and ... rational support of theology”, and escaping from this condition (more prison than refuge) required rejecting idealism and confronting the fact that “the true relation of thinking and being is simply this. Being is subject and thinking a predicate but a predicate such as...
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