The Despair of Religion

The Owl of Minerva 16 (1):21-30 (1984)

The theme of religious despair appears several times in Hegel’s philosophy. Each meaning differs from the preceding ones, but presupposes them. Gradually a totality of sense unfolds which remains latent in each instance taken singularly. The development is most clearly apparent in The Phenomenology of Spirit which presents the various moments of despair as following necessarily from the internal logic of the religious consciousness itself. That schema of development provides a framework for incorporating the descriptions in the Lectures on Aesthetics as well as those in the History of Philosophy, and, above all, the conclusion of Faith and Knowledge in which the famous expression, “God is dead,” first appears. One passage does not seem to fit into this logical development. The pessimistic evaluation of the modern age at the end of the 1821 lecture notes on the philosophy of religion does not follow from Christianity’s own principles, but rather moves directly against its “truth.” Nevertheless, as we shall see, even this deviation may be “justified” as a direct consequence of attitudes provoked by the Christian faith in its struggle with the Enlightenment. Precisely because of this final predicament Hegel presents his philosophy of spirit as a - hopefully temporary - refuge for religion from the outward and inward ravages of the Enlightenment, In the following paper I shall consider the four phases in which the despair of religion appears in the Phenomenology of Spirit and, by way of conclusion, briefly situate the final section of the 1821 lecture notes.
Keywords Major Philosophers
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ISBN(s) 0030-7580
DOI 10.5840/owl198416140
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