Hegel’s System of Logic: The Absolute Idea as Form of Forms

In the Lectures on the Proofs of the Existence of God, prepared just before his death, Hegel states that the question of proving God can receive its “scientific” treatment in the Science of Logic and nowhere else. He also states that Logic, at least his logical system, is the same as that of metaphysics. Here, everything finds its place in relation to everything else.

This book presents a total system in the light of which everything, from physics to theology, finds its place and true presentation. It chiefly follows, in textual citation, the later, more concise version (as Part One of the Encyclopaedia of the Philosophical Sciences) of Hegel’s two presentations of this science. The stress has been on showing God’s own thought, or that of the cosmos, with which all mind is as such in unity. Logic and its forms, Hegel claims, is and are “the form of the world”. This ultimate objectivity, therefore, is at once utter subjectivity. The opposition collapses. The method here has been simply to follow the logic’s own development of thought (a development from within which Hegel himself calls its only method), to allow it once more to run its course rather than to merely “comment” on it, as if from a superior standpoint.

In this work on Logic specifically, therefore, the intention is not to substitute one religion for another, as so many scholars, such as Charles Taylor, interpret Hegel as doing. Rather, it stakes out the path for specifically theological development as its ecumenical absorption into sophia, into the Idea as “all in all”, into the pure theology or wisdom of the ecumenical “Church”. One stakes this out, not in a “reduction” to philosophy, but in the re-establishment of metaphysics as itself the true theologia, the mind of heaven. What else could philosophy meaningfully be, unless “understanding spiritual things spiritually”, the being led into all truth, perched on the shoulders of those going before?

Stephen Theron has read Hegel’s philosophy as the most exemplary form of Christian theology. In Hegel’s System of Logic: The Absolute Ideas as Form of Forms, he recommends that Hegel’s philosophy should be read as a ‘deep theology’ (p. xxiv). He illustrates its depth in the Preface with an extended investigation into the function of the medieval scholastic analogy of being (analogia entis) for Hegel’s Logic: he describes how the analogical likeness between names and things [is] altogether related through the relationality of the concept (p. xi); analogy is a passing ‘logical moment’ of the concept (p. xiii); and this speculative analogy of the concept serves as the unnamed yet ‘controlling itself’, as essence is ‘“sublated”, aufgehoben, in and by the Idea as absolute’ (p. xxxi). Hegel’s System of Logic contains one lengthy preface on the analogy of being, followed by thirty-four short chapter-length commentaries on Hegel’s Logic, all of which roughly correspond to the major headings and subheadings of The Science of Logic, followed by a brief epilogue on its theological signification. Each chapter opens with a preliminary remark on the place of the categories within the Logic, the system as a whole, and Hegel’s theology. Theron also interjects frequent comments on ancient and modern philosophers from Aristotle to Derrida, as well as occasional asides on diverse topics such as medieval scholastic logic, and modern Catholic theology. Paul, Augustine, Aquinas, McTaggart, and Wittgenstein are among his most frequent interlocutors. […] In the concluding Epilogue, Theron momentously recommends a dialectical development of Christian theology, where Hegel ‘picks up the mantle of Aquinas’; and Hegel’s system can ‘be claimed to be the same’ as the ‘canonized Pauline dialectic’ (pp. 517–23). […] Stephen Theron’s theological essays and commentaries have brilliantly illustrated how Hegel can be read as a theologian, and his Logic can be read as a preparation for his theology. Hegel has, admittedly, often been read to have irreversibly departed from pre-Kantian metaphysics, scholastic logic, and the canonical doctrines of Christian theology, even as he can also be read to have critically recapitulated all of these categories for new philosophical purposes. Religion can, following Ludwig Andreas Feuerbach, thus be sublated in and for secular philosophy. Yet as Theron’s intervention suggests, the role of religion in Hegel may have always been considerably more ambiguous. He recommends an allegorical reading of scripture alongside Hegel’s Logic. And he thus tends to endorse a circuitous reading of Hegel, in which, as with Origen and Augustine, the spiritual meaning of religious revelation may have always been determinative of its dialectical movements.

—Ryan Haecker, University of Cambridge; Reviews in Religion and Theology, Vol. 26, Issue 5, December 2019

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