Hegel and the Symbolic Mediation of Spirit

Contesting the widely-held assumption that Hegel shows a clear preference for the sign over the symbol, this book expounds the indispensable importance of the symbol for spirit’s ultimate determination. Employing Derrida’s critique of Hegel as the impetus for a new understanding of Hegel’s concept of spirit, the book forces readers to take a fresh look at issues in the philosophy of language, aesthetics, and theology. Magnus shows how the collective power Hegel calls “spirit” remains relevant to the contemporary human situation, even in light of the serious and pressing objections of postmodern philosophy.

Table of Contents

Foreword by Stephen Houlgate

I. Derrida’s provocation
A. Metaphor and philosophy
B. Spirit’s use of the sign
II. The need to consider the symbolic
A. Other commentators on Hegel and the symbol
B. Spirit’s symbolic self-determination in the imagination, art, and religion
III. Hegel’s idea of spirit
A. Neither right nor left
B. Spirit’s identity and difference

1. The Symbol and the Sign in Hegel’s Philosophy
I. Basic Terminology
A. The symbol and the sign in the Hegelian text
B. Twentieth-century understandings of the symbol and the sign
II. Can philosophy conceive the symbolic?
A. Conscious symbolism of the comparative type
B. Metaphor in philosophical aesthetics

2. The Means to Theoretical Self-Determination
I. The rise of the symbol and sign-making capacities (Or, does spirit consume the sensuous?)
A. Intuition (Anschauung)
B. Representation (Vorstellung)
II. From symbol to sign: a different kind of difference (Or, is the sign a transparent means of spirit?)
A. The imagination’s creation of symbols and signs
B. The importance of the sign and the symbol
III. Sign of memory (Gedachtnis) and language (Sprache) (Or, how does the intelligence determine the “other”?)
A. Names, meaning, and existence
B. The symbol and the sign as elements of language
IV. The loss of meaning and the transition to thought (Or, how can spirit make itself be?)
A. Mechanical memory
B. Spirit’s theoretical determination

3. Spirit’s Symbolic Self-Presentation in Art
I. Art in general
A. Art as the presentation of spirit
B. Art as symbolic
C. Art as necessary and dissolving
II. The symbolic form of art
A. Symbolic art’s lack with respect to art’s ideal
B. The different forms of symbolic art
C. The importance of these symbolic forms
III. The classical form of art
A. The supersession of symbolic art’s deficiencies
B. Symbolic elements of classical art
IV. The romatic form of art
A. Romantic art as a spirit advance
B. Symbolic elements of romantic art
V. The “end” of art?
A. Art’s dissolution
B. Art’s (symbolic) absoluteness

4. Spirit’s Symbolic Self-Representation in Religion
I. Religious consciousness as symbolic
A. Pre-representational forms of religious consciousness
B. Religious representation and the symbolic
II. Symbolic elements of finite religions
A. Indian religion, the religion of imagination (Phantasie)
B. Egyptian religion, the religion of riddles (Ratsel)
C. Greek religion, the religion of beauty (Schonheit)
D. Jewish religion, the religion of sublimity (Erhabenheit)
III. Symbolic elements of absolute religion
A. Absolute versus finite religions
B. The Christian conception of the trinity
C. The Christian conception of the incarnation
D. Community, tradition, and interpretation
IV. The human, the divine, and the symbolic
A. The need for the symbolic
B. The unity of the human and the divine

5. The Process of Philosophy and Spirit’s Symbolic Mediation
I. Philosophy and the symbol
A. The transparency of thought: philosophy, logic, and truth
B. The double meaning of meaning
II. Philosophy in relation to art and religion
A. Philosophy’s comprehension of art and religion
B. Spirit’s need to be in an other form
III. Hegel’s idea of spirit
A. Genuine self-determination
B. The process is the result

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