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Hegel’s Logic as Metaphysics

[This is a post by Keith Mitchell.  It is part of the continuing series on Philosophy and Theology that current ThM students are entrenched in.  Enjoy!]

There are three common areas in philosophy that we have already discussed. Metaphysics asks, “what is?” Epistemology, “how do you know about what is?” and Ethics, “what should we be doing about it?” For Hegel the Metaphysical question of “what is?” can ultimately be understood as The Absolute Geist (aka Spirit or Mind). The essential stuff of what exists—the Geist—is non-material. The Geist got separated from itself and is now working back toward itself through history (this view of history retains a familiar Judeo-Christian progressive linearism).  What is more tangible than all imminent idea moving history forward?

The process the Absolute Geist takes through history is dialectic; working in the same manner as a rational and productive conversation (Hegel is all about synthesis whereas Kant was fine with the dualism). The interaction (between the thesis and antithesis) makes for clarification on a deeper level (synthesis), verses impasses and compromise. The result is a resolution to a higher place, not just another place.

But what gives the dialectic momentum and energy for movement? Because for something to be ultimate reality (the Absolute Geist), it must be self-sufficient, we cannot be responsible for dragging it along. This is where Hegel’s logic comes in. By logic I do not mean syllogistics, but the reason for a thing; in this case the reason for the dialectical movement of what ultimately is.

For Hegel there is no logical concept of ‘being,’ without ‘not being.’ Thus, A cannot be ~A (the little symbol just means “not”). But, and this is key, A can become ~A. For Hegel then, becoming is a more fundamental reality than being. Thus any given idea needs its opposite in order to first exist, and then to evolve. Each idea is not complete; having within it the potential for inherent contradictions.  All incomplete ideas give rise to an antithesis, which resolve into a synthesis. These contradictions are self-perpetuating. Thus, becoming is a dynamic process that works of its own accord and moves toward becoming more universal and concrete.

The final stage of the dialectic for the Geist is self-awareness. At this stage the Absolute will have no more antitheses inherent in it. All that exists will be harmoniously at one with itself. Individuals will finally experience true freedom since there will no longer be any areas of conflict. With it, there will be an end to the pattern of change. Hegel’s view is called “Absolute Idealism;” “Absolute” because it is encompassing everything, and “Idealism,” because the essential stuff of what exists (Geist) is non-material.  For Hegel, reality is rational and this is its logic.


Flotsam and jetsam (10/1)

Christology and anthropology – a very nice summary of my book

Kyle Strobel has just posted a very nice summary of my book Embodied Souls, Ensouled Bodies: An Exercise in Christological Anthropology and Its Significance for the Mind/Body Debate. This is the published version of my dissertation. So, if you don’t have the time (or the money) to read the whole book, go on over to Theology Forum and check out Kyle’s post. I’d be happy to interact with thoughts/comments/questions there.

By the way, if you’re a Th.M. student involved in this semester’s philosophy and theology class may find this post particularly interesting. My dissertation is really an exercise in philosophical theology and in many ways it displays my understanding of how philosophy and theology interact. When we get a little further along in the class, I’ll be using the mind/body debate to explain my approach to philosophical theology.

Flotsam and jetsam (8/22)

  • Steve Holmes has an excellent post on the importance and the limitations of analytic philosophy for doing theology.
  • NYT has an interesting article on the practice of stoning people for committing adultery in Muslim countries today. It certainly makes you think twice about biblical descriptions of stoning.
  • Here’s a lecture from Donal MacLeod on our debt to the Scottish reformation.
  • Daniel Kirk does a very nice job explaining why he blogs: becoming part of the biblical studies community, engaging arguments in a less threatening environment, continuing his own theological education, and hearing from former students.
  • And, Tim Challies comments on Andrew Keen’s idea that the internet can be compared to a million monkeys banging away at a keyboard in the vain hope that one of them will produce something interesting. As one of those monkeys, I’d like to send a shout out the all the other monkeys out there.

Thinkers you just can’t get into

Peter Leithart has posted a very helpful summary of Frederiek Depoortere’s Badiou and Theology (T&T Clark, 2009), which in turn serves as a nice explanation of why Badiou’s philosophy is seen as being significant for contemporary theology. As I was reading the post, however, I realized that for me Badiou falls into that category of thinkers that other people think are really important, but that I just don’t care about yet. Although I know quite a number of very intelligent people who insist that Badiou is someone that we need to pay close attention to, I just can’t do it.

That started me thinking about other theologians and philosophers that I hear a lot about but just haven’t been able to get interested in for one reason or another. At the risk of making myself look like a complete idiot, the people who come to mind off the top of my head  include Alain Badiou, Slavoj Zizek, John Milbank (anyone catching the pattern here?), Sally McFague, Alister McGrath, Jurgen Moltmann, and (for some unknown reason) Rowan Williams. That’s not to say that these are unimportant thinkers (especially Williams!), just that I haven’t been able to get interested in their theology to this point.

What do you think? Who are the theologians and philosophers that you’ve heard a lot about but you aren’t convinced yet that you need to spend that much time on them? I’m particularly interested in people who are still writing/teaching today that you don’t think you need to spend your time on, but I’d be interested in what you have to say about historical figures as well. And, you don’t have to limit yourself to philosophers and theologians. If there are Bible scholars that work this way for you, add them to the list.