For Hegel, the truth of religion, as the relationship of man to the infinite which sustained him and gave his life context and meaning, had been vindicated by the outcome of the Enlightenment. Those versions of humanism which had proclaimed man to be utterly self-sufficient and self-determining had shown their sterility in the destructiveness of the Robespierrian Terror, The rationalistic negativity of the Enlightenment had failed to see that beneath the superstitious exterior of Christianity lay the metaphysical presuppositions of the ideas of freedom and justice. Man’s relationship to the eternal was not alienation, as the radical Enlightenment had argued, but the foundation of man’s historical existence: only a union of ‘pure insight’ with belief could allow man to achieve a correct relationship to history, to realize that the subjective will was only one factor in the construction of a social whole. The one-sidedness of the Enlightenment and of religious other-worldliness cried out for a humanism that was aware of its own foundations in the eternal — not the eternal of the deists, that had nothing to do with man’s own history, but an eternal which had taken unto itself the pain of the world, which had united itself with the history of man. For Hegel, rather than being necessarily a denial of God, humanism could be given an explicitly Christian content since human self-confidence and creativity was the enactment through the medium of the finite will and subjectivity of the substantial unity of God and His creation achieved by Jesus Christ in the incarnation.


Religious Worship Metaphysical Presupposition Secular Institution Natural Human Relationship Historical Necessity 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    For K. Löwith, in his Meaning in History (University of Chicago Press, 1949), Hegel is the ‘last philosopher of history because he is the last philosopher whose immense historical sense was still restrained and disciplined by the Christian tradition… Hegel believed himself loyal to the genius of Christianity by realizing the Kingdom of God on earth’. (57) Yet Löwith insists on the ‘inherent weakness of his principle that the Christian religion is realized by reason in the history of the secular world — as if the Christian faith could ever be ‘realized’ at all and yet remain a faith in things unseen.’ (58) For Löwith ‘Christianity was thrown into the vortex of the world’s history only willy-nilly; and only as a secularized and rationalized principle can God’s providential purpose by worked out into a consistent system… In the Christian view, history is of decisive importance only in so far as God has revealed himself in a historical man’ — an interpretation similar to Kierkegaard’s doctrine of the ‘instant’, (p. 193). Löwith is critical of Hegel’s attempt to secularize Christian eschatology just as he considers the Young Hegelians to be essentially destructive and superficial ideologues because they attempted to ‘realize’ philosophy in social praxis: ‘The Left Hegelians do still call themselves philosophers, but they are no longer lovers of wisdom and self-sufficient insight. They no longer believe in philosophical theoria as the highest, because it is the most free, human activity and its foundation in the “need of needlessness”’. (Hegeische Linke, Stuttgart, 1962, pp. 9–10) In his From Hegel to Nietzsche, op. cit., Löwith understood the antinomies of Marx and Kierkegaard as the destruction of the bourgeois-Christian world, whose faith had already been threatened by Hegel’s secularization of Christianity. By Löwith’s definition, Hegel himself was not a philosopher, since his system arose not from the ‘need of needlessness’ but from the experience of the existential tension between faith and modern secularity.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Attack upon ‘Christendom’, pp. 81–82.Google Scholar
  3. 3a.
    Hegel’s fear that the structure of the Rechtsstaat would be broken down by the process of industrialization and the accompanying social polarization was fully validated by the 1840’s. For R. Koselleck, in his ‘Staat und Gesellschaft in Preussen 1815–1848’ (in Moderne deutsche Sozialgeschichte, ed. H.-U. Wehler, Kiepenheuer und Witsch, Neue Wissenschaftliche Bibliothek, 1966) ‘through the liberation of all individuals from the bonds of the “castes”, as the estates were called by the reformers, a society that was economically free but politically bound to the state was to emerge, whose rights, including rights of representation, were to be laid down in a constitution after the completion of the work of reform’, (p. 61) In the years before 1848, however, the break-down of the traditional guilds under the impact of the liberal economy that the reformers had encouraged led to widespread destitution, ‘the social obverse of the economic progress’, (p. 74) Only after 1848 did economic liberalism and industrialization begin to bring prosperity.Google Scholar
  4. 3b.
    T. Hamerow, in his Restoration, Revolution, Reaction. Economics and Politics in Germany 1815–1871 (Princeton University Press, 1958) Part I, 5, emphasizes the havoc wrought in the guild crafts by industrialization and the starvation caused by a succession of famines as the most striking social characteristics of the 1840’s. It was the revolt of the hungry and unemployed masses that finally gave liberal constitutionalism the means to attack the Restoration state. Both Hamerow and W. Conze in his ‘Vom Pöbel zum Proletariat’ (in Wehler, op. cit.) emphasize that it was the unemployed guildsmen, rather than the industrial proletariat, who suffered most during this period.Google Scholar
  5. 4.
    Kierkegaard, Philosophical Fragments, p. 46.Google Scholar
  6. 5.
    The idealist notion of theogony, which understood God’s life as evolving in its relationship to the world through three epochs represented by the three persons of the trinity, corresponded to the understanding of human history and civilization as undergoing a three-stage dialectic which was characteristic of this period of thought. For H. Popitz, in his Der entfremdete Mensch (Basel, 1953), the eschatological temper of German thought from Schiller to Marx was related to this three-stage dialectic, which saw the alienated present as the antithesis necessary to a future resolution: ‘not only through the specifically historical orientation, but equally through the awakening of a new consciousness of the problem, which experiences the future as a task, as the demand of a tomorrow which must be shaped today, does the present time win a marked and unique plasticity.’ (p. 13)Google Scholar
  7. 6.
    For Ruge, the Weitgeist became the Zeitgeist, the leading ideas of the age. Since the Weitgeist did not assure the victory of reason and freedom, their hegemony over romanticism and Christian orthodoxy could only be effected by their energetic dissemination and forceful espousal — hence his own editorship of the Haitische and Deutsche Jahrbücher and the Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher. The popularization of radical ideas through journalism was the most important aspect of the ‘practical-critical’ action recommended by the followers of Feuerbach.Google Scholar
  8. 7.
    Philosophy of Right (Knox), p. 12.Google Scholar
  9. 8.
    Ibid., p. 91.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, Dordrecht 1985

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert Gascoigne

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations