Hegel's sequence of the divisions of the Absolute Spirit (Art-Religion-Philosophy vs. Religion-Art-Philosophy)
There are good reasons for Hegel’s sequence (Art-Religion-Philosophy)
There are good reasons why Hegel gives the sequence of the divisions of the absolute spirit (Art-Religion-Philosophy) the way he does:
- the most important reason/parallel, that is both referred to by Hegel himself as well as in the Hegel literature, is that this sequence is closely modeled after the sequence of of view/intuition (“Anschauung”) - representation (“Vorstellung”) - thinking in the theoretical mind/spirit
- Starting with something “physical” is parallel to the Subjective Mind/Spirit, which also begins with Anthropology
- in Art, the work of art is directly (1st step) given in the contemplation - in religion we face God, religion is about the relation (duality, 2nd step) to God
- In the “Phenomenology of the Spirit/Mind” (and later in the philosophy of history and religion and the encyclopaedia) Hegel first mentions the the “Art religion” of the Greeks, which are later followed by the “Religion of Christianity” (which then later is followed by the philosophy of enlightment of his time) - this historical sequence thus might speak for Hegel’s division
Reasons to change the sequence to Religion-Art-Philosophy
However, some of the reasons given above are also weak.
In contrast, I think that there are more weighty reasons for changing the sequence to Religion - Art - Philosophy:
- The new sequence religion-art-philosophy is no longer simply ascending (contemplation - imagination - thinking) but dialectically1
- Works of art, as works of art, are not simply so, “immediate,” but require a process of consciousness in the artist and the viewer. In religion, on the other hand, a simple feeling is often the starting point
- in art is a difference: art objectifies the understanding of the Absolute in nature (parallels to nature and the Objective Mind), in the artistic process is a duality between artist and artwork (and between artwork and viewer). Religion expresses itself in works of art, through the process of this objectification it comes to philosophy (art is also not before religion but at the same time or as a consequence of religion).
- in religion there is an “immediate knowledge” of God: religious feeling (Jacobi, Romantic), direct testimony of the Scriptures, etc. (insofar as religion happens in subjectivity, it fits the subjective mind, insofar as it is the beginning of knowledge as well)
- The duality between man and God (which argues for a position of religion in 2nd place) does not apply to all religions, Buddhism is not understood in this way (besides, in Hegel’s case duality is not supposed to be the truth of the relationship between man and God, but unity)
- It is now also easier to see how much religion and philosophy have in common (the 1st and 3rd stages of a dialectical triad have more in common, the 1st stage is “in itself” the 3rd stage).
- In this way, more meaningful parallels with the rest of the system emerge (compare the following parallels with the parallels you would get if you put art in first place and religion in second place according to the “orthodox reading”):
- in the structure of ethical life:
- Family: Religion,
- Civil society: Art,
- State: Philosophy/Science
- in the professions:
- Farmers: Religion,
- Handicraft/Bourgeoisie: Art,
- Civil Servants: Philosophy/Science
- with the geographical base of world history:
- herdsmen/nomads in deserts and mountains: Religion,
- advanced civilisations on rivers with administrative residences: Art,
- trading cities with deep-sea shipping: Philosophy/science
- in the structure of the mind/spirit:
- Subjective spirit/mind: Religion,
- Objective spirit/mind: Art,
- Absolute spirit/mind: Philosophy/Scienc
- in the classification of art:
- Symbolic art/architecture : Religion,
- Classical art/sculpture : Art,
- Romantic art/painting-music-poetry : Philosophy
- the new parallel also explains better why classical art/sculpture is the pinnacle of art and romantic art has a “surplus” beyond that
- in the structure of ethical life:
Precursor to the idea of a rearrangement of the sequence of the Hegelian Absolute Spirit/Mind
There have been proposals to put art or religion in the highest place (and this has also been done by other philosophical contemporaries, such as Schelling), but the specific sequence religion->art->philosophy has strangely not yet (i.e. at least for the last 200 years) occurred in all Hegel literature (and other literature on German idealism and the Hegel school), as far as I know (If you know otherwise, please let me know).
Remarkable enough, Hegel himself talks about the sequence “Religion - Art - Philosophy” in his foreword to his “Philsophy of World History,” and gives very good further reasons for it:
We shall have to show further on that the constitution adopted by a people makes one substance — one spirit: — with its religion, its art and philosophy2
But by the very act of thoughtful cognition and volition, I will the universal object — the substance of absolute Reason. We observe, therefore, an essential union between the objective side — the Idea — and the subjective side — the personality that conceives and wills it.
All the activity of Spirit has only this object — the becoming conscious of this union, i.e., of its own Freedom.
Among the forms of this conscious union Religion occupies the [first (KF)]3 position. In it, Spirit — rising above the limitations of temporal and secular existence — becomes conscious of the Absolute Spirit, and in this consciousness of the self-existent Being, renounces its individual interest; it lays this aside in Devotion — a state of mind in which it refuses to occupy itself any longer with the limited and particular. By Sacrifice man expresses his renunciation of his property, his will, his individual feelings. The religious concentration of the soul appears in the form of feeling; it nevertheless passes also into reflection; a form of worship (cultus) is a result of reflection.
The second form of the union of the objective and subjective in the human spirit is Art. This advances farther into the realm of the actual and sensuous than Religion. In its noblest walk it is occupied with representing, not indeed, the Spirit of God, but certainly the Form of God; and in its secondary aims, that which is divine and spiritual generally. Its office is to render visible the Divine; presenting it to the imaginative and intuitive faculty.But the True is the object not only of conception [Hegel: “Anschauung”] and feeling, as in Religion — and of intuition [Hegel: “Vorstellung”], as in Art — but also of the thinking faculty4; and this gives us the third form of the union in question — Philosophy. This is consequently the highest, freest, and wisest phase.5
This was already criticised by Vittorio Hösle in his book “Hegel’s System” (Meiner Verlag Hamburg 1988, p.593ff). Consequently, Hösle also criticises the sequence of view (“Anschauung”) - representation (“Vorstellung”) - thinking as linear and non-dialectic as well (Hoesle 1988, p.387). In fact these arguments of Hösle and the fact that Hösle did not come up with an eexplicit solution to this problem himself in his book, was the start of my thinking about this sequence and so gave birth to this article.↩︎
Sibree 2001, p.61↩︎
The original translation from Sibree, “highest” position, is confusing/misleading. In the German version, instead of “highest position,” the term Hegel uses is “an der Spitze,” which linguee.com translates e.g with “at the head of.” In the context of the sequence (Hegel names Art the “second form” in the next paragraph), it is clearly meant in the sense of “the first in the sequence.”↩︎
Note how Hegel himself here not only changes the sequence to Religion, Art, Philosophy, but that he consequently also changes the underlying sequence of view (“Anschauung”) - representation (“Vorstellung”) - thinking to the more dialectical sequence of representation (“Vorstellung”) - view (“Anschauung”) - thinking.↩︎
Sibree 2001, p.65↩︎