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:

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:

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).

Hegel himself!

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

  1. 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.↩︎

  2. Sibree 2001, p.61↩︎

  3. 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 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”.↩︎

  4. 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.↩︎

  5. Sibree 2001, p.65↩︎