Encyclopedia of Religion
and Society

William H. Swatos, Jr. Editor

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(1770-1831) German philosopher; taught at the University of Jena, where his Phenomenology of Spirit was completed the night before Napoleon's victorious battle there; later appointed to Berlin.

The categories of Spirit (Geist ) and history are central to his philosophy. Spirit realizes itself in the whole of history. Its alienations form an expanding circle, from subjective spirit (individual interests and psychology) to objective spirit (economics, politics, moral community) to absolute spirit (art, religion, philosophy). Religion and philosophy are humanity's highest attainments. They have the same content, the knowledge of God, but employ different forms. Religion is a totality of feeling, cult, and symbolic representation in tangible images. Philosophy is "worship" in conceptual form and its scientific system is a more complete manifestation of divine knowledge.

Hegel's Early Theological Writings , unpublished in his lifetime, sound a protoexistentialist note, while his mature system emphasizes the historical diversity and transformations of religions, especially the movement from Judaism and Greek philosophy to Christianity, whose concrete trinity is superseded, yet preserved in the dialectical movement of philosophy. Hegel decisively influenced modern thought, including Marxism, existentialism, phenomenology, the philosophy of history, and the human sciences.

Donald A. Nielsen


E. L. Fackenheim, The Religious Dimension in Hegel's Thought (Boston: Beacon, 1967)

G. W. F. Hegel, The Phenomenology of Spirit (Oxford: Clarendon, 1977 [1807])

G. W. F. Hegel, Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion , 3 vols. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984-1987 [1827]).

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