The Necessity and Necessary Overcoming of Revealed Religion in Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit

Patti Nyman


After working out the conflicts within Spirit’s moral development, which ultimately leads to the conclusion of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit in absolute knowing, it is curious that an entire section of the work is devoted to religion. This paper explores Hegel’s discussion of religion in order to establish its critical role in the work as a whole. The specific problem, as raised by Hyppolite in Genesis and Structure of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit, is whether Hegel, by giving primacy to knowledge over faith and concept over religious representation, effectively reduces the significance of religion and “preserves religion only to negate its essential elements.” While religion is indeed both preserved and negated, it is crucial to add that the essential element as found only in revealed religion remains central to the work as a whole, in spite of the fact that the section on absolute knowing marks an overcoming of the limitation of revealed religion. It is within revealed religion that the unity of the universal essence and the particular existence of humanity is first represented, though this content is not yet known to be an act of consciousness itself since it is only within absolute knowing that the separation of knowledge from its truth is overcome. Consequently, it is essential to demonstrate that although religious consciousness is necessarily overcome in the development of self-consciousness toward absolute knowing, religion is nevertheless necessary as the moment in which the truth of self-consciousness is first revealed.

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