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Kant, Hegel, and Habermas: reflections on "Glauben und Wissen".

THIS ESSAY EXAMINES Immanuel Kant's (1724-1804), Georg Friedrich Wilhelm Hegel's (1770-1831), and Jurgen Habermas's (1929-) accounts of God and of the interplay of belief about God (1) and philosophically justified knowledge. Hegel's account is central, because he responds to Kant's critical position that sets the stage for much of subsequent thought, including the context for Hegel's essay and Habermas's lecture "Glauben und Wissen." (2) The reflection on the death of God in Hegel's 1802 essay "Glauben und Wissen" (3) lies at a turning point in the Western intellectual appreciation of God. (4) This text is addressed both in its own right and as essential for appreciating Habermas's recent engagement with the idea of God. That Habermas names his lecture after Hegel's essay provokes the question of how to compare the authors' views concerning God, especially in their accounts of the relation between theological and philosophical claims, that is, between Glauben and Wissen. After all, Habermas engages the idea of God, even though he admits the impossibility of a "renewal of a philosophical theology in the aftermath of Hegel." (5) Although his assumptions regarding the possibilities for "communicative action" are more Kantian than Hegelian, yet his understanding of the role of God in philosophy depends on the major shift in Western philosophical understandings of God appreciated by Hegel in "Glauben und Wissen."

From Kant through Hegel to Habermas, the concept of God and the place of theological claims have been progressively deflated. This paper shows why the idea of God and the theological images that after Kant and Hegel remain for Habermas to use in his "Glauben und Wissen" are insufficient to justify its proscription of human genetic engineering. (6) This insufficiency in Habermas's arguments is due to Kant's and, especially, to Hegel's foreclosure of God's transcendence, His independent existence qua God, even as they use the idea of God to serve moral and cultural goals. From Kant and Hegel to Habermas, the dialectic between philosophy and her master, theology (7), has led philosophy to master her master, rendering the claims of theology subject to the claims and needs of philosophy. Habermas is the inheritor of this history. The robust position that natural theology possessed in the mid-eighteenth century was undermined and recast by Kant so that God remained only to satisfy the needs of his epistemology and morality. Religion was then philosophically conceptualized by Hegel as Absolute Spirit understood representationally, but only conceptually by philosophy. Philosophy has the same content as God does for religion, though for Hegel categorized in terms of thought, its philosophically justified truth) Then finally, having been lodged within robust constraints of secularity, God is invoked by Habermas as a heuristic resource for bioethics.


Given the accent on Hegel, a cardinal difficulty must be acknowledged at the outset: any treatment of Hegel is complicated by the circumstance that there are numerous competing accounts of what Hegel really held his philosophical project to be. As Kreines aptly observes, "Recent work on Hegel lacks consensus concerning the central ambitions of his mature project in theoretical philosophy." (9) To approach Hegel is to do so within one of the numerous denominations of Hegel interpretations. Therefore, a confession of sectarian biases is in order: I concur with Klaus Hartmann (1925-1991) that Hegel's mature project was postmetaphysical, or as Hartmann's best-known article in English puts it, "noumetaphysical." (10) This view holds:
 that Hegel seeks to advance yet farther Kant's revolution against
 pre-critical metaphysics.... Hegel denies all need to even conceive
 of Kant's things in themselves, leaving no contrast relative to
 which our own knowledge could be said to be merely limited or
 restricted. That is, Hegel aims not to surpass Kant's restriction
 so much as to eliminate that restriction from the inside. (11)

Hartmann's account, and that of many of his students, (12) is in contrast to robustly metaphysical readings of Hegel that gave accent to the surface character of Hegel's language, while discounting the systematic focus of his arguments on rendering the transcendent immanent. (13)

The interpretation forwarded is that Hegel intended to articulate an intellectual standpoint from which to give an account of categories, the most basic ways being can be for thought, which are at the same time the most basic ways thought can apprehend being." It is from this perspective that Hegel undertakes his meta-ontological reflections (15) that order the categories of thought and being (understood as coincident) from the least to the most self-explanatory category. Hegel proceeds from Being, the category that is least self explanatory, to Absolute Spirit, the category that is most self explanatory, namely, thought thinking about thought thinking about being. This standpoint is absolute in the sense of realizing the final rational standpoint, the perspective from which philosophical reason explicitly asks its final systematic questions and then answers them. (16) Faith for Hegel cannot gesture to a reality that philosophical knowledge cannot compass, as it can for Kant. There is for Hegel no standpoint that can be thought beyond this standpoint. In this sense, this standpoint is absolute. So understood, Absolute Spirit, the higher truth of God (that is, of God as understood in religion and theology), is philosophy's standpoint. In this interpretation, Absolute Spirit, Hegel's higher truth or philosophically complete appreciation of the standpoint of God, is nothing more than philosophical thought, "the self-thinking Idea, the truth aware of itself." (17) To put matters a bit more provocatively, those reading this paper are for Hegel God, or at least the higher truth of God, by participating in the standpoint within which thought thinks about thought thinking about being. The result is a thoroughgoing immanentization of the transcendent that has wide-ranging implications for the understanding of God, as well as of theological claims, for Hegel and for those after him. Hegel crucially recasts the relationship of faith and knowledge.


Before turning to Hegel's "Glauben und Wissen," Kant's critical views regarding God must be noted, because they form an important element of the intellectual background against which Hegel wrote in 1802. Kant contributes to the metaphysical death of God for Western philosophical reflection, as well as to a radical deflation of theological claims, all the while still pointing to the noumenal place vacated by the lack of philosophical acknowledgement of the actual existence of God. In the preface to the second edition of Critique of Pure Reason, Kant notes that there are two kinds of knowledge. "The first is reason's theoretical, the second its practical cognition." (18) The first compasses that which is within the bounds of possible experience, the second involves that which is integral to moral action. Kant also distinguishes doctrinal faith or belief from moral faith or belief. It is the second, namely moral belief, that can support a kind of practical knowledge. As Kant puts it,
 For here [with moral faith] there is an absolute necessity that
 something must occur, viz., that I comply in all points with the
 moral law. Here the purpose is inescapably established,
 and--according to all the insight I have--only a single condition
 is possible under which this purpose coheres with the entirety of
 all purposes and thereby has practical validity, viz., the
 condition that there is a God and future world. (19)

Kant has stepped away from the metaphysical knowledge claims of the traditional, natural theology still widely accepted on the Continent at his time. He has also anchored trustworthy belief in the conditions for moral action. His goal is to recast the relationships between belief and knowledge, between Glauben and Wissen, in great measure by changing the very meaning of knowledge and belief.

As already noted, even at the end of the Enlightenment, the special metaphysics of natural theology still had a place in many intellectual circles, as well as generally in the academy. (20) Metaphysical knowledge was generally taken to be robust and well founded. Kant frames his critical views in a Western European context that, until the French Revolution and its consequences for Central European culture, had largely taken the existence of God for granted. Even the first French Republic came officially to affirm the existence of a deistic God. (21) Kant represents a complex and radical break from this intellectual and cultural framework. On the one hand, Kant is convinced that he has shown the impossibility of natural theology as traditionally understood. On the other hand, Kant wants to use the idea of God, but without affirming the actual existence of God: a theme that surfaces with important variations in Hegel and Habermas. That is, Kant argues that one cannot have theoretical knowledge either of God's existence or of God's nonexistence, but one can nevertheless invoke God for epistemological and moral purposes, thus preserving a place for ultimate orientation. In this fashion, Kant seeks critically to alter the meaning of knowledge and belief, of Glauben and Wissen.

Kant's eschewal of an affirmation of God's actual existence is not in tension with his probable background beliefs, if, as Manfred Kuehn indicates in his biography of Kant, "Kant did not really believe in God." (22) The possibility of God, shorn of any actual affirmation of the existence of God, continues to perform important functions for Kant. Kant affirms the idea of God and the practical postulate of the existence of God because he wants to reconstruct his lifeworld prior to his Copernican turn, including the epistemic and moral integration that that lifeworld took for granted through its reference to God as the unity of being and morality. First, as a matter of epistemological necessity, Kant holds that we need an idea of God to warrant proceeding as if reality will always be intelligible, coherent and unified in its particulars. Second, as a matter of moral necessity, Kant holds that we need to affirm God's existence so that we can coherently act holding that morality should always trump prudential concerns. Third, he also invokes God in a fashion that allows him to treat morality as unitary (that is, to reject the possibility of moral pluralism). God as a logical possibility to be thought, but not to be known or held to exist as an object of philosophical knowledge, lies beyond the horizon of the immanent and in the realm of the transcendent, but still does essential service.

The epistemic engagement of God as a regulative idea, as an element of theoretical knowledge, but not as an object of theoretical knowledge, is developed in the appendix to the transcendental dialectic of the First Critique, where the idea of God functions to direct empirical investigation to its greatest unity and scope.
 Finally ... (as concerns theology), we must regard whatever may
 belong in the context of possible experience as if this experience
 amounted to an absolute unity that were nonetheless dependent
 throughout and were always still conditioned within the world of
 sense. Yet whatever belongs in that context must be regarded by us
 at the same time as if the sum of all appearances (the sensible
 world itself) had outside its own range a single highest and
 all-sufficient basis, viz.--as it were--an independent, original,
 and creative reason. I mean a reason by reference to which we
 direct all our reason's empirical use, in its greatest expansion,
 as if the objects themselves had arisen from that archetype of all
 reason. (23)

In the background is Kant's recognition that, absent God, the coherence of reality is at least in part is brought into question. That is, if one acted as if the universe came from nowhere, went to nowhere, and without a sufficient ground for its coherence, one would at the very least have a diminished warrant for proceeding as if there will be a rich coherence of the diversity of possible empirical findings, beyond the minimal coherence necessary for the constitution of phenomenal reality. This regulative assumption of coherence Kant takes as necessary in order properly to direct the acquisition of empirical knowledge.
 For the greatest systematic and purposive unity, which your reason
 required you to lay at the basis of all natural investigation as a
 regulative principle, was precisely what entitled you to lay at the
 basis the idea of a supreme intelligence as a schema of the
 regulative principle. (24)

From such considerations, Kant grounds the regulative use of the idea of--but not the actual existence of--his deistic God, (25) which is regarded as if He could be considered the Creator. The character of the practice of empirical knowledge legitimates the idea of God.

Not as a claim about theoretical knowledge, but because of the moral faith he is required to embrace, Kant affirms the existence of a more theistic God as a postulate of pure practical reason so as to maintain the coherence of the moral life. In developing his account of what one can know is required for the integrity of morality, Kant does not speak merely of an as-if God as he does in the appendix to the transcendental dialectic of the First Critique, but instead affirms God's existence as a necessary postulate for the practice of morality, all without claiming God's actual existence. God's existence is affirmed for the purposes of morality, but not as an object of knowledge or theoretical Wissen. God exists as a matter integral to the rational faith required for a moral life. Kant recognizes that the morality he wishes to reconstruct, albeit recast in its foundations, understood as a fact of reason, will be undercut without a point of ultimate rational coherence. The Western Christian morality Kant inherited had been grounded in knowledge of God, Who in His rationality and justice coordinates desert with worthiness, happiness with the worthiness to be happy, so that through His enforcement of morality God guarantees that the claims of rational morality will always trump those of prudential morality. Somewhat like Anscombe not quite 200 years later, Kant appreciates that without a God Who reliably assures appropriate rewards and punishments, the very notion of morality is radically transformed. As Anscombe puts the matter with regard to a morality without a God to enforce it, "It is as if the notion 'criminal' were to remain when criminal law and criminal courts had been abolished and forgotten." (26)

In developing his account of what one can know through and about morality, Kant does not hold that one should be moral in order to avoid divine punishment. Such a view would be incompatible with Kant's account of morality, for it would ground morality in nonmoral considerations rather than in respect for the moral law. (27) Instead, Kant's account of what one can know about morality reflects a recognition that he articulates in the "Canon of Pure Reason" at the end of Critique of Pure Reason. There would be a deep irrationality in necessarily and always giving precedence to moral rationality over prudential rationality, unless one acts in a way that affirms that there is a God and immortality so that happiness can be coincident with worthiness to be happy, which coincidence is for Kant the highest good. Here he argues for the moral necessity of affirming the existence of God in order to maintain the rational integrity of always acting morally.
 The idea of such an intelligence [God] wherein the morally most
 perfect will, combined with the highest bliss, is the cause of all
 happiness in the world, insofar as this happiness is exactly
 proportionate to one's morality (as the worthiness to be happy), I
 call the ideal of the highest good. Hence only in the ideal of the
 highest original good can pure reason find the basis of the
 practically necessary connection between the two elements ....
 Now, we must through reason necessarily conceive ourselves as
 belonging to such a world [a moral world], although the senses
 exhibit to us nothing but a world of appearances. Hence we shall
 have to assume the moral world as being a consequence of our
 conduct in the world of sense, and--since the world of sense does
 not now offer us such a connection between happiness and
 morality--as being for us a future world. Hence God and a future
 life are two presuppositions that, according to principles of pure
 reason, are inseparable from the obligation imposed on us by that
 same reason. (28)

Since, as Kant holds, one cannot avoid thinking of oneself as a moral agent, one cannot rationally acknowledge morality's absolute demands on us, absent acting on the assumption of God's existence. The postulates of pure practical reason regarding God's existence and immortality are necessary to remove a cardinal tension between the right and the good, between morality and prudence, at the core of Kant's deontology.

In the process, Kant has implicitly recast the relationship between faith and reason. In a foundationally meaningless universe without knowledge of any necessary connection between worthiness of happiness and actual happiness, indeed without knowledge of any enduring significance to one's moral action (for example, a universe in which in the end all virtuous acts are forgotten), there is a strong sense in which always acting in accord with moral rationality would be irrational, especially when the costs to oneself, one's family, and/or close associates would be very high and the rewards of immoral action to oneself, one's family, and/or close associates very considerable. In such circumstances, one would have very good prudential reasons not to act morally. Absent the postulates of pure practical reason of God and immortality, one could not unconditionally affirm always living morally. However, given the postulates of God and immortality that morality requires Kant to affirm, he can reconstruct the morality he found prior to his Copernican revolution. Without claiming theoretical knowledge about God and immortality, as had been the case in traditionally natural theologies, Kant established a moral belief that warrants a kind of moral knowledge.

Kant's claims with regard to what one can know, if only practically, about God are thus rather robust, despite the absence of any theoretical knowledge of God's existence. This is the case because Kant appears to hold that the absence of an affirmation of God and immortality would constitute a modus tolens against morality. Referring to God at the end of the first Critique, Kant says
 Reason finds itself compelled either to assume such a being, along
 with life in such a world, which we must regard as a future world;
 or to regard the moral laws as idle chimeras, because without this
 presupposition the necessary result that reason connects with these
 laws would have to vanish. (29)

Shorn of any theoretical knowledge claim regarding God's existence, God and immortality are known to be pure practical postulates that obtain so that one may act while holding that a virtuous life does indeed necessarily produce happiness. (30) In recognition of this relation of the good to the right, Kant therefore claims that it is
 our duty to promote the highest good; and it is not merely our
 privilege but a necessity connected with duty as a requisite to
 presuppose the possibility of this highest good. This
 presupposition is made only under the condition of the existence of
 God, and this condition inseparably connects this supposition with
 duty. Therefore, it is morally necessary to assume the existence of
 God. (31)

Kant's commitment to affirming the existence of God as a matter of moral belief in order to secure the absolute claims of morality is severed from any theoretical knowledge claim regarding God's actual existence.

The idea of God also plays an implicit role in securing the unity of morality against moral pluralism. Kant pursues this through two accounts of God's relationship to morality. The first is advanced in The Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals. Because for Kant God is one, Kant's reference to God's holy will as the focus of the kingdom of ends provides a basis for a single, canonical, moral standpoint. (32) God functions as a unitary perspective within the kingdom of ends, and in this fashion preserves morality against a plurality of moral standpoints. The second account is given in the Opus Postumum, where Kant invokes God as giving the moral law, and therefore as providing a unitary moral law. (33)
 There exists a God, that is, one principle which, as substance, is
 morally law-giving. For morally law-giving reason gives expression
 through the categorical imperative to duties, which, as being at
 the same time substance, are law-giving over nature and
 law-abiding. It is not a substance outside myself, whose existence
 I postulate as a hypothetical being for the explanation of certain
 phenomena in the world; but the concept of duty (of a universal
 practical principle) is contained identically in the concept of a
 divine being as an ideal of human reason for the sake of the
 latter's law-giving [breaks off]. (34)

In both cases, appeals to God implicitly serve to secure the canonical character of the moral content and the unity of morality that Kant takes for granted. In all of this, it is Kant's moral faith that lies at the basis of moral knowledge.

Faith that is trustworthy is for Kant moral faith. As Kant puts the matter in Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone,
 We have good reason to say ... that "the kingdom of God is come
 unto us" once the principle of the gradual transition of
 ecclesiastical faith to the universal religion of reason, and so to
 a (divine) ethical state on earth, has become general and has also
 gained somewhere a public foothold, even though the actual
 establishment of this state is still infinitely removed from us."

By embracing God and immortality in the service of morality, Kant reduces the significance of religion, doctrinal belief, to that of a moral faith. In the process, Kant has substantially recast the relationship of belief and knowledge, where theoretical knowledge has been set within the bounds of possible experience, and practical knowledge has provided the substance of moral belief. The latter invokes God in ways that reach beyond what the regulative use of the idea of God permits.

There are thus good grounds, given these two quite different appeals to God and the justifications that sustain them, for holding that for Kant, God is not one but two. What we can say about God is set within two quite different practices that invoke God without claiming theoretical knowledge of God, with the result that Kant has two notions of God,

grounded in two different cardinal practices, both without metaphysical substance. Hear, oh Kantians, your God is not one. Like Hegel and Habermas after him, Kant sought to have a God who was no longer recognized as transcendently existent or known theoretically but who nevertheless could do duty for philosophy, in this case as an idea and as a practical postulate.

In summary, Kant recasts the meaning of Glauben and Wissen, belief and knowledge, by placing them within the immanence of the practice of empirical knowledge and the practice of moral action. In each case, God is rendered immanent to a practice but is nonetheless thought of as transcendent. Unlike Hegel, who wishes to dismiss the noumenal and the transcendent, Kant draws on a notion of God as transcendent. In the case of empirical knowledge, one is warranted in making only a very limited appeal to a starkly deistic God in order to guide the practice of coherent empirical investigation. The other practice, morality, allows an appeal to a sparsely theistic God with those properties needed to maintain the coherence of the moral life and its rationality in terms of a final coordination of happiness with worthiness of happiness. However sparse these deities, Kant thinks of them precisely as transcendent, as beyond the bounds of possible experience.


After 1795 and his very Kantian das Leben Jesu, Hegel critically distances himself from Kant on many points and moves to develop his own account of the relationship of faith and knowledge. A crucial point of difference over against Kant lies in Hegel's relocation of the transcendent or noumenal within the ambit of categorial thought, Hegel's speculative reason. The point, as Hegel puts it in 1802, is that "being and thought are one" (36) so that the possible transcendent space to which Kant gestured in referring to God and the thing-in-itself is rendered immanent to thought. For Hegel already in 1802, there is no longer a "beyond," beyond what can be compassed in categorial thought, beyond what we can know, beyond Wissen.

In his criticism of Kant in "Glauben und Wissen," Hegel already rejects Kant's position concerning the transcendent or noumenal (37) because Hegel is prepared to render religious reality, especially God, into a mode in which being is for thought and therefore for knowledge. Hegel's foundational critique is directed against Kant's view that construes the thing-in-itself and God as still possible existents to be thought as being beyond knowledge. In Hegel's account, both God and the thing-in-itself are immanentized and brought within the sphere of knowledge. Because for Hegel there is no further perspective, no noumenal or transcendent vantage point, as in Kant, to which one can appeal, even if only in thought and moral belief, beyond the realm of spatiotemporal sensible finite discursive experience, so as to relativize philosophy, the rational perspective of philosophy becomes the absolute perspective, the perspective of Absolute Spirit. Philosophy as thought thinking about itself thinking about being becomes the final rational standpoint from which all rational questions about thought and being can be asked and answered. Philosophy is rendered absolute, in that it is the standpoint that judges all other standpoints. The absolute perspective has been claimed by philosophy, and in the process religion has been fully immanentized. It is this philosophical Wissen that for Hegel locates and recasts all belief about God.

In "Glauben und Wissen" Hegel takes his first major step in articulating this view, while also delivering broadsides against Kant, Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi (1743-1819), and Johann Gottlieb Fichte (1762-1814). In so doing, Hegel advances what will be a typically Hegelian claim, namely, that the history of thought leads up to Hegel's viewpoint, in particular, to his recognition of the coincidence of thought and being. As Hegel puts it,
 Civilization has raised this latest era so far above the ancient
 antithesis of Reason and faith, of philosophy and positive religion
 that this opposition of faith and knowledge has acquired quite a
 different sense and has now been transferred into the field of
 philosophy itself. (38)

The force of this contention is that neither God nor religion lies beyond the ambit of philosophical thought. It is for this reason that Hegel in "Glauben und Wissen" critically remarks that "Kant tried to put new life into the positive form of religion with a meaning derived from his philosophy, but his attempt was received poorly." (39) In this regard, Hegel speaks of "the corpse of reason and faith," (40) not because he holds that reason and faith have themselves passed away, but because his view is that faith and reason have died to their old meanings and have been resurrected within Hegel's account of philosophy.

The relation of faith and knowledge has been recast by philosophical knowledge, which now locates and transforms faith in God. Specifically, God is now located, in the sense of appropriately and finally appreciated, within philosophy as Absolute Spirit, a moment of Geist, a moment of culture philosophically conscious of itself. As a consequence, God as a transcendent noumenal entity is for Hegel dead. In claiming that the vanguard of the religion of his time had come to be marked by "the feeling that 'God Himself is dead,'" (41) Hegel is recognizing how in some of the religious, primarily Protestant, reflections of the time there is already a loss of an acknowledgement of God's transcendent reality. (42) This transformation was both a consequence of, and a step beyond, the reflections of Immanuel Kant, who helped effect the Third Protestant Reformation (that is, after that of the Reformers of the 16th century and after that of the Pietists following the Thirty Years' War), which reduced much of mainline central-European Protestantism to its moral, social, and cultural significance, and effected its conformity with the requirements of modernity. (43) To this Reformation, which is closely related to the emergence of a post-Christian and post-traditional Europe, Hegel crucially contributed.

The most consistent reading of Hegel's claims in "Glauben und Wissen" in light of the Logic and the Encyclopaedia is that God as a transcendent or noumenal being does not exist, or at least does not exist transcendentally or noumenally. After noting the feeling that God is dead, Hegel resurrects God as a cardinal philosophical category in the image and likeness of his philosophy's requirements. The result is that, as Habermas appreciates, "With Hegel, delimiting reason is replaced by a reason which embraces. Hegel makes death by crucifixion as suffered by the Son of God the center of a way of thinking that seeks to incorporate the positive form of Christianity." (44) For Hegel, Christianity as a corpus of transcendent understandings is recast in immanent terms under the sovereignty of philosophical knowledge. The traditional transcendent God of Western European thought, who had been made an object of philosophical reflection since at least the beginning of the second millennium, and who was then Finally recast into Kant's as-if or practically postulated God, so as to become a noumenal possibility to be thought and for the practice of morality affirmed but not averred as actually existing, has for Hegel been fully severed from transcendence (thus dying). Hegel's position is in part captured by Habermas's remark concerning "the methodical atheism of Hegelian philosophy and of all philosophical appropriation of essentially religious contents." (45)

In his thoroughgoing recasting of Glauben and Wissen, belief and knowledge, Hegel's mature project aims to set aside the precritical metaphysical notion of God as a transcendent but still philosophically knowable, infinite, personal being. God is dead for Hegel in the sense that for Hegel the transcendental God has been laid to rest within the ambit of an immanent account of being and thought. Nevertheless, Hegel is no laicist. He does not presume that the public forum should be rendered thoroughly secular. Religion as the absolute presented in mental pictures, in Vorstellungen, remains as "the mode, the type of consciousness, in which the truth is present for all men, or for all levels of education; but scientific cognition [that is to say, philosophy] is a particular type of the consciousness of truth." (46) Religion, the realm of faith, is rendered conceptually accessible within the critical reflections of philosophy. In Hegel's Encyclopaedia, religion as the penultimate category is aufgehoben, that is, speculatively relocated and more fully appreciated as a moment of philosophy's reflections: the position of Absolute Spirit. As Hegel puts it at the conclusion of his Encyclopaedia, "God is God only so far as he knows himself: his self-knowledge is, further, a self-consciousness in man and man's knowledge of God, which proceeds to man's self-knowledge in God." (47) The death and resurrection of God for Hegel thus involves the transcendence by philosophy of God's transcendent or noumenal character and the appropriation of the standpoint of God by the standpoint of philosophical reflection. Philosophy's self-knowledge is divine consciousness.

It is not just that Hegel, to use Charles Taylor's phrase, produces a "'de-theologized' Christianity." (48) More significantly, the very notion of God, even as God still existed for Kant, is radically transformed, deflated, and placed within the demands of Hegel's categorial philosophy. One in this way can understand the force of Hegel's project to "re-establish for philosophy.., the absolute Passion, the speculative Good Friday in place of the historic Good Friday. Good Friday must be speculatively reestablished in the whole truth and harshness of its God-forsakenness." (49) This "God-forsakenness" is the absence of God not only as transcendently existing, but even as Kant's as-if God or his God of the postulates of pure practical reason. For Hegel, God has been rendered integral to cultural understandings whose objects are fully immanent. God is relocated within Geist, within culture as philosophically serf-aware, so that set within Geist so appreciated, the content of religion becomes integral to Absolute Spirit, the final, reflective standpoint. Hegel emphasizes this transformation in the last paragraph of The Phenomenology when he characterizes his systematic, philosophical science, his absolute knowledge, as the Golgotha (that is, the Schadelstatte, or Place of the Skull) of Absolute Spirit. God as traditionally understood and apprehended in faith dies to be resurrected as Hegel's categorically domesticated God, Who is compassed by philosophical knowledge.

Because of these positions taken by Hegel, Frederick Beiser's attempt slightly to tame Hegel's remark regarding the death of God is inadequate. By making reference to "Johann Rist's hymn 'O grosse Not! Gott selbst ist tod. Am Kreuz ist er gestorben' (Oh, great need! God himself is dead. He has died on the cross)," (50) Beiser seeks to discount the radical character of Hegel's theological position, although Beiser surely recognizes the early Hegel's criticisms of Christianity. Beiser wants to impute to Hegel's mature position an attempt philosophically to come to terms with Christianity by drawing on and recasting insights from Luther. (51) Beiser is correct. However, Hegel thoroughly recasts faith in terms of the demands of Hegel's account of philosophical knowledge. Hegel sees his position as the philosophical higher truth of Protestantism. As Walter Kaufmann and Horst Althaus show, (52) there are good grounds for concluding that Hegel remained far from a traditional believer and had self-consciously given a foundationally new meaning to Rist's reference to the death of God. Kaufmann, for example, quotes Heinrich Heine's (1797-1856) account of an evening with Hegel. The interchange offers a portrait of Hegel as posttraditional in his Christian commitments. (53)
 I, a young man of twenty-two who had just eaten well and had good
 coffee, enthused about the stars and called them the abode of the
 blessed. But the master grumbled to himself: "The stars, hum!
 Hum! The stars are only a gleaming leprosy in the sky! For God's
 sake, I shouted, then there is no happy locality up there to reward
 virtue after death? But he, staring at me with his pale eyes, said
 cuttingly: "So you want to get a tip for having nursed your sick
 mother and for not having poisoned your dear brother?"--Saying
 that, he looked around anxiously, but he immediately seemed
 reassured when he saw that it was only Heinrich Beer, who had
 approached to invite him to play whist....

 I was young and proud, and it pleased my vanity when I learned
 from Hegel that it was not the dear God who lived in heaven that
 was God, as my grandmother supposed, but I myself here on earth.

Heinrich Heine's report accords with Hegel's having rejected even Kant's account of moral belief.

Hegel did not consider himself to be under an obligation to provoke others with a candid disclosure of the posttraditional significance of his religious commitments. One might think of the character of his ambiguous response to his wife's question regarding his views about an afterlife: "when she asked him what he thought of [personal immortality], he simply without speaking pointed to the Bible, which she of course interpreted in her own way." (55) Moreover, Hegel likely saw himself as truly religious, as giving an honest voice to the higher truth of what he considered Christianity, especially Protestant Christianity, to be. In this context, his continued use of thickly theological language or his presentation of himself as a Lutheran is not at all disingenuous. All of this was in the service of his project of disclosing and capturing philosophically a foundational shift in central-European mainline Protestant theological understandings that involved a reconciliation of Greek and Christian insights, a reconciliation of faith and philosophical knowledge, of Glauben und Wissen.

Just as Thomas Aquinas had participated in the radical recasting of the Christianity of the first millennium by drawing Aristotelian thought into the vanguard philosophy of the early second millennium in the West, so too Hegel participated in transforming much of German Protestantism in the beginning of the 19th century. (56) Hegel effected a substantive recasting of belief and knowledge. The point is that, while Kant seeks to moralize religion but nevertheless retain the idea of God so as to secure the priority of morality over prudence, Hegel seeks to retain religion as an element of Geist, broadly understood, so that religion can be regarded as integral to culture become philosophically aware, so as to recruit, place, and maintain the force of religious images within the ambit of philosophy, which becomes the custodian of the civil religion. The domain of faith becomes philosophically understood within the final perspective of reflective knowledge: Absolute Spirit. Unlike Kant, Hegel endeavors to engage God for moral and/or cultural purposes, while discounting God's transcendent existence. Going beyond Kant, the role of God for Hegel is further diminished in no longer being regulatively necessary for epistemology or crucially necessary for the coherence of morality. Nevertheless, religious images still remain salient.

Through his reflections on the relationship between belief and philosophical knowledge, between Glauben and Wissen, Habermas further deflates the place of God. For Habermas, God does not function as a regulative idea or postulate of pure practice reason as with Kant. Unlike with Hegel, religion is not an essential (albeit pictorial) element of a self-reflective culture's apprehension of truth. Habermas instead wants to translate the claims of religion within the constraints of secular morality, while nevertheless drawing on theological ideas, that he holds can remain as a cultural resource to guide moral reflection. For Habermas, God can still do service for morality, while no longer even being regulatively necessary, practically existent, or a presentation in pictorial thought of the truth of philosophy. Habermas wants religion to enrich philosophy cognitively (57) by providing moral intuitions, all without dogmatism (58) and without commitments to any theological claims as having truth-value and without the rich Hegelian appropriation of religious images. The question is whether such a quasi-theological proposal after Kant and Hegel is plausible. The answer to this question has implications for all endeavors to engage the idea of God shorn of metaphysical roots, including that of Habermas.


In the October that followed the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington, D.C., 199 years after Hegel's publication, Habermas gave a lecture with the title "Glauben und Wissen." (59) I proceed with the assumption that he did so both in order to articulate his view of the proper place of appeals to God and religion, as well as to connect and critically contrast his arguments with those of Hegel's "Glauben und Wissen." Hegel's text had previously been a focus of Habermas's reflections. (60) Like Hegel, Habermas requires the cultural reduction of religion, although Habermas goes beyond Hegel in holding that God and religious considerations must be placed within a conceptual space defined by a secular culture. Belief, Glauben, can supply guiding images to Wissen, philosophical knowledge. However, philosophical knowledge must always transform faith through a secular translation of faith that locates faith within secular constraints. For Hegel, in contrast to Habermas, culture remains necessarily structured by religious idiom and images, however much transformed. Habermas's project of translating religious within, and reinterpreting it in terms of, a framing, nontheistic moral vision, does have roots in Hegel's account of God, articulated after the French Revolution and Napoleon's secularization of Europe. (61) In the case of Habermas, the moderate secularism of the early 19th century has been followed by the laicism of the later 19th century. Habermas, unlike Hegel, finds himself in a Europe marked by a normatively secular, post-Christian public sphere that now dominates globally. Christianity was for Hegel still a robust and essential Kulturgut to be drawn upon for powerful images. Such is no longer the case for Habermas.

Habermas makes reference in the opening paragraphs of his lecture to "the tension between secular society and religion" (62) and to how this tension "exploded" in the events of September 11, 2001. Habermas regards the destruction of the Manhattan twin towers as the result of a religious fundamentalism, which Habermas takes to be an exclusive feature of modern Western culture and a specific reaction against modernity. (63) Habermas rejects Hegel's attempt to understand modernity's standpoint from the perspective of a sovereign categorial rationality, which seeks to absorb religious idiom and placed it fully within the ambit of philosophy: Absolute Spirit. Instead, and towards the goal of avoiding a clash of civilizations, Habermas wishes to recognize as well as to constrain God and religion within the requirements of secular thought. Yet, religion does not possess the penultimate categorial status it had for Hegel. In an interchange with Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, later to become Pope Benedict XVI, Habermas gives at best a backhanded approval of religion in asserting that "religious convictions have an epistemological status that is not purely and simply irrational," (64) while nevertheless appealing to religion to provide moral insight, direction, and motivation. (65) Habermas wants to domesticate religion within the constraints of secular thought, while nevertheless appropriating resources from religion unavailable to philosophy, as he understands philosophy, so as to secure conclusions Habermas hopes his bioethics can support. In particular, he wishes to avoid an affirmation of human genetic engineering. In the process, he develops further the project of a postmetaphysical construal of God launched by Kant and Hegel, but which now finds itself in a much more robustly secular context. Also, because Habermas's Diskursethik does not seek to provide an absolute philosophical perspective that can embrace and absorb religion, religion remains a force outside of philosophy such that secular thought must recognize and address it.

All of this leads to a challenge for Habermas. Against the background of his attempt to steer a course between what he terms pure transcendentalism and pure historicism, Habermas acknowledges that the resources available at the core of his Diskursethik are not sufficient to erect the prohibition he wants to establish against the genetic engineering of humans. One might recall Habermas's account of his Diskursethik, which through an appeal to an ideal speech situation seeks to reflect the character of communication (that one aims at being understood). Habermas wants to nest moral arguments in a practice of rational discourse that
 conceptually forces participants to suppose that a rationally
 motivated agreement could in principle be achieved, whereby the
 phrase "in principle" expresses the idealizing proviso: if only the
 argumentation could be conducted openly enough and continued
 long enough. (66)

Habermas holds that the failure to embrace this Diskursethik leads to the performative contradiction of not truly trying to communicate. The early Habermas, as well as the later Habermas, who adopted a more empirical and fallibilist position, presumes that this practice will in principle support the affirmation of the set of social-democratic concerns, which Habermas endorses. However, by invoking God in his "Glauben und Wissen" lecture, Habermas implicitly concedes that, if one approaches the issue of the propriety of genetically engineering human nature--while acting as if the universe came from nowhere, went to nowhere, and for no ultimate purpose--there will be insufficient basis for a rationally grounded sound argument to prohibit humans from remaking human biological nature and directing human evolution.

The difficulty is that within the horizon of the finite and the immanent it is impossible by sound rational argument to establish a single, canonical normative direction for evolution. If reality is approached as if it were without ultimate purpose, there would be no specific, normative directions for evolution. Granted general moral constraints such as the acquisition of the consent of those who participate, (67) prudent care not to cause more harm than benefit, and even conceding Habermas's various justice-directed concerns, there will not be, as Habermas realizes, a sufficient basis to secure conclusive secular moral arguments to prohibit one in principle from pursuing a wide diverse range of genetic engineering projects. (68) There will remain plausible alternative ways to augment the capacities of human biological nature, none of which will have a conclusive claim on our allegiance. For example, one might plausibly revise human biological nature by providing humans with the capacity not just to perceive ultraviolet light, to live for hundreds of years, and so on, but to live in the water with gills. Over the very long run, different human futures are likely achievable through various projects for human genetic engineering, and his Diskursethik cannot provide a categorial prohibition.

Nevertheless, in order to make it plausible that one should prohibit the engineering of human biological nature, Habermas makes reference to what he terms "those moral feelings which only religious language has as yet been able to give a sufficiently differentiated expression." (69) In developing his position, Habermas states:
 God may "determine" man in the sense of enabling and, at the same
 time, obliging him to be free. Now, one need not believe in
 theological premises in order to understand what follows from this,
 namely, that an entirely different kind of dependence, perceived as
 a causal one, becomes involved if the difference assumed as
 inherent in the concept of creation were to disappear, and the
 place of God be taken by a peer. (70)

Habermas engages the image of God's relationship to humans so as to advance the claim that, if humans were genetically to design their human nature, the moral status of humans will be placed at jeopardy because humans as creatures would be transformed into their own creators. As Habermas puts it, "God remains a 'God of free men' only as long as we do not level out the absolute difference that exists between the creator and the creature." (71) Habermas invokes God so as to affirm the gulf between Creator and creature in order to indicate what he considers to be a threatening and harmful change posed by the possibility of human genetic engineering, which change offers the possibility of rendering humans into the creators of their own human biological nature. In his argument there is no gesture to any sense of the transcendent, or even to the as-if transcendence of Kant's God. (72) The God that Habermas invokes is fully immanent. Nor is there Hegel's appreciation of the necessity of religious images. The invocation of this theological image, and the warranting of the "moral feelings" it is to support, which is held not even to be anchored in a practical postulate of God's existence, is not justified as the conclusion of a sound rational argument, or supported by religious images centrally placed (aufgehoben) within philosophy. All of this Habermas acknowledges.

Habermas's recent invocation of God for bioethical purposes comes after his decade-long increased engagement in concerns bearing on religion. Initially, these reflections were set against the background of his methodological atheism, which was designed to avoid "the Scylla of a leveling, transcendence-less empiricism and the Charybdis of a high-flying idealism that glorifies transcendence." (73) It is in this manner, for example, that Habermas provided a response to Max Horkheimer's (1895-1973) claim, that "To seek to salvage an unconditional meaning without God is a futile undertaking." (74) Habermas's counter-claim is that "postmetaphysical thought differs from religion in that it recovers the meaning of the unconditional without recourse to God or an Absolute." (75) The plausibility for Habermas of now invoking God is a function of his later, amplified, but quite domesticated view of the proper role of religion in the public square. In his "Glauben und Wissen" lecture, Habermas is willing to admit religious viewpoints into the public square, and to allow adherents of religion to advance their reasons for and against particular policies, as long as the religious reasons for endorsing particular policies are "not just [reasons] for the members of [only] one religious community." (76) Theological grounds appreciated by just one religion are to be excluded. In addition, and more significantly, in his "Glauben und Wissen," Habermas allows religion to serve as an important source of moral direction, but only as long as, as he states in this 2001 lecture, there has been an appropriate "nondestructive secularization" or "translation" of religious claims into secular discourse. Within these constraints, so Habermas contends, one should not "sever secular society from important [religious] resources of meaning." (77) Faith is to play a role for philosophy.

In his "Glauben und Wissen," Habermas, like Kant and Hegel, attempts not just to constrain religion within the bounds of philosophical rationality, but at the same time to draw on its resources. With similarities to Kant and Hegel, Habermas wants to have it both ways. On the one hand, Habermas wishes to translate into his terms the claims of religion so that they can fit within the ambit of general secular philosophical reflection. He wishes religion to be constrained within the demands of his secularity and set within a public discourse become more secular than Kant's and Hegel's. On the other hand, he wishes nevertheless to invoke the idea of God for moral cultural purposes, in this case in order to make plausible a moral barrier against human genetic engineering. Habermas does not wish to acknowledge religion as having a transcendent grounding, although Habermas like Kant and Hegel still wishes to have theological concepts retain sufficient power to do moral and/or cultural service, in this instance by guiding secular moral reflection (albeit without an adequate account of why theological concepts should or can still have such moral or cultural force). Habermas hopes to tame religion but not to render it too impotent.

These later views of Habermas are closer to Hegel in regarding religion as a cultural resource, as a source of moral motivation (78) and, more importantly, as a source of moral insights, than they are to Kant, who still explicitly treats God as a philosophically crucial idea Whose existence is a necessary postulate for the moral life. (79) However, unlike Hegel, who regards religion as an essential, prephilosophical presentation of the truth that becomes the content of philosophy, albeit recast as a moment of philosophical reflection, Habermas is more guarded, indeed much more secular. Still, like Hegel, Habermas approaches religion as a Kulturgut, a cultural treasure that he wishes to use. Habermas wants to be sure that this cultural treasure taken from the past does not challenge the project of modernity (one of the reasons for Habermas to recast religion by translating it into a postmetaphysical framework through a "nondestructive secularization"). (80) However, Habermas also wishes to engage the resources of religion to stem what he takes to be a particular threat from modernity: the genetic remaking of human biological nature.

Habermas's attenuated God does not appear up to the task he has in mind. His God lacks both conceptual necessity and plausible causal force. Unlike Kant, who regards the idea of God as crucial to both his theoretical and moral projects, Habermas does not venture to acknowledge such a centrality for the concept of God. It is not clear why a notion of God set within the constraints of secular culture should carry the weight that Habermas expects. His theological invocation is not a reflection of his procedural or discursive norms. Instead, Habermas's engagement of God is advanced as a cultural force to be drawn on so as to protect mutual recognition and reciprocity. The difficulty is that a God devoid of transcendent significance, or at least a role necessary for the coherence of unavoidable human practices (for example, as with Kant), cannot provide the bioethical guidance Habermas seeks. After Kant's reduction of God to an idea as well as a postulate of pure practical reason, and after Hegel's reduction of God to an element of culture that only philosophy can bring to its full truth and consciousness, Habermas reduces God to a heuristic image. There is an insufficient account given as to why this invocation of God should in fact be morally heuristic, much less compelling.

There is little hope that Habermas's strategy will succeed in constraining the use of human genetic engineering. Habermas's attempt at cultural intervention so as to recast the moral expectations of the contemporary lifeworld by an invocation of a theological image, all towards the goal of supporting a moral position disallowing human genetic engineering, is unpromising. Among many things, genetic technologies are dispersed in cultures little influenced by the theological images still preserved in Western Christianity. Habermas's engagement of God towards the goal of amplifying the moral imagination so as to appreciate a difference between the Creator and the created, which if transgressed would putatively set at jeopardy the freedom and equality of humans, requires a very specific set of cultural commitments. Such commitments are not present in many local cultures or in the dominant secular global culture that is emerging. As Fukuyama notes, there are significant areas of the world where the Kulturgut upon which Habermas hopes to draw is not salient or is in great measure absent. (81)

Habermas hungers after a moral resource, the roots of which he wishes to extirpate. Habermas is at home with the cardinal cultural consequences of the death of God, which Hegel appreciates as marking a central characteristic of post-Enlightenment culture. There has been a foundational severance from transcendence, the full implications of which were not yet salient during Hegel's lifetime. Habermas does recognize that, absent an appreciation of a point of ultimate orientation, which he and the contemporary secular culture wish to eschew, there can be no necessary or definitive guidance among many of the choices that humans confront through human genetic engineering as they stand before a possible posthuman future. Humans are by default left as the measure of all things, including how to design their genetic future, and in the face of de facto moral pluralism they do not possess one standard of measurement. Habermas's response is to draw on theologically-rooted, moral insights from those dimensions of a culture that have not yet been fully secularized, while yet insisting that these dimensions be located fully within the constraints of secularity. Habermas acknowledges "the fact that religious communities continue to exist in a context of ongoing secularization," (82) yet he requires inter alia that religions "agree to the premises of a constitutional state grounded in a profane morality." (83)

The question is then how far religion can accommodate to profane morality without losing the heuristic force that Habermas wants to engage, as when he appeals to the vigor of "common sense" when seeking a force to set over against reductive scientific claims regarding the significance of morality. (84) Can a secularized theological perspective have the strength that Habermas holds a commonsense view to possess? It is unlikely that the flowers of theological insight can long survive after being cut off from their transcendent roots. Habermas already recognizes the problem when he asks whether one can keep "one's distance from religion without closing one's mind to the perspective it offers." (85) Can one in such circumstances find in religion anything other than contingent, regionally located, heuristic insights, lacking general normative force? In the dialectic of faith and knowledge, faith has been extensively deflated by knowledge. Habermas's proposal in his "Glauben und Wissen" is not convincing.


Habermas's account of a nonexistent God Whose significance has been set fully within the constraints of a secularized culture raises wider questions about the recasting of the idea of God from Kant through Hegel to Habermas. As Habermas acknowledges, Hegel marks a watershed in the history of the relationship of faith and knowledge, or at least in one lineage of reflections in the contemporary history of philosophy's regard of God. (86) Yet, in order to understand the full significance of Habermas's "Glauben und Wissen," as well as the contemporary implications of Hegel's essay, it may be necessary to place Western European reflections concerning God, the Western dialectic of Glauben und Wissen, in a more critical light. There are grounds for holding that the synthesis of faith and reason born of the High Middle Ages, what Habermas characterizes as "the Hellenization of Christianity" and the "symbiosis of religion and metaphysics," (87) may well have led down a blind alley, as the attempts by Kant, Hegel, and Habermas to come to terms with God suggest. These are not new concerns. Questions have long been raised about the tie between the emergence of religious disbelief on the one hand, and Western philosophical reflections on the nature of God and theology on the other. (88) Attempts to provide an adequate account of this intellectual history and of the philosophical attempt to deflate the claims of a radically transcendent God face the larger challenge of adequately assessing a major shift in Western intellectual history of which Kant, Hegel, and Habermas are the heirs, a shift that began almost a millennium ago, through which the transcendent God was interpreted as open to assessment in terms of the demands of philosophy.

How theology acquired philosophy as a handmaid and then how the handmaid ceased to be a servant and became the master of theology, and, then, proceeded to domesticate theology and even God, is part of a long and complex history that engendered a multifaceted recasting of the meaning of faith and knowledge, theology and philosophy. (89) It is worth noting that David Bradshaw in his study of a dimension of this history has shown how differently God was appreciated in the circum-Mediterranean Christian culture before the decisive turn through which Western Christianity, especially in the High Middle Ages, placed God and religion within the compass and authority of philosophical reason. As Bradshaw indicates, the West's view of God developed as a departure from a Christianity that had "no concept of God [that is, the Christianity of the first millennium] view[ed] God not as an essence to be grasped intellectually, but as a personal reality known through His acts, and above all by oneself sharing in those acts." (90) Kant, Hegel, and Habermas may in the end have shown, as Bradshaw puts it, that "the God who has been the subject of so much strife and contention throughout western history was In]ever anything more than an idol."'

Rice University

Correspondence to: H. Tristram Engelhardt, Jr., Department of Philosophy, MS-14, Rice University, P.O. Box 1892, Houston, TX 77251.

(1) In this article, the terms faith and belief are used interchangeably, and in each case it identifies faith or belief in the existence of God.

(2) Jurgen Habermas. "Glauben und Wissen," Frankfurter allgemeine Zeitung 239 (October 15, 2001): 9.

(3) G. W. F. Hegel, "Glauben und Wissen oder Reflexionsphilosophie der Subjektivitat in der Vollstandigkeit ihrer Former als Kantische, Jacobische und Fichtesche Philosophie," Kritisches Journal der Philosophie 2, no. 1 (Tubingen: Cotta, 1802).

(4) The Hegel-Jahrbuch in 2003 devoted considerable space to "Glauben und Wissen," although few of the articles bear directly upon this essay's focus. An interesting exception is Gabriel Amengual, "Nihilismus und Gottesbegriff," in Hegel-Jahrbuch (Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 2003), 38-44. Since Hegel's announcement of the death of God and the account of God's death in Friedrich Nietzsche's (1844-1900) Gay Science (1882), there has developed a recent, complex, and heterogeneous literature on the subject. For a small sample, see Thomas Altizer, Living the Death of God: A Theological Memoir (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2006); Thomas Altizer and William Hamilton, Radical Theology and the Death of God (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1966); John Caputo and Gianni Vattimo, After the Death of God (New York: Columbia University Press, 2007); Daniel J. Peterson, "Speaking of God after the Death of God," Dialog: A Journal of Theology 44, no. 3 (2005): 207-26; John A. T. Robinson, Honest to God (Philadelphia: SCM Press, 1963).

(5) Jurgen Habermas and Joseph Ratzinger, The Dialectics of Secularization (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2006), 41.

(6) To disclose a relevant subtext for the author's viewpoints regarding theological epistemology, see chapter 4 of H. Tristram Engelhardt, Jr., The Foundations of Christian Bioethics (Salem, MA: M&M Scrivener, 2000).

(7) Ironically, the characterization of philosophy as the handmaid of theology (ancilla dominae) was introduced by Peter Damian (1007-1072) and Gerard of Czanad (d. 1046) in order to limit, not expand, the authority of philosophy over theology. See, for example, Frederick Copleston, A History of Philosophy (Garden City, NY: Image, 1962), volume 2, section 1, 167. The image of philosophy as the handmaid of theology has antique roots in Christian reflections. It reaches back at least to book 1, chapter 5, of Clement of Alexandria's (A.D.c. 150-215) Stromata. Clement has quite a different understanding of philosophy, one he takes and recasts from Philo Judaeus (20 B.C.-A.D. 50), who in On Seeking Instruction regards philosophy as a handmaiden of theology, but in the sense of the love of the wisdom of God.

(8) For an account of the relationship in Hegel between the categories of religion and philosophy, see Reinhold Aschenberg's cogent demonstration that Hegel categorially connects his philosophy of absolute spirit to that of subjective spirit, finite human subjectivity. "On the Theoretical Form of Hegel's Aesthetic," in Hegel Reconsidered, ed. H. Tristram Engelhardt, Jr. and Terry Pinkard (Dordrecht: Kluwer, 1994), 79-101, 82-7, 95-9. The three categories of absolute spirit--namely, art, religion, and philosophy--are treated as the different forms of bringing the materially same content to consciousness; see Vorlesungen uber die Aesthetik in G. W. F. Hegel, Werke in zwanzig Banden (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1969), vol. 13, 139; and again as different shapes, Gestalten, of knowing the materially same content in Hegel, Encyclopaedia of the Philosophical Sciences in Outline (1830 ed.), 556, 565, 572. This content is the absolute, "the divine, the deepest interests of man, the most comprehensive truths of the spirit." Aesthetik I, 21. The absolute is first apprehended as art, as knowledge of the absolute in the form of sensible intuition. Then it is apprehended as religion, as knowledge in the form of representation and belief. After that it is apprehended as philosophy, as the same knowledge in the form of categorial thought. Hegel, thereby, categorially connects his notion of absolute spirit to the notion of subjective spirit in two respects: first, because consciousness and knowing, Wissen, are the fundamental themes of the theory of phenomenological consciousness, or "phenomenology," of subjective spirit, and second, because intuition, representation, and thought are the three types of intentionality in Hegel's treatment of the psychology of subjective spirit. In all of this, Hegel's absolute spirit is not a metaphysical absolute, but a conscious content fully accessible in principle to human subjectivity.

(9) James Kreines, "Between the Bounds of Experience and Divine Intuition: Kant's Epistemic Limits and Hegel's Ambitions," Inquiry 50 (2007), 306.

(10) Klaus Hartmann, "Hegel: A Non-Metaphysical View," in Hegel, ed. Alasdair MacIntyre (Garden City, NY: Anchor Books, 1972), 101-24. A presentation of Klaus Hartmann's account of Hegel's project is given in Klaus Hartmann, Hegels Logik, ed. Olaf Muller (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1999); Klaus Hartmann, Studies in Foundational Philosophy (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1988); Klaus Hartmann, Politische Philosophie (Munich: Alber, 1981); Klaus Hartmann, ed. Die ontologische Option. (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1976); Klaus Hartmann, Die Marxsche Theorie. (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1970); Klaus Hartmann, "On Taking the Transcendental Turn," Review of Metaphysics 20, no. 2 (1966): 223-49. An overview of some developments from Hartmann's account of Hegel is presented in H. Tristram Engelhardt, Jr. and Terry Pinkard, eds., Hegel Reconsidered (Dordrecht: Kluwer, 1994).

(11) Kreines, "Between the Bounds of Experience and Divine Intuition," 307. Emphasis is in the original quotation unless otherwise noted.

(12) Thomas J. Bole, III, "Contradiction in Hegel's Science of Logic." Review of Metaphysics 40, no. 3 (1987): 515-34; Terry Pinkard, "What is the non-Metaphysical Reading of Hegel? A Reply to F. Beiser," Bulletin of the Hegel Society of Great Britain 34, (1996): 13-20.

(13) Even Stace's once very popular commentary on Hegel speaks in metaphysical tones of the "world process" being consummated in philosophy. W. T. Stace, The Philosophy of Hegel (Mineola, NY: Dover, 1955), 518.

(14) A more detailed presentation of my view of Hegel's project is available in H. Tristram Engelhardt, Jr., Mind-Body: A Categorial Relation (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1973), chapter 4, "A Transcendental Ontological Account."

(15) H. T. Engelhardt, Jr., "The Dialectic as a Meta-Ontological Method," in Hegel-Jahrbuch, 1975 (Koln: Pahl-Rugenstein Verlag, 1976), 424-9.

(16) Klaus Hartmann, "Hegel: A Non-Metaphysical View," in Hegel, ed. Alasdair MacIntyre (New York: Doubleday, 1972), 117. "[R]eason is only satisfied ... to make ontology possible." Klaus Hartmann, Studies in Foundational Philosophy (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1988), 280.

(17) G. W. F. Hegel, Hegel's Philosophy of Mind, trans. William Wallace (Clarendon Press, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971), 574.

(18) Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, 16, Bx.

(19) Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, 752, A828/B856.

(20) One might think of the text produced by Baumgarten (1714-1762) and used by Kant when teaching: Alexander Gottlieb Baumgarten, Metaphysik (Norderstedt, Germany: Books on Demand, 2004 [1739]).

(21) Michel Vovelle, The Revolution against the Church (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1991), 119-21.

(22) Manfred Kuehn, Kant: A Biography (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 391-2.

(23) Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, trans. Werner S. Pluhar (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1996), 640-1, A672-3/B700-1.

(24) Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, 659, A699/B727.

(25) Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, A675/B703.

(26) G. E. M. Anscombe, "Modern Moral Philosophy," Philosophy 33, no. 1, (January 1958): 6.

(27) Kant, Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals, AK IV, (Berlin: Koniglich Preussische Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1903-1911), 433. All future references containing AK followed by a Roman Numeral indicate the volume and the page in Kants gesammelte Schriften (Berlin: Koniglich Preussische Akademie der Wissenschaffen, 1903-1911).

(28) Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, 740, A810-11/B838-9.

(29) Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, 740, A811/B839.

(30) Kant, Critique of Practical Reason, AK V, 114.

(31) Kant, Critique of Practical Reason, 126, AK V, 122.

(32) Kant, The Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals, AK IV, 414.

(33) Of course, God (but not for Kant) could give different laws to different persons or groups of persons, as with the 613 laws given to Jews and the seven laws given to the sons of Noah. Nevertheless, the unity of each set of laws is grounded in God.

(34) Immanuel Kant, Opus Postumum, ed. Eckart Forster, trans. Eckart Forster and Michael Rosen (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), 204, AK XXII, 122-3.

(35) Immanuel Kant, Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1960), 113, AK VI 114.

(36) G. W. F. Hegel, Jenaer kritische Schriften, in Gesammelte Werke, volume 4. (Hamburg: Meiner, 1968), 413. Hegel's "Glauben und Wissen" originally appeared in Kritisches Journal der Philosophie, volume 2, number 1 (Tubingen: Cotta, 1802). The version referred to in this paper is the 1977 English translation: G. W. F. Hegel, Faith & Knowledge, trans. Walter Cerf and H. S. Harris (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1977), 109.

(37) Hegel, Jenaer kritische Schriften, 325.

(38) Hegel, Faith & Knowledge, 55; Hegel, Jenaer kritische Schriften, 315.

(39) Hegel, Jenaer kritische Schriften, 315.

(40) Ibid.

(41) Hegel, Faith & Knowledge, 190; Hegel, Jenaer kritische Schriften, 414.

(42) Reflections on Hegel's views regarding God have generated considerable literature. For a small sample of the conflicting views, see Klaus Brinkmann, "Pantheisme, panlogisme et protestantisme dans la philosophie de Hegel," in Les Philosophes et la question de Dieu, ed. Luc Langlois (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 2006), 223-38; William Desmond, "Hegel's God, Transcendence, and the Counterfeit Double: A Figure of Dialectical Equivocity?" Owl of Minerva 36, no. 2 (2005): 91-110; William Desmond, Hegel's God. A Counterfeit Double? (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2003); William Franke, "The Deaths of God in Hegel and Nietzsche and the Crisis of Values in Secular Modernity and Post-secular Postmodernity," Religion and the Arts 11, no. 2 (2007): 214-41; Peter C. Hodgson, "Hegel's God: Counterfeit or Real?" Owl of Minerva 36, no. 2 (2005): 153-63; Stephen Houlgate, "Hegel, Desmond, and the Problem of God's Transcendence," Owl of Minerva 36, no. 2 (2005): 131-52; Quentin Lauer, Hegel's Concept of God (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1982); Craig M. Nichols, "The Eschatological Theogony of the God Who May Be: Exploring the Concept of Divine Presence in Kearney, Hegel, and Heidegger," Metaphilosophy 36, no. 5 (2005): 750-61; Alan M. Olson, Hegel and the Spirit (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992).

(43) The nineteenth-century transformation of much of main-line German Protestantism in the wake of Kant and the events of the French Revolution was itself revolutionary. Many such as Kant sought to achieve a "purified religion" with only a rational substance. In some quarters, the changes were so substantial that some liberal Jews could even contemplate entering congregationally in union with liberal Protestants. See Jonathan M. Hess, Germans, Jews and the Claims of Modernity (New Haven, CN: Yale University Press, 2002), 176-82. There was also the subsequent impact on the mainline Christianity of central Europe from the influence of Hegel and those who followed him. One might consider Eduard von Hartmann's remark: "Liberal Protestantism has necessarily become an irreligious phenomenon of history, because Protestantism has taken the interest of modern culture to be the criterion," in: Eduard von Hartmann, Die Selbstzersetzung des Christenthums (Berlin: Duncker's, 1874), 87. There were surely those who reacted in opposition, such as Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855).

(44) Jurgen Habermas, Religion and Rationality, ed. Eduardo Mendieta (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2002), 112.

(45) Habermas, Religion and Rationality, 68.

(46) Hegel, "Preface to the Second Edition [1827]," in The Encyclopaedia Logic, trans. T.F. Geraets, W.A. Suchting, and H.S. Harris (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1991), 11.

(47) Hegel, Philosophy of Mind, 298, [section] 564.

(48) "Thus while Hegel is not in the main line of descent of liberal Protestantism, he is the point of origin of another important movement towards a de-mythologized, one might say, 'de-theologized' Christianity. Contemporary theologies of 'the death of God' are his spiritual grandchildren. The filiation is either direct, as with Paul Tillich who very much influenced the theologians of this school, or through the young Hegelian Ludwig Feuerbach." Charles Taylor, Hegel (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1975), 495.

(49) Hegel, Faith & Knowledge, 191.

(50) Frederick Beiser, Hegel (New York: Routledge, 2005), 138.

(51) It must be acknowledged that others have imputed to Hegel a more theistic account of God than this paper holds to be justified. Consider, for example, the portrayal of Hegel's position by Quentin Lauer and the consanguinity it shows with Scholastic philosophical understandings of the proper relation between philosophy and theology: "The philosophy of which Hegel speaks has turned out to be startlingly--for some, perhaps, frighteningly--theological, and yet, for all that it is not less but all the more philosophical. If it is possible to identify God with infinite "Reason," absolute 'Spirit,' then it must be said that God, in what he is and what he does, is supremely rational, that he is infinite 'rationality.' To know God, then, is man's rational goal, and to be thoroughly rational is to know God. But this can make sense only if human reason is somehow "divine," continuous with 'infinite' Reason, since "reason" is one, not many." Quentin Lauer, Hegel's Concept of God (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1982), 323-4.

(52) Walter Kaufmann, Hegel: A Reinterpretation (Garden City, NY: Anchor Books, 1966); Horst Althaus, Hegel: An Intellectual Biography (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2000), 254.

(53) A slightly different translation of this passage can be found in Heinrich Heine, Heinrich Heine's Memoirs From His Works, Letters and Conversations, ed. Gustav Karpeles and trans. Gilbert Cannan (London: Heinemann, 1910), 114

(54) Kaufmann, Hegel: A Reinterpretation, 367.

(55) Terry Pinkard, Hegel: A Biography (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 577.

(56) Emil Fackenheim summarizes the influence of Hegel in very positive terms: "We may rely on Karl Barth's apt formulation that Hegel seeks to do for the modern Protestant world what St. Thomas Aquinas has done for the Catholic Middle Ages." The Religious Dimension in Hegel's Thought (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1967), 10. Both figures participated in a radical recasting of Christian discourse and commitments.

(57) Habermas and Ratzinger, The Dialectics of Secularization, 38.

(58) Ibid, 43.

(59) References to the English translation of Jurgen Habermas's "Glauben und Wissen," which lecture originally appeared in the Frankfurter allgemeine Zeitung 239 (October 15, 2001): 9, are to "Faith and Knowledge" in Habermas, The Future of Human Nature (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2003), 101-15.

(60) Habermas, for example, has explored Hegel with an accent on Hegel's "Glauben und Wissen" in Jurgen Habermas, "Hegel's Concept of Modernity," The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity, trans. Frederick Lawrence (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1987), 23-44.

(61) The year in which Hegel's "Glauben und Wissen" was published, 1802, proved to be a significantly tumultuous year for central Europe. After Napoleon had conquered lands west of the Rhine, he entered into agreements that led to properties being taken from the Roman Catholic Church, destroying a wide-ranging fabric of charitable and educational foundations. These events, known as the Secularization, followed the extraordinary assembly of the Reichsdeputation (August 24, 1802), which enacted the Reichsdeputationshauptschluss and in 1803 produced the dissolution of the remaining Roman Catholic episcopal principalities. Many of the social functions of the Roman church were transferred to secular authorities.

(62) Jurgen Habermas, The Future of Human Nature, 101.

(63) Habermas gives the following account of fundamentalists. "We call 'fundamentalist' those religious movements which, given the cognitive limits of modern life, nevertheless persist in practicing or promoting a return to the exclusivity of premodern religious attitudes. Fundamentalism lacks the epistemic innocence of those long-ago realms in which the world religions first flourished and which could somehow still be experienced as limitless. Only contemporary China can provide some small taste of this consciousness of imperial boundlessness, which once grounded the limited 'universalism' of the world religions. But modern conditions are compatible only with a strict, Kantian form of universalism." Habermas, Religion and Rationality, 151.

(64) Habermas and Ratzinger, The Dialectics of Secularization, 51.

(65) Ibid, 29.

(66) Jurgen Habermas, The Theory of Communicative Action, Volume 1, Reason and the Rationalization of Society, trans. Thomas McCarthy (Boston: Beacon Press, 1984), 42. This work originally appeared in the German as Jurgen Habermas, Theorie des kommunikativen Handelns, volume I, Handlungsrationalitat und gesellschaftliche Rationalisierung (Frankfurt/Main: Suhrkamp, 1981).

(67) Children can never consent in advance to being born, much less request or refuse to be enhanced at conception, although in his Rechtslehre, AK VI 281, Kant invokes the nonconsent of children to their existence in order to ground parental duties to their children.

(68) For some reflections on the moral limits to genetic engineering, see Engelhardt, The Foundations of Bioethics, 2nd ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996), 207, 416-8, and The Foundations of Christian Bioethics, 272-3.

(69) Habermas, The Future of Human Nature, 114.

(70) Ibid, 115.

(71) Ibid, 114.

(72) It is worth noting that Habermas denies a need to refer to God as a transcendent point of reference. Habermas and Ratzinger, The Dialectics of Secularization, 37.

(73) Habermas, Religion and Rationality, 91.

(74) Jurgen Habermas, "Zu Max Horkheimers Satz: Einen unbedingten Sinn zu retten ohne Gott ist eitel," in Texte und Kontexte. Suhrkamp, Frankfurt/Main, 110-26. It appears in English translation in Habermas, Religion and Rationality.

(75) Habermas, Religion and Rationality, 108.

(76) Habermas, The Future of Human Nature, 108.

(77) Ibid, 109.

(78) Habermas and Ratzinger, The Dialectics of Secularization, 29.

(79) Ibid, 43, 51.

(80) Habermas, The Future of Human Nature, 114.

(81) Francis Fukuyama notes the regional character of religiously-based hesitations regarding the use of human genetic engineering. In particular, he observes that there are "... a number of countries in Asia, which for historical and cultural reasons have not been nearly as concerned with the ethical dimension of biotechnology. Much of Asia, for example, lacks religion per se as it is understood in the West--that is, as a system of revealed belief that originates from a transcendental deity." Francis Fukuyama, Our Posthuman Future (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2002), 192. Many cultures are not framed by Christianity; they do not sustain it as a secularized Kulturgut.

(82) Habermas, The Future of Human Nature, 104.

(83) Habermas, The Future of Human Nature, 104.

(84) Habermas, The Future of Human Nature, 105-8.

(85) Habermas, The Future of Human Nature, 113.

(86) Habermas and Ratzinger, The Dialectics of Secularization, 39; 41.

(87) Habermas, The Future of Human Nature, 111.

(88) See, for example, Michael Buckley, At the Origins of Modern Atheism (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1987).

(89) H. Tristram Engelhardt, Jr., "Critical Reflections on Theology's Handmaid: Why the Role of Philosophy in Orthodox Christianity is so Different," Philosophy & Theology 18, no. 1 (2007): 53-75.

(90) David Bradshaw, Aristotle East and West: Metaphysics and the Division of Christendom (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 275.

(91) Bradshaw, Aristotle East and West, 277. An ancestral version of this (my own) paper was presented as a philosophy colloquium at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, April 4, 2008. The author is in particular grateful to Thomas J. Bole, III, for remarks and recommendations concerning this essay.
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Author:Engelhardt, H. Tristram, Jr.
Publication:The Review of Metaphysics
Article Type:Critical essay
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 1, 2010
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