HEGEL’S LECTURES ON THE PHILOSOPHY OF RELIGION
Hegel lectured on the philosophy of religion for the first time in the summer semester of 1821 at the University of Berlin, lectures that he was to repeat on three occasions, in 1824, 1827, and 1831. His delay in addressing the topic of religion was not a sign of lack of interest. On the contrary, there was no topic in which he had a deeper and more abiding concern, as evidenced from his days as a theological student in Tübingen through the years in Frankfurt, Jena, and Nuremberg. Upon his departure from Jena, he wrote to a friend: “I was eager to lecture on theology at a university and might well have done so after some years of continuing to lecture on philosophy.” However, the opportunity to do so did not present itself until after his arrival in Berlin. He was stimulated to offer his own views by the impending publication of Friedrich Schleiermacher's Glaubenslehre, a work with which Hegel had reason to believe he would find sharp disagreements. As a philosopher, he did not lecture on theology per se but on philosophy of religion, a discipline that he took to be engaged not simply with the phenomenon of religion but with the nature and reality of the object of religion, namely, God. Since this transcendent referent had been rendered problematic by Enlightenment philosophy, history, and science, Hegel set out to develop a new philosophical theology that would reestablish the conceptual foundations of religion by offering a postmetaphysical and postcritical way of thinking about God.
Hegel envisioned his philosophical enterprise as a ‘System of Science’ that would encompass all finite realities in a systematic grasp of absolute reality. He also envisioned, initially at least, two points of entry into this system. The first would be the ‘The Science of the Experience of Consciousness’ – the Phenomenology of Spirit of 1807, described as a ‘pathway to science’ or as a ‘ladder’ to the absolute standpoint. The second would be the Science of Logic, published during the period 1812–16. These represent, respectively, the phenomenological and the logical (or speculative) entrées to the system.
These two ‘sciences’ were combined in the Encyclopedia of the PhilosophicalSciences (1817), which included not only a ‘Science of Logic’ (Part I) and a ‘Philosophy of Spirit’ (Part III), but also a ‘Philosophy of Nature’ (Part II) – Hegel's only published work on this subject, although manuscripts from the Jena period containing the rudiments of a Naturphilosophie have been edited posthumously. The third part of the Encyclopedia, the ‘Philosophy of Spirit’, encompassed not only materials found in the Phenomenology of Spirit, but also those covered by the Philosophy of Right (1821) – the fourth and last book published by Hegel during his lifetime – and by his great Berlin lecture cycles, all published posthumously shortly after his death of 1831, on the Philosophy of Religion (1832), the History of Philosophy (1833), the Philosophy of History (1837), and on Aesthetics (1835).
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