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The Owl of Minerva

Volume 49, Issue 1/2, 2017/2018

Philip T. Grier
Pages 59-82
DOI: 10.5840/owl2017/18491/23

Reading Religion into the Logic

Robert R. Williams’s last book, Hegel on the Proofs and the Personhood of God (Oxford University Press, 2017) undertakes to reconnect with and revive the largely forgotten “centrist” interpretation of Hegel’s philosophy from the early 1840s, associated especially with the work of Karl Michelet. An immediate consequence of this move is to direct renewed attention to the connection between Hegel’s Logic and his philosophy of religion. Taking this connection seriously appears to entail a re-interpretation of the absolute idea, adding an explicit level of theological significance to it in retrospect which would not appear to be required when the Logic is read on its own. And yet the Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion unambiguously seem to require such a re-reading of the Logic. Such a development may appear to raise questions about the possibility of a “presuppositionless” reading of the Logic, along with questions about how the truth claims of the Realphilosophie can be justified. A possible resolution of such questions could be found if one takes seriously George di Giovanni’s suggestion that the Logic must be regarded both as the first element of Hegel’s system, and also the final one. The appropriateness of such a second reading appears to be strongly supported by Errol Harris’s interpretation of the Logic. The additional layers of meaning, the theological interpretation, can be read into the Logic as the final element of the system, without affecting a “presuppositionless” reading of it as the first element.