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The Paideia Archive: Twentieth World Congress of Philosophy

Volume 36, 1998

Philosophy of Religion

Artur R. Boelderl
Pages 14-24

Vom Opfergeist: Hegel mit Bataille
(Of Sacrificial Spirit: Hegel with Bataille)

In this paper, I shall argue as follows: (1) Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit deserves to be called a phenomenology of sacrificial spirit: it sacrifices the world with its unsolvable contradictions on the alter of dialectics by depriving it of its materiality and corporeality in favor of the appearance of the one spirit-world (Weltgeist) to which nothing seems strange anymore, with one exception-the Sacred. The idealistic sacrifice of the world goes hand-in-hand with an unholy sacrifice of the Sacred through the thorough profanization of the latter by historicizing, finalizing, instrumentalizing, and rationalizing it. This disappearance of the Sacred is the condition of the possibility of modern reason. Since it corresponds to the disappearance of the world out of objectivity (Gegenständlichkeit), which is increasingly being conceived of as a mere means-purpose relation, it also means the loss of a whole range of human experiences. (2) It is George Bataille’s philosophical task to reveal the ‘impossible’ and ‘unthinkable’ ‘Other’ of Hegel’s sacrificial spirit. In his a-theological Theory of Religion (1948), he pleads for a ‘return to the Sacred’ by withdrawing the ‘thing’ from the sphere of profane objectivity and restoring it to its sacred origin. This restitution, according to Bataille, is the meaning of ritual sacrifice as a religious practice, as we encounter it in archaic religions. It is an interruption of the profane production process, in which suddenly and violently the Sacred reappears.

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