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Hegel's Eschatological Vision: Does History Have a Future? Author(s): Daniel Berthold-Bond Source: History and Theory, Vol. 27, No. 1 (Feb., 1988), pp. 14-29 Published by: Blackwell Publishing for Wesleyan University Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2504959 . Accessed: 31/01/2011 02:47
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. Haldaneand F. (Danielviii. I. For the teleological principle which he in and to 1...designated E. H. . undeveloped stages to ever more evolved and mature forms. from its initially embryonic. where he was unwilling to.2And I will suggest that contrary to the usual way of reading Hegel. so that the great majority of commentators who insist on the absolutist alternative simply misread Hegel.: for at the time appointedthe end shall be. that such a syntheticreadingis finallyimplausible.in the courseof my analysisI will indicatea thirdalternative. 'know thyself. that we should choose for Hegel.19) A central motif of Hegel's philosophy is his effort to trace out a teleological development of human thought and culture. III..transl. All references Hegel'sworkswill be abbreviated givenparenthetically the text. epochal version of Hegel's eschatology if we are to preserve the spirit of his metaphysics. S. on the other hand. . one 2. we should adopt the non-absolutist. folwhereappro(or and applicable) pagenumber sectionnumber lowedby the volumenumber(where 3 on Lectures theHistoryof Philosophy.I willsuggest. I will argue that there is a strongly entrenched ambiguity and ambivalence in Hegel's philosophy between two opposed ways of describing the End.' may be fulfilled"1(HPh. "HPh" priate. . vols. I will argue. Simson(New York. the [progressive] revelation of itself from its first .HEGEL'S ESCHATOLOGICAL VISION: DOES HISTORY HAVE A FUTURE? DANIEL BERTHOLD-BOND .. the import of my argument will be to suggest that neither the absolutist nor the epochal readings can be interpreted away: I am convinced that a faithful reading of Hegel must result in a confirmation of his deep-seated ambivalence in this matter. Indeed. Behold. 7). I will make thee know what shall be in the last end . In this article I will address the question of what this "fulfillment" means for Hegel. in order that the absolute command of mind. to refers Hegel's "?"). however. enshrouded consciousness . are governed throughout by an eschatological vision.. and with it his philosophy of history. Actually. I wish to make it clear from the start that my argument is not that this epochal reading is clearly what Hegel himself intended. whichseeks to (see and the synthesize absolutist epochalinterpretations pages 19f.and fn 34 below). THE AMBIGUITY Hegel's theory of knowledge.1974). or "completion" of history: what I will refer to as the "absolutist" and the "epochal" readings. the reading which emphasizes the nonabsolutist pole of the ambivalence as against the absolutist pole. And he conceives of this process of development as the Bildung of rationality in history: "history is the process of mind [Geist] itself.

leads him to posit a "finalconcord" (SL." "the conclusion. What does Hegel mean when he speaks of "the End. 501). 492). It is the aim of Hegel's absolute idealist system to show how human knowledge can "wrest itself out of this progress to infinity. cf. by "resolving the infinite progress into the End"4(SL. PhM. leaving the future open to progress. Miller (Oxford. and free itself absolutely from limitation"3 (PhM. J. where spirit has fulfilled its eschatological design. That is. for example. or it is an epochal conception. transl. ?386 Zusatz)." "the consummation. W. "SL"refers to Hegel's so-called "shorter"Logic (Part One of the Encyclopedia). In this same vein.. Hegel writes that "Fichte's theory of knowledge regards the struggle of the ego with the object [or of human consciousness and its world] as that of a continuous. III. 1975). Hegel is led to speak of the "absolute End of history"6(PhH.HEGEL'S ESCHATOLOGICAL VISION 15 regards as essential to a true appraisal of the essence of thought makes a consideration of the End indispensable to his anatomy of human knowledge and history. III. a "consummation of the infinite End" of knowledge and of the world (SL. Philosophic knowledge consists in "comprehendingnothing less than the entire system of consciousness." of history and of knowledge? There seem to be two basic alternatives: either the completion Hegel speaks of is absolute or it is not. ?242). V. Sibree (New York. a process which is "a constant progression . A. transl. Hegel thus speaks of a "self-closure"of his system. It is my feeling that an ample supply of passages in Hegel's texts may be found to support either of these basic alternatives. . with translations of the Zusatze by A. "PhS" refers to Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit. a "sich selbst zusammenschlieflend" of knowledge or spirit (SL." "the fulfillment. or totality. transl. . which never reaches any end" (HPh. 490). 56). 6. 486). Miller (Oxford. W. 5. Wallace. 483." "the completion. "PhM" refers to Hegel's Philosophy of Mind (Part Three of the Encyclopedia). 1900)." more than something relative to finite and subjective consciousness. Hegel's conviction that truth must be more than an "approximation. V. ?24 Zusatz) of consciousness with the totality of its objects. which involves the idea that nothing short of the whole. 1979). What is open to dispute is what Hegel means by this. the completionof its work" (PhS. It is precisely the absence of the notion of a consummation of the End that Hegel takes as one of the fundamental failures of the philosophy of the German Aufklarung. where the completion he speaks of is the fulfillment of an historical epoch. 4. Wallace (Oxford.. This is in keeping with the systematic aim of Hegel's method. [unending] process" (HPh. either Hegel's eschatological vision is of a completely final End. "PhH"refersto Hegel's Lectureson the Philosophy of History. ?212 Zusatz). 1978). . ?379 Zusatz) where "spirit [has reached] . There is no room for dispute that Hegel speaks of the "End of history" and the "conclusion" of the development of spirit in Absolute Knowledge. where no further progress in history or knowledge is possible. the realization of its freedom and the attainment of its complete knowledge of itself. transl. and "concluded movethe ment in which it has shaped itself" (PhS. as well as many passages which can 3. In speaking of Fichte. or the entire realm of the truth of spirit"5(PhS. 103). PhS. of the determinationsof thought can constitute truth. ?242.

but would remain an unfulfilled ideal. I say this because I feel that the reconstruction entailed by such a choice offers us the chance to revitalize the "magic charm. would seem to remain an unrealizable project. Hans-Georg Gadamer. because once the dialectical principle of the Hegelian system is removed (as it unavoidably is under the absolutist reading where the strife of 7. in his teleology.7 of Hegel's dialectical vision of history which his ambivalence places so much into question. Becoming is the pulse of life. which seeks to unite Heraclitian becoming with Spinozistic permanence. And I feel that this reflects a deeply entrenched ambivalence and ambiguity in Hegel's philosophy. This is desirable for two reasons: first. in his epistemology. and absolute knowledge.without literallytolling their death-bell. Christopher Smith (New Havenand London. in his theory of substance. and in his view that history is both the "slaughterbench"of human happiness and the theater in which all the "wounds of spirit" become healed. a final arrival at the End and result which is the truth of the whole. for example. for the "satisfaction" of spirit is "that which brings on natural death" (PhH. which is both committed to the view of knowledge as a perpetual labor of development and to the proposition that consciousness finally achieves an "Absolute Knowledge". the vital principle of knowing and being." as Hans-Georg Gadamer puts it. While I am convinced that a faithful interpretation of Hegel can only result in a confirmation of his ambivalence. This suggests that there must be an absolute completion of knowledge and being and history. 74). That is. Hegel presents his philosophical system as achieving an "absolute knowledge" and "absolute truth" which depends for its absoluteness on being a comprehension of the whole compass or totality of the Gestalten of spirit. Hegel analyzes both knowledge and being as in their very essence dialectical and teleological processes of becoming. . But on the other hand. which is both described in terms of a continuous process of evolution and at the same time stresses the constant presence and dominance of the End. which both uncovers the intrinsic opposition and contradiction of all things and also reveals the ultimate resolution of this negativity. For if the future were open-ended as regards progress in knowledge and being. This tension is present throughout Hegel's philosophy. On the one hand. still. clearly correct doctrine of the End. a "self-closure"of the circle of development. It may be seen. I feel that preference should be given to the reading which finally chooses the epochal.in the Hegelian dialectic. This suggests that no absolute completion of knowledge or being would be possible without at once destroying their very essence. 105. P. Hegel's Dialectic: Five Hermeneutical Studies. the whole would never be achieved. the comprehension of the whole. For the ambiguity represents an internal tension in Hegel's philosophy between two desiderata which are both important to him but which conflict with each other (in a way which cannot plausibly be swept away or "aufgehoben" by Hegel's notorious synthetic method of unifying opposites). I am convinced that we cannot explain away one interpretation or the other and be left with a single. 1976). dialectically open-ended side of the ambivalence as against the absolutist side.16 DANIEL BERTHOLD-BOND be read in either way. transI.

"PhRel" and J. He does not simply take over the Christian-vision of the "End of the world" and the creation of the new Jerusalem. Hence Hegel's specifically Christian eschatology is central to his conception of the End or completion of knowledge and history. We would be confounding the whole spirit of Hegel's philosophy if we were to read his claim that "the philosophic idea is the idea of God" (HPh. and the Freudian prediction of an ultimate victory of the death instincts over the instincts of life is achieving its historical fulfillment. ethical consequences at stake for our own historical age. I believe that Hegel took his Christian heritage seriously. an age struggling to find a sense of purpose and moral identity. . however. and see p.HEGEL'S ESCHATOLOGICAL VISION 17 becoming is finally overcome). as simply an artificialconcession to the church. symbolic. and sincerely viewed his philosophy as "the true theodicy. 15.1895).3 vols. Our age is one of disillusionment and apprehension. 457. and that it is our highest responsibility to take up and use this power conscientiously. is pronouncing its last rites. "beget[ting] revolutions in the world as well as in individuals" (HPh. B. 148) as only a mythological trapping.E.. I wish to begin my analysis of the question of completion in Hegel's philosophy with a discussion of the specifically theological dimension of his eschatological vision. III. as a challenge to resist the attitude of indifference and despair. by this reading. spiraling downwardever closer to the final act of death. History.as a purely mythological. and to recognize that reason has the power to transform the world. HPh. but has an unorthodoxly historical inon refersto Hegel'sLectures the Philosophyof Religion. there are practical. the justification of God" (PhH. III. cf. Sanderson(London. his uneasiness and discontent with his civilization. If. B. we read Hegel literally when he announces the "absolute End of history. 7. we are successful in our argument for a less absolutist interpretation of Hegel's eschatology. or his equally uncompromising proposition that "religioncan exist without philosophy. If. It would stand. Despite the attempts of some commentators to view Hegel's Christian imagery .which is everpresent in his writings . and we are merely carrying out the last cycle of destiny."then we must say that history has already achieved its purpose. transl. III. 546). however. Hegel's message would then stand not as a prediction of doom but as a voice of hope for redemption from our disenchantment with the world -what Freud calls man's Unbehagen. What message Hegel's philosophy holds for our own age depends very much upon how we interpret his eschatological language of the "completion of the work" of spirit. that is. and second. situated as it is in the aftermath of the Holocaust and towards an anxiety-laden future fraught with the risk of nuclear Armageddon. 8). we have removed the very soul of Hegel's anatomy of spirit. but philosophy cannot exist without religion"8(PhRel. Speirs 8. figurative covering over his basically secular and even atheistic philosophy. III. or worse. then his message for our contemporary world would obviously be entirely different from the bleak and frankly terrifying destiny implied by the absolutist interpretation. as is usual. His Christianity is quite idiosyncratic. 11)as somehow merely allegorical.

but is necessary for exhibiting one of the basic contentions of my reading of Hegel. The forthcoming discussion of the theological dimension of Hegel's eschatology will serve in this way as an initiation into the pathway of doubt which he left as the legacy of his inconclusive search for a resolution to the question of completion. a New Jerusalem: a 1. it is precisely because of this unorthodoxy that Hegel is not necessarilycommitted to the common Christian reading of an apocalyptic End .neithershall therebe any morepain: for the formerthings are passed away. And I Johnsawthe holy city. and the salvation and redemption of the faithful in a new heaven on earth. and they shall be his people. was addressed to a Christian community in the throes of a brutal persecution by the Romans.D. 4. written around 96 A. that we look in vain for an unambiguous formulation of his eschatological vision. epochal conception of the End. 2.but can also be read as proposing a non-absolutist. of 3. and God himself shall be with them.Behold. It promised the annihilation of-the pouring of the "vials of wrath" on-the imperial cult of the Caesars.18 DANIEL BERTHOLD-BOND terpretation of the eschatological End. and it will not be until the succeeding sections of the article that we will be led to an attempted resolution of the dilemma of completion.and therewas no more sea. . This path of disorientation and uncertainty is not a gratuitous prolonging of our search.newJerusalem. Only after such an initiation will it be appropriate to turn to an analysis of severalless directlytheological passages in order to support my recommendation for a non-absolutist reading of Hegel's philosophy. precisely because he is torn in two opposing directions by conflicting desiderata of his philosophy. And God shallwipeawayall tearsfromtheireyes. and he will dwell with them.. And I hearda greatvoice out of heavensaying. HEGEL'S CHRISTIAN ESCHATOLOGY Christian eschatology is based on the Biblical promise of salvation and redemption from suffering and despair. And I saw [John writesof his Revelation] new heavenand a new earth:for the first heavenand the firstearth werepassed away. from the irrationality and injustice of the world.the tabernacle God is with men. but also from many of the prophetic and apocalyptic visions of both the Old and New Testaments. Finally. The immediately following discussion will thus end in frustration and loss of way. however. neithersorrow.The Book of Revelation itself.an absolute closure of history . It is derived largely from the Book of Revelation. A word of warning:we will find that Hegel's Christian eschatology serves more to underscore the conflict in his philosophy between an absolutist and a nonabsolutist conception of completion than to resolve it. comingdownfromGodout of heaven. I will return in my conclusion to draw out the implications of this non-absolutist reading for Hegel's Christian eschatology. As we shall see. II. as prepared a bride adornedfor her husband.nor crying. and be their God.andthereshallbe no moredeath.

Behold. Thus there will come a new world. Reinhold tory (New York..3). 235 and passim.. vol. 61.. Adolf von Harnack." in Reinhold Niebuhr. A. 5 vols.that "the field is the world. 128). 290 (and chapter X.. Kegley [New York. 1961]. vols. and Harry Emerson Fosdick. "is a point where that which exists ceases to be: it is finis"."14 The End of history." 10. for example."For or thingsshall not be remembered come into mind.I makeallthingsnew. "Reinhold Niebuhr's Role in American Political Thought and Life.andthe former behold[theprophet 17. 1943).and will be an eternal kingdom: as Luke prophesies. they share Hegel's non-orthodoxy exactly. 138. . 1-5)9 xxi. Reinhold Niebuhr. G. and her peoplea joy." 12. of course. [cannot be] reduced to a point in history. where "the former things are passed away. Nature and Destiny. xxii. Isaiah lxv. 17-19: and new hearsthe Lordsay]. 288. in which there is no hope for the fulfillment of the moral and religious ideal. 69. Tenn. Cf. 287. for the Lord God will be their light. (Nashville. II. be gladin mypeople. W. a for 18. Isaiah lxv.HEGEL'S ESCHATOLOGICAL VISION 19 5.1l It goes without saying that there have been many diverging interpretations of this eschatological vision. . Niebuhr continues. Horace Bushnell. 14. ed.3) . vol. "beyond 9."and there shall be no more curse" (Rev. 2 Interpretation. (New Niebuhr.33). Niebuhr. Andhe thatsatuponthethrone said. to name a few. II. (Rev..I willrejoice Jerusalem."10 This New Jerusalem will redeem man from God's curse . Christ's return will usher in "the end of the world" (xxiv." but at "the end of history. Cf.there seems to be substantial agreement among most Christian theologians that the returnof Christ(at the apocalypse)signalsthe end of history"2 (however much they differ as to whether this End of history occurs at the outset or the completion of the messianic millennium predicted in the Book of Revelation). 11. passim. expresses this view very clearly when he says that history is but an "interim"for man. et al.I createJerusalem rejoicing. 610. Rauschenbusch. 17. 15. Buttrick. Theologians like Walter Rauschenbusch. 1949). This orthodox interpretation is not by any means universal. See The InterpretersDictionary of the Bible. believe that the redemption is to be continuous with human history. [and] the harvest is the end of the world" (xiii. writes that the Kingdom of God (the New Jerusalem) is nothing but "humanity organized according to the will of God". I would argue." and "all things are made anew. II. 1941.5: "And night shall be no more. IV. 289.TheNatureandDestinyof Man:A Christian 13. Rev.I create heavens a newearth. moreshallbe heard it thesoundof weeping and the cry of distress.). Bretall and C. 1962). Cf. In this. as the Gospel of Matthew puts it. and they shall reign for ever and ever. ed."'-'5 The notion that. . Reinhold York. in no and in 19. behold. they need no light of lamp or sun. and hence a social and historical overcoming of tribulation. Yetdespite this wide divergenceof interpretation. for example.. of and A FaithandHistory: Comparison Christian ModernViews Hisof Niebuhr. "[God] shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever. W.. . ."13 "not within history itself. But be glad and rejoicefor everin that whichI create. Jr.38-39)-has thus generally been read to mean that redemption will be the announcement of the End of history. but that this ideal will be fulfilled only "beyondtime. R. and of his kingdom there shall be no end" (Luke i. xxii. "a growing perfection in the collective life of humanity" (cited by Arthur Schlesinger. "the ultimate vindication of God over history .

Friedrich C..or "beyond history" -that Hegel'svision of the consummation of the Christian telos departs. H. is for Hegel to say that He is manifestand revealedin the course of humanhistory. TheChristian but of timesareChristian only in so far as they are the last time. 17.. 95..17 to makean endto the historical as [andhencehis] compulsion process" a central 18 failureof his philosophy. As I mentionedin the introduction the article.The "meaning" the historyof this world its of is fulfilled against itself. . he argues.Revelation the manifestato is whichis not discontinuous theBildungof humanthought tion of rationality."andtherebyrequires that "history is truly completed. 97f. areaccessible humanreasonin history(PhH. 161.Franqois . 191. 19. St.is the true theodicy.who both will bringto lightthe hiddenthingsof darkness. means quite simply the cessation of action in the full sense of in eds.Hegel (Paris. 14). Frangois Philosophy. a revealedGod.and see 32. the as in redeems and dismantles.for one. 16. 1968)... But when Hegel says that "manmust know God"(HPh.the usual interpretation to of Hegel is to read him as assertingan absolutecompletionof history.. To say that God is a manifestGod.LudwigFeuerbach the Outcomeof ClassicalGerman 18. 387). Dutt (New York.as it were. is not to be realizedin a continuous processof historical development. and Engels.. AlexandreKojevesays that Hegel "givesup the dialecticalmethod"in order"tolay claimto absolutetruth. 237. . eschatological the historyof salvationalso cannotimparta newand progressive meaningto the historyof the world. Becausethe Kingdomof God .ed. iv." Bretalland Kegley.. the processof development realand ization of spirit. KarlLUwith.." the beginning an end.16 It is from this basic tenet of Christian eschatology -that there is no historical hope for man. manproperly or history . point of fact. .. saysthat Hegeltakesover"l'eschatologie . with "the end of hisIn so-called.J.'" But. Marxand Engelsview Hegel's"compulsion makea system. transl. Allan Kojeve.but its very expression: God's manifestationis history itself.. Chatelet. its assertionof the]finde l'histoire [andthe] abolitiondu temps" lock. 283 (italicsadded). but that the redemption and salvationof man will occur at the End of history. 1980). chretienne [with Chatelet. Paulwritesthat man should"judgenothingbeforethe time.. embodied JesusChrist.KarlL6withsummarizes basic componentof Christhis tian eschatologyin an articleon "Historyand Christianity": Whatreallybeginswith the appearance JesusChristis not a new epoch of secular of history. God'srevelation intrinsically is historical.1978). disappears.. "Historyand Christianity. P." God'sinnermost natureand purposes. 457). 35.20 BERTHOLD-BOND DANIEL time"as Niebuhrsays. Hence"thehistoryof the world.and will make manifestthe counselsof the hearts: thenshalleverymanhavepraiseof God" and (I Cor. Alexandre Bloom (Ithacaand London.untilthe Lord come.because storyof salvation.ForHegel..the hopelesshistoryof the world.. II. .Jr. called"Christian. to Introduction the Readingof Hegel. to and barrel..5). 13. he means that"thedeepestthingsof the Godhead. stock..the end of time tory .the justificationof God in history" (PhH. with in history. Nichols. whichis fulfilledby havingreached term.ed.

for references. "RH"refersto Hegel's Reason in History (the Introductionto the Philosophy of History. 22.21but that "if we achieve the Hegelian science of totality. 518ff. 16."22And Charles Taylor speaks of the Hegelian "total overcoming" of the dialectic of becoming as an expenditure of "enormous energy"to "make [his philosophy] yield an impossible conclusion. which leads to "l'immobilisme" spirit(557). with his principle See also Hyppolite.26 "What Jesus calls the 'Kingdom of God. but it is always a realm of spirit to be realized and brought (RH. CharlesTaylor.158-160(fn 6). 136f.xxi. Rosen. prepared a bride for her husband.and God himselfshall be with them.. asks. Hegel (Cambridge. Kojeve. 25. and they shall be his people. PhS. 23.BandXX (1931). we must cease to become human.who feels that Hegelbecomesunfaithfulto his dialectical of move to the Logic. III. Interpreters arrived andthatit hasalready 27. 1977). in Early Theological Writings. 45. andcf. 277.completion] 24. It is his belief that "one may have all sorts of ideas about the Kingdom of God. the tabernacle of God is the community of the Church on earth and in history."' Hegel says.21). drawing 1953).the tabernacle God is with of men. 252. and see 9. "SXty"refers to Hegel's The Spirit of Christianity and its Fate. 21. and and in [i.transl. from all threeeditions). 473).fur sein SystemabsoluteGeltungin Anspruch KantbisHegel. und Geschichte becoming]" Hegel'sphilosophy. as And I hearda greatvoice out of heavensaying. . tion"to the perpetual und nehmendurfte" ("System ularstagein history]. ed.2 Bande[Tubingen.HEGEL'S ESCHATOLOGICAL VISION 21 the term .. of movesbeyondtheresults a particwhichcontinually of progression history.). 279. M." Stanley Rosen also says that Hegel's philosophy requires a "decisive completion" and "final resolution" of history. his "resignaResignation RechtHegel.24 My own feeling is that what we have seen to be Hegel's insistence on the intrinsically historical significance of revelation becomes quite hard to explain under the reading of his eschatology which sees it as involving an absolute completion.almostwitha senseof affront [thatis. Logos. ." Recall the words of John's revelation: And I John sawthe holy city.trotz seinen historische "mitwelchem indignation. See e. The human 20. 21). and not as a heavenly kingdom that is beyond" (HPh.new Jerusalem. Knox (Philadelphia. 15. He follows Christ's saying that "the kingdom of God about in man"25 is in the midst of you" (Luke xvii. and be their God (Rev. [and] the definitiveannihilation of man properly so-called.e. And in his Historyof Philosophy he writes that "the reconciliation of God with Himself is accomplished in the world. comingdown from God out of heaven. it is the development of the divine among men"27 (SXty. A good example of this is his interpretation of the notion of the "tabernacle of God.349. 267f. RichardKroner. and he will dwellwith them.1977). T."23 And we could go on and on. who speaksof "dieAntinomiezwischenSystem[i.e.. Hartman(Indianapolis. "is the living harmony of men. Indeed Hegel's entire exposition of the Christian message is straightforwardly historical in tone. of that saying theKingdom Godis approaching between the throughout Gospels oscillates 26. Christ II. 1974). Von bei Geschichte Hegel. xix. Hegel: An Introduction to the Science of Wisdom (New Haven and London. See Dictionary. For Hegel. 20). S.g..R. withhis ministry. Stanley Rosen.Behold." 1921].II.2-3).. v.

a monotonous cycle [that is." and the inevitable "production of a new. Thus if Christianity were to usher in a radical completion of history and time. Green[Garden CenturyThought. Knox (London. 6). However much support we may find for a non-absolutist reading of Hegel's theory of the End . fresh life" (PhH. 71-79). who is the living symbol of the reconciliation of the human and divine natures. . ?24 Zusatz). 2. or in its very principle. must itself be subject to the dialectic of history. tion on page xx below. unalterable state of affairs. ?399). Evenherethereis someroomfordispute. M. 28.and specifically. 3. the dialectic of perpetual becoming. "PhR"refersto Hegel'sPhilosophyof Right.T. E. 77.22 DANIEL BERTHOLD-BOND community is the witness to God. or spirit.28But if this is so.most importantly the fact that only such a reading seems to allow for the preservationof his dynamic and evolutionarymetaphysicsof spirit. in the Christian epoch in which man sees his unity with God through the revelation of God in His Son. 29. .but rather"in itself. Time itself is for Hegel out-and-out "negativity. there remains a problem with this non-absolutist interpretation. one stage.As I have remarked. Only under this non-absolutist reading of completion will Hegel not be forced to abandon his Heraclitianmetaphysicsof spirit. "is at the same time the rejection of that stage and its transition to a higher"29 (PhR. and with God (SL.would cease to be God.1976). Thus (at least in many passages) Hegel does seem to view Christianity as something which cannot be superseded.NewYork. since for Hegel a central principle of history is that the consummation of one shape of spirit necessarily gives rise to "a new principle" (PhH. 413). . renovated. or Word.we can always find passages which support the orthodox reading of Hegel as suggesting an absolute End of history." "outside of history. being His manifestation in the world. ??344.1967]. example. and v. ?343. Hegel's eschatological vision is fundamentally ambiguous. [the life of spirit] ."the perpetual process of the "dissolution of all existence." the "new world" of prophecy. Given this reading of the "tabernacle of God. transl. II." it seems that the fulfillment of the Christian logos could not possibly take place "beyond time.. that is. in which the human spirit gains "liberation"and "reconciliation"from alienation (HPh. Hence for example Hegel speaks of the Christian logos as the ultimate "perfection of spirit" (PhS. And he calls this a "final concord" of man with himself. 347 Anmerkung). contains a progress"(PhM. Still..this seems an unavoidable conclusion .D. clearly it must somehow escape this intrinsic "negathat suggests HegelviewsChrisfor Lowith." Hegel says. according to Hegel.. ." the subsequent "transcendence of that existence.39). his insistence that spirit is simply not capable of a mere "empty repetition [of the present]. 78. since for Hegel God is irreducibly the logos. and God . then surely the fulfillment of the Christian logos must be beyond history. tianity as something to be superseded itself (From Hegel to Nietzsche: The Revolution in Nineteenth to City. The "completion of . . Hence the true elevation of man to a unity with God takes place in history. with his world. as a final End."The Christian "eschaton. spirit would cease to be spirit. I willreturn this questransl. 73). If the fulfillment of the Christian logos is in fact meant to be a final. without evolution]" -which is precisely the situation which would characterize spirit which had somehow superseded history .

. A new epoch has in had arisenin the world.For (1) if Chateletand othersare right that Hegel'sChristianeschatologyannouncesthe "abolitiondu temps.But (2) if the "newworld" not the End of historyandtime. apprehending spirit.which Hegel titles the "FinalResult. I willarguethat whilethesepassagesdo not completely resolveourimpasse. A CLOSER LOOKAT THE "NEWWORLD" First.so in that a non-temporal. unlesswearewilling and to speak of an "absolute" truth which is relativeto the courseof development up to the present that is.HEGEL'SESCHATOLOGICAL VISION 23 tivity"of time. suprahistorical spiritwould simplybe a contradiction in terms. of III. and when spirit accordingly is realizedas spirit (HPh.It wouldappearas if the world-spirit at last succeeded stripand itselfat last as absolute pingoff fromitselfall alienobjective existence. and the history of philosophy in particular.historyhaving"reached goal" of in AbsoluteKnowledgeand the overcoming alienation.and hence without And if alterationor development to be allowed. let us look at a passage from the end of the last section of the History of Philosophy. and we need to seek furtherto find the way to turn towardsthe absolutistor A the non-absolutist alternative. At firstblush. good placeto beginour searchis with a closer look at Hegel'sconceptionof the "newworld. the sole work of which is to depict this strife. on the contrary. it may be that Hegel does not mean to suggestthat the strifeand alienationof .Or. 551f. it had the work of representing. . III. now comes to an end. . Thus the ambiguityand ambivalence Hegel'stheoryof completionis not in finallyresolvedin his Christianeschatology. It may its be thatthe "newepoch"is to be beyondhistory. The strife of the finite self-consciousness[man] with the absolute selfconsciousness[God].it seemsto havereachedits goal. the theaterof time.unchanging"newworld"in history seems to slip out of our grasp. which indeed. italics added). the eschatologicalmessageof this passageis in doubt.thenit seems is impossibleto see how it could persevere without progress." some of the less directly in theological passagesof his speculationsabout the natureof historyand knowledge. has ceased to be alien. Now. We have reachedan impasseas to how we are to read Hegel'seschatology. For the notion of development relativizes everyparticular stagewithinthe development.a perpetualdevelopment its veryessence. a "relative absolute" thenthe idea of an eternal. . Thisis the whole historyof the worldin generalup to the presenttime.then we must ask alteration. is whatsenseit makesto speakof the Christian eschatonas the revelation absoof lute truth.they do guideus in the directionof the non-absolutist reading Hegel'seschatology. when this absoluteself-consciousness.whichlast seemedto the otherto lie outsideof itself. and this wouldseemto require that it take placebeyondhistory."and wherehe speaks of a "newepoch": [Absolute knowledge] is the demand of all time and of philosophy." then we seem to be incapableof makingsense out of the Hegelianontology: spiritis a progressive becoming...the "finalconcord"Hegel speaksof.

). 551). that is. then. After the passage about the "new epoch" where Hegel says of world-history that "now. its lifeless seclusion. . a new production and work of spirit."Hegel indeed speaks of the "summons"of the spirit "to bring it forth from its natural condition . the concluding section of the History of Philosophy is interspersed with passages which reaffirmHegel's Heraclitian metaphysics .. . This seems to give very strong support to the non-absolutist interpretation of his eschatology. .and is of Spiritis it a mind to submerge in the past. This sense of urgency and this summons would seem inappropriate if the "new epoch" was to be "beyond history. . 546f. italics added). I would argue that when Hegel speaks of the "consummation" or "completion" or "coming to an End" or "reaching the goal" of spirit.." he goes on to say that "this. . III. Spirit often seems to have forgotten and lost itself. rather than the closure of history itself.." Finally. the completion of the development of spirit is epochal. Spirithas brokenwith the worldit has hithertoinhabitedand imagined. 552.a "reinvolvinga "transformed knowledge" whereHegel speaksof "absolute born. III. thus servesto illuminate passagefromthe verylast pagesof the work of existence" spirit. because spirit is progress alone. And yet in context. we have to make it a reality. "[the] eternal life [of spirit] consists in the very process of continually producing the opposition [of subject and object. into the light of day" (HPh. just before thanking his students for attending his lectures.a new worldand a new shapeof spirit"(PhS. the message becomes clearer. Hegel exhorts them to "give ear to the urgency [of spirit] -when the mole that is within forces its way on. it seems to have reached its goal. where history is to have a future progression. in the penultimate paragraph of the History of Philosophy. The second "new world" passage I wish to cite is from the Preface to the Phenomenology:30 It is not difficultto see that ours is a birthtimeand a period of transitionto a new era. III.24 DANIEL BERTHOLD-BOND man has "come to an end"forever. indeed. and the "whole development" of spirit which Hegel refers to shortly before this passage would seem to mean the whole development up to now. but inwardly opposed to itself it is inwardly working ever forward" (HPh. Wemaynotein passing thePreface written a and nologywascompleted." the "new epoch" will have its own history and must face its own strife. is the standpoint of the present day. 553). the "Final Result" section. 492). is one of taking stock of where we have arrived so as to look to the future. In this passage. indeedneverat rest but alwaysengagedin movingforward. . not absolute. and in the labor of its own transformation. at least. such pronouncements should be read as the fulfillment of the telos of an historical epoch. not of history or knowledge entire-a fulfillment which will give place to a new epoch. III.his emphasis on the nature of spirit as a perpetual becoming: "[spirit] goes ever on and on. The whole tone of the concluding section of the History of Philosophy. Further. rather than a radically closed whole. new existence. and although it has done so "at the present time. The vagueforeboding after was immediately thebodyof thePhenomethat 30. and the series of spiritual forms is with it for the present concluded" (HPh. In the light of such passages. or consciousness and world] and continually reconciling it" (HPh.

And finally. The final satisfaction of history would be the final death of spirit.. This is a vision of the eternally"restlessmutation and change" of spirit. It comes on the scenefor the firsttime in its immediacy . . but this achievement is episodic. This passage is frankly and straightforwardlyanticipatory." the principle or telos of a shape of spirit. Given this. But this new worldis no more a completeactualitythan is a new-bornchild.it is essentialto bearthis in mind. . in a passage we have already partially cited: In history.. Only such a sacrifice can avoid the deeper. "the highest attainment is self-knowledge . .. 74f).. fresh life"(PhH. it seems hard to avoid the conclusion that if history wereto reach a radical consummation. [and] this it is destined to accomplish." and attempt to answer this question from the per- ." This Heraclitian metaphysics leads Hegel to a view of spirit and its history which. CONCLUSION: CONSEQUENCES OF THE EPOCHAL VIEW OF COMPLETION FOR HEGEL'S CHRISTIAN ESCHATOLOGY If we return now to the question of the meaning and fate of the Christian era. 71)." it would at once undermine the very conditions which animate the world-spirit. a looking-forward to a new era of history. where every recollective closure of the circle of an epoch reaches beyond itself to the opening of a new era... .HEGEL'SESCHATOLOGICAL VISION 25 [whichour age feels]of somethingunknown. occurring at the culmination of each epoch. . where the fulfillment or "satisfaction [of attaining] . (PhS. in my view. where spirit is "eternally preparing for itself its funeral pile and consuming itself upon it. makes the absolutist version of an End of history and time unacceptable.just as everysatisfactionrecreates desire at the instant of completion. He expresses this non-absolutist. as opposed to being the fulfillment and conclusion of time. epochal view clearly in his Philosophy of Right. and the completionof apprehension one stage at is at the sametime the rejectionof that stageand its transition a higher(PhR. act of Geistis to gainconsciousness itselfas Geist. This is why I feel we must sacrifice Hegel's desire to portray an absolute consummation of knowledge and history and being." Hegel says. to This is Hegel's Phoenix theme. but the accomplishment is at the same time its dissolution and the rise of another spirit.. renovated. regenerating history at each moment of its temporaryfulfillment. one of the central metaphors of his anatomy of spirit. 72.... Thisapprehenthe of sion is its beingand its principle. The new world is explicitly portrayed as in its birth-time. an "absolutefinal End. ?343). 6f). "signals the death of that shape" (PhH. 73). paralyzing sacrifice of the dialectical soul of Hegel's philosophy. the Christian "new world. "For spirit. . what is desired. . Spirit is destined to achieve its goal. [is]the heraldof approaching change. and seek the merit of his philosophy in an epochal conception of the development of Geist. . the idea that "spirit is indeed never at rest but always engaged in moving forward. IV. there is again the reaffirmationof Hegel's Heraclitian metaphysics. but so that from its ashes is produced a new. in the recollective epiphany of Absolute Knowledge.. another epoch of Weltgeschichte" (PhH..

apocalyptic) side of Hegel's ambivalence. In additionto L6with.we maymentionRobertSolomon(In the Spiritof Hegel [NewYork Hegel and the Rise of Social and Oxford. 31. KarlL6with. LUwithbelieves that Hegel viewed his own age and culture as the "end of the history of the Christian logos. "thusopening a new [post-Christian] era.1969])as proponents an epochalinterpretation. like all other Gestalten of spirit.and hencewithoutdoing full justiceto the deep-seated of the opposing(absolutist) biguityof Hegel'seschatology(see especially224ff." Lbwith is indeed one of the few commentators32 who adopts an epochal readingof Hegel's eschatology. against all of his own principles. it is important to explicitly recognize that it is a reading which stands in fundamental tension with the other (absolutist. one which would not requirethe sacrificeof Hegel's commitment to Christianity as the "final concord" of spirit. One option would be simply to reject Hegel's portrait of Christianity as the "final concord" of spirit. 32. which. If we finally wish to accept an epochal reading such as Lbwith's. Hegel fell under the spell of the Christian description of the ultimacy of its own logos. free to assume ever-newly created shapes."931Note that this reading entails an oppositeassessment to the one Lbwith gives of Christian eschatology in general. 1985])and HerbertMarcuse(Reasonand Revolution: Solomonadmitsthat However. LUwith. seeing him as displacing the post-historical redemption of orthodox Christianity into the course of history.38. If we are to adopt an epochal reading of Hegel's eschatology." where a "great turning [away from] and break with Christianity"would be made. thantheHegelof finalreposeonlyas a matter rather of the he choosesto "celebrate" "Hegel change" acknowledgment withoutthe slightest his develops interpretation (14-16). By this account. we must correct it by seeing how it is in fact a re-reading and reconstruction of Hegel's eschatology.andMarcuse of emphasis amreading. This alternative may well appeal to many readers. . we would insist that the Christian era. pointing beyond itself to a further epoch of historical progression. Christianity FromHegel to Nietzsche.). is destined to "die"when its principle has achieved its historical "satisfaction"-thereby leaving history open-ended. goes so far as to suggest that this is in fact the position Hegel holds. but there is also a second option. he characterizes as a "redemption and dismantling of the hopeless history of the world. thought.26 DANIEL BERTHOLD-BOND spective of a non-absolutist reading of Hegel's eschatology. of Theory[Boston. According to this reading. as we have seen. in his impressiveintellectualhistory of nineteenth-century From Hegel to Nietzsche. we have two basic options. a fact that L6with does not explicitly come to grips with. and as a result he compromised his Heraclitian metaphysics. 39. My only reservation with Lowith's reading is that it is arrived at too precipitously. destined to be overcome like all other epochs. which is necessary to recover the integrity of the Hegelian dialectic from the spell of the absolute End which crippled it. due to that side of him which felt constrained to posit a radical End of history. a side which in fact often got the better of him in his directly theological musings on history. Lbwith'sis a way of reading Hegel which Hegel would have been quite uncomfortable with. without acknowledging just how much it stands in conflict with a great deal of evidence which suggests that Hegel never intended to portray Christianity as just one more epoch of Weltgeschichte.

. 287.whichis just wherethe inadequacy a syntheticreadingappearsin its most glaringlight (but choosesinsteadto confinehis discussionto the disputebetweenrightand issue of transcendentalism immanentism). PhH. of TWo theEncyclopedia].I confess that for my own withthissecondinterpretation. comfortable wherewemust partI am not entirely envisionan ultimate"solutionto the riddleof history"whichitself will not be beforenor aftertime"but "absolutely present. Q.34 will say shortlywhy I find of I this syntheticapproachtroublesome." as of 33.1970]. firstI wouldlike to note how it bears but striking resemblance one commoninterpretation Marx's to of eschatology.1967].(ThePhilosophyof Nature[Part transl. Miller[Oxford.Cf." in the senseof the "timebut lessness"of its truth. When Marx describesthe approaching communistrevolutionas an event which will bringabout the total "supersession [Aufhebung] self-estrangement.As such.absoluteand changing. 35. why should we not permitHegel to do the same? Now I think this last questionis a perfectlyvalid one-that Marxand Hegel do in fact face analogoussituationswith regard their eschatological to visions.not beyondcommunism. and left-wingHegelianson the metaphysical transl. or telos. in KarlMarxac Early Writings. J. that communistsocietywill somehowbe "beyond history. I. the worldof change:this purposeand meaningmust be workedout and evolvedin history." Althoughtherewill be no more class conflict.see 17 and chapter4) offerattemptsat to a syntheticreading." at the same time it is not for this reasonimbut mune from historicaldevelopment. lievethat Findlay's does not finallyextendhis proposalinto a considerapromiseof a synthesis. and that the two should be judged in a similarway. II. 84f." as of and the ultimate"resolution the conflict" of inherentin history. it seemsto place mysuggestion thereareessentially that onlytwo opposedwaysof reading Hegel's eschatology eitheran absolutistor an epochalreading into question.HPh. not however the senseof being"beyond in history. to (The xiv) 34.infiniteand historical. Hegelin factconceives eternity "neither whichseemsto allow for an historicalunfoldingof the eternal. of humanhistoryin the sense that it exis pressesthe ultimatepurposeand meaningof spirit.but this too mustbe subject to the worldof time.A. Bentonand R. 79. 348. Hoare (New York.Christianity the End. Livingstone. HPh.but still in such a way that will give full place to humancreativityand development.to be sure. V. But this truth still requires manifestation.the communistworld as will continueto evolve.HEGEL'S ESCHATIOLOGICALVISION 27 is indeedthe "finalconcord.345. and Emil Fackenheim ReligiousDimensionin Hegel's Thought[Chicago.Whileit wouldinitiatefartoo long a digression do theseviewsjustice.The Christianera is eternaland absolute.which Marxand Engelsregard the movingforceof all previoushistory.1975). N."thesolutionof the riddleof history"35 is usuallyreadin such a way that he is not suggesting -he that historywill come to an end.and hence a temporalexistence.and that Fackenheim of tion of the close of history.33 logos of Christianity not becomeundermined The will in time.Economic Philosophical ed. .?247Zusatz). Findlay(in his Foreword Hegel'sPhenomenology.If Marxis able to speakof a "resolution" historywhichstill allowsfor historicaldevelof opment. This second interpretation all the marksof Hegel'sinfamous synthetic has principleof the unity of opposites:the Christianera is both eternaland temporal. and Manuscripts. KarlMarx. for it seems to allow for a harmonization the two.I bethus failingto makegood the reading finallycollapsesinto an epochalreading.G.

as Hegel says in anothercontext.since I findthis reconstruction be the most consistentwith his printo and evolutionof historicaltime." to Thisinterpretation wouldallowfor historicalchange.it is that this interpretation does just not seemto accordwithHegel'snotionthatthe fulfillment the telosof a shape of of spirit"signalsthe death of that shape. Therehas certainlybeen tremendous historicalchange in the commonera.Hegel says that "thewoundsof spiritheal. To speak of an "absoluteEnd of the progression" whichis nevertheless alwaysrelative a furtherdevelopment. and leaveno scarsbehind"(PhS. firstbasedon internal grounds in of consistency Hegel'ssystem. I wouldbe willing and that the essentialtruth of Christo accept (at least for the sake of argument) tianityhas remainedunchanged. 407). then the absolutistinterpretation simplycollapsesinto the epochalreading.would essentiallydoom our contemof poraryworldto indifference despairas a consequence ourrolein carrying and out thelastritesof history.and to pursuefurtherone of the two alternatives have suggested for reconcilingthe role of the Christianlogos with this non-absolutist eschatology. since the beginningof Christianity. Thisidea was in wherehe wrote alreadyprefigured his earlySpiritof Christianity (1798-1800). 60-66).wherethere arecontinuallyreappearing each relativeto the close of a givenera "absolutes.And the most straightforwardwayto readHegel'sdialecticis in termsof a commitment fundamental to the change. takenseriously.Any attemptto harmonize absolutistand epochalreadings mustinevitablyfall into confusion. It is not that I cannotimaginehistoricalchangeoccurring underan essentially unchangingguidinglogos.the secondon practical. we cannot say what we mean to say (see PhS. the Thesecircumstances.Such a solution." of history-is to be forcedinto the uncomfortable positionwhere."lifecan healits woundsagain"(SXty. Theremay well be problemswith both of the alternatives havejust given: I the firstseemscounterto the place Hegel allots to Christianity the ultimate as telos of history. ethicalconsiderations.As I have indicated. wouldentailthe sacrifice of the Hegeliandynamics his Heraclitian of metaphysics spiritandhistory.230). And I am convincedthat such a sacrifice wouldamountto the euthanasia Hegel's of philosophy.Rather. abandonment the verydynamicswhichgiveslife andpurpose the of and inspiration his analysisof the Weltgeist.such a sacrifice.not for the sort of changewhich is necessaryfor the evolutionfrom one historicalepoch to another.""the rejectionof that stage and its transition a higher. however.28 DANIEL BERTHOLD-BOND is overcomeand whichnevertheless compatiblewith historicaldevelopment. I notedearlierin the if article. to where"absolute" has the usual connotationof being non-relative and if it does not. to as Further.and the secondconfrontsus withthe peculiaridea of an eternal logos whichnevertheless alters.my own leaningsare towardsthe alternative which"corrects" Hegel'sadoptionof the Christianlogos as the finalperfection of spirit. ciple of the "unending" "eternal" In one of the most famouspassagesof the Phenomenology. I believe.but not for fundamental change. life" . that fromthe "severed of spirit.A simplesolutionto theseproblems be found can by opting for the readingof Hegel's eschatologywhich sees it as proclaiming an absoluteEnd to history. shouldinclineus.to take the non-absolutist versionof Hegel'seschaI tology seriously.

ratherthe life that endures but it and maintainsitself in it" (PhS.from evolution. on pain of death.as Hegel portrays it. .that spiritwill not be throwninto the negativity.of self-development.HEGEL'S ESCHATOLOGICAL VISION 29 But insofaras Hegel'sportrayal spiritdependsupon his centralprinciple of that "becoming the fundamental featureof all existence" (SL.it will nevercease from becoming. strife the and conflict.from exploration.from striving.we must hold him to his view that "thelife of spiritis not the life that shrinks from . . we are to appreciate depth of Hegel's If the analysisof spirit. Bard College .The verylife of spirit. 19). ?88 Zusatz). the tremendous power of the negative . and keeps itself untouchedby devastation[Verwustung].in the "laborof its own transformation" (PhS. dependson its immersionin the flux of existence. 6).then [is] we mustnot supposethatthe "wounds spirit" of everheal overso fully that they will not bleed again.. and insuresthat..

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