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Political Philosophy

Does the Solution to our Present Moral and Political
Dilemmas Lie in the Theories of the German Idealists?

Ken Foldes

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ABSTRACT: In the wake of the postmodernist onslaught one thing is certain: morality is in crisis. Where are we to look for answers? Perhaps to the German idealists—that is, to their bold synthesis of right and freedom. This paper seeks to bring the timely issue of absolute freedom and the possibility of its total realization back into ethical-political discussion. Through a close comparison of the theories of Fichte and Hegel via a critique of the former by the latter, I show that the antidote to many of our political, moral and theological distresses may well be found in Hegel’s concept of the State and Sittlichkeit-i.e., truly understood as the realization of absolute freedom, or the "We that is I."

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In the wake of the postmodernist onslaught one thing is certain: morality is in crisis. Where are we to look for answers? Perhaps to the German idealists.—That is, to their bold synthesis of right and freedom. This paper seeks to bring the timely issue of absolute freedom and the possibility of its total realization in today's world back into the center of ethical-political discussion. Through a close comparison of the theories of Fichte and Hegel via a critique of the former by the latter, I hope to show that the antidote to the bulk of our political, moral and theological distresses may well be found in Hegel's concept of the State and Sittlichkeit—i.e., truly understood. Namely, as the realization of absolute freedom, or the "We that is I."

In a recent interview, Derrida was asked the following question:

"We are . . . in a period of highly perfected, nearly consummate nihilism. Everyone is waiting to know where we are going, toward what should we be moving ourselves. Toward what does work such as yours lead?"

Derrida responded: "I don't know. . . . I have no message."(1)

In the wake of the postmodernist onslaught—or charade—one thing is certain: morality is in crisis. Where are we to look for answers? Perhaps to the German idealists—and to their bold synthesis of right and freedom. This paper seeks to bring the timely issue of absolute freedom and the possibility of its total realization in today's world back into the center of ethical-political discussion. Through a critical comparison of the theories of Fichte and Hegel I hope to show that the antidote to the bulk of our political, moral and theological distresses may well be found in Hegel’s concept of the State and Sittlichkeit—as truly understood. Namely, as the realization of absolute freedom, of the "We that is I."

In basic agreement with Hegel, I will first explain why absolute freedom can not be realized in Fichte’s theory, and then why it can be realized in Hegel’s. Lastly, I will underscore the importance of the German idealist theory for our present situation.

I: Hegel’s Critique of Fichte's Ethics

In the Sittenlehre (SL)(2) Fichte states: "The final end of my activity is absolute freedom, absolute independence of nature (136, Kroeger)." This quote attests that for Fichte the supreme goal is for my will to become absolutely free, that is, not dependent on or restricted by any not-I, including the not-I which is another I or will.(3) The realization of freedom, I would offer, will depend on how Fichte conceives the relation between two selves.

The question is: Why can’t freedom be realized in Fichte’s theory? That is, How, according to Hegel, does Fichte’s ethics and political order turn out to be a system of slavery, constraint and unfreedom? The chief reason concerns the Fichtean concept of right which forms the basis of all relations within the state, to wit: "Each individual must restrict his freedom ... (the sphere of his free acts) to allow for the freedom of the others (Naturrecht (NR), 78)." For Hegel, Fichte’s fundamental formulation of right is flawed in that it implies that entering into relationship with another self is a restriction of my freedom rather than its expansion and realization. It presupposes that originally and prior to entering the social contract I enjoy an "infinite sphere of freedom (for my free acts) (SL, 67)" which subsequently gets limited with the introduction of other selves. Thus the state, the community of rational beings is, by its very nature, something repressive, towards which I must take a hostile attitude. The individual can thus regard the Common Will and its laws only as an external coercive power, the origin of all restrictions of its initially infinite sphere of freedom, and not as that through which alone it is able to realize absolute freedom.(4)

Put differently, Fichte having begun his theory with a self-complete individual or subject must needs end up with such; i.e., his theory is "atomistic." It is true that Fichte both says that man can be free not apart from but only in a community of men and offers a deduction of other individuals, their bodies, the state etc. as necessary concomitant conditions of the self-positing individual I, thus seeming to imply that the latter and its freedom are inconceivable apart from the community. But this is only a semblance. For even granting these are legitimate conditions, the fact remains that the community that results is restrictive of freedom. Simply put, in the end I can only regard other persons as limitations of my sphere of freedom, not as its fulfillment, i.e., I cannot completely find my self in the others. And precisely because of this, the will can only be a finite will, not an absolutely infinite will. It appears Fichte was unable to grasp the concept of infinity or spirit, i.e., of identity-in-difference.

What of the charge of slavery or the tyranny of the Moral Law, as Hegel puts it, in the theory of ethics? The basic problem, according to Hegel, is rooted in Fichte’s (and Kant’s) presupposition of an original divorce between morality and nature and the subsequent impossibility of overcoming this split by means of moral activity(5)—a presupposition evidenced in Fichte’s concept of the ought [Sollen], e.g., "I ought to produce the Idea (the Good, the Moral Law) externally" (SL, p.69). This implies that the external world is not yet Idea, is deficient to begin with, that the Idea exists only in concept but not yet in reality.(6) It is to be made reality solely through my individual moral actions, my transforming of portions of the not-I (or Nature) into I, so that ultimately the entire not-I will have been converted into I.

The tyranny the Moral Law involves here is two fold. First: I confront a not-I. I am aware of it as a not-I and am thus dependent. The Moral Law directly commands that I act, determine the not-I, realize my purpose and become free. No sooner than I become free, I find myself again a slave and dependent on another not-I that now confronts me. I soon realizeif I have a scintilla of intelligencethat this is a losing battle: there will never be a shortage of not-I’s I will have to deal with. In fact, I see I can never make any progress in morality and get closer to my goal. Indeed, the Moral Law is relentless, a harsh unforgiving, unrewarding taskmaster: I can never find rest. Second: I can never get a sense of satisfaction that I have done "the right thing"; not just because each moral act is only a "drop in the bucket," but rather owing to the "subjective" element involved in the choice of duties.(7) That is, one’s choice between the infinite mass of contingent duties involved in a single moral situation in the end is arbitrary and based on one’s limited knowledge and subjective preference. This "curse" which affects the moral standpoint, according to Hegel, can only be broken and transcended at the level of sittlichkeit, where the "ought" has been superseded and activity and duty have become one.

The remedy for Fichte’s problems, Hegel tells us, is found by a closer look at what is implied by his principles. What follows from the mere fact that I am free? First, if I am free, if I am practical at all, then right now I am also infinite. For if I can bridge the I/not-I hiatus, if I can transform a not-I into I (recognize a determination of the object as my own determination), then what this implies is 1. that the not-I or world possesses no absolute being, 2. that the not-I is in reality nothing in itself, and most significantly, 3. that the not-I was implicitly I all along. Therefore, in relating to the not-I, I am in reality relating to myself. Hence, if I am free then I am not finite but rather infinite, being in a state of "self-relation."

Secondly, this also means that once I recognize that I can, or have already changed a portion of the not-I (the second step of Fichte’s deduction(8)), I also at once know that I can change all of the not-Ithat, again, the not-I is implicitly I, indeed that my absolutely infinite will or the Good, is already, with this insight realized! This is precisely what Hegel says in the Science of Logic’s analysis of praxis:

[Ordinarily] the actualization of the good appears always as a merely individual act, and not as a universal one. In reality this aspect has sublated itself in [a single] actualization of the good; what still limits the objective Concept is its own view of itself, which vanishes by reflection on what its actualization is in itself. Through this view it is only standing in its own way, and thus what it has to do is to turn, not against an outer actuality [another not-I, or person] but against itself. . . Unsatisfied [Fichtean] striving vanishes when we recognize that the final purpose of the world [viz., the Good] is just as much accomplished as it is eternally accomplishing itself.(9)

Lastly, Hegel charges that Fichte’s theory is dangerous. This is because its principle is a one-sided subjectivity which has spawned in Hegel’s day (in F. Schlegel, Fries and Bouterweck) and in our own "postmodern" age (in Foucault, Derrida, and Rorty) a host of immoral/amoral philosophies where the individual conviction of a subject or ethnic group is held up as the highest court of appeal for its actions. Hegel’s point is that on this principle any action can be justifiedeven the most wicked.(10)

II: Hegel's Theory of Absolute Freedom

The reason why Fichte is unable to realize freedom, i.e. my will as an absolutely infinite will in the here and now, is that he lacks the concept of Spirit (Geist), i.e., of the true infinite or the Concept (Der Begriff), and therefore of Sittlichkeit. To solve the problem of realizing an absolutely infinite will one must first solve the problem of conceiving a relationship with the other which does not restrict but rather guarantees my freedom; where the other is regarded neither as a sheer limit or negation of myself, the point where I end and something else begins (which would confirm me as a finite will), nor as simply reducible to myself (the standard view and misreading of Hegel), but rather as independent of and yet identical with myself. Only through such a relation with the other can an infinite will be realized.

At the level of reflective Verstand—which is unable to unite fixed opposites such as finite/infinite, individual/universal (other than via metaphor) and at which level Fichte and Kant remained—this problem cannot be solved; for this one must rise to the level of speculation or the Concept. Briefly—and this is the concept of the infinite, the fount of Hegel's concept of Spirit and Sittlichkeit—I am finite in that I find myself in relation with an other which is my limit. However, the other ceases to be sheer other and limit when I reflect that we are constituted in the self-same way. That is, the other is also a self, like myself. Further, to the other I am the other. Since both of us are equally self and other, the limit or restriction the other initially constituted for me is abolished. In meeting with the other, I am meeting only with myself, and vice versa. As Hegel says Irather Wehave already passed over into each other.(11) Since in the result I am non-limited or non-finite, I am now infinite. Further, this infinite, that is, true freedom, can only be realized in and through the other or others, i.e. in and through a community or state, a universal medium of recognizing and being-recognized (Anerkanntsein).(12)

It is crucial to see that this concept of the infinite, of the unity of opposites in which the opposites are preserved and not nullified, lies at the basis of Hegel's concept of right, Spirit and Sittlichkeit and makes possible the total realization of freedom in the here and now. In the 1807 Phenomenology for example Hegel writes: "[Spirit] is the absolute substance which is the unity of the different independent self-consciousnesses which, in their opposition, enjoy perfect freedom and independence: the I that is We and the We that is I (p. 110)."(13) In this and like texts, Hegel is telling us that true freedom or infinity, my will as an absolutely infinite will, is not merely an Idea never to exist but only infinitely approximated to but, on the contrary, actually realized in an ethical totality or state alone. Notice that the standard picture of Hegel disseminated by Levinas, Derrida and others, according to which Hegel "reduces the other to the same" or violates the sanctity of the Other by repressing one of the pair of "binary opposites" is totally false. Robert Williams(14) and others are to be highly commended for correcting the widespread misrepresentation of this key doctrine of the German Idealists concerning the status of the other. Hegel moreover unequivocally states in the Philosophy of Right that, "The moral will of the individual constitutes a sanctuary that is inviolate and inaccessible."(15)

Attention must also be directed to Hegel's crucial remarks found at the close of the Phenomenology’s section on Morality which reveal that at the very center of this relation between two selves which constitutes infinity and freedom one discovers none other than—God:

The reconciling Yes, in which the two I's let go their opposed existence, is the existence of the I expanded into a duality, and in it remaining identical with itself . . . : it is God ["it," that is, the "Yes," the "doubled I," the "I-Thou identity-in-difference," is God] appearing in the midst of those who know themselves in the form of pure [absolute] Knowledge (p. 408).

This is a very important textshowing the critical manner in which theology and political/moral theory are integrated in Hegel's position. Hegel's ruling aim, what Richard Kroner and a few others have noted, is simply to transform a transcendent Heaven (Jenseits) into an actual, present Heaven; —an imaginary, indefinitely postponed "futural" freedom into an actual freedom. In the text cited, Hegel is announcing that the true locus of God is precisely and only in the relation between actual (active, acting) historical selves. The true definition or cash value of the word "God" therefore is—"spirit" (Enc. 384) and "spirit," in the end, is — the state, is us, —that is, the "We,"—the "We that is I" —or as four rock-poets of the 1960s put it: "I am he, as you are he, as you are me and we are all together," or in the language of James Joyce: "Here comes everybody!" All of this is to say that God, i.e., the true God, is not a transcendent being, one not here (as Altizer and Nietzsche also tell us(16))—but rather a being who is fully present—identical, a la Hegel, with the ethical whole or "Sittlichkeit" itself.

Thus the answer to the question, How does Hegel succeed in realizing absolute freedom where Fichte fails? is, in one word: the Concept of the Self, or, Sittlichkeit, the Concept realized. In simple terms, Fichte advanced as far as the spheres of right, morality and the pre-political, but not all the way to Sittlichkeit and the truly politicali.e., he remained stuck in the sphere of the "ought" and the individual as such and could not rise to universality, objectivity, and concrete freedom.

In 514-515 of the Encyclopedia Hegel defines Sittlichkeit or the "We that is I" thus:

The free self-knowing Substance, the absolute unity of freedom's individuality and universality, in which the absolute ought no less is, has actuality as the spirit of a nation. The absolute diremption of this spirit is its individualization into persons . . . But as a thinking intelligence the person knows the substance to be his very own being. . . and regards it as his absolute final aim. . . Without having to choose among duties the person performs his duty as his own, as something which is; and in this necessity he has himself and his actual freedom [italics added].

How then does Sittlichkeit realize the Good, the infinite—while Morality could not? In a word, ethical life is absolute freedom fully realized and existent, the unity of my individual will with the universal substantial willwhere is and ought, activity and duty coincide. And it is this only insofar as I actively participate in its sphere as a member of the family, of civil society and the State. It is my membership in these several spheres, each with its respective duties—spheres which have been established independently of my individual, particular will—which guarantees that my actions are "good" and "right." Indeed, Hegel says that, "The State is the product of my activity,"(17) which is to say that what I am doing every day, i.e., the true product of all my actions, momentous and mundane, is not this amount of money, job promotion, vacation, sensual enjoyment, home improvement, and so on, but rather the State itself and its ongoing maintenance. And since the State, the realization of absolute freedom, is also the Good, the product of my activity is in truth the Good! Hence my actions can be deemed "good" precisely because they sustain the Good.

Thus, in virtue of my participation in the State, the Good, and the already established and sanctioned sphere of universal duties, I now also participate in absolute freedom. I no longer, as formerly qua moral subject or person, regard the world, the objective political-social order, as the negation of myself but rather as my own substance and being: the world is truly my world. The truth alone is the "We"—the nexus of universal recognition—that is, the "We that is also I." I see and have myself in each person and institution I encounter, and experience the liberation which the Concept alone can provide.(18)

III: Conclusion

Fichte thus remained at the standpoint of individuality and one-sided subjectivity, i.e. the moral standpoint. He was not able to raise his individuality to universality; nor escape his subjectivity and reach objectivity, i.e., a true subject-objectivity, where thoughts and actions are no less objective than subjective; nor transcend his finitude or limitation by the Other and attain to Spirit or true absolute freedom.

Indeed, it may well turn out that Hegel's concept of the State—as the complete existence of freedom or God on earth (for God = freedom for Hegel and Fichte alike)—can alone provide us with the desperately needed antidote to our contemporary "postmodern" political, moral and theological distress: Political—in that, if correct, it supplies the crucial grounds for the legitimization of the modern state and its arrangements which, properly understood, alone provides for the realization of universal freedom—a legitimation arguably unattainable via current foundationalist theories (consult Richard Winfield’s excellent Reason and Justice on this(19))—and it also puts an end to the painful problem of the individual's alienation from the state via the complete experience of herself as the same; Moral—in that it not only deduces and specifies the content of the "right" and the "good" (which other theories are unable to do), but shows how right or righteousness and the good are actually attainable in the here and nowviz., by a shift in one's view of one's actions and of what the state actually is, and by a "transcending" of morality into sittlichkeit; and perhaps above all, Theological—in that the problem of the existence and knowledge of God becomes finally resolved by the recognition that the state, in the end, is God, and since God is not transcendent but fully present as the state (= Kingdom Come(20)), we can know for certain that He existsfor in knowing ourselves, the "We that is I," we at the same time are knowing Him.(21)

Lastly, only one who possesses the true concept of the state can really enjoy the life of freedom. From this one can acquire a true appreciation of the absolute value and importance of philosophythe very last thing one will obtain from Derrida and friends.

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(1) Jacques Derrida, Points: Interviews, 1974-1994, translated by P. Kamuf (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1995), p. 359, 361.

(2) References are to Fichte's Das System der Sittenlehre nach den Principien der Wissenschaftslehre (1798) Sammtliche Werke, ed. by I.H. Fichte, 8 vols, Berlin: Veit, 1845-46 (= SW, I-VIII), (SW, IV, pp. 1-365), as translated by A.E. Kroeger in The Science of Ethics as Based on the Science of Knowledge (London: Keegan Paul, 1897); and to Grundlage des Naturrechts nach Principien der Wissenschaftslehre (1796-97) (SW, III, pp. 1-385), as translated by A.E. Kroeger in The Science of Rights (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott, 1869).

(3) Also compare the following remarks in the Sittenlehre: "Self-sufficiency, our final end and aim consists in this, that everything is dependent upon me, and I not dependent upon anything (p. 241)." "The utter annihilation of the individual and his submersion in the absolute and pure form of reason, or in God, is most certainly the final end of finite reason (but also not possible in any time) (p. 159)." "The final moral end of each rational being is the self-sufficiency of reason in general, and hence the morality at all rational beings (p. 196)." And in the Wissenschaftslehre: "The self [categorically] demands that it encompass all reality and exhaust the infinite or fills out infinity—that all not-I or nature become I (p. 244, Lachs)." "The Self as Idea (with which the Science ends) is the rational being, partly insofar as it has exhibited universal Reason perfectly within itself, and has thus also ceased to be an individual, partly insofar as it has also fully realized reason outside it in the world (p. 83)."

(4) See Philosophy of Right PP 29, zus., p. 33. For example: "The crucial point in both the Kantian and the generally accepted definition of right is the restriction which makes it possible for my freedom or self-will to co-exist with the self-will of each and all according to a universal law. . . Once this principle is adopted, of course the rational can come on the scene only as a restriction on the type of freedom which this principle involves, and so also not as something immanently rational but only as an external abstract universal. And the phenomena which it has produced both in men's heads and in the world are . . . frightful."

And see Hegel's remarks in The Difference Between Fichte's and Schelling's System of Philosophy (= Differenzschrift), tr. H.S. Harris and W. Cerf (Albany: SUNY Press, 1977). For example: "In the exposition and deduction of nature, as is given in Fichte's System of Natural Law the absolute opposition of nature and Reason and the domination of reflection reveal themselves in all their harshness (p. 142)." "The community of rational beings appears as one conditioned by the necessary limitation of freedom; freedom gives itself the law of self-limitation. This concept of limitation constitutes a realm of freedom where every truly free reciprocal relation of life . . . is nullified." "Freedom is the characteristic mark of rationality; it is that which in itself suspends all limitation, and it is the summit of Fichte's system. In a community with others, however, freedom must be surrendered in order to make possible the freedom of all rational beings living in community. Conversely the community is a condition of freedom. So freedom must suspend itself in order to be freedom! (p. 144)." "If the community of rational beings were essentially a limitation of true freedom, the community would be in and for itself the supreme tyranny (p.145)."

Also see Hegel's Lectures on the History of Philosophy, tr. Haldane and Simpson, vol. III, p. 504. For example: "The individuals [in Fichte's state] always maintain a cold attitude of negativity as regards one another, the confinement becomes closer and the bonds more stringent as time goes on, instead of the state being regarded as representing the realization of freedom."

(5) See Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit, tr. A.V. Miller (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977), "Morality," pp. 364-409, esp. p. 365-66 (par. 600). Also see the Differenzschrift. For example: "In Systems of Ethics and Natural Law like these of Fichte there can be no thought of a synthesis [of nature and freedom] or an indifference point; for the polarity of nature and freedom is fixed and absolute (p.151)."

(6) Of course it should be recognized that Hegel too holds that at the start of human history the Idea, qua the state and its objective rational institutions, did not yet exist; only at the end of history, in Fichte's and Hegel's era, was it finally realized in its fulness. Hegel's point is that Fichte does not see this, that the modern state is essentially rational, is the Idea already existing in reality. And this is simply because he has not risen above the moral standpoint (and that of reflection).

(7) See the Differenzschrift: "Because the duties are equally absolute, choice is possible, and because of their collision, choice is necessary; and there is nothing present to do the deciding, except whim (pp. 150-51)." Also see Enc., PP 507-509 and 511 (in the Philosophy of Mind, tr. Wallace and Miller).

(8) See for example the Naturrechts: "A. We have shown in PP 1 that a rational being can not posit (perceive and comprehend) an object without, in the same undivided synthesis, ascribing to itself a causality. But it cannot ascribe to itself a causality without having posited an object upon which that causality is directed (pp. 48-9)" (italics added). Also see the Sittenlehre: "Freedom is the sensuous representation of self-activity and arises through the opposition of ourselves as intelligence to the determinateness of the object, insofar as we relate the latter to ourselves (p 9)."

(9) Science of Logic, Miller, p. 822, and Enc., PP 234.

(10) See Philosophy of Right, PP 94-103. It also should be noted, however, that though Hegel in general charges Fichte's system and ethics as being subjectivist he does on occasion make statements that tend to mitigate the harshness of this judgment. For example in the Philosophy of Right he remarks that, "Of Fichte himself it cannot properly be said that he made subjective caprice a guiding principle in ethics [for it was F. Schlegel and Fichte's other followers who later deified the pernicious principle] (p. 258)."

(11) See the Science of Logic, tr. Miller, "Infinity," pp. 137-150, and Enc., PP 95.

(12) See Hegel's Jena lectures on the philosophy of spirit (1805-6) translated by Leo Rauch in Hegel and the Human Spirit (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1983), p. 111ff, 120ff, and 128ff. Also see the Phenomenology, tr. Miller, pp. 111-119, and Enc., PP 430-436.

(13) The A.V. Miller translation. Also compare: "In the universal (Spirit [of a people]), therefore, each has only the certainty of himself, of finding in the actual world nothing but himself; . . . I regard them as myself and myself as them (p. 213)."

(14) See Robert Williams' important work, Recognition: Fichte and Hegel on the Other (Albany: SUNY Press, 1992).

(15) See Philosophy of Right, PP 37 zus, p. 91.

(16) See for example Nietzsche's statements in the Antichrist: "(Section 41) Jesus had abolished the very concept of 'guilt' - he had denied any cleavage between God and man; he lived this unity of God and man as his 'glad tidings.' And not as a prerogative!" "(Section34) The word 'son' expresses the entry into the over-all feeling of the transfiguration of all things (blessedness); the word 'father' expresses this feeling itself, the feeling of eternity, the feeling of perfection. I am ashamed to recall what the church has made of this symbolism." "(Section 36) Only we, we spirits who have become free, have the presuppositions for understanding something that nineteen centuries have misunderstood! . . . Mankind lies on its knees before the opposite of ... the meaning of the evangelist; in the concept of 'church' it has pronounced holy precisely what the 'bringer of the glad tidings' felt to be beneath and behind himself." (Kaufmann translation).

And Thomas J.J. Altizer observes that: "[A] contemporary appropriation of the symbol of the Kingdom of God can also make possible our realization of the gospel, or the ‘good news,’ of the death of God: for the death of God does not propel man into an empty darkness, it liberates him from every and opposing other, and makes possible his transition into what Blake hailed as ‘The Great Humanity Divine,’ or the coming together of God and man" (The Gospel of Christian Atheism, The Westminster Press: Philadelphia, 1966, p. 107).

Also see D. H. Leahy’s Foundation, Matter the Body Itself (SUNY Press: Albany, 1996), V. The New Beginning, 1., America After Death: The Universality of God’s Body.

See further Hegel's remarks on the "death of God" and transcendence in the Phenomenology, "Revealed Religion"- remarks which A. Kojeve, R. Solomon and others have completely misunderstood. For example: "God Himself is dead... This feeling is, in fact, the loss of substance [God] and of its appearance over against consciousness... This Knowing [of the death of God, as a being outside of consciousness] is the inbreathing of the Spirit, whereby Substance [God] becomes Subject...has become actual...Self-consciousness (Miller, p. 476)." Thus God is no longer "transcendent" but rather identical with the actual, embodied (religious) consciousness. As Hegel says in the first sentence of "Absolute Knowing": "The Spirit of the revealed religion has not yet surmounted its consciousness as such, or what is the same, its actual self-consciousness is not the object of its consciousness, etc."

(17) Philosophy of Right, PP 257.

(18) See Enc., PP 159: "[The Concept requires that] independent actuality is to be thought of as having its substantiality only in its passing into, and its identity with, the independent actuality that is other than itself. . . The great intuition of Spinoza's substance is only an implicit liberation from finite egoism and exclusivity."

(19) For a sustained account of the difference between Hegel's theory and contemporary political theories I recommend the reader consult Richard Winfield's excellent Reason and Justice (Albany: SUNY Press, 1988). There is no doubt that Winfield is breaking more new ground than most other Hegel scholars trying to apply Hegel's System and methods to contemporary issues and problems. I am sympathetic with the greater part of his arguments. Perhaps the main bone of contention between us involves his desire to exclude the spiritual and "religious" completely from his account of the state and the political. It is obvious to me, at least, that unless the eternal and infinite is reintroduced into the world in some concrete fashion, nihilism (in its extreme form) can not be defeated.

(20) I would like to submit that in the last analysis it is Hegel's sublime intention that the historical de facto State ultimately replace the church and religion, that, more sharply, the Political and Kingdom Come converge. Indeed, was not this Hegel's goal from the very beginning of his career? Was not "Gottesreich" the singular watchword shared by him and his compatriots at Tubingen Stift? Did not Hegel and Schelling feel that with the demise of the "thing-in-itself" and all transcendence, effected by Kant and Fichte, the way was opened for a this-worldly kingdom of God, for a complete identification of transcendence and immanence? And what more direct way to reach the desired goal than by the equation of the de facto state with Gottesreich? Indeed, Hegel himself said in the Jena System that "the actuality of the kingdom of God is precisely the State itself (Rauch, p. 227)"- something the Church, then as now, is totally oblivious to. And in the Philosophy of Right, its very last paragraph, he proclaims that the reconciliation which began in the church ultimately finds, indeed has found its true consummation in the State, where "the place of the former's heavenly beyond has been lowered to an earthly here and now." Not to mention the well-known fact of Hegel's placement in the mature System, of philosophy above religion and his requirement that religious Vorstellungen be elevated into the Concept (i.e., into the I = I, or concrete Self), implying that the essence of religion, i.e., spirit, and its form, would eventually be superseded and absorbed into the State. Thus I would offer that the true meaning of the progressive disappearance of religion in society since the 17th century, is that it has come to be one with and indistinguishable from the political, from the "We that is I" (although most of us don't know or feel it yet! - Thus our task). Isn't this, after all is said and done, what is really the meaning of Nietzsche's infamous eschatological announcement of the "death of God," that is, of his exhortation that we make not the "beyond" (Jenseits) but instead ourselves, our bodies and above all the earth sacred"?

Thus the political and the issue of its proper interpretation must come to occupy center stage in contemporary discourse, especially at this present time when nihilism threatens the very foundations of human existence itself. Hence, if Hegel's theory is correct, if Spirit is indeed the State, is the "We that is I," and if God is, in the last analysis, identical with these, then what this implies is that the Political is the sole place or site where God is realized (God, i.e., absolute freedom, the "We," the identity of the individual and universal). This is why politics is the highest good and absolutely necessary; and also why, in addition to what can be done at the university level, there must be a return to civics in our classrooms and educational institutions. For "civics" would be precisely the instilling into students of this political consciousness of what the State in which he or she lives truly is.

For additional perspective on the identification of the kingdom of God with the present historical world see Thomas J.J. Altizer's important article, "Eternal Recurrence and Kingdom of God," in The New Nietzsche, edited by D. Allison (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1992).

(21) See Hegel's Jena System (Rauch trans.). For example: "Everything [in religious expression] has the form of representation, of the beyond...[it is] not comprehended, not concept, not Self (p. 179)." "For God is the Self, God is man...This is posited in the idea that God (the otherworldly absolute being) has become man, this actual man (p. 177 and n.3)." "In philosophy it is the I as such that is universalthe I that, in the concept, is the knowing of the absolute spirit, in itself, as this. There is no other nature here, not the nonpresent unity, nor a reconciliation that is to exist and to be enjoyed in the beyond, in the future. Rather it is here, here the I knows the Absolute. It knows, it comprehends, it is no other, it is immediate, it is the Self. The I is this indissoluble connection of the individual with the universal." "Religion is the thinking spirit, but which does not itself think, not about itself. Therefore it has no identity with itself, no immediacy. This knowledge on the part of philosophy is the restored immediacy (p.181-82)."

Also see Phenomenology, "Absolute Knowing." For example: "Thus what in religion was content [father, son, spirit, etc.] or a form for presenting an other, is here the Self's own act...For this Concept is, as we see, the knowledge of the Self's act within itself as all essentiality and all existence. . . Truth is the content, which in religion is still not identical with its certainty. But this identity is now a fact, in that the content has received the shape of the Self. etc., etc.(p. 485)." Also cp., Enc. 194 zus. 1: "In the Christian religion, God...revealed himself as this single man, and redeemed mankind by so doing. What this also means is that the antithesis of objectivity and subjectivity is overcome implicitly; and it is our business to participate in this redemption by laying aside our immediate subjectivity (putting off the old Adam) and becoming conscious of God as our true and essential Self."

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