What did Hegel think about God?
👼 Hegel had ideas about God that challenge me and I feel like I’ve been thinking about God a long time.
To Hegel, freedom is achieved when a human teases out all the inner prejudices and external messages that are guiding his decisions on a day to day basis. Only by clarifying what presumptions come from where and analyzing their merits can a person truly be said to be free.
So West argues that Hegel sees God as the process by which humans attain freedom. Maybe it’s not just humans, too. Maybe it’s all beings. Maybe we are all in this process of coming free together. Obviously it takes longer for beings without a capacity for dialectic, but no one said it would be easy.
Underlying this idea is a notion that God must be something more than a “being” because beings are finite. God must, Hegel assumes, be bigger than anything that can be defined with distinct edges.
📘 For a somewhat orthogonal view, West’s very good provocation made me think of Peter Singer’s Hegel: A Very Short Introduction. I have read several of these volumes and this has been (by far, by far) the best.
I can’t find my copy right now, but at the back of the book Singer tries to dig into Hegel’s take on God, and as I remember he finds Hegel a little evasive on the topic. Singer comes down on the idea though that Hegel might best be described as a panentheist.
Panentheism stresses the being of both God and the world and one vein of it seems to suggest that God might need the world in some way.
This is super simplistic, but it also makes sense. What if God had to express the divine in some way. What if God needed to create the earth and earthliness to find God’s own way?
Regardless, I think it’s powerful to think about God as a part of the process the Hegel described. There is a dialectic that exists in the world and the dialectic appears to be making progress, at least if we step back far enough.
If you step back really far, you might even be able to glimpse something of the maker of creation. 🌅