• Wayfarer
    5.1k
    Topic split from here.

    There's an article by Robert M. Wallace, Hegel's God, although some of it is pretty murky, in my opinion. But it is introduced with the statement that ' 'Large numbers of people both within traditional religions and outside them are looking for non-dogmatic ways of thinking about transcendent reality', of which Hegel's philosophy of religion is given as an example.Wayfarer


    Is it "murky" because it doesn't accord with the interpretation you have arrived through you own readings of Hegel's works?
    Janus

    No. The aspect of the argument I'm dubious about is the passage referring to the 'times when we are more fully real'. I agree with the sentiment, but I don't know if I am persuaded by the argument.

    From the article you cited:

    "Hegel begins with a radical critique of conventional ways of thinking about God. God is commonly described as a being who is omniscient, omnipotent, and so forth. Hegel says this is already a mistake. If God is to be truly infinite, truly unlimited, then God cannot be ‘a being’, because ‘a being’, that is, one being (however powerful) among others, is already limited by its relations to the others. It’s limited by not being X, not being Y, and so forth. But then it’s clearly not unlimited, not infinite! To think of God as ‘a being’ is to render God finite.

    But if God isn’t ‘a being’, what is God? Here Hegel makes two main points. The first is that there’s a sense in which finite things like you and me fail to be as real as we could be, because what we are depends to a large extent on our relations to other finite things. If there were something that depended only on itself to make it what it is, then that something would evidently be more fully itself than we are, and more fully real, as itself. This is why it’s important for God to be infinite: because this makes God more himself (herself, itself) and more fully real, as himself (herself, itself), than anything else is."


    According to this Hegel denies that God is a being and that God is "omniscient, omnipotent, and so forth". In fact logically, God cannot be anything at all if he is not a being or is not being at all. But then Wallace goes on to say that God, unlike finite things, does not depend on any relation to anything to be what He is. This is a blatant contradiction.

    Process theology sees the God/ world relation as absolutely necessary; God needs the world in order to be what he is, in order to be at all, as much as the world needs God in order to be what it is, in order to be at all. The process God is a God that evolves along with the world, not a changeless transcendence. Hegel's God (as Spirit) is also like this, and I think it is likely that Hegel dissembled in relation to orthodoxy in the interests of his public image (I mean he did live in the late 18th through the early to mid 19th century after all) and quite probably also his due to a desire to support what he saw as the socially necessary institution of Christianity.
    Janus

    I don't read this as saying that Hegel is denying the omniscience and omnipotence of God, but of a God. As soon as you attach the indefinite article to 'God', then you have 'objectified' God - declared Him to be 'this as distinct from that'. But he says, if God is a being, then God can't be God. And that is actually quite consistent with classical philosophical theology.

    This is very similar to Paul Tillich's negative theology, about which there's a brief article here. The point that Tillich frequently makes is that it is wrong to say that 'God exists', and that this is a mistake that leads towards atheism. But it's not because God doesn't exist, but is 'beyond existence and non-existence':

    "Existence' - Existence refers to what is finite and fallen and cut of from its true being. Within the finite realm issues of conflict between, for example, autonomy (Greek: 'autos' - self, 'nomos' - law) and heteronomy (Greek: 'heteros' - other, 'nomos' - law) abound (there are also conflicts between the formal/emotional and static/dynamic). Resolution of these conflicts lies in the essential realm (the Ground of Meaning/the Ground of Being) which humans are cut off from yet also dependent upon ('In existence man is that finite being who is aware both of his belonging to and separation from the infinite'. Therefore existence is estrangement."

    I think both Hegel's and Tillich's approaches here are 'apophatic', i.e. negative, in the sense that 'nothing can properly be said' as language itself depends on objectification and 'naming' and therefore is inadequate to deal with the scope of the matter.

    Beware of the confusion that often surrounds the term 'beyond being'. What I think this term really denotes is 'beyond existence', i.e. beyond the realm of birth and death (to put it in rather Eastern terms). Which is again a reference to the transcendence or 'otherness' of deity.

    As for 'God needing the world', I think any Christian would say, of course He does - why else did He wish to 'save' it?
  • Cavacava
    2k
    Hegel's concept of alienation has to do with human powers, and needs, which form reality for a man who finds himself in a certain context or history.

    Man takes needs which he can't realize, which in fact disappoint him and he posits these needs to a fictional entity which has them in abundance, and he gives that entity power over what he ought to do, thereby alienating himself from his own power. As man develops his technology and rationally, it enables him to satisfy the needs the aspects which he initally posited to god. which are overcome enabling man to now get back the powers he posited in god. God then becomes more abstract, god is love, justice and so on.

    It is part of Hegel analytical method...initial meanings, a state of alienation, and then overcoming of alienation asserting new meanings. Marx adopts this schema.

    His treatment of god in his aesthetic theory is different. He says (SEP):

    In religion—above all in Christianity—spirit gives expression to the same understanding of reason and of itself as philosophy. In religion, however, the process whereby the Idea becomes self-conscious spirit is represented—in images and metaphors—as the process whereby “God” becomes the “Holy Spirit” dwelling in humanity. Furthermore, this process is one in which we put our faith and trust: it is the object of feeling and belief, rather than conceptual understanding.
  • Janus
    4.3k


    If God is omniscient then he must first be, right? You can't be omniscient unless you can first be. You commit your own error of saying "he is this rather than that" by saying he is transcendent; that he is not the world or in the world. God is an infinite being; or, better, God is infinite being, but there is also a sense in which what we think of as finite beings are in-finite insofar as they are not precisely bounded or determinate.
  • Wayfarer
    5.1k
    Marx adopts this schema.Cavacava

    Only to turn it upside down.

    If God is omniscient then he must first be, right?Janus

    The distinction being made here is between 'being' and 'existing'.

    You might say of 'the first principle', that it IS, but not that it exists. The reason is given in that passage I quoted - 'to exist' is to be separate, to be this as distinct from that. The 'realm of existence' is the 'phenomenal realm' or, in traditional philosophical theology, 'the world' or even 'the fallen world'.

    Furthermore, all finite things ('here below') are composed of parts and have a beginning and end in time - there is no particular thing to which this does not apply. So to all intents, that applies to everything that exists, every phenomenal thing ('all beings' or 'the ten thousand things' etc).

    Whereas, if the first principle is not composed of parts, and doesn't begin and end in time, then how can you say of it that 'it exists'?

    I think this type of understanding goes back to origins of Western metaphysics, the Parmenides: 'What is real, cannot not be, and what is not real, cannot come to be'. That began the 'dialectic of the nature of being and becoming' which was then elaborated over the subsequent centuries in theological philosophy.

    there is also a sense in which what we think of as finite beings are in-finite insofar as they are not precisely bounded or determinate.Janus

    In this schema, particular beings - individuals - are created and therefore finite. In Christian doctrine, the soul might be immortal (although the details are somewhat mysterious) but the corporeal form is mortal.

    This is a particular idea, with a particular history. You can find allusions to it in various philosophers and in philosophical theology. There's another OP I often link to, God Does Not Exist, by Bishop (!) Pierre Whalon. But it's hard to get the idea of apophatic theology, I do admit.
  • Janus
    4.3k
    You might say of 'the first principle', that it IS, but not that it exists.Wayfarer

    Sure, but I didn't say God must exist, I said he must be. If God is, then God must be,which means that God is a being (albeit not a finite being). This is just a matter of the logic of the ideas; we must stick to that or we are simply talking nonsense. Of course God does cannot exist as an empirical being, that much is obvious.

    But it's hard to get the idea of apophatic theology, I do admit.Wayfarer

    I am familiar enough with apophatic theology, so there's no need to be patronizing. Nothing at all can be said of God if you take the apophatic approach seriously; other than what God is not. This means we cannot say God is transcendent, immanent, omniscient, omnibenevolent, omnipotent or anything else at all. What use is such a notion of God? It constitutes a non-notion.

    On the other hand its fine if you say that God cannot be known discursively, but only experientially, through affect. God then is a kind of human feeling. And Hegel does say something like this if I am not mistaken.

    As for 'God needing the world', I think any Christian would say, of course He does - why else did He wish to 'save' it?Wayfarer

    I don't believe an orthodox Cristian would say that God needs the world. They might say God loves the world or cares about the world, but it is generally thought that, being omnipotent God could end the world in a heartbeat if He so willed. Of course there is an inherent contradiction involved in attributing any desire or emotion to an infinite, changeless, transcendent being.
  • Wayfarer
    5.1k
    I wasn’t meaning to patronize, but not a lot of people get that there can be ‘non-empirical beings’.

    God could end the world in a heartbeat if He so willedJanus

    I think the idea that the world is a gratuitous creation is liberating, somehow.
  • Πετροκότσυφας
    525
    I wasn’t meaning to patronize, but not a lot of people get that there can be ‘non-empirical beings’.Wayfarer

    This might be because it is never explained to them what's the difference between "existing" and "being". We can readily understand the commonsensical notion of existing but not that of being. You yourself, in your previous post, draw the distinction, say a couple of things about "existing", which we already know, and then leave "being" unexplained. It's not surprising that not a lot of people get that.
  • Noble Dust
    2k
    God then is a kind of human feeling.Janus

    God isn't so much a human feeling in this view (the experiential view), but rather the human feeling is pointing to the reality of God. By drawing the conclusion that "God is a kind of human feeling", you're beginning with the abstract concept of God and assigning it to "human feeling" instead of actually beginning with that feeling and experientially exploring whether it leads to "God". In other words, you (I think unintentionally) are setting up a straw man in which a God only accessible via experience can't actually exist in the first place.

    I don't believe an orthodox Cristian would say that God needs the world.Janus

    You're correct, they wouldn't. The theology of sin, punishment, heaven and hell all prevent this concept from being acceptable.

    Actually, it's fascinating to apply the concept of "need" to God. God is said to be Love itself, for instance; perfect, unconditional love. How do Love and Need interact?

    being omnipotent God could end the world in a heartbeat if He so willed.Janus

    I've never understood the point of these hypotheticals about God. What's so compelling about this idea? If he did in fact end the world in a heartbeat, we wouldn't even be around to figure out what's so compelling... :-d

    I think the idea that the world is a gratuitous creation is liberating, somehow.Wayfarer

    How so?
  • Noble Dust
    2k


    Can you explain "Being" for us, then?
  • Wayfarer
    5.1k
    This might be because it is never explained to them what's the difference between "existing" and "being".Πετροκότσυφας

    Not an easy distinction to explain, I will admit.
  • Πετροκότσυφας
    525


    I didn't make the distinction, so no, I can't. I guess it is supposed to explain the contingency of the world's existence by identifying God's existence with his essence, whereas our existence and essence are distinct. Of course, what's the precise meaning of this, how it relates to other notions attributed to God or what's its importance is left unexplained.
  • Noble Dust
    2k
    I guess it is supposed to explain the contingency of the world's existence by identifying God's existence with his essence, whereas our existence and essence are distinct.Πετροκότσυφας

    I would re-order those terms to say that: God is essence; existence emanates from God (essence). The physical world, and we humans, are existenants; emanations.

    So I wouldn't assign existence and essence as separate concepts that apply to both God and us, but in apparently different ways. Rather, essence (God) -> existence (world).
  • Πετροκότσυφας
    525


    I guess that someone could say that this begs the question of what essence means here and how existence flows from it. The issue, after all, is not just the order of the terms, but mainly their meaning.
  • Noble Dust
    2k


    Sure, the issue is actually that we're dealing with the most fundamental of fundamentals. But that's not begging the question; I'm not using a premise to support itself, for instance. What's actually happening is that language begins to fail here.

    I'll offer a possible definition of essence: Ultimate Reality; the thing itself.

    And a definition of existence: the creative emanation form essence. Our experience of existence, then, is largely an experience of the physical world, which is the creative emanation from essence.

    Of course, then I would need to define "creative".
  • Wayfarer
    5.1k
    The key is ‘the way of negation’. That is something known in both Christian and Buddhist philosophy. It sounds very complicated when you try and articulate it verbally, but that’s because it arises from non-verbal understanding, which is of course central to the contemplative practice of monks from both traditions.

    The problem we have is that we mostly reside in the verbal/discursive layer or level of mind. That is perfectly OK as far as it goes but when it comes to dealing with ‘the fundamental principle’ it is not particularly useful. It takes meditation, but in the Eastern sense of ‘dhyana’ rather than verbally thinking something over.

    Here’s an example from Buddhism. There was a series of scriptures called Prajñāpāramitā which were the initial Mahāyāna sutras. Some of them were extremely lengthy, for instance comprising 108,000 stanzas containing many abstruse philosophical distinctions. However, there is one particular form of the Prajñāpāramitā which is called ‘Prajñāpāramitā in One Letter’, that letter being the Sanskrit letter ‘A’ (अ). This is the negative particle, approximately equal to the English particle ‘un-‘ (as in unknown, unmade, etc.) That is the ‘way of negation in a single syllable’. There’s an equivalent in Zen, the Chinese character Mu, 无, which carries the same meaning.

    In Western spiritual traditions, there are parallels, although of course the liturgical and dogmatic backgrounds are very different. Although, as one Zen teacher once remarked, languages are different everywhere, but hearts and lungs all work the same. ;-)
  • Πετροκότσυφας
    525
    Sure, the issue is actually that we're dealing the most fundamental of fundamentals. But that's not begging the question; I'm not using a premise to support itself, for instance. What's actually happening is that language begins to fail here.Noble Dust

    I used "begs the question", not with its logical fallacy meaning, but as an idiomatic phrase which means that a specific claim leads to a specific question. I'm not a native speaker, so if that's not really an acceptable phrase, my apologies.



    I'll offer a possible definition of essence: Ultimate Reality; the thing itself.

    And a definition of existence: the creative emanation form essence. Our experience of existence, then, is largely an experience of the physical world, which is the creative emanation from essence.

    Of course, then I would need to define "creative".
    Noble Dust

    This seems more like another name, not as a definition which explains the term by description. At any rate, this causes me to ask if the thing in itself exists. Surely, it seems like the category of existence can't apply to it, since it is prior to existence, but "prior" seems to be commonsensically understood in relation to existence. So, it seems to me that, either this emanation you talk about is nonsensical (i.e. language fails), so we rightly do not understand this kind of talk, or emanation is not temporal or causal in any way, but rather essence is a logical category immanent to the empirical world. Then, that seems like something quite different and far more restrained from what classical theism and wayfarer are talking about.
  • Πετροκότσυφας
    525


    Wayfarer, I wonder then if that's the right place for you. I'd say, without being sarcastic, that a monastery where you can practice meditation and art seems far more suitable.
  • Wayfarer
    5.1k
    I wonder then if that's the right place for youΠετροκότσυφας

    'That' meaning...?
  • Wayfarer
    5.1k
    Ordinary life can be the theatre of practice, but it takes work.
  • Noble Dust
    2k
    I used "begs the question", not with its logical fallacy meaning, but as an idiomatic phrase which means that a specific claim leads to a specific question. I'm not a native speaker, so if that's not really an acceptable phrase, my apologies.Πετροκότσυφας

    No problem, I just assumed you meant the logical fallacy. But, what you're describing instead just sounds like a request for a definition of terms, which I tentatively offered.

    This seems more like another name, not as a definition which explains the term by description.Πετροκότσυφας

    Ah, but now you seem to be "begging the question" by your own definition of that phrase. :) How would you go about defining "essence"? And if you have no definition, why critique mine? I ask that in good faith. In other words, you seem to either have a definition in mind yourself, or you have a reason for why you're interested in the question itself, despite not having a definition in mind. I'd like to hear either one, whichever it is. It would probably bring some clarity.

    Surely, it seems like the category of existence can't apply to it, since it is prior to existence, but "prior" seems to be commonsensically understood in relation to existence.Πετροκότσυφας

    I don't use the word "prior" because it erroneously suggests that time is a component of the relationship between essence and existence. The problem here is that we have trouble imagining existence as an emanation from essence without conceptualizing "emanation" as an action; thus something that happens within time. But if we imagine that essence gives birth to the entire physical universe as we know it (3 dimensions, plus time as the so-called 4th dimension), then the problem doesn't exist; existence is, then, the given reality of the physical world.

    So, it seems to me that, either this emanation you talk about is nonsensical (i.e. language fails)Πετροκότσυφας

    No; I don't equate the failure of language with "nonsense". The failure of language points to the metaphysical reality that I'm describing above.

    or emanation is not temporal or causal in any way, but rather essence is a logical category immanent to the empirical worldΠετροκότσυφας

    Yes, as I argued above, emanation isn't temporal or casual; however, because I don't understand your conflation of "language failing" and "nonsense", I'm not sure how "essence" as a "logical category immanent to the empirical world" follows, although it sounds interesting.
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