Monday, 20 February 2012

Conclusion: "In his philosophy Hegel cannot control the tremendous power of the negative. Discuss."

The conclusion from an essay I wrote recently:

In conclusion, then, I would state that Hegel’s philosophy cannot control the power of the negative. His system finds its Achilles’ heel in the event that has fascinated and terrified mankind for millennia. Indeed, it can be said that it is here where philosophy must end and religious hope must begin. One of the most influential Christian theologians of the twentieth century, the Swiss-born Karl Barth, is famous for his pioneering of “dialectical theology.” A self-proclaimed admirer – and critic – of Hegel, he proposed that in the death and resurrection of Christ, “Our negative, known, human existence, so little conformed to Jesus, is filled with hope by the positive and secret power of the resurrection.” [1] For Barth, it is only in the event of the resurrection that the ultimate negation of death is overcome, requiring a radical reshaping of Hegel’s philosophy so that God is the only truly free subject that can influence human lives held captive by sin and death. Barth was writing against a liberal theology inherited from nineteenth-century theologians such as Friedrich Schleiermacher, who he saw as being far too influenced by a philosophy centred on the freedom of man, rather than on the freedom of God. As a Christian believer myself, I can fully concur with his views, agreeing that such an approach marks the downfall of Hegel’s philosophy. Such a view, however, is beyond the reach of philosophical discourse to confirm or disconfirm, and so I will end my discussion of the issue here.

[1] Karl Barth, The Epistle to the Romans (London: Oxford University Press, 1953), 197.