Was Hegel a Humanist?



If, by "humanist," you mean secular, i.e., pertaining to the saeculum, the "age," as in the Biblical phrase in saecula saeculorum, then I think Hegel was one of the most profoundly "secular" thinkers who has ever lived, together with Heidegger.  This is a stance that does not deny eternity, but insists that eternity can only be understood, if it can be understood - indeed can only exist - through time.  The failure to conceive of eternity through time led to what Hegel called "bad infinity."  For Hegel, infinity cannot "set itself over and against" the finite.  Hegel was religious, but secular, and proved that Christianity is a profoundly secular religion.  Although he was extremely critical of what he called the "positivity" of the Christian religion, his attitude was different from that of, say, Christopher Hitchens, who simply thought that religion is bad ("God is not great").  Hegel's philosophy was more secular - i.e., more historical - than Hitchens's attitude, because Hegel did not merely abstractly reject religion in favor of science; he historicized the ontological presuppositions of atheism and naturalism and what you might call "naive realism," or what Hegel called "sense certainty".  He historicized naturalism without rejecting naturalism.

On the other hand, if, by "humanist," you mean privileging the human subject in an ahistorical, a priori way, then Hegel was the very opposite of a humanist.  His entire question is: how was the subject constituted, how is the subject constituted, how will the subject be constituted?


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