Hegel and the Symbolic Mediation of Spirit

By Kathleen Dow Magnus
Foreword by Stephen Houlgate

Subjects: Hegel
Series: SUNY series in Hegelian Studies
Paperback : 9780791450468, 311 pages, August 2001
Hardcover : 9780791450451, 311 pages, August 2001

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Table of contents

Foreword by Stephen Houlgate
A Note on the Textual Sources
Abbreviations of Hegelian Texts Cited


I. Derrida's provocation


A. Metaphor and philosophy
B. Spirit's use of the sign


II. The need to consider the symbolic


A. Other commentators on Hegel and the symbol
B. Spirit's symbolic self-determination in the imagination, art, and religion


III. Hegel's idea of spirit


A. Neither right nor left
B. Spirit's identity and difference


1. The Symbol and the Sign in Hegel's Philosophy

I. Basic Terminology


A. The symbol and the sign in the Hegelian text
B. Twentieth-century understandings of the symbol and the sign


II. Can philosophy conceive the symbolic?


A. Conscious symbolism of the comparative type
B. Metaphor in philosophical aesthetics


2. The Means to Theoretical Self-Determination

I. The rise of the symbol and sign-making capacities (Or, does spirit consume the sensuous?)


A. Intuition (Anschauung)
B. Representation (Vorstellung)


II. From symbol to sign: a different kind of difference (Or, is the sign a transparent means of spirit?)


A. The imagination's creation of symbols and signs
B. The importance of the sign and the symbol


III. Sign of memory (Gedachtnis) and language (Sprache) (Or, how does the intelligence determine the "other"?)


A. Names, meaning, and existence
B. The symbol and the sign as elements of language


IV. The loss of meaning and the transition to thought (Or, how can spirit make itself be?)


A. Mechanical memory
B. Spirit's theoretical determination


3. Spirit's Symbolic Self-Presentation in Art

I. Art in general


A. Art as the presentation of spirit
B. Art as symbolic
C. Art as necessary and dissolving


II. The symbolic form of art


A. Symbolic art's lack with respect to art's ideal
B. The different forms of symbolic art
C. The importance of these symbolic forms


III. The classical form of art


A. The supersession of symbolic art's deficiencies
B. Symbolic elements of classical art


IV. The romatic form of art


A. Romantic art as a spirit advance
B. Symbolic elements of romantic art


V. The "end" of art?


A. Art's dissolution
B. Art's (symbolic) absoluteness


4. Spirit's Symbolic Self-Representation in Religion

I. Religious consciousness as symbolic


A. Pre-representational forms of religious consciousness
B. Religious representation and the symbolic


II. Symbolic elements of finite religions


A. Indian religion, the religion of imagination (Phantasie)
B. Egyptian religion, the religion of riddles (Ratsel)
C. Greek religion, the religion of beauty (Schonheit)
D. Jewish religion, the religion of sublimity (Erhabenheit)


III. Symbolic elements of absolute religion


A. Absolute versus finite religions
B. The Christian conception of the trinity
C. The Christian conception of the incarnation
D. Community, tradition, and interpretation


IV. The human, the divine, and the symbolic


A. The need for the symbolic
B. The unity of the human and the divine


5. The Process of Philosophy and Spirit's Symbolic Mediation

I. Philosophy and the symbol


A. The transparency of thought: philosophy, logic, and truth
B. The double meaning of meaning


II. Philosophy in relation to art and religion


A. Philosophy's comprehension of art and religion
B. Spirit's need to be in an other form


III. Hegel's idea of spirit


A. Genuine self-determination
B. The process is the result



Employs Derrida's critique of Hegel as the impetus for a new understanding of Hegel's concept of "spirit."


Contesting the widely-held assumption that Hegel shows a clear preference for the sign over the symbol, this book expounds the indispensable importance of the symbol for spirit's ultimate determination. Employing Derrida's critique of Hegel as the impetus for a new understanding of Hegel's concept of spirit, the book forces readers to take a fresh look at issues in the philosophy of language, aesthetics, and theology. Magnus shows how the collective power Hegel calls "spirit" remains relevant to the contemporary human situation, even in light of the serious and pressing objections of postmodern philosophy.

Kathleen Dow Magnus is an instructor of philosophy at the Julius-Maximilians-Universita¬t, Wu¬rzburg, Germany.


"The strength and originality of Kathleen Dow Magnus's work is that she sees Hegel's texts as deepening our understanding of true self-determination and of the vital role played by symbols in such self-determination. Thanks are due to Dr. Magnus for showing us a Hegel who continues to be deeply relevant to both the modern and the postmodern worlds." — Stephen Houlgate, editor of Hegel and the Philosophy of Nature

"Semiotics and symbolism (in and out of literature) are both important subjects, and controversial ones as well. Neither has been much discussed in relation to Hegel. This book is a welcome supplement to other treatments of Hegel's theory of language. It has much to teach us." — Martin Donougho, University of South Carolina-Columbia