Religious Alienation - Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

Although the roots of alienation lie far back in the Judeo-Christian tradition, the concept of alienation first gained prominence in the philosophy of Hegel, and particularly in his mature writings. There are signs of the idea in his earlier works, but it is not until the Phenomenology of Spirit(1807) that alienation occupies a central place in his writings.

In the opening sections of the Phenomenology, Hegel attacked the views of common sense and simplified natural science that the world consisted of discrete objects independent of man's consciousness. Truth, for Hegel, was not to be found in knowledge that was stripped of any influence from man's own desires and feelings. Ultimately, Hegel considered that there could be no truth that was not intimately linked with the ongoing process of human beings as thinking subjects; truth was their truth. The supposed objectivity of the world of nature was in fact an alienation, for man's task was to discover, behind these appearances, his own essential life and finally to view everything as a facet of his own self-consciousness. The same principle applied to the world of culture in which such spheres as art and religion, if viewed as independent of man, constituted so many alienations to be overcome by integration into the final understanding and recapitulation which was Absolute Knowledge.

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