'Michael Allen Gillespie, Hegel, Heidegger, and the Ground of History' snippet reblog

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Puritan Board Freshman
Modern philosophy, modern humankind is afraid of the Truth, according to Hegel. It’s because modern humanity is oriented by a turn-to-the-subjectivism. Of course, this fear has an antecedent source that transcends all periodization (cf. Gen. 3); it is humanity’s lapsed fear that an external reality (extra nos) will confront them in all their ‘godness,’ and tell them that they are No-God; and that the gods they worship are just self-projections of their deepest and most innate desires. Hegel, of course, was working between the antinomies set forth by Kant et al. wherein there is a rupture between the subjectivity of the phenomenal, and the objectivity of the noumenal. Hegel’s was an attempt to broach this dualistic impasse by thinking noumenal and phenomenal worlds together into a dialectic relief mediated by his notion of Geist (or spirit). But I don’t want to go down that rabbit trail too much, instead I simply want to highlight a thought that Michael Gillespie has, as he develops Hegel’s thought, more broadly, and in the process underscores how and why modern people fear the truth. In a nutshell: they don’t want their self-constructed worlds disrupted by something or someOne they didn’t have a hand in developing:

Why then does modern philosophy fear the truth that provides the basis for such a reconciliation? One might assume that this fear is the result of the real or perceived danger that religion and religious zeal or fanaticism pose to social and political peace. Hegel, however, discounts such an interpretation. The real danger to man lies not in the fanaticism of religion but in the fanaticism of revolutionary freedom and the tyranny of nature in bourgeois society. Modern philosophy fears the truth in Hegel’s view not because the truth is dangerous but because the truth upsets the world of satisfaction, i.e., the real of subjectivism that finds everywhere and always only what it wants to find, the world in which all standards are established by the individual himself, the world governed by unfettered natural desire or the emptiness of the categorical imperative and public opinion. Modern philosophy fears the truth in Hegel’s view because the truth means absolute knowledge and hence absolute standards that cannot be overturned by the caprice of passions and opinions. Modern philosophy is thus perhaps distraught by the lack of a real ground, but it fears an absolute science more than the abyss of diremption and alienation. Modern philosophy thus remains fundamentally subjectivistic and relativistic.[1]

More theologically we could cast what Gillespie is describing, under the Hegelian mantle that he is, as an intellectual Pelagianism. It is the desire of human beings to be the masters’ of their universes and destinies. Even in so-called collectivist communities, like we ostensibly find among the disenfranchised who make-up neo-Marxist communios, ultimately, the vision people have is driven by an inner-self-constructed reality that the individual, even in collectivist mode, constructs ex nihilo out of their own fertile imaginations. This is the stuff of critical theory. The idea that human beings have the ontological and noetic capacities to discern what went wrong, and how to fix it; without recourse to an ‘absolute’ notion of truth—and definitely without recourse to the living and Triune God. Ironically, as Gillespie has argued in another one of his books—Theological Origins of Modernity—all that humanity has done, which Christians know from Genesis 3, is methodologically collapse the attributes of the Christian God into themselves. Ultimately, they haven’t constructed anything, they have simply attempted to rip-off God’s glory, and attribute that glory to themselves. It is out of this vacuum, this rupture wherein the modern person has humorously, but tragically thought themselves the standard of all that is right and holy in the cosmos. The point: they haven’t imagined anything, they have simply stolen the material God genuinely constructed ex nihilo, and attempted to recreate a world out of that matter—this is natural theology.

All the chaos we see in the world can be explained by this intellectual (and spiritual) phenomena. It is the world attempting to be their own particularized Jesus christs, motivated by the belief that they, by themselves, even in collection, can construct a situation wherein they, in themselves (in se), are the telos (purpose) of all that is and will be. It is an immanentization of God’s extra-eschatological life, fortified by the belief that humanity and the gates of hell were able to prevail against the Kingdom of Heaven. This is the source of the anarchy, and chaos we see attempting to disjoint the world as we thought we knew it. Don’t worry though, an Antichrist is on its way.

Now the serpent was shrewder than any of the wild animals that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Is it really true that God said, ‘You must not eat from any tree of the orchard’?” 2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit from the trees of the orchard; 3 but concerning the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the orchard God said, ‘You must not eat from it, and you must not touch it, or else you will die.’” 4 The serpent said to the woman, “Surely you will not die, 5 for God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will open and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 When the woman saw that the tree produced fruit that was good for food, was attractive to the eye, and was desirable for making one wise, she took some of its fruit and ate it. She also gave some of it to her husband who was with her, and he ate it. 7 Then the eyes of both of them opened, and they knew they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. –Genesis 3.1-7, NET

[1] Michael Allen Gillespie, Hegel, Heidegger, and the Ground of History (Chicago&London: The University of Chicago Press, 1984), 67-8.


Staff member
This entire piece is one of the better analyses I've seen.
Hegel’s was an attempt to broach this dualistic impasse by thinking noumenal and phenomenal worlds together into a dialectic relief mediated by his notion of Geist (or spirit).
I appreciate avoiding a rabbit hole, but this is exactly what drove mid-century theology.


Puritanboard Clerk
It's a good analysis of Hegel. Most analyses are incompetent but this guy did a good job. Barthian and Neo-Orthodox, however, would not have been Hegelian. They were Neo-Kantians.
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