Reading Hegel’s Philosophy of Mind VI: On Theocracy

Note: Wow — I really don’t write like this anymore (lengthy, circuitous sentences.) I think writing a dissertation pretty much pounded it out of me.

22 September 1999

I just finished reading the “Mind Objective” chapter, sections 483 through 552. What strikes me about Mind Objective is the convergence of Religion and State as necessary for the actualization of the Mind.

On one level, this convergence makes sense since, as Hegel says in section 552,

“it is vain to delude ourselves with the abstract and empty assumptions that the individuals will act only according to the letter or meaning of the law, and not in the spirit of their religion where their inmost conscience and supreme obligation lies” (287).

I can think of several examples from history and current events: for example, civil disobedience on the part of Martin Luther King Jr.; the voice of the Religious Right in American politics.

But what bothers me a little is the scent of theocracy that such a convergence may result, especially since Hegel looks to “the Protestant state” (291) as his example of such a convergence.

I cannot help thinking that Hegel, for all of his call for a universal totality that includes all particulars, seems too particular in his particular Zeitgeist: a Protestant German philosopher living under the constitutional monarchy sees a Protestant state ruled under a constitutional monarchy as the meet state for the coming about the Notion of the Mind.

Perhaps because I am situated in the Zeitgeist of American cynicism and asunderness of Church and State that I perceive Hegel a bit cautiously.

I have been thinking of Hegel’s “Ought,” and much of Hegel’s teleologically based universal history, a history in which its aim is the actualization of Reason, seems to be driven by the “Ought.”

As mentioned in an earlier journal, the space between what is and what ought to be is very wide, and great moments of irrationality, like Stalinism and Nazism, make one wonder whether there is much Irrationality working through man’s actions besides the Rational.

I think it is this Irrationality that spurred Milton to write his political tracts, like “Areopagitica,” which rationally argued for freedom of the press, what ought to be.

But he bumped against what actually is, and nobody (at least nobody with power) considered his argument.

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