Speculative Dogmatics

Kierkegaard's theological training culminated in an introduction to speculative dogmatics in the university lectures of his former tutor Hans Lassen Martensen and readings on the subject. Nineteenth-century German and Danish speculative dogmatics developed out of the idealist philosophy of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831), who sought to comprehend everything, including God or Absolute Spirit, as an encompassing whole through speculation (from the Latin speculum, meaning 'mirror') or the 'double mirroring' of thought and being, ideality and reality, human consciousness and ultimate reality in each other.46 Hegel's philosophical system evolves through a necessary dialectical movement in three phases: thesis (the positing of a rational concept), antithesis (the negation of the posited concept by its opposite), and synthesis (the mediation or reconciliation of these polarities in a higher rational unity that simultaneously annuls and

44 See Kirmmse (1990: 198-237); Allchin (1997); Koch (1952).

45 Kirmmse (1990: 212-13). 46 Hodgson (2005: 7, 69, 79-81).

preserves (German: aufheben) both terms). Contra Kant, for whom human knowledge was limited to the sensible intuition and understanding (Verstand) of the phenomenal realm, Hegel envisioned the rational as the real and the real as rational, in other words, the identity of thought and being. He believed that the meaning and unity of science, history, and the products of human self-consciousness in art, religion, philosophy, and sociopolitical structures can be known and comprehended through reason (Vernunft), the intellectual apprehension of reality as the dialectical process by which God or Absolute Spirit progressively acquires self-consciousness or knowledge of itself in and through its divestment and self-becoming in nature and human self-consciousness. The consciousness of God as Absolute Spirit, which for Hegel culminates in philosophy rather than theology, in turn constitutes the highest realization of human self-consciousness.

There was, then, a strongly religious dimension in Hegel's philosophy that made it appealing to many Christian theologians. Indeed, for Hegel philosophy is theology, inasmuch as in his view they share the same content expressed in different forms (through concepts in philosophy; via representation in religion).47 Hegel himself was a Lutheran, studied theology at the Tübingen seminary, wrote some early theological essays on Christianity and lectured on the philosophy of religion.48 After his death the Hegelian school divided into three factions: right-wing and centre Hegelians, made up mostly of older disciples of Hegel, and left-wing Hegelians, dubbed the 'Young Hegelians', although some on the right and in the centre were of the same generation.49 Those on the right, such as Carl Friedrich Göschel (1784-1861), Philipp Konrad Marheineke (1780-1846), Carl Daub (17651836), and Johann Eduard Erdmann (1805-92), defended the compatibility of Hegelian philosophy with Christianity and continued to develop Hegel's speculative thought along theistic lines, arguing in favour of a personal God and the immortality of the soul. Those in the centre, such as Eduard Gans (1797-1839), Karl Michelet (1801-93), and Karl Rosenkranz (1805-79), continued to concern themselves with the main lines of Hegelian philosophy and the reinterpretation of religious dogma in Hegelian terms.50 The left wing included David Strauss (1808-74), Bruno Bauer (1809-82), Ludwig Feuerbach (1804-72), Max Stirner (1806-56), Arnold Ruge (1802-80), and Karl Marx (1818-83), among others. These thinkers radically undermined Hegelian philosophy from within, converting its idealism into materialism (Marx), its theology into anthropology (Feuerbach), its objectivity into

47 Hegel (1984-7: i. 84). 48 Crites (1998: 16-27); Hegel (1948 and 1984-7).

49 Toews (1980: 203-54); Hodgson (2005: 15); Brazill (1970); Wood (1993a: 414); Strauss

subjectivity (Bauer and Stirner), its constitutional monarchism into democracy (Ruge), and its historical basis in the New Testament into mythology (Strauss and Bauer).51 Hegelian philosophy was attacked on other fronts as well. In Denmark the broadside was led by Bishop Mynster and two of Kierkegaard's teachers, Frederik Christian Sibbern (1785-1872) and Poul Martin Moller (1794-1838), against Hegel, Martensen, and Johan Ludvig Heiberg (1791-1860), the foremost Danish exponent of Hegelian philosophy of the time.52

It was primarily right-wing Hegelian speculative theology and critiques thereof to which Kierkegaard was introduced in the lectures of Martensen and in his readings on the subject, which included works by Erdmann, Marheineke, Franz Xavier von Baader (1765-1841), and Immanuel Herman Fichte (1797-1879), as well as articles by Erdmann, Rosenkranz, Daub, and others in the German periodical Zeitschrift für Spekulative Theologie (Journal for Speculative Theology) (SKS xviii. KK 11. 19; NB 4. 3-12, 13-46; SKP i, C 25-7; xiii, II C 26-8, 61; JP v. 5066, 5222; KJN i, DD 1-2, 8, 10, 12-13).53 Martensen had studied Hegelian speculative theology with Daub and Marheineke in Germany but professed to go beyond Hegel as well as orthodox supernaturalism and rationalism in the development of a theonomous theology that grounds human freedom and reason in divine power.54 In this way he sought to reassert the primacy of faith and revelation over Hegelian autonomous reason while continuing to employ the Hegelian dialectical method. The concept of mediation or reconciliation, the central category of Hegel's dialectic and Martensen's speculative dogmatics, became the primary target of Kierkegaard's later critique of speculative philosophy and theology.55

Kierkegaard also became acquainted with the left-wing Hegelian school, especially critiques of Strauss's epoch-making book of 1835, Das Leben Jesu kritisch bearbeitet (The Life of Jesus Critically Examined), by Julius Schaller (1807-68), von Baader, and Marheineke (SKS xviii, KK 2; xix, NB 9. 1; SKP xiii, II C 54).56 He also formed a friendship with Hans Brochner (1820-75), a distant relative who translated Strauss's Die christliche Glaubenslehre (The Doctrines of the Christian Faith, 1842-3) into Danish, a copy of which Kierkegaard owned.57 Later he acquired Feuerbach's revolutionary work,

51 Brazill (1970); Welch (1972: 147-54, 170-7); Toews (1993: 378-413). See also Stewart (2007a, 2007b).

52 Mynster (2004); Kirmmse (1990: 140-5); N. Thulstrup (1980d: 33-9, 150-4, 178); Widenmann (1982: 76).

54 Thompson and Kangas (1997: 6-9). 55 Stewart(2004b: 583-7); Martensen (2004).

56 See Pattison (2007); Hannay (2001: 210-11); Rohde(1967: nos. 407, 759).

57 Kirmmse (1996: 225-52); Sorainen (1981: 198-203); Rohde (1967: nos. 803-4).

Das Wesen des Christenthums (The Essence of Christianity, 1841), and was even mentioned in company with Strauss and Feuerbach in a book by the Danish left-wing Hegelian Andreas Frederik Beck (1816-61).58 As for the writings of Hegel himself, Kierkegaard apparently had little direct acquaintance with them during this period, and his attitude toward Hegel's philosophy was both appreciative and critical, depending on the topic being discussed.59 One commentator claims that Kierkegaard underwent 'a phase of infatuation' with Hegel's philosophy, and Kierkegaard himself, looking back on these years in a late journal entry, declared: 'What a Hegelian fool I was!' (JP iv. 4281).60

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