Philosopher Herman Nohl sorted Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel’s manuscripts into five groups: “Folk Religion and Christianity” (Volksreligion und Christentum), “The Life of Jesus” (Das Leben Jesu), “The Positivity of the Christian Religion” (Die Positivität der christlichen Religion), “The Spirit of Christianity and Its Fate” (Der Geist des Christentums und sein Schicksal), and several fragments including “The System Fragment of 1800” (Systemfragment von 1800). This arrangement of Hegel’s unfinished works may not have pleased the philosopher.
Hegel’s decision never to publish any of these works is significant. His first published book, Differenz des Fichte’schen und Schelling’schen Systems der Philosophie (1801; The Difference Between Fichte’s and Schelling’s Philosophy, 1977), reveals that by then he had already gone beyond Immanuel Kant and toward Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph von Schelling, from whom he was shortly to break as well. Yet, through all the essays and fragments that Hegel wrote up to 1800, Kant can easily be seen as the dominant influence on Hegel’s thought.
The two most valuable essays in Nohl’s collection are “The Positivity of the Christian Religion” and “The Spirit of Christianity and Its Fate.” They form the centerpiece of the 1948 English translation, which does not include either “Folk Religion and Christianity” or “The Life of Jesus” because the translator, Thomas Malcolm Knox, considered the former too disorganized and the latter a clumsy attempt to portray Jesus Christ as only a preacher of Kantian ethics.
“The Positivity of the Christian Religion” criticizes the legalistic and worldly aspects of the Church. Because Hegel worked on it sporadically for about six or seven years, its method is inconsistent and its quality is uneven. Yet its overarching theme is clear. In philosophy, the term “positivity” refers to whatever exists, as it directly...
(The entire section is 827 words.)