Hegel’s Concept of The True Infinite

The Owl of Minerva 42 (1/2):89-122 (2010)
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According to Hegel, the true infinite is the fundamental concept of philosophy. Yet despite this fact, there is absence of consensus concerning its meaning and significance. The true infinite challenges the currently dominant non-metaphysical interpretations of Hegel, as it challenged the dominance of the Kantian framework in its own day, specifically Kant’s attack on theology and his treatment of theology as a postulate of moralit y. Kant admits that the God-postulate has only subjective necessity and validity, and is an expression of moral faith. Hegel both accepts Kant’s approach to the God-question through freedom and practical reason, but he rejects Kant’s philosophy of the postulates as incoherent, burdened with finitude and antithesis. The ought is only the beginning of the transcendence of finitude, but also essentially clings to finitude. This is the spurious infinite. In contrast to the traditional view of abstract transcendence, Hegel shows that the very attempt to separate the infinite from the finite only renders the infinite finite and levels it. The consciousness of limit (finitude) implies a transcendence of limit. The true infinite is an onto-theological principle, a social infinite that overcomes the limits imposed by abstract transcendence and the dualisms imposed by the Kantian frame. It is of vital importance for Hegel’s philosophy of religion, as both a doctrine of divine presence and absolute spirit in its community.



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Robert Williams
University of Leeds

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