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“Idealism” is a term that had been used sporadically byLeibniz and his followers to refer to a type of philosophy that wasopposed to materialism. Thus, for example, Leibniz hadcontrasted Plato as an idealist with Epicurus as amaterialist. The opposition to materialism here, together with thefact that in the English-speaking world the Irish philosopher andclergyman George Berkeley (1685–1753) is often taken as aprototypical idealist, has given rise to the assumption that idealismis necessarily an immaterialist doctrine. Thisassumption, however, is mistaken. With the possible exception ofLeibniz, the idealism of the Germans was not committed to the type ofdoctrine found in Berkeley according to which immaterial minds, bothinfinite (God’s) and finite (those of humans), were theultimately real entities, with apparently material things tobe understood as reducible to states of such minds—thatis, to ideas in the sense meant by the Britishempiricists.

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It is well known that after Hegel’s death in 1831, hisfollowers soon split into left, centre and rightfactions over the issue of religion. A dispute over anappropriately Hegelian philosophical attitude to religion had beensparked by the publication in 1835–6 of DavidStrauss’s The Life of Jesus CriticallyExamined—the conservative right claiming thatHegelianism reflected Christian orthodoxy, the left seeing itas a humanistic doctrine concerning the historical emancipation ofmankind. In fact the implications of Hegel’s philosophy forreligious belief had been contentious since his rise to prominence inthe 1820s. While officially declaring that philosophy and religion hadthe same content—God—Hegel claimedthat the conceptual form of philosophy dealt with thisconcept in a more developed way than that which was achievable in theimagistic representational form of religion. Many opponents weresuspicious that the concept of God was emptied of itsproper meaning in the process of Hegel’s philosophicaltranslations and Hegel was suspected by some of pantheism oratheism. Ultimately, then, the source of the corrosive effects ofHegel’s philosophy on religion indeed could appear to be theinsistence that the content of religious belief, like everything else,be grounded on rational, in fact logical,considerations—the logical coherence of the system of philosophyitself—rather than on anything like revelation.

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The subject matter of the final 25 paragraphs ofthe Encyclopaedia Philosophy of Spirit, AbsoluteSpirit, came to be expanded massively into the contents ofthree different lectures series on philosophy of art, religion, andhistory of philosophy given multiple times during Hegel’s decade inBerlin. Assembled and published in the years immediately following hisdeath, these were the works through which Hegel was to become known asperhaps the most significant synoptic theorist of these culturalphenomena. Rather than to attempt to capture the richness of histhought here in a few paragraphs, which would be bound to be futile, Iwill simply try to allude to how this material is meant to draw uponthe conceptual resources noted so far.

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Book 3, The Doctrine of Concept, effects a shift fromthe Objective Logic of Books 1 and 2, toSubjective Logic, and metaphysically coincides with ashift to the modern subject-based category theory of Kant. Just asKantian philosophy is founded on a conception of objectivity securedby conceptual coherence, Concept-logic commences with the concept ofconcept itself, with its moments of singularity,particularity and universality. While in the two books of objectivelogic, the movement had been between particular concepts,being, nothing, becomingetc., in the subjective logic, the conceptual relations are grasped ata meta-level, such that the concept concept treated inChapter 1 of section 1 (Subjectivity) passes over intothat of judgment in Chapter 2. It is important to graspthe basic contours of Hegel’s treatment of judgment as itinforms his subsequent treatment of inference.