Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion/Editor's Preface
The first German edition of the “Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion” was published at Berlin in 1832, the year after Hegel’s death, and was the earliest instalment of the collected edition of his printed and unprinted works, undertaken by a number of his friends. The book was rather hastily put together, mainly from students’ copies of lectures on the subject delivered during different sessions, though it also contained matter taken from notes and outlines in Hegel’s own handwriting. A second edition, in an enlarged and very much altered form, appeared in 1840. In the preparation of this second edition, from which the present translation has been made, the editor, Marheineke, drew largely on several important papers found amongst Hegel’s MSS., in which his ideas were developed in much greater detail than in any of the sketches previously used; and he had also at his disposal fresh and very complete copies of the Lectures made by some of Hegel’s most distinguished pupils. It will thus be seen that the book in the form in which we have it, is mainly an editorial compilation. With the exception of the “Lectures on the Proofs of the Existence of God,” which were printed as an appendix in the German edition, and which Hegel was revising for the press when he was suddenly carried off by cholera in the November of 1831, no part of it, not even the part which is Hegel’s actual composition, was intended for publication. It is only fair to Hegel’s memory that this fact should be taken into consideration, since it accounts for what may seem the rather ragged and uneven shape of parts of the work, and for the occasional want of proportion between the various sections. However, as the Master of Balliol has pointed out, the informal and discursive character of the Lectures on Religion and other subjects, “if it takes from their authority as expressions of the author’s mind, and from their value as scientific treatises, has some compensating advantages if we regard them as a means of education in philosophy; for,” he continues—and his words specially apply to the present set of Lectures—“in this point of view their very artlessness gives them something of the same stimulating, suggestive power which is attained by the consummate art of the Platonic Dialogues.”
The following translation was originally undertaken by Miss J. Burdon Sanderson, who at the time of her death had reached the end of the first volume of the German edition (Vols. I., and II. 1-122, of the English edition); but the rendering had by no means received her final revision. This portion the Editor has carefully revised, and in many parts considerably altered, though in substance it remains as Miss Sanderson left it. The rest of the translation, with the exception of two small parts, is entirely the work of the Editor. A translation of the first three Lectures on the Proofs of the Existence of God, by R. B. Haldane, M.P., Q.C., was kindly placed by him at the Editor’s disposal, and this, with a few minor alterations which were necessary, mainly in order to preserve uniformity of terminology, has been printed as it stood in Mr. Haldane’s MS. He has also to thank Miss E. Haldane, the translator of Hegel’s “Lectures on the History of Philosophy,” for sending a rough draft translation of the section on “The Religion of Beauty,” which he has consulted and in part used. He has further to acknowledge the help derived from the letters of the different correspondents who supplied Miss Sanderson with various notes and suggestions, which were of great use for the revision of her portion of the work. His special thanks are due to a friend whose assistance was freely given amidst a variety of pressing duties, and whose advice, particularly in all difficulties connected with peculiarities of expression, greatly lightened the somewhat tedious toil of translation. Her sympathy and native knowledge of the language of the original have been invaluable throughout.
As regards the rendering of the more strictly technical terms employed by Hegel, it has seemed advisable not to adhere rigidly to any one set of English words, but rather to vary the renderings according to the various changes of meaning, and occasionally to add an alternative English equivalent. Thus “Begriff” has usually been translated by “Notion”—a word which, however objectionable otherwise, has already firmly fixed itself in our philosophical terminology; but “conception” has also been used for it in cases where there was no risk of misunderstanding. Miss Sanderson had decided on “idea” as the least objectionable rendering of “Vorstellung,”—perhaps the most troublesome word in the Hegelian language,—and this the Editor has retained where the German word was used in a very special sense; but “ordinary thought,” “popular conception,” and other equivalent expressions have been freely employed; and in this connection the Editor desires to acknowledge the great assistance he has derived from the notes on Hegelian terms given by Professor Wallace in the valuable Prolegomena to his translation of Hegel’s “Logic.”
As to the work itself, this is not the place to enlarge on its importance to students of philosophy and religion, or to estimate its influence on the development of modern speculative theology. Much of what is most original and suggestive in it has already passed into the best religious and philosophical thought of the time, and any one who has been giving any attention to recent works on the great subject dealt with here by Hegel, and who turns to these Lectures, will be constrained to admit that in them we have the true “Sources” of the evolution principle as applied to the study of religion, although he may not be able to share the enthusiastic hope of the German editor and disciple, that the book, even in its present imperfect form, will go down to posterity as the imperishable monument of a great mind.
E. B. SPEIRS.
- The Manse, Glendevon,
- April 26, 1895.