Time and Eternity in Hegel



Published Nov 3, 2022
Andrzej Karpiński


This paper constitutes an argument for the contemporary relevance of Hegel’s conception of eternity and its relation to time for debates in recent philosophy of religion. It is primarily based upon two fundamental observations about Hegel’s system. Firstly, that it establishes a priori the meaning of eternal divinity as the modern rendering of the logos, and hence does not make it in any way dependent upon worldly understanding of time. On the contrary, it is a particular Hegelian philosophy of time which emerges out of the logical development of eternity itself. Secondly, it provides for a mediation between eternity and time which allows to answer many objections posed to traditional concepts of timelessness (for example its relation to creation, contingency, etc.). As an introduction to the debate, I offer at the outset a selection of both classical (Boethius, Augustine) and contemporary models of the relation between time and eternity. Next, I elaborate upon Hegel’s understanding of eternity as circular becoming through successive determination as presented in the Science of Logic. Here, I argue that Hegel’s understanding of the eternal Absolute allows him to circumvent the boundaries of established ideas on eternity’s relation to time. I further indicate that the most useful resource allowing to understand Hegel’s notion of eternity and temporality can be found in his Philosophy of Nature, which forms a logical development out of the Idea’s self-determination (Hegel’s account of creation), and which contains his original conception of time as the modelled on, though not identical with, the atemporal becoming of the Idea. I end by recapitulating the comparison of Hegel’s relation between time and eternity and the models outlined before.

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Time, Eternity, G.W.F. Hegel, Becoming, Logic