Geoffrey Holsclaw. Transcending Subjects: Augustine, Hegel, and Theology. Challenges in Contemporary Theology. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2016. ISBN 978-1-119-16300-8 . ISBN 978-1-119-16308-4 . Pp. xii+256. Hardcover £65.00, €81.30. Ebook £24.99, €30.99 [Book Review]

Hegel Bulletin 40 (2):334 - 338 (2017)
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One of the most frequently asked question is whether Hegel’s idea of God is immanent or transcendent. In Transcending Subjects: Augustine, Hegel, and Theology, Geoffrey Holsclaw attempts to solve this puzzle by contrasting the political theologies of Hegel and Augustine. He argues that Hegel produces a political theology of ‘self-transcending immanence’ while Augustine produces a political theology of ‘self-immanentizing transcendence’. The primary problem with Holsclaw’s dialectical procedure results from its uncritical appeal to a transcendent source for the supersession of opposites. Rather than critically annulling each opposed position, he often resorts to simply describing the inadequacy of positions in light of the privileged ideal of Augustinian transcendence. Holsclaw’s dialectic has not been directly derived from Augustine but from the more recent writings of William Desmond. He translates Desmond’s opposition between the second and third types of transcendence into his own opposition between Hegelian self-transcending immanence and Augustinian self-immanentizing transcendence. Hegel’s apparent ambiguity on transcendence seems to expose him to Holsclaw’s critique. Yet Hegel may, arguably, have never needed to answer this objection because the opposition between immanence and transcendence has already been resolved by Hegel’s dialectic of infinity: for if the opposition between the categories of immanence and transcendence that appears at the level of Spirit merely replicates the vanishing opposition between the finite and the infinite at the level of Logic, then the supersession of this negative opposition between the infinite and the finite into the true and speculative infinity can be virtually replicated for religious consciousness in the supersession of transcendence and immanence into an equally speculative transcendence. Where Holsclaw seeks to supersede immanence into transcendence, Hegel seeks to preserve both transcendence and immanence in the true ‘speculative transcendence’ that corresponds to the true ‘speculative infinity’. The decisive disagreement between Hegel and Holsclaw thus concerns, not merely any relation between transcendence and immanence, but – more fundamentally – the very possibility of superseding the spurious transcendence into a genuinely speculative notion of infinity and transcendence.

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Ryan Haecker
Cambridge University


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