Hegel on Love

Hegel on Love December 30, 2003

Hegel’s Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion includes the following: “Love is a distinguishing of the two, who nevertheless are absolutely not distinguished for each other. The consciousness or feeling of the identity of the two – to be outside of myself and in the other ?Ethis is love. I have my self-consciousness not in myself but in the other. I am satisfied and have peace with myself only in this other ?Eand I AM only because I have peace with myself; if I did not have it then I would be a contradiction that falls to pieces. This other, because it likewise exists outside itself, has its self-consciousness only in me; and both the other and I are only this consciousness of being-outside-ourselves and if our identity; we are only this intuition, feeling, and knowledge of our unity. This is love, and without knowing that love is both a distinguishing and the sublation of this distinction, one speaks emptily of it.”

Among the many fascinating things here is the implication that love is the prerequisite for a unified identity. Hegel says that to be a unified self, one must be at peace; but this peace comes only through the “distinguishing and sublation of distinction” that is love for another person; MY peace, my unity as a being, depends on love, the other’s love for me and my love for another. This is suggestive, though Hegel doesn’t exactly explain WHY this peace comes only “in the other.” Perhaps it has something to do with his insight that part of my identity is my difference from the other; to say I am Peter is, at least, to say I am not Paul or George. This means that my identity and unified self-conception includes a moment of difference. But how that this difference not turn into endless “deference”? Through mutual (almost perichoretic) love.

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