Sunday, 18 June 2006

Hegel and Rowan Williams

A provocative column by Giles Fraser in The Guardian suggests that Rowan Williams’ Hegelianism is to blame for the current tensions within the Anglican communion: “The Church of England is currently being tortured by a dead German philosopher.”

Unfortunately the writer’s grasp of Hegel is a little doubtful, since he characterises Hegelianism as the view that “all oppositions can be nuanced into resolution.” Still, this is an interesting attempt to explain some of the painful tensions within the Anglican communion today.

4 Comments:

kim fabricius said...

This isn't the first time that Fraser has criticised Williams on this score. There is no question of the influence of Hegel on Williams' theology, but equally there is no question of a Hegelian hegemony. Learning his Hegel through the late Gillian Rose (not to mention other tempering philosophical influences - especially Wittgenstein, but also Derrida), Williams is a more subtle deployer of Hegel than Fraser allows.

Of course Williams predictibly defends Hegel as a resource for trinitarian and Christological thinking, but, more, he "invoke[s] Hegel's shade" - his dialectical method - "to challenge the all-suffficiency of the polarity of simple identity and simple difference." "Hegel," observes Andrew Shanks, "is for ever trying to open conversation up, not close it down . . . This is Rowan's style." Not quite Fraser's reading is it?

Reflecting on the life and thought of Gillian Rose, Williams says that "What brought her to baptism is the belief that thinking and loving are connected" - a belief, Rose suggested to Williams, that she learned from Hegel.

michael jensen said...

A provoctive column by Giles Fraser? 'Provocative' is a wasted adjective I am afraid...

Kevin P. Edgecomb said...

It seems particularly cruel and foolish to pin the failure of so many people on the shoulders of one man, Rowan Williams. Whoever was going to be in that position was going to have to deal with this mess that Anglicanism has built for itself, regardless of his (or her!) preference for Hegel or Judy Garland....

Anonymous said...

I think Fraser may get this from Theo Hobson's books on Williams (or possible the reverse, as they both write for the Guardian). FWIW Fraser's own doctoral research was on Nietzsche.

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