‘Art and the Absolute: A Study of Hegel’s Aesthetics’ by William Desmond

Published by State University of New York Press in 1986.

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Art and the Absolute restores Hegel’s aesthetics to a place of central importance in the Hegelian system. In so doing, it brings Hegel into direct relation with the central thrust of contemporary philosophy.

The book draws on the astonishing scope and depths of Hegel’s Lectures on Aesthetics, exploring the multifaceted issue of art and the absolute. Why does Hegel ascribe absoluteness to art? What can such absoluteness mean? How does it relate to religion and philosophy? How does Hegel’s view of art illuminate the contemporary absence of the absolute? Art and the Absolute argues that these aesthetic questions are not mere theoretical conundrums for abstract analysis. It argues that Hegel’s understanding of art can provide an indispensable hermeneutic relevant to current controversies.

Art and the Absolute explores the intricacies of Hegel’s aesthetic thought, communicating its contemporary relevance. It shows how for Hegel art illuminates the other areas of significant human experience such as history, religion, politics, literature. Against traditional, closed views, the result is a challenge to re-read Hegel’s aesthetic philosophy.


William James Desmond (born January 7, 1951) is an Irish philosopher who has written on ontology, metaphysics, ethics, and religion. Desmond earned his B.A. and M.A. from University College, Cork, in 1972 and 1974; Ph.D. from Pennsylvania State University in 1978.

Former president of the Hegel Society of America (1990–1992) and the Metaphysical Society of America (1995), Desmond is a professor of philosophy at the Higher Institute of Philosophy at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Belgium, and also at Villanova University in Pennsylvania. He is a past president of the American Catholic Philosophical Association. In his trilogy, Being and The BetweenEthics and The Between, and God and The Between, Desmond works out an entirely new and complete metaphysical/ontological philosophical system based on what he calls the potencies of being and the senses of being.

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