Date of Award


Degree Type

Restricted to Claremont Colleges Dissertation

Degree Name

Religion, PhD


School of Arts and Humanities

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Peter Thielke

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Ingolf Dalferth

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Roland Faber

Terms of Use & License Information

Terms of Use for work posted in Scholarship@Claremont.

Rights Information

© 2020 Andrew Bridges


Hegel, Nature, Phenomenology, Placebo Effect, Sensorium, Topsy-Turvy

Subject Categories

Religious Thought, Theology and Philosophy of Religion


In this manuscript we have argued for the thesis that there is an indistinguishability between the arbitrary and the non-arbitrary nature of things. We argued that this position has its origins in Hegel’s Phenomenology once the three skeptical discoveries are realized. These skeptical discoveries are 1) That what is universal is compatible with what is arbitrary 2) That coherence epistemologies have the potential to facilitate topsy-turvy worlds that are inverses of each other, and 3) That the Spirit which is thought divine is indistinguishable from either a Volksgeist, or the Spirit which Hegel offers, i.e. the divine and human Spirit are unable to be distinguished from each other. We examined two contemporary phenomena with the aim of adding credence to the thesis that there is an indistinguishability between the arbitrary nature and the non-arbitrary nature of things. When we explain that these phenomena add credence to such indistinguishability, as opposed to demonstrate that such indistinguishability exists, it is because we acknowledged that it seems quite counterintuitive to assume such indistinguishability in all things. Although we suggest that this can philosophically be the case, and that an epistemological agnosticism concerning this matter is an appropriate philosophical stance to take after acknowledging the three skeptical discoveries in Hegel’s Phenomenology , we are aware that the counterintuitive aspect of such a claim persists, and that merely examining two phenomena can only add some credence to this philosophical stance. It would take a reconsideration of much more contemporary phenomena than the two contemporary phenomena we are now considering—and such reconsiderations were beyond the scope of this manuscript. We do suggest that the next contemporary phenomena to examine in relation to the thesis of this manuscript would be synesthesia, and perhaps multi-modal sensory experiences that debatably cannot be illusory, such as the multi-modal experience of flavor. The two contemporary phenomena we examined are the utilization of sensoriums in the field of phenomenological anthropology and the placebo effect. Given our analysis of the two contemporary phenomena which we suggest add credence to this thesis, we aimed to show that epistemological agnosticism toward the arbitrary nature of things is a reasonable philosophical position to take. This epistemological situation is one we find to be quite fascinating not because of the uncertainty which it brings per se, but because of the seemingly unlimited creativity this uncertainty leaves room for. Voegelin accuses Hegel of providing his readers with imaginative history, but no history is void of imagination. Geurts utilizes the concept of sensoriums and Bourdieu’s notion of history becoming nature to show that any aspect of a nature that humans experience is experienced through a history which shaped the present experience that was the future just moments ago. This process involves imagination. Our agnosticism questions whether such a process of bringing the future into being has any limitations besides the imaginations of human beings.