A Facebook group Philosophy Matters posts philosophy related jokes from time to time. Today they posted this image : enter image description here with the caption

hegel, le sacre monstre

Now not knowing anything about Hegel I of course do not know enough to get the joke, aside from the obvious juxtaposition in the pictures.

What is this le sacre monstre according to Hegel, and why do the 3 views/person see it the way they do?

  • 1
    The sacred monster is Hegel himself, continental philosophers see him as a demon king, analytic philosophers as an incomprehensible cipher, and Zizek, who is a Marxist, as a dawn of a new era (with love).
    – Conifold
    Commented Oct 12, 2015 at 0:37
  • I'm not sure this is a question about philosophy in the relevant sense but I'll leave it up to others to vote on that.
    – virmaior
    Commented Oct 12, 2015 at 0:37
  • 1
    Here's another. Q: Do you agree with Hegel's dialectic? A: Well, I do and I don't.... Commented Oct 12, 2015 at 22:19

2 Answers 2


First, "le sacre monstre" is bad French for "le monstre sacré" which while literally meaning "the holy monster" (thus the bad French putting the adjective in the wrong place) means "a public figure that is left alone" or isolated.

Many continental philosophers see Hegel as evil and the source of problems, thus the devil role. He's often a target for critique there. Or as my dissertation advisor worded it, they are holists without the whole after Hegel. Which is to say they accept his coherentist ideas about truth but don't think we can have truth. Of course, there's all sorts of problems with the term "continental" but that's the way it gets used.

Many analytic philosophers see Hegel as gibberish or a meaningless text wall, thus that diagram. One exception who is writing about Hegel in what he believes to be a purely analytic way is Kenneth Westphal. Allen Wood's Hegels' Ethical Thought is also written by someone analytics accept (at least on Kant).

Zizek loves Hegel, thus the heart. Zizek really likes Marx better if memory serves.

So I think it's a bit strained on the continental and Zizek ones, but that's what you get with these sorts of things.

  • 5
    To expand on the Zizek point, Zizek has actually called Hegel "a philosopher of love" on several occasions. Notably, page 112 of Less Than Nothing. In other words, I think the heart in the joke is playing off Zizek's interpretation of Hegel as much as it is Zizek's own fondness of Hegel. Commented Oct 14, 2015 at 0:02

Hegel, le sacre monstre

Sacre, sacred, derived from the Latin sacrare to make holy, to immortalise and to set apart.

Monstre from the Latin monstrum, a portent, warning or monster.

How can that which is sacred be a monster; and how can that which is monster be sacred? They are after all, properly thought as opposites - Agamben points out this was a notion that was already known to the ancient Romans, and obscure in meaning; he quotes Macrobius's Saturnalia to show:

I am not unaware that it appears strange to some people that whilst it is forbidden to violate any sacred thing it is permitted to kill the sacred man (sacer homo).

For Agamben, this figure of liminality signifies:

a moment in the life of a concept when it loses all immediate intelligibility, and can then, like all empty terms be overburdened with contradictory meanings.

Thus Hegel having died, and therefore having become merely (and morely) a concept, and then having assumed the life of a concept we see as a matter of empirical fact that this point of unintelligibility has been attained - and for analytical philosophers, this has made Hegel entirely opaque; his thinking has vanished leaving behind only a residue of pure immediate and indeterminate yet concretely physical text.

For philosophers on the continent dismissal isn't enough, he must be killed; but being inopportunely already dead, it's his after-image, the image of his thought, that is his reputation that must be laid waste; and this as psychology has shown in its interrogation of the human and political requires neccessarily demonisation - for philosophers before they are reasoning beings, are also human beings with human weaknesses.

Zizek, on the other hand wishes to rescue Hegel from Marxism, from over, under and indifferent interpretation; from being set aside to being made central - and this requires labour, and a special kind of labour - the labour of love.

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