Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Hegel's Spirit

Hegel’s idea is that the Spirit should be the most fundamental, essential focus of the philosophy of history. First though, he presents “Reason” as the natural nous of world history; the substance the drives and guides histories events. He separates its manifestations into two groups: the natural and the spiritual. Later he connects the natural and the spiritual saying “…even if you (the student) do not bring to world history the thought and the knowledge of Reason, you ought at least to have the firm and unconquerable belief that there is Reason in history, together with the belief that the world of intelligence and self-conscious will is not subject to chance, but rather that it must demonstrate itself in the light of the self-conscious Idea” (13). He is making large presuppositions (as he himself admits) about the “religious form” of the universe, and says that philosophy must be open to these presuppositions, allowing itself to believe in Reason as it first approaches historical philosophy. I would add to his position that one distinguishing aspect of “continental” philosophy is its willingness to presuppose, and this is something that I’m sure happens in analytic philosophy as well.
As he continues to flesh out his imagining of the “Spirit” he binds together the two distinct parts, the ones that Anaxagoras failed to piece together; that of applying the abstract to the concrete, i.e. world history, and finally reveals that what he means by Reason is the same thing is what he calls “divine providence”. This he calls a “theodicy”, a “justification of the ways of God” (18). So, as I interpret Hegel, the philosophy of history is a justification of Divine Reason in the history of the world. Of primary importance to the philosopher, whose way of approaching philosophical history is to finish Anaxagoras’ unfinished work, is to grasp Reason in its definition. What does Hegel’s perspective on the Spirit/Reason imply about “continental philosophy”?

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