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Philosophy of Spirit/Mind (Geist)

by Kai Froeb, 2003-2005

The third part of the system is the "Philosophie des Geistes" (System, Part 3).

1 The meaning of "Geist"

'Geist' is a German word which has all the meanings of the English words: spirit, mind, soul and the French word, esprit.

German language makes no distinction between spirit and mind: for both, Germans use the same word, 'Geist'. While 'Geist' is usually translated either as spirit or mind (e.g. Philosophy of Spirit, Phenomenology of Mind), the English reader is perhaps well-advised to think of 'Geist' as both together, e.g. Spirit/Mind.

2.The Aim or Goal of 'Geist':

According to Hegel's, SCIENCE OF LOGIC, the goal of Spirit is Freedom (see System, Part 1.3.1 on the Concept or Notion or 'Begriff').

This Freedom needs to expressed and reflected in order to be realy free (see System, Part 1.3.3 on the Idea).

However, the full meaning of Freedom can be found out only progressively; only in a process that becomes clearer in the life of the individual (subjective spirit) as well as for societies (ethical life) as they evolve or develop, as well as for humanity in general (e.g. the progress of world history and absolute spirit).

By the way, this idea of Freedom is also included in a superior understanding of the SCIENCE OF LOGIC (so on the other hand, one could say that the full meaning of the Science of Logic can also be found out only progressively).

While a Kantian reader might say that this process is endless, never reaching its goals and never fully realised, a Hegelian reader might say that a process of increasing freedom already is in a dynamic sense the full actuality of freedom.

3. The Subdivisions of Spirit/Mind

For Hegel there are three divisions of the philosophy of Spirit/Mind ('Geist'):

4. The relationship between these three divisions of Spirit/Mind

...are as follows:

4.1. The philosophy of Subjective Spirit/Mind

[henceforth Spirit, for readability] deals with the concept of Spirit as subjectivity, as for-itself, however...

4.2. The philosophy of Objective Spirit

recognizes that the human spirit expresses itself in the world, and without the world subjectivity is only an abstraction.



  1. Regarding a parallel with the relationship between Logic and Nature (Realphilosophy), as well as a parallel with the relationship between (a) Essence and (b) Appearance (Erscheinung), Essence must be shown to be and understood as the Essence of Appearance, and vice versa, otherwise it is not properly the Essence of that Appearance, nor is it properly the Appearance of that Essence.
  2. Also, as Nature includes Logic insofar as it has a logical structure, Nature nevertheless misses the self-reflection and therefore the freedom of Logic. So, in some parts Nature includes Logic, while in other parts it does not, and is itself something new, and so the otherness of Logic.
  3. In Spirit we have an all-inclusive relation. Spirit is both a self-reflective, all-inclusive Logic as well as including Nature while remaining different from Nature.


In relating Subjective Spirit to Objective Spirit, we observe the following:

  1. In Antropology, Spirit is discussed in its direct or 'unmediated' inclusion within Nature.
  2. However, in Objective spirit, we find Spirit transforming Nature, shaping the world according to its concepts.
  3. A similar phenomenon exists in the Subjective Spirit within the category of 'Gewöhnung' (habit, getting accustomed, training, etc.) and "actual soul", where the soul shapes itself (its body and mind) acording to its concepts (see also Schiller 1793: "Über Anmut und Würde", engl.: "On Grace and Dignity").

4.3. The philosophy of Absolute Spirit

4.4. Summary

Let us now summarize all these three divisions together now:

a. Subjective Spirit is potential force, while Objective Spirit is force in action, and Absolute Spirit is the goal, aim or target of the force as well as the reflection (realization) of the targets (See also: Teleology).

b. The relation between Objective Spirit and Absolute Spirit is that there is a continuous cycle between them: the goals that are established, understood and represented by the Absolute Spirit govern, lead and motivate the actions and dynamics of people in the Objective Spirit. In the Absolute Spirit the people reflect upon their own practice, learn from it and overcomes any limitations.

c. The history of Objective Spirit and Absolute Spirit is that a Political State has a history. Also, each individual part of the Absolute has its own history (see System, part Art Forms, finite Religions and 3.3.3 History of Philosophy), connected to the history of the State as the central topic of the philosophy of World History. However, in its freedom of reflection, its freedom of overcoming limits, each individual part of the Absolute is also something different, not just something to be reduced to the world history.

d. At this point, the answers to the following questions in our FAQ should be obvious:

5. Relation of means, limited goals and freedom

As regards the Relation of means, limited goals and freedom as the ultimate goal, people are concerned with daily problems as well as long term problems, at many levels, including individual, family, enterprise, institutional and governmental. We might say that the type of reflection (realization) that helps to fulfill daily and long-term goals is a 'technical reflection' (understood in its broadest sense, as a 'means').

a. Insofar as people reflect their means and develop better means (e.g. better tools, better ways to use them, better rules or institutions for their collective aims), they expand their freedom

b. So technical progress as well as progress in research about how to make a more effective society, and so on, all form part of the progress of humanity towards increasing freedom.

c. Even at such conventional levels, people have a hierarchy (priorities) of aims, where short-term goals are correlated with long-term goals, and so on.

d. Therefore, real freedom includes a reflection upon the goals and their relation; not only how to realise the goals but also which goals deserve to be realised, and in what priorities they exist to each other.

e. Therefore, the real progress of any person, a given society and humanity is not to be reduced to merely 'technical progress' (tools, means, at any level) but on a more basic level. Progress requires an improving reflection and understanding upon all goals.

f. Also, when applied to the most appropriate goals, the tools will become most important, and so freedom is not a question of EITHER developing the right goals OR developing the right tools.

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