Hegel’s Discovery of the Philosophy of Spirit: Autonomy, Alienation, and the Ethical Life

Hegel’s Discovery of the Philosophy of Spirit explores Hegel’s critique of the individualistic ethos of modernity, and the genesis of his alternative vision. Hegel, following Hölderlin and Fichte, sees the conflict between the autonomy trumpeted by philosophers, and the sense of rupture and alienation characteristic of the individual’s experience of life, as the fundamental existential dilemma of the post-Enlightenment era.

Viewing the reflective philosophy of subjectivity as the source of this malaise, Hegel suggests that the key to overcoming it lies in rejection of the subjectivist approach and its replacement by a new model of what it means to be an individual. In the early Jena writings, he experiments with various formulations of this insight. Hegel’s Discovery of the Philosophy of Spirit traces the process by which Hegel arrives at this new conception, a process culminating in the second Jena ‘Philosophy of Spirit’ lectures.

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