The Historicization of the Spirit, the Will, and Individuality

Hegel develops a particular history; a history with a specific philosophical import.  It seems necessary to consider how this history, the history of Greek civilization, is useful to Hegel.  The questions become: What are his objectives in reading/relaying this particular history?  What does this history provide for Hegel?  What is the significance of the history that Hegel suggests? 

Here, it seems that Hegel is particularly interested in expressing the importance of the individual to Greek society.  This becomes evident both in his discussion of Greek civilization, as well as the theological constructions of this society.  Here he seems to emphasize the power of the individual over submission to a particular leader.  This becomes most explicit in his discourse on war.  Here, Hegel suggests that Greek citizens fight of their own accord:

The various peoples do not fight as mercenaries of the prince in his battles, nor as a stupid serf-like herd driven to the contest, nor yet in their own interest; but as companions of their honored chieftan – as witnesses of his exploits, and his defenders in peril (230)  

According to Hegel, the people fight as companions rather than in submission to a leader.  Also, the people witness the leader.  Here, there is a power bestowed upon the people, in that they are continually engaged in the act of witnessing.  What does this suggest?  Is Hegel advising similar recourse amongst his contemporaries? In his discussion of the spirit, soul, and most importantly, will, there is an inherent emphasis on self-determination.  Though Zeus is ruler, each God has his/her own will.  Here, Hegel provides that it is the responsibility of the leader to make concessions, and the responsibility of the people to determine.  Here, the people are attributed the power to witness, and decide.  The Trojan War, as Hegel describes it, becomes an issue of individual assent (231).

Furthermore, it is the individual that is central significance to the success of Greek civilization.  Individual government power assists in the accumulation of riches, and population/community development.  Though there are poor citizens, those that “want,” everyone feels the effects of free citizenship.  The way the passage is constructed, it seems to insist that this is very much divergent from more contemporary time periods.  Perhaps, the poor, in Hegel’s time, have experienced subjugation as they have lost the citizenship, the individual power, that he equates with the Greek people?

Moreover, following in what seems to be the Platonic tradition, Hegel, suggests the importance of the individual in relationship to nature.  Here, the individual stands as intermediary between nature and society.  The individual is equipped with a capacity to determine the importance of that which is observed.  This capacity is intimately equated with the soul.  The soul, as was hinted at previously, seems to be bound inextricably to the very individuality of the Greek people.  Here the question becomes: is individuality a derivative of the soul’s contemplation, or is individuality a necessary antecedent to the ability the soul has to interpret?  As he references, the Greek people looked to nature for wonder, and derived philosophy from this wonder.  The observant subjective spirit, gives meaning, as the spirit interprets nature (236). 


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