From Hegel to Nietzsche

Lowith, Karl. From Hegel to Nietzsche, tr. David E. Green. New York, 1964.


… For Hegel, the spirit as substance and subject of history was the absolute and basic concept of his theory of being. Thus natural philosophy is just as much a spiritual discipline as are the philosophies of the state, art, religion, and history. This absolute spirit (absolute because identical with the absolute religion of Christianity) exists by knowing itself; it is an historical spirit to the extent that it has as its course the recollection of previous forms of the spirit. “Its perseverance in the direction of free existence, appearing as a form of chance, is history; but in the direction of its comprehended organization, it is the science of phenomenal knowledge; both together, comprehended history, comprise the memorial and Golgotha of the absolute spirit, the reality, truth, and certainty of its dominion, without which it would be solitary and lifeless.” A great gulf separates the idea of an infinitely progressing “spiritual history” from the spirit-filled infinity. Hegel accorded to the human spirit the strength to open the sealed nature of the universe, revealing its riches and its depth; but from Haym to Dilthey it was the more or less avowed conviction that the human spirit is essentially powerless vis-a-vis the political and natural world, because it is itself on a finite “expression” of “sociohistorical” reality. For them, the spirit is no longer the “power of an age,” in itself timeless because it is eternal present; it is merely an exponent and mirror of the age. Thus philosophy becomes a “world view” and “interpretation of life,” the ultimate consequence of which is the self-assertion of a “particular, individual” historicity in Heidegger’s Sein und Zeit.

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