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Idealistic Studies


published on January 16, 2019

Christian Martin

Hegel on Truth and Absolute Spirit

The notion of absolute spirit, while undeniably central to Hegel’s philosophy, has been somewhat neglected in the literature. Two main lines of interpretation can be identified: a traditional metaphysical reading, according to which “absolute spirit” refers to an infinite spiritual substance, and a non-metaphysical reading, according to which it refers to activities in which human beings articulate their understanding of the principles that guide their communal life. Both types of reading are problematic exegetically as well as philosophically. This article develops an epistemological reading instead. Accordingly, “absolute spirit” refers to a kind of (self-)knowledge, which is distinct from empirical and practical knowledge. Hegel conceives of art, religion, and philosophy as species of such knowledge. While this view might seem astonishing, it can be justified by showing that it is by recourse to paradigmatic instances of artistic, religious, and philosophical activity that the otherwise indefinable notion of truth is fixed.

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