Volume 51, Issue 3, September 2011
Robert E. Wood
The Free Spirit
Spinoza, Hegel, Nietzsche
The free spirit is central to Spinoza, Hegel, and Nietzsche. Each of them sees it as linked to the recognition of necessity. They also see freedom in relation to the Totality: God or nature for Spinoza, absolute spirit for Hegel, and for Nietzsche the will to power operating within the eternal recurrence of the same. For all three—especially for Nietzsche who might seem to hold the opposite—the free condition is won through strenuous self-discipline. Further, all three deal with the notion of Being. For Spinoza, the notion of Being as the starting-point is equivalent to substance; for Hegel, Being is empty reference to Totality that affords primordial distance for individual human beings; for Nietzsche, Being is irrelevant emptiness. But it is only Hegel who establishes a ground for individual self-determination
through the emptiness of the human reference toward Totality.