The Transition from Nature to ‘Spirit’ in Hegel’s Lectures on the History of Philosophy

Alexis Papazoglou

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In this paper I show that Hegel’s reading of the beginnings of the history of philosophy reflects his philosophical account of the transition from nature to ‘spirit,’ as that is found in his Encyclopaedia of the Philosophical Sciences. I give an account of how Hegel sees the birth of philosophical thought itself as a kind of break from nature. This break from nature is gradual and begins with Thales who, despite giving an account of reality through water, a natural element, is already seen as offering a philosophical principle; water is not merely an empirical, natural entity in Thales’ claim. The gradual break from nature continues with Anaxagoras whose philosophical principle becomes mind itself, as well as with the Sophists and their reasons-based explanations. Hegel identifies the real break of ‘spirit’ with nature in an episode in Plato’s Phaedo. However Hegel sees this break of spirit from nature as causing a problem akin to one that John McDowell identifies, namely the difficulty of seeing how the space of reasons relate to nature. I conclude with Hegel’s solution to the break between nature and spirit, their unification under the ‘Idea,’ and so the end of the history of philosophy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-20
Number of pages20
JournalRevista Eletronica Estudos Hegelianos
Issue number19
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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