A Commentary on Hegel's Philosophy of Mind

A Commentary on Hegel's Philosophy of Mind

A Commentary on Hegel's Philosophy of Mind

A Commentary on Hegel's Philosophy of Mind


Michael Inwood, an eminent scholar of German philosophy, presents a full and detailed new commentary on a classic work of the nineteenth century. Philosophy of Mind is the third part of Hegel's Encyclopaedia of the Philosophical Sciences, in which he summarizes his philosophical system. It is one of the main pillars of his thought. Inwood gives the clear and careful guidance needed for an understanding of this challenging work. In his editorial introduction he offers a philosophically sophisticated evaluation of Hegel's ideas which includes a survey of the whole of his thought and detailed analysis of the terminology he used.


This book is concerned with Geist. Geist is both ‘mind’ and ‘spirit’. It is the ‘mind’ of an individual. It is the ‘spirit’ of a people. It is art, religion, and philosophy. It is the Holy Spirit. Geist is the dominant concept in Hegel’s philosophy. It propels his thought onward and upward. Geist itself, in Hegel’s view, propels humanity onward and upward. If there is any ‘secret of Hegel’, that secret is Geist. But what is Geist? Can it bear all the meanings Hegel assigns to it? Can it perform the multitude of tasks that Hegel requires of it? Such are the questions that this Introduction attempts to answer.


Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel was born in Stuttgart in 1770. After leaving the local high school, he enrolled in the philosophy faculty of Tübingen university in 1788, but later transferred to the theological faculty with the aim of becoming a Lutheran pastor. On graduating in 1793, he followed the common practice of serving as a private tutor to the children of a wealthy family, first in Berne and later in Frankfurt. During this period he wrote some essays on Christianity, which in general regret, and attempt to explain, its degeneration into a ‘positive’ religion, a religion of prescribed dogmas, rules, and rituals, in contrast to the ‘folk-religion’ of ancient Greece that it supplanted. The most important of these essays, ‘The Spirit of Christianity and its Fate’, argued that Jesus originally preached a religion of love, but that it had to become a religion of law, a positive religion, in order to convert mankind. Despite the occurrence of the word ‘spirit’ (Geist) in its title, as yet spirit plays only a subordinate role in Hegel’s thought. He invests more hope in ‘love’ as a means of overcoming the alienating oppositions—between simple faith and ecclesiastical authority, between reason and the heart—that he so deplored. As yet, Hegel doubts the capacity of conceptual thought to do justice to the insights of Christianity.

Early in 1801 Hegel moved to Jena to lecture at the university where his younger, but more precocious friend Friedrich Schelling already held a professorship. It was here that Geist, along with conceptual thought, secured a more prominent place in Hegel’s thought. The upshot of his Jena period was his first major work, the Phenomenology of Spirit, that he published in 1807. In this work

The Secret of Hegel (London: Longman, 1865), by James Hutchison Stirling, was the first book about Hegel in the English language.

These essays were not published until 1907. Most of them are translated by T. M. Knox in Hegel’s Early Theological Writings (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1948).

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