Study Guide

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel Buzzwords

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Geist (Mind/Spirit)

Geist has a dual meaning in German (my native tongue) and translators have had quite a time trying to decide on the best way to bring this idea into English. Basically, when I say geist (literally, spirit-mind-ghost), I mean an inherent driving force that shapes reality.

Not a being or a deity, but more like a mission that all puny mortals are a part of even if we don't recognize it. Don't worry: the geist guides us, the geist knows best, the geist is good. Trust.

Reason, Truth, and Consciousness

For me, these are all variations on and dimensions of geist. Basically, I think the geist is pure reason. It's the epitome of reasonableness and truth. It is also what leads us to greater truth, via reason. Consciousness is our own giest—or access point to it.

In a religious context, you could imagine geist as your awareness of a god leading you to an experience of that god. And, guess what? As your awareness of god grows, you get closer to god. Except, for me, giest, reason, truth, and consciousness are not just parts of some religious system. We all have a historical purpose that reason brings us closer to fulfilling.

Absolute Idealism

Okay, so it was really bugging me that people hadn't yet come up with a good explanation (IMO) of how we know, see, or understand the world, as an entity that's separate from ourselves. So here's what I came up with.

First, we have a sense of ourselves. Think of a baby figuring itself out by looking at its hand and being all, "Egads, I have a hand." Then, we develop a sense of the world apart from us, like when that baby looks down at its socked feet and realizes the thing it's grabbing at isn't his foot, it's a sock.

The last step is realizing, through what I call speculative reasoning, that we're all part of one unified whole… arranged by the geist. And there you have it, folks: absolute idealism.


Terms like phenomenology get thrown around a lot in Intro to Philosophy classes, and all this big word-spewin' can sure be intimidating. Heck, I know I spruce up my work with crazy terms to make it sound cool. And it doesn't help that phenomenology in particular is used across a lot of disciplines, ranging from physics to architecture to psychology to archeology to philosophy (surprise, surprise). And more.

Here's what you need to know for my work: the phenomenal world is the world we can see, hear, smell, taste, and touch. It's basically what would concern the residents of Sesame Street. Like, What do you notice? What do your senses pick up?

So really, the phenomenal world is a pretty straightforward concept because it's just reality. Except there's one little hiccup; we don't all experience the world in the exact same way. Right?

In my writings on phenomenology, I'm mostly concerned with people's different experiences of the world. Or, in how the physical world places limits on geist.

After me, Edmund Husserl reshaped phenomenology studies in philosophy. Husserl wanted to figure out the underlying structures or rules for our subjective experiences of the world, especially as they relate to our consciousness. But that came after me, so I can't vouch for that stuff.


Traditionally, a dialectic is a meeting of opposing viewpoints—usually in a discussion or series of logical arguments—en route to the truth or the "right answer" to some big question. When people are talking about the Hegelian dialectic, they're referring to the dichotomy of us, added together with everything else, that leads to a unified whole (or greater truth).

So, absolute idealism is my general theory, and the dialectic is how we get there. Specifically, it's a process of negation that results in unification. So if you add me and not-me, then you get a reconciled me, which = a new, bigger, better, truth-ier me.

Our dialectic journeys, then, resemble every movie that has a main character who's haunted by one primary obstacle throughout the whole movie before she confronts that obstacle and the whole experience of the confrontation gets folded into her new, awesomer identity. Take Brave, for example. Or Forrest Gump. Or Silver Linings Playbook.


Why some of my terms get translated from German and others don't is really confusing. In any case, the term aufheben/aufhebung or sublation, refers to that last stage of unification (me + not-me = reconciled new me) that occurs right after the dialectic (me + not-me). Nothing fancy; just a little bit of the old being surpassed, and then incorporated into the new.


Immanence has a long and winding history in various world religions and philosophy. It usually refers to the concept of the ever-present divine in the world. For me, all you need to know is that my version of the divine—geist—is everywhere, in everything, pushing us all to a specific purpose.


Remember how I like to use at least three vocab terms for every idea? No? Well, I thought you'd have picked up on that by now. So, the last step in the dialectic is called sublation, right? Transcendent experience relates to that step because it's what you've accomplished once you reconcile the conflicting parts of the dialectic.

Even better: the second you realize you are limited or contained in any way, your realization frees you of those barriers, and voila, you achieve transcendence. Your consciousness all-of-a-sudden-and-completely grasps the truth… and, erm, the truth sets you free.


Just as each of us, individually, experiences transcendence through a dialectic driven by the immanent geist, so, too does… dun dun dun… the whole of history. In fact, our micro-sublations occur in service of the world's greater changes toward even greater truths. I divide these more global, SimCity-esque shifts into different levels of truth called epochs.

Each epoch has a different world power—Byzantine Empire, Roman Empire, etc. I figure that the people who're in charge during any given epoch are the ones that the weltgeist (world-mind/spirit) picked to bring about the next great epoch. So the winners from one epoch rule the next, until they're squashed and ruled, in turn, by their squashers.

These epochs are pretty much the only way I've found to make sense of who gets to control what. I mean, thinking too hard about the irrational, power-hungry rulers who manipulate people at the expense of the disenfranchised is such a bummer.

I prefer to think that the epochs' overlords are shiny, bright stars who are just great. They're just the chosen ones. At least until they get replaced by the next chosen ones. Oh man, I'm totally beginning to see how later generations confused my thinking with fascism. Sadness.

Master/Slave Dialectic

Okay, so this one's a toughie, because this sounds a lot like an earlier term that other people have used, but I use it totally differently. Just kidding. I don't use it radically differently. People just tend to get up in arms about this stuff.

As you may have noticed, most concepts in philosophy are distinguished from each other in nuances and minute details. But people react to them as if they're, like, monkeys and Kool-Aid. I think all this divisiveness makes some struggling philosophers feel important. It must be hard for them. I wouldn't know. I'm already important.

In Phenomenology of Spirit, I have a section where I try to describe the relationship between an individual's pure-consciousness and what I think of as our subordinate consciousness. The first of these two notions is that immanent, reason-based, divine-like, ruling geist, and the second is our awareness of that geist, which is filtered through our experiences in the phenomenal world.

I got really into metaphors when discussing this concept. The first I call, ahem, master, and the second, less favorably, slave. On the grand scale, history's geist, or weltgeist, is the master and we're the slaves. Fun times. If you want to get all euphemism-y though, you can call it the Lordship and Bondage dialectic. People will be totes impressed with your linguistic know-how.

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