Intersubjectivity, Cartesian subject or Cosmic Spirit?

This article presents a critique of two influential interpretations of Hegel’s concept of spirit: Jürgen Habermas’s and Charles Taylors’s. Habermas’s interpretation focuses on the break he sees Hegel undertaking when moving from the early to the late Jena-period. Hegel, Habermas claims, first formulates, but then abandons, a «detranscendentalized» and intersubjective conception of spirit, essentially regressing to a pre-critial mentalistic metaphysics. I argue that there is no such break and that Hegel’s conception of spirit includes a strong conception of both singular consciousness and intersubjectivity. Against Charles Taylor’s interpretation of Hegel’ concept of spirit as cosmic spirit, I argue that this cannot be a spirit that reduces individuality to a part of an all-encompassing whole. I finally try to combine insights from Habermas’s and Taylor’s interpretations in a short exposition of Hegel’s concept of spirit as a process of self-manifestation. This reveals a fundamental tension in Hegel’s system and points to a need for revisiting ontological readings of it.

Keywords: Hegel, spirit, Charles Taylor, Jürgen Habermas