“The Relevance of Hegel’s “Absolute Spirit” to Social Normativity”

In Heikki Ikäheimo & Arto Laitinen (eds.), Recognition and Social Ontology. Brill. 212--238 (2011)
Around the turn of the twentieth century, Wilhelm Dilthey, in his reflections on the nature of history as a “Geisteswissenschaft”—a science of “spirit” as opposed to “nature”—appealed “to Hegel’s notion of “spirit” (Geist). Attempting to extract Hegel’s concept from what he considered the unsupportable metaphysical system within which it had been developed, Dilthey, a neo-Kantian, gave it a broadly epistemological significance by correlating it with a distinct type of “understanding” (Verstehen) that was foreign to the Naturwissenschaften, concerned as they were with explanation (Erklären) of phenomena in terms of laws of nature. Moreover, the paradigm of such an anti-naturalistic approach to history was not Hegel’s philosophical approach to history, but the strongly empiricist practice of the romantic “historical school”, found paradigmatically in the work of Leopold von Ranke.
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