Hegel’s talk about Geist (commonly translated as “Spirit”) is not a reflection of some sort of evolutionary pantheism. Geist in its developed form is something like ethical-cultural practice. Its progressive development is a retrospective reconstruction, a story that we tell ourselves. Geist is not the motor of history. (I think the idea of anything like a “motor” of history is ultimately unintelligible.) It is a historically conditioned conditioner of actions, rather than an agent. It works through mediation. (See also Second Nature.)

Geist is also Hegel’s historicization and naturalization of what Kant called the transcendental. The transcendental field of value or normativity includes neither empirical objects nor empirical subjectivity, but conditions both. It is neither subjective nor objective, in the way those terms are popularly understood. Mutual recognition processes involve a kind of mutual determination. Geist can be imagined as the cumulative result of innumerable concrete mutual recognition processes, each of which occurred against the background of a previous cumulative result. Mutual determination allows for a kind of synthesis of freedom and determination. (See also Hegel’s Ethical Innovation.)

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