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Wilhelm Dilthey on Spirit - Dictionary of Arguments

Gadamer I 232
Spirit/Dilthey/DiltheyVsHegel/Gadamer: Dilthey opposes the idealistic construction of [the Hegelian concept of the absolute spirit]: "Today we must start from the reality of life". He writes: "We seek to understand it and to present it in adequate terms. By thus separating the objective spirit from the one-sided foundation in the general reason that expresses the essence of the world spirit, and also from the ideal construction, a new concept of it becomes possible. Several things are included in it: language, custom, every kind of way of life, every style of life, as well as family, civil society, state and
Gadamer I 233
right. And now, what Hegel distinguished as the absolute spirit from the objective spirit: art and religion and philosophy, also fall under this term.
Spirit/DiltheyVsHegel: Undoubtedly this is a reshaping of the Hegelian concept. What does it mean? To what extent does it reflect the reality of life? Most significant is apparently the extension of the concept of the objective spirit to art, religion and philosophy. Because this means that Dilthey does not see in them immediate truth but expressions of life. By equating art and religion with philosophy, he also rejects the claim of the speculative concept. In doing so, Dilthey does not deny at all that these figures take precedence over the other figures of the objective spirit, provided that "precisely in their powerful forms" the spirit is objectified and recognized. Now, it was this primacy of a completed self-knowledge of the spirit that led Hegel to conceive of these figures as those of the absolute spirit. There was nothing foreign in them and the spirit was therefore completely at home with itself. For Dilthey too, as we saw, the objectivations of art represented the real triumph of hermeneutics.
Gadamer: So the contrast to Hegel is reduced to this one thing: according to Hegel, the return of the spirit is completed in the philosophical concept, whereas for Dilthey the philosophical concept has not a meaning of recognition but of expression.
Absolute Spirit/Dilthey/Gadamer: is there an absolute spirit for Dilthey too? (...) [i.e.] a complete self-transparency, complete erasure of all strangeness (...)? For Dilthey it is not a question that there is and that it is the historical consciousness that corresponds to this ideal and not speculative philosophy.
It sees all phenomena of the human-historical world only as objects by which the spirit recognizes itself more deeply. Insofar as it understands them as objectivations of the spirit, it translates them back "into the spiritual vitality from which they came"(2). The formations of the objective mind are thus objects of self-knowledge of that mind for the historical consciousness. Historical consciousness extends itself into the universal, insofar as it understands all the circumstances of history as an expression of the life from which they originate; "life grasps life here"(3).


1. Dilthey, Ges. Schr. Vll, 150.
2. Ges. Schr. Vll V, 265
3. Ges. Schr. Vll VII, 136


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. Translations: Dictionary of Arguments
The note [Concept/Author], [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] resp. "problem:"/"solution:", "old:"/"new:" and "thesis:" is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.

Dilth I
W. Dilthey
Gesammelte Schriften, Bd.1, Einleitung in die Geisteswissenschaften Göttingen 1990

Gadamer I
Hans-Georg Gadamer
Wahrheit und Methode. Grundzüge einer philosophischen Hermeneutik 7. durchgesehene Auflage Tübingen 1960/2010

Gadamer II
H. G. Gadamer
The Relevance of the Beautiful, London 1986
German Edition:
Die Aktualität des Schönen: Kunst als Spiel, Symbol und Fest Stuttgart 1977


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Ed. Martin Schulz, access date 2023-02-01
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