Title: Self-Expression, Art, and Nature in Hegel’s Philosophy of Spirit

8 March 2017; 1600-18:00

Senate House – Room 243


Spirit, for Hegel, is an entity whose mode of existence is self-expression. In this talk I want to shed light on this central claim of Hegel’s philosophy of spirit by reconstructing Hegel’s fundamental distinction between mere symbolic signification and (self-)expression. Against this background, we will be able to see that from Hegel’s point of view, the form of self-expression is most perfectly embodied by works of art, in particular by classical works of art. Furthermore, this line of argument sheds novel light on Hegel’s account of how spirit relates to nature. Since self-expression proper is only possible for Hegel where something expresses itself in an ‘other’, it may well be that expressing itself in a natural, sensuous body is indispensable in order for spirit to exist. This puts into question readings according to which for Hegel we are spiritual creatures primarily in virtue of taking a negative stance towards nature.