“Spirit”: A Plea for Geist

  • Richard Schacht
Part of the Sophia Studies in Cross-cultural Philosophy of Traditions and Cultures book series (SCPT, volume 1)


Robert Solomon and I long ago took up Walter Kaufmann’s campaign not only to follow Nietzsche as well as Hegel in keeping the term and concept of “Geist” alive, but also to render and use it in English as “spirit” rather than “mind.” I prefer to keep and use the German term itself, because I consider “Geist” to be a richer term and concept (thanks to Hegel and Nietzsche), and want to be able to use it to pull the idea of “spirit” in that direction. But I share with Solomon the conviction that the language of “spirit” and “spirituality,” so understood, is valuable, and deserves a place in our own (Anglophone) philosophical discourse about human reality. I consider what Solomon does with the idea of “spirit,” and say something about my own rather different inclination in the matter, which owes something to Hegel’s construal of Geist, but is closer in spirit (as it were) to Nietzsche’s. For me, as for both of them, human Geist or spirituality is deeply bound up with human culture and the phenomenon they call Bildung, through which it is incorporated into human life; and the essential thing about it is the transformation of human life that it involves, from something merely natural into something that is importantly supra-biological even while remaining anchored in and dependent upon our species-specific vitality. It involves the continual innovative restructuring of human experience and activities in ways increasingly emancipated from any sort of biological or merely social-functional imperatives. The language of Geist and spirituality is needed to bring and keep this central dimension of human reality in focus, making Solomon’s efforts to demystify and promote it an important part of his legacy.


Philosophical Discourse High Humanity Human Reality Philosophical Anthropology German Term 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of IllinoisUrbanaUSA

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