Hegel’s Spirit is a Ghost That Operates in the Way of the Unconscious

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"Hegel’s “spirit” (Geist) is a “ghost” that operates in the way of the “unconscious”.

Kojin Karatani:

"In Capital, Marx wrote about “fetish”. However, this was only taken as a joke. Lukács, for example, called it “reification”, where a relationship between human and human is transformed into a relationship between thing and thing. This is a failure to recognize an important realization that Capital arose.

In the postscript to the second edition of Capital, Marx praised Hegel. This was already a time when Hegel was treated as a “dead dog”. Almost thirty years earlier, when the mystical aspect of the Hegelian dialectic was still in vogue, Marx relentlessly criticized Hegel. However, in the postscript to the second edition of Capital, he wrote the following: I therefore openly avowed myself the pupil of that mighty thinker, and even, here and there in the chapter on the theory of value, coquetted with the mode of expression peculiar to him. The mystification which the dialectic suffers in Hegel’s hands by no means prevent him from being the first to present its general forms of motion in a comprehensive and conscious manner. With him it is standing on its head. It must be inverted, in order to discover the rational kernel within the mystical shell.

This famous statement is misleading in several ways. In a sense, Marx had been “inverting” Hegel since he was young. What is important is that the overturning of Hegel in Capital is different from the previous overturnings, and this is what makes it unique to Marx.

In the first place, the “Hegel” that Marx found when he professed to be a “pupil” of Hegel is different from the Hegel that is usually referred to. In Hegel, world history is a process of the self-realization of “spirit”. However, what Hegel means by that is that the social history of humans is not created by their intention or design, but is something beyond human intentions, forced by the “unconscious”. Hegel’s “spirit” (Geist) is a “ghost” that operates in the way of the “unconscious”.

Hegel emphasized this in his Lectures on the History of Philosophy.

He first rejected the “psychological” view, that is, the view to see action as stemming from “consciousness”. Caesar and Napoleon, for example, were driven by their own intentions, desires, and ambitions in their individual consciousness. However, each of them achieves something beyond such “psychology” or “consciousness”. Hegel understood this that they are driven by the “unconscious”. In this sense, Hegel can be said as the first philosopher who doubted the view from “consciousness” and looked into the workings of the “unconscious” or spirit."