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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
The Greek World
By Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770–1831)
 
        
From the ‘Philosophy of History’
  
  [In explaining the general characteristics of the Greek national mind, Hegel calls attention to the fact that Greek civilization is the first appearance of “spirit” in the world, using the word in the technical sense above described; namely, that it is the first nationality which adopts free institutions, that is to say, institutions which embody reason and are adapted to assist the individual citizen to attain free reasonable action. He uses the expression, “In Greece advancing spirit makes itself the content of its volition and its knowledge;” meaning, as he explains later, that the Greek citizen makes it his personal interest to adopt as his own will the will of the State; for this is the essence of freedom. The individual citizen, too, understands the motive of the State; that is to say, it is not a motive of some mere ruler or tyrant, but the motive that arises in the mind of the individual citizen, as such, and declared by his vote. He contrasts this form of spirit with a further developed one, in which the individual citizen lays less stress upon his individual satisfaction, and looks more to the reasonable result, even if at the cost of his individuality. One of the finest passages in Hegel is the paragraph upon Achilles and Alexander.]

AMONG the Greeks we feel ourselves immediately at home, for we are in the region of Spirit; and though the origin of the nation, as also its philological peculiarities, may be traced farther,—even to India,—the proper Emergence, the true Palingenesis of Spirit, must be looked for in Greece first. At an earlier stage I compared the Greek world with the period of adolescence; not indeed in that sense, that youth bears within it a serious anticipative destiny, and consequently by the very conditions of its culture urges towards [rests on] an ulterior aim,—presenting thus an inherently incomplete and immature form, and being then most defective when it would deem itself perfect,—but in that sense, that youth does not yet present the activity of work, does not yet exert itself for a definite intelligent aim, but rather exhibits a concrete freshness of the soul’s life. It appears in the sensuous actual world as Incarnate Spirit and Spiritualized Sense [i.e., æsthetic art], in a unity which owed its origin to Spirit. Greece presents to us the cheerful aspect of youthful freshness, of Spiritual vitality. It is here first that advancing Spirit makes itself the content of its volition and its knowledge; but in such a way that State, Family, Law, Religion, are at the same time objects aimed at by individuality, while the latter is individuality only in virtue of those aims. The [full-grown] man, on the other hand, devotes his life to labor for an objective aim; which he pursues consistently, even at the cost of his individuality.  1
  The highest form that floated before the Greek imagination was Achilles, the Son of the Poet, the Homeric Youth of the Trojan War. Homer is the element in which the Greek world lives, as man does in the air. The Greek life is a truly youthful achievement. Achilles, the ideal youth of poetry, commenced it; Alexander the Great, the ideal youth of reality, concluded it. Both appear in contest with Asia: Achilles, as the principal figure in the national expedition of the Greeks against Troy, does not stand at its head, but is subject to the Chief of Chiefs; he cannot be made the leader without becoming a fantastic, untenable conception. On the contrary, the second youth, Alexander,—the freest and finest individuality that the real world has ever produced,—advances to the head of this youthful life that has now perfected itself, and accomplishes the revenge against Asia.  2
 
 
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