In this paper, I will try to propose a general characterisation of the spirit in Hegel's Encyclopaedia. This characterisation is based on the opposition between nature and spirit. More precisely, in my view the Hegelian spirit can be defined as the activity of bringing the natural exteriority back to a living totality.
We know that for Hegel the notion of spirit takes so many shapes that their unity is difficult to find. For instance, what does the soul in the subjective spirit, property in the objective spirit and the cult of the Greek gods in the absolute spirit have in common? Furthermore, when we consider property, for example, the problem is knowing if the spirit is here constituted by the owner, by the deeds of ownership or by the living relationship between the owner and the possessed goods.
Moreover, the Hegelian spirit is a philosophical descendant of several different traditions. The question is, therefore, to know how these traditions are linked in the Hegelian notion. I will present these briefly before stating my general hypothesis about the definition of the spirit.
First, the Hegelian spirit is connected to the noûs of the Greek philosophers (the Latin spiritus, intellectus). The noûs — on the one hand, an immaterial entity leading the universe, and, on the other, a faculty of the soul — is most often distinguished by its separate and rational nature. For Hegel too, the spirit, as a non-perceptible entity, constitutes the freest and most rational stage in the development of the Idea.