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Why is Spirit Such a Slow Learner?

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A typical view of Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit takes the view that it traces the forward march of spirit and that this forward moving education outlines a path of pure progress. My contention is that what most needs to be said about spirit is that it is indeed a slow learner: lessons must be learned over and over again, structures get repeated, the same mistakes are made in different contexts. Repetition, not progress, is the rule of spirit's education. Two questions are addressed in this essay. First, what is it about spirit that makes it such a slow learner of the lessons it must learn? Second, how is it that the crisis of tragedy and its resolution in the form of comedy represent a new stage in the education of spirit, one in which there is some hope of finally learning the lessons it must suffer?


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