This is my first question on this website, so I am not completely sure that this is the most adequate one (I could have also tried Philosophy stack exchange).

In the chapter "L'exil d'Hélène" of L'été (Summer, "Helen's exile") of Camus, there is a quote attributed to Hegel :

Seule la ville moderne, ose écrire Hegel, offre à l'esprit le terrain où il peut prendre conscience de lui-même.

(English translation "Only the modern city,” Hegel dares write, “offers the mind a field in which it can become aware of itself.”)

However, no reference is provided for this quote, and the fact that it was not given in German makes it difficult to find additional information about it. Therefore, I would like to know if someone had encountered something similar in Hegel's work.

1 Answer 1


As far as I know, the city (German: Stadt) is not an important concept in Hegel's philosophy. However, the state (German: Staat) is an important concept, especially in his Elements of the Philosophy of Right (German: Grundlinien der Philosophie des Rechts). Since the German words Stadt and Staat differ by only one letter, I strongly suspect that either Camus or the source he consulted a mistranslated text by or about Hegel.

For the importance of the state in Hegel's philosophy, I will simply quote the start of Wikipedia's summery of Elements of the Philosophy of Right (emphasis added):

The Philosophy of Right (as it is usually called) begins with a discussion of the concept of the free will and argues that the free will can only realize itself in the complicated social context of property rights and relations, contracts, moral commitments, family life, the economy, the legal system, and the polity. A person is not truly free, in other words, unless he is a participant in all of these different aspects of the life of the state.

For a statement that comes close to what Camus writes (minus the mix-up of "Stadt" and "Staat"), see the Zusatz (addition) to § 258:

Der Staat ist der Geist, der in der Welt steht und sich in derselben mit Bewußtsein realisiert, während er sich in der Natur nur als das Andere seiner, als schlafender Geist verwirklicht.


The state is the spirit that stands in the world and that in it realises itself through (self)consciousness, whereas in nature it only realises itself as a sleeping spirit.

Until someone can show that Hegel's work contains a sentence that can be literally translated into what Camus wrote, I will assume that Camus was paraphrasing an incorrect translation of an unidentified German text.

  • Thank you very much for your answer. I do not think that Camus spoke or understood German, and it is likely that his source was second-hand. It seems indeed that the translation was in mistake. May 26, 2020 at 7:59

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