I couldn't figure this sentences out, because of the "falls into history" expression. It's an academic article, I thought maybe it doesn't me "to be forgotten" like in the song. Would someone please enlight me? Here comes the text:

  1. "Perhaps going back to Hegel, who used the term phenomenology of the spirit to trace the steps of humanity’s Geist as it falls into history in order to come back to itself, we can find a plausible answer to these questions. "

  2. "They do not see the Spirit as some abstract, disembodied, and other-worldly idea of humanity that only falls into history only in order to go back to itself."

Thank you in advance!

  • It sounds like a personification, possibly meaning that there's some group behaviour that is observed to start at some point in history; this behaviour wasn't well-understood then but is later studied and formalised in the literature.
    – Lawrence
    Feb 24, 2016 at 1:33
  • Thank you Lawrence! Still hard to me to get it, though... How would you put the sentence in a simpler way?
    – Debora
    Feb 24, 2016 at 1:44
  • Which part is unclear?
    – Lawrence
    Feb 24, 2016 at 1:45
  • " it falls into history in order to come back to itself"
    – Debora
    Feb 24, 2016 at 1:55
  • By the way, welcome to ELU. When replying in comments, use the "@" symbol before the name (e.g. @Lawrence). The system uses this convention to alert users that there's a comment pending. The author of a post gets pinged automatically.
    – Lawrence
    Feb 24, 2016 at 1:55

1 Answer 1


The phrase "it falls into history in order to come back to itself" is an example of personification: the spirit or humanity's geist is also called the zeitgeist:

The Zeitgeist (spirit of the age or spirit of the time) is the intellectual fashion or dominant school of thought that typifies and influences the culture of a particular period in time. - Wikipedia

This zeitgeist is treated as a person who "falls into history", which we can consider in context to mean something like "goes somewhere". It does so to "go back to itself", which is suggestive of finding oneself. Here's a link about the latter from someone's personal experience (found at random on the web), and here's a more dispassionate write-up about an identity crisis.

The term "in order to" is a statement of purpose. With reference to the zeitgeist, it's simply an observation of apparent intention - like that of a plastic bag 'trying' to catch leaves (another random internet link).

Putting all this together, the sentence says that at first observation, the zeitgeist wasn't well understood. After some time (i.e. after going through some history), people began to study it, and it was then better understood.

In your first quote, this better understanding is what enabled people to "find a plausible answer to these questions".

In your second quote, the people referred to as "they" appear to have a different explanation for the phenomenon, discounting the validity or effectiveness of the personification-based explanation.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.