Intermission: On the Threshold of the System

Gentlemen! We find ourselves in an important epoch, in a fermentation, in which Spirit has made a leap forward, has gone beyond its previous concrete form and acquired a new one. The whole mass of ideas and concepts that have been current until now, the very bonds of the world, are dissolved and collapsing into themselves like a vision in a dream. A new emergence of Spirit is at hand; philosophy must be the first to hail its appearance and recognize it, while others, resisting impotently, adhere to the past, and the majority unconsciously constitute the matter in which it makes is appearance. But philosophy, in recognizing it as what is eternal, must pay homage to it’.

- Hegel, ‘Jena lectures on the philosophy of Spirit: final speech’, 1806

‘May I express the wish and hope that I shall manage to gain and merit your confidence on the path which we are about to take. But first of all, the one thing I shall venture to ask of you is this: that you bring with you a trust in science, faith in reason, and trust and faith in yourselves. The courage of truth and faith in the power of the spirit is the primary condition of philosophical study; man should honor himself and consider himself worthy of the highest [things]. He cannot overestimate the greatness and power of the spirit; the closed essence of the universe contains no force which could withstand the courage of cognition; it must open up before it, and afford it the spectacle and enjoyment of its riches and its depths’.

- Hegel, ‘Inaugural Address, Delivered at the University of Berlin’, 1818

It has occurred to me that since the ‘Science of Logic’ takes over from where the ‘Phenomenology of Spirit’ left off I should have first provided a brief overview of the Phenomenology before embarking upon a series of articles about the Logic and so I will rectify that oversight here.

The principal ideas forwarded in the ‘Phenomenology of Spirit’ are as follows:

1. As the science of appearances phenomenology is distinct from metaphysics which is the science of Being.

2. Phenomenology of Spirit observes and describes the forms of unreal consciousness and the necessity which causes consciousness to advance from one form to another.

3. Knowledge of the dialectical structure of reality makes possible the scientific study of the forms in which consciousness appears.

4. In its evolution mind has passed through three moments: consciousness of the sensible world, consciousness of itself and of other selves, and consciousness of the identity of the self and the sensible world.

While Napoleon Bonaparte, (1769–1821), was defeating the Prussians outside the walls of Jena, G. W. F. Hegel, (1770–1831), within inside the walls was putting the finishing touches to his ‘Phenomenology of Spirit’. Napoleon’s victory signified for Hegel the triumph throughout Europe of enlightened self-rule and marked the beginning of a new social era and in the preface to the Phenomenology he drew a parallel between Napoleon’s achievement and his own:

‘… it is not difficult to see that ours is a birth-time and a period of transition to a new era. Spirit has broken with the world it has hitherto inhabited and imagined, and is of a mind to submerge it in the past, and in the labour of its own transformation. Spirit is indeed never at rest but always engaged in moving forward. But just as the first breath drawn by a child after its long, quiet nourishment breaks the gradualness of merely quantitative growth — there is a qualitative leap, and the child is born-so likewise the Spirit in its formation matures slowly and quietly into its new shape, dissolving bit by bit the structure of its previous world, whose tottering state is only hinted at by isolated symptoms. The frivolity and boredom which unsettle the established order, the vague foreboding of something unknown, these are the heralds of approaching change. The gradual crumbling that left unaltered the face of the whole is cut short by a sunburst which, in one flash, illuminates the features of the new world’.

- ‘The Phenomenology of Spirit’

Changes leading up to the present had according to Hegel been quantitative like the growth of a child in the womb but recent events had marked a qualitative change such as happens when the child draws its first breath, (the composer Alexander Scriabin, (1871–1915), was particularly struck by this idea of Hegel’s, see my article Interlude: Alexander Scriabin and the Philosophy of Desire), and when Hegel made this optimistic assessment of his own achievement he was thinking not merely of the book in hand but of the system of knowledge for which he was later to become famous and which, even then, he was expounding in university lectures. The Phenomenology was to introduce the system to the public though originally he had planned to include it in the first volume of his Logic but the project outgrew the limits of an introduction and was published as a separate work, and to this day it lives not as an introduction to the system but as a classic in its own right, one of the greatest philosophical works ever penned. Indeed many who appreciate the Phenomenology itself find very little if anything to their taste in the system, for instance Jacob Loewenberg, (1882–1969), spoke of the need ‘to save Hegel from the Hegelians — nay, from Hegel himself’, adding that the insights that abound in the Phenomenology make the task well worth attempting, but this is rather like sucking the soft fondant centre out of a creme egg and throwing away the milk chocolate shell, for if we read it as it was intended to be read the Phenomenology is very much a part of the system.

Like Johann Gottlieb Fichte, (1762–1814), and Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling, (1775–1854), before him, Hegel was a metaphysician in the tradition that stemmed from Parmenides, (fl. late sixth or early fifth century BC). (See my article On Plato’s ‘Parmenides’: Being and Non-Being). The problem of philosophy in the broadest sense had to do with the identity of being and knowing and admitting that the way of mortals is mere seeming each of the three in his own way was trying to expound the way of truth. For Fichte, the Absolute (ultimate reality, the Kantian thing-in-itself) is the self which produces the phenomenal world and then overcomes it while or Schelling the Absolute is the common source of the self and the world. Both thinkers held that the task of philosophy is to lead the finite mind to the level of immediacy at which the difference between knowledge and being disappears in vision. Hegel thought that both of them went too far in their attempts to abolish diversity for he thought that an intuition which leaves all difference behind is ignorance rather than knowledge. Hence he said which characteristic dry humour (Hegel and Schelling were once friends but Schelling was not happy with this so that was the end of that) that Schelling’s Absolute is the night in which all cows are black:

‘Time was when the bare possibility of imagining something differently was sufficient to refute an idea, and this bare possibility, this general thought, also had the entire positive value of an actual cognition. Nowadays we see all value ascribed to the universal Idea in this nonactual form, and the undoing of all distinct, determinate entities (or rather the hurling of them all into the abyss of vacuity without further development or any justification) is allowed to pass muster as the speculative mode of treatment. Dealing with something from the perspective of the Absolute consists merely in declaring that, although one has been speaking of it just now as something definite, yet in the Absolute, the A=A, there is nothing of the kind, for there all is one. To pit this single insight, that in the Absolute everything is the same, against the full body of articulated cognition, which at least seeks and demands such fulfilment, to palm off its Absolute as the night in which, as the saying goes, all cows are black — this is cognition naively reduced to vacuity. The formalism which recent philosophy denounces and despises, only to see it reappear in its midst, will not vanish from Science, however much its inadequacy may be recognized and felt, tin the cognizing of absolute actuality has become entirely dear as to its own nature. Since the presentation of a general idea in outline, before any attempt to follow it out in detail, makes the latter attempt easier to grasp, it may be useful at this point to give a rough idea of it, at the same time taking the opportunity to get rid of certain habits of thought which impede. philosophical cognition’.

- ‘The Phenomenology of Spirit’

Knowledge might demands immediacy (though always remember that Hegel was a philosopher of mediacy) but Hegel denied that the distinctions present in human consciousness are incompatible with the unity demanded of knowledge, it being sufficient that the logic of thought and the logic of Being are the same. In brief, when one thinks dialectically one thinks truly. This, as has been pointed out, was also Aristotle’s, (384–322 BC), solution to the Parmenidean problem whereby according to Aristotle divine mind, mind fully actualized, thinks itself and its thinking is a thinking of thinking:

‘The nature of the divine thought involves certain problems; for while thought is held to be the most divine of things observed by us, the question how it must be situated in order to have that character involves difficulties. For if it thinks of nothing, what is there here of dignity? It is just like one who sleeps. And if it thinks, but this depends on something else, then (since that which is its substance is not the act of thinking, but a potency) it cannot be the best substance; for it is through thinking that its value belongs to it. Further, whether its substance is the faculty of thought or the act of thinking, what does it think of? Either of itself or of something else; and if of something else, either of the same thing always or of something different. Does it matter, then, or not, whether it thinks of the good or of any chance thing? Are there not some things about which it is incredible that it should think? Evidently, then, it thinks of that which is most divine and precious, and it does not change; for change would be change for the worse, and this would be already a movement. First, then, if ‘thought’ is not the act of thinking but a potency, it would be reasonable to suppose that the continuity of its thinking is wearisome to it. Secondly, there would evidently be something else more precious than thought, viz. that which is thought of. For both thinking and the act of thought will belong even to one who thinks of the worst thing in the world, so that if this ought to be avoided (and it ought, for there are even some things which it is better not to see than to see), the act of thinking cannot be the best of things. Therefore it must be of itself that the divine thought thinks (since it is the most excellent of things), and its thinking is a thinking on thinking’.

- ‘Metaphysics’

A clear difference between Aristotle and Hegel is that for the latter the divine mind is immanent in the world process. Hegel expresses this by saying that Substance and Subject are one (which is a very radical idea but perhaps you need some acquaintance with the history of philosophy to understand why):

‘In my view, which can be justified only by the exposition of the system itself, everything turns on grasping and expressing the True, not only as Substance, but equally as Subject. At the same time, it is to be observed that substantiality embraces the universal, or the immediacy of knowledge itself, as well as that which is being or immediacy for knowledge. If the conception of God as the one Substance shocked the age in which it was proclaimed, the reason for this was on the one hand an instinctive awareness that, in this definition, self-consciousness was only submerged and not preserved. On the other hand, the opposite view, which clings to thought as thought, to universality as such, is the very same simplicity, is undifferentiated, unmoved substantiality. And if, thirdly, thought does unite itself with the being of Substance, and apprehends immediacy or intuition as thinking, the question is still whether this intellectual intuition does not again fall back into inert simplicity, and does not depict actuality itself in a non-actual manner’.

- ‘The Phenomenology of Spirit’

Spirit, which is Hegel’s Absolute, is said to be the inner being of the world. It exists in itself (an sich) as Substance, but it also exists for itself (für sich) as Subject. ‘This means, it must be presented to itself as an object, but at the same time straightway annul and transcend this objective form; it must be its own object in which it finds itself reflected’. The process Hegel describes as a circle which has its end for its beginning and what he means is that when the movement begins Spirit is one and when it ends it is again one while in between it is divided and tormented by the need to end the division. From Hegel’s point of view the circular movement was not in vain for in the beginning Spirit was potentially everything but actually nothing and only by means of the processes which we know as nature and history does Spirit attain to actuality.

This is metaphysics of course and like Parmenides Hegel when he speaks of Absolute Spirit, views the world not as it appears to mortals but as it is known by the gods, and metaphysics, which is the science of reality, is not phenomenology, which is the science of appearances. ln the Phenomenology Hegel, without abandoning the standpoint of one who knows, observes and describes the opinions of finite spirits in their multiplicity and contrariety. It is like history, according to Hegel, in that it includes the sum of human experience, both individual and communal; but, whereas history views these experiences ‘in the form of contingency’, phenomenology views them ‘from the side of their intellectually comprehended organization’. Most of the Phenomenology is far removed from metaphysics and if one discovers some parts indigestible the explanation is usually that Hegel is alluding to things that we have never encountered in our reading before.

The German word Geist has its advantages in that unlike our words mind and spirit which translators have to use in its place it covers the whole gamut of human concerns. Psychology, history, philology, sociology, theology, ethics, and aesthetics, each of which Hegel succeeds in illuminating, are all referred to in German as Geisteswisschenschaften, sciences of Geist. The Phenomenology therefore is the story of mankind and is concerned directly with finite spirits and only indirectly with the Absolute, which must be thought of as hidden behind these appearances nonetheless in order to understand the layout of the work one needs to keep in mind what one is told in the Preface about the movement of the Absolute realizing itself in a threefold process. First, a process of positing itself as a living and moving being, in constant change from one state to its opposite, second, a process of negating the object and becoming subject, thereby splitting up what was single and turning the factors against each other, third, a process of negating this diversity and reinstating self-identity.

And this final movement is a new immediacy and not the immediacy with which the process began:

‘Further, the living Substance is being which is in truth Subject, or what is the same, is in truth actual only in so far as it is the movement of positing itself, or is the mediation of its self-othering with itself. This Substance is, as Subject, pure, simple negativity, and is for this very reason the bifurcation of the simple; it is the doubling which sets up opposition, and then again the negation of this indifferent diversity and of its antithesis (the immediate simplicity). Only this self-restoring Sameness, or this reflection in otherness within itself — not an original or immediate unity as such — is the True. It is the process of its own becoming, the circle that presupposes its end as its goal, having its end also as its beginning ; and only by being worked out to its end, is it actual’.

‘Thus the life of God and divine cognition may well be spoken of as a disporting of Love with itself; but this idea sinks into mere edification, and even insipidity, if it lacks the seriousness, the suffering, the patience, and the labour of the negative….’

- ‘The Phenomenology of Spirit’

In the Phenomenology the three movements are designated not from the standpoint of Absolute Spirit but from the standpoint of man and woman. Part A, ‘Consciousness’, is concerned with man and woman’s endeavours to attain certainty through knowledge of the sensible world. Part B, ‘Self-consciousness’, has to do with man and woman as doer rather than as knower but it is principally concerned with the self-image to which man and woman’s action leads. Part C, not titled in Hegel’s outline, exhibits the stage in which man and woman sees him or herself reflected in the external world. Hegel explains that these three moments are abstractions arrived at by analysis and he does not mean for us to think that the dialectic which he traces in the development of consciousness was anterior to that which he or she faces in the development of selfhood. On the other hand, because what is meaningful in history comes from man and woman’s efforts to attain self-knowledge, the great moments in history may be seen as illustrative of this triadic movement. Hence the extroverted mind of pre-Socratic Greece serves to illustrate the first stage, the introverted mind of late antiquity and the Middle Ages, the second, and the boisterous, self-assertive mind of modem man and woman the third. A simple plan somewhat complicated in the execution in virtue of Hegel’s tendency to loop back into the past in order to give a fuller exhibition of the dialectic.

Part A, ‘Consciousness’, is an essay in epistemology. Specifically it is a critical history of man and woman’s endeavours to base knowledge upon sensation. Although it seems probable that Hegel first envisaged the problem as it appeared to Plato, (428/427 or 424/423–348/347 BC), in the ‘Theaetetus’, (see my article On Plato’s ‘Theaetetus’ — Birth Pangs), his exposition makes full use of the light shed on it by modem empiricism. In three chapters Hegel traces man and woman’s endeavour to discover certainty through knowledge, first on the level of sensation, then on the level of perception, then on the level of scientific understanding. Sensations are indeed immediate but they cease to be such the moment we make them objects of knowledge. The object of perception of which common sense is so sure turns out to be a congeries of properties. And the chemical or physical force in terms of which man and woman tries to explain these properties turns out to be unknowable and has to be abandoned in favour of descriptive laws which although satisfactory from a practical standpoint are unsatisfactory to consciousness bent on knowledge. In the end consciousness leams that the sensible world is like a curtain behind which an unknown inner world ‘affirms itself as a divided and distinguished inner reality’, namely, self-consciousness, (for reasons too complicated to go into here, I may devote an article to it, Hegel invokes an inverted world where everything is the opposite of what it is here, what is cold here is hot there, what is sour is sweet, what is moral is immoral, what is punishment is reward, and in the inverted world Piers Morgan, (1965 — ), has charisma (I added that last one myself)). But, says Hegel, to understand this ‘requires us to fetch a wider compass’.

In Part B, ‘Self-consciousness’ Hegel makes a new start. The wider compass means taking account of man and ‘s animal condition. Life, says Hegel, is an overcoming. The animal does not contemplate the sensible world but consumes it. Self-consciousness dawns when man and woman’s appetites turn into desires. Unlike appetites, desire is universal and what man and woman desires is the idea of overcoming. He or she is not content to consume what he needs, he or she destroys for the sake of proving that he or she is an overcomer but not satisfied with proving it to him or herself he or she needs to prove it to others, hence, says Hegel, self-consciousness is a double movement, in order to be certain that he or she is a self, man and woman needs to be recognized as such by other selves.

Hegel works through the dialectic of self-consciousness in the best known section (many commentators never seem to get beyond this one) titled ‘Lordship and Bondsman’ It is by killing a rival in life-and-death combat that primitive man and woman (well I am updating it to be inclusive of both genders but dare I say perhaps it is principally primitive man here?) attains to selfhood. If the rival lacks mettle and cries out to be spared the double movement is still accomplished and the rival survives not as a self but as a slave who exists only to serve the lord’s desires. The slave, however, although he or she has no independent existence at first, learns to value him or herself as a worker and through the skills that he or she acquires gradually wins the recognition of his or her master. In the end, the master, who wanted nothing more than to be independent, finds himself dependent upon his slave.

Much has been made, by Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, (1844–1900), and others, of the two types of consciousness, that of the master and that of the slave (see below for ‘slave’ here) but for Hegel this section is scarcely more than an introduction to the one which follows, entitled ‘The Freedom of Self-consciousness’. Failure of consciousness to find independence in the mutual relation between the two selves leads to the negation of the double movement. ‘In thinking l am free, because I am not in another but remain simply and solely in touch with myself’. Such a bold attempt to recover immediacy Hegel illustrates by reference to the subjective philosophies of late antiquity when culture was universal and life was burdensome to master and slave alike. In Stoicism thought affirmed itself indifferent to all the conditions of individual existence, declaring its universality. In Scepticism individuality reasserted itself in the giddy whole of its disorder. In Christianity the attempt was made to combine the universality of the former with the facticity of the latter giving rise to the consciously divided self which Hegel calls the Unhappy Consciousness. For instance, the Apostle cries out what a wretch he is:

For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.

For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.

Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.

I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.

For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:

But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.

O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?

I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.

- ‘Romans’, 18–25

Devotion, ceremony, asceticism, mysticism, and obedience are viewed by Hegel as means of overcoming this rift but the healing remains a mere ‘beyond’.

Meanwhile ‘there has arisen the idea of Reason, of the certainty that consciousness is, in its particularity, inherently and essentially absolute’. And so man and woman enters the last stage of his or her pilgrimage. Part C, left untitled by Hegel, is the snthesis of consciousness and self-consciousness but the synthesis insofar as it falls within the compass of the Phenomenology is incomplete and this incompleteness must be kept in mind when we consider the titles which Hegel gave to the three subdivisions of Part C. They are: AA. Reason; BB. Spirit; CC. Religion. The titles are part of the passing show, banners around which modem men and women are accustomed to rally.

Reason, as understood in this major division, is the reason of newly awakened modem man and woman. In contrast to the ascetic soul of the Middle Ages modem man and woman is blessed with sublime self-confidence, certain of his or her vocation to pull down the rickety structures of the past and to build new ones upon the foundation of reason. Hegel discusses the rise of science, modern man and woman’s pursuit of pleasure, and the doctrine of natural law. This section is memorable mainly for the comical situations into which man and woman’s zeal and good intentions get him whereby disregarding his or her objective nature he or she plunges like Faust into life only to find him or herself mastered by fates beyond his or her control. Retreating somewhat, he or she takes refuge in ‘the law of the heart’ which the cruel world refuses to understand. Or, as the ‘knight of virtue; he or she he engages in sham fights with the world. All of this appeal to immediacy, Hegel says, is consciousness gone crazy or deranged, its reality being immediately unreality:

‘The heart-throb for the welfare of humanity therefore passes into the ravings of an insane self-conceit, into the fury of consciousness to preserve itself from destruction; and it does this by expelling from itself the perversion which it is itself, and by striving to look on it and express it as something else. It therefore speaks of the universal order as a perversion of the law of the heart and of its happiness, a perversion invented by fanatical priests, gluttonous despots and their minions, who compensate themselves for their own degradation by degrading and oppressing others, a perversion which has led to the nameless misery of deluded humanity. In this its derangement, consciousness declares individuality to be the source of this derangement and perversion, but one that is alien and accidental. It is the heart, however, or the individuality of consciousness that would be immediately universal, that is itself the source of this derangement and perversion, and the outcome of its action is merely that its consciousness becomes aware of this contradiction. For the True is for it the law of the heart — something merely intended which, unlike the established order, has not stood the test of time, but rather when thus tested is overthrown. This its law ought to have reality; the law, then, is for it, qua reality, qua valid ordinance, its own aim and essential nature; but reality, that very ;aw qua valid ordinance, is on the contrary immediately for it something which is not valid. Similarly, its own reality, the heart itself as a particular individual consciousness, is for it its essence; but its purpose is to establish that particular individuality as an [objective] being. Thus it is rather its self as not a particular individual that is immediately for it its essence, or its purpose has the form of a law, hence the form of a universality, which it is for its own consciousness. This its Notion becomes by its own action its object; thus the heart learns rather that its self is not real, and that its reality is an unreality. It is therefore not an accidental and alien individuality, but just this particular heart, which in all its aspects is, in its own self, perverted and perverting’.

- ‘The Phenomenology of Spirit’

A delusory objectivity is achieved in the third section of this division when the individual undertakes to find meaning in life by devoting himself to some worthy cause. Hegel’s title for this section: ‘The spiritual animal kingdom and deceit’, indicates that high-mindedness has its low side. Animal behavior in the realm of reason:

‘As he immediately is, as a natural consciousness per se, man is good, as an individual he is absolute and all else exists for him; and moreover, since the moments have for him, qua self-conscious animal, the significance of universality, everything exists for his pleasure and delight and, as one who has come from the hand of God, he walks the earth as in a garden planted for him. He must also have plucked the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil. He possesses in this an advantage which distinguishes him from all other creatures, for it happens that his intrinsically good nature is also so constituted that an excess of pleasure does it harm, or rather his individuality has also its beyond within it, can go beyond itself and destroy itself. To counter this, Reason is for him a useful instrument for keeping this excess within bounds, or rather for preserving himself when he oversteps his limit; for this is the power of consciousness. Enjoyment on the part of the conscious, intrinsically universal being, must not itself be something determinate as regards variety and duration, but universal. ‘Measure’ or proportion has therefore the function of preventing pleasure in its variety and duration from being cut short; i.e. the function of ‘measure’ is immoderation. Just as everything is useful to man, so man is useful too, and his vocation is to make himself a member of the group, of use for the common good and serviceable to all. The extent to which he looks .after his own interests must also be matched by the extent to which he serves others, and so far as he serves others, so far is he taking care of himself: one hand washes the other. But wherever he finds himself, there he is in his right place; he makes use of others and is himself made use of’.

- ‘The Phenomenology of Spirit’

The excessive claims made for reason provoked reactions, known historically as pietism, illuminism, and romanticism, and these are all dealt with in the section ‘Spirit’ that represents man and woman looking for the truth within him or herself. The fact that Hegel loops back in time in order to draw a contrast between the conscientiousness of the Greek heroine Antigone and that of the ‘beautiful soul’ cherished and cultivated by German Romantics somewhat obscures the dialectical movement. We may take up the story with court life in France under the ancien régime which for Hegel is a brilliantly orchestrated variation on the old theme of self-alienation. To be recognized as a self one had to sacrifice him or herself to society either by fighting or by working or by talking and almost everybody who was anybody opted for the third way. The pre-revolutionary salon, as J. N. Findlay, (1903–1987), remarks, made Paris ‘the most agreeable city in the world’ to outsiders such as David Hume, (1711–1776), but to insiders such as Rameau’s nephew in Denis Diderot’s, (1713–1784), classic, it was a snake pit. Hegel points out that the revolt against the meanness and duplicity of the existing order was two-pronged, that is, religious and philosophical.

Jacques-Bénigne Lignel Bossuet, (1627–1704), exemplifies one party, François-Marie Arouet, (1694–1778), aka M. de Voltaire the other but the difference according to Hegel was superficial for both parties were otherworldly, taking flight to the Absolute, whether it was called the Trinity or the Supreme Being. The philosophical party was to triumph as the party of Enlightenment, it wrecked cohesion, however, and splintered into political sects which stoked the fires of revolution and, in their pursuit of absolute freedom, were consumed in the Terror:

‘But the supreme reality and the reality which stands in the greatest antithesis to universal freedom, or rather the sole object that will still exist for that freedom, is the freedom and individuality of actual self-consciousness itself. For that universality which does not let itself advance to the reality of an organic articulation, and whose aim is to maintain itself in an unbroken continuity, at the same time creates a distinction within itself, because it is movement or consciousness in general. And, moreover, by virtue of its own abstraction, it divides itself into extremes equally abstract, into a simple, inflexible cold universality, and into the discrete, absolute hard rigidity and self-willed atomism of actual self-consciousness. Now that it has completed the destruction of the actual organization of the world, and exists now just for itself, this is its sole object, an object that no longer has any content, possession, existence, or outer extension, but is merely this knowledge of itself as an absolutely pure and free individual self. All that remains of the object by which it can be laid hold of is solely its abstract existence as such. The relation, then, of these two, since each exists indivisibly and absolutely for itself, and thus cannot dispose of a middle term which would link them together, is one of wholly unmediated pure negation, a negation, moreover, of the individual as a being existing in the universal. The sole work and deed of universal freedom is therefore death, a death too — which has no inner significance or filling, for what is negated is the empty point of the absolutely free self. It is thus the coldest and meanest of all deaths, with no more significance than cutting off a head of cabbage or swallowing a mouthful of water’.

- ‘Phenomenology of Spirit’

Absolute freedom is undoubtedly what every self demands but the lesson Hegel draws from the Enlightenment is that the individual cannot claim to be absolute, the truth that is in him or her must be in everyone else as well and this was the new morality from Königsberg just then enjoying great success in romantic circles. Morality has the task of harmonizing thought and inclination, it recovers the wholeness known to the ancient Greeks but it does not do so by means of custom but by means of the voice of conscience, moral reason present in every man and woman. This section of the Phenomenology is important principally for its criticism of deontological ethics. Universal law raised above all the contingency and duty divorced from all advantage made obvious targets for Hegel’s satire, far from harmonizing the soul morality gives rise to dissemblance.

The beautiful soul is divine in conception, the ‘self transparent to itself’ is similar to Hegel’s definition of the Absolute. Unfortunately, reality did not match the concept, as everyone must recognize when he or she judges his or her fellows, but also occasionally when he or she judges him or herself. On such occasions the conscientious person wants to confess his or her fault and ask forgiveness, and this can be rewarding, except when one has to do with one who is hard-hearted, and who ‘refuses to let his inner nature go forth’. Here, as Hegel points out, morality anticipates religion. Hitherto, consciousness has conceived of itself alternately as object and subject, as individual and social, at each level Spirit has taken into itself more of the content of human experience, although it continues to mistake each new experience for the whole toward which it aspires. This wholeness Hegel finds in ‘Revealed Religion’ by which he means Christianity but once again he loops back in time and in the final section presents an entire phenomenology of religion.

Religion had been of major concern to Hegel from the time when, as a theological student, he had found difficulty reconciling Biblical revelation with Greek paideia, the rearing and education of the ideal member of the ancient Greek polis or state, (know thyself, hard is the good, and so on), and his survey traces religion through three stages, the cosmological stage represented by Persia and Egypt, the anthropological stage represented by classical Greece, and the revelational stage represented by Christianity. The first stage removed the divine too far from man and the second brought it too close, for instance in classic comedy, leaving it for the gospel of the incarnation of God’s Son to find the proper distance. For Hegel, the doctrine of the Trinity, one God revealed to man simultaneously as being, as being-for-itself and as the self knowing itself in the other, comes as close as religion can possibly come to Absolute Knowledge.

However, in religion self-consciousness is not fully conceptualized, the self does not yet know itself directly but only as appearance. ‘The last embodiment of spirit’, Hegel explains in the final chapter, ‘is Absolute Knowledge. It is spirit knowing itself in the shape of spirit’. Consciousness, which in religion is not perfectly one with its content, is here ‘at home with itself’. Albeit the particular self is ‘immediately sublated’ to the universal self, however, it is not absorbed into it, for the latter also is consciousness; that is to say, ‘it is the process of superseding itself’, but here we have departed from phenomenology and are now on the threshold of the System.

‘But the other side of its Becoming, History, is a conscious, self-mediating process — Spirit emptied out into Time; but this externalization, this kenosis, is equally an externalization of itself; the negative is the negative of itself. This Becoming presents a slow-moving succession of Spirits, a gallery of images, each of which , endowed with all the riches of Spirit, moves thus slowly Just because the Self has to penetrate and digest this en tire wealth of its substance. As its fulfilment consists in perfectly knowing what it is, in knowing its substance, this knowing is its’ withdrawal into itself in which it abandons its outer existence and gives its existential shape over to recollection. Thus absorbed in itself, it is sunk in the nigh of its self-consciousness; but in that night its vanished outer existence is preserved, and this transformed existence — the former one, but now reborn of the Spirit’s knowledge — is the new existence, a new world and a new shape of Spirit. In the immediacy of this new existence the Spirit has to start afresh to bring itself to maturity as if, for it, all that preceded were lost and it had learned nothing from the experience of the earlier Spirits. But recollection, the inwardizing, or that experience, has preserved it and is the inner being, and in fact the higher form of the substance. So although this Spirit starts afresh and apparently from its own resources to bring itself to maturity, it is none the less on a higher level that it starts. The realm of Spirits which is formed in this way in the outer world constitutes a succession in Time in which one Spirit relieved another of its charge and each took over the empire of the world from its predecessor. Their goal is the revelation of the depth of Spirit, and this is the absolute Notion. This revelation is, therefore, the raising-up of its depth, or its extension, the negativity of this withdrawn ‘I’, a negativity which is its externalization or its substance; and this revelation is also the Notion’s Time, in that this externalization is in its own self externalized, and just as it is in its extension, so it is equally in its depth, in the Self. The goal, Absolute Knowing, or Spirit that knows itself as Spirit, has for its path the recollection of the Spirits as they are in themselves and as they accomplish the organization of their realm. Their preservation, regarded from the side of their free existence appearing in the form of contingency is History; but regarded from the side of their [philosophically] comprehended organization, it is the Science of Knowing in the sphere of appearance:* the two together, comprehended History, form alike the inwardizing and the Calvary of absolute Spirit, the actuality, truth, and certainty of his throne, without which he would be lifeless and alone. Only

from the chalice of this realm of spirits

foams forth for Him his own infinitude’.**


* Phenomenology.

* Adaptation of Schiller’s ‘Die Freundschaft’, ad finem, (see below).

Josiah Royce’s, (1855–1916), published ‘Lectures on Modern ldealism’ of 1919 features three lectures in a series devoted to the Phenomenology that have provided successive student generations with an introduction to this work the series in its entirety delivering a background in post-Kantian idealism:

‘It presupposes readers acquainted with the problems of recent idealism; and as already indicated, it treats even highly trained students with great severity. With very little explanation, Hegel at once introduces a distinctly new and decidedly complex philosophical vocabulary, whose meaning one is to discover mainly from the uses to which he applies it his own deliberate opinion being that philosophical terminology can only be perfectly defined by means of considerations which can first occur to mind only at that point in the portrayal system where the vocabulary comes to be needed. Moreover, what the German historians of literature have called the barbarism of Hegel’s language was due partly, as I understand, to his Suabian habits of speech, and partly to his efforts to translate all philosophical terminology that could be so treated out of Latin and Greek into a German vocabulary an undertaking in which he showed a characteristic awkwardness. Pedagogically speaking, Hegel is distinctly austere. The learner shall adjust himself to the master. The master does comparatively little to smooth the learner’s way’.

‘The philosophical presuppositions of the book which the reader is to have in mind, he now superficially knows. The world of reality is to be defined in terms of whatever constitutes the true nature and foundation of the self. The categories of thought are to be deduced in the double sense with which we are now familiar. That is, one is to undertake what Kant attempted in his deduction of the categories, i.e., the proof that phenomena must in form be subject to the laws of thought. One must also undertake to show by a systematic development, what the forms of thought are. The book intends that the reader shall be interested in such an undertaking and shall be in general prepared to investigate the problem of life and of nature from this idealistic point of view. The method of the Phaenomenologie involves the demand that the reader should be pretty well acquainted with modern philosophical literature. Hegel does not cite his predecessors by name. He persistently uses the form of mere allusion; and since many of his allusions are to essays and discussions which are no longer in the forefront of our historical consciousness, we are constantly baffled in our efforts to see the force of the allusions themselves’.

- ‘Lectures on Modern Idealism’

So according to Royce like Fichte and Schelling Hegel started with the assumption that ‘the world of reality is to be defined in terms of whatever constitutes the true nature and foundation of the self’. Immanuel Kant, (1724–1894), had spoken of a single consciousness the laws of which determine the conditions of all experience and the most daring of his successors went on to formulate the conception of an impersonal Absolute as the ground and source of human personality. Royce rails against the common impression that these Idealists were arbitrarily imaginative and calls attention to the philosophically important use to which they put the dialectical or antithetical method. One finds the method, says Royce, in Plato’s dialogues, which often develop and compare antithetical doctrines not merely in order to expose ignorance but also for the sake of winning a view of truth in its complexity, yet while Plato limited the dialectical process to human thinking the Idealists took it to be inherent in the nature of truth itself. According to Royce this was partly owing to Kant’s declaration in connection with the antinomies of pure reason, (see my articles On Immanuel Kant’s ‘Critique of Pure Reason’: Making Honours of Men’s Impossibilities’, parts one to seven), that reason always expresses itself in antitheses but it was also partly due to the storm and stress of the Napoleonic era that brought to the light a host of contradictions deeply rooted in human nature:

‘Whatever else the age of the Revolution and the following Napoleonic period were, they were such as to suggest that the dialectical, the antithetical, the contradictory occurrences in our thinking are founded on tendencies very deep in human nature. It was not the mere blundering of the individual men of those days which led to rapid and contradictory changes of popular opinion and of social action; for instance, the practical expression of the abstract doctrine of the rights of men led to a social situation in which the rights of the victims of the Terror were so ruthlessly sacrificed; the propaganda of universal human freedom was sustained by bloody wars ; and in the end, the outcome of the Revolution was a military despotism. It is hardly a very deep account of these processes to say simply that the pendulum swings, and that excessive action leads to reaction’.

‘This is true. But it is a deeper truth that the ideas and passions of such a time are in their nature an union of antithetical tendencies. The passion for human liberty, in the form which it took during the early French Revolution was obviously an example of what Nietzsche has called the Wille zur Macht. Whatever the causes of the French Revolution, when it came it awakened a love of human freedom which was also a love of human might. The two aspects of this great fondness were antithetical, and for the moment inseparable. As the process developed they contended, and the one contradicted the other. How could one express one’s regard for human freedom except through one’s might? But might can be expressed only through finding some one to conquer. Conquest depends upon discipline ; discipline requires a ruler’.

- ‘Lectures on Modern Idealism’

Royce’s chapters on Schelling can furnish some assistance to the student of the Phenomenology in the light of Hegel’s description of Schelling’s Absolute as ‘the night in which all cows are black’. Royce avoids prejudicing his readers by approaching Schelling through Hegel but he does takes two lectures to demonstrate how applying the dialectic to the problem of the unity between the self and the universe, Schelling, after affirming that the world is simply the objectification of the ‘I whose true nature is to know and not to be known, went on to distinguish between the ‘I’ as conscious and the ‘I’ as unconscious. As the artist loses himself in his work so the intelligent activity of the self forgets itself in its product, philosophy transcends these distinctions, and the Absolute, Schelling concluded, is neither subject nor object but Indifference. Hegel, however, held out for difference and by means of the dialectic he demonstrated that the Absolute becomes aware of itself only by passing through a process of inner differentiation into many centres of selfhood each of which affirms itself in a manner that when taken in isolation is false and self-contradictory but when taken as a stage int he series is true and justified. Royce’s extended tour through the Phenomenology of is picturesque and ahis cue from the manner in which Hegel speaks of consciousness as passing over from one stage to another, Royce uses the metaphor of transmigration and imagines the World-Spirit as undergoing repeated incarnations:

‘Well, the Phaenomenologie may be viewed, then, as the biography of the world-spirit; and somewhat in this sense Hegel conceives the plan of all except the introductory portion of his work. This life of the world-spirit consists, however, of a series of what we have called stages, and these may be compared to different incarnations or transmigrations, as it were, of the world-spirit an interpretation which Hegel never, I think, explicitly mentions, although one passage in his preface strongly suggests the thought. The passage uses, with regard to the world-spirit, Hamlet’s word addressed to his father’s ghost: ‘What, ho, old mole, canst work in the earth so fast?’ For so, says Hegel, one is sometimes tempted to say on observing through what toilsome and underground pathways of hard-won experience the spirit seems to find its way through the history of humanity to the light of reason. A frequent suggestion of this interpretation is furnished by the fact that Hegel is often describing the typical point of view which we know has received, or is receiving, its expression solely through some one person, or class of persons, whose life or lives are in the natural world wholly confined to the expression of this one phase of consciousness. Such individuals cannot rise above just that stage. Nevertheless, at the close of such a stage, Hegel speaks of ‘consciousness’ as passing on to the next higher stage, which is such cases may be represented in the human world as we know it by wholly different individuals. The metaphor of a transmigration becomes, under these circumstances, almost inevitable as we try to follow what happens. The term used by Hegel for these various typical stages in the progress of consciousness, or of the world-spirit, is Gestalten des Bewussteins, that is, forms of consciousness. These forms, however, are often sharply individuated, treated as if they were persons heroes such as are portrayed in Wilhelm Meister or in Sartor Resartus. They have their fortunes, their confident beginning, when they are sure of themselves and of their own truth, their conflicts, their enemies, their tragedy, or on occasion their comedy of contradiction, their downfall, and their final suggestion of some higher form that in a new life is to spring out of them. Side by side with this deliberate personification of an idea there runs through the text an elaborate dialectical analysis; this quasi-biography of an incarnation of the world-spirit is associated with a logical criticism of a typical opinion, or of the rationality of a certain resolution or motive or mental attitude all this is characteristic of the baffling, but deliberate, method of the work’.

- ‘Lectures on Modern Idealism’

Hegel’s use of the term World-Spirit was then according to Royce purely allegorical portraying consciousness as subject to historical change a kind of Everyman, appearing successively as master and slave, as monk and pleasure seeker, as rationalist and romantic, and in Hegel’s Absolute all the diversity of life is preserved, every struggle, every sacrifice, of the vanquished as well as of the victor, while in his own philosophy Royce endeavoured to bring knowledge and action together and so it is not surprising that he finds the same tendency in Hegel’s dialectic. For instance, the lower stages of consciousness are divided by Royce into two types according to whether the finite spirit is too practical or too theoretical in its attitude toward life, and in those stages in which it is excessively practical man and woman appears as enthusiastic, hopeful, and even heroic, but also blind, failing to understand what he or she is doing. On the other hand in those stages in which Spirit is excessively intellectual man and woman’s life is empty of content and he or she finds him or herself estranged from the world. The Absolute, says Royce, is ‘the world of human life … characterized by a complete unity or harmony of what one might call a theoretical and practical consciousness’.

A further point Royce tried to make and which he finds emphasised in the Phenomenology is that man and woman attains to full consciousness of self only in a social context, for even the headhunter, says Royce, referring to Hegel’s early chapter on self-consciousness, depends upon his neighbour to furnish him or her another head. But it is in the later chapters that deal with society and the state that his social consciousness attains full realization. Ar previous stages says Royce were ‘a sleep and a forgetting of the unity upon which all individual life is based. An organized social order is the self for each one of its loyal subjects. The truth of the individual is the consciousness of the people to which he loyally belongs’. And what appears on the social plane appears once again on the level that we call culture, notably in religion, which in its higher form Hegel regarded as ‘an interpretation of the world by the social self and by the individual only as he identifies himself with the social self’.

In his own philosophy of religion Royce maintains that the Absolute is a superhuman consciousness which, although including the consciousness of individuals, is more than the sum total of individual consciousnesses and he concedes that this teaching is not explicit in the Phenomenology where Hegel appears to think that the Absolute finds its highest expression in the consciouness of individuals who have attained to awareness of the rational nature of the world. Still, he regards it as implicit in Hegel’s thought and argues that it is explicit in his later writings. Royce is careful to point out that this is not traditional theism, the Absolute is not thought of as being first perfect by itself and then as creating an imperfect world, rather it becomes perfect in the process of bringing man and woman to a realization of his or her place in the Divine life.

‘Something may have been gained by these fragmentary discussions, [i.e. these lectures] if they have suggested that idealistic philosophy is not merely a collection of eccentric opinions held by lonely students, but despite the eccentricity and the loneliness of many of the phases of its formulation, is not only in essential sympathy with the rational study of experience and with the practical ideals of life, but is at least unconsciously what I hope it will more and more consciously become, the expression of the very soul of our civilization. For we all not only gather but interpret experience. And to interpret experience is to regard facts as the fulfilment of rational ideals. And we all not only accept life but try to conquer its irrationality, and to idealize its finitude. So to act is essentially, whether we know it or not, to view the temporal as the symbol and the likeness of the eternal’.

- ‘Lectures on Modern Idealism’

‘… in the figures drawn from the lower classes, if they undertake to act within their restricted circumstances, what we see is subjection everywhere; for in civilized states indeed they are as a matter of fact in every way dependent, straitened, and, with their passions and interests, fall continually under the pressure and compulsion of the necessity outside them. For behind them stands the invincible might of the civil order against which they cannot hold their own, and they remain subject even to the whim of their superiors where these have legal authority. On this restriction by existing circumstances all independence is wrecked. Therefore the situations and characters drawn from these spheres are more appropriate for comedy and the comical in general. For, in comedy, individuals have the right to spread themselves however they wish and can. In their willing and fancying and in their idea of themselves, they may claim an independence which is immediately annihilated by themselves and by their inner and outer dependence. But, above all, this assumed self-reliance founders on external conditions and the distorted attitude of individuals to them. The power of these conditions is on a totally different level for the lower classes from what it is for rulers and princes’.

- Hegel, ‘Lectures on Aesthetics’


Mark it, nuncle:

Have more than thou showest,

Speak less than thou knowest,

Lend less than thou owest,

Ride more than thou goest,

Learn more than thou trowest,

Set less than thou throwest;

Leave thy drink and thy whore,

And keep in-a-door,

And thou shalt have more

Than two tens to a score.


This is nothing, fool.


Then ’tis like the breath of an unfee’d lawyer; you gave me nothing for’t. Can you make no use of nothing, nuncle?


Why, no, boy; nothing can be made out of nothing.

- William Shakespeare, (1564–1616), ‘King Lear’, Act 1, Scene 4

Alexandre Kojève’s, (1902–1968), ‘Introduction to the Reading of Hegel: Lectures on the Phenomenology of Spirit. Edited by Allan Bloom’, 1969, contains lectures given at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes and helped to bring Hegel to the attention of the intelligentsia in France during the late 1930’s. The lectures contrast with those of Royce because Kojève denies that Hegel was an Idealist (the way I think of it though, and I won’t go into all that here, but all philosophy including materialism is Idealism). According to Kojève Hegel anticipated Karl Marx’s, (1818–1883) dictum that life is not determined by consciousness but consciousness by life, because he fully understood that the Spirit or mind is from first to last a false consciousness and that the motivating principle of history is not thought but action. History ends not in a higher state of consciousness but in man and woman’s return to the unconsciousness proper to his or her animal nature and Kojève suggests that the Phenomenology might as well have been entitled ‘Phenomenology of Man’ or ‘Anthropogenetics’ because it is an account of the experience of the animal called man which set out to master nature and succeeded at last but had to overcome innumerable difficulties along the way. Marx erred, says Kojève, in viewing man’s victory as yet future, Hegel having correctly perceived that the struggle had come to a virtual end with Napoleon.

‘The Cartesian reply to the philosophers’ question, ‘What am I?’ — the reply, ‘I am a thinking being’ — does not satisfy Hegel. Certainly, he must have said to himself, ‘I am a thinking being. But what interests me above all is that I am a philosopher, able to reveal the definitive truth, and hence endowed with an absolute Knowledge — that is, a universally and eternally valid Knowledge. Now, if all men are ‘thinking beings’, I alone — at least for the moment — possess this Knowledge. By asking myself ‘what am I?’ and by answering ‘a thinking being’, I therefore understand nothing, or very little, of myself. ‘I am not only a thinking being. I am the bearer of an absolute Knowledge. And this Knowledge is actually, at the moment when I think, incarnated in me, Hegel. Therefore, I am not only a thinking being; I am also — and above all — Hegel. What, then, is this Hegel?’ To begin with, he is a man of flesh and blood, who knows that he is such. Next, this man does not float in empty space. He is seated on a chair, at a table, writing with a pen on paper. And he knows that all these objects did not fall from the sky; he knows that those things are products of something called human work. He also knows that this work is carried out in a human World, in the bosom of a Nature in which he himself participates. And this World is present in his mind at the very moment when he writes to answer his ‘What am I?’ Thus, for example, he hears sounds from afar. But he does not hear mere sounds. He knows in addition that these sounds are cannon shots, and he knows that the cannons too are products of some Work, manufactured in this case for a Fight to the death between men. But there is still more. He knows that he is hearing shots from Napoleon’s cannons at the Battle of Jena. Hence he knows that he lives in a World in which Napoleon is acting. Now, this is something that Descartes, Plato, and so many other philosophers did not know, could not know. And is it not because of this that Hegel attains that absolute Knowledge to which his predecessors vainly aspired? Perhaps. But why then is it Hegel who attains it, and not some other of his contemporaries, all of whom know that there is a man named Napoleon? But how do they know him? Do they truly know him? Do they know what Napoleon is? Do they understand him?’

Kojève is also at some pains to show that Hegel anticipated Martin Heidegger, (1889–1976), in his comments on Being and time. In the Phenomenology albeit not in his later writings Hegel identified nature with space and history with time and by discourse and by action man and woman reveals being in thought, and time is generated by these means. Although René Descartes, (1596–1650), had already identified space with static Being it was Hegel who first opposed self (thought and time) to Being (space), concluded that man and woman is nonbeing or nothingness and exhibited history as man and woman’s endeavour to preserve his or nothingness by overcoming being, namely, by transforming it into something new in a nonexistent, non-spatial past. Kojève finds in the Phenomenology four irreducible premises which, taken together, explain history, first, the revelation of Being by speech, which results from man and woman’s attempt to seize the world given through the senses, second, nonbiological desire, which arises as man and woman attempts to become a self, third, the existence of many individuals aspiring after selfhood, each seeking the destruction of every other, and fourth, the difference in quality of desire between those individuals whose aspiration after selfhood is stronger than their natural desire after life, and those in whom the opposite is the case, that is to say, between future masters and future slaves. History, and therefore humanity, came into existence with the first fight which resulted in one self consenting to be the slave of another. History is the dialectical relation between mastery and slavery and history will be completed as soon as the synthesis of these two is realized in the ‘whole man, the citizen of the universal and homogeneous states created by Napoleon’.

The specifically human, nonbiological desire which is the moving force of history is desire for recognition. The master gets recognition from the slave and by means of the slave’s work his biological desires are also satisfied, but, as Hegel demonstrated, there is more future in being a slave than in being a master. The human ideal, which arose in the master, of being recognized and also of having one’s animal desires satisfied, is completely realized only by the specifically human activity of work, which is the province of the slave, who in the course of serving his master not merely rises above nature but transforms nature and mankind in the process. That the slave acts means that he obeys an idea and in the course of his action he creates a non-natural, technical, humanized world and his acceptance of the idea of slavery created a social order, his techniques gave birth to reason, even the glimpse of his own nothingness which led him to choose slavery rather than death anticipated the wisdom of post-historical man.

The editor gives special prominence to Kojève’s lectures on mastery and slavery and to those lectures which trace the history of the state from pagan to modem times. Here the dialectic of master and slave appears as the dialectic of universality and particularity, mastery corresponding to the former and slavery to the latter. It is noteworthy that the two concepts are dialectically present in the desire for recognition, each self wants his particular value to be recognized universally. Thus, in order for mankind to find satisfaction and bring history to an end, a society must be formed in which the individual worth of each is respected by all. Kojève notes that it was not actual slaves but self-employed bourgeoisie with highly individualistic ideologies who completed the historical evolution of mankind by realizing the ideal of a self-satisfied citizenry. ln footnotes written later, Kojève spells out for the uninitiated what he means when he speaks of the end of time and the cessation of history. Certainly, the results of the French Revolution had to be extended geographically, two world wars and numerous large and small revolutions were needed to bring its benefits to backward civilizations but in all this time nothing new has taken place. Historical action has come to a halt and with it the conflict of ideologies, including philosophy. Perhaps ironically Kojève points to ‘the American way of life’ as prefiguring the ‘eternal present’ which eventually all humanity will come to enjoy, the final Marxist communism in which everyone appropriates what seems good to him or her without working any more than he pleases and all dogs go to Heaven and some day I will be united with my Bess (he didn’t say that last bit, that is my addition, for what it’s worth I give a somewhat different reading to Royce and Kojève with regard to crucial passages and it is not a wise move placing too much stress upon the master/slave dialectic, albeit it is the most famous part of the Phenomenology, which is only one stage on consciousness’s journey towards Absolute Knowing and isn’t to do with slaves anyway, Herrschaft und Knechtschaft, Lord and Bondsman).

‘In that experience [of the murderous fight] it becomes clear to Self-Consciousness that animal-life is just as important to it as pure self-consciousness. In the immediate Self-Consciousness [i.e., in the ‘first’ man, who is not yet ‘mediated’ by this contact with the other that the fight creates], the simple-or-undivided I [of isolated man] is the absolute object. But for us or in itself (i.e., for the author and the reader of this passage, who see man as he has been definitively formed at the end of history by the accomplished social inter-action] this object, i.e., the I, is absolute mediation, and its essential constituent-element is abiding autonomy. [That is to say, real and true man is the result of his inter-action with others; his I and the idea he has of himself are ‘mediated’ by recognition obtained as a result of his action. And his true autonomy is the autonomy that he maintains in the social reality by the effort of that action.] The dissolution of that simple-or-undivided unity [which is the isolated I] is the result of the first experience [which man has at the time of his ‘first’ (murderous) fight] . By this experience are established: a pure Self-Consciousness [or an ‘abstract’ one, since it has made the ‘abstraction’ of its animal life by the risk of the fight-the victor] , and a Consciousness that [being in fact a living corpse-the man who has been defeated and spared] does not exist purely for itself, but rather for another Consciousness [namely, for that of the victor]: i.e., a Consciousness that exists as a given-being, or in other words, a Consciousness that exists in the concrete-form of thingness. Both constituent elements are essential — since in the beginning they are unequal and opposed to one another and their reflection into unity has not yet resulted [from their action], they exist as two opposed concrete forms of Consciousness. The one is autonomous Consciousness, for which the essential-reality is Being-for-itself. The other is dependent Consciousness, for which the essential-reality is animal life, i.e., given-being for an other-entity. The former is the Master, the latter-the Slave. [This Slave is the defeated adversary, who has not gone all the way in risking his life, who has not adopted the principle of the Masters: to conquer or to die. He has accepted life granted him by another. Hence, he depends on that other. He has preferred slavery to death, and that is why, by remaining alive, he lives as a Slave.]

- ‘Introduction to the Reading of Hegel: Lectures on the Phenomenology of Spirit’.

It may stop but it never ends …


by Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller (1759–1805)

Friend! — the Great Ruler, easily content,

Needs not the laws it has laborious been

The task of small professors to invent;

A single wheel impels the whole machine

Matter and spirit; — yea, that simple law,

Pervading nature, which our Newton saw.

This taught the spheres, slaves to one golden rein,

Their radiant labyrinths to weave around

Creation’s mighty hearts: this made the chain,

Which into interwoven systems bound

All spirits streaming to the spiritual sun

As brooks that ever into ocean run!

Did not the same strong mainspring urge and guide

Our hearts to meet in love’s eternal bond?

Linked to thine arm, O Raphael, by thy side

Might I aspire to reach to souls beyond

Our earth, and bid the bright ambition go

To that perfection which the angels know!

Happy, O happy — I have found thee — I

Have out of millions found thee, and embraced;

Thou, out of millions, mine! — Let earth and sky

Return to darkness, and the antique waste —

To chaos shocked, let warring atoms be,

Still shall each heart unto the other flee!

Do I not find within thy radiant eyes

Fairer reflections of all joys most fair?

In thee I marvel at myself — the dyes

Of lovely earth seem lovelier painted there,

And in the bright looks of the friend is given

A heavenlier mirror even of the heaven!

Sadness casts off its load, and gayly goes

From the intolerant storm to rest awhile,

In love’s true heart, sure haven of repose;

Does not pain’s veriest transports learn to smile

From that bright eloquence affection gave

To friendly looks? — there, finds not pain a grave?

In all creation did I stand alone,

Still to the rocks my dreams a soul should find,

Mine arms should wreathe themselves around the stone,

My griefs should feel a listener in the wind;

My joy — its echo in the caves should be!

Fool, if ye will — Fool, for sweet sympathy!

We are dead groups of matter when we hate;

But when we love we are as gods! — Unto

The gentle fetters yearning, through each state

And shade of being multiform, and through

All countless spirits (save of all the sire) —

Moves, breathes, and blends, the one divine desire.

Lo! arm in arm, through every upward grade,

From the rude mongrel to the starry Greek,

Who the fine link between the mortal made,

And heaven’s last seraph — everywhere we seek

Union and bond — till in one sea sublime

Of love be merged all measure and all time!

Friendless ruled God His solitary sky;

He felt the want, and therefore souls were made,

The blessed mirrors of his bliss! — His eye

No equal in His loftiest works surveyed;

And from the source whence souls are quickened, He

Called His companion forth — ETERNITY!




David Proud is a British philosopher currently pursuing a PhD at the Institute of Irish Studies, University of Liverpool, on Hegel and James Joyce.

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David Proud

David Proud is a British philosopher currently pursuing a PhD at the Institute of Irish Studies, University of Liverpool, on Hegel and James Joyce.