On Hegel’s ‘Philosophy of Mind’: the self-knowing, actual Idea — Part One.

David Proud
24 min readMar 12, 2024

‘In a dream’

by Sidonie Grünwald-Zerkowitz (1852–1907)

When I went to rest in the evening,

I beheld my beloved’s moving image,

And that I should not have to part with it,

I secretly laid it under the pillow.

But the picture did not stay there;

In my dream it has moved nearer and nearer to me -

Turned into my love in the flesh,

Has kissed me everywhere … pressed everywhere.

The picture that I hid under my pillow at night,

That made — even if my beloved was far away -

That I had the kisses of love all -

Have all … in my dreams … thoroughly learnt ….

‘Im Traum’

Als ich des Abends zur Ruh gegangen,

Besah ich des Liebsten Bildnis bewegt,

Und daß ich davon mich trennen nicht müßte,

Hab’ unter das Kissen ich’s heimlich gelegt.

Das Bild, das ist aber dort nicht geblieben;

Im Traum ist’s mir näher und näher gerückt -

Gewandelt zu meinem leibhaftigen Liebchen,

Hat’s Küsse mir überall hin … gedrückt.

Das Bild, das ich nachts unterm Kissen geborgen,

Das machte — ob auch der Liebste entfernt -

Daß ich die Küsse der Liebe alle -

Hab’ alle … im Traume … gründlich erlernt ….

‘La Psyché’, (The Psyche mirror’), Berthe Marie Pauline Morisot

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, (1770- 1831). ‘Philosophy of Mind’. Preamble.

To recap: in the final volume of the ‘Philosophy of Nature’ organic matter passes through three stages, the geological organism, comprising the mineral kingdom, the geological earth is to be considered not indeed as a living being, rather as a kind of gigantic cadaver, the vegetable organism, the plant is a living organism and manifests the partial reduction of the multiplicity of nature to a systematic unity nevertheless the parts are not held firm within this unity, they are largely indifferent to one another, one part of the plant may perform the functions of another part, there is not that systematic differentiation and integration which is found only at last in the animal organism, in animals the return of subjectivity makes itself definite in the form of consciousness and in human beings this subjectivity becomes free ego therefore the animal organism is the final form of nature and constitutes the transition to spirit.

So now Hegel inquires deeply into the nature of mind with the third part of the Encyclopaedia ‘Philosophy of Mind’, unravelling the intricate threads that weave consciousness and thought while challenging our assumptions and inviting us to embark upon a journey of profound intellectual exploration whereby we delve into the intricacies and the broad rich landscapes of human cognition, perception, and self-awareness, thereby inspiring a deeper understanding of our very existence, all the while aspiring to reconcile contradictions and transcend limitations, outlining a comprehensive understanding of reality that encompasses both the subjective and objective dimensions of human existence. Making our way through the ‘Philosophy of Mind’ we explore the intricate relationship between consciousness, self-awareness, and the external world, discovering on the way deep insights into the nature of human experience and cognition, indeed the human condition itself. The ‘Philosophy of Mind’ presents an intriguing and fulfilling voyage into the intricacies of our consciousness delivering an all-embracing framework for understanding the complexities of the mind. One can compare the process of learning a new language whereby upon embarking upon such an endeavour one in essence bridges the gap between one’s own individual consciousness and the complex network of shared understanding that language provides and the master philosopher directs us through the process casting shedding light upon the various stages of development that occur within one’s mind.

At the initialstage, we may encounter difficulties engaging with what is unfamiliar, but it becomes clearer over time, and with due diligence, new vistas of linguistic potentialities open up, extending our mental horizons so the unfamiliar language acquires rich meaning, alien sounds transmuting into recognizable symbols enabling us to connect them to particular concepts or objects, new knowledge taking root within our cognitive frameworks. By no means are we passive recipients of knowledge but active participants in its construction, and by means of our engagement and interaction, we thereby mould the fabric of our understanding, with continuous development of our linguistic skills we acquire the capacity to communicate our thoughts to others overcoming the barriers of our minds experiencing a deep interconnection betwixt our individual consciousness and the communal consciousness.

Language is not simply an instrument for communication but a medium through which we connect and share our subjective experiences with others and by means of such exchange we start in truth to recognize the intricate network of interconnectedness that binds everyone and as the ‘Philosophy of Mind’ descends deeper into the collaborative relationship between the individual mind and the larger fabric of cultural, historical, and social contexts, subjective and objective actualities are knitted together through a narrative laying bare human consciousness in its essentiality, via such philosophical excursions a greater appreciation for the complexity and beauty of our own minds is won prompting us to set forth on our own particular odyssey of self-discovery and intellectual growth, beginning with wrestling to understand the profound connections constructed through language the ‘Philosophy of Mind’ presents an enthralling account of human experience and the intricate workings of our own minds.

Three principle concepts in the work are that the mind is not separate from the body but rather an integral part of it and cannot be understood in isolation, consciousness is not static but a dynamic process that evolves and develops through dialectical interactions with the world, and the mind is not a passive receptor of external stimuli but actively shapes and creates our experience of reality through its capacity for reason and self-consciousness. Endeavouring to understand the mind without considering its embodiment would be misguided for the mind and body are not distinct entities but two aspects of the same whole, a perspective aligning with a broader philosophical perspective known as monism (Hegel was a monist) that posits that reality is fundamentally unified and to illustrate this point the concept of perception is brought in, perception involves the mind’s interaction with the external world through the senses, for instance when we perceive a melon our mind processes the visual information received by the eyes allowing us to perceive and understand the object but perception is not solely a mental process detached from the body, the body plays a critical role in perception as well. For example the eyes transmit information to the brain allowing the mind to engage with the external world and in the absence of the body’s sensory apparatus the mind would not be able to perceive and interact with its surroundings. The limitations of endeavouring to separate the mind from the body are evident enough in the phenomenon of pain, for pain is not exclusively a mental or physical experience but rather a complex interplay between the two and upon experiencing pain it is not a matter of their being simply a mental sensation detached from the body, there are physical components to pain such as nerve signals and bodily reactions that cannot be separated from the mental experience.

Psyche, holding a silver box. She wears a yellow dress, and has diaphanous wings. John Reinhard Weguelin, (1849–1927)

‘The main phenomena of this embodiment are already familiar to everyone through language, which contains a good deal bearing on this topic which cannot very well be explained away as an age-old error. In general, it may be noted that inner sensations can be either beneficial or harmful and even ruinous, both to soul and to the whole body. Cheerfulness preserves health, grief undermines it. An impediment arising in the soul from grief and pain and bringing itself to existence in a bodily mode can, if it occurs suddenly and exceeds a certain limit, lead to death or the loss of intellect. Equally dangerous is sudden excessive joy; like overwhelming pain, this gives rise for representation to such a stark contradiction between the preceding and the present circumstances of the sentient subject, to such a rupture of the interior, that its embodiment can result in the fracture of the organism, death, or derangement. A man of character, however, is much less exposed than others to such effects, since his mind has made itself much freer of his bodiliness and has acquired a much firmer composure than a natural man, poor in representations and thoughts, who does not possess the power to endure the negativity of a sudden invasion of violent pain’.

- ‘Philosophy of Mind’.

By no means can pain be understood merely by studying the mind or the body; it is a holistic experience resulting from the unity of mind and body, and furthermore, in addition to perception and pain the complexities of human emotion are explored for emotions are frequently regarded as subjective mental states but emotions are not simply mental phenomena they are rather embodied experiences. Upon feeling joy, sorrow, or anger, our bodies react in diverse ways, for instance, our heart rate may increase, our facial muscles may tense or relax, and our breathing patterns may change, bodily responses that are intertwined with the mental experience of emotion, stressing the inseparability of mind and body. And the argument against the separation of mind and body extends beyond individual experiences to the broader social and cultural context, the argument being that social interactions and cultural practices mould the mind and play their part in its development.

Language for example is a social construct allowing communication and the sharing of ideas.

‘But even if this embodiment does not have a stimulating or depressing effect to a devastating degree, yet it will assail more or less immediately the whole organism, since in this all organs and all systems are in a living unity with each other. All the same, it is not to be denied that inner sensations, in accordance with the diversity of their content, also have a particular organ in which they are initially and principally embodied. This connection between a determinate sensation and its particular bodily mode of appearance cannot be refuted by individual cases running counter to the rule. Such exceptions, chargeable to the impotence of nature, do not justify ascribing this connection to pure contingency and supposing perhaps that anger could equally well be felt in the belly or the head as in the heart. Even language has sufficient understanding to employ heart for courage, head for intelligence, and not heart, say, for intelligence’.

- ‘Philosophy of Mind’

Language does not simply mould our thoughts and perceptions but in addition involves physical processes such as vocalization and speech production and the mind’s development is intimately connected to the body’s facility to engage with and take part in these social and cultural practices. To understand the mind a holistic approach that required, one that considers its inseparability from the body, the external world, and the social and cultural context and by recognising the integral link between body and mind we can confront the prevailing dualistic perspective and deliver a more sophisticated understanding of human experience, a stressing this interdependence permits for a more comprehensive and integrated study of the mind allowing for enabling a profounder exploration of consciousness, perception, emotion, and cognition, a philosophy of mind requires a holistic approach acknowledging the mind as an embodied entity within a complex and interconnected reality.

Consciousness is not static but a dynamic process that evolves and develops through dialectical interactions with the world, as the child continues to grow and engage with the world its consciousness becomes increasingly complex and sophisticated, the child starts to form more abstract concepts and develop a deeper understanding of itself and its place in the world, and such development is neither linear nor a straightforward matter but rather a dialectical process that incorporates contradictions and conflicts, this is evident enough in the development of language in a child, to begin with a child makes simple sounds and gestures to communicate its needs and desires but as it interacts with others and experiences different linguistic contexts its language capabilities evolves and acquires more nuanced and it learns new words, grammar rules, and the subtleties of communication. Such development takes place via a dialectical process of trial and error where a child tries out different words and structures, receives feedback from others, and adjusts its linguistic capabilities accordingly. So consciousness is not solely an individual process but is also mediated by social interactions, a child’s development of language for instance is not just dependent on its own inner efforts but is in addition influenced by its interactions with caregivers, siblings, and peers and via such social interactions, a child learns not merely the mechanics of language but in addition its social and cultural significance, it learns how to employ language to express its thoughts and feelings, to engage in conversation, and to understand and interpret the intentions of others.

Furthermore consciousness is not merely restricted to the individual mind but extends to the communal, shared experiences and communal practices are critical in the formation and development of consciousness, for instance a child participating in a religious ritual or cultural ceremony does not simply develops individual beliefs and values but in addition becomes a part of a larger communal consciousness and in this manner consciousness is not static but continually evolving and developing through dialectical interactions with the world whereby every interaction, experience, and cognitive process plays its part in the ongoing progression of consciousness. Consciousness is not to be thought of as a fixed and unchanging entity but a dynamic and fluid process that emerges through the interactions between the mind, the external world, and the social and cultural context, one might say consciousness is not static but is a dynamic process that evolves and develops through dialectical interactions with the world and by examining the development of the consciousness of a child it can be shown how interactions, experiences, and social influences play their part in the ongoing progression and evolution of consciousness, a view of mind to challenges traditional understandings of it.

‘Psyche Sent by Venus’, Edward Burne-Jones (1833–1898)

The mind is not a passive receptor of external stimuli but actively moulds and produces our experience of reality via its capacity for reason and self-consciousness, a perspective on the mind as an active creator of reality that opposes the prevailing view in Hegel’s day that viewed the mind as a passive receptacle of sensory input. He posits that our experience of reality is not solely determined by external stimuli but is actively constructed through the faculties of reason and self-consciousness, this can be further understood with a look at the concept of reason. Reason permits us to critically analyse information and make logical deductions, enabling us to evaluate evidence, weigh different perspectives, and form beliefs based upon intellectual discernment rather than mere sensory input, and in this manner reason acts as a filter through which we mould our understanding of the world, lke a scientist conducting an experiment. He or she collects data, analyzes it using mathematical models, draws conclusions based upon logical reasoning, the mind of the scientist actively participates in the process of interpreting the data, formulating hypotheses, and drawing conclusions, and in te absence of reason the scientist would not be able to go beyond the shallow level of sensory observations but rather reason allows him or her to delve deeper, uncover patterns, make meaningful connections, and furthermore in addition to reason self-consciousness is important for moulding our experience of reality, self-consciousness involves reflecting upon our thoughts, desires, and actions and being aware of our own mental states and intentions, self-consciousness permits us to step back and evaluate our own perspectives and biases.

This point can be illustrated through visualising having a conversation with someone from a different culture, through self-consciousness one can see one’s own cultural biases, challenge one’s assumptions, engage with the other person’s point of view, an active engagement and self-reflection enabling individuals to expand their understanding and contribute to the co-creation of a more inclusive and diverse actuality thus undergirding the agency and subjectivity of the human mind in shaping one’s experience of reality, this challenges the deterministic view that one’s thoughts and actions are merely determined by external factors alone, such as genetics, environment, or social conditioning, rather, one’s mind actively participates in constructing one’s experience of reality by utilizing reason and self-consciousness.

‘The stages of this elevation of certainty to truth are mind as (a) consciousness in general, which has an object as such, (b) self-consciousness, for which I is the object, © unity of consciousness and self-consciousness, where the mind intuits the content of the object as itself and intuits itself as determined in and for itself;-reason, the concept of mind’.

- ‘The Philosophy of Mind’

Through bringing forward the active role of the mind one can acknowledge the power one has moulding one’s own perceptions and interpretations of the world, bringing into question prevailing narratives, challenging oppressive structures, actively taking part in the production of a wiser outlook spilling over into the world in fairness and equity, as has been said, the mind is not a passive receptor of external stimuli but rather actively moulds and produces one’s experience of reality through reason and self-consciousness. Engaging in self-reflection brings to the fore the importance of self-awareness and understanding the development of the self in relation to others and the world, reflecting upon one’s thoughts, emotions, and actions. assisting one in acquiring insights into one’s own mental processes and the ways in which they mould one’s perception of reality. through self-reflection one better apprehends the interconnectedness of one’s minds with the external world and comprehends the dynamic processes of self-consciousness.

‘Mind, developing in its ideality, is mind as cognitive. Cognition, however, is conceived here not merely as a determinacy of the logical Idea (§223), but in the way in which the concrete mind determines itself to cognition. Subjective mind is: (A) In itself or immediate: a soul or natural mind- the theme of Anthropology. (B) For itself or mediated: still as identical reflection into itself and into the other: mind in relationship or particularization: consciousness- the theme of the Phenomenology of Mind. © Mind determining itself in itself, as a subject for itself-the theme of Psychology. In the soul consciousness awakes: consciousness posits itself as reason, which has immediately awoken to become self-knowing reason; and by its activity reason emancipates itself to objectivity, to consciousness of its concept’.

- ‘Philosophy of Mind’.

‘Psyche’s Sisters Visit Her’, Edward Burne-Jones (1833–1898)

And furthermore Hegel stresses the importance of dialectical non-onesided thinking whereby opposing viewpoints are looked into and a reconciliation sought for, after all it is through examining different perspectives and engaging in meaningful discourse that one can extend one’s understanding of alternative notions and points of view thence assisting us towards the development of a more nuanced understanding of the mind and its relation to society. Through nurturing dialogue and taking on board the confrontation of ideas intellectual growth, empathy, and tolerance is thereby promoted and Hegel brings to the fore the significance of the arts and culture in moulding the mind. Immersing oneself in artistic and cultural activities can be a valuable way to extend our outlook, through literature, poetry, music, painting, or any other form of artistic expression that resonates and through looking in to different artistic mediums, we tune in to the sphere of emotions, imagination, and symbolism, granting us entry into deeper layers of our own minds and connect with the collective human experience, along the way questioning our assumptions and beliefs, to critically examine the ideas we cherish, to think again concerning their origins and implications.

‘Incidentally, the cultivated man has a less animated play of looks and gestures than the uncultivated. Just as the former bids the inward storm of his passions to be calm, so he also observes outwardly a calm demeanour and imparts to the voluntary embodiment of his sensations a certain measure of moderation; whereas the uncultivated, lacking power over his interior, believes that he can make himself intelligible only by a luxuriance of looks and gestures, but is thereby sometimes seduced into grimacing and in this way acquires a comical air, because in a grimace the interior at once completely externalizes itself and one thereby lets each individual sensation pass over into one’s entire reality, with the consequence that, almost like an animal, one sinks exclusively into this determinate sensation. The cultured individual does not need to be lavish with looks and gestures; he possesses in talk the worthiest and most suitable means of expressing himself; for speech is able immediately to receive and reproduce every modification of representation, which is why the ancients even went to the extreme of making their actors appear with masks on their faces, and so, content with this immobile physiognomy of character, dispensing altogether with the lively play of the actors’ looks’.

- ‘Philosophy of Mind’

One may cultivate a habit of intellectual curiosity searching for new information and perspectives that challenge one’s preconceived notions and through continually questioning and re-evaluating one’s beliefs one can develop a more nuanced understanding of the mind and the interconnectedness of pne’s thoughts and consciousness. And further, the role of education in moulding the mind and nourishing intellectual growth needs stressing as one actively searches for opportunities for learning and intellectual development be it through formal education, reading, attending lectures or seminars, or engaging in online courses and through extending our knowledge and widening our intellectual outlook one can better apprehend the complexities of the mind and its relation to the external world. The principle ideas to be found in the ‘Philosophy of Mind’ can be incorporated into our daily lives through active engagement in activities like as self-reflection, dialectical thinking (albeit all thinking is dialectical as Hegel points out but I have covered that), cultural exploration, questioning assumptions, constant learning, and through assuming these actions one can further one’s understanding of the complexities of the mind and enhance one’s overall engagement with the world around oneself.

‘The difficulty of the philosophical cognition of mind consists in the fact that here we are no longer dealing with the comparatively abstract, simple logical Idea, but with the most concrete, most developed form achieved by the Idea in its self-actualization. Even finite or subjective mind, not only absolute mind, must be grasped as an actualization of the Idea. The treatment of mind is only truly philosophical when it cognizes the concept of mind in its living development and actualization, i.e. just when it comprehends the mind as a copy of the eternal Idea. But it belongs to the nature of mind to cognize its concept. Consequently, the summons to self-knowledge, issued to the Greeks by the Delphic Apollo, does not have the sense of a command externally addressed to the human mind by an alien power; on the contrary, the god who impels to self-knowledge is none other than the mind’s own absolute law. All activity of the mind is, therefore, only an apprehension of itself, and the aim of all genuine science is just this, that mind shall recognize itself in everything in heaven and on earth. There is simply no out and out Other for the mind. Even the oriental does not wholly lose himself in the object of his worship. But the Greeks were the first to grasp expressly as mind that which they opposed to themselves as the Divine, though even they did not attain, either in philosophy or in religion, to knowledge of the absolute infinity of mind; therefore with the Greeks the relationship of the human mind to the Divine is still not one of absolute freedom. It was Christianity, by the doctrine of the incarnation of God and the presence of the Holy Spirit in the community of believers, that first gave to human consciousness a perfectly free relation to the infinite and thereby made possible the conceptual knowledge of mind in its absolute infinity’.

- ‘Philosophy of Mind’

‘Zephyrus Bearing Psyche’, Edward Burne-Jones (1833–1898)

The first part of the trilogy was the Logic and the Logic will return to its beginning in that the absolute Idea represents not only the Logic itself but also the way in which logical categories or thoughts inform and structure the world, and the convergence within logic between the concept and the object foreshadows and accounts for the convergence between logic or the logical Idea and the world outside logic, therefore at the end of the Logic we turned to ‘Philosophy of Nature’ and this started off with an account of space which embodies though only approximately the first category of logic, pure Being. In this part of the Encyclopaedia Hegel takes us through the science of his day taking into consideration such subjects as time, motion, the solar system, crystals, electricity, plants, and animals, whereupon he concludes with the death of an animal and this provides for the transition to Mind or Geist, the theme of the third part of the Encyclopaedia.

Mind, like nature, embodies the logical Idea and is structured by it, in particular, the ‘Philosophy of Mind’ follows the path prescribed in the third division of the Logic starting with the concept of mind, the mind is in essence something that strives to know itself, and this essential characteristic of mind engenders its entire development, its emergence from its soulful state in the womb and in infancy, its drive to comprehend the world, its capacity for perception, thought, and will, its overcoming of the natural world and its formation of families, societies, and states and eventually it rises above the secular world to discover itself as mind as such, mind freed from the confines of nature. It does this in religion especially in the Christian religion that displays in a pictorial form the tripartite structure of reality that Hegel’s philosophy presents in a prosaic form. And so finally mind turns to philosophy whereby now mind not only becomes fully aware of the concept of mind but also it gains knowledge of the concept as such, of the logical Idea that underlies both nature and mind, for philosophy begins with logic, and this takes us right back to the beginning of the Encyclopaedia, the Encyclopaedia circles back on itself and in doing this it reflects the circular structure of reality.

§377 ‘The knowledge of mind is the most concrete knowledge, and thus the highest and most difficult. Know thyself The meaning of this absolute command whether in itself or in the historical circumstances of its first pronouncement-is not only self-knowledge in respect of the particular capacities, character, propensities, and foibles of the individual. The knowledge it commands is knowledge of man’s genuine reality, as well as of genuine reality in and for itself-of the very essence as mind. Equally, the philosophy of mind too does not have the meaning of so-called understanding of human nature, an understanding that likewise endeavours to explore the particularities, passions, and foibles of other men, those so-called recesses of the human heart. For one thing, understanding of this sort makes sense only if we presuppose knowledge of the universal, man as such and thus essentially mind. And for another, it concerns itself with contingent, insignificant, and untrue existences of the mental, but does not penetrate to what is substantial, the mind itself’.

- ‘Philosophy of Mind’

This puts one in mind of the beginning of Aristotle’s ‘On the Soul’ which also emphasises the importance and difficulty of the subject.

Holding as we do that, while knowledge of any kind is a thing to be honoured and prized, one kind of it may, either by reason of its greater exactness or of a higher dignity and greater wonderfulness in its objects, be more honourable and precious than another, on both accounts we should naturally be led to place in the front rank the study of the soul. The knowledge of the soul admittedly contributes greatly to the advance of truth in general, and, above all, to our understanding of Nature, for the soul is in some sense the principle of animal life. Our aim is to grasp and understand, first its essential nature, and secondly its properties; of these some are taught to be affections proper to the soul itself, while others are considered to attach to the animal owing to the presence within it of soul.

To attain any assured knowledge about the soul is one of the most difficult things in the world. As the form of question which here presents itself, viz. the question ‘What is it?’, recurs in other fields, it might be supposed that there was some single method of inquiry applicable to all objects whose essential nature (as we are endeavouring to ascertain there is for derived properties the single method of demonstration); in that case what we should have to seek for would be this unique method. But if there is no such single and general method for solving the question of essence, our task becomes still more difficult; in the case of each different subject we shall have to determine the appropriate process of investigation. If to this there be a clear answer, e.g. that the process is demonstration or division, or some known method, difficulties and hesitations still beset us-with what facts shall we begin the inquiry? For the facts which form the starting-points in different subjects must be different, as e.g. in the case of numbers and surfaces.

- ‘On the Soul’

But Aristotle and Hegel have different things in mind, for Aristotle the difficulty lies in the relationship between form and matter, between the mental and the physical, for Hegel the difficulty lies primarily in the the mind’s reflexivity, in the fact that the mind studies itself. Hegel’s word for mind, Geist, is often translated more fittingly as spirit, as in the Holy Spirit, the spirit of the age and so on, but its range of meaning is wider than that of either mind or spirit. Knowledge of mind is more concrete and less abstract, than logic or than philosophy of nature, since it presupposes and in some way involves both logic and philosophy of nature. Indeed concrete originally meant grown together:

‘In the soul determined as an individual, the differences take the form of alterations in it, in the single subject persisting in the alterations, and of moments in its development. As they are at once physical and mental differences, a concrete definition or description of them would require us to anticipate an acquaintance with the cultivated mind’.

- ‘Philosophy of Mind’

In particular Geist in essence knows itself in a way that merely natural entities do not. Gnothi seauton, know thyself, was inscribed at the entrance to the sixth-century temple of Apollo at Delphi, next to meden agan, nothing in excess. Heraclitus apparently said it belongs to all men to know themselves and have good sense. and Plato associated the dictum with sophrosyne which meant in the Homeric epics good sense as opposed to folly but later acquired the meaning of temperance, a decent sense of one’s place within the social setting and one’s limitations as a human being. Know thy limitations.

Then, I said, he may sometimes do good or harm, and not know what he is himself doing, and yet, in doing good, as you say, he has done temperately or wisely. Was not that your statement?


Then, as would seem, in doing good, he may act wisely or temperately, and be wise or temperate, but not know his own wisdom or temperance?

But that, Socrates, he said, is impossible; and therefore if this is, as you imply, the necessary consequence of any of my previous admissions, I will withdraw them, rather than admit that a man can be temperate or wise who does not know himself; and I am not ashamed to confess that I was in error. For self-knowledge would certainly be maintained by me to be the very essence of knowledge, and in this I agree with him who dedicated the inscription, ‘Know thyself!’ at Delphi. That word, if I am not mistaken, is put there as a sort of salutation which the god addresses to those who enter the temple; as much as to say that the ordinary salutation of ‘Hail!’ is not right, and that the exhortation ‘Be temperate!’ would be a far better way of saluting one another. The notion of him who dedicated the inscription was, as I believe, that the god speaks to those who enter his temple, not as men speak; but, when a worshipper enters, the first word which he hears is ‘Be temperate!’ This, however, like a prophet he expresses in a sort of riddle, for ‘Know thyself!’ and ‘Be temperate!’ are the same, as I maintain, and as the letters imply (Greek), and yet they may be easily misunderstood; and succeeding sages who added ‘Never too much,’ or, ‘Give a pledge, and evil is nigh at hand,’ would appear to have so misunderstood them; for they imagined that ‘Know thyself!’ was a piece of advice which the god gave, and not his salutation of the worshippers at their first coming in; and they dedicated their own inscription under the idea that they too would give equally useful pieces of advice. Shall I tell you, Socrates, why I say all this? My object is to leave the previous discussion (in which I know not whether you or I are more right, but, at any rate, no clear result was attained), and to raise a new one in which I will attempt to prove, if you deny, that temperance is self-knowledge.

Yes, I said, Critias; but you come to me as though I professed to know about the questions which I ask, and as though I could, if I only would, agree with you. Whereas the fact is that I enquire with you into the truth of that which is advanced from time to time, just because I do not know; and when I have enquired, I will say whether I agree with you or not. Please then to allow me time to reflect.

- ‘Charmides’

Gnothi seauton, the Delphic oracle would not of course have had in view anything like Hegel’s ‘Philosophy of Mind’, but here we go.

‘The Uplifting of Psyche’, Henry John Stock, (1853–1930)


Dedicated to my lovely muse 💕

‘A Mind Revived by the Kiss of Love’

By David Proud (1957 — )

Psyche, most beautiful goddess of the soul,

Rival of fair Venus, a woman now immortal,

With butterfly wings aflutter adorns the whole

Bright blue curve of the sky. Thru’ the portal

Of heaven is admitted, immortal soul, mind

Thrice beautiful. My soul is like a butterfly,

Purified by your love. As we both entwined

Lie, no dread, no doubt, no questions why?

Your kiss brings me forth from my cocoon.

I am reborn, alive once again. And our trip

Together in love goes on. Every day a noon

Of renewed love. Every day a new courtship.

Coming up next:

Subjective mind.

To be continued …



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.