The Phenomenology of Mind, by G. W. F. Hegel

The Realization of Rational Self-Consciousness
Through its Own Activity

Translator’s comments: In this section we have the second form in which rational experience is realized. In “observation” mind is directly aware of itself as in conscious unity with its object: it makes no effort of its own to realize this unity: it finds the unity by looking on, so to say. But it may have the same experience by creating through its own effort an object constituted and determined solely by its self. Here it does not find the unity of itself and its object; it makes the object at one with itself by moulding the character and content of the object after its own nature. As contrasted with observation, which may be called the operation of “theoretical” reason, this new way of having a rational experience may be called the operation of “practical” reason. In the first we have reason in the form of knowledge and science, in the second, reason in the sense of rational action and practice.

It is this second way of establishing the experience of reason which is analysed in the following sections. The immediately succeeding section describes the experience in its general features. We have here the sphere of conscious purpose and the foundation of moral and social life.

The Realization of Rational Self-Consciousness
Through its Own Activity

SELF-CONSCIOUSNESS found the “thing” in the form of itself, and itself in the form of a thing; that is to say, self-consciousness is explicitly aware of being in itself the objective reality. It is no longer the immediate certainty of being all reality; it is rather a kind of certainty for which the immediate in general assumes the form of something sublated, so that the objectivity of the immediate is regarded now merely as something superficial whose inner core and essence is self-conscious consciousness.

The object, therefore, to which self-consciousness is positively related, is a self-consciousness. The object has the form and character of thinghood, i.e. is independent: but self-consciousness has the conviction that this independent object is not alien to itself; it knows herewith that itself is inherently (an sich) recognized by the object. Self-consciousness is mind, which has the assurance of having, in the duplication of its self-consciousness and in the independence of both, its unity with its own self. This certainty has to be brought out now before the mind in all its truth; what self-consciousness holds as a fact, viz. that implicitly in itself and in its inner certainty it is, has to enter into its consciousness and become explicit for it.

What the general stages of this actualization will be can be indicated in a general way by reference to the road thus far traversed. Just as reason, when exercised in observation, repeated in the medium of the category the movement of “consciousness” as such, namely, sense-certainty,(1) perception,(2) and understanding,(3) the course of reason here, too, will again traverse the double movement of “self-consciousness”, and from independence pass over into its freedom. To begin with, this active reason is aware of itself merely as an individual”, and must, being such, demand and bring forth its reality in an “other”. Thereafter, however, its consciousness being lifted into universality, it becomes universal reason, and is consciously aware of itself as reason, as something already recognized in and for itself, which within its pure consciousness unites all self-consciousness. It is the simple ultimate spiritual reality (Wesen), which, by coming at the same time to consciousness, is the real substance, into which preceding forms return and in which they find their ground, so that they are, as contrasted with reference to the latter, merely particular moments of the process of its coming into being, moments which indeed break loose and appear as forms on their own account, but have in fact only existence and actuality when borne and supported by it, and only retain their truth in so far as they are and remain in it.

If we take this final result of the process as it is when really accomplished — this end, which is the notion that has already become manifest before us, viz. recognized self-consciousness, which has the certainty of itself in the other free self-consciousness, and finds its truth precisely there; in other words, if we bring this still inward and unevolved mind to light as the substance that has developed into its concrete existence — we shall find that in this notion there is opened up the realm of the Social Order, the Ethical World (Sittlichkeit). For this latter is nothing else than the absolute spiritual unity of the essential substance (Wesen) of individuals in their independent reality; it is an inherently universal self-consciousness, which is aware of being so concrete and real in an other consciousness, that this latter has complete independence, is looked on as a “thing”, and the universal self-consciousness is aware precisely therein of its unity with that “thing”, and is only then self-consciousness, when thus in unity with this objective being (Wesen). This ethical substance when taken in its abstract universality is only the conception of law, thought-constituted law; but just as much it is immediately actual self-consciousness, it is Custom (Sitte). The single individual conversely, is only a “this”, a given existent unit, in so far as he is aware of the universal consciousness as his own being in his own particular individuality, seeing that his action and existence are the universal custom.

In point of fact the notion of the realization of self-conscious reason — of directly apprehending complete unity with another in his independence: of having for my object an other in the fashion of a “thing” found detached and apart from me, and the negative of myself, and of taking this as my own self-existence (Fürmichseyn)— finds its complete reality in fulfilment in the life of a nation. Reason appears here as the fluent universal substance, as unchangeable simple thinghood which yet breaks up into many entirely independent beings, just as light bursts asunder into stars as innumerable luminous points, each giving light on its own account, and whose absolute self-existence(Fürmichseyn) is dissolved, not merely implicitly (an sich), but explicitly for themselves (für sich), within the simple independent substance. They are conscious within themselves of being these individual independent beings through the fact that they surrender and sacrifice their particular individuality, and that this universal substance is their soul and essence — as this universal again is the action of themselves as individuals, and is the work and product of their own activity.

The purely particular activity and business of the individual refer to needs which he has as a part of nature, i.e. as a mere existent particular. That even these, its commonest functions, do not come to nothing, but have reality, is brought about by the universal sustaining medium, the might of the entire nation.

It is not merely, however, this form of subsistence for his activity in general that the individual gets in the universal substance, but likewise also his content; what he does is what all are capable of doing, is the custom all follow. This content, in so far as it is completely particularized, is, in its concrete reality, confined within the limits of the activity of all. The labour of the individual for his own wants is just as much a satisfaction of those of others as of himself, and the satisfaction of his own he attains only by the labour of others.

As the individual in his own particular work ipso facto accomplishes unconsciously a universal work, so again he also performs the universal task as his conscious object. The whole becomes in its entirety his work, for which he sacrifices himself, and precisely by that means receives back his own self from it.

There is nothing here which may not be reciprocal, nothing in regard to which the independence of the individual may not, in dissipating its existence on its own account (Fürsichseyn), in negating itself, give itself its positive significance of existing for itself. This unity of existing for another, or making self a “thing”, and,of existence for self, this universal substance, utters its universal language in the customs and laws of a(4) nation. But this existent unchangeable nature (Wesen) is nothing else than the expression of the particular individuality which seems opposed to it: the laws give expression to that which each individual is and does; the individual knows them not merely to be what constitutes his universal objective nature as a “thing”, but knows himself, too, in that form, or knows it to be particularized in his own individuality and in each of his fellow-citizens. In the universal mind, therefore, each has the certainty only of himself, the certainty of finding in the actual reality nothing but himself; he is as certain of the others as of himself. I apprehend and see in all of them that they are in their own eyes (für sich selbst) only these independent beings just as I am. I see in their case the free unity with others in such wise that just as this unity exists through me, so it exists through the others too-I see them as myself, myself as them.

In a free nation, therefore, reason is in truth realized. It is a present living spirit, where the individual not only finds his destiny (Bestimmung), i.e. his universal and particular nature (Wesen), expressed and given to him in the fashion of a thing, but himself is this essential being, and has also attained his destiny. The wisest men of antiquity for that reason declared that wisdom and virtue consist in living in accordance with the customs of one’s own nation.

From this happy state, however, of having attained its destiny, and of living in it, the self-consciousness, which in the first instance is only immediately and in principle spirit, has broken away; or perhaps it has not yet attained it: for both can be said with equal truth.

Reason must pass out of and leave this happy condition. For only implicitly or immediately is the life of a free nation the real objective ethical order (Sittlichkeit). In other words, the latter is an existent social order, and in consequence this universal mind is also an individualized mind. It is the totality of customs and laws of a particular people, a specifically determinate ethical substance, which casts off this limitation only when it reaches the higher moment, namely, when it becomes conscious regarding its own nature; only with this knowledge does it get its absolute truth, and not as it is immediately in its bare existence. In this latter form it is, on the one hand, a restricted ethical substance, on the other, absolute limitation consists just in this that mind is in the form of existence.

Hence, further, the individual, as he immediately finds his existence in the actual objective social order, in the life of his nation, has a solid imperturbable confidence; the universal mind has not for him resolved itself into its abstract moments, and thus, too, he does not think of himself as existing in singleness and independence. When however he has once arrived at this knowledge, as indeed he must, this immediate unity with mind, this undifferentiated existence in the substance of mind, his naive confidence, is lost. Isolated by himself he is himself now the central essential reality — no longer universal mind. The element of this singleness of self-consciousness is no doubt in universal mind itself, but merely as a vanishing quantity, which, as it appears with an existence of its own, is straightway resolved within the universal, and only becomes consciously felt in the form of that confidence. When the individual gets fixity in the form of singleness (and every moment, being a moment of the essential reality, must manage to reveal itself as essential), the individual has thereby set himself over against the laws and customs. These latter are looked on as merely a thought without absolutely essential significance, an abstract theory without reality; while he qua this particular ego is in his own view the living truth.

Or, again [we can say, as above stated, that] self-consciousness has not yet attained this happy state of being ethical substance, the spirit of a people. For, after leaving the process of rational Observation, mind, at first, is not yet as such actually realized through itself; it is merely affirmed as inner nature and essence, or as abstraction. In other words, mind is first immediate. As immediately existing, however, it is individualized. It is practical consciousness, which steps into the world it finds lying ready-made with the intention of duplicating itself in the determinate form of an individual, of producing itself as this particular individual, and creating this its own existential counterpart, and thus becoming conscious of this unity of its own actual reality with the objective world. Self-consciousness possesses the certainly of this unity; it holds that the unity is implicitly (an sich) already present, or that this union and agreement between itself and “thinghood” (objective existence) is already an accomplished fact, and has only to become expressly so for it through its own agency; or that its making that unity is at the same time and as much its finding the unity. Since this unity means happiness, the individual is thus sent forth into the world by his own spirit to seek his happiness.

If, then, we for our part find the truth of this rational self-consciousness to be ethical substance, that self-consciousness on its part finds here the beginning of its ethical experience of the world. From the point of view that it has not yet attained to its ethical substance, this movement presses onwards to that end, and what is cancelled in the process are the particular moments which self-consciousness takes as valid in isolation. They have the form of an immediate will-process, or impulse of nature, which attains its satisfaction, this satisfaction itself being the content of a new impulse. Looking at self-consciousness, however, as having lost the happiness of being in the substance, these natural impulses are bound up with a consciousness that their purpose is the true destiny and essential nature of self-consciousness. Ethical substance has sunk to the level of a floating selfless adjective, whose living subjects are individuals, which have to fill up their universality through themselves, and to provide for their destiny out of the same source.

Taken in the former sense, then, those forms and modes are the process by which the ethical substance comes to be, and precede this substance: in the latter they succeed it, and disclose for self-consciousness what its destined nature is. In the former aspect the immediacy or raw brute impulses get lost in the process of finding out what their truth is, and their content, passes over to a higher. In the latter aspect, however, the false idea of consciousness, which puts its characteristic nature in those impulses, passes to a higher idea. In the former case the goal which they attain is the immediate ethical substance; while, in the latter, the end is the consciousness of that substance, such a consciousness as knows the substance to be its own essential being; and to that extent this process would be the development of morality (Moralität), a higher state or attitude than the former (Sittlichkeit). But these modes at the same time constitute only one side of the development of morality, that, namely, which belongs to self-existence, or in which consciousness cancels its purposes; they do not constitute the side where morality arises out of the substance itself. Since these moments cannot yet have the signification of being made into purposes in opposition to the lost social order (Sittlichkeit),they hold here no doubt in their simple uncriticized content, and the end towards which they work is the ethical substance: but since with our time is more directly associated that form of these moments in which they appear after consciousness has lost its ethical custom-constituted (sittliches) life, and in the search for it repeats those forms, they may be represented more after this latter manner of expression.

Self-consciousness, which is as yet merely the notion of mind, takes this path with the specific characteristic of being to itself the essential reality qua individual mind, and its purpose, therefore, is to give itself actualization as individual, and to enjoy itself, qua individual, in so doing.

In existing for itself it is aware of itself as the essentially real. In this character it is the negativity of the other. There arises, therefore, within its consciousness an opposition between itself qua positive and something which no doubt exists, but for it not in the sense of existing substantially. Consciousness appears sundered into this objective reality found lying at its hand, and the purpose, which it carries out by the process of cancelling that objectivity, and which it makes the actual fact instead of the given object. Its primary purpose, however, is its immediate abstract existence for itself, in other words seeing itself as this particular individual in another, or seeing another self-consciousness as itself. The experience of what the truth of this purpose is, places self-consciousness on a higher plane, and henceforth it is to itself purpose, in so far as it is at once universal, and has the law immediately within it. In carrying out this law of its heart, however, it learns that here the individual cannot preserve himself, but rather the good can only be performed through the sacrifice of the individual: and so it passes into Virtue. The experience which virtue goes through can be no other than that of finding that its purpose is already implicitly (an sich) carried out, that happiness lies immediately in action itself, and action itself is the good. The principle or notion of this entire sphere of experience — viz. that “thinghood” is the independent self-existence of mind — becomes in the course of this experience an objective fact for self-consciousness. In that self-consciousness has found this principle, it is aware of itself as reality in the sense of directly self-expressing Individuality, which no longer finds any resistance in a reality opposed to it, and whose object and purpose are merely this function of self-expression.

 

1. Viz. in descriptive observation of nature as such.

2. Viz. in observation of living nature, the “organic”.

3. Viz. in observation of nature as the external reality of mind, laws of thought, psychology, physiognomy, phrenology.

4. The first and succeeding editions read “seines” Volks: Lasson proposes “eines”. This seems correct in the context.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/h/hegel/phenomenology_of_mind/part14.html

Last updated Saturday, March 1, 2014 at 20:38