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


Introductory Note

Self-Contained Individuals Associated as a Community
Of Animals, and the Deception Thence Arising: The Real Fact

Translator’s comments: The title of this section sounds unfamiliar; but the purpose of the analysis is plain, and the argument is essential as a stage in the unfolding of what rational self-contained individuality implies. It also, with the immediately succeeding sections, prepares the way for the constructive interpretation of organized society. Indeed, without individuals constituted as rational self-conscious units, each self-contained, a free self-conscious community could not exist. They form the component separate cells of the “organism” of a society, the elements out of which the compact structure of a society is made. In the first instance and as an abstract aspect of associated life, they can be regarded, and for certain purposes are in fact regarded, as merely distinct and detached units living together. Each functions as an individuality, endowed with certain powers and capacities for self-expression, pursuing his ends for his own interest, spontaneously putting forth his energies without being clearly aware of or concerned with any universal result which his essentially universal nature must bring about. In realizing his individuality he goes out of himself in one sense, in another sense he does not. By expressing himself he carries out some “end” in which he has an “interest”; he “does” something: he does a deed or a “work”, which qua mere action is nothing more than a mode of purposed self-expression, and is not, as such, either good or bad (at this stage). What he does appears as external to himself, but is his own all the while, something which he has formed and in which he specifically is interested. Such a result at once objective, framed by himself and reflecting his interest, is “fact” as distinct from “thing” (which is an object of perception at the level of consciousness, not of self-consciousness). But by the nature of the case he can distinguish within this fact what is the real “intent” (die Sache Selbst)(1) he has in mind from the merely objective character of the fact (Sache); he can, if we may put it so, distinguish the “fact of the matter” from mere “matter of fact”. But other individuals with whom he is associated and who are similarly constituted, carry on the same process of separate self-expression. Each is “honest” and “honourable” in so doing: each is concerned with his own “real intent” and his own “fact”. By this association they necessarily are interrelated and intercommunicate. But communication on such a basis leads to misconception, transference of intent, and “deception” of each other as well as of themselves. Work, deeds, facts have a universal character as well as a particular nature: in the former aspect they cannot be one’s own, in the latter aspect they cannot be another’s: yet both aspects are inseparable. Intercommunication between these individuals thus inevitably leads to contradiction. It implies a common universal nature between the individuals: but such universality at this stage is implicit not explicit. The contradiction inherent at this level between the elements in the situation created by individuals merely coexisting together without a conscious common purpose controlling and guiding all, points the way and compels an advance to another stage in the evolution of rational individuality.

When self-conscious individuals are regarded as merely “together”, as coexisting without consciously controlling common purposes, they resemble a community or herd of animals. Hence the title of the Section.

It is not an accidental but an essential aspect of the life of society; it is indeed the indispensable basis of community which is in one respect like a community of ants, the system of activity of its component individuals, though each may and does fulfil his purpose as his own private interest.

This aspect of social existence can be over-emphasized and may be regarded at times as the sole nature of society. The result can only lead to confusion. Such a conception of society may perhaps be said to be found where, as in certain economic conceptions of society, society is viewed as a herd of self-interested units each pursuing his own individual ends. It is also seen in certain historical forms of national polity which recur from time to time.

Self-Conscious Individuals Associated as a
Community of Animals and the Deception Thence
Arising: The Real Fact

THE above substantial individuality, to begin with, is again single and determinate. Absolute reality, which it knows itself to be, is thus, in the way it becomes consciously aware of that reality, abstractly universal, without filling and content, merely the empty thought of this category. We have to see how this conception of substantial individuality is made explicit in its various moments, and how it comes to be conscious of its true nature.

The conception of this individuality, as it takes itself as such to be all reality, is in the first instance a mere result: its own movement and reality are not yet set forth; it is here in its immediacy as something purely and simply implicit. Negativity, however, which is the same as what appears as movement and process, is inherent in this implicit state as a determinate quality; and being, i.e. the simple implicit state, comes to be a determinate compass or range of being. Individuality confronts us, therefore, as an original determinate nature: original, in virtue of its being implicit: originally determinate, in virtue of the negative moment lying in that implicitness, which negative element is thereby a quality. This limitation cannot, however, limit the action of consciousness, for this consists at the present stage in thorough and complete relation of itself to itself: relation to what is other than itself, which its limitation would involve, is now overcome. The character inherent originally by nature is thus merely an undefined (simple) principle, a transparent universal element in which individuality finds itself free and at one with itself, as well as unfolds its diversity without restraint, and in realizing itself is simply in reciprocal relation with itself. We have here something similar to what we find in the case of indeterminate animal life: this breathes the breath of life, let us say, into water as its element, or air or earth, and within these again into still more determinate conditions: every aspect of its life is affected by the specific element, and yet animal life still keeps these aspects within its power and itself a unity in spite of the limitations of the element, and remains qua the given particular organization animal life throughout, the same general fact of animal life.

This determinate original nature of consciousness, in which it finds itself freely and wholly, appears as the immediate and only proper content of the purpose of the individual. That content is indeed a definite content, but is only content so far as we take the implicit nature in isolation. In truth, however, it is reality (Realität) permeated by individuality: actuality (Wirklichkeit) in the way consciousness qua individual contains this within itself, and is to begin with taken as existing, but not yet as acting. So far as action is concerned, however, that determinateness is, in one respect, not a limitation it wants to overcome; for, looked at as an existent quality, that determinateness is simply the colour of the element where it moves: in another respect, however, the negativity is determinateness merely in the case of what “exists”. But acting is nothing else than negativity. Hence when individuality acts, its specific determinateness is dissipated into the general process of negation, into the sum and substance of all determinateness.

The simple “original nature” now breaks up, in action and the consciousness of action, into the distinction which action implies. To begin with, action is here an object, an object, too, still belonging to consciousness; it is present as a purpose, and thus opposed to a given reality. The other moment is the process of this statically presented purpose, the process of actualization of the purpose, bringing the purpose to bear on the entirely formal reality, and hence is the idea of the transition itself. In other words, this second moment is the “means”. The third moment is, finally, the object, no longer as immediately and subjectively presented purpose, but as brought to light and established as something other than and external to the acting subject.

These various aspects must be viewed in the light of the general principle of this sphere of consciousness. The content throughout remains the same, without any difference, whether between individuality and existence in general, or between purpose as against individuality in the sense of an “original nature”, or between purpose and the given reality: or between the means and that reality as absolute purpose: or finally between the reality moulded by the agent as against the purpose, the “original nature”, of the means.

At the outset, then, the nature of individuality in its original determinate form, its immediate essence, is not yet affirmed as active; and in this shape is called special capacity, talent, character, and so on. This peculiar colouring of mind must be looked at as the only content of its purpose, and as the sole and only reality. If we thought of consciousness as going beyond that, as seeking to bring into reality another content, then we should think of it as a nothing working away towards nothing.

This original nature is, moreover, not merely the substance of its purpose, but implicitly the reality as well, which otherwise assumes the appearance of being a given material on which to act, of being found ready at hand for action to work up into some determinate form. That is to say, acting is simply transferring from a state not yet explicitly expressed to one fully expressed; the inherent being of that reality opposed to consciousness has sunk to the level of a mere empty appearance, a mere seeming. This mode of consciousness, by determining itself to act, thereby refuses to be led astray by the semblance of reality on the part of what is presented to it; and has likewise to abandon its dealings with idle thoughts and purposes, and keep its hold on the original content of its own nature. No doubt this content first exists as a fact for consciousness, when it has made that content actual; but the distinction between something which while for consciousness is only inside itself, and a reality outside consciousness existing in itself, has broken down. Consciousness must act solely that what it inherently and implicitly is, may be for it explicitly; or, acting is just the process of mind coming to be qua consciousness. What it is implicitly, therefore, it knows from its actual reality. Hence it is that an individual cannot know what he is till he has made himself real by action.

Consciousness, however, seems on this view to be unable to determine the purpose of its action before action has taken place; but before action occurs it must, in virtue of being consciousness, have the act in front of itself as entirely its own, i.e. as a purpose. The individual, therefore, who is going to act seems to find himself in a circle, where each moment already presupposes the others, and hence seems unable to find a beginning, because it only gets to know its own original nature, the nature which is to be its purpose by first acting, while in order to act it must have that purpose beforehand. But just for that reason it has to start straight away and, whatever the circumstances are, without troubling further about beginning, means, or end, proceed to action at once. For its essential and implicit (ansichseyende) nature is beginning, means, and end all in one. As beginning, it is found in the circumstances of the action; and the interest which the individual finds in. something is just the answer to the question, “whether he should act and what is to be done in a given case”. For what seems to be a reality confronting him is implicitly his own original fundamental nature, which has merely the appearance of an objective being — an appearance which lies in the notion of action involving as this does self-diremption, but which expressly shows itself to be his own original nature by the interest the individual finds therein. Similarly the how, the means, is determined as it stands (an und für sich). Talent is likewise nothing but individuality with a definite original constitution looked at as the subjective internal means, or transition of purpose into actuality. The actual means, however and the real transition are the unity of talent with the nature of the fact as present in the interest felt. The former [talent] expresses that aspect of the means which concerns action, the latter [the fact found of interest] that which concerns content: both are individuality itself, as a fused whole of acting and existing. What we find, then, is first circumstances given ready to hand, which are implicitly the original nature of the individual; next the interest which affirms them as its own or as its purpose; and finally the connexion and sublation of these opposite elements in the means. This connexion itself still falls within consciousness, and the whole just considered is one side of an opposition. This appearance of opposition which still remains is removed by the transition, i.e. by the means. For the means is a unity of inner and outer, the antithesis of the determinate character it has qua inner means (viz. talent): it therefore abolishes this character, and makes itself — this unity of action and existence — equally an outer, viz.: the actually realized individuality, i.e. individuality which is established for individuality itself as the objectively existent. The entire act in this way does not go beyond itself, either as circumstances, or as purpose, or means, or as work performed.

In this notion of work, however, the distinction which lay within the original nature seems to enter. The work done is something determinate, like the original nature it expresses, because being cut loose by the process of acting and become an existing reality, the negation implied in this process remains in it as a quality. Consciousness, however, as against the work, is specifically that in which this quality is to be found as a general process of negation, as acting. It is thus the universal as opposed to the specific determinateness of the work performed; it can therefore compare one kind of work with another, and can thence apprehend individualities themselves as different; it can, e.g. regard an individual who is of wider compass in his work as possessing stronger energy of will or a richer nature, i.e. a nature whose original constitution (Bestimmtheit) is less limited; another again as a weaker and a poorer nature.

In contrast with this purely quantitative difference, which is not an essential difference, “good” and “bad” would express an absolute difference; but this is not in place here. Whether taken in one way or another, action is equally carried on; there is a process of displaying and expressing an individuality, and for that reason it is all good: it would, properly speaking, be impossible to say what “bad” is to be here. What would be called a bad work is the individual life of a certain specific nature, which is therein realized. It would only be degraded into a bad work by a reflective comparison, which, however, is quite empty and futile, since this goes beyond the essential meaning and nature of work (which is a self-expression of individuality, and then seeks to find and demand from it heaven knows what else.

The comparison could have to do only with the distinction above mentioned. But this, being a distinction of quantity, is in itself not an essential one; and here in particular is unessential because what are to be compared together are different works and individualities. But these do not affect one another; each is concerned simply with itself. The original nature is alone the essential fact, or what could be used as an ultimate standard of judgment regarding the work; and conversely. Both, however, correspond to each other: there is nothing for, individuality which is not obtained through it: or there is no reality which is not its nature and its action, and no action nor inherent substance of individuality which is not real. And only these moments are to be compared.

There is, therefore, in general, no ground for feeling elevated or for lamenting or repenting: all that sort of thing arises from a reflection which imagines another content and another inner nature than is to be found in the original nature of the individual and the actual carrying of it out in reality. Whatever it is that the individual does, and whatever happens to him, that the individual has done, and is that himself. He can only have the consciousness of the mere transference of his self from the darkness of possibility to the daylight of the present, from a state abstract and implicit to the significance of actual being, and can have only the certainty that what seems to him in the second state is nothing else than what lay dormant in the former. The consciousness of this unity is no doubt likewise a comparison, but what is compared is just a mere appearance of opposition, a formal appearance which for reason, qua self-conscious and aware that individuality is inherently actuality, is nothing more than seeming. The individual, therefore, knowing that he can find in his objective actuality nothing but its unity with himself or can find only the certainty of himself in its very truth, and knowing that he thus always attains his purpose — can experience only a sense of joy in himself.

That, then, is the conception consciousness has of itself when it is sure of its being an absolute identification, a complete permeation, of individuality and existence. Let us see whether this notion is confirmed and supported by its experience, and whether its reality agrees with this notion.

The work produced is the reality which consciousness gives itself. It is there that the individual becomes consciously what he is implicitly, and in such wise that the consciousness which becomes aware of the individual in the work performed is not the particular consciousness but universal consciousness. He has placed himself by his work quite outside in the element of universality, in the characterless, qualityless region of existence. The consciousness which withdraws from its work is in point of fact universal-because it becomes, in this opposition between work and consciousness, absolute negativity, the process of action-and stands over against its work, which is determinate and particular. It thus goes beyond itself qua work, and is itself the indeterminate region which its work still leaves void and unfilled. If their unity was in the above notion still preserved, this took place just through the work being cancelled qua objectively existing product. But it has to be, and we have to see how individuality will retain its universality in the existence of the work, and will know how to get satisfaction.

To begin with we have to consider by itself the work which has come into being. It has received within it the entire nature of the individual. Its existence is therefore itself an action, in which all distinctions interpenetrate and are resolved. The work is thus thrown out into a subsisting form where the specific character of the original nature does in fact come out as against other determinate natures, encroaches on them, just as these in their turn encroach on it, and is lost as a vanishing moment in this general process. Although in the conception of individuality as here dealt with, the various moments (circumstances, purpose, means, and realization) are all alike, and the original specific nature stands for no more than a universal element, on the other hand, when this element takes on an objective existence, its determinate character as such comes to light in the work done, and obtains its truth in its dissolution. Looked at more closely, this dissolution is such that in this specific character the individual, qua this individual, has become consciously real; but the specific character is not merely the content of reality, but its form as well; or this reality as such is as a whole just this specific character, viz. being opposed to self-consciousness. On this view this reality is seen to be a reality which has disappeared out of the notion, and is merely found given as an alien reality. The work is, i.e. it is for other individuals, and for them it is an external, an alien reality, in whose place they have to put their own, in order to get by their action consciousness of their unity with reality. In other words, the interest which they take in that work owing to their original constitution is other than the peculiar interest of this work, which thereby is turned into something different. The work is, thus, in general something transitory, which is extinguished by the counter-action of other powers and interests, and displays the reality of individuality in a transitory form rather than as fulfilled and accomplished.

Consciousness, then, by doing work becomes aware of that contrast between being and acting, which in the earlier forms of consciousness was at, the same time the beginning of action, and is here merely a result. This contrast, however, was in fact likewise the ultimate principle involved when consciousness proceeded to act as an implicitly real individuality; for action presupposed the determinate original nature as the ultimate implicit element, and the mere process of performing the act for the sake of this performance took that nature as its content. Mere action is, however, the self-identical form, with which, consequently, the specific determinateness of the original nature does not agree. It is a matter of indifference here, as elsewhere, which of the two is called notion and which reality. The original nature is the thought element, the implicit factor as against the action, in which it first gets its reality; or, again, the original nature is the existence both of individuality as such and of individuality in the form of work; while action is the original notion as pure and simple transition, as the process of becoming. This lack of correspondence between idea and reality, which lies in its essence, consciousness learns in its work; in work, therefore, consciousness becomes aware of itself as it in truth is, and its empty notion of itself disappears.

In this fundamental contradiction characteristic of work — which contains the truth of this individuality that takes itself to be inherently real — all the aspects of individuality thus appear again as contradictory. That is to say, in the work (done) the content of the entire individuality is put forth out of the process of doing (it), which is the negative unity holding fast all the moments of that content, into (objective) existence. So transferred and set forth, the work (done) lets the moments now go free; and in the element of factual subsistence they become indifferent to one another. The notion and its reality are thus separated into purpose and the original essential nature (Wesenheit). It is an accident that the purpose should have a true being, or that the implicit inherent nature should be made a purpose. Similarly, again, notion and reality fall apart as transition to actuality and as purpose; in other words, it is an accident that the means expressing the purpose should actually be chosen. While, finally, these inner moments taken together (whether they have some intrinsic unity or not)— i.e. the action of the individual — are again accidentally related to actuality in general: fortune decides equally in favour of a badly determined purpose and badly selected means, as well as against them.

If, now, consciousness hereby becomes aware in its work of the opposition between willing and performance, between purpose and means, and again between this inward nature, taken all together, and actual reality — an opposition which as a whole shows the fortuitous character of the action of consciousness-still the unity and the necessity of this action are just as much present too. This latter aspect transcends the former, and experience of the fortuitousness of the action is itself only a fortuitous experience. The necessity of the action consists in this, that purpose is directly related to actuality, and the unity of these is the very notion of action: the act takes place because action is per se and of itself the essence of actuality. In the work there is no doubt comes out the fortuitousness which characterizes accomplishment when contrasted with willing and the process of performing; and this experience, which seems as if it must be the truth, contradicts that notion of the act. Still, if we look at the content of this experience taken in its completeness, that content is seen to be the transitory work. What persists is not the transitoriness; rather this is itself actual and is bound up with the work, and vanishes with it; the negative falls away along with the positive whose negation it is.

The very notion of substantially and inherently real individuality contains within it this transience of transitoriness (Verschwinden des Verschwindens). For that wherein the work disappears, or what disappears in the work, is the objective reality; and this same reality was to give experience, as it was called, its supremacy over the notion which individuality has about itself. Objective reality, however, is a moment which itself has no longer independent truth in this mode of consciousness; it (i.e. the truth) consists solely in the unity of this consciousness with action, and the true work is only that unity of action and existence, of willing and performance. Because of the certainty fundamental to its actions, consciousness takes the actual reality opposed to that conscious certainty to be something which itself is only for consciousness. The opposition cannot any longer occur for consciousness in this form of its self-existence in contrast to reality, when consciousness is self-consciousness returned into itself and with all opposition gone. On the contrary, the opposition and the negativity manifested in the case of work then affect not only the content of the work or the content of consciousness as well, but the reality as such, and hence affect the opposition present merely in virtue of that reality and in it, and the disappearance of the work. In this way consciousness turns from its transitory work back upon itself, and asserts its own notion and its certainty to be what is permanent and abiding, as opposed to the experience of the fortuitousness of action. In point of fact it comes to know its essential principle or notion, in which the reality is only a moment, something for consciousness, not something in and for itself; it finds that reality to be a passing moment, of significance therefore merely as being in general, whose universality is one and the same with action. This unity, this identity is the true work; it is the real intent, the fact of the matter (die Sache selbst), which asserts itself at all costs and is felt to be the lasting element, independent of “fact” which is the accident of an individual action as such, the accident of circumstances, means, and actuality.

The main concern (die Sache selbst) stands opposed to these moments only so far as they claim to have a value in isolation, but is essentially their unity, because identifying, fusing, actuality with individuality. It is, too, an action, and, qua action, pure action in general, and thereby just as much action of this individual; and this action, because still appertaining to the individual in opposition to actuality, has the sense of a purpose. Similarly it is the transition from this specific character to the opposite: and finally it is a reality which is present objectively for consciousness. The main intent thus expresses the essential spiritual substance in which all these moments as independently valid are cancelled and transcended and so hold good only as universal; and in which the certainty consciousness has regarding itself is a “fact”— a real object before consciousness, an object born of self-consciousness as its own, without ceasing to be a free independent object in the proper sense. The “thing”, found at the stage of sense-certainty and perception, now gets its significance through self-consciousness, and through it alone. On this rests the distinction between a thing (Ding) and a fact (Sache). A process is gone through here corresponding to what we find in the case of sense-experience and perception.

Self-consciousness, then, has attained its true conception of itself when this stage of the real intent is reached; it is the interpenetration of individuality and objectivity: an interpenetration which has become objective. In it self-consciousness has arrived at a consciousness of its own substance. At the same time, as we find self-consciousness here, it is a consciousness of its substance which has just arisen, and hence is immediate; and this is the specific way in which we find spirit at the present stage: it has not yet reached its truly real substance. The objectified intent takes in this immediate consciousness the form of bare and simple essence (einfachen Wesen), which being universal, contains all its various moments in itself and belongs to them, but, again, is also indifferent towards them taken as specific moments, and is independent by itself; and, as this free and objective simple abstract “fact”, passes for the essentially real (Wesen). The various moments of the original determinateness, the moments of the “fact” of this particular individual, his purpose, means, action, and actual reality, are, on the one hand, particular moments for this consciousness, which it can abandon and give up for the objectified intent; on the other hand, however, they all have this object as their essential nature, but only in such a way that it, being their abstract universal, can find itself in each of these different moments and be their predicate. The objectified intent is not yet subject; but those moments stand for subject, because they belong to the aspect of individualness, while the object in mind is only at this stage bare universality. It is the genus which finds itself in all these moments as species of itself, and is equally independent of them.

Consciousness is called “honest”, when it has on the one hand attained this idealization (Idealismus), which objectified intent expresses, and on the other possesses the truth in it qua this formal universality. Consciousness when so characterized is solely concerned with intended object, and hence occupies itself with its various moments or species. And when it does not reach this fact in one of these moments, does not find the real intent in one meaning, it just on that account lays hold of the fact in another; and consequently always really secures that satisfaction which should belong to this mode of consciousness by its very nature (seinem Begriffe nach). However things turn out, it achieves and secures the objectified intent, for the latter, being this universal genus of those moments, is the predicate of all.

Should it not bring a purpose into reality, it has at least willed the purpose, i.e. turns purpose qua purpose, mere doing which does nothing, into the real intent, and can therefore maintain and feel consoled that at least there has always been something attempted, something done. Since the universal contains within it even the negative or the transitoriness, this too, the self-annihilation of the work, is itself its doing. It has stimulated others towards this, and still finds satisfaction in the disappearance of its reality, just as bad boys enjoy a personal pleasure in getting their ears boxed because they are the cause of its being done. Or, again, suppose it has not so much as tried to carry out the real intent and done nothing at all, then it has not cared; the objectified intent is for it just the unity of its decision with reality; it asserts that the reality would be nothing else than its own wish in the matter (sein Mögen). Finally, suppose something of interest has come its way entirely without its help, then for it this reality is the real intent just by the interest which it finds therein, although that reality has not been produced by its doing. If it is a piece of good luck, which has befallen the individual personally, he reckons it his own act and his own desert; if it is, on the other hand, a mere event in the world, which does not concern him further, he makes it likewise his own, and an interest, where he has done nothing, is held as a party interest which he has taken up and defended or maintained, for or against.

The “Honesty”, or “Honourableness”, of this mode of consciousness, as well as the satisfaction which it meets with at every point, really consists, as the above makes clear, in this, that it does not bring together its ideas regarding the objectified intent. Its own affair (seine Sache), no work at all, or mere action and bare purpose, or again a reality involving no action at all — all and every one of these are equally the real intent: it makes one meaning after another the subject of this predicate, and forgets one after the other. By its having merely willed or, again, in not having cared, the real intent has now the meaning of empty purpose, and of the merely ideal thought-unity of willing and performance. The consolation for the annihilation of the purpose which was at all events willed or at all events simply done, as well as the satisfaction of having given others something to do, makes simple doing, or entirely bad work, the essential reality; for that must be called a bad work which is no work at all. Finally, in the case of finding through good luck the reality at hand, this existence without any act becomes the real intent.

The true meaning of this “Honesty”, however, lies in not being so honest as it seems. For it cannot be so unintelligent as to let these various moments fall apart in that way; it must have an immediate consciousness regarding their opposition, because they are absolutely related to one another. Bare action is essentially action of this individual, and this action is likewise essentially an actuality or a “fact”. Conversely, actuality essentially is only as his own action, and as action in general as well; and just as his own action is action in general, so it is only reality in general. While, then, he thinks he has only to do with the objectified intent as abstract reality, there is also present this idea that he has to do with it as his own doing. But precisely so far as it is only a matter of being busy about doing something, he is not really in earnest in the matter, but rather is dealing with a “fact”, and with fact as his own. Since, finally, he seems to will merely his own “fact” and his own action, it is again a matter of dealing with “fact” in general or actuality substantial and abiding (an und für sich bleibende).

Just as the real intent and its moments appear at this stage as content, they are likewise necessary also as forms in consciousness. They come forward as content merely to pass away again, each making room for the other. They have therefore to be present in the character of cancelled and sublated forms: so taken, however, they are aspects of consciousness itself. The real intent is present as the inherent nature or reflexion of consciousness into self; the ousting of the moments by each other there finds expression, however, in their being established in consciousness, not per se, but only for another consciousness. One of the moments of the content is exposed by it to the light, and presented as an object for others. Consciousness, however, is at the same time reflected therefrom back upon itself, and the opposite is thus equally present within it, is retained for itself as its own. There is, too, not one of them which could be merely and solely put outside, and another merely retained within; rather, consciousness operates alternately with them, for it has to make one as well as another essential for itself and for others. The whole is the moving process of permeating individuality with the universal. In that this consciousness finds this whole, however, to be merely the simple ultimate nature (Wesen) and thus the abstraction of the real intent, the moments of this whole appear as distinct outside that object and outside one another. As a single whole it is only exhaustively exhibited by the process of alternately exposing its elements to view and keeping them within itself. Since in this alternation consciousness has in its process of reflexion one moment for itself and keeps it as essential, while another is merely externally implied or is for others, there thus enters a play of individualities with one another, where they both deceive and find deceived themselves and one another reciprocally.

An individuality, then, sets to work to carry out something; by so doing it seems to have made something into an “actual fact”. It acts; by so doing it comes out before others, and seems to be concerned to secure the reality of something. Others, therefore, take its action to be an interest in the “fact” as such, and take the end of the act to be the carrying out of the “fact” per se, regardless of whether this is done by the former individuality or by them. When on this account they point out that this “fact” has been already brought about by themselves, or, if not, offer and actually furnish their assistance, then they see that consciousness has rather left the position where they think it to be; it is its own action and effort, which arouses its interest in the “fact”, and when they come to know that this was the real intent, the fact of the matter, they feel themselves deceived. In reality, however, their haste to render assistance was itself nothing else than their desire to see and manifest their own action and not the objectified intent, i.e. they wanted to deceive the other individual just in the way they complain of having been deceived. Since there has now been brought to light that its own action and effort, the play of its powers, is taken for the real intent, consciousness seems to be occupied in its own way on its own account and not on that of others, and only to be troubled about action qua its own action, and not about action qua an action of others, and hence seems to let the others in their turn keep to their own “fact” But they go wrong again; that consciousness has already left the point where they thought it was. It is not concerned with the matter in hand as “fact” in the sense of this its own particular fact, but as fact qua fact, qua something universal, which is for all. Hence it interferes in the action and work of others; and if consciousness can no longer take their work out of their hands, it is at least interested in the matter, and shows this by its concern to pass judgment. When it stamps the result with the mark of its approval and praise, this is meant to imply that in the work it does not merely praise the work itself, but at the same time its own generosity and moderation in not having destroyed the work as work nor spoiled it by finding fault. Since it shows an interest in the work, it enjoys its own self therein; and in the same way the work which it found fault with is welcomed for just this enjoyment of its own action which is thereby procured. Those, however, who regard themselves as, or profess to be, deceived by this interference from others wanted really themselves to deceive in the same way. They give out their efforts and doings as something only for themselves, in which they merely have themselves and their own nature in view. But since they do something, and thus express their nature, bring themselves to the light of day, they directly contradict by their deed the pretence of wanting to exclude the daylight, i.e. to exclude the publicity of universal consciousness, and participation by every one. Actualization is, on the contrary, an exposing of what is one’s own in a universal element, where it comes to be and has to be “fact” for every one.

There is, then, as much deception of itself as of others, if it is pretended that the “bare fact” is one’s sole concern. A consciousness that lays open a “fact” soon learns that others hurry to the spot and want to make themselves busy there, like flies to milk newly put out; and they in their turn find out in its case that it is not dealing with “fact” qua object, but with fact as “its own”. On the other hand, if only action itself, the use of powers and capacities, or the expression of a given individuality, is to be the essential thing, they reciprocally learn that all are on the alert and consider themselves invited to deal with the matter, and that instead of a mere abstract action, or a single peculiar action, something has been elicited and exposed which was equally well for others or is a real intent. In both cases the same thing happens; and only appears to have a different significance by contrast with that which was accepted and assumed to hold on the matter. Consciousness finds both sides to be equally essential moments, and thereby learns what the nature of the “fact of the matter”, the real intent, is, viz. that it is neither merely “fact”, which is opposed to action in general and to individual action, nor action which is opposed to permanence and is the genus independent of these moments as its species. Rather it is an essential reality whose existence means the action of the single individual and of all individuals, and whose action is immediately for others, or is a “fact”, and is only “fact” in the sense of an action of each and all — the essential reality which is the essence of all beings (Wesen), which is spiritual essence. Consciousness learns that no one of these moments is subject, but rather gets dissolved in the universal objectified intent. The moments of individuality, which were taken as subject one after another by this unreflective incoherent stage of consciousness, coalesce and concentrate into simple individuality, which qua this, is no less immediately universal. The real intent thereby ceases to stand in the relation of a predicate, loses the characteristic of lifeless abstract universality: it is substance permeated by individuality: it is subject, wherein is individuality just as much qua individual, or qua this, as qua all individuals: and it is the universal, which has an existence only as being this action of each and all, and gets an actual reality in that this consciousness knows it to be its own individual reality, and the reality of all. Pure objectified intent is what was characterized above as the “category”— being which is the ego, or ego which is being, but in the sense of thought, which is still distinguished from actual self-consciousness. Here, however, the moments of actual self-consciousness — both so far as we call them its content (purpose, action, and reality), and also in so far as we call them its form (being-for-self and being-for-another)— are made identical with the bare and simple category itself, and the category is thereby at the same time the entire content.

1. It is difficult to find a current English equivalent for this term (die Sache Selbst). “Fact itself” or “actual fact” does not seem to convey much meaning. It seems best to try to bring out the significance implied, even though at the sacrifice of literal translation.

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