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

Spirit(1)

Translator’s comments: In the preceding section there is analysed the attempt on the part of individuality to operate as its own legislator and judge of laws holding for individuals. Individuality may claim the privilege of enunciating laws universal in character but having their source and inspiration solely in the single individual. Such laws can at best only be regulative and cannot be constitutive of the substance of individuality; for the substance of individuality necessarily involves other individuals within it. In short individuality is itself only realized as a part of a concrete whole of individuals: its life is drawn from common life in and with others. To attempt to enunciate laws from itself as if it could create the conditions of its own inherent universality can only issue in one result: laws are furnished without the content which gives those laws any meaning, or else the laws and the content remain from first to last external to one another. But if laws are purely formal, they cease to be i.e. constitutive conditions of individuality. Hence the attempt above described is sure to break down by its own futility. What is wanted to give the laws meaning is the concrete substance of social life: and when this concrete substance is provided ipso facto the attempt of individuality to create laws disappears, for these laws are already found in operation in social life. Only such laws have reality. But this involves the further step that individuality is only realized, only finds its true universal content, in and with the order of a society. Here alone is individuality what it is in truth, at once a particular focus of self-consciousness, and a realization of universal mind. This condition where individuality is conscious of itself only in and with others, and conscious of the common life as its own, is the stage of spiritual existence. Spiritual existence and social life thus go together. The following section begins the analysis of this phase of experience, which extends from the simplest form of sociality — the Family — up to the highest experience of universal mind — Religion.

The immediately succeeding section may be taken as the keystone of the whole arch of experience traversed in the Phenomenology. Here it is pointed out that all the preceding phases of experience have not merely been preparing the way f or what is to follow, but that the various aspects, hitherto treated as separate moments of experience, are in reality abstractions from the life of concrete spirit now to be discussed and analysed.

It is noteworthy that from this point onwards the argument is less negative in its result either directly or indirectly, and is more systematic and constructive. This is no doubt largely because hitherto individual mind as such has been under review, and this is an abstraction from social mind or spiritual existence.

vi

Spirit

REASON is spirit, when its certainty of being all reality has been raised to the level of truth, and reason is consciously aware of itself as its own world, and of the world as itself. The development of spirit was indicated in the immediately preceding movement of mind, where the object of consciousness, the category pure and simple, rose to be the notion of reason. When reason “observes”, this pure unity of ego and existence, the unity of subjectivity and objectivity, of for-itself-ness and in-itself-ness-this unity is immanent, has the character of implicitness or of being; and consciousness of reason finds itself. But the true nature of “observation” is rather the transcendence of this instinct of finding its object lying directly at hand, and passing beyond this unconscious state of its existence. The directly perceived (angeshcaut) category, the thing simply “found”, enters consciousness as the self-existence of the ego-ego, which now knows itself in the objective reality, and knows itself there as the self. But this feature of the category, viz. of being for-itself as opposed to being — immanent — within — itself, is equally one-sided, and a moment that cancels itself. The category therefore gets for consciousness the character which it possesses in its universal truth — it is self-contained essential reality (an und für sich seyendes Wesen). This character, still abstract, which constitutes the nature of absolute fact, of “fact itself”, is the beginnings of “spiritual reality” (das geistige Wesen); and its mode of consciousness is here a formal knowledge of that reality, a knowledge which is occupied with the varied and manifold content thereof. This consciousness is still, in point of fact, a particular individual distinct from the general substance, and either prescribes arbitrary laws or thinks it possesses within its own knowledge as such the laws as they absolutely are (an und für sich), and takes itself to be the power that passes judgment on them. Or again, looked at from the side of the substance, this is seen to be the self-contained and self-sufficient spiritual reality, which is not yet a consciousness of its own self. The self-contained and self-sufficient reality, however, which is at once aware of being actual in the form of consciousness and presents itself to itself, is Spirit.

Its essential spiritual being (Wesen) has been above designated as the ethical substance; spirit, however, is concrete ethical actuality (Wirklichkeit). Spirit is the self of the actual consciousness, to which spirit stands opposed, or rather which appears over against itself, as an objective actual world that has lost, however, all sense of strangeness for the self, just as the self has lost all sense of having a dependent or independent existence by itself, cut off and separated from that world. Being substance and universal self-identical permanent essence (Wesen), spirit is the immovable irreducible basis and the starting point for the action of all and every one; it is their purpose and their goal, because the ideally implicit nature (Ansich) of all self-consciousnesses. This substance is likewise the universal product, wrought and created by the action of each and all, and constituting their unity and likeness and identity of meaning; for it is self-existence (Fürsichseyn), the self, action. Qua substance, spirit is unbending righteous selfsameness, self-identity; but qua for-itself, self-existent and self-determined (Fürsichseyn), its continuity is resolved into discrete elements, it is the self-sacrificing soul of goodness, the benevolent essential nature in which each fulfils his own special work, rends the continuum of the universal substance, and takes his own share of it. This resolution of the essence into individual forms is just the aspect of the separate action and the separate self of all the several individuals; it is the moving soul of the ethical substance, the resultant universal spiritual being. Just because this substance is a being resolved in the self, it is not a lifeless essence, but actual and alive.

Spirit is thus the self-supporting absolutely real ultimate being (Wesen). All the previous modes of consciousness are abstractions from it: they are constituted by the fact that spirit analyses itself, distinguishes its moments, and halts at each individual mode in turn. The isolating of such moments presupposes spirit itself and requires spirit for its subsistence, in other words, this isolation of modes only exists within spirit, which is existence. Taken in isolation they appear as if they existed as they stand. But their advance and return upon their real ground and essential being showed that they are merely moments or vanishing quantities; and this essential being is precisely this movement and resolution of these moments. Here, where spirit, the reflexion of these moments into itself, has become established, our reflexion may briefly recall them in this connexion: they were consciousness, self-consciousness, and reason. Spirit is thus Consciousness in general, which contains sense-certainty, perception and understanding, so far as in analysing its own self it holds fast by the moment of being a reality objective to itself, and by abstraction eliminates the fact that this reality is its own self objectified, its own self-existence. When again it holds fast by the other abstract moment produced by analysis, the fact that its object is its own self become objective to itself, is its self-existence, then it is Self-consciousness. But as immediate consciousness of its inherent and its explicit being, of its immanent self and its objective self, as the unity of consciousness and self-consciousness, it is that type of consciousness which has Reason: it is the consciousness which, as the word “have” indicates, has the object in a shape which is implicitly and inherently rational, or is categorized, but in such a way that the object is not yet taken by the consciousness in question to have the value of a category. Spirit here is that consciousness from the immediately preceding consideration of which we have arrived at the present stage. Finally, when this reason, which spirit ”has“, is seen by spirit to be reason which actually is, to be reason which is actual in spirit, and is its world, then spirit has come to its truth; it is spirit, the essential nature of ethical life actually existent.

Spirit, so far as it is the immediate, truth, is the ethical life of a nation:— the individual, which is a world. It has to advance to the consciousness of what it is immediately; it has to abandon and transcend the beautiful simplicity of ethical life, and get to a knowledge of itself by passing through a series of stages and forms. The distinction between these and those that have gone before consists in their being real spiritual individualities (Geister), actualities proper, and instead of being forms merely of consciousness, they are forms of a world.

The living ethical world is spirit in its truth. As it first comes to an abstract knowledge of its essential nature, ethical life (Sittlichkeit) is destroyed in the formal universality of right or legality (Recht). Spirit, being now sundered within itself, traces one of its worlds in the element of its objectivity as in a crass solid actuality; this is the realm of Culture and Civilization; while over against this in the element of thought is traced the world of Belief or Faith, the realm of the.Inner Life and Truth (Wesen). Both worlds, however, when in the grip of the notion — when grasped by spirit which, after this loss of self through self-diremption, penetrates itself — are thrown into confusion and revolutionized through individual Insight (Einsicht), and the general diffusion of this attitude, known as the “Enlightenment” (Aufklärung). And the realm which had thus been divided and expanded into the “present” and the “remote beyond”, into the “here” and the “yonder”, turns back into self-consciousness. This self-consciousness, again, taking now the form of Morality (the inner moral life) apprehends itself as the essential truth, and the real essence as its actual self no longer puts its world and its ground and basis away outside itself, but lets everything fade into itself, and in the form of Conscience (Gewissen) is spirit sure and certain (gewiss) of itself.

The ethical world, the world rent asunder into the “here” and the “yonder”, and the moral point of view (moralische Weltanschauung), are, then, individual forms of spirit (Geister) whose process and whose return into the self of spirit, a self simple and self-existent (fürsichseyend), will be developed. As these attain their goal and final result, the actual self-consciousness of Absolute Spirit will make its appearance and be their outcome.


1. The term “Spirit” seems better to render the word ”Geist“ used here, than the word “mind” would do. Up to this stage of experience the word “mind” is sufficient to convey the meaning. But spirit is mind at a much higher level of existence.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/h/hegel/phenomenology_of_mind/part22.html

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