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

ii

Enlightenment(1)

THE peculiar object against which pure insight directs the active force of the notion is belief, this being a form of pure consciousness like itself and yet opposed to it in that element. But at the same time pure insight has a relation to the actual world, for, like belief, it is a return from the actual world into pure consciousness. We have first of all to see bow its activity is constituted as operating against the impure motives and the perverted forms of insight found in the actual world.(2)

We have touched already on the placid type of consciousness, Which stands in contrast to this turmoil of alternate self-dissolution and self-recreation; it constitutes the aspect of pure insight and intention. This unperturbed consciousness, however, as we saw, has no special insight regarding the sphere of culture. The latter has itself rather the most painful feeling, and the truest insight about itself — the feeling that everything made secure crumbles to pieces, that every limb of its existence is wracked and rent, and every bone broken: moreover, it consciously expresses this feeling in words, pronounces judgment and gives sparkling utterance concerning all aspects of its condition. Pure insight, therefore, can have here no activity and content of its own, and thus can only take up the attitude of formally and truly apprehending this witty insight peculiar to the world and the language it adopts. Since this language is a scattered and broken utterance and the pronouncement a fickle mood of the moment, which is again quickly forgotten, and is only known to be a whole by a third consciousness, this latter can be distinguished as pure insight only if it gathers those several scattered traces into a universal picture, and then makes them the insight of all.

By this simple means pure insight will resolve the confusion of this world. For we have found that the areas and determinate conceptions and individualities are not the essential nature of this actuality, but that it finds its substance and support alone in the spirit which exists qua judging and discussing, and that the interest of having a content for this ratiocination and parlaying to deal with alone preserves the whole and the areas of its articulation. In this language which insight adopts, its self-consciousness is still this isolated individual, a self existing for itself; but the emptiness of its content is at the same time emptiness of the self knowing that content to be vain and empty. Now, when the consciousness placidly apprehending all these sparkling utterances of vanity makes a collection of the most striking and penetrating phrases, the soul that still preserves the whole, the vanity of witty criticism, goes to ruin with the other form of vanity, the previous vanity of existence. The collection shows most people a better wit, or at least shows every one a more varied wit than their own, and shows that “knowing-better” and “judging” generally are something universal and are now universally familiar. Thereby the sole and only surviving interest is done away with; and individual light is resolved into universal insight.

Still, however, knowledge of essential reality stands secure above vain and empty knowledge; and pure insight only appears in genuinely active form in so far as it enters into conflict with belief.

1. Enlightenment (Aufklärung) is the universalization of the principle of “pure insight”, and hence is logically the outcome of the preceding analysis.

2. Cf. Pp. 541 ff.

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