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

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The Truth of Enlightenment(1)

THE spirit that sullenly works and weaves without further distinctions within itself has thus passed into itself away beyond consciousness, which, on the other hand, has arrived at clearness as to itself. The first moment of this clearness of mind is determined, in regard to its necessity and condition, by the fact that pure insight, or insight that is implicitly and per se notion, actualizes itself; it does so when it gives otherness or determinateness a place in its own nature. In this manner it is negative pure insight, i.e. the negation of the notion; this negation is equally pure; and herewith has arisen the pure and simple “thing”, the Absolute Being, that has no further determination of any sort. If we define this more precisely, insight in the sense of absolute notion is a distinguishing of distinctions that are not so any longer, of abstractions or pure notions that no longer support themselves but find a fixed hold and a distinction only by means of the whole life of the process. This distinguishing of what is not distinguished consists just in the fact that the absolute notion makes itself its object, and as against that process asserts itself to be the essence. The essence hereby is without the aspect wherein abstractions or distinctions are kept apart, and hence becomes pure thought in the sense of a pure thing.

This, then, is just the dull, silent, unconscious working and weaving of the spirit at the loom of its own being, to which belief, as we saw, sank back when it lost all distinction in its content. And this is at the same time that movement of pure self-consciousness, in regard to which the essence is intended to be the absolutely external beyond. For, because this pure self-consciousness is a movement working in pure notions, in distinctions that are no distinctions, pure self-consciousness collapses in fact into that unconscious working and weaving of spirit, i.e. into pure feeling, or pure thinghood.

The self-alienated notion — for the notion still stands here at the level of such alienation-does not, however, recognize this identical nature constituting both sides, — the movement of self-consciousness and its absolute Reality,-does not recognize the identity of their nature, which, in point of fact, is their very substance and subsistence. Since the notion is not aware of this unity, absolute Reality has significance for it merely in the form of an objective beyond, while the consciousness making these distinctions, and in this way keeping the ultimate reality outside itself, is treated as a finite consciousness.

Regarding that Absolute Being, enlightenment itself falls out with itself in the same way as it did formerly with belief, and is divided between the views of two parties. One party proves itself to be victorious by the fact that it breaks up into two parties; for in that fact it shows it possesses within it the principle it combats, and consequently shows it has abolished the one-sidedness with which it formerly made its appearance. The interest which was divided between it and the other, now falls entirely within it, and forgets the other, because that interest finds lying in it alone the opposition on which its attention is directed. At the same time, however, the opposition has been lifted into the higher victorious element, where it manifests itself in a clarified form. So that the schism that arises in one party, and seems a misfortune, demonstrates rather its good fortune.

The pure essence itself has in it no distinction; consequently distinction is reached by two such pure essences being put forward for consciousness to be aware of, or by a twofold consciousness of the pure reality. The pure absolute essence is only in pure thought, or rather it is pure thought itself, and thus absolutely beyond the finite, beyond self-consciousness, and is merely the ultimate essence in a negative sense. But in this way it is just being, the negative of self-consciousness. Being negative of self-consciousness, it is also related to self-consciousness. It is external being, which, placed in relation to self-consciousness within which distinctions and determinations fall, acquires within it the distinctions, of being tasted, seen, and so on; and the relationship is that of sense-experience and perception.

Taking the point of departure from this sense-existence, into which that negative beyond necessarily passes, but abstracting from those various ways in which consciousness is related to sense-existence, there is left pure matter as that in which consciousness weaves and moves inarticulately within itself. In dealing with this, the essential point to note is that pure matter is merely what remains over when we abstract from seeing, feeling, tasting, etc., i.e. it is not what is seen, tasted, felt, and so on; it is not matter that is seen, felt, or tasted, but colour, a stone, a salt, and so on. Matter is really pure abstraction; and, being so, we have here the pure essential nature of thought, or pure thought itself, as the Absolute without predicates, undetermined, having no distinctions within it.(2)

The one kind of enlightenment calls absolute Being that predicateless Absolute, which exists in thought beyond the actual consciousness from which this enlightenment started; the other calls it matter. If they were distinguished as Nature and Spirit or God, the unconscious inner working and weaving would have nothing of the wealth of developed life required in order to be nature, while Spirit or God would have no self-distinguishing consciousness. Both, as we saw, are entirely the same notion; the distinction lies not in the objective fact, but purely in the diversity of starting-point adopted by the two developments of thought, and in the fact that each stops at its own special point in the thought-process. If they rose above that, their thoughts would coincide, and they would find what to the one is, as it professes, a horror, and to the other a folly, is one and the same thing. For to the one, absolute Being is in its pure thought, or is immediately for pure consciousness — is outside finite consciousness, is the negative beyond of finite mind. If it would reflect that in part that simple immediacy of thought is nothing else than pure being, that in part, again, what is negative for consciousness is at the same time related to consciousness — that in the negative judgment the copula “is” connects as well as separates the two factors — it would come to see that this beyond, having the character of an external existence, stands in a relation to consciousness, and that in so doing it means the same as what is called pure matter. The missing moment of presence would then be secured.

The other enlightenment starts from sense-existence; it then abstracts from the sensuous relation of tasting, seeing, etc., and turns sense-existence into purely inherent being (Ansich), absolute matter, something neither felt nor tasted. This being has in this way become the inner reality of pure consciousness, the ultimately simple without predicates; it is the pure notion, qua notion whose being is implicit, or it is pure thought within itself. This insight in its conscious activity does not go through the reverse process of passing from being, which is purely being, to an opposite in thought, which is the same as mere being, or does not go from the pure positive to the opposite pure negative; although after all the positive is really pure simply and solely through negation, while the negative qua pure is self-identical and one within itself, and precisely on that account positive.

Or again, these two have not come to the notion found in Descartes’ metaphysics that being and thought are inherently the same; they have not arrived at the thought that being, pure being, is not a concrete actual reality, but pure abstraction, and conversely that pure thought, self-identity or inner essence, is partly the negative of self-consciousness, and consequently is being, and partly, qua immediate simple entity, is like wise nothing else than being. Thought is thinghood, or thinghood is thought.

The real essence is here divided asunder in such a way that, to begin with, it appertains to two specifically distinct modes of thinking. In part, the real must hold distinction in itself; in part, just by so doing, both ways of considering it merge into one; for then the abstract moments, of pure being and the negative, by which their distinction is expressed, are united in the object with which these modes of treatment deal.

The universal common to both is the abstraction of pure self-thinking, of pure quivering within the self. This simple motion of rotating on its own axis is bound to resolve itself into separate moments, because it is itself only motion by distinguishing its own moments. This distinguishing of the moments leaves the unmoved [unity] behind as the empty shell of pure being, that is no longer actual thought, has no more life within it; for qua distinction this process is all the content. The process, which thus puts itself outside that unity thereby constitutes, however, the shifting change — a change that does not return into itself-of the moments of being-in-itself, of being-for-another, and of being-for-self: it is actual reality in the way this is object for the concrete consciousness of pure insight — viz. Utility.

Bad as utility may look to belief or sentimentality, or even to the abstraction that calls itself speculation, and deals with the inherent nature in fixed isolation; yet it is that in which pure insight finds its realization and is itself the object for itself, an object which insight now no longer repudiates, and which, too, it does not consider as the void or the pure beyond. For pure insight, as we saw, is the living notion itself, the self-same pure personality, distinguishing itself within itself in such a way that each of the distinguished elements is itself pure notion, i.e. is eo ipso not distinct; it is simple undifferentiated pure self-consciousness, which is for itself as well as in itself within an immediate unity. Its inherent being (Ansichsein) is therefore not fixed and permanent, but at once ceases, in its distinction, to be something distinctive. A being of that kind, however, which is immediately without support and cannot stand of itself, has no being in itself, no inherent existence, it is essentially for something else, which is the power that consumes and absorbs it. But this second moment, opposed to that first one, disappears just as immediately as the first; or, rather, qua being merely for some other, it is the very process of disappearing, and there is thus affirmed being that has turned back into itself, being for itself. This simple being-for-self, however, qua self-identity, is rather an objective being, or is thereby for an other.

This nature of pure insight in thus unfolding and making explicit its moments, in other words insight qua object, finds expression in the useful, the profitable. What is useful is a thing, something that subsists in itself; this being in itself is at the same time only a pure moment: it is in consequence absolutely for something else, but is equally for an other merely as it is in itself: these opposite moments have returned into the indivisible unity of being-for-self. While, however, the useful doubtless expresses the notion of pure insight, it is all the same not insight as such, but insight as conscious presentation, or as object for insight. It is merely the restless shifting change of those moments, of which one is indeed Being-returned-into-itself, but merely as being-for-itself, i.e. as abstract moment, appearing on one side over against the others. The useful itself does not consist in the negative fact of having these moments in their opposition at the same time undivided in one and the same respect, of having them as a form of thought per se in the way they are qua pure insight. The moment of being-for-self is doubtless a phase of usefulness, but not in the sense that it swamps the other moments, being-per-se and being-for-another; if so, it would be the whole self. In the useful, pure insight thus possesses as its object its own peculiar notion in the pure moments constituting its nature; it is the consciousness of this metaphysical principle, but not yet its conceptual comprehension, it has not yet itself reached the unity of being and notion. Because the useful still appears before insight in the form of an object, insight has a world not indeed any longer a world all by itself and self-contained, but still a world all the same, which it distinguishes from itself. Only, since the opposites have appeared at the supreme point of the notion, the next step will be for them to collide and collapse together and for enlightenment to experience the fruits of its deeds.

When we looked at the object reached in relation to this entire sphere of spiritual life, we found the actual world of culture summed up in the vanity of self-consciousness — in independent self-existence, whose content is drawn from the confusion characteristic of culture, and which is still the individual notion, not yet the self-conscious (für sich) universal notion. Returned into itself, however, that (individual) notion is pure insight — pure consciousness qua pure self or negativity, just as belief, too, is pure consciousness, qua pure thought or positivity. Belief finds in that self the moment that makes it complete; — but, perishing through being thus completed, it is in pure insight that we now see both moments as absolute Being, which is purely thought-constituted or is a negative entity, and as matter, which is the positive entity.

This completion still lacks that actual reality of self-consciousness, which belongs to the vain and empty type of consciousness — the world out of which thought raised itself up to itself. What is thus wanting is reached in the fact of utility so far as pure insight secures positive objectivity there; pure insight is thereby a concrete actual consciousness satisfied within itself. This objectivity now constitutes its world, and is become the final and true outcome of the entire previous world, ideal as well as real. The first world of spirit is the expanded realm of spirit’s self-dispersing existence and of certainty of self in separate individual shapes and forms: just as nature disperses its life in an endless multiplicity of forms and shapes, without the generic principle of all the forms being present therein. The second world contains the generic principle, and is the realm of the ultimate inherent nature (Ansichseyns) or the essential truth, over against that individual certainty. The third world, however, that of the useful, is the truth which is certainty of self as well. The realm of the truth of belief lacks the principle of concrete actuality, or of certainty of self in the sense of this individual self. But, again, concrete actuality, or certainty of self qua this individual, lacks the ultimate inherent nature (Ansich). In the object of pure insight both worlds are united. The useful is the object so far as self-consciousness sees through it, and individual certainty of self finds its enjoyment (its self-existence) in it; self-consciousness sees into it in this manner, and this insight contains the true essence of the object (which consists in being something seen through, in other words, in being for an other). This insight is thus itself true knowledge; and self-consciousness directly finds in this attitude universal certainty of itself as well, has its pure consciousness in this attitude, in which truth as well as immediateness and actuality are united. Both worlds are reconciled and heaven is transplanted to the earth below.

1. The outcome is at once positive and negative-materialism and agnosticism: on the secular side, it is pure utilitarianism.

2. Cp. Schopenhauer: “The absolute without predicates is just matter.”

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/h/hegel/phenomenology_of_mind/part33.html

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