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

Conscience:
The “Beautiful Soul”:
Evil and the Forgiveness of it

Translator’s comments: The one-sidedness of each of the preceding stages is removed when the moral consciousness assumes the attitude of Conscience. Here the individual is at once self-legislating and yet sure of the unity and self completeness of its own will in the midst of all diversity of moral content. The immediacy involved in the idea of a “self-legislating” will appears in the perceptual directness of the action of conscience: it “sees” what is right and does the right without hesitation. But it is not an abstract “faculty” of willing independent of the varied content of the individual’s moral experience. The universality of the individual permeates and pervades all the content of his being and makes him a concrete moral individuality, at home with himself in the smallest detail as well as in the larger issues of his self-complete spiritual existence. Conscience, as Butler says, is a “system” or “constitution”, analogous in the case of the individual to the objectified system of the state and its institutions. The self-deception of the second one-sided phase of moral experience seems also to have no place in Conscience, for Conscience is the transparent and self-revealing unity in all the content of moral individuality. Only on this condition can it be absolutely confident and certain of itself in all its functions, and this certainty of itself is the inalienable characteristic of conscience. It thinks it cannot be deceived about itself, can neither delude itself nor others, but freely realizes all that it professes to be and professes to be all that it realizes, It is thus the supreme achievement of finite spiritual existence; but it has no meaning apart from the existence of finite spirit in the form of society.

Its very conditions, however, give rise to delusion and deception of another kind. For, so complete is its world and its life, that it may attempt to cut itself off from the concrete substance of actual society which alone makes possible the existence of conscience. It then tries to cultivate goodness in solitary isolation from the actual social whole. This is the attitude of the “beautiful soul”, a type of spiritual life cultivated by the “Moravians”, and familiar during the Romantic movement. Novalis is the best-known example; the classical interpretation of the mood was given in Goethe’s Meister’s Lehrjahre, Bk. 6. It has the self-confidence and individual inspiration of Conscience, but frankly rejects the concrete objectivity which secures for Conscience liberation from mere subjectivity. The very rejection of objectivity is the only achievement of the “beautiful soul”, and is held to be the greatest triumph of its self-conscious freedom. It flees from concrete moral action, and luxuriates in a state of self-hypnotized inactivity. Still it takes up this attitude in the interests of “pure goodness”, and hence in withdrawing from the lowly deeds of the daily moral life it indulges all the more in the self-cloistered cult of the beauty of holiness. It is moral individualism turned into mystic self-absorption. Hegel’s analysis brings out that this type of spirit is in principle as it was in fact the direct ally of moral evil. For (1) its refusal to act means indifference to all action, good and bad alike, and the rejection of the demands of duty is precisely immorality; (,2) its self-closed isolation destroys the very principle of true morality, universality of will, recognition and acknowledgment by others of the claims of the individual will.

But this extremity of finite spiritual experience is the opportunity of Absolute Spirit. The attitude of this mystical moral individuality is indirectly an indication of the finittude of the moral point of view and therefore of its failure to supply the absolute self-completeness which spirit requires. The very consciousness by finite spirit of its inherent incompleteness is implicitly a consciousness of the Absolute Spirit. The consciousness of Absolute Spirit is the attitude of experience known as Religion.

Conscience:
The “Beautiful Soul”;
Evil and the Forgiveness of it

The antinomy in the moral view of the world — viz. that there is a moral consciousness and that there is none, or that the validity, the bindingness of duty has its ground beyond consciousness, and conversely only takes effect in consciousness — these contradictory elements had been combined in the idea, in which the non-moral consciousness is to pass for moral, its contingent knowledge and will to be accepted as fully sufficing, and happiness to be its lot as a matter of grace. Moral self consciousness took this self-contradictory idea not upon itself, but transferred it to another being. But this putting outside itself of what it must think as necessary is as much a contradiction in form as the other was in content. But that which appears as contradictory, and that in the division and resolution of which lies the round of activity peculiar to the moral attitude, are inherently the same: for pure duty qua pure knowledge is nothing else than the self of consciousness, and the self of consciousness is existence and actuality; and, in the same way, what is to be beyond actual consciousness is nothing else than pure thought, is, in fact, the self. Because this is so, self-consciousness, for us or per se, passes back into itself, and becomes aware that that being is its self, in which the actual is at once pure knowledge and pure duty. It takes itself to be absolutely valid in its contingency, to be that which knows its immediate individual being as pure knowledge and action, as the true objective reality and harmony.

This self of Conscience, the mode of spirit immediately certain of itself as absolute truth and objective being, is the third type of spiritual self. It is the outcome of the third sphere of the spiritual world,(1) and may be shortly compared with the two former types of self.

The totality or actuality which is revealed as the truth of the ethical world, the world of the social order, is the self of a Person [the legal self]: its existence lies in being recognized and acknowledged. As the person is the self devoid of substance, this its existence is abstract reality too. The person has a definite standing, and that directly and immediately: its self is the point in the sphere of its existence which is immediately at rest. That point is not torn away from its universality; the two [the particular focus and its universality] are therefore not in a relational process with regard to one another: the universal is in it without distinction, and is neither the content of the self, nor is the self filled by itself.

The second self is the truth and outcome of the world of culture, is spirit that has recovered itself after and through disruption, is absolute freedom. In this self, the former immediate unity of individual existence and universality breaks up into its component elements. The universal, which remains at the same time a purely spiritual entity, the state of recognition or universal will and universal knowledge — the universal is object and content of the self, and its universal actuality. But the universal has not there the form of existence detached from the self: in this mode of self it therefore gets no filling, no positive content, no world.

Moral self-consciousness, indeed, lets its universal aspect get detached, so that this aspect becomes a nature of its own; and at the same time it retains this universality within itself in a superseded form. But it is merely a game of dissembling; it constantly interchanges these two characteristics. In the form of Conscience, with its certainty of itself, it first finds the content to fill the former emptiness of duty as well as the emptiness of right and the empty universal will. And because this certainty of self is at the same time immediacy, it finds in conscience definite existence.

Having reached this level of its truth, moral self-consciousness then leaves, or rather supersedes, this state of internal division and self-separation, whence arose “dissemblance”— the separation of its inherent being from the self, of pure duty, qua pure purpose, from reality qua a nature and a sensibility opposed to pure purpose. It is, when thus returned into itself, concrete moral spirit, which does not make for itself a bare abstract standard out of the consciousness of pure duty, a standard to be set up against actual conscious life; on the contrary, pure duty, as also the sensuous nature opposed to pure duty, are superseded moments. This mode of spirit, in its immediate unity, is a moral being making itself actual, and an act is immediately a concrete embodiment of morality.

Given a case of action; it is an objective reality for the knowing mind. The latter, qua conscience, knows it in a direct concrete manner; and at the same time it is merely as conscience knows it to be. When knowledge is something other than its object, it is contingent in character. Spirit, however, which is sure of its self, is no longer an accidental knowledge of that kind, is not a way of producing inside its own being ideas from which reality is divorced. On the contrary; since the separation between what is essential and self has been given up, a case of moral action falls, just as it is essentially, directly within immediate conscious certainty, the sensible [feeling] form of knowledge, and it is essentially only as it is in this form of knowledge.

Action, then, qua realization, is in this way the pure form of will — the bare conversion of reality in the sense of a given case, into a reality that is enacted, the conversion of the bare state of objective knowledge into one of knowledge about reality as something produced and brought about by consciousness. Just as sensuous certainty is directly taken up, or rather converted, into the essential life and substance of spirit, this other transformation is also simple and unmediated, a transition made through the pure conception without changing the content, the content being conditioned by some interest on the part of the consciousness knowing it.

Further conscience does not break up the circumstances of the case into a variety of duties. It does not operate as the positive general medium, in which the manifold duties, each for itself, would acquire immovable substantial existence. If it did so, either no action could take place at all, because each concrete case involves opposition in general, and, in the specific case of morality, opposition of duties — and hence there would always be one side injured, one duty violated, by the very nature of concrete action: or else, if action does take place, the violation of one of the conflicting duties would be the actual result brought about. Conscience is rather the negative single unity, it is the absolute self, which does away with this variety of substantial moral constituents. It is simple action in accordance with duty, action which does not fulfil this or that duty, but knows and does what is concretely right. It is, therefore, in general, and for the first time in moral experience, moral action as action, and into this the previous stage of mere consciousness of morality without action has passed.

The concrete shape which the act takes may be analysed by a conscious process of distinction into a variety of properties, i.e. in this case into a variety of moral relationships; and these may either be each expressly held to be absolute (as each must be if it is to be duty) or, again, subjected to comparison and criticism. In the simple moral action arising from conscience, duties are so piled and commingled that the isolated independence of all these separate entities is immediately destroyed, and the process of critically considering and worrying about what our duty is finds no place at all in the unshaken certainty of conscience.

Just as little, again, do we find in conscience that fluctuating uncertainty of mind, which puts now so-called “pure” morality away from itself, assigning it to some other holy being, and takes itself to be unholy, and then again, on the other hand, puts this moral purity within itself, and places in that other the connexion of the sensuous with the moral element.

It renounces all these semblances and dissemblances (Stellungen und Verstellungen) characteristic of the moral point of view, when it gives up thinking that there is a contradiction between duty and actual reality. According to this latter state of mind, I act morally when I am conscious of performing merely pure duty and nothing else but that: i.e. in fact, when I do not act. When, however, I really act, I am conscious of an “other”, of a reality which is there before me, and one which I want to bring about; I have a definite end and fulfil a definite duty. There is something else therein than the pure duty, which alone was supposed to be kept in view.

Conscience, on the other hand, is the sense that, when the moral consciousness declares pure duty to be the essence of its action, this pure purpose is a dissemblance of the actual fact. For the real fact is that pure duty consists in the empty abstraction of pure thought, and finds its reality and content solely in some definite actual existence, an actuality which is actuality of consciousness itself — not of consciousness in the sense of a thought-entity, but as an individual. Conscience for its own part, finds its truth to lie in the direct certainty of itself. This immediate concrete certainty of itself is the real essence. Looking at this certainty from the point of view of the opposition which consciousness involves, the agent’s own immediate individuality constitutes the content of moral action; and the form of moral action is just this very self as a pure process, viz. as the process of knowing, in other words, is private individual conviction.

Looking more closely at the unity and the significance of the moments of this stage, we find that moral consciousness conceived itself merely in the form of the inherent principle, or as ultimate essence; qua conscience, however, it lays hold of its explicit individual self-existence (Fürsichseyn), or its self. The contradiction involved in the moral point of view is resolved, i.e. the distinction, which lay at the basis of its peculiar attitude, proves to be no distinction, and melts into the process of pure negativity. This process of negativity is, however, just the self: a single simple self which is at once pure knowledge and knowledge of itself as this individual conscious life. This self constitutes, therefore, the content of what formerly was the empty essence; for it is something actual and concrete, which no longer has the significance of being a nature alien to the ultimate essence, a nature independent and with laws of its own. As the negative element, it introduces distinction into the pure essence, a definite content, and one, too, which has a value in its own right as it stands.

Further, this self is, qua pure self-identical knowledge, the universal without qualification, so that just this knowledge, being its very own knowledge, being conviction, constitutes duty. Duty is no longer the universal appearing over against and opposed to the self; duty is known to have in this condition of separation no validity. It is now the law which exists for the sake of the self, and not the law for the sake of which the self exists. The law and duty, however, have for that reason not only the significance of existing on their own account, but also of being inherent and essential; for this knowledge is, in virtue of its identity with itself, just what is inherently essential. This inherent being gets also separated in consciousness from that direct and immediate unity with self-existence: so contrasted and opposed, it is objective being, it is being for something else.

Duty itself now, qua duty deserted by the self, is known to be merely a moment; it has ceased to mean absolute being, it has become degraded to something which is not a self, does not exist on its own account, and is thus what exists for something else. But this existing-for-something-else remains an essential moment just for the reason that self, qua consciousness, constitutes and establishes the opposition between existence-for-self and existence-for-another; and now duty essentially means something immediately actual, and is no longer a mere abstract pure consciousness.

This existence for something else is, then, the inherently essential substance distinguished from the self. Conscience has not given up pure duty, the abstract implicit essence: pure duty is the essential moment of relating itself, qua universality, to others. Conscience is the common element of distinct self-consciousnesses; and this is the substance in which the act secures subsistence and reality, the moment of being recognized by others. The moral self-consciousness does not possess this moment of recognition, of pure consciousness which has definite existence; and on that account really does not “act” at all, does not effectually actualize anything. Its inherent nature is for it either the abstract unreal essence, or else existence in the form of a reality which has no spiritual character. The actual reality of conscience, however, is one which is a self, i.e. an existence conscious of itself, the spiritual element of being recognized. Doing something is, therefore, merely the translation of its individual content into that objective element where it is universal and is recognized, and this very fact, that the content is recognized, makes the deed an actuality. The action is recognized and thereby real, because the actual reality is immediately bound up with conviction or knowledge; or, in other words, knowledge of one’s purpose is immediately and at once the element of existence, is universal recognition. For the essence of the act, duty, consists in the conviction conscience has about it. This conviction is just the inherent principle itself; it is inherently universal self-consciousness — in other words, is recognition and hence reality. The result achieved under conviction of duty is therefore directly one which has substantial solid existence. Thus, we hear nothing more there about good intention not coming to anything definite, or about the good man faring badly. What is known as duty is carried out completely and becomes an actual fact, just because what is dutiful is the universal for all self-consciousnesses, that which is recognized, acknowledged, and thus objectively is. Taken separately and alone, however, without the content of self, this duty is existence-for-another, the transparent element, which has merely the significance of an unsubstantial essential factor in general.

If we look back on the sphere where spiritual reality first made its appearance, we find that the principle involved was that the utterance of individuality is the absolutely real, the ultimately substantial. But the shape which, in the first instance, gave expression to this principle, was the “honest consciousness”(2) which was occupied and concerned with abstract “fact itself”. This “fact itself” was there a predicate. In conscience, however, it is for the first time a Subject, which has affirmed within it all aspects of consciousness, and for which all these moments, substantiality in general, external existence, and essence of thought, are contained in this certainty of itself. The “fact itself” has substantiality in general in the ethical order (Sittlichkeit), external existence in culture, self -knowing essence of thought in morality; and in conscience it is the Subject, which knows these moments within itself. While the “honest consciousness” is for ever grasping merely the bare and empty “fact itself”, conscience, on the other hand, secures the “fact itself “ in its fullness, a fullness which conscience of itself supplies. Conscience has this power through its knowing the moments of consciousness as moments, and controlling them because it is their negative essential principle.

When conscience is considered in relation to the single features of the opposition which appears in action, and when we consider its consciousness regarding the nature of those features, its attitude towards the reality of the situation where action has to take place is, in the first instance, that of knowledge. So far as the aspect of universality is present in such knowledge, it is the business of conscientious action qua knowledge, to compass the reality before it in an unrestricted exhaustive manner, and thus to know exactly the circumstances of the case, and give them due consideration. This knowledge, however, since it is aware of universality as a moment, is in consequence a kind of knowledge of these circumstances which is conscious all the while of not embracing them, is conscious of not being conscientious in its procedure. The genuinely universal and pure relation of knowledge would be one towards something not opposed, a relation to itself. But action through the opposition essentially implied in action is related to what negates consciousness, to a reality existing per se. This reality — being, as contrasted with the simple nature of pure consciousness, the absolute other, multiplicity per se— is a sheer plurality of circumstances which breaks up indefinitely and spreads in all directions — backwards into their conditions, sidewards in their associations, forwards in their consequences.

The conscientious mind is aware of this nature, of “the fact” and of its relation thereto, and knows it is not acquainted to the full and complete extent require with the situation in which its action takes place, and knows that its pretence of conscientiously weighing and considering all the circumstances is futile. This acquaintance with and consideration of all the circumstances, however, are not entirely absent: but they are merely present as a moment, as something which is only for others: and the conscientious mind holds its incomplete knowledge to be sufficient and complete, because it is its own knowledge.

In a similar way the process is constituted in connexion with the universality of the essential principle, that is, with the characterization of the content as determined through pure consciousness. Conscience, when it goes on to act, takes up a relation to the various sides of the case. The case breaks up into separate elements, and the relation of pure consciousness towards it does the same: whereby the multiplicity characteristic of the case becomes a multiplicity of duties. Conscience knows that it has to select and decide amongst them; for none of them specifically, in its content, is an absolute duty; only pure duty is so. But this abstract entity has, in its realization, come to denote self-conscious ego. Spirit certain of itself is at rest within itself in the form of conscience, and its real universality, its duty, lies in its pure conviction concerning duty. This pure conviction as such is as empty as pure duty, pure in the sense that nothing within it, no definite content, is duty. Action, however, has to take place, the individual must determine to do something or other; and spirit which is certain of itself, in which the inherent principle has attained the significance of self-conscious ego, knows it has this determination, this specific content, in the immediate certainty of its own self. This certainty, being a determination and a content, is “natural” consciousness, i.e. the various impulses and inclinations.

Conscience admits no content as absolute for it, because it is absolute negativity of all that is definite. It determines from itself alone. The circle of the self, however, within which determinateness as such falls, is so-called “sensibility”: in order to get a content out of the immediate certainty of self, there is no other element to be found except sensibility.

Everything that in previous modes of experience was presented as good or bad, law and right, is something other than immediate certainty of self; it is a universal, which is now a relative entity, an existence-for-another. Or, looked at otherwise, it is an object which, while connecting and relating consciousness with itself, comes between consciousness and its own propel truth, and instead of that object being the immediacy of consciousness, it rather cuts consciousness off from itself.

For conscience, however, certainty of self is the pure, direct, and immediate truth: and this truth is thus its immediate certainty of self presented as content; i.e. its truth is altogether the caprice of the individual, and the accidental content of his unconscious natural existence [his sensibility].

This content at the same time passes for essential moral reality, for duty. For pure duty, as was found when testing and examining laws,(3) is utterly indifferent to every content, and gets along with any. Here it has at the same time the essential form of self-existence, of existing on its own account: and this form of individual conviction is nothing else than the sense of the emptiness Of pure duty, and the consciousness that this is merely a moment, that its substantiality is a predicate which finds its subject in the individual, whose caprice gives pure duty content, can connect every content with this form, and attach its feeling of conscientiousness to any content.

An individual increases his property in a certain way. It is a duty that each should see to the maintenance of himself and family, and no less ensure the possibility of his being serviceable to his neighbours and of doing good to those standing in need. The individual is aware that this is a duty, for this content is directly contained in the certainty he has of himself. He perceives, further, that he fulfils this particular duty in this particular case. Other people possibly consider the specific way he adopts as fraud: they hold by other sides of the concrete case presented, while he holds firmly to this particular side of it by the fact of his being conscious that the increase of property is a pure and absolute duty.

In the same way there is fulfilled by the individual, as a duty, what other people call violence and wrong-doing — the duty of asserting one’s independence against others: and, again, the duty of preserving one’s life, and the possibility of being useful to one’s neighbours. Others call this cowardice, but what they call courage really violates both these duties. But cowardice must not be so stupid and clumsy as not to know that the maintenance of life and the possibility of being useful to others are duties — so inept as not to be convinced of the dutifulness of its action, and not to know that dutifulness consists in knowledge. Otherwise it would commit the stupidity of being immoral. Since morality lies in the consciousness of having fulfilled one’s duty, this will not be lacking when the action is what is called cowardice any more than when it is what is called courage. As the abstraction called “duty” is capable of every content, it is quite equal to that of cowardice. The agent knows what he does to be duty, and since he knows this, and conviction as to duty is just dutifulness, he is thus recognized and acknowledged by others. The act thereby becomes accepted as valid and has actual existence.

It is of no avail to object to this freedom — which puts any and every kind of content into this universal inert receptacle of pure duty and pure knowledge — by asserting that another content ought to have been put there. For whatever the content be, each content has upon it the stain of determinateness from which pure knowledge is free, which pure knowledge can despise just as readily as it can take up every determinateness in turn. Every content, through its being determinate, stands on the same footing with every other, even though it seems to have precisely the character that the particularity in the content is cancelled. It may well seem — since in concrete cases duty breaks regularly into opposition, and, by doing so, sunders the opposites individuality and universality — that the duty, whose content is the universal as such, contains on that account, ipso facto, the nature of pure duty, and that thus form and content are here entirely in accord. On this view, it might seem that, e.g. acting for the universal good, for what is the best for all, is to be preferred to acting for what is the best for the individual. But this universal duty is precisely what is present as self-contained actual substance, in the form of [established] law and right, and holds good independently of the individual’s knowledge and conviction as well as of his immediate interest. It is thus precisely that against the form of which morality as a whole is directed. As regards its content, however, this too is determinate in character, in so far as the “universally best” is opposed to the “individual best”. Consequently, its law is one from which conscience knows itself to be absolutely free, and it gives itself the absolute privilege to add and pare, to neglect as well as fulfil it.

Then, again, the above distinction of duty towards the individual and duty towards the universal is not something fixed and final, when we look at the nature of the opposition in question. On the contrary, what the individual does for himself is to the advantage of the universal as well. The more he looks after his own good, not only is there the greater possibility of his usefulness to others: his very reality consists merely in his living and existing in connexion with others. His individual enjoyment means ultimately and essentially putting what is his own at the disposal of others, and helping them to secure their enjoyment. In fulfilling duty to individuals, and hence duty to self, duty to the general thus also gets fulfilled. Weighing, considering, comparing duties, should this appear here, would take the line of calculating the advantage which the general would get from any given action. But there can be no such process; partly because morality would thereby be handed over to the inevitable contingency characteristic of mere “insight”; partly because it is precisely the nature of conscience to have done with all this calculating and weighing of duties, and to decide directly from itself without any such reasons.

In this way, then, conscience acts and maintains itself in the unity of its essential being and its objective existence for itself, in the unity of pure thought and individuality: it is spirit certain of itself, which inherently possesses its own truth, within itself, in its knowledge, a knowledge in the sense of knowledge of its duty. It maintains its being therein by the fact that the positive element in the act, the content as well as form of duty and the knowledge of duty, belong to the self, to the certainty of itself. What, however, seeks to come before the self with an inherent being of its own is held to be not truly real, merely a transcended element, only a moment. Consequently, it is not universal knowledge in general that has a value, but what is known of the circumstances. It puts into duty, which is the universal immanent essence, the content which it derives from its natural individuality; for the content is one that is present in its own being. This content, in virtue of the universal medium wherein it exists, becomes the duty which it carries out, and empty pure duty is, through this very fact, affirmed to be something transcended, a moment. This content is its emptiness, transcended and cancelled, i.e. is the fulfilling of pure duty.

But at the same time conscience is detached from every possible content. It absolves itself from every specific duty, which would try to pass for a law. In the strength of its certainty of itself, it has the majesty of absolute self-sufficiency, of absolute a rpkla to bind or to loose. This self-determination is at once, therefore, absolute conformity to duty. Duty is the knowledge itself; this pure and simple selfhood, however, is the immanent principle and essence; for this inherent principle is pure self-identity, and self-identity lies in this consciousness.

This pure knowledge is immediately objective, is existence-for-another; for, qua pure self-identity, it is immediacy, it is objective being. This being, however, is at the same time pure universality, the selfhood of all: in other words, action is acknowledged, and hence actual. This being forms the element by which conscience directly stands on a footing of equality with every self-consciousness; and this relation means not an abstract impersonal law, but the self of conscience.

In that this right which conscience does is at the same time, however, a fact for others, a disparity seems to affect conscience. The duty which it fulfils is a determinate content; that content is, no doubt, the self of consciousness, and so its knowledge of itself, its identity with its self. But when fulfilled, when planted in the general element of existence, this identity is no longer knowledge, no longer this process of distinction which directly and at the same time does away with its distinctions. Rather, in the sphere of  existence, the distinction is set up as subsistent, and the act is a determinate specific one, not identical with the element of everybody’s self-consciousness, and hence not necessarily acknowledged and recognized. Both aspects, conscience qua acting, and the general consciousness acknowledging this act to be duty, stand equally loose from the specific character belonging to this deed. On account of this freedom and detachment, the relation of the two within the common medium of their connexion is rather a relationship of complete disparity — as a result of which, the consciousness, which is aware of the act, finds itself in complete uncertainty regarding the spirit which does the act and is “certain of itself”. This spirit acts and places in existence a determinate characteristic; others hold to this existence, as its truth, and are therein certain of this spirit; it has therein expressed what it takes to be its duty. But it is detached and free from any specific duty; it has, therefore, left the point where other people think it actually to be; and this very medium of existence and duty as inherently existing are held by it to be merely transitory moments. What it thus places before them, it also “displaces” again, or rather has, eo ipso, immediately “displaced”. For its reality is, for it, not the duty and determinate content thus put forward, but rather is the reality which it has in its absolute certainty of itself.

The other self-consciousnesses do not know, then, whether this particular conscience is morally good or is wicked; or, rather, not merely can they not know this conscience, but they must take it to be also wicked. For just as it stands loose to the determinate content of duty, and detached from duty as inherently existing, so do they likewise. What it places before them, they themselves know how to “displace” or dissemble: it is something expressing merely the self of another individual, not their own: they do not merely know themselves to be detached and free from it, but have to resolve and analyse it within their own consciousness, reduce it to nothingness by judgments and explanations in order to preserve their own self.

But the act of conscience is not merely this determination of existence, a determinate content forsaken by the pure self. What is to be binding and to be recognized as duty, only is so through knowledge and conviction as to its being duty, by knowledge of self in the deed done. When the deed ceases to have this self in it, it ceases to be what is alone its essential nature. Its existence, if deserted by this consciousness of self, would be an ordinary reality, and the act would appear to us a way of fulfilling one’s pleasure and desire. What ought to exist has here essentiality only by its being known to be individuality giving itself expression. And its being thus known is what is acknowledged and recognized by others, and is that which as such ought to have existence.

The self enters existence as self. The spirit which is certain of itself exists as such for others; its immediate act is not what is valid and real; what is acknowledged by others is, not the determinate element, not the inherent being, but solely and simply the self knowing itself as such. The element which gives permanence and stability is universal self-consciousness. What enters this element cannot be the effect of the act: the latter does not last there, and acquires no permanence: only self-consciousness is what is recognized and gains concrete reality.

Here again,(4) then, we see Language to be the form in which spirit finds existence. Language is self-consciousness existing for others; it is self-consciousness which as such is there immediately present, and which in its individuality is universal. Language is self separating itself from itself, which as the pure ego identical with ego becomes an object to itself, which at once maintains itself in this objective form as this actual self, and at the same time fuses directly with others and is their self-consciousness. The self perceives itself at the same time that it is perceived by others: and this perceiving is just existence which has become a self.

The content, which language has here obtained, is no longer the self we found in the world of culture, perverted, perverting, and distraught. It is spirit which, having returned to itself, is certain of itself, certain in itself of its truth, or of its own act of recognition, and which is recognized as this knowledge. The language of the ethical spirit of society is law, and simple command and complaint, which is but a tear shed over necessity. Moral consciousness, on the other hand, remains dumb, shut up within its inner life; for self has no existence as yet in its case: rather existence and self there stand as yet only in external relation to each other. Language, however, comes forward merely as the mediating element only between self-consciousnesses independent and recognized; and the existent self means immediately universal recognition, means manifold recognition and in this very manifoldness simple recognition. What the language of conscience contains is the self knowing itself as essential reality. This alone is what that language expresses, and this expression is the true realization of “doing”, of action, and is the validation of the act. Consciousness expresses its conviction: in this conviction alone is the action duty: it holds good as duty, too, solely by the conviction being expressed. For universal self-consciousness stands detached from the specific act which merely exists: the act qua existence means nothing to it: what it holds of importance is the conviction that the act is a duty; and this appears concretely in language.

To realize the act means here not translating its content from the form of purpose, or self-existence, into the form of abstract reality: it means translating it from the form of immediate certainty of self, which takes its knowledge, its self-existence, to be the essential fact, into the form of the assurance that consciousness is convinced of its duty, and, being conscience, knows of itself what duty is. This assurance thus guarantees that consciousness is convinced of its conviction being the essential fact.

Whether the assurance, that it acts from conviction of duty, is true, whether it really is duty which is done — these questions or doubts have no meaning as directed against conscience. In the case of the question, whether the assurance is true, it would be assumed that the inner attention is different from the one put forward, i.e. that the willing of the individual self can be separated from duty, from the will of the universal and pure consciousness: the latter will would in that case be a matter of words, while the former would be strictly the real moving principle of the act. But such a distinction between the universal consciousness and the individual self is precisely what has been cancelled, and the superseding of it constitutes conscience. Immediate knowledge on the part of self which is certain of itself is law and duty. Its intention, by being its own intention, is what is right. All that is required is that it should know this, and state its conviction that its knowledge and will are the right. The expression of this assurance ipso facto cancels the form of its particularity. It recognizes thereby the necessary universality of the self. In that it calls itself conscience, it calls itself pure self-knowledge and pure abstract will, i.e. it calls itself a universal knowledge and will which acknowledges and recognizes others, is like them — for they are just this pure self-knowledge and will — and which is on that account also recognized by them. In the willing of the self which is certain of itself, in this knowledge of the self as the essential reality, lies the essence of the right.

When any one says, therefore, he is acting from conscience, he is saying what is true, for his conscience is the self which knows and wills. But it is essential he should say so, for this self has to be at the same time universal self. It is not universal in the content of the act: for this content is per se indifferent on account of its being specific and determinate. The universality lies in the form of the act. It is this form which is to be affirmed as real: the form is the self, which as such is actual in language, pronounces itself to be the truth, and just by so doing acknowledges all other selves, and is recognized by them.

Conscience, then, in its majestic sublimity above any specific law and every content of duty, puts whatever content it pleases into its knowledge and willing. It is moral genius and originality, which knows the inner voice of its immediate knowledge to be a voice divine; and since in such knowledge it directly knows existence as well, it is divine creative power, which contains living force in its very conception. It is in itself, too, divine worship, “service of God”, for its action is the contemplation of this its own proper divinity.

This solitary worship, this “service of God” in solitude of soul, is at the same time essentially “service of God” on the art of a religious community; and pure inward self-knowledge and perception of self pass to being a moment of consciousness.(5) Contemplation of itself is its objective existence, and this objective element is the utterance of its knowledge and will as a universal. Through such expression the self becomes established and accepted, and the act becomes an effective deed, a deed carrying out a definite result. What gives reality and subsistence to its deed is universal self-consciousness. When, however, conscience finds expression, this puts the certainty of itself in the form of pure self and thereby as universal self. Others let the act hold as valid, owing to the explicit terms in which the self is thus expressed and acknowledged to be the essential reality. The spirit and the substance of their community are, thus, the mutual assurance of their conscientiousness, of their good intentions, the rejoicing over this reciprocal purity of purpose, the quickening and refreshment received from the glorious privilege of knowing and of expressing, of fostering and cherishing, a state so altogether admirable.

So far as this sphere of conscience still distinguishes its abstract consciousness from its self-consciousness, its life is merely hid in God. God is indeed immediately present to its mind and heart, to its self. But what is revealed, its actual consciousness and the mediating process of this consciousness, is, to it, something other than that hidden inner life and the immediacy of God’s presence. But, with the completion of conscience, the distinction between its abstract consciousness and its self-consciousness is done away. It knows that the abstract consciousness is just this self, this individual self-existence which is certain of itself: that the very difference between the terms is abolished in the immediateness of the relation of the self to the ultimate Being, which, when placed outside the self, is the abstract essence, and a Being concealed from it. For a relation is mediate when the terms related are not one and the same, but each is a different term for the other, and is one only with the other in some third term: an immediate relation, however, means, in fact, nothing else than the unity of the terms. Having risen above the meaningless position of holding these distinctions, which are not distinctions at all, to be still such, consciousness knows the immediateness of the presence of ultimate Being within it to be the unity of that Being and its self: it thus knows itself to be the living inherent reality, and knows its knowledge to be Religion, which, qua knowledge viewed as an object or knowledge with an objective existence, is the utterance of the religious communion regarding its own spirit.

We see then, here, self-consciousness withdrawn into the inmost retreats of its being, with all externality, as such, gone and vanished from it — returned into the intuition of ego as altogether identical with ego, an intuition where this ego is all that is essential, and all that exists. It is swamped in this conception of itself; for it has been driven to the extreme limit of its extreme positions, and in such a way that the moments distinguished, moments through which it is real or still consciousness, are not merely for us these bare extremes; rather what it is for itself, and what, to it, is inherent, and what is, for it, existence — all these moments have evaporated into abstractions. They have no longer stability, no substantial existence for this consciousness itself. Everything, that was hitherto for consciousness essential, has reverted into these abstractions. When clarified to this degree of transparency, consciousness exists in its poorest form, and the poverty, constituting its sole and only possession, is itself a process of disappearance. This absolute certainty into which the substance has been resolved is absolute untruth, which collapses within itself; it is absolute self-consciousness, in which consciousness [with its relation of self and object] is submerged and goes under.

Looking at this submergence and disappearance from within, the inherent and essential substance is, for consciousness,, knowledge in the sense of its knowledge. Being consciousness, it is split up into the opposition between itself and the object, which is, for it, the essentially real. But this very object is what is perfectly transparent, is its self; and its consciousness is merely knowledge of itself. All life and all spiritual truth have returned into this self, and have lost their difference from the ego. The moments of consciousness are therefore these extreme abstractions, of which none holds its ground, but each loses itself in the other and produces it. We have here the process of the “unhappy soul”,(6) in restless change with self; in the present case, however, this is a conscious experience going on inside itself, fully conscious of being the notion of reason, while the “unhappy soul” above spoken of was only reason implicitly. The absolute certainty of self thus finds itself, qua consciousness, converted directly into a dying sound, a mere objectification of its subjectivity or self-existence. But this world so created is the utterance of its own voice, which in like manner it has directly heard, and only the echo of which returns to it. This return does not therefore mean that the self is there in its true reality (an und für sich): for the real is, for it, not an inherent being, is no per se, but its very self. Just as little has consciousness itself existence, for the objective aspect does not succeed in becoming something negative of the actual self, in the same way as this self does not reach complete actuality. It lacks force to externalize itself, the power to make itself a thing, and endure existence. It lives in dread of staining the radiance of its inner being by action and existence. And to preserve the purity of its heart, it flees from contact with actuality, and steadfastly perseveres in a state of self-willed impotence to renounce a self which is pared away to the last point of abstraction, and to give itself substantial existence, or, in other words, to transform its thought into being, and commit itself to absolute distinction [that between thought and being]. The hollow object, which it produces, now fills it, therefore, with the feeling of emptiness. Its activity consists in yearning, which merely loses itself in becoming an unsubstantial shadowy object, and, rising above this loss and falling back on itself, finds itself merely as lost. In this transparent purity of its moments it becomes a sorrow-laden “beautiful soul”, as it is called; its light dims and dies within it, and it vanishes as a shapeless vapour dissolving into thin air.(7)

This silent fusion of the pithless unsubstantial elements of evaporated life has, however, still to be taken in the other sense of the reality of conscience, and in the way its process actually appears. Conscience has to be considered as acting. The objective moment in this phase of consciousness took above the determinate form of universal consciousness. The knowing of self is, qua this particular self, different from the other self. Language in which all reciprocally recognize and acknowledge each other as acting conscientiously — this general equality breaks up into the inequality of each individual existing for himself; each consciousness is just as much reflected out of its universality absolutely into itself as it is universal. By this means there necessarily comes about the opposition of individuality to other individuals and to the universal. And this relation and its process we have to consider.

Or, again, this universality and duty have the absolutely opposite significance; they signify determinate individuality, exempting itself from what is universal, individuality which looks on pure duty as universality that has appeared merely on the surface and is turned outwards: “duty is merely a matter of words”, and passes for that whose being is for something else. Conscience, which in the first instance takes up merely a negative attitude towards duty, qua a given determinate duty, knows itself detached from it. But since conscience fills empty duty with a determinate content drawn from its own self, it is positively aware of the fact that it, qua this particular self, makes its own content. Its pure self, as it is empty knowledge, is without content and without definiteness. The content which it supplies to that knowledge is drawn from its own self, qua this determinate self, is drawn from itself as a natural individuality. In affirming the conscientiousness of its action, it is doubtless aware of its pure self, but in the purpose of its action — a purpose which brings in a concrete content — it is conscious of itself as this particular individual, and is conscious of the opposition between what it is for itself and what it is for others, of the opposition of universality or duty and its state of being reflected into self away from the universal.

While in this way the opposition, into which conscience passes when it acts, finds expression in its inner life, the opposition is at the same time disparity on its outer side, in the sphere of existence — the lack of correspondence of its particular individuality with reference to another individual. Its special peculiarity consists in the fact that the two elements constituting its consciousness — viz. the self and the inherent nature (Ansich)— are unequal in value and significance within it; an inequality in which they are so determined that certainty of self is the essential fact as against the inherent nature, or the universal, which is taken to be merely a moment. Over against this internal determination there thus stands the element of existence, the universal consciousness; for this latter it is rather universality, duty, that is the essential fact, while individuality, which exists for itself and is opposed to the universal, has merely the value of a superseded moment. The first consciousness is held to be Evil by the consciousness which thus stands by the fact of duty, because of the lack of correspondence of its internal subjective life with the universal; and since at the same time the first consciousness declares its act to be congruency with itself, to be duty and conscientiousness it is held by that universal consciousness to be Hypocrisy.

The course taken by this opposition is, in the first instance, the formal establishment of correspondence between what the evil consciousness is in its own nature and what it expressly says. It has to be made manifest that it is evil, and its objective existence thus made congruent with its real nature; the hypocrisy must be unmasked. This return of the discordance, present in hypocrisy, into the state of correspondence is not at once brought to pass by the mere fact that, as people usually say, hypocrisy just proves its reverence for duty and virtue through assuming the appearance of them, and using this as a mask to hide itself from its own consciousness no less than from another — as if, in this acknowledgment and recognition in itself of its opposite, eo ipso congruency and agreement were implied and contained. Yet even then it is just as truly done with this recognition in words and is reflected into self; and in the very fact of its using the inherent and essential reality merely as something which has a significance for another consciousness, there is really implied its own contempt for that inherent principle, and the demonstration of the worthlessness of that reality for all. For what lets itself be used as an external instrument shows itself to be a thing, which has within it no proper weight and worth of its own.

Moreover, this correspondence is not brought about either by the evil consciousness persisting onesidedly in its own state, or by the judgment of the universal consciousness. If the former denies itself as against the consciousness of duty, and maintains that what the latter pronounces to be baseness, to be absolute discordance with universality, is an action according to inner law and conscience, then, in this onesided assurance of identity and concord, there still remains its discordance with the other, since this other universal consciousness certainly does not believe the assurance and does not acknowledge it. In other words, since onesided insistence on one extreme destroys itself, evil would indeed thereby confess to being evil, but in so doing would at once cancel itself and cease to be hypocrisy, and so would not qua hypocrisy be unmasked. It confesses itself, in fact, to be evil by asserting that, while opposing what is recognized as universal, it acts according to its own inner law and conscience. For were this law and conscience not the law of its individuality and caprice, it would not be something inward, something private, but what is universally accepted and acknowledged. When, therefore, any one says he acts towards others from a law and conscience of his own, he is saying, in point of fact, that he is abusing and wronging them. But actual conscience is not this insistence on a knowledge and a will which are opposed to what is universal; the universal is the element of its existence, and its very language pronounces its action to be recognized duty.

Just as little, when the universal consciousness persists in its own judgment, does this unmask and dissipate hypocrisy. When that universal consciousness stigmatizes hypocrisy as bad, base, and so on, it appeals, in passing such a judgment, to its own law, just as the evil consciousness appeals to its law. For the former law makes its appearance in opposition to the latter, and thereby as a particular law. It has, therefore, no antecedent claim over the other law; rather it legitimizes this other law. Hence the universal consciousness, by its zeal in abusing hypocrisy, does precisely the opposite of what it means to do: for it shows that its so-called “true duty”, which ought to be universally acknowledged, is something not acknowledged and recognized, and consequently it grants other an equal right of independently existing on its own account.

This judgment [of universal consciousness], however, has, at the same time, another side to it, from which it leads the way to the dissolution of the opposition in question. Consciousness of the universal does not proceed, qua real and qua acting, to deal with the evil consciousness; for this latter, rather, is the real. In opposing the latter, it is a consciousness which is not entangled in the opposition of individual and universal involved in action. It stays within the universality of thought, takes up the attitude of an apprehending intelligence, and its first act is merely that of judgment. Through this judgment it now places itself, as was just observed, alongside the first consciousness, and the latter through this likeness between them, comes to see itself in this other consciousness. For the consciousness of duty maintains the passive attitude of apprehension. Thereby it is in contradiction with itself as the absolute will of duty, as the self that determines absolutely from itself. It may well preserve itself in its purity, for it does not act; it is hypocrisy, which wants to see the fact of judging taken for the actual deed, and instead of proving its uprightness and honesty by acts does so by expressing fine sentiments. It is thus constituted entirely in the same way as that against which. the reproach is made of putting its phrases in place of duty. In both alike the aspect of reality is distinct from the express statements — in the one owing to the selfish purpose of the action, in the other through failure to act at all, although the necessity of acting is involved in the very speaking of duty, for duty without deeds is altogether meaningless.

The act of judging, however, has also to be looked at as a positive act of thought and has a positive content: this aspect makes the contradiction present in the apprehending consciousness, and its identity with the first consciousness, still more complete. The active consciousness declares its specific deed to be its duty, and the consciousness that passes judgment cannot deny this; for duty as such is form void of all content and capable of any. In other words, concrete action, inherently implying diversity in its manysidedness, involves the universal aspect, which is that which is taken as duty, just as much as the particular, which constitutes the share and interest the individual has in the act. Now the judging consciousness does not stop at the former aspect of duty and rest content with the knowledge which the active agent has of this, viz. that this is his duty, the condition and the status of his reality. It holds on to the other aspect, diverts the act into the inner realm, and explains the act from selfish motives and from its inner intention, an intention different from the act itself. As every act is capable of treatment in respect of its dutifulness, so, too, each can be considered from this other point of view of particularity; for as an act it is the reality of an individual.

This process of judging, then, takes the act out of the sphere of its objective existence, and turns it back into the inner subjective sphere, into the form of private or individual particularity. If the act carries glory with it, then the inner sphere is judged as love of fame. If it is altogether conformity with the position of the individual, without going beyond this position, and is so constituted that the individuality in question does not have the position attached to it as an external feature, but through itself supplies concrete filling to this universality, and by that very process shows itself to be capable of a higher station-then the inner nature of the act is judged as ambition; and so on. Since, in the act in general, the individual who acts comes to see himself in objective form, or gets the feeling of his own being in his objective existence and thus attains enjoyment, the judgment on the act finds the inner nature of it to be an impulse towards personal happiness, even though this happiness were to consist merely in inner moral vanity, the enjoyment of a sense of personal excellence, and in the foretaste and hope of a happiness to come.

No act can escape being judged in such a way; for “duty for duty’s sake”, this pure purpose, is something unreal. What reality it has lies in the deed of some individuality, and the action thereby has in it the aspect of particularity. No hero is a hero to his valet, not, however, because the hero is not a hero, but because the valet is — the valet, with whom the hero has to do, not as a hero, but as a man who eats, drinks, and dresses, who, in short, appears as a private individual with certain personal wants and ideas of his own. In the same way, there is no act in which that process of judgment cannot oppose the personal aspect of the individuality to the universal aspect of the act, and play the part of the “moral” valet towards the agent.(8)

The consciousness, that so passes judgment, is in consequence itself base and mean, because it divides the act up, and produces and holds to the act’s self-discordance. It is, furthermore, hypocrisy, because it gives out this way of judging, not as another fashion of being wicked, but as the correct consciousness of the act; sets itself up, in its unreality, in this vanity of knowing well and better, far above the deeds it decries; and wants to find its mere words without deeds taken for an admirable kind of reality.

On this account, then, putting itself on a level with the agent on whom it passes judgment, it is recognized by the latter as the same as himself. This latter does not merely find himself apprehended as something alien to, and discordant with, that other: but rather finds the other in its peculiar constitutive character identical with himself. Seeing this identity and giving this expression, he openly confesses himself to the other, and expects in like manner that the other, having in point of fact put itself on the same level, will respond in the same language, will therein give voice to this identity, and that thus the state of mutual recognition will be brought about. His confession is not an attitude of abasement or humiliation before the other, is not throwing himself away. For to give the matter expression in this way has not the one-sided character which would fix and establish his disparity with the other: on the contrary, it is solely because of seeing the identity of the other with him that he gives himself utterance. In making his confession he announces, from his side, their common identity, and does so for the reason that language is the existence of spirit as an immediate self. He thus expects that the other will make its own contribution to this manner of existence.

But the admission on the part of the one who is wicked, “I am so”, is not followed by a reply making a similar confession. This was not what that way of judging meant at all: far from it! It repels this community of nature, and is the “hardheartedness”, which keeps to itself and rejects all continuity with the other. By so doing the scene is changed. The one who made the confession sees himself thrust off, and takes the other to be in the wrong when he refuses to let his own inner nature go forth in the objective shape of an express utterance, when he contrasts the beauty of his own soul with the wicked individual, and opposes to the confession of the penitent the stiffnecked attitude of the self-consistent equable character, and the rigid silence of one who keeps himself to himself and refuses to throw himself away for some one else. Here we find asserted the highest pitch of revolt to which a spirit certain of itself can reach. For it beholds itself, qua this simple self-knowledge, in another conscious being, and in such a way that even the external form of this other is not an unessential “thing”, as in the case of an object of wealth, but thought; knowledge itself is what is held opposed to it. It is this absolutely fluid continuity of pure knowledge which refuses to establish communication with an other, which had, ipso facto, by making its confession, renounced separate isolated self-existence, had affirmed its particularity to be cancelled, and thereby established itself as continuous with the other, i.e. established itself as universal. The other however, in its own case reserves for itself its uncommunicative, isolated independence: in the case of the individual confessing, it reserves for him the very same independence, though the latter has already cast that away. It thereby proves itself to be a form of consciousness which is forsaken by and denies the very nature of spirit; for it does not understand that spirit, in the absolute certainty of itself, is master and lord over every deed, and over all reality, and can reject and cast them off and make them as if they had never been. At the same time, it does not see the contradiction it is committing in not allowing a rejection, which has been made in express language, to pass for genuine rejection, while itself has the certainty of its own spiritual life, not in a concrete real act, but in its inner nature, and finds the objective existence of this inner being in the language of its own judgment. It is thus its own self which checks that other’s return from the act to the spiritual objectivity of language, and to spiritual identity, and by its harshness produces the discordance which still remains.

Now, so far as the spirit which is certain of itself, in the form of a “beautiful soul”, does not possess the strength to relinquish the self-absorbed uncommunicative knowledge of itself, it cannot attain to any identity with the consciousness that is repulsed, and so cannot succeed in seeing the unity of its self in another life, cannot reach objective existence. The identity comes about, therefore, merely in a negative way, as a state of being devoid of spiritual character. The “beautiful soul”, then, has no concrete reality; it subsists in the contradiction between its pure self and the necessity felt by this self to externalize itself and turn into something actual; it exists in the immediacy of this rooted and fixed opposition, an immediacy which alone is the middle term reconciling an opposition which has been intensified to its pure abstraction, and is pure being or empty nothingness. Thus the “beautiful soul”, being conscious of this contradiction in its unreconciled immediacy, is unhinged, disordered, and runs to madness, wastes itself in yearning, and pines away in consumption.(9) Thereby it gives up, as a fact, its stubborn insistence on its own isolated self-existence, but only to bring forth the soulless, spiritless unity of abstract being.

The true, that is to say the self-conscious and actual adjustment of the two sides is necessitated by, and already contained in the foregoing. Breaking the hard heart and raising it to the level of universality is the same process which was expressed in the case of the consciousness that openly made its confession. The wounds of the spirit heal and leave no scars behind. The deed is not the imperishable element; spirit takes it back into itself; and the aspect of individuality present in it, whether in the form of an intention or of an existential negativity and limitation, is that which immediately passes away. The self which realizes, i.e. the form of the spirit’s act, is merely a moment of the whole; and the same is true of the knowledge functioning through judgment, and establishing and maintaining the distinction between the individual and universal aspects of action. The evil consciousness, above spoken of, affirms this externalization of itself or asserts itself as a moment, being drawn into the way of express confession by seeing itself in another. This other, however, must have its onesided, unaccepted and unacknowledged judgment broken down, just as the former has to abandon its onesided unacknowledged existence in a state of particularity and isolation. And as the former displays the power of spirit over its reality, so this other must manifest the power of spirit over its constitutive, determinate notion.

The latter, however, renounces the thought that divides and separates, and the harshness of the self-existence which holds to such thought, for the reason that, in point of fact, it sees itself in the first. That which, in this way, abandons its reality and makes itself into a superseded particular “this” (Diesen), displays itself thereby as, in fact, universal. It turns away from its external reality back into itself as inner essence; and there the universal consciousness thus knows and finds itself.

The forgiveness it extends to the first is the renunciation of self, of its unreal essence, since it identifies with this essence that other which was real action, and recognizes what was called bad — a determination assigned to action by thought — to be good; or rather it lets go and gives up this distinction of determinate thought with its self-existent determining judgment, just as the other forgoes determining the act in isolation and for its own private behoof. The word of reconciliation is the objectively existent spirit, which immediately apprehends the pure knowledge of itself qua universal essence in its opposite, in the pure knowledge of itself qua absolutely self-confined single individual — a reciprocal recognition which is Absolute Spirit.

Absolute Spirit enters existence merely at the culminating point at which its pure knowledge about itself is the opposition and interchange with itself. Knowing that its pure knowledge is the abstract essential reality, Absolute Spirit is this knowing duty in absolute opposition to the knowledge which knows itself, qua absolute singleness of self, to be the essentially real. The former is the pure continuity of the universal, which knows the individuality, that knows itself the real, to be inherently naught, to be evil. The latter, again, is absolute discreteness, which knows itself absolute in its pure oneness, and knows the universal is the unreal which exists only for others. Both aspects are refined and clarified to this degree of purity, where there is no self-less existence left, no negative of consciousness in either of them, where, instead, the one element of “duty” is the self-identical character of its self-knowledge, and the other element of “evil” equally has its purpose in its own inner being and its reality in its own mode of utterance. The content of this utterance is the substance that gives this spirit subsistence; the utterance is the assurance of the certainty of spirit within its own self.

These spirits, both certain of themselves, have each no other purpose than its own pure self, and no other reality and existence than just this pure self. But they are still different, and the difference is absolute, because holding within this element of the pure notion. The difference is absolute, too, not merely for us [tracing the experience], but for the notions themselves which stand in this opposition. For while these notions are indeed determinate and specific relatively to one another, they are at the same time in themselves universal, so that they fill out the whole range of the self; and this self has no other content than this its own determinate constitution, which neither transcends the self nor is more restricted than it. For the one factor, the absolutely universal, is pure self-knowledge as well as the other, the absolute discreteness of single individuality, and both are merely this pure self-knowledge. Both determinate factors, then, are cognizing pure notions which know qua notions, whose very determinateness is immediately knowing, or, in other words, whose relationship and opposition is the Ego. Because of this they are for one another these absolute opposites; it is what is completely inner that has in this way come into opposition to itself and entered objective existence; they constitute pure knowledge, which, owing to this opposition, takes the form of consciousness. But as yet it is not self-consciousness. It obtains this actualization in the course of the process through which this opposition passes. For this opposition is really itself the indiscrete continuity and identity of ego=ego; and each by itself inherently cancels itself just through the contradiction in its pure universality, which, while implying continuity and identity, at the same time still resists its identity with the other, and separates itself from it. Through this relinquishment of separate selfhood, the knowledge, which in its existence is in a state of diremption, returns into the unity of the self; it is the concrete actual Ego, universal knowledge of self in its absolute opposite, in the knowledge which is internal to and within the self, and which, because of the very purity of its separate subjective existence, is itself completely universal. The reconciling affirmation, the “yes”, with which both egos desist from their existence in opposition, is the existence of the ego expanded into a duality, an ego which remains therein one and identical with itself, and possesses the certainty of itself in its complete relinquishment and its opposite: it is God appearing in the midst of those who know themselves in the form of pure knowledge.

1. Viz. Morality, the first being the Ethical Order of Society, the second the sphere of Culture.

2. v. p. 433 ff.

3. v. p. 446 ff.

4. v. p. 529 ff.

5. i.e. into a state which implies distinction and opposition of subject and object.

6. v. p. 251 ff.

7. Cf. Hegel’s remarks on Jacobi’s conception of the “beautiful soul”: W.W., X., 1, p. 303.

8. Cp. with above Philosophy of History, Intro. (Eng. Trans., p. 32 ff.)

9. This was the actual fate of Novalis, the “St. John of Romanticism” (d. 1801, æ 29). Cp. Hegel’s remarks on Novalis W.W., X., 1, p. 201; XVI., p. 500.

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