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


iv

The Truth which Conscious Certainty of Self Realizes

Translator’s comments: The analysis of experience up to this point has been occupied with the relation of consciousness to an object admittedly different in nature from the mind aware of it. This external opposition, however, breaks down under analysis, and we are left with the result that consciousness does and must find itself in unity with its object, a unity which implies identity of nature between consciousness and its object: consciousness becomes “certain of itself in its object”. This is not merely a result, but the truest expression of the initial relation with which experience starts. It is, therefore, the ground of the possibility of any relation between the terms in question: “consciousness of self” is the basis of the consciousness of anything whatsoever. This is Hegel’s re-interpretation of the Kantian analysis of experience.

But this result is, again, really the starting-point for a further analysis of experience, but of experience at a higher level of realization. Consciousness of self is to begin with a general attitude, a definite type of experience, which requires elucidation. It has its own conditions and forms of manifestation. Self-consciousness, being supreme, must realize itself in relation to nature, to other selves similar to the self, and to the Ultimate Being of the world. These are different kinds of content with which consciousness is to find its oneness, and they furnish different forms in which the same principle is manifested. The argument seeks to show that these forms are also different degrees of realization of self-consciousness. The outcome of the argument is that self-consciousness is truly realized only when it is universal self-consciousness, when consciousness is certain of itself throughout all reality, and explicitly finds there only itself. This result takes the form, as we shall see, of what is called Reason.

The immediately succeeding section takes up the first stage of the development of self-consciousness — the consciousness of self in relation to nature. This takes the shape of Desire, Instinct, Impulse, etc., and involves the category of Life. This relationship, while undoubtedly implying the sense of self in the object and consciousness of unity with it, is the least satisfying and the least complete of all the modes of self-consciousness. It points the way, therefore, to the fuller sense of self obtained when the self is aware of itself in relation to another self.

The Truth which Conscious Certainty Of Self Realizes

IN the kinds of certainty hitherto considered, the truth for consciousness is something other than consciousness itself. The conception, however, of this truth vanishes in the course of our experience of it. What the object immediately was in itself— whether mere being in sense-certainty, a concrete thing in perception, or force in the case of understanding — it turns out, in truth, not to be this really; but instead, this inherent nature (Ansich) proves to be a way in which it is for an other. The abstract conception of the object gives way before the actual concrete object, or the first immediate idea is cancelled in the course of experience. Mere certainty vanished in favour of the truth. There has now arisen, however, what was not established in the case of these previous relationships, viz. a certainty which is on a par with its truth, for the certainty is to itself its own object, and consciousness is to itself the truth. Otherness, no doubt, is also found there; consciousness, that is, makes a distinction; but what is distinguished is of such a kind that consciousness, at the same time, holds there is no distinction made. If we call the movement of knowledge conception, and knowledge, qua simple unity or Ego, the object, we see that not only for us [tracing the process], but likewise for knowledge itself, the object corresponds to the conception; or, if we put it in the other form and call conception what the object is in itself, while applying the term object to what the object is qua object or for an other, it is clear that being “in-itself” and being “for an other” are here the same. For the inherent being (Ansich) is consciousness; yet it is still just as much that for which an other (viz. what is “in-itself”) is. And it is for consciousness that the inherent nature (Ansich) of the object, and its “being for an other” are one and the same. Ego is the content of the relation, and itself the process of relating. It is Ego itself which is opposed to an other and, at the same time, reaches out beyond this other, which other is all the same taken to be only itself.

With self-consciousness, then, we have now passed into the native land of truth, into that kingdom where it is at home. We have to see how the form or attitude of self-consciousness in the first instance appears. When we consider this new form and type of knowledge, the knowledge of self, in its relation to that which preceded, namely, the knowledge of an other, we find, indeed, that this latter has vanished, but that its moments have, at the same time, been preserved; and the loss consists in this, that those moments are here present as they are implicitly, as they are in themselves. The being which “meaning” dealt with, particularity and the universality of perception opposed to it, as also the empty, inner region of understanding-these are no longer present as substantial elements (Wesen), but as moments of self-consciousness, i.e. as abstractions or differences, which are, at the same time, of no account for consciousness itself, or are not differences at all, and are purely vanishing entities (Wesen).

What seems to have been lost, then, is only the principal moment, viz. the simple fact of having independent subsistence for consciousness. But, in reality, self-consciousness is reflexion out of the bare being that belongs to the world of sense and perception, and is essentially the return out of otherness. As self-consciousness, it is movement. But when it distinguishes only its self as such from itself, distinction is straightway taken to be superseded in the sense of involving otherness. The distinction is not, and self-consciousness is only motionless tautology, Ego is Ego, I am I. When for self-consciousness the distinction does not also have the shape of being, it is not self-consciousness. For self-consciousness, then, otherness is a fact, it does exist as a distinct moment; but the unity of itself with this difference is also a fact for self-consciousness, and is a second distinct moment. With that first moment, self-consciousness occupies the position of consciousness, and the whole expanse of the world of sense is conserved as its object, but at the same time only as related to the second moment, the unity of self-consciousness with itself. And, consequently, the sensible world is regarded by self-consciousness as having a subsistence which is, however, only appearance, or forms a distinction from self-consciousness that per se has no being. This opposition of its appearance and its truth finds its real essence, however, only in the truth — in the unity of self-consciousness with itself. This unity must become essential to self-consciousness, i.e. self-consciousness is the state of Desire in general. Consciousness has, qua self-consciousness, henceforth a twofold object — the one immediate, the object of sense-certainty and of perception, which, however, is here found to be marked by the character of negation; the second, viz. itself, which is the true essence, and is found in the first instance only in the opposition of the first object to it. Self-consciousness presents itself here as the process in which this opposition is removed, and oneness or identity with itself established.

For us or implicitly, the object, which is the negative element for self-consciousness, has on its side returned into itself, just as on the other side-consciousness has done. Through this reflexion into self, the object has become Life. What self-consciousness distinguishes as having a being distinct from itself, has in it too, so far as it is affirmed to be, not merely the aspect of sense-certainty and perception; it is a being reflected into itself, and the object of immediate desire is something living. For the inherent reality (Ansich), the general result of the relation of the understanding to the inner nature of things, is the distinguishing of what cannot be distinguished, or is the unity of what is distinguished. This unity, however, is, as we saw, just as much its recoil from itself; and this conception breaks asunder into the opposition of self-consciousness and life: the former is the unity for which the absolute unity of differences exists, the latter, however, is only this unity itself, so that the unity is not at the same time for itself. Thus, according to the independence possessed by consciousness, is the independence which its object in itself possesses. Self-consciousness, which is absolutely for itself, and characterizes its object directly as negative, or is primarily desire, will really, therefore, find through experience this object’s independence.

The determination of the principle of life(2) as obtained from the conception or general result with which we enter this new sphere, is sufficient to characterize it, without its nature being evolved further out of that notion. Its circuit is completed in the following moments. The essential element (Wesen) is infinitude as the supersession of all distinctions, the pure rotation on its own axis, itself at rest while being absolutely restless infinitude, the very self-dependence in which the differences brought out in the process are all dissolved, the simple reality of time, which in this self-identity has the solid form and shape of space. The differences, however, all the same hold as differences in this simple universal medium; for this universal flux exercises its negative activity merely in that it is the sublation of them; but it could not transcend them unless they had a subsistence of their own. Precisely this flux is itself, as self-identical independence, their subsistence or their substance, in which they accordingly are distinct members, parts which have being in their own right. Being no longer has the significance of mere abstract being, nor has their naked essence the meaning of abstract universality: their being now is just that simple fluent substance of the pure movement within itself. The difference, however, of these members inter se consists, in general, in no other characteristic than that of the moments of infinitude, or of the mere movement itself.

The independent members exist for themselves. To be thus for themselves, however, is really as much their reflexion directly into the unity, as this unity is the breaking asunder into independent forms. The unity is sundered because it is absolutely negative or infinite unity; and because it is subsistence, difference likewise has independence only in it. This independence of the form appears as a determinate entity, as what is for another, for the form is something disunited; and the cancelling of diremption takes effect to that extent through another. But this sublation lies just as much in the actual form itself. For just that flux is the substance of the independent forms. This substance, however, is infinite, and hence the form itself in its very subsistence involves diremption, or sublation of its existence for itself.

If we distinguish more exactly the moments contained here, we see that we have as first moment the subsistence of the independent forms, or the suppression of what distinction inherently involves, viz. that the forms have no being per se, and no subsistence. The second moment, however, is the subjection of that subsistence to the infinitude of distinction. In the first moment there is the subsisting, persisting mode or form; by its being in its own right, or by its being in its determinate shape an infinite substance, it comes forward in opposition to the universal substance, disowns this fluent continuity with that substance, and insists that it is not dissolved in this universal element, but rather on the contrary preserves itself by and through its separation from this its inorganic nature, and by the fact that it consumes this inorganic nature. Life in the universal fluid medium, quietly, silently shaping and moulding and distributing the forms in all their manifold detail, becomes by that very activity the movement of those forms, or passes into life qua Process. The mere universal flux is here the inherent being; the outer being, the “other”, is the distinction of the forms assumed. But this flux, this fluent condition, becomes itself the other in virtue of this very distinction; because now it exists “for” or m relation to that distinction, which is self-conditioned and self-contained (an und für sich), and consequently is the endless, infinite movement by which that stable medium is consumed — is life as living.

This inversion of character, however, is on that account again invertedness in itself as such. What is consumed is the essential reality: the Individuality, which preserves itself at the expense of the universal and gives itself the feeling of its unity with itself, precisely thereby cancels its contrast with the other, by means of which it exists for itself. The unity with self, which it gives itself, is just the fluent continuity of differences, or universal dissolution. But, conversely, the cancelling of individual subsistence at the same time produces the subsistence. For since the essence of the individual form-universal life-and the self-existent entity per se are simple substance, the essence, by putting the other within itself, cancels this its own simplicity or its essence, i.e. it sunders that simplicity; and this disruption of fluent undifferentiated continuity is just the setting up, the affirmation, of individuality. The simple substance of life, therefore, is the diremption of itself into shapes and forms, and at the same time the dissolution of these substantial differences; and the resolution of this diremption is just as much a process of diremption, of articulating. Thus both the sides of the entire movement which were before distinguished, viz., the setting up of individual forms lying apart and undisturbed in the universal medium of independent existence, and the process of life — collapse into one another. The latter is just as much a formation of independent individual shapes, as it is a way of cancelling a shape assumed; and the former, the setting up of individual forms, is as much a cancelling as an articulation of them. The fluent, continuous element is itself only the abstraction of the essential reality, or it is actual only as a definite shape or form; and that it articulates itself is once more a breaking up of the articulated form, or a dissolution of it. The entire circuit of this activity constitutes Life. It is neither what is expressed to begin with, the immediate continuity and concrete solidity of its essential nature; nor the stable, subsisting form, the discrete individual which exists on its own account; nor the bare process of this form; nor again is it the simple combination of all these moments. It is none of these; it is the whole which develops itself, resolves its own development, and in this movement simply preserves itself.

Since we started from the first immediate unity, and returned through the moments of form-determination, and of process, to the unity of both these moments, and thus again back to the first simple substance, we see that this reflected unity is other than the first. As opposed to that immediate unity, the unity expressed as a mode of being, this second is the universal unity, which holds all these moments sublated within itself. It is the simple genus, which in the movement of life itself does not exist in this simplicity for itself; but in this result points life towards what is other than itself, namely, towards Consciousness for which life exists as this unity or as genus.

This other life, however, for which the genus as such exists and which is genus for itself, namely, self-con-sciousness, exists in the first instance only in the form of this simple, essential reality, and has for object itself qua pure Ego. In the course of its experience, which we are now to consider, this abstract object will grow in richness, and will be unfolded in the way we have seen in the case of life.

The simple ego is this genus, or the bare universal, for which the differences are insubstantial, only by its being the negative essence of the moments which have assumed a definite and independent form. And self-consciousness is thus only assured of itself through sublating this other, which is presented to self-consciousness as an independent life; self-consciousness is Desire. Convinced of the nothingness of this other, it definitely affirms this nothingness to be for itself the truth of this other, negates the independent object, and thereby acquires the certainty of its own self, as true certainty, a certainty which it has become aware of in objective form.

In this state of satisfaction, however, it has experience of the independence of its object. Desire and the certainty of its self obtained in the gratification of desire, are conditioned by the object; for the certainty exists through cancelling this other; in order that this cancelling may be effected, there must be this other. Self-consciousness is thus unable by its negative relation to the object to abolish it; because of that relation it rather produces it again, as well as the desire. The object desired is, in fact, something other than self-consciousness, the essence of desire; and through this experience this truth has become realized. At the same time, however, self-consciousness is likewise absolutely for itself, exists on its own account; and it is so only by sublation of the object; and it must come to feel its satisfaction, for it is the truth. On account of the independence of the object, therefore, it can only attain satisfaction when this object itself effectually brings about negation within itself The object must per se effect this negation of itself, for it is inherently (an sich) something negative, and must be for the other what it is. Since the object is in its very self negation, and in being so is at the same time independent, it is Consciousness. In the case of life, which is the object of desire, the negation either lies in an other, namely, in desire, or takes the form of determinateness standing in opposition to an other external individuum indifferent to it, or appears as its inorganic general nature. The above general independent nature, however, in the case of which negation takes the form of absolute negation, is the genus as such or as self-consciousness. Self-consciousness attains its satisfaction only in another self-consciousness.

It is in these three moments that the notion of self-consciousness first gets completed: (a) pure undifferentiated ego is its first immediate object. (b) This immediacy is itself, however, thoroughgoing mediation; it has its being only by cancelling the independent object, in other words it is Desire. The satisfaction of desire is indeed the reflexion of self-consciousness into itself, is the certainty which has passed into objective truth. But (c) the truth of this certainty is really twofold reflexion, the reduplication of self-consciousness. Consciousness has an object which implicates its own otherness or affirms distinction as a void distinction, and therein is independent. The individual form distinguished, which is only a living form, certainly cancels its independence also in the process of life itself; but it ceases along with its distinctive difference to be what it is. The object of self-consciousness, however, is still independent in this negativity of itself; and thus it is for itself genus, universal flux or continuity in the very distinctiveness of its own separate existence; it is a living self-consciousness. 

A self-consciousness has before it a self-consciousness. Only so and only then is it self-consciousness in actual fact; for here first of all it comes to have the unity of itself in its otherness. Ego which is the object of its notion, is in point of fact not ”object“. The object of desire, however, is only independent, for it is the universal, ineradicable substance, the fluent self-identical essential reality. When a self-consciousness is the object, the object is just as much ego as object.

With this we already have before us the notion of Mind or Spirit. What consciousness has further to become aware of, is the experience of what mind is — this absolute substance, which is the unity of the different self-related and self-existent self-consciousnesses in the perfect freedom and independence of their opposition as component elements of that substance: Ego that is “we”, a plurality of Egos, and “we” that is a single Ego. Consciousness first finds in self-consciousness — the notion of mind — its turning-point, where it leaves the parti-coloured show of the sensuous immediate, passes from the dark void of the transcendent and remote super-sensuous, and steps into the spiritual daylight of the present.

2. Cp. Hegel’s Logik, T. II. Absch. 3. Kap. I.-“das Leben.”

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