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

C

[Free Concrete Mind](1)

(Aa)

Reason


Aa

Reason(2)

Translator’s comments: Reason is the first stage in the analysis of concrete self-conscious of itself in its object and conscious of the object as universal. Reason is not a mere “function” of mind, but a stage of mind. It therefore possesses its own peculiar content and operates in a process peculiar to itself. Its aim is to become completely conscious of its own nature; and to acquire this it must develop itself through its various phases. The process of development is from immediate to mediate, from what it is implicitly to what it is explicitly. The first step therefore is reason as immediate-where universal self is simply and directly aware of itself in the universal object. The operation of concrete mind at this stage is found where reason “observes”. The analysis of observation as this operates in the various domain covered by the empirical sciences is thus the subject-matter of the following section. The processes of these various sciences are assumed in Hegel’s analysis. Observation must change in character with the objects observed; hence the difference between observation of inorganic and organic nature, observation of mind, and of the relation of mind and nature. The difficulties reason has to face in this operation, and the contradictions into which it falls in seeking to find laws, etc., to satisfy its aim, form the substance of the following analysis.

The nature of reason as here conceived is the source and origin of philosophical Idealism, whether the idealism be one-sided or absolute. Idealism is in fact the philosophical expression of the principle of reason, just as the various empirical sciences may be said to be the development, in the several ways which experience dictates, of the operation of rational observation. Hence the introductory pages of the following analysis are devoted to a statement of the character of true and false idealism.

The historical material behind the abstract argument elaborated here is provided by the awakened scientific spirit that appeared after the Reformation, and the methods and results of the empirical sciences at the time Hegel wrote. In particular the physiological conceptions of “irritability”, “sensibility” and “reproduction”, discussed on p. 302 ff., were first formulated by Haller, Elementa Physiologiae (1757-66). For a list of the chief scientific works which appeared shortly before or about the time the following analysis was written, and which doubtless provided art of the material for the analysis, see Merz, History of European Thought, Vol. 1, pp. 82-83.

The polemical criticism which runs through this as through almost every section of the work is directed against the one-sided idealism of Hegel’s predecessors and the imperfect conception of scientific method displayed by the current science of nature.

Reason’s Certainty and Reason’s Truth

WITH the thought which consciousness has laid hold of, that the individual consciousness is inherently absolute reality, consciousness turns back into itself. In the case of the unhappy consciousness, the inherent and essential reality is a “beyond” remote from itself. But the process of its own activity has in its case brought out the truth that individuality, when completely developed, individuality which is a concrete actual mode of consciousness, is made the negative of itself, i.e. the objective extreme; — in other words, has forced it to make explicit its self-existence, and turned this into an objective fact. In this process it has itself become aware, too, of its unity with the universal, a unity which, seeing that the individual when sublated is the universal, is no longer looked on by us as falling outside it, and which, since consciousness maintains itself in this its negative condition, is inherently in it as such its very essence. Its truth is what appears in the process of synthesis — where the extremes were seen to be absolutely held apart — as the middle term, proclaiming to the unchangeable consciousness that the isolated individual has renounced itself, and to the individual consciousness that the unchangeable consciousness is no longer for it an extreme, but is one with it and reconciled to it. This mediating term is the unity directly aware of both, and relating them to one another; and the consciousness of their unity, which it proclaims to consciousness and thereby to itself, is the certainty and assurance of being all truth.

From the fact that self-consciousness is Reason, its hitherto negative attitude towards otherness turns round into a positive attitude. So far it has been concerned merely with its independence and freedom; it has sought to save and keep itself for itself at the expense of the world or its own actuality, both of which appeared to it to involve the denial of its own essential nature. But qua reason, assured of itself, it is at peace so far as they are concerned, and is able to endure them; for it is certain its self is reality, certain that all concrete actuality is nothing else but it. Its thought is itself eo ipso concrete reality; its attitude towards the latter is thus that of Idealism. To it, looking at itself in this way, it seems as if now, for the first time, the world had come into being. Formerly, it did not understand the world, it desired the world and worked upon it; then withdrew itself from it and retired into itself, abolished the world so far as itself was concerned, and abolished itself qua consciousness — both the consciousness of that world as essentially real, as well as the consciousness of its nothingness and unreality. Here, for the first time, after the grave of its truth is lost, after the annihilation of its concrete actuality is itself done away with, and the individuality of consciousness is seen to be in itself absolute reality, it discovers the world as its own new and real world, which in its permanence possesses an interest for it, just as previously the interest lay only in its transitoriness. The subsistence of the world is taken to mean the actual presence of its own truth; it is certain of finding only itself there.

Reason is the conscious certainty of being all reality. This is how Idealism expresses the principle of Reason.(3) Just as consciousness assuming the form of reason immediately and inherently contains that certainty within it, in the same way idealism also directly proclaims and expresses that certainty. I am I in the sense that the I which is object for me is sole and only object, is all reality and all that is present. The I which is object to me here is not what we have in self-consciousness in general, nor again what we have in free independent self-consciousness; in the former it is merely empty object in general, in the latter, it is merely all object that withdraws itself from other objects that still hold their own alongside it. In the present instance, the object-ego is object which is consciously known to exclude the existence of any other whatsoever. Self-consciousness, however, is not merely from its own point of view (für sich), but also in its very self (an sich) all reality, primarily by the fact that it becomes this reality, or rather demonstrates itself to be such. It demonstrates itself to be this by the way in which first in the course of the dialectic movement of “meaning” (Meinen),(4) perceiving, and understanding, otherness disappears as implicitly real (an sich); and then in the movement through the independence of consciousness in Lordship and Servitude. through the idea of freedom, sceptical detachment, and the struggle for absolute liberation on the part of the self-divided consciousness, otherness, in so far as it is only subjectively for self-consciousness, vanishes for the latter itself. There appeared two aspects, one after the other; the one where the essential reality or the truly real had for consciousness the character of (objective) existence, the other where it had the character of only being (subjectively) for consciousness. But both were reduced to one single truth, that what is or the real per se (an sich) only is so far as it is an object for consciousness, and that what is for consciousness is also objectively real. The consciousness, which is this truth, has forgotten the process by which this result has been reached; the pathway thereto lies behind it. This consciousness comes on the scene directly in the form of reason; in other words, this reason, appearing thus immediately, comes before us merely as the certainty of that truth. It merely gives the assurance of being all reality; it does not, however, itself comprehend this fact; for that forgotten pathway by which it arrives at this position is the process of comprehending what is involved in this mere assertion which it makes. And just on that account any one who has not taken this route finds the assertion unintelligible, when he hears it expressed in this abstract form although as a matter of concrete experience he makes indeed the same assertion himself.

The kind of Idealism which does not trace the path to that result, but starts off with the bare assertion of this truth, is consequently a mere assurance, which does not understand its own nature, and cannot make itself intelligible to any one else. It announces an intuitive certainty, to which there stand in contrast other equally intuitive certainties that have been lost just along that very pathway. Hence the assurances of these other certainties are equally entitled to a place alongside the assurance of that certainty. Reason appeals to the self-consciousness of each individual consciousness: I am I, my object and my essential reality is ego; and no one will deny reason this truth. But since it rests on this appeal, it sanctions the truth of the other certainty, viz. there is for me an other; an other than “I” is to me object and true reality: or in that I am object and reality to myself, I am only so by my withdrawing myself from the other altogether and appearing alongside it as an actuality.

Only when reason comes forward as a reflexion from this opposite certainty does its assertion regarding itself appear in the form not merely of a certainty and an assurance but of a truth — and a truth not alongside others, but the only truth. Its appearing directly and immediately is the abstract form of its actual presence, the essential nature and inherent reality of which is an absolute notion, i.e. the process of its own development.

Consciousness will determine its relation to otherness or its object in various ways according as it is at one or other stage in the development of the world-spirit into self-consciousness. How the world-spirit immediately finds and determines itself and its object at any given time, or how it appears to itself, depends on what it has already come to be, or on what it already implicitly and inherently is.

Reason is the certainty of being all reality. This its inherent nature, this reality, is still, however, through and through a universal, the pure abstraction of reality. It is the first positive character which self-consciousness per se is aware of being, and ego is, therefore, merely the pure, inner essence of existence, in other words, is the Category bare and simple. The category, which heretofore had the significance of being the inmost essence of existence — of existence indifferent to whether it is existence at all, or existence over against consciousness — is now the essential nature or simple unity of existence merely in the sense of a reality that thinks. To put it otherwise, the category means this, that existence and self-consciousness are the same being, the same not as a matter of comparison, but really and truly in and for themselves. It is only a onesided, unsound idealism which lets this unity again appear on one side as consciousness, with a reality per se over against it on the other.

But now this category, or simple unity of self-consciousness and being, has difference within it; for its very nature consists just in this — in being immediately one and identical with itself in otherness or in absolute difference. Difference therefore is, but completely transparent, a difference that is at the same time none. It appears in the form of a plurality of categories. Since idealism pronounces the simple unity of self-consciousness to be all reality, and makes it straightway the essentially real without first having comprehended its absolutely negative nature — only an absolutely negative reality contains within its very being negation, determinateness, or difference — still more incomprehensible is this second position, viz. that in the category there are differences, kinds or species of categories. This assurance in general, as also the assurance as to any determinate number of kinds of categories, is a new assurance, which, however, itself implies that we need no longer accept it as an assurance. For since difference starts in the pure ego, in pure understanding itself, it is thereby affirmed that here immediacy, making assurances, finding something given, must be abandoned and reflective comprehension begin. But to pick up the various categories again in any sort of way as a kind of happy find, hit upon, e.g. in the different judgments, and then to be content so to accept them, must really be regarded as an outrage on scientific thinking.(5) Where is understanding to be able to demonstrate necessity, if it is incapable of so doing in its own case, itself being pure necessity?

Now because, in this way, the pure essential being of things, as well as their aspect of difference, belongs to reason, we can, strictly speaking, no longer talk of things at all, i.e. of something which would only be present to consciousness by negatively opposing it. For the many categories are species of the pure category, which means that the pure category is still their genus or essential nature, and not opposed to them. But they are indeed that ambiguous being which contains otherness too, as opposed to the pure category in its plurality. They, in point of fact, contradict the pure category by this plurality, and the pure category must sublate them in itself, a process by which it constitutes itself the negative unity of the different elements. Qua negative unity, however, it puts away from itself and excludes both the diverse elements as such, and that previous immediate unity as such; it is then individual singleness — a new category, which is an exclusive form of consciousness, i.e. stands in relation to something else, an other. This individuality is its transition from its notion to an external reality, the pure “schema”, which is at once a consciousness, and in consequence of its being a single individual and an excluding unit, points to the presence of an external other. But the “other” of this category is merely the “other” categories first mentioned, viz. pure essential reality and pure difference; and in this category, i.e. just in affirming the other, or in this other itself, consciousness is likewise itself too. Each of these various moments points and refers to an other; at the same time, however, they do not involve any absolute otherness. The pure category refers to the species, which pass over into the negative category, the category of exclusion, individuality; this latter, however, points back to them, it is itself pure consciousness, which is aware in each of them of being always this clear unity with itself — a unity, however, that in the same way is referred to an other, which in being disappears, and in disappearing is once again brought into being.

We see pure consciousness here affirmed in a twofold form. In one case it is the restless activity which passes hither and thither through all its moments, seeing in them that otherness which is sublated in the process of grasping it; in the other case it is the imperturbable unity certain of its own truth. That restless activity constitutes the “other” for this unity, while this unity is the “other for that activity; and within these reciprocally determining opposites consciousness and object alternate. Consciousness thus at one time finds itself seeking about hither and thither, and its object is what absolutely exists per se, and is the essentially real; at another time consciousness is aware of being the category bare and simple, and the object is the movement of the different elements. Consciousness, however, qua essential reality, is the whole of this process of passing out of itself qua simple category into individuality and the object, and of viewing this process in the object, cancelling it as distinct, appropriating it as its own, and declaring itself as this certainty of being all reality, of being both itself and its object.

Its first declaration is merely this abstract, empty phrase that everything is its own. For the certainty of being all reality is to begin with the pure category. Reason knowing itself in this sense in its object is what finds expression in abstract empty idealism;(6) it merely takes reason as reason appears at first, and by its pointing out that in all being there is this bare consciousness of a “mine”, and by expressing things as sensations or ideas, it fancies it has shown that abstract mine” of consciousness to be complete reality. It is bound, therefore, to be at the same time absolute Empiricism, because, for the filling of this empty “mine”, i.e. for the element of distinction and all the further development and embodiment of it, its reason needs an impact (Anstoss) operating from without, in which lies the fons et origo of the multiplicity of sensations or ideas. This kind of idealism is thus just such a self-contradictory equivocation as scepticism, only, while the latter expresses itself negatively, the former does so in a positive way. But it fails just as completely as scepticism to link up its contradictory statements about pure consciousness being all reality, while all the time the alien impact, or sense-impressions and ideas, are equally reality. It oscillates hither and thither from one to the other and tumbles into the false, or the sensuous, infinite.(7) Since reason is all reality in the sense of the abstract “mine”, and the “other” is an externality indifferent to it, there is here affirmed just that sort of knowledge of an “other” on the part of  reason, which we met with before in the form of “intending” or meaning” (Meinen),(8) “perceiving”, and “understanding”, which grasps what is “meant” and what is “perceived”. Such a kind of knowledge is at the same time asserted by the very principle of this idealism itself not to be true knowledge; for only the unity of apperception is the real truth of knowledge. Pure reason as conceived by this idealism, if it is to get at this “other” which is essential to it, i.e. really is per se, but which it does not possess in itself — is thus thrown back on that knowledge which is not a knowledge of the real truth. It thus condemns itself knowingly and voluntarily to being an untrue kind of knowledge, and cannot get away from “meaning” and “perceiving”, which for it have no truth at all. It falls into a direct contradiction; it asserts that the real has a twofold nature, consists of elements in sheer opposition, is the unity of apperception and a “thing” as well; whether a thing is called an alien impact, or an empirical entity, or sensibility, or the “thing in itself”, it remains in principle precisely the same, viz. something external and foreign to that unity.

This idealism falls into such a contradiction because it asserts the abstract notion of reason to be the truth. Consequently reality comes directly before it just as much in a form which is not strictly the reality of reason at all, whereas reason all the while is intended to be all reality. Reason remains, in this case, a restless search, which in its very process of seeking declares that it is utterly impossible to have the satisfaction of finding. But actual concrete reason is not so inconsequent as this. Being at first merely the certainty that it is all reality, it is in this notion well aware that qua certainty qua ego it is not yet in truth all reality; and thus reason is driven on to raise its formal certainty into actual truth, and give concrete filling to the empty “mine”.

1. Cp. Hegel’s Hist. Of Philos., pt. 2, § 3, Introd. And C: pt. 3, Introd. Philos. Of Hist., pt. 4, § 3, c. 3 ad fin.

2. Cp. Naturphilos., W.W., vii. 1. § 246; Logik, W.W., v.

3. Cp. Fichte, Grundlage d. Gesam. Wissenschaftslehre.

4. V. sup. P. 154 ff.

5. This refers to Kant’s “discovery” of his “table of categories”.

6. Fichte, Berkeley.

7. Cp. Wiss. D. Logik, Pt. I, p. 253 ff.

8. V. sup. P. 154 ff.

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