Phenomenology of Spirit
Analysis of the Text by J. N. Findlay
231. Consciousness in the experience of absolution has risen to the realisation that the individual consciousness is implicitly one with the Absolute Essence which is, however, still placed essentially beyond itself. In this realisation self-consciousness has been projected into the world of objects, into the realm of being, and it has also identified itself with the universal. It has become the middle term in a syllogism which reconciles the individual with the unchangeable universal, and which thereby sees itself as all truth.
232. Hitherto (in Stoicism, etc.) consciousness has adopted a purely negative attitude to the world and to its own actuality in it, and has sought to save its pure essence from both. Now, as Reason sure of itself, it tranquilly sees all reality, objective and subjective, as no other than itself. It has achieved the position of idealism. Having done away with graves and abolished abolitions, it sees the world as its own new actual world, as its own truth and presence, which it wishes to see maintained in being and not vanish away.
233. Reason is consciousness’s certainty of being all reality: this is the essential Notion of idealism. For Reason, the Ego’s object is neither emptily general nor one object among others: it is an Ego which excludes anything taken as other than Itself. It can, however, only be all reality for and in itself, in so far as it shows itself to be such’, and this it has done in the dialectical development from sense-certainty to the Unhappy Consciousness. Only in the light of this history, this experience, is the liquidation of other-being and the pure certainty of Reason intelligible. For the reasonable consciousness this certainty is a fact, but it is not an explicitly formulated or comprehended fact.
234. An idealism which merely asserts this certainty (All the world is my idea) without going through the relevant dialectical preparation can neither explain nor understand itself. Its certainty always stands over against other certainties that the dialectical journey abolishes. The certainty of my rational ego always stands over against the certainty of something else existing alongside myself. The dialectical preparation establishes idealism as the only truth, but only in a general, abstract form which will have to be given concreteness in various actual sorts of confrontation.
235. The rational consciousness here considered is merely the category, i.e. the wholly general, formal certainty that what is, is for thought, and what is for thought, is; self-consciousness and being are given as being one and the same essence. It is a mere confusion when another being-in-itself (the Kantian noumenon) is postulated as being beyond being-for-thought. The categorial consciousness in question must, however, be such as intrinsically to specify itself in a number of distinct categories, forming a complete system (as in the Logic): to derive these categories from an external source, e.g. the forms of judgement, is a disgrace to philosophy.
236. The categorial certainty in question not only specifies itself in a system of categories but also includes in itself a pure or schematic reference to individuals; though individual things are no part of the categorial framework, individual thinghood is part of it.
237. Consciousness essentially moves around among its various moments, seeing the universal from the angle of the species and vice versa. Consciousness is this perambulation and what it sees on this course.
238-9. The first simple form of the idealistic consciousness is the consciousness that all 1 deal with is mine, my own idea. Such an empty appropriation leaves all detailed content to experience and foreign intervention. It passes to and from its empty proclamation of ownership to foreign material, and in fact oscillates like the consciousness of scepticism. It has no power to generate specific content in and by itself, and thereby condemns itself to the perpetual phenomenalism of Kantianism. Such an Idealism is self-contradictory because abstract. It says Reason is all reality but does not show it concretely at work in the world: it requires a further carrying out to be a true idealism.
240. The consciousness for which what is, is its own, now turns to sense-certainty, perception, etc., not to deal with something merely other, but in the certainty of being that other. Formerly it happened to notice and experience much, now it actively determines what it shall observe and experience. It seeks in the world only its rational, conceptual self, its own infinitude.
241. At first it merely divines its presence in the world, but procceds thereupon to take possession of its inheritance, to plant the ensign of its sovereignty on every height and depth. There must be no differentiation of the real in which it does not discover itself, and its idea of itself must develop as it proceeds in such discovery.
242. The observant consciousness professes to be finding out the essence of things, not of itself: while it is Reason, it does not clearly know itself to be Reason. To do so it must plumb its own depths, see itself as through and through conceptual, notional. It can then, in transforming the superficial, sensuous being of things into Notions, recognise itself in such Notions.
243. Observation is concerned with Nature, with Spirit, and with the relation between them. These three must be studied in turn.
244. The unthinking consciousness treats observation and experience as the source of truth, but forgets that the object of observation is as important as the mere act of seeing, hearing, etc., and that not every perceived content counts as observed, e.g. that this penknife is next to this snuff-box. What is observed must be more than a mere particular: it must instantiate a universal.
245. The universal of observation at first merely stays the same: its movement is a mere recurrence of selfsameness. The Understanding must try to bring difference into this selfsameness through description, a procedure never short of material. But it encounters a check when it begins to wonder whether it is not describing something merely accidental, unworthy of description and lacking in generic meaning.
246. Observation and description are now urged by an obscure ‘instinct of reason’ to distinguish between the essential and the accidental characters of objects, and to make of the former, not merely marks through which we distinguish them, but marks through which they distinguish themselves. This is successfully done in zoology, where claws, teeth, etc. are the very organs through which specific being
is sustained, less successfully in botany, and still less successfully in the case of inorganic substances, whose description changes in changed circumstances.
247. The difficulties of border-line vagueness and confusion are endemic to the interrelations of species and threaten to reduce observation to unthinking description.
248. An instinct of Reason, however, drives the observing consciousness to look for a law governing the transitions between specific descriptions.
249. The observing consciousness sees such laws as sensuously present in the particulars it observes, which would, however, make them merely contingent and not genuine laws at all. A universal of Reason will, however, retain its notional universality even if it descends into the being of sensuous thinghood. Those thinkers (,e.g. Fichte) are wrong, who make laws merely patterns to which things ought to conform.
250. The observing consciousness does not take a law to be a universal of Reason, but sees in it something external and foreign. But it denies this foreignness when it refuses, e.g., to identify gravitation with the actual falling behaviour of all bodies. It is content to observe bodies falling in a large number of cases, and to infer analogically that this must happen in others. What is inferred remains probable, and never becomes an observed fact. It is only when falling is made part of the Notion of a heavy body in its relation to the earth that a law enters the field of the observable.
251. Since a law is a Notion implicit, an instinct of Reason seeks to purify it into a Notion explicit. It sets up experiments which eliminate the irrelevant and highlight the essential. While seeming to sink deeper into sensuous particularity, such experiments really cut off the Notion from the latter. We soon arrive at free-standing ‘matters’, e.g. positive and negative electricity, which are neither bodies nor properties of bodies.
252. A ‘matter’, e.g. heat or caloric, is not an existent thing, but an existent universal or instance of notional being. An instinct of Reason rightly draws us to such ‘matters’, since laws, being general and non-sensuous, necessarily connect universals, things, not sensuous, though given in what is sensuous, and incorporeally present in bodies.
253. The truth of the observable is accordingly something present in sensuous being, but also free to move about in it, and in all change preserving its notional simplicity. What is implicit in such a Notion then renders itself explicit in a new sort of object, whose observation constitutes a new sort of observation.
254. An object explicitly embodying the Notion’s shifting simplicity is an organic object. Such an object embodies an absolute fluidity in which all external relations vanish. Inorganic objects depend on other objects to bring out and to complete what they are, and get lost in their ramifying relations towards such objects. But organic objects, despite their openness to external influence, are not essentially related to what is external and in all relations preserve their unity and simplicity.
255. An instinct of Reason seeks to discover laws connecting features in the organism with features in the inorganic environment, thereby reducing the externality and contingency in which such features stand to one another. Such laws do not, however, explain the richness of organic being, and never pass beyond talk of ‘great influences’ to exceptionless necessities. Their teleological explanations remain external, and are therefore the very antithesis of laws.
256. The observing consciousness never goes beyond external teleology to the true teleology of organic nature, which is Nature’s embodiment of the Notion. In true teleology we do not have one factor passively produced by another, but a single nature realising itself and sustaining its own reality.
257. Teleological processes may seem to be provoked by indifferent, external circumstances, which therefore seem to have explanatory priority. In reality, however, the circumstances make no difference to the outcome, of which the true ground is the End itself. This End feels itself in the final satisfaction.
258. The relation of the teleological organism to external circumstance is analogous to the relation of self-consciousness to external reality. As the hungry animal assimilates its food, so self-consciousness understands external objectivity, and makes it its own. But since it first does so instinctively, its satisfaction seems doubled: it is felt by itself, but is also referred to a sort of blind understanding in the object.
259. An organism conceals the relation of its manifest actions to their immanent aim, and so seems to have been constructed by an outside intelligence. Just so Reason conceals the inner necessity of its own proceedings, and locates it in the objects that it is studying. In both cases there is a distinction which is really no distinction: teleology is in the organism, and Reason in the thing studied.
260. The individual performances of an organism in furtherance of its own maintenance and that of its species are not observed to have a necessary relation to these purposes, though they in fact have it.
261. The self-differentiating unity of organic teleology is not observationally, but notionally, grasped. Observation therefore converts it into the interplay of distinct factors which suits its thought-style.
262. The organism therefore appears to observation to have an inner, teleological core and an outer, actual crust, the latter being the expression of the former. The Notion here expires in a picture.
263. Neither inner purpose, nor outer expression, nor their unity of essence, are more than formally distinct: we do not have a connection between genuinely distinct terms. Observation recognises this in talking of a mere expression.
264. Observational picture-thought must none the less externalise its formal distinction of outer and inner.
265. Observation finds internal teleology in the unresting fluidity of the soul, while its outer actuality is found in the quiescent, external organism. It conceives of the relations between these two factors in three basic organic properties, at once essences and patterns of interaction. These are the sensibility, irritability, and reproduction only fully found among animals.
266. Sensibility is simply the organism’s reference of all to itself, its taking of all into its own fluidity, while irritability is its answering reaction to what invades it, a reaction which affects what is external as much as itself. Reproduction, finally, is the organism’s maintenance of its own pattern in the constant renewal of parts by the individual and in the generation of ever new individuals. All three functions stem from the organism’s concern with itself as its own sole End.
267. The outwardly actual form of sensibility is the nervous system, that of irritability the muscular system, that of reproduction the viscera.
268. There are peculiar organic laws connecting our three functions, both as regards external structure and fluid, inner character. The latter also has its external side.
269. The laws connecting the outer and inner aspects of the organism elude observation, not because the latter is short-sighted, but because such laws lack all truth.
270. Sensibility is not a function confined to the nervous system nor separable from reactivity or irritability. The latter is inseparable from sensibility, and both enter into organic self-maintenance or reproduction. Hence laws connecting such factors must be spurious.
271. Sensibility, etc. are qualitatively distinct aspects. When made into the terms of an empirical law, they are credited with quantitative differences, and are said to vary inversely or directly. It is as if one made a law of the tautology that a hole increases as its filling diminishes, or as more and more stuff is removed from it.
272. Such laws have nothing to do with sensibility and irritability, but are mere cases of a logical truism.
273. Since reproduction is not opposed to either sensibility or irritability there is even less reason to look for a law connecting it with either.
274. The laws in question are really tautologies, which have been given a false appearance of actual existence. Their outward shapes do not really differ from their inward presence.
275. Organic functions studied as observable existences obey no governing laws, but range over every chance magnitude, e.g. the X’s greatly prefer this sort of food to that, they have this or that number of offspring so many times a year, etc.
276. There are no clear relations between vague functions like sensibility, etc. and the structured systems revealed by anatomy, which are much more numerous than the functions in question. Anatomy reveals only dead structures, never their living use.
277. The various functions distinguished in organic being cannot be regarded as distinct existents externally related. They are pervasive aspects of one life-process.
278. There is therefore no place for laws in the treatment of organisms: they cannot be broken into separate determinations united by bonds which determine each differently. Organic being is always dissolving all separate determinations.
279. When the Understanding discovers laws connecting existent aspects of Nature, it is itself the connecting factor among those sides: it does not as yet see them as part of the object. But in the observation of life the interconnection of aspects is itself objective. We no longer have the merely existent aspects between which a law could be found to hold.
280. If we seek to consider organic existence in and for itself, it loses all precise character, and becomes almost indefinitely variable. The necessity of the Notion vanishes altogether.
281. The observational consciousness, while rising above mere Understanding in its treatment of life, always relapses into the manner of the Understanding, treating aspects as fixed determinations, and relating them quantitatively in what it would like to consider as laws.
282. The observational consciousness tries to rise above perceived, sensuous differences by using germanised Latin names for potencies and faculties, to which varying degrees are then attributed. It does not thereby genuinely rise above the senses.
283. We have now to consider the organism’s outer aspects.
284. ‘The organism externalises itself into structures essentially related to the inorganic environment the object opposed to its being for-self but in ways not capable of being brought under strict laws.
285. The actual organism is at once turned towards the being-in-itself of the object and also towards its own being-for-self. In the latter respect it is free, self-determining, and indifferent to the definite shapes it assumes: it is a stream which does not care what mills it drives. This inner side of the actual organism can be expressed only in the non-sensuous determinateness of number: sensuous qualities, the life-style of the organism, are the outer aspect of such number.
286. The inner side of the actual organism has therefore itself an inner and an outer aspect, the former the restless variability of the essentially abstract, the latter the non-sensuous determinateness of number, in which all movement and relation to the sensuous have been eliminated.
287. Such an abstract treatment of the organism, however, reduces it to the inorganic, which has its essence outside of itself in the self-conscious thinker. We must treat the organism in its own concrete sphere.
288. Specific gravity is, in the concrete, the internal aspect of the inorganic thing, expressible in terms of numerical measures, revealed by comparing observations, and underlying the thing’s colour, hardness, and other sensuous properties.
289. Specific gravity is not, however, self-differentiating, and so not involved in process except quantitatively. It is therefore only contingently connected with the multitude of properties that it underlies. In this respect it falls short of cohesion, which involves differences of state and consequent transitions from one state to another. Cohesion, however, only abstractly achieves self-differentiation in the imperfect form of changes in specific gravity: degree of specific gravity is not systematically connected with degree of cohesion.
290. The many other properties of inorganic bodies have no necessary connection with their specific gravity or cohesion, and can only be classified in numerical terms, i.e. unessentially. We cannot discover general quantitative principles underlying the various types of property, whether se-,,erally or as a whole.
291. The relation of inner to outer is, however, quite different in the case of organisms. In the inorganic what is internal is a definite numerical measure, quite indifferent to sensuous manifestations, but the organism contains a principle of sensuous differentiation within itself. Its internality takes the form of a natural genus or kind which has the power to determine itself in various alternative ways, whereas the internality of specific gravity has one definite property corresponding to each of its degrees.
292. The universality of the genus is inherently such as to reveal itself in alternative individual ways. But between the universal and the individual the determinate universal or species necessarily has its place. When a process from the universal to the individual via the species takes place we have a case of consciousness: in an inorganic being it does not occur as a process but only as an outcome. In this outcome the universal is represented by a series of numbers over which the individual freely varies. Only if an individual could transcend the limits of such individuality, could he achieve consciousness. (Being conscious is only logically different from being a case of a species or genus: in a case of consciousness universality moves through specificity towards individuality, in unconscious individuality there is no detached universality, and no movement towards individuality, only the sort of fusion which might have been the outcome of such a movement.)
293. Generic universality, differentiated specificity, and individual singularity are the three syllogistic terms which, by their interrelations, explain organic and inorganic being. (Hegel’s dynamic Platonism.)
294. The pure genus specifies itself into a set of sorts systematically ordered by quantitative differences. But the individuation of these species is determined in part by the universal individual, the Earth, which contingently determines just where, and to what extent, particular species will be individually instantiated.
295. In the case of self-conscious man the specific forms of consciousness constitute an ordered line of development, a necessary spiritual history. Organic nature has no such history: it falls straight from pure universality into the brute singularity of existence.
296. Organic Nature only actualises such of its specific forms as the individuality of Earth permits.
297. Observing Reason dealing with organic Nature can therefore never rise above mere opinions, which at best predicate ‘great influences’, and never achieve the necessity of laws.
298. The observation of inorganic Nature finds the Notion split into a plurality of things which are nowhere bent back into simplicity or unity. Organic Nature involves such a simplicity , which does not, however, distinguish its moments clearly. Only in self-consciousness is singularity held apart from universality, yet absolutely held fast in the latter.
299. The ‘Laws of Thought’ are the first discoveries of observational consciousness turned inward on itself. They are formal expressions of the relations between aspects of the Notion. Being formal, they are not set over against the content which would give them truth and reality, but their form none the less includes an intrinsic reference to such content.
300. The ‘Laws of Thought’ are given to observational consciousness as a set of existent contents which it merely finds there. As so conceived, they are not so much empty forms as unformed materials,
whose role in thought is not as yet determined. This role will be studied in our speculative system.
301. The observational consciousness does not closely connect the ‘Laws of Thought’ with the action of consciousness of real materials. It therefore fails to identify the principles immanent in thinking with the same principles used to overcome the otherness of the materials thinking deals with.
302. The varying reactions of consciousness to what it sees as a merely other, found reality are the theme of a new set of laws, those of psychology. These laws concern the effort of consciousness to accommodate its individuality to the ways of objective things, but also to accommodate objective things to its own needs and passions, and thereby to sacrifice its detached universality. The former, ‘cognitive’ laws merely give reality the universality of consciousness, whereas the latter, ‘Practical’ laws show us reality modified to suit the personal self, and that perhaps in a criminal or revolutionising manner.
303. Observational psychology never gets past regarding mental faculties, dispositions, etc. as a rag-bag of disconnected items wonderfully churning about in a single container.
304. In treating all these items separately, or as united only in the actual individual, it fails to notice the overarching universality of Spirit. Its pronouncements regarding differences in intelligence, propensities, etc., are for that reason even less valuable than enumerations of the contingent differences of mosses, insects, etc.
305. The laws looked for by observation involve some specific individual, on the one hand, and the environing natural and social circumstances, on the other, both of which are conceived as given particulars.
306. But such an endeavour forgets that the individual, having the universal in him, can freely take up different stances towards circumstances and influences, and that he reflects as if in an inner gallery the same general array of circumstances that play upon him in the world.
307. What the world is for the individual depends on his own active or passive response to it. Hence no clear meaning can be given to the psychological necessity that the world imposes on him.
308. Since environing world and responding individual cannot be neatly separated, there can be no laws connecting one with the other.
309. Since the environing world has been made part of self-conscious individuality, observation must now make the latter its object.
310. In such individuality the existent body is the individuality’s being-in-self, just as its activity is its being-for-self. The body cannot, however, be merely external to the individual’s activity, but must in some manner express its determining character.
311. The law-governed relation of individuality to environment has now been transferred into the expressive relation of a man’s bodily shape to his consciousness and movement. We have now to elucidate this ‘expressive’ relation.
312. An expression at once goes beyond what it expresses by fulfilling and completing it, but it also falls short of it, by lending itself to distortion by circumstances, by an individual’s clumsiness, or by his intention to deceive. We must therefore look for some more reliable sign of an individual’s inwardness than the use of his bodily organs.
313. Such a sign must be neither an organ nor an action, but some quiescent feature of bodily structure, arbitrarily and contingently related to some inward individual peculiarity.
314. The would-be science of physiognomy wants to make such a contingent relation into a law connecting inner with outer, and claims in this to be superior to astrology and palmistry which merely connect one external thing with another.
315. Palmistry can, however, claim to use the hand, in which, after the tongue, a man’s individuality is above all manifest, as the in-itself of a man, on which his fate and fortune depend.
316. Though the condition of a man’s organs of speech, manipulation, etc. is in a sense external to his inward disposition, yet it is less external than the actions its brings about, and is in fact the middle term from which these follow as conclusions.
317. This middle term covers not only what is done by the organ mainly involved, but by other expressive movements and stances which reveal the individual’s inwardness to himself and others.
318. Expressive movements differ from deeds, and can be used to test the seriousness of the latter. But they too are contingently related to the inwardness of which they are the sign, and can, like a mask, be laid aside and replaced.
319. Observation identifies what is inner with a man’s intentions rather than his actions: the latter are for it the inessential expressions of the former. It then looks for something observable which will correspond to these inward intentions.
320. Physiognomy does not differ in principle from the unscientific gauging of a man’s character from the way he looks and acts. It makes little difference that it speaks in terms of capacities and propensities, and does not merely call someone a murderer or a thief. The individual’s inexhaustible nature cannot be set forth in terms of such capacities and propensities.
321. The ‘laws’ which such a science enunciates are based on personal associations and opinions, like the housewife’s ‘law’ that it always rains when the washing is out to dry.
322. Whenever deeds conflict with physiognomic expressions, they answer the questions raised by such expressions. What we do stamps us as murderers, heroes, etc. Deeds can of course go awry or fail of their purpose, but where they are on target, and persist uncorrected, they are not mere signs but the thing itself.
323. Physiognomy improves psychology by substituting for the. provocative environment the individual’s own expressive movements. Physiognomy must now be improved by substituting for such movements something fixed, thing-like, and immobile.
324. Since both inward and outward have their own being-in-self, their relation to each other must now take the form of an external causal action.
325. The inward conceived as self-related, yet active in, and not indifferent to, its outgoing manifestations, must have an actual existent organ, not merely instrumental, which is active in such manifestations.
326. The heart, the liver, etc. are frequently conceived as the active centres and sources of certain manifestations. They are not, however, first sources, but rather half-way stations.
327. The brain and spinal cord (minus the nerves) represent the organism s pure self-consciousness, not as such outgoing, but at rest in itself, a fluid pool in which disturbances die away. The diversity of bodily movements having their source in this consciousness must, however, be represented in this fluid pool, which must accordingly be articulated into zones or regions.
328. In the head, the being-for-self of the organism appropriately comes to a head, and that in two extreme forms, the caput vivens or brain, and the caput mortuum or skull. The skull is the being-for-self of the organism made into a fixed, inert thing. The spinal cord merely conducts action to and from the head, and there are other channels for this as well.
329. Since brain and skull are both expressions of the organism’s being-for-self, there is necessarily an accommodation of the shape of the one to that of the other, which we may or may not like to conceive in terms of causal action of either on the other, or both on one another.
330. There is no intelligible connection between the strength or weakness of spiritual faculties and the bulging or contracted size of regions of the skull.
331. For observation the brain only counts as the existent form of self-conscious individuality,, while the skull-bones count as its existence-for-another or as a mere thing.
332. The many-sidedness of Spirit necessarily expresses itself in a geography of skull-regions of differing significance.
333. Skull-bones do not express mental states in the way changes of countenance do, nor are they even signs of such mental states. They reduce all reference to self to the purest immediacy.
334. Vaguely localised feelings in the head could possibly show what skull-regions corresponded to what psychic tendencies, c-.g. murderous, poetic, thieving, etc. Such diagnoses would, however, be quite ambiguous and indefinite.
335. The propensities and capacities of the mind have to be pared down to a few ossified differences to be arbitrarily correlated with the bumps and hollows of the skull. In such correlations a collection of mental dry bones is correlated with an equally dry physical collection.
336. Anything in a man’s disposition can be correlated with a bump or hollow on his skull, even, as in the case of a cuckold, with a bump or hollow on someone else’s skull. Such conceptions are pictorial, without genuine notional possibility.
337. If an individual does not behave as his bumps and hollows suggest, one can always attribute such deviations to his exercise of free will. Bumps and hollows are only the foundation for empty possibilities. They never Justify definite predictions.
338. Such subterfuges make the skull-bones a sign of everything or nothing.
339. Self-consciousness cannot be made to depend on bone-formations, since such inert existences are everything of which self-consciousness is the negation. A man might prove the absurdity of such a reduction by simply smashing in someone’s skull.
340. Observation finds it harder to see through such a gross absurdity as mind skull identity as to see through much less flagrant absurdities. But the limit of the absurd is here reached, and Reason must do an about-turn in the opposite direction.
341. Retracing our path, we see how we moved from observing inorganic Nature to postulating non-sensible laws behind it: this pure universality, conflated with existent, sensible objectivity, became a new object, the organism. Such existent, sensible objectivity could not, however, be a true expression of such universality, which accordingly became a detached, purposive universality, i.e. self-consciousness as an observed object.
342. Self-consciousness as an observed object at first specified itself in the ‘Laws of Thought’, treated as existent contingencies. These differentiations, fused into a unit, became the individual self-consciousness, which necessarily contained and related an outward-turned aspect of will and action to an inward-turned self-conscious aspect,
of which it was the sign. These two aspects were externally and contingently related.
343. Recognising the relation of inner and outer to be contingent, observation ceased to look for an organ, a symbol of Spirit, and pinned down its external immediacy in a dead ‘thing. The reality of Spirit was thereby made into a thing, and inert being given the significance of Spirit. To treat Spirit as a merely existent, objective thing is certainly to make it into something like a bone.
344. This result had a twofold sense. On the one hand it completed the previous self-extrusion of self-consciousness which we saw in the Unhappy Consciousness, its self-projection into a mere object, which, though embodying a categorial unity stemming from its own conscious serfhood, was seen as having a rationality that self-consciousness could have rather than be. Such merely had rationality was typical of the observer: he saw his Reason out there in the Thing. Such self-projection of Reason could not, however, be sustained. Self-consciousness necessarily felt its gaze reverting from the rationalised object to its own rational activity. (In this difficult paragraph the ordering universality which can lead a detached life as the self-conscious Ego is seen stretching out towards a specificity and individuality which seems to lie beyond itself, and in relation to which it appears as a set of objective categories. From this self-separation it comes to the realisation that this ordering universality, categorially projected into objects, is the same as the ordering universality at work in its own conscious efforts.)
345. On the other hand, our outcome is simpl, the identification of self-consciousness with a sensible, objective thing. Self-consciousness only becomes real in a bone. (Self-consciousness, in other words, despite its systematic elusiveness, must have a foothold somewhere in the crust of material thinghood.)
346. What emerges from the observational experience is that the pure universality of the Notion is the ordering principle of the Thing, that thinghood and Notion are the same. This cannot be understood as long as we treat Notion and Thing as independent, self-subsistent realities, and do not see the former as sey-dirempted in the latter, and so constituting an infinite judgement. (’the Notion is no Thing’ is an infinite judgement which, in opposing Notion to Thing, makes their whole being consist in their mutual relevance.) As long as we look on them as sundered, their opposition remains gross and crass: it is like the union of urination and orgasm in a single organ.
347. The true significance of self-consciousness’s self-recognition in the external, observed thing, is its self-recognition in another self-consciousness, which, though a duplicate of itself, has the surface separateness from itself characteristic of a thing ‘out there’.
348. Observational Reason categorised the observed thing in ways corresponding to its own development from sense-certainty, through perception, to Understanding. It went, that is, from description through classification to law-like explanation. Reason must now recapitulate its further development from individualistic self-assertion and conflict to the ethical self-consciousness which unites all self-consciousnesses. (This recapitulation is to take place within the social medium only implicit in Master and Slave etc., and remote and alien in the Roman and medieval worlds.)
349. The stage of self-consciousness towards which we are now moving is essentially ethical, governed by unwritten laws and social customs, a framework within which the individual lives and moves, and from which he does not think to disassociate himself.
350. The members of an organised social whole not only resemble the differentiated modes of a single substance: they are also more or less conscious of their common membership, of the sacrifice of their individual, to a generic identity.
351. The individual in an organised social whole works for himself in ways practised and sanctioned by all, and performed for others as much as for himself. His most independent efforts are sanctioned and approved for all, and entail a thoroughgoing reciprocity in his relation to others.
352. The customs of an organised society have both the opacity of external thinghood and the transparent self-identity of self-consciousness. One realises oneself most perfectly by being the perfect embodiment of one’s community’s social norms.
353. To live as a mere individual in an organised social whole is not, however, to be explicitly conscious of one’s identity with it. One may either have forgotten it in a mere taking for granted, or may not as yet have fully achieved it.
354. The immediacy 6f ethical life is not critical of established laws and customs. Much less does it consciously align itself with them, and assert their absolute standing.
355. When self-conscious individuality arises, the bond of trust which links it with the social unity is destroyed. The individual opposes himself to social laws and customs.
356. The self-conscious individual, withdrawing from the social medium, seeks to make his own mark in the world through his practical efforts. He seeks to fulfil himself, to achieve personal happiness.
357. The fulfilment which the individual at this stage pursues is the fulfilment of his own immediate will and natural impulses, not the welfare of society. This individualistic pursuit of satisfaction may
either precede or follow the full development of the ethical consciousness. In the former case, crude impulses are subordinated to the ethical life of custom, in the latter case there is a conscious abandonment of the life of mere impulse, and an advance to the acceptance of an ethic made to fit the individual’s own inward sense of morality. Since the individualism most rampant in our own day is of the latter sort, it is this that we shall now consider.
358. Self-consciousness, which has risen to the Notion of Spirit, now seeks to realise itself in an individual’s mind or person.
359. Self-consciousness, pledged to individual self-realisation, necessarily negates the self-realisation of other individuals, and seeks to impose on all the negation of all ends but its own. This universally imposed self-realisation assumes three forms: the undisciplined pursuit of pleasure, the undisciplined law of the heart, and the more disciplined cult of virtue. These lead ultimately to the one-pointed self-dedication to the matter or task on hand.
360. Self-consciousness sees the existent, objective thing that confronts it as implicitly itself. It seeks to make what is implicit explicit, and to reshape the objective thing to satisfy its individual self. All the higher intellectual and ethical ends of the community are spurned and set aside.
361. It expresses its individuality in immediate, active living, culling delights where it finds them, rather than creating them for itself. It makes no use of laws and general principles.
362. It does not seek to transform existence practically, but to savour its surface. Its enjoyment centres principally on another selfconsciousness, an embodiment of rational categories and laws, which it does not, however, treat as such, but as made for its own gratification, thereby destroying the other’s rationality.
363. Pleasure taken in another’s person for one’s own gratification is essentially self-destroying. The rational categories essential to personality are bypassed, and there is therefore nothing to hold one to an individual object. There is therefore a blind necessity driving one on to seek ever new objects in unending self-frustration. This necessity is nothing but the expression of the sheer emptiness of what is merely individual.
364. The pursuit of one’s own satisfaction therefore passes over from sheer individualism to an absolute universalism in which all individuality is shattered.
365. What is now pursued by the individual assumes the form of a necessity, a law, which he cannot understand, but to which he must unconditionally submit.
366. To surrender to a law is, however, to remove its alien character. It will become the individual’ own law.
367. The individual’s satisfaction seen in the form of a law becomes the law of the individual’s own heart.
368. The individual must see whether his true essence lies in such a law of the heart.
369. The law of the heart necessarily opposes itself to the law of this world, under which the individual and humanity live oppressed. To the individual the positive, worldly law is something actual and found, whereas we phenomenologists see it as the shadow cast by the law of the heart.
370. The heart-ruled individual necessarily sees his undisciplined personal dictates as pleasing to all, and himself as noble in carrying them out.
371. Oppressed humanity does not seem to the heart-ruled individual to be aware of its oppression by this-world ordinances, or of its nobility in transgressing them. This deference to external authority must be broken down. It is merely accidental if authority and the heart agree.
372. To the extent that the law of the heart becomes an actual ordinance, the heart-ruled individual must cease to find satisfaction in it. It is no longer the law of his heart, but something alien and actual, against which his heart must rebel. To fulfil the heart’s law is therefore also to frustrate it.
373. Whatever the individual chooses to do will, through such choice, conform to the law of his heart. But not every individual’s heart will concur with the chosen course. Other individuals will condemn what a man’s heart dictates, and will therefore become horrible in his sight.
374. The individual who erects the dictates of his heart into a law for all comes to see that the actual law for all is not alien and dead, but a genuine law for all hearts, even though the individual failed to realise this.
375. The heart-ruled individual therefore becomes a living contradiction, and recognises as a universally valid order one that he, as an individual, does not wish to recognise.
376. To be thus torn between the recognition of a universally instituted, and a personally chosen law, is to be self-alienated or insane.
377. The heart thus torn madly, fulminates against the priests and despots who have imposed their alien laws on humanity. But since
it itself wishes to be just such a priest and despot, it comes to see itself as being as perverse and perverting as these are.
378. It comes to see that a universal law is itself perverted if it is merely seen as a law of all hearts, as satisfying everyone’s selfish individuality.
379. A law for all hearts necessarily becomes a law that all individuals fight over, a way of the world that never achieves a stable, agreed form.
380. But to such a fluctuating way the ideal of a fixed, agreed way of life necessarily opposes itself: the ideal of virtue as opposed to the way of this world.
381. Both virtue and the way of the world involve a compromise between disinterested universality and individuality. Only, in virtue, individuality sacrifices itself to standards that it has itself set up, whereas, in the way of the world, disinterested universality is realised through the interaction and attrition of individuals.
382. The way of the world is the disinterested order which arises out of the interested actions of countless individuals. Though condemned from the emptily universal standpoint of virtue, it is really what virtue seeks to compass. It is not, however, a blind drift, but one that consciousness can understand and accept, even though it springs from the mad self-assertion of individuals. (Hegel extends the principles of laissez-faire economics to all human and social action.)
383. Virtue, however, attempts to reverse the way of the world, and to arrive at a disinterested order through individual effort.
384. Virtue makes its direct aim, what the way of the world achieves by indirection. The aim of virtue is a poor abstraction from what is actually achieved by the way of the world.
385. From the standpoint of virtue there are gifts and powers, of which there is a right and noble use, but which are abused and perverted by the way of the world.
386. But these gifts and powers are precisely the substantive content to which virtue and vice add an insubstantial nuance of difference. One cannot transform the vicious into the virtuous without damaging such content. Hence the whole fight between virtue and vice becomes a mock combat.
387. The way of the world, having no sacred cause to defend, always achieves great richness of content, while virtue, with its special preferences, remains always in jeopardy.
388. Virtue cannot overcome the way of the world by making a
cunning use of the latent good in it. For the way of the world vigilantly fences off such interference. This latent good is either something that virtue dare not interfere with, or is as lacking in reality as are the gifts and powers that can be used in its service. It is no more than an imagined higher consciousness behind the actual natures of men.
389. Virtue is overcome by the way of the world, since virtue aims absurdly at abolishing the individuality which is the very principle of actuality. The ideal of disinterested virtue is either an empty word, or it must achieve actuality by accepting actual men and their interests.
390. Virtue, therefore, as opposed to the way of the world, is an emptily rhetorical, unconstructive form of edification, which may minister to men’s vanity, but is ultimately boring. It is not like the virtue of antiquity which accepted ethical existence, and only sought to improve it.
391. When boredom sets in, men drop an ideal of virtue which uproots the individuality and interest essential to practical realisation.
392. The way of the world is by the same movement brought to vanish. Self-interest is better than it thinks it is: in realising itself, it realises Ends that are universal.
393. The universal End -of self-conscious life cannot be separated from the private, personal acts and ends of individuals.
Individuality Which Takes Itself to be Real In and For Itself
394. Self-consciousness has now ceased to oppose universal gifts and powers to the individual employment of them. It is subjectively certain of itself in and through its individual acts, which are its objective truth: alternatively, its acts provide the subjective certainty of which its aims are the objective truth. It has become, in active form, the categorial consciousness of Kantianism, in which consciousness of self amounts to consciousness of law-governed objectivity, and vice versa.
395. Self-consciousness no longer observes an apparently independent reality nor takes up practical attitudes towards it. This reality and its responses to it are transparently distinguished in its own practical activity, which is the genus under which its actions fall.
396. All that self-consciousness now aims at is to display itself in the daylight of actual existence, turning an act merely intended into one actually performed.
397. Real individuality is at first definite and simple, but with no specific content to differentiate its universality. It is the pure thought of a category, rather than its actual application.
398. Such real individuality involves an original given nature with definite qualitative limitations, which do not, however, limit the free action of consciousness.
399. All that the individual does springs from this original given nature, which it would not wish to transgress. But its negativity is not a passive being thus and thus and nothing else, but an active imposition of its whole character on what lies around it.
400. Action involves a subjective object or end, opposed to what is given as actual, then an instrumental transition in which the end achieves the full form of reality, and lastly a realised end which exists apart from the subject and his ends. In such action, the end, the original nature, the original situation, the means, the transition, and the resultant reality, are all only moments in a transparent identity.
401. Original nature, whether considered as special aptitude, talent, or character, is the first aspect of all action. This original nature is as much reflected in the external situation, which seems to evoke and shape a man’s aims, as in those aims themselves. It is, moreover, only in action, in given circumstances, that consciousness becomes aware of its aims: its aims, as formed in thought, are merely movements towards action, and only become fully definite in action. The circumstances which evoke action, and the means used in it, are likewise parts of action, and the individual’s inner nature is also a sort of means to it. None of the features distinguishable in action is really independent: all count as moments in a single conscious performance.
402. The universal character of a man’s active nature can, however, be distinguished from a single, specific performance, and can be compared in respect of such characters as inventiveness, persistence, range, etc.
403-4. A man’s actions cannot be judged as good or bad except in a wholly external, comparative manner. Whatever a man does, corresponds to his active nature, and is to that extent neither good nor bad, and neither to be admired nor lamented.
405. The product of a man’s action makes explicit what lay in the man’s nature, and makes this explicit for the universal consciousness. In this product circumstances, aims, means procedures are all dissolved, and have become part of an actuality foreign to the agent, and open to all individuals. But it represents what is transitory, rather than what is permanent, in the individual concerned in it.
406. Consciousness in such work experiences the gulf between doing and being. Being precedes doing as the original nature behind action, and being succeeds doing as the work which results from action. It is in its work that consciousness achieves full reality, and gets ri id of its emptiness.
407. The elements involved in work — original nature, aim, performance, and result — will, however, at times fall apart, thus contradicting their essential unity. The aim may not express the original nature, nor issue in an appropriate performance, nor yield the desired result.
408. This element of contingent failure in work is itself contingent. The different aspects of action hang together in their Notion, even if they at times fall apart in reality.
409. When a work vanishes, its contingent success or failure also vanishes. What persists in self-consciousness is the attempted performance in which doing and being, intention and execution, are united. It is irrelevant that reality sometimes falls to fulfil a work’s intention. When a work is conceived as indifferent to contingent failure it becomes a task as such or ‘matter in hand’ itself.
410. The ‘matter in hand’ is the unit, the ‘thing’, of practical life. It combines aim with execution, circumstances and means with result. In it self-consciousness becomes real in a single performance.
411. The ‘matter in hand’ unites subjective individuality with objectivity, and puts self-consciousness before itself in the role of a substance. The ‘matter in hand’ has end, means, procedure and result as its dependent modes or moments: it is the genus which they all specify. But it remains abstractively universal, rather than truly a subject, since it does not generate such dependent moments.
412. Honesty of consciousness demands that the ‘matter in hand’ should express the agent’s best endeavours, no matter what the circumstances or outcome may be. Whatever happens, he will have coped well with the ‘matter in hand’.
413. If the agent has not realised his aim, he has at least tried to realise it, and in so doing has dealt effectively with the ‘matter in hand’. He has dealt with it, even if others bring his work to nought, if he can in fact do nothing about things. He has dealt with it even or if he has merely approved of something, or taken an interest in it.
414. These emphases on the honest coping with the ‘matter in hand’ shift their ground from case to case. Sometimes a mere aim suffices, sometimes an act which falls of effect. All attempt to turn an ineffective or bad performance into one that is successful.
415. The honest agent is not as honest as he seems. Being concerned only with his own performance, or with some ‘matter in hand’, or with some reality, he is not really in earnest about achieving something.
416. The honest performer necessarily moves towards being a deceiver. For what others see him doing, never fully embodies what he means to do, and so admits of differing interpretations, from which he may derive advantage.
417. A man appears in his actions to be disinterestedly realising some ‘matter in hand’, but may disappoint others by showing that he only cares for this task if done by himself and not by them. Such disappointment, however, shows their own concern to be with their own performance and not with the ‘matter in hand’. And if they magnanimously leave each man to do his own tasks, they still interfere with these through comments and criticisms. They care, not for the ,matter in hand’, but for their own pronouncements upon it. And those who say that they care nothing for what others do or say, contradict this by submitting their work to the daylight of publicity.
418. A ‘task in hand’ is essentially such that all feel themselves entitled to share in it, and to make it their own, whether directly or indirectly. Its being a ‘matter in hand’ does not mean that it is not interesting to individuals: it is disinterestedly pursued only because it is interesting to everyone. The ‘matter in hand’ therefore becomes the category or categorical imperative, the sort of being demanded by self-consciousness. (Hegel here shows how the practical egoism, in which a man undertakes something to give him set something to do, necessarily expands into universal moral egoism, where the task is set by Everyman for Everyman.)
419. Self-consciousness has now ceased to be the consciousness of a particular individual, and has become a consciousness shared by all individuals, and conceived by all as thus shared. Being thus categorial, it is at once the form and the matter of self-consciousness.
420. Self-consciousness now identifies itself with the absolute ‘matter in hand’, the task which is of self-consciousness’s essence, and which it neither can nor will question. This task is the absolute ethical task or substance, and its consciousness the ethical consciousness. But it differentiates itself into a number of distinct tasks or prescriptions.
421. No justification can be given or sought for these absolute ethical imperatives, the pure deliverances of self-consciousness.
422. The imperatives in question are immediately given as the deliverances of sound reason, and such soundness must be immediately and unquestioningly accepted.
423. But just as the immediate deliverances of sense-certainty become articulate in perception, so the deliverances of moral sense become articulate in various well-known precepts.
424. ‘Everyone ought to speak the truth.’ This rule has to be qualified in many ways, e.g. if he believes or knows it to be true. An imperative so qualified loses all definite force.
425. ‘Love thy neighbour as thyself.’ This rule says, if it says anything, that we should try to do what is for the good of others, a Notion at once involved in immense obscurity.
426. It becomes clear that the most we can demand of an ethical precept is not that it should have definite content, but that it should be free from internal contradiction.
427. All that the ethical consciousness can therefore prescribe, as our task itself, is that we should do whatever we usually do.
428. All that it can warn us against is self-contradiction in ethical use and wont. It therefore becomes only the critic of existing or proposed ethical laws.
429. Self-consciousness now applies to ethical precepts the sort of criticism which we as phenomenologists applied to them. But these precepts are no longer taken to be the authoritative deliverances of self-consciousness, and they are only criticised in regard to self-consistency.
430. Such criticism is, however, nugatory, since any and every content can be made formally self-consistent, e.g. neither the institution nor the non-institution of private property need be formally inconsistent. And both involve conflicts when we descend to the level of specific rulings, e.g. that each should receive as much as he needs.
431. Private property and communism are alike free from contradiction if treated as simple abstractions: in the concrete both involve infinite contradictions. It is ridiculous to think that the mere absence of contradiction, so useless in theory, could provide guidance in practice.
432. Precepts and criticisms of precepts are alike vanishing moments in the ethical consciousness, whose substantial content they never succeed in providing.
433. These moments enter into our consciousness of the ethical task, and are aspects of the honest endeavour to gain clarity and insight into what we should do.
434. But there is in fact no validity in the definite laws they prescribe nor in their arbitrary criticisms of the same.
435. The spiritual essence or substance of a living community gives all the validity that can be given to such one-sided precepts and criticisms.
436. Ethical law is implicit in communal living. It is not grounded on arbitrary individual decrees, which can simply be disregarded. It is what all men in the community accept as their standard, and that
without question, and what they do not in any way see as foreign or alien.
437. True ethical law is the unwritten, inerrant, unalterable divine law spoken of in the Antigone. It is not anything that an individual can hope either to criticise or to justify, and certainly not in terms of mere self-consistency.
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