Phenomenology of Spirit
Analysis of the Text by J. N. Findlay
438. Reason becomes Spirit when it achieves the full consciousness of itself as being all reality. In the previous stage of Observing Reason it merely found itself in an existent object. From this it rose to a stage in which it no longer passively perceived itself in an object, but imposed itself more actively on the world, a stage as one-sided as the previous one. Finally, it rose to an as yet abstract identification of itself with reality in the vocational dedication of itself to the ‘task itself, or in the arbitrary institution of moral canons, or in the personal pronouncement upon such canons.
439. The essence of Spirit has already been recognised as the ethical substance, the customs and laws of a society. Spirit, however, is the ethical actuality which, when it confronts itself in objective social form, has lost all sense of strangeness in what it has before it. The ethical substance of custom and law is the foundation and source of everyone’s action and the aim towards which it tends: it is the common work which men’s co-operative efforts seek to bring about. The ethical substance is as it were the infinite self-dispensing benevolence on which every individual draws. It is of the essence of this substance to come to life in distinct individuals and to act through and in them.
440. Spirit is the absolutely real being of which all previous forms of consciousness have represented falsely isolated abstractions, which the dialectical development has shown them to be. In the previous stages of observational and active Reason, Spirit has rather had reason than been Reason: it has imposed itself as a category on material not intrinsically categorised. When Spirit sees itself and its world as being Reason it becomes ethical substance actualised.
441. Spirit in its immediacy is the ethical life of a people, of individuality at one with a social world. But it must advance to the full consciousness of what it immediately is through many complex stages, stages realised in a total social world and not merely in a separate individual consciousness.
442-3. The living ethical world is Spirit in its truth, its abstract self-knowledge being the formal generality of law. But it dirempts itself on the one hand into the hard reality of a world of culture, and on the other hand into the inner reality of a world of faith and insight. The conflict between these two modes of experience is resolved in Spirit-sure-of-itself, I.e. in morality. Out of all these attitudes the actual self-consciousness of absolute Spirit will make its appearance.
444. Spirit is a consciousness which intrinsically separates its moments, whether in its substance or in its consciousness. In its consciousness the individual moral act and the accomplished work are separated from the general moral substance or essence: the term which serves as middle term between them is the individual conscious agent.
445. The ethical substance, i.e. the system of laws and customs, itself reflects the distinction between the individual action or agent, on the one hand, and the moral substance or essence, on the other. It splits up into a human and a divine law. The individual harried by these contradictory laws both knows and does not know the wrongness of his acts, and is tragically destroyed in the conflict. Through such tragic instances, individuals learn to advance beyond blind obedience to law and custom. They achieve the ability to make conscientious decisions to obey or disobey.
446. Spirit is essentially self-diremptive. But just as bare being dirempts itself into the Thing with its many properties, so the ethical life dirempts itself into a web of ethical relations. And ‘ust as the many properties of the Thing concentrate themselves into the contrast between individuality and universality, so too do ethical laws resolve themselves into individual and universal laws.
447. The ethical substance, as individual reality, is the commonalty which realises itself in a plurality of existent consciousnesses in all of which it is consciously reflected, but which also underlies them as substance and contains them in itself. As actual substance it is a people, as actual consciousness the citizens of that people. Such a people is not anything unreal: it exists and prevails.
448. This Spirit can be called the human law since it is a completely self-conscious actuality. It is present as the known law and as the prevailing custom. It shows itself in the assurance of individuals generally, and of the government in particular. It has a daylight sway, and lets individuals go freely about their business.
449. The ethical substance reveals itself, however, in another law, the Divine Law, which springs from the immediate, simple essence of the ethical, and is opposed to the fully conscious dimension of action, and extends down to the inner essence o f individuals.
450. The Divine Law has its own self-consciousness, the immediate consciousness of self-in-other, in a natural ethical community, the Family. The Family is that elementary, unconscious ethical being which is opposed to, and yet is also presupposed by, the conscious ethical being of the people and their devotion to common ends.
451. In the Family natural relations carry universal ethical meanings. The individual in the Family is primarily related to the Family as a whole, and not by ties of love and sentiment to its particular members. The Family, further, is not concerned to promote the wellbeing of its individual members, nor to offer them protection. It is concerned with individuality raised out of the unrest and change of life into the universality of death, i.e. the Family exists to promote the cult of the dead.
452. The individuality by dying achieves peace and universality through a merely natural process. As regards its timing it is only accidentally connected with the services he performs to the community, even though dying is in a sense the supreme service to the community that a man can perform, in furnishing the Family with its ancestral pantheon, its household Lares. In order, however, that the individual’s taking up into universality may be effective, it must be helped out by a conscious act on the part of the Family members. This act may indifferently be regarded as the saving of the deceased individual from destruction, or as the conscious effecting of that destruction, so that the individual becomes a thing of the past, a universal meaning. The Family resists the corruption of worms and of chemical agencies by substituting their own conscious work in its place, by consigning the dead individual solemnly to the imperishable elementary individual, the earth. It thereby also makes the dead person an imperishable presiding part of the Family.
453. All living relations to the individual Family members, while yet in the realm of actuality, are matters of the human law. The Divine Law only concerns individuals no longer actual who have become universal meanings still efficacious in a people’s and a Family’s life.
454. There are in both laws differences and gradations. In discussing these we shall see them in active operation, enjoying their own self-consciousness and also interacting with one another.
455. The human law has its living scat in the government in which it also assumes individual form. The government is the actual Spirit which reflects on itself, and is the self of the whole ethical substance. It may accord a limited independence to the families under its sway, but is always ready to subordinate them to the whole. It may likewise accord a limited independence to individuals promoting their own gain and enjoyment, but it has to prevent such individual interests from becoming overriding. From time to time it must foster wars to prevent individual life from becoming a mere case of natural being, and ceasing to serve the freedom and power of the social whole. The daylight, human law, however, always bases its authority on the deeper authority of the subterranean Divine Law.
456. The Divine Law governs three different family-relationships, that of husband to wife, of parents to children, and of siblings to one another. The husband-wife relation is a case of immediate self-recognition in another consciousness which has also a mainly natural character: its reality lies outside of itself, in the children, in which it passes away.
457. A relationship unmixed with transience or inequality of status is that of brother and sister. In them identity of blood has come to tranquillity and equilibrium. As sister, a woman has the highest intimations of ethical essence, not yet brought out into actuality or full consciousness: she manifests internal feeling and the divinity that is raised above the actual. As daughter, a woman must see her parents pass away with resigned tenderness, as mother and wife there is something natural and replaceable about her, and her unequal relation to her husband, in which she has duties where he mainly has pleasures, means that she cannot fully be aware of herself in another. In brother and sister there are none of the inequalities due to desire nor any possibility of replacement: the loss of a brother is irreparable to a sister, and her duty to him is the highest.
458. The brother represents the family-spirit at its most individual and therefore turned outwards towards a wider universality. The brother leaves the immediate, elemental, negative ethical life of the Family to achieve a self-conscious, actual ethical life.
459. The brother passes from the suzerainty of the divine to that of the human law: the sister or wife remains the guardian of the Divine Law. They have each a different natural vocation, a sequel of the vocation considered above in the ‘task itself, a vocation which has its outer expression in the distinction of sex.
460. The human and ethical orders require one another. The human law has its roots in the divine order, whereas the Divine Law is only actual in the daylight realm of existence and activity.
461. The ethical system in its two branches fulfils all the imperfect categories that have led up to it. It is rational in that it unites selfconsciousness and objectivity. It observes itself in the customs which surround it. It has pleasure in the family life and necessity in the wider social order. It has the law of the heart at its root which is also the law of all hearts. It exhibits virtue and the devotion to the ‘task itself. It provides the criterion by which all detailed projects and acts are tested.
462. The ethical whole is a tranquil equilibrium of parts in which
each finds its satisfaction in this equilibrium with the whole. Justice is the agency which restores this equilibrium whenever it is disturbed by individuals or classes. The communal spirit avenges itself on wrongs done to its members, wrongs which have the mechanical character of the merely natural, by equally natural expedients of revenge.
463. Universal self-conscious Spirit is chiefly manifest in the man, unconscious individualized Spirit in the woman: both serve as middle terms in what amounts to the same syllogism uniting the divine with the human law.
464. In the opposition of the two laws we have not yet considered the role of the individual and his deed. It is the individual’s deed which brings the two laws into conflict. A dreadful fate (Schicksal) here enters the scene and makes action come out on one side or the other.
465. The individual’s self-alignment with one law does not, however, involve internal debate and arbitrary choice, only immediate, unhesitant, dutiful self-commitment. There is no quarrel of duty with passion, much less any ridiculous seeming conflict of duty with duty. I t is one’s sex, Hegel suggests, which decides which law one will obey.
466. In self-consciousness the two laws are explicit, not merely implicit as in ordinary ethical life. The individual’s character commits him to one law. The other seems to him only an unrighteous actuality or a case of human obstinacy or perversity.
467. The ethical consciousness cannot (like the consciousness that preceded it) draw any distinction between an objective order and its own subjective order: it cannot doubt that the law it obeys has absolute authority. Nor is there any taint of individuality left over that can deflect it from the path of duty. It cannot conceive that its duty could be other than what it knows it to be.
468. None the less the ethical consciousness cannot divest itself of allegiance to both laws, and so cannot escape guilt when it opts for the one as opposed to the other. Only an inert, unconscious stone can avoid incurring guilt. The guilt is, however, not individual, but collective. It is the guilt of a whole class or sex.
469. The law violated by an individual’s act necessarily demands vindication, even though its voice was not at the time heard by the violator. Action brings the unconscious into the daylight, and forces consciousness to bow to its offended majesty.
470. The ethical consciousness is most truly guilty when it wittingly rejects the behests of one law and holds them to be violent and wrong.
Its action denies the demand for real fulfilment which is part of the law, and so involves real guilt.
471. The individual cannot survive the tragic conflict in him of the two laws, neither of which he can repudiate. He cannot merely have a sentiment (Gesinnung) for the one. His whole being is consumed in pathos, which is part of his character as an ethical being.
472. In the fateful conflict of two laws in different individuals both individuals undergo destruction. Each is guilty in the face of the law he has violated. It is in the equal subordination of both sides that absolute right is first carried out.
473. A young man leaves the unconscious natural medium of ethical life to become ruler of the community and administer the human law. But the natural character of his origins may show itself in a duplicity of existence, e.g. Etcocles and Polynices. The community is bound to honour the one who actually possesses power, and to dishonour the mere claimant to state power who takes up arms against the community. This dishonour involves deprivation of burial rights.
474. The family-spirit, backed by the Divine Law, and with its roots in the underworld waters of forgetfulness, is affronted by these human arrangements. The dead man finds instruments of vengeance by which the representatives of the human law are in their turn destroyed.
475. The battle of laws, with its inherent pathos, is carried on by human agents, which gives it an air of contingency. The atomistic family has to be liquidated in the continuity of communal life, but the latter continues to have its roots in the former. Womankind, that eternal source of irony, reduces to ridicule the grave deliberations of the state elders, and asserts the claims of youth. The communal spirit then takes its revenge on feminine anarchy by impressing youth into war. In war the ethical substance asserts its negativity, its freedom from all existent arrangements. But since victory depends on fortune and strength, this sort of ethical community breaks down, and is superseded by a soulless, universal ethical community, based on limitless individualism.
476. The destruction of the ethical world of custom lies in its mere naturalness, its immediacy. This immediacy breaks down because it tries to combine the unconscious peace of nature with the self-conscious, unresting peace of Spirit. An ethical system of this natural sort is inevitably restricted, and gets superseded by another similar system. Spiritual communal life necessarily detaches itself from such tribalism, and erects Itself into a formally universal ‘open society’ (term not used by Hegel) dispersed among a vast horde of separate individuals.
477. The universality into which the ethical substance has now developed is the soulless commonalty which has ceased to be the self-conscious substance of its members. These latter alone, in their atomistic multiplicity, are real and substantial. All are equal and all count as persons. The abstract individuality of the dead person in the tribal state has become the abstract ‘1’ of self-consciousness, the spirit of the new community.
478. Individual personality is now the acknowledged substantial principle. But it is an abstract principle instantiated in disjoined selves which lack a common substance. (Use of concept of Sprötigkeit, brittleness, diremptiveness, non-cohesion.)
479. The world of abstract atomic persons carries out in reality what in Stoicism is a mere abstraction. The abstract right of the individual person depends merely on his being a person, not on any superior inner richness or power.
480. The world of right-endowed persons develops dialectically as does Stoicism. Since it gives no content to personality and personal right, it has to relate it to senseless, external things. Persons become property-owners, and so trivial and contemptible, and their rights are all rights to property. (Stress on property in Roman law.)
481. Since empty individuality is the guiding principle of the right state, it naturally incarnates itself in an arbitrarily selected individual, an emperor or living god, whose universal ownership can only express itself in monstrous excess,
482. Since legal personality is devoid of content, the abstract individuality that incarnates its principle is such as to destroy it and also itself.
483. In legal personality the person is meant to be absolutely essential, but its abstraction makes it completely unessential, the prey of unlimited caprice. The absolute unessentiality of the individual becomes the heart of a new phase of experience, that of the self-estranged person in a world of ‘culture’.
484. The ethical substance has, in the state of mere right, put its ethical being outside of itself. As an abstract individual, it confronts the world ordered by law and custom as something alien, from which it feels estranged. The world is its own world, but not seen as its own world, and accordingly becomes objectively different. Ruined is the atomistic assertion of personal rights, it acquiesces in a social order which seems deeply foreign.
485. The ethical substance then opposes to the real ethical order,
which seems deeply alien, a pure, essential order representative of its inward thoughts and ideals. The real order is this-world and strange, the essential order is an other-world in which it would feel at home.
486. The ethical Spirit thereby comes to inhabit two worlds, an actual world of culture and civilisation, and an unreal world, posited by faith, and more truly in harmony with itself. But just as the divine and human laws vanish in the atomistic legal person, so do both worlds vanish in the pure insight of the Enlightenment, with its unknowable god at one pole and its pure utility at the other. This pure insight refines itself into the nullity of revolutionary freedom, from which it must return to repossess itself of its alienated content in the new phase of morality.
487. Spirit now lives in two worlds, one of self-alienation and the other of faith, where, however, in fleeing from the former world, it is involved in another form of the same self-alienation. The principle of the former world, not being aware of its Notion, has the false limitation of being opposed to faith.
488. The world we are about to consider is one in which consciousness externalises itself, which accordingly seems strange to it, and which it has to master. Only by mastering the world can self-consciousness have the universality which is its validity and its reality. This universality involves conformity to general patterns, and is not to be confused with the merely formal universality of the realm of right.
489. In the world we are about to consider the individual counts and is real on account of his Bildung, his culture. He is actual, powerful only to the extent that he is cultivated. His natural being and endowment in all its forms is utterly unimportant: only as cultivated are they better or worse.
490. The cultured individual exercises his ability and talents in a cultured world. In ‘making his mark in the world’ he in effect helps to make the world in which he makes his mark, though he is not conscious of doing so.
491. In the world each man has a place and an opening for his talents, and this place goes with seemingly fixed Judgements of good and bad. Since he is part of the world, such Judgements always stand over against other seemingly just as definite judgements.
492. As Nature dirempts itself into the elements of Air, Water, Fire, and Earth so the social milieu dirempts itself into (i) a spirit of overall uniformity, (2) a spirit of individual diversification, and (3) a spirit which embodies both aspects and unites them in its self-consciousness. There is nothing here analogous to the element of fate which embodies the conflicts of family and state: self-consciousness embodies both.
493. The spirit of uniformity in a society comes before the pure and detached consciousness on the one hand, and the involved actual consciousness on the other, as the good element in that society, whereas the spirit of divergent individualism comes before them as the bad element.
494. The good element in the society, considered as a reality, is the state power in which all individual endeavours are integrated, while the bad element is represented by the riches aimed at by their personal, self-aggrandising efforts. But the quest for wealth is in reality as much for the good of the whole as the state power, and both are the same at bottom.
495. Self-consciousness sees its substance, content, and End in two spiritual powers. Its being-in-self is the state power, its being-for-self riches. Self-consciousness necessarily judges these two powers, and sees the former as good, and the latter as bad. But because both involve their opposites, this judgement can always be reversed.
496. What things intrinsically are is what self-consciousness finds them to be, and so the prima facle judgements of self-consciousness will necessarily be reversed on deeper reflection.
497. This reversal makes the state power be an oppressive, interfering evil thing in which self-consciousness fails to recognise itself, whereas riches becomes a good thing to it, which only harms certain individuals accidentally.
498. This reversed judgement is, however, itself reversible on still deeper reflection. State power is seen as realising the enduring good of individuals and organising their activities, whereas riches only ministers to their vanishing enjoyments.
499. Self-consciousness now judges its own Judgements, finding goodness in judgements which recognise themselves in state power or riches, badness in judgements which regard either as bad.
500. If a man judges state power in a good manner, he takes up a noble-minded attitude towards it, and becomes intent on political and social service. If he judges riches aright, he is grateful towards it and the dispensers of it.
501. To judge badly of either of these powers is to adopt a base-minded attitude, one which secretly rebels against all rulers and uses, while it despises wealth.
502. Both these judgements are immediate and one-sided: they are not brought together in consciousness as they are for us philosophers. But this immediacy generates a demand for a reasoned, syllogistic demonstration by way of a middle term which will suffice to bring them together.
503. The noble-minded consciousness, positively disposed towards state power and negatively to its own selfish purposes, achieves the heroism of service.
504. The heroism of service endows consciousness with self-respect and exacts respect from others. But it also is the real, ultimate source of state power.
505. At first self-consciousness only gives the state power an impersonal legislative status, not an individual one. The haughty vassal retains his individuality and offers advice, counsel to the state powers.
506. The relation of the haughty vassal to the state power is ostensibly noble and loyal, even unto death, but is none the less always ready secretly to conspire against the state for personal ends.
507. A true self-surrender to the state power gives the latter its own individual will, makes it a monarch.
508. In all cases of self-alienation language plays an operative role. Through language the individual makes himself universal and impersonal, and transcends his immediate, changing self. (Cf. the ‘divine’ universality of language in sense-certainty.)
509. Spirit is essentially such as to be one in and through separated sides, each of which treats the other as an object excluded from itself. As such it will itself express itself as an existent object (i.e. a monarch) distinct from its many sides.
510. The ‘universal best’ is a poor expression of the profoundunity underlying the various ‘sides’ in a society. An individual, monarchical will is a better, truer expression.
511. The noble-minded consciousness now develops a language of flattery to reconcile itself with the supreme monarchical will. The monarch becomes unlimited and absolute, and is spoken of by his proper name. The monarch identifies himself with the state power (L'état c'est moi').
512. The flattery of the subjects really creates the monarchical selfconsciousness. But the nobility in practising flattery retains its inner conscious independence, and turns the monarch into a mere dispenser of wealth.
513. The noble-minded consciousness, through its unscrupulous use of flattery, becomes indistinguishable from the base consciousness.
514. For the base self-consciousness the monarch becomes a fount of wealth for which he becomes boundlessly grateful.
515. Wealth represents individual satisfaction but not the satisfaction of a definite individual. It is a form of intrinsic being [Ansichsein] in which being-for-self is negated.
516. In the pursuit of wealth the noble-minded individual comes under the sway of an alien power.
517. In the pursuit of wealth an individual’s personality becomes enslaved to the chance personality of another. What he personally is becomes utterly impersonal, a commodity like others to be bought and sold. Feeling that everything essential is reduced to unessentiality, the individual becomes profoundly rebellious.
518. The self, seeing itself thus superseded and rejected, supersedes this supersession and rejects this rejection. It is consciously for itself in and through them.
519. In its inner independence the self rises above the distinction of the noble- and base-minded: both become a single attitude. Wealth in being universally dispensed gives self-conscious independence and freedom of choice to all, but these are exercised at the expense of others. An arrogance of wealth arises which generates unbounded resentment.
520. Self-consciousness uses a language of noble flattery in dealing with state power: it employs a language of ignoble flattery in dealing with wealth. But the language which truly expresses its Zerrissenheit, its torn state, is one which makes diremption its essence, which in all its judgements unites terms in an utterly irrelevant, external fashion. Its only reason for dealing with things together is that they have nothing to do with each other.
521. The absolute, universal inversion of reality and thought, their mutual estrangement, is the final product of culture. Everything becomes void of substance and confounded with its opposite. All values become transvalued. Spirit in this phase of culture speaks a language of utter disintegration, which takes the novel form of wit.
522. Wit runs the whole gamut of the serious and the silly, the trivial and the profound, the lofty and the infamous, with complete lack of taste and shame (see Diderot’s Nephew of Rameau).
523. Plain sense and sound morality can teach this disintegrated brilliance nothing that it does not know. It can merely utter some of the syllables the latter weaves into its piebald discourse. In conceding that the bad and good are mixed in life, it merely substitutes dull platitude for witty brilliance.
524. The disintegrated consciousness can be noble and edifying but this is for it only one note among others. To ask it to forsake its disintegration is merely, from its own point of view, to preach a new eccentricity, that of Diogenes in his tub.
525. The disintegrated consciousness is, however, on the way to transcending its disintegration. It sees the vanity of treating all things as vain, and so becomes serious.
526. Wit really emancipates the disintegrated consciousness from finite material aims and gives it true spiritual freedom. In knowing itself as disintegrated it also rises above this, and achieves a truly positive self-consciousness.
527. Beyond the alienated world of culture seems to stand the unreal world of pure insight or thought. Consciousness does not, however, recognise that it is its own thought that occupies the transcendental medium, but rather fills it with Vorstellungen, picture-thoughts. The world beyond is a religious picture-world, unreal but conceived as real.
528. Religious faith, with its simple affirmation of a real beyond, is distinct from the religious phases considered before, i.e. the anguished squirmings of the Unhappy Consciousness, or the family-centred cult of the dead.
529. Since consciousness in religious belief flees the world, it continues to carry something which represents the worldly consciousness in itself. This accompanying voice is that of the never resting critical negativity which has emerged out of the realm of culture, and which destroys all positivity and all objectivity. This negative consciousness is without definite content of its own, but it fastens itself on the pictorial content of religious belief and devours the latter.
530. Both faith and pure insight represent consciousness returning to itself from the dispersed world of culture. Each presents three sides for examination: (a) what it is in and for itself; (b) how it stands to reality; (c) how it stands to its sister mode of transcendence.
531. For faith its absolute object is a pictorial reflection of the real world with the historical character of that real world.
532. In its relation to the real world, the object of faith articulates itself into the Absolute Father, the self-offering Son, and the Holy Spirit in which it returns to its original simplicity.
533. Since the Son and Holy Spirit bring the transcendent religious object into relation with reality, they also bring the believing selfconsciousness into relation with the transcendent.
534. The spirit of religious faith lives in the world of culture, but tries to rise above its vanity to the transcendent religious object. It practises acts of devotion which bring it no nearer to its goal which it locates in a remote region of time and space.
535. For pure insight the Notion or concept alone has reality.
536. It seeks to overthrow every type of independence other than that of self-consciousness.
537. In its first appearance the Notion of pure insight is not fully realised. It refers everything to the future, in the form of an aim to be realised. All is to be given a rational reduction which will be valid for everyone. Differences between individuals do not count: they are differences of degree, not of kind. Pure insight is something that all can exercise and possess.
538-40. Pure insight is essentially opposed to religious faith. It is also opposed to the real world and fights against its impure intentions and perverted insights.
541. Enlightenment unites all the destructive, negative poses of consciousness in one. It is the same as religious faith, but seems utterly opposed to it, since it denies all the pictorial content of religious faith. What content it has, it borrows from religious faith, and causes it all to disappear.
542. To enlightenment religious faith is, in the main mass of the people, unconscious error and superstition. But it also attributes a selfconsciousness to this error in the person of deceiving priests and despots.
543. Enlightenment appeals to the insight latent in all to free themselves from the impostures of religion.
544. Enlightenment is essentially ambivalent in its relation to the naive consciousness, which it sees as a ready prey to imposture, yet capable of achieving insight.
545. Enlightenment thinks that it will win its way to men’s minds without a painful struggle, and by a simple infection. One fine day the false idols of religion will simply lie flat on the floor before it. (The Nephew of Rameau.)
546. But it also engages in various noisy combats with religious superstition.
547. Pure insight gives a false reality to the superstition that confronts it, and pretends that it is something that it has to defeat.
548. The ‘other’ of pure insight can only be pure insight: it can only condemn what it is, since beyond itself nothing is admitted to have substance. But it maintains itself by confusedly finding an other in the objects of religion (another form of itself for us, but not for it) which it condemns as irrational lies leading to bad purposes.
549. The object of religion is rightly declared by enlightenment to be a product of the religious man’s thought, but it is wrongly supposed that this means that this object is a mere fabrication. The religious man’s trust in God is a recognition of the identity of God with his own rational being. The worship of the religious community is likewise something in which God comes to be as the spirit of that community, and does not remain blandly beyond it.
550. For the religious consciousness talk of priestly deception, etc. is absurd, since its object corresponds to the inmost nature of consciousness. The lie lies rather in enlightenment which makes the object of religion something entirely different from what it essentially is. There can in fact be no delusion regarding the inmost reality in which consciousness finds the direct certainty of itself.
551. Pure insight misinterprets the various aspects of religious belief, i.e. its view of the absolute essence, the grounds of this belief, and the nature of its service to this essence.
552. Pure insight wrongly supposes that religious belief adores a sensuous object, a lump of wood or stone, a wafer made of paste, etc.
553. But religious belief is not really oriented towards a temporal, sensuous thing. It goes beyond this towards a thought-object which alone is self-existent.
554. Pure insight regards religion as basing itself on contingent, historical matters of fact, whose evidence is inferior to that of the newspapers, and which has passed through many distorting media, e.g. inadequate translations. The religious consciousness, however, bases itself solely on internal grounds of certainty. Only when corrupted by enlightenment does it look for historical support.
555. Religious acts really consist in cancelling the individual’s particularity, which makes them appear senseless, without definite objective, to pure insight.
556. To pure insight the religious consciousness is foolish when it seeks union with its ideal by foregoing natural enjoyments, etc. For pure insight the religious consciousness is likewise foolish in rising above isolated individualism and renouncing private property. To the charge of foolishness it adds the further charge of moral wrongness, thereby making finite ends the sole ends of action, and being untrue even to its own transcendence of these.
557. The role of enlightenment is to make religious faith aware of what it intrinsically is. What, however, is the positive truth which enlightenment opposes to religious superstition? It removes from absolute being all sensuous properties, and so turns it into a mere vacuum to which no predicate can be attributed.
558. Over against absolute reality stands the individual, whose primary awareness is sense-certainty, which has become the absolute truth through the destruction of all sense-transcending forms of consciousness. Sense-experience is supposed to involve certainty as to the reality of the sensitive person and of other things external to himself, all of which exist absolutely.
559-60. Enlightenment can indifferently place featureless intrinsic being beyond sensible things or in them. It can further combine these two ways of regarding sensible things in which they come to have their whole being in their usefulness for other finite things beyond themselves. Reason is the function which prevents immoderate self-assertion and makes everything continue to be truly useful to everything else.
561. The mutual serviceableness of all things is for pure insight a reflection of their derivation from the absolute essence, which is itself the supremely useful, profitable thing.
562. Faith finds the positive outcome of enlightenment abominable, its empty absolute, its goodness present in everything, its summing-up of religion in utility. It sees in enlightenment nothing but self-confessed banality.
563. Faith has a divine right against enlightenment by which it feels itself utterly wronged. The enlightenment too has a divine right against faith, based on the self-consciousness which it expresses, and which is such as to absorb its opposite.
564. Enlightenment does not attack faith with principles peculiar to itself but with those that faith itself acknowledges. It merely reminds faith of certain sides of itself which in certain situations it tends to forget. What it brings before faith is as much an essential part of it as the aspects that it opposes.
565. In regarding faith as its sheer opposite, enlightenment falls to recognise its own self. It does not see that the thought it condemns in faith is its own. Against faith insight is the power of the Notion, relating distinct moments to one another and bringing out their contradiction. It has right against faith because faith contains both contradictory elements in itself.
566. If faith errs in making its object something alien, quite beyond its own devotional activities, insight reminds it of its error in stressing that its object is its own creation. But insight errs in making the object of faith a contingent fiction. It also itself believes in an unattainable, unsearchable Absolute, and is therefore on a level with faith, which combines the cognate with the unsearchable.
567. Both faith and insight wrongly isolate the sensuous from the notional, the former in looking at both this world and its other-world in incompatible ways which it fails to combine, the latter in seeing this world as abandoned by Spirit and playing no part in the essential process of Reason.
568. As regards the ground of knowledge, faith acknowledges that its knowledge of the Absolute involves an element of the contingent, but forgets this in its face-to-face confrontation with the absolute essence. Enlightenment, however, remembers only the former and forgets the latter.
569. Enlightenment regards the sacrifice of property and enjoyment by faith as wrong and inexpedient. Faith, however, recognises, the merely symbolic character of such sacrifices.
570. Enlightenment sees it as absurd to sacrifice a particular, concrete source of pleasure (e.g. by fasting) if one’s aim is to be rid of sensual desire altogether.
571. But enlightenment is here wrongly abstract in seeing the essential element in mere intention or thought, and not in the carrying-out of the latter in the instinctive realm.
572. Enlightenment has irresistibl epower over faith since it brings into play moments present in faith itself. It seems to destroy the beautiful unity of trust and immediate certainty, to sully spirituality with sensuousness, to disturb calm certainty with the idle play of understanding and self-will. But in reality enlightenment enables faith to overcome its split-mindedness, its dreaming life among notionless thoughts, on the one hand, and its waking life among the realities of sense, on the other.
573. The effect of enlightenment is to empty faith of its imaginative content, and to turn it into a pure yearning for an empty beyond, Its object is the same as the empty Absolute of enlightenment, except that it is not satisfied with this object, whereas enlightenment is satisfied. But enlightenment’s satisfaction is, even as such, merely partial, as is shown in its further turning towards this-world utility.
574. Pure insight in its ultimate development frames an object to fit itself, pure thought in the form of a Thing, an Absolute without determinations, in which all distinctions are without a difference. This empty Absolute is the same as the object to which faith sank back when disillusioned of sense-content by enlightenment. The self-alienated Notion does not, however, see the identity of these two Absolutes with each other, and with the self-consciousness which draws these distinctions.
575-8. The fight with faith reproduces itself within enlightenment in the form of a dual Absolute, on the one hand, the pure predicateless supreme being or first cause, and, on the other hand, an Absolute which especially involves the negation of all sensuous quality, and so becomes invisible, intangible, etc., underlying matter. Both are essentially, the same concept, different only in their starting-point. What the one regards as horror, and the other despises as folly, are altogether the same. Thought is being, the copula is here a separation as well as a connection, so that thought becomes opposed to its own shadow, matter. But matter as purely negative is indistinguishable from thought. The Cartesian Cogito ergo sum establishes the overriding identity which enlightenment fails to perceive.
579. The universal present in the contracted forms of God and matter is an eternal abstract oscillation within self or the pure thought of self. The oscillation within self is the simple Notion of utility.
580. Utility is a bad word to faith, sentiment, and speculation, but it expresses the ultimate truth of enlightenment endless restless oscillation from one thing to another. Pure insight is the existent Notion whose being-in-self is not abiding being, but a perpetual being-for-another.
581. Summary. The world of culture ends in the consciousness of its own emptiness and vanity: self-consciousness retreats into self, passing into the two forms of faith and anti-faith (or enlightenment). Faith’s imaginative pictures perish in the onslaught of pure insight, which circles between the two empty poles of the supreme being (negative) and matter (positive). Craving the reality which these abstractions exclude, self-consciousness turns to the real world it has forsaken and finds its own reflection in the universal usefulness of everything to everything. The three worlds traversed by Spirit are therefore (a) the dispersed world of culture in all its rich specificity and its hidden basic genus; (b) the genus behind this world seen as faith and insight; (c) the reconciliation of the genus with the specific forms in utility. In utility the rational universal is united with the individual and his satisfaction, and heaven is brought down to earth.
582. Consciousness has seen its very Notion in utility, which is, however, still envisaged as a predicate of the object of consciousness or as End of its pursuit, and not as its veritable being-for-self. There is, however, an implicit withdrawal from objectivity in the Notion of the useful, and when this withdrawal becomes more explicit we have as a new form of consciousness-absolute freedom.
583. In utility all that intrinsically matters in objects is their use for some self, i.e. their use for a subject inherently universal which sees itself in the superficially alien being of the objects it uses. When the seeming distinction of subject, object, and interaction between them is overcome, absolute self-knowledge results.
584. Spirit knowing itself in all its uses is absolute freedom, which sees nothing sensuous or supersensuous beyond itself. The world is its will, and this will is a general will, the will which is a real will and not capable of being mediated by a representative. This general will is the true will, the self-conscious essence of any and every person, so that each does what all do and vice versa (Rousseau).
585. This general will puts itself on the throne of the world without resistance. Since self-consciousness is the principle behind all separately organised social ‘masses’, all these masses collapse into the unitary will which expresses self-consciousness. What gave the self-thinking Notion existence was its diremption into separated social masses: when the thinking Notion becomes its own explicit object, all such masses go. Each individual consciousness rises above the accidents of its class and place, and desires only to perform the work of the whole. All differences of rank and function are annihilated.
586. Utility as a predicate of a real object vanishes when self-consciousness is its own only object. In this phase of experience there is no room for the distinction between the individual and the general will. The Être suprême is reduced to a gaseous phantasm floating above the wrecked world of culture and faith.
587. In the new fusion of individual with social will, the individual can do nothing but enact laws and public resolutions and decrees.
588. Consciousness thus exalted and universal in aim can achieve nothing positive, either legislatively or executively. Its absolute negativity excludes a differentiation into groups having different state functions (legislature, executive, judiciary) or into the variously aligned groups in the world of culture. Being committed only to do the work of the whole, the individual can do nothing at all.
589. But all deeds, however universal their source, are necessarily the deeds of definite individuals, and not of everyone. Only purely negative, destructive work can therefore be the. common work of wholly free consciousnesses.
590. Self-consciousness, being self-consciousness, cannot avoid the differentiation which self-consciousness involves. If it abolishes all groups, it still keeps the distinction between the inflexible universal and the dirempted individual atoms. The only relation between these two extremes can be one of pure negation: the universal will must seek the death of its individual instances, and this in the most brutal and direct and senseless way.
591. The government is necessarily individual, since only so can it wi ill anything definite. But an individual structure necessarily departs from its own ideal of being the universal will, and becomes the will of a faction which may readily be replaced by another faction. It cannot escape the guilt of violating its own principles. Such guilt, being devoid of any objective principle, is indistinguishable from mere suspicion, and its only fit punishment is simple annihilation.
592. In the work of destruction absolute freedom discovers what it is. Implicitly it is the abstract self-consciousness which uproots all distinctions within itself. The terror of death is the intuition of the negative essence, quivering between its empty absolute poles (God and Matter). The universal will pursuing nothing becomes the elimination of self-thinking self-consciousness.
593. The absolute negativity cannot help generating class- and position-differences within itself which it ruthlessly keeps in their place by sheer terror.
594. From this reign of terror Spirit is unable to return to the concreteness of the realms of culture and faith. It is universal will which in its ultimate abstractness has nothing positive left in it. The unfulfilled negativity of the self, with its senseless pursuit of death, is, however, such as to swing over into absolute positivity in so far as the individual becomes, not something to be destroyed by the universal will, but to be taken up into it as pure knowledge and pure will, the Kantian formal a priori.
595. Absolute freedom has as its positive outcome a purely formal moral will, universal as much as individual. The Kantian Categorical Imperative is the other side of revolutionary destruction.
596. We have advanced to a position where the individual person, at first alienated from its own ‘concept’ in the worlds of culture, faith, and enlightenment, and swamped by that universal meaning in the stage of revolutionary freedom, has achieved unity with its own inherent universality.
597. The individual’s relation to his own spiritual universality is both immediate and mediate. It is immediate in that the individual simply knows his duty and does it. But it is mediate in that the individual does not do his duty as an unreflecting member of the total ethical substance, nor as an alien prescription of an external authority, but in that he understands and sees why he should do as he should do. This deep rational understanding abolishes all otherness, and becomes the whole being of the ethical world.
598. At the moral level only what is known and present to the conscious agent makes any sense or has any reality. The world as an unknown external set of facts of Nature has been transformed into the world as a known spring-board for action.
599. Self-consciousness in this phase makes duty the absolute substance and essence, which is also its own substance and essence, and which cannot assume the form of anything alien. To this substance an other-being must stand opposed, a Nature morally meaningless, governed by laws that have nothing to do with morality.
600. A moral outlook develops in which the intrinsic being and self-consciousness of morality stands in a relation of stark indifference to the intrinsic being and self-consciousness of Nature. The moral and natural orders are for it given as mutually independent and irrelevant. From another point of view, however, only duty counts, the natural order being dependent and unessential. The moral life develops the conflict of these two points of view.
601. From the former point of view, the moral consciousness is satisfied by the mere performance of duty: the natural setting merely provides the occasion for this performance, and it may or may not reward the performance with complete success and happiness. From the latter point of view, which is not purely moral, it is a matter of complaint and regret that the natural order so often fails to match the demands of duty and the requirements of justice.
602. The moral consciousness cannot satisfy itself in the fulfilment of an impersonal, universal purpose: it necessarily demands also that the individual person be satisfied. Nature, it is felt, must come into line with morality, and reward the moral individual with personal satisfaction. From the strictly moral point of view, Nature has no true self to oppose to the demands of morality, and its conformity to these demands is accordingly postulated. This postulation goes beyond present actualities, but is not a contingent, personal demand. It is a necessary demand of Reason.
603. The moral consciousness not merely demands Nature as something completely external and alien in which it operates, but as something also present in itself in the form of contingent, sensuous urges and tendencies directed to specific and individual ends. These urges and tendencies constitute an internal opposition to the purposes of the pure will. The moral consciousness remains one consciousness, however, and in virtue of this unity is obliged to terminate the conflict between its pure self and its contingent, sensuous urges: its essence lies in ending such a conflict. But the conflict cannot be ended by uprooting the sensuous urges, since they are the real element in morality. It must accordingly be ended by making the urges conform to moral requirements. This harmony of urge with morality is a postulated harmony, not as before in the nature of things, but as a harmony consciousness must itself bring about in an endless moral progress. The harmony itself is placed at infinity, since if it came about it would terminate morality. It is not really what we want to achieve, though it must be absolutely carried out: it is a task that must be carried out without ever ceasing to be a task. Infinity is a good place for such contradictory accommodations.
604. Our first postulate was that of an inherent harmony of morality with external Nature, our second that of a self-conscious harmony of morality with internal nature or sensuous impulse. These two harmonies are brought together in the actual movement of action, and each appears required by the other. We have a harmony both inherent and for consciousness.
605. The moral consciousness has to function in relation to an actuality that presents many distinct ‘cases': in relation to these it breaks up into a variety of laws and duties presupposing different objective and subjective situations. These laws of detail have not the sacrosanctness of morality as such, and have to be referred to another consciousness than the one that prescribes the moral ideal as such.
606. There are therefore two moral consciousnesses, one prescribing a law of duty indifferent to special content, and the other particularising this law into special rules. This second moral consciousness also has the task of harmonising morality with happiness. What we here necessarily have is the concept of a moral world-ruler who pluralises duty and connects it with happiness.
607. In actual conduct, however, the agent is always an individual concerned to achieve a result in the real world. He refers the unpluralised law of duty to another consciousness, that of a sacred lawgiver. (This is a strain of the dialectic opposed to 606.)
608. The moral agent, since he places the pure law of duty beyond himself in a perfect lawgiver, necessarily thinks of himself as imperfect in knowledge and will, and a victim to the contingent and the sensuous. He is unworthy to receive happiness and can receive it only through the operation of Grace.
609. The Notion of a full conformity to duty is necessarily postulated by the imperfect moral agent, and he thinks of such a perfection as meting out desert according to merit.
610. The moral consciousness locates its moral ideal in another being, partly as a mere representation in its own mind, partly as something which in its perfection would transcend morality.
611. The moral consciousness does not see its own Notion in the divine lawgiver, nor does it recognise itself as the concept which links all these opposed moments with one another. It operates with picture-thoughts rather than pure Notions. Its object is treated as something merely existent which irrupts upon it in picture-presentation.
612. The moral consciousness also sees its own intrinsic Notion in a quasi-temporal perspective as an original state of perfection to regain which is the aim of the world.
613. The result of these transcendent projections is that the moral consciousness is one of infinite imperfection. There is for it no moral actuality.
614. The accomplished moral actuality is for it merely something ‘beyond’.
615. Both the imperfect individual and the perfection it aims at thus become mere presentations, each valid only from the point of view of the other. The complete moral self-consciousness is and is not, since it exists only in idea. There ‘s and can be no transcendent moral perfection, but an ideal of a moral transcendence is treated as if it were such a perfection.
616. In the moral view of the world consciousness consciously produces its object, i.e. the realm of duty. This it does even if it attributes some aspects of its ideal to a transcendent, divine self-consciousness.
617. The moral view of the world now develops its basic contradiction in several directions. It constantly regards one side of its being as a mere mask for the other, while the latter in its turn merely masks the former. It is, moreover, profoundly conscious of its shifting duplicity and pretence, and its basic lack of seriousness.
618. This masking can be studied in the postulated harmony of morality and Nature. This is not given as actual now, but as to be actualised through moral action. But in so far as it is brought about and the result enjoyed by the agent, there ceases to be the transcendently postulated harmony, and the postulation thereof is therefore shown up as insincere. We only postulate the ultimate harmony to inspire present action.
619. If our postulation of ultimate harmony is insincere, our immersion in action must be sincere. But the End of action is not the individual act but the total betterment of the world, to which the act makes only a negligible contribution. But to place the End in world-betterment is also insincere, since the performance of duty is the essence of action and the only really worthwhile thing in the world. But again the performance of duty essentially relates to the world of Nature: moral laws must become laws of Nature.
620. If, however, the highest good is taken to be a Nature which conforms to morality, morality itself vanishes from this good, since it presupposes a non-conforming Nature. Moral action, being the absolute purpose, seems to look to the elimination of moral action.
621. Morality presumes that morality and reality are in harmony, but not seriously, since it proceeds to bring them into harmony. But it is not serious in doing this, since its action is a mere means to the highest good. But it is not serious with this good, since it involves the destruction of moral action.
622. Morality posits its End as freedom of the pure will from the misleading power of sensuous impulses and tendencies. But in doing so it cuts its connection with reality, since impulses and tendencies alone relate us to reality. It therefore postulates a mere conformity of these impulses to morality. But morality cannot prescribe a direction to the impulses, which alone can give a definite content and direction to morality. We have therefore to make the harmony of impulses and morality an idea of Reason located in the infinite distance. But this again is not serious, since it would involve the elimination of morality in the struggle with the impulses and contingent desires. The non-seriousness is shown in the introduction of the Notion of infinity.
623. It would seem that a state of moral progress is the true moral goal. But progress towards a condition where morality ceases would be moral decay rather than progress. The Notion of an increase or decrease in morality is, moreover, inadmissible. Either one acts dutifully or one violates duty (Stoicism).
624. Since morality is always incomplete, happiness can never be deserved, only granted by grace. Hence happiness is an independent End having nothing to do with morality.
625. Since morality is always incomplete, it is a mere expression of envy when people complain that the wicked flourish while the good suffer. There are no good and no wicked, and happiness should simply be as widely spread as possible.
626. Pure morality inheres only in a divine legislator, who pluralises duty. But nothing can pluralise duty if our moral insight does not do so. Not even a holy being can sanctify what is not intrinsically holy. Nor can an arbitrary being be holy.
627. The perfection of moral insight has to be located in a divine legislator untroubled by sensuous impulses.
628. But in such a being the moral struggle would vanish and hence all genuine moral goodness.
629. In God all the contradictions of morality come to a head. The moral consciousness has to abandon God and retreat into itself.
630. The whole valid morality of God is a mere thing of thought and therefore without moral validity. It is opposed to reality and yet ought to be real.
631. Consciousness, aware of its deep insincerity in all these positions, flees to its own inwardness and takes up the position of pure conscience, indifferent to all these transcendent questions.
632. The antinomy of the moral world-view has given us duty located in the beyond but also demanded down here. It has solved moral contradictions by displacing them into some other, transcendent self-consciousness. Now, however, the moral self-consciousness has reabsorbed this transcendent being into itself, and recognises itself as absolutely valid in its contingency. Its immediate particular existence is the true reality and harmony.
633. The self of conscience is to be contrasted with its predecessors: (a) the self of the legal person whose existence consists in being acknowledged by others; (b) the absolutely free self which is the end-product of the realm of culture; (c) the moral self involved in the oscillating displacements of universality and individuality. In conscience we for the first time give content to the empty pattern of duty, right, and the pure will, and lend it authentic existence.
634. Conscience heals the various breaches across which moral displacement has woven its dialectic, the breach between what is intrinsic and what is a matter of myself, between the pure End and the opposed factors of Nature and sensibility. Conscience is morality become complete, which never submits its decisions to the empty arbitrament of some general standard.
635. For conscience [Gewissen] the intrinsically right is what it is inwardly sure of [gewiss]. It converts the given case before it into something which consciousness itself has produced. It does not dirempt the case before it into a variety of pre-existent duties between which it must decide: it alone can determine its duty in the concrete, making short work of conflicting prima facie claims.
636. Conscience does not consider itself as impure in relation to a transcendent morality, nor does it refer the pluralisation of the pure principles of duty to a transcendent consciousness.
637. It abandons all positions which contrast duty with reality. It recognises duty as concrete action, not as a pure abstraction encapsulated in what is not duty. It is immediately certain of itself, this certainty being its own conviction regarding its own self, and not meant to hold for other persons.
638. The moral consciousness only grasps the underlying essence of the moral, whereas in conscience it is self-conscious. Conscience does not oppose to itself an alien Nature subject to independent laws. As absolute negativity it can identify itself with, and so confer validity on, a finite content.
639. Conscience gives universal validity to the actions of the individual self. This validity is derivatively a validity for others, who recognise its validity for the self in question.
640. Anyone’s conscientious action is recognised as absolutely right by the whole community of conscientious persons. Such universal recognition is not found in the moral realm, where the rightness of acts is always in doubt. In the realm of conscience absolute conviction of rightness is absolute rightness. At this level there can be no question of good intentions which have gone astray or of misfortunes which attend upon the good. What the individual thinks is admitted as right for that individual by all.
641. At the threshold of the sphere of ‘Spirit’ we were concerned with the ‘honest consciousness’ absorbed in the ‘cause itself, which was a predicate of the subject rather than the subject itself. In conscience the ‘task’ or ‘cause itself is the subject. It includes in itself the aspect of social substantiality derived from the ethical sphere, the aspect of external authorisation derived from the sphere of culture, and the self-knowing essentiality of morality. In conscience the subject sees all these moments in and as himself, and seeing them as his moments, he has power and sovereignty over them all.
642. Conscience tries in some measure to consider the circumstances and consequences of action in all their detail. But it also knows and is not dismayed by the fact that these circumstances and consequences ramify infinitely in all directions, and that it is wholly futile to attempt to take account of them all in one’s action. It is for others to pursue the investigation of circumstances ever further: conscience must act on its own incomplete knowledge which, because it is its own, is sufficient and complete.
643. Conscience has to consider all the prima facie duties which come up in concrete cases, but none of them has authority for it. It must determine which is overriding. In doing so its own naturalness, its impulses and inclinations, must play a part. Only this can break through the circle of inauthentic prescriptions derived from others. Conscience must exercise its arbitrament, and this must rest ultimately on its own impulsive and emotional make-up.
644. It is the arbitrament of the individual subject which alone determines the content of duty in given cases. Other individuals might regard this determination as a fraud, since they consider other aspects of the matter. An action that seems violently unjust to others may be an act of justified self-assertion to the person concerned, an action that others see as cowardly may be a prudent conservation of oneself and one’s usefulness to the man in question. Since morality consists merely in the consciousness of having done one’s duty, any content can be moral and must be recognised as such by others.
645. It is no good saying that the content of conscience should have been otherwise. Its essence is arbitrariness. One cannot say that it should have been directed to the general rather than the individual good, for the general good only has definite meaning if one brings in the social laws which override individual conviction, and these conscience will not admit. And any act the individual does for his own good can be plausibly defended as for the good of all. The balancing of goods against goods is moreover something that conscience by its essence cuts short.
646. Conscience is Spirit sure of itself, fully possessed and apprised of its duty. Anything which exists an sich is demoted to a mere moment: it is only in so far as it knows of it that it counts. Conscience has no content: it must decide whether to obey or disobey any law. It has the power to bind or loose.
647. Conscientious acts exist as such for others. They are acknowledged as conscientious by other conscientious persons, and are put on a level with their conscientious acts.
648. There is, however, always some doubt whether other consciences will endorse the determinations of the individual conscience. Conscience therefore oscillates hopelessly between self-doubt derived from the reactions of others and its own self-certainty.
649. Conscientious people, trusting the integrity of their own consciences, cannot help impugning the soi-disant conscientious deliverances of others, and thinking that they are products of morally bad consciences.
650. Only if an act is truly conscientious must it be acknowledged as morally right by all: otherwise it counts as a mere expression of personal preference.
651. Only a man’s consciousness of situations, not the real result of his acts, is morally relevant and acknowledged as such by others.
652. Language is the medium in which Spirit or social subjectivity exists. Through language one personal Ego recognises the Ego-status of another personal Ego, and so transcends its separate individuality.
653. In moral discourse the moral consciousness loses its dumbness and becomes universal. One man utters his conviction of duty which is understood as such by others. Nothing counts except that others are assured that the man himself is assured of doing his duty.
654. The conscientious agent cannot admit questions as to whether or not he is acting from a true sense of duty, since he admits no distinctions of absolute duty from the individual’s conscious determination of it. If a man says he is acting conscientiously, he is.
655. Conscience in its sublime majesty can put what content it wills into its knowing and its willing. It is the moral genius which knows the voice of its inner intuition to be divine. It is likewise the creativity that can make any action to be right. To follow conscience is to practise a religion of self-worship.
656. This lonely religion is also communal, and holds for all who speak the language of conscience and are conscientiously pure in purpose.
657. This sort of pure conscientiousness is wholly empty. One is assured of always being right without regard to what one is right about. Consciousness, the relation of mind to something objective, has vanished into empty self-consciousness, and what we have is really the untruth of the moral consciousness rather than its truth.
658. What emerges out of this emptying of morality is the ‘beautiful soul’, which is too fine to commit itself to anything. It lacks force to externalise itself and endure existence. It does not want to stain the radiance of its pure conscientiousness by deciding to do anything particular. It keeps its heart pure by fleeing from contact with actuality and preserving its impotence. Its activity consists in yearning, and it is like a shapeless vapour fading into nothingness.
659. Conscience has yet to be considered as acting. It gives empty universal duty a determinate content drawn from its own self, and from that self as a natural individuality.
660. Self-certainty is the primary fact for conscience: the universal Ansich takes a second place. For the universal consciousness represented by other people the absolute certainty of conscience is essentially evil and hypocritical.
661. The universal moral consciousness represented by ‘the others’ tries to unmask the hypocrisy of the individual conscience. It tries to show that the universal, impersonal language of morality is both used by the conscientious person, and also serves to disguise his personal contempt for that universality.
662. There is an inherent incompatibility between the impersonal universality of conscious utterances and the claim to obey one’s own private standards. To be impersonal about confessedly personal standards is to abuse others.
663. But when the impersonal moralist condemns private conscientiousness as hypocritical, base, etc., he merely sets up one arbitrary personal standard against another. He in fact legitimises the conscience he attacks by taking issue with it.
664. The judgement of universal morality is unwilling to enter the arena of action, and remains snug within the universality of thought. It thereby itself exhibits hypocrisy, since it wishes its impeccable judgements to do duty for hazardous deeds.
665. The judgement of universal morality is itself a mode of action, and its main concern is to denigrate men’s conscientious acts by explaining them by interested motives like ambition, desire for happiness, moral vanity, etc. No act can escape judgement in such denigratory terms: no hero can be a hero to his valet, because the latter is a valet.
666. The exalted consciousness which judges the active individual can itself be convicted of hypocrisy. It is afraid to act, and it passes off its cowardice as a wonderful piece of insight. The man of action sees his judge correctly as but another agent, and humbly confesses his imperfections to him.
667. But this confession of moral inadequacy is not met by a similar confession on his judge’s part: the judge remains stiff-necked and hard-hearted. Such a retention of uncommunicating being-for-self in the face of the other’s renunciation of the same, denies the very nature of Spirit, which is master and lord over every deed and reality, and can make any of them as if it had never been.
668. The ‘beautiful soul’ represents no accommodation of the clash here considered. It simply passes away in yearning. It does not insist on its own being-for-self, and merely sinks down to unassertive, soulless being.
669. The true accommodation of the two sides just mentioned occurs when the moralist drops his attitude of stiff-necked judgement and matches the confession of inadequacy of the practical man.
670. The recognition of himself, the moralist, in the erring practical agent involves an act of reconciliation and forgiveness which simply is Absolute Spirit showing itself between the two antagonists.
671. The Notion of pure duty and tainted individual practice are two sides of the same Notion in seeming opposition. They are the ‘I 1’ where the Ego knows itself in its absolute other, another Ego. This is the first full appearance of God, the object of religion, on the phenomenological stage.
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