The Philosophy of Spirit (Jena Lectures 1805-6)
PART III. Constitution

A. Classes: The Nature of Self-Ordering Spirit

The spirit – knowing itself to be all actuality and all essentiality – looks at itself, is its own object; i.e., it is for itself an existing organism. It constructs its consciousness – only then is it true spirit, in itself. In each class (Stand), the spirit has (a) a distinct task: to know its own existence and activity in that class; and (b) a particular concept: knowing [its] essentiality. These two are partly to be divided, partly united. The first element is trust; the second is the division of trust in the abstraction of right; the third is absolute mistrust – i.e., when what counts as absolute are things, money, representatives, the universal. With this there enters the object that is in itself the universal object: the state as end. [There is a] knowledge of duty, morality – but this universal knowing [takes place] in its particular branches, [as in] the business class. Then, [to know] the universal qua universal – [this is] the scholar (for whom the most important thing is a certain vanity about his own Self). Finally, to know the negated actual individual, the danger of death – [this is] the military class. [All this, in combination, comprises the] absolute individuality of a people.

i. The Lower Classes and Their Outlooks (a) The peasant class – the class of immediate trust and of crude concrete labor. Absolute trust is the basis and element of the state. In the developed state, however, the trust returns to one class, to the elementary point of departure and to the general element that remains in all, but which takes on its more conscious form. Thus the peasant class is this unindividualized trust, having its individuality in the unconscious individual, the earth. just as, in his mode of work, the peasant is not the laborer of the abstract [i.e., industrial] form, but rather provides approximately for most or all of his needs, so only in his inner life is his work connected to his activity. The connection between his end and its actualization is the unconscious aspect: nature, the seasons, and the trust that what he has put into the ground will come up of itself. He tills the soil, sows, but it is God who makes things grow, the activity being subterranean.

He pays taxes and duties because that is how things are – these fields and houses have always had these burdens on them – it is so, nothing more. [He has] age-old rights – and if new taxes are imposed, he does not understand why, but sees this as [the will of] an individual master, sees that the aristocrats need much, and that in general the state has need of [the money].

Yet he does not understand this immediately. He sees only that money is extracted from him, that businessmen must live also, and that the distinguished lord, the prince, is just that – the lord, the prince. The peasant therefore allows more than one demand to be imposed upon [his age-old] right; and he asks not that he understand the thing, but only that he be spoken to, that he be told what he should do and for what purpose he is being commanded. [It is] a sharp suggestion [he receives], so that he notices a certain force present here: he must provide, and in this form. For his part, he brings his peasant understanding into play, to show that he is not that dumb, [that he is capable of] saying something at the harvest festivities – certain maxims – and in response to the force used against him, he says he will do what is asked of him. And insofar as he retains the right of his understanding and his will, to that extent he obeys. It is the formal [aspect] of speaking and comprehending. This formalism of knowing passes over into abstract knowing, just as concrete labor passes over into the abstract.

Concrete labor is the elementary labor, the substantial sustenance, the crude basis of the whole, like trust. In war, this class comprises the raw mass. [It is] a crude, blind animal, self-satisfied in its insensibility. If its right is denied, it is reflected back into its individuality, and becomes spiteful. And when it strikes out, it rages like a blind mad element, like a deluge which only destroys, or at best leaves a fertile mud and then is spent, having produced no [meaningful] work.

(b) This substantiality passes over into the abstraction of labor and the knowledge of the universal: the class of business and of law (Recht). The labor of the Bürger class is the abstract labor of individual handicrafts. Its outlook is that of uprightness (Rechtschaffenheit). It has taken labor out of nature’s hands and has elevated the process of giving shape (das Formiren) above the unconscious level. The Self has [thus] gained independence from the earth (ist über die Erdeherausgetreten). The form, the self of the work produced is the human Self; the natural self has died; [now the self is] to be considered only in its capacity for use and work.

Trust is a closer, more determinate element in consciousness. The Bürger class oversees the livelihood of the city, the number of fellow workers, [etc.]. Its activity and skill are [those of] contingency, reverting from the contingency of nature [to the work of this class] and [the products] falling to its share [as its right]. The Bürger certainly thinks of himself as a proprietor – and not only because he possesses property, but, because it is his right to do so, he asserts that right. He knows himself as recognized in his individuality, and he stamps this on everything. Unlike the crude peasant, he does not enjoy his glass of beer or wine in order to rise above his usual numbness, partly to enliven his prattling gossip and wit – but rather to prove to himself, in his fine coat and in the grooming of his wife and children, that he is as good as another and that he has achieved all this. What he enjoys thereby is himself, his worth and uprightness; this he has earned through his work, and it stands to his credit. It is not the pleasure itself he enjoys, as much as the fact that he enjoys it, his self-image (die Einbildung von sich selbst).

(c) This imagination of his own worth, and of his universal selfhood in his particularity, becomes an immediate unity, in that the possessing and counting-for-something become synonymous. The imagination ceases to fill up his [sense of] class, [i.e.,] ceases to have elevated his particularity to this universality. What counts is no longer the class as such, but rather the reality of the possession as such. The abstraction of right and class is fulfilled, and it counts only insofar as it is fulfilled.

The mercantile class: the merchant’s work is pure exchange, neither the natural nor the artificial production and forming [of goods]. Exchange is movement, spiritual, the medium that is freed of uses and needs, as it is freed of work and immediacy [e.g., the stock exchange]. This pure movement and activity is the object here. The object itself is divided into two elements: the particular (trade goods) and the abstract (money). [This is] a great invention – the thing that is needed has become something merely represented, not something to be enjoyed itself.

Thus the object, here, is such that it counts only according to the meaning [placed upon it], no longer in itself – i.e., [as fulfilling] the need. It is simply something internal. The outlook of the mercantile class is therefore this understanding of the unity of a thing with its essence: a person is as real as the money he has. The self-image is gone. The [inner] significance has an immediate existence [of its own]. The essence of the thing is the thing itself. Value is hard cash [klingende Muntze: literally, “ringing coin”]. The formal principle of reason is there. (But this money, which signifies all needs, is itself merely an immediate thing.) It is the abstraction from all individuality, character, skills of the individual, etc. This outlook is that harshness of spirit, wherein the individual, altogether alienated, no longer counts. It is strict [adherence to] law: the deal must be honored, no matter what suffers for it – family, one’s welfare, life, etc. Complete mercilessness. Factories, manufacturing, base their subsistence on the misery of one class.

Spirit, in its abstraction, has thus become an object for itself – as the selfless inner. Yet this inner is the I itself, and this I is its existence itself. The form of the inner is not that dead thing, money, but is in any case the I. In other words, for the spirit, the state in general is the object of its activity, its effort and end.

ii. The Universal Class (a) The public class is immediately this involvement of the universal element in everything individual – the blood vessels and nerves that weave through every part, giving it life and sustenance, and bringing it back into the universal. This class is necessity; and its life discharges the particular into the universal. it is the administration and development of public wealth, as well as the exercise of law – and then the [executive powers of the] police.

The power of government consists in the fact that each system (as though it were alone) develops itself freely and independently according to its concept. And the wisdom of government consists in modifying each system according to its class; i.e., to let go of the strictness of the abstract concept for [the sake of] its living parts, just as the arteries and nerves serve the various parts, developing themselves and accommodating themselves to them. The stiffly abstract allocation of powers for all classes in the same manner makes for the severity of government. If, however, this abstract [approach] is modified, although not surrendered, the result is the satisfaction of the classes with their government. [Thus] taxes, duties, tithes are cruder for the peasant, without great formality. He need not be subjected to the far-reaching formalities that occur in regard to customs duties for mercantile goods. Indirect taxes ought to rest with their entire weight on the Bürger class and merchant class, primarily. The peasant becomes more observant and educated in these formalities, but his insensibility must be taken into consideration.

Likewise in regard to the judicial aspect: there must be an easier, coarser justice for the peasant class; for the Bürger class a more detailed form of justice, so that the Bürger may secure his right in all aspects; for the merchant there must be the hard, strict justice of business law.

Marriage laws [are to be] varied according to the character of the classes. [Among the] peasantry and Bürger class, [the parties] get along more easily with one another – they fight and make up again. In the upper classes, however, [there is] a deeper sense, angrier, that is introspective (geht in sich), [that] cannot forget or be reconciled.

In regard to penal law as well, there can be differences and modifications in regard to punishment. The stiffly formal equality [of law] does not spare character [differences]. One and the same thing does injury in one class more deeply and irreparably, while doing no disgrace in the other.

Punishment is the reconciliation of the law with itself. If there is no death penalty involved, then the punishment ought not to kill a person’s civil status. When an offender has served his full time, no further reproach can [justifiably] be made to him about his crime. He is [to be] reintegrated into his class. There is no absolute disgrace. There is injury to feeling in the fact that he cannot return [to society], is rejected by his class, his reputation ruined. In his punishment, [his place in] his class must still be secured. (Upper-class offenders [are to be confined in] a fortress, not in prison among criminals of other classes.)

As there is a particular administration of justice [for each class], so there is a particular science [governing it] – [and a particular] religion – [but] our states have not yet got that far.

(Free disposition over one’s property. Here the [concept of] police enters. [The term comes] from politeia, the public life [of the polis] and the governing and action of the totality itself. This [sense] is now degraded to [mean] the action of the totality regarding public security of all sorts: supervision of business to prevent fraud, realization of general trust, trust in the exchange of goods. Each individual is concerned only for himself, not for the general [interest]. The quiet exercise of his property rights and free disposition of his property involves possible injury to others. [The police are to see to] the limitation, prevention of injury, as well as to [the situation in which everything] is carried on only on the basis of trust. The police are to watch over domestic servants, [to see to it] that a contract is drawn up. Guilds determine the specific rights of masters over apprentices and journeymen, regarding wages and the like.)

The public class works for the state. Spirit has [thus] elevated itself to the universal object. The businessman: his work is itself very divided, abstract, [akin to] machine-work. It certainly [contributes] directly to the universal, yet according to a limited and at the same time a fixed aspect whereby the businessman can change nothing. His outlook (Gesinnung) is that he is fulfilling his duty. He elevates his specific generality to the knowing of the universal. In his specific activity he sees the absolute moral outlook – spirit has [thus] raised itself above character – he performs a universal [task].

(b) The actual businessman is also part scholar. He knows [that he is] to fulfil his duty (Pflicht). This knowing is empty, general. That is, in [fulfilling] the particular duty, it is only the universal element that counts. This empty thinking of his – as duty – this pure knowing is to be fulfilled, is to give itself content in itself – a free content which is at the same time a disinterested object, a content wherein I have my thinking as well as my duty, but so that this thinking of mine is at the same time independent of me.

This is science in general. Here the spirit has some object or other, which it treats without relation to desire and need. It is intelligence which knows itself. The object is the concept of any determinate thing at all, ascending from the thing’s sensual characteristics to its essence. It is an object which appears alien, however, [and] an activity that treats the thought as such, [that] externalizes (entäussert) itself as intelligence, not as absolute actual self. The concept does not become its own object [as yet]. It elevates its thinking to universality, suppressing its arbitrariness, all of which is in itself and necessary.

This missing element is supplied by the military class. That is, the [state as a] totality is an individuality: the activity of this class is for the existing whole; its thought of this whole goes back into the selfhood [of the state as individual]. The totality is an individual, a people, turned against others. [In war there is] the re-creation of the undifferentiated [social] situation (Stand) of individuals toward one another; [it is the] state of nature, [but] here it is real for the first time. The relation [between nations] is partly the placid subsistence of individuals independent of one another – [i.e.,] sovereignty – [and] partly [their] connection through agreements. These agreements do not, however, have the actuality of a true contract. There is no existent power in them, but rather the “individual” that is the nation (Volksindividuum) is likewise the universal as existing power. [International agreements] must not be regarded, therefore, in the way that civil contracts are. They have no binding force as soon as one of the parties annuls them. This is the eternal deception, in concluding treaties, to obligate oneself and then to let that obligation evaporate. A general confederation of nations (Volkerverein) for permanent peace would mean the supremacy of one nation, or it would mean there is only one nation (the individuality of nations suppressed), a universal monarchy.

Morality has no part in these relations, since it is the unfulfilled, unindividualized knowing of duty as such. Insecurity, uncertainty – yet security in the absolute certainty of itself.

The military class and war are the actual sacrifice of the self – the danger of death for the individual, his looking at his abstract immediate negativity, just as he is his immediately positive self. Crime is a necessary element in the concept of right and coercive law: [namely, that] each one, as this individual, makes himself into an absolute power, sees himself as absolutely free, for himself, and real against another as universal negativity. In war this is allowed him – it is crime for [i.e., on behalf of] the universal. The end is the maintenance of the totality, against the enemy who is out to destroy it. This externalization must have this same abstract form, must be without individuality – death, coldly received and given, not in ongoing battle where the individual has his eye on his opponent and kills him with direct hatred; rather, death emptily given and received, impersonal in the gunsmoke.


B. Government: The Self-Certain Spirit of Nature

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