The Phenomenology of Mind

C: Free Concrete Mind: (BB) Spirit

B: The Spirit in Self-Estrangement — The Discipline of Culture and Civilisation (2)

Φ 484. The ethical substance preserved and kept opposition enclosed within its simple conscious life; and this consciousness was in immediate unity with its own essential nature. That nature has therefore the simple characteristic of something merely existing for the consciousness which is directed immediately upon it, and whose “custom” (Sitte) it is. Consciousness does not take itself to be particular excluding self, nor does the substance mean for it an existence shut out from it, with which it would have to establish its identity only through estranging itself and thus at the same time have to produce that substance. But that spirit, whose self is absolutely insular, absolutely discrete, finds its content over against itself in the form of a reality that is just as impenetrable as itself, and the world here gets the characteristic of being something external, negative to self-consciousness. Yet this world is a spiritual reality, it is essentially the fusion of individuality with being. This its existence is the work of self-consciousness, but likewise an actuality immediately present and alien to it, which has a peculiar being of its own, and in which it does not know itself. This reality is the external element and the free content(1) of the sphere of legal right. But this external reality, which the lord of the world of legal right takes control of, is not merely this elementary external entity casually lying before the self; it is his work, but not in a positive sense, rather negatively so. It acquires its existence by self-consciousness of its own accord relinquishing itself and giving up its essentiality, the condition which, in that waste and ruin which prevail in the sphere of right, the external force of the elements let loose seems to bring upon self-consciousness. These elements by themselves are sheer ruin and destruction, and cause their own overthrow. This overthrow, however, this their negative nature, is just the self; it is their subject, their action, and their process. Such process and activity again, through which the substance becomes actual, are the estrangement of personality, for the immediate self, i.e. the self without estrangement and holding good as it stands, is without substantial content, and the sport of these raging elements. Its substance is thus just its relinquishment, and the relinquishment is the substance, i.e. the spiritual powers forming themselves into a coherent world and thereby securing their subsistence.

Φ 485. The substance in this way is spirit, self-conscious unity of the self and the essential nature; but both also take each other to mean and to imply alienation. Spirit is consciousness of an objective reality which exists independently on its own account. Over against this consciousness stands, however, that unity of the self with the essential nature, consciousness pure and simple over against actual consciousness. On the one side actual self-consciousness by its self-relinquishment passes over into the real world, and the latter back again into the former. On the other side, however, this very actuality, both person and objectivity, is cancelled and superseded; they are purely universal. This their alienation is pure consciousness, or the essential nature. The “present” has directly its opposite in its “beyond”, which is its thinking and its being thought; just as this again has its opposite in what is here in the “present”, which is the actuality of the “beyond” but alienated from it.

Φ 486. Spirit in this case, therefore, constructs not merely one world, but a twofold world, divided and self-opposed. The world of the ethical spirit is its own proper present; and hence every power it possesses is found in this unity of the present, and, so far as each separates itself from the other, each is still in equilibrium with the whole. Nothing has the significance of a negative of self-consciousness; even the spirit of the departed is in the life-blood of his relative, is present in the self of the family, and the universal power of government is the will, the self of the nation. Here, however, what is present means merely objective actuality, which has its consciousness in the beyond; each single moment, as an essential entity, receives this, and thereby actuality, from an other, and so far as it is actual, its essential being is something other than its own actuality. Nothing has a spirit self-established and indwelling within it; rather, each is outside itself in what is alien to it. The equilibrium of the whole is not the unity which abides by itself, nor its inwardly secured tranquillity, but rests on the estrangement of its opposite. The whole is, therefore, like each single moment, a self-estranged reality. It breaks up into two spheres: in one kingdom self-consciousness is actually both the self and its object, and in another we have the kingdom of pure consciousness, which, being beyond the former, has no actual present, but exists for Faith, is matter of Belief. Now just as the ethical world passes from the separation of divine and human law, with its various forms, and its consciousness gets away from the division into knowledge and the absence of knowledge, and returns into the principle which is its destiny, into the self which is the power to destroy and negate this opposition, so, too, both these kingdoms of self-alienated spirit will return into the self. But if the former, the first self holding good directly, was the single person, this second, which returns into itself from its self-relinquishment, will be the universal self, the consciousness grasping the conception; and these spiritual worlds, all of whose moments insist on having a fixed reality and an un-spiritual subsistence, will be dissolved in the light of pure Insight. This insight, being the self grasping itself, completes the stage of culture. It takes up nothing but the self, and everything as the self, i.e. it comprehends everything, extinguishes all objectiveness, and converts everything implicit into something explicit, everything which has a being in itself into what is for itself. When turned against belief, against faith, as the alien realm of inner being lying in the distant beyond, it is Enlightenment (Aufklärung). This enlightenment completes spirit's self-estrangement in this realm too, whither spirit in self-alienation turns to seek its safety as to a region where it becomes conscious of the peace of self-equipoise. Enlightenment upsets the household arrangements, which spirit carries out in the house of faith, by bringing in the goods and furnishings belonging to the world of the Here and Now, a world which that spirit cannot refuse to accept as its own property, for its conscious life likewise belongs to that world. In this negative task pure insight realizes itself at the same time, and brings to light its own proper object, the “unknowable absolute Being” and utility.(2) Since in this way actuality has lost all substantiality, and there is nothing more implicit in it, the kingdom of faith, as also that of the real world, is overthrown; and this revolution brings about absolute freedom,, the stage at which the spirit formerly estranged has gone back completely into itself, leaves behind this sphere of culture, and passes over into another region, the land of the inner or subjective moral consciousness (moralischen Bewusstsein).

The World of Spirit in Self-Estrangement

1. v. p. 501 ff.

2. Cp. Eighteenth century Deism and utilitarianism.