The Phenomenology of Mind
C: Free Concrete Mind: (BB) Spirit
Φ 596. THE ethical order of the community found its destiny consummated and its truth realized in the spirit that merely passed away within it — the individual self. This legal person, however, has its substance and its fulfilment outside the ethical order. The process of the world of culture and belief does away with this abstraction of a mere person; and by the completion of the process of estrangement, by reaching the extremity of abstraction, the self of spirit finds the substance become first the universal will, and finally its own possession. Here, then, knowledge seems at last to have become entirely adequate to the truth at which it aims; for its truth is this knowledge itself. All opposition between the two sides has vanished, and that, too, not for us (who are tracing the process), not merely implicitly, but actually for self-consciousness itself. That is to say, self-consciousness has itself got the mastery over the opposition which consciousness involves. This latter rests on the opposition between certainty of self and the object. Now, however, the object for it is the certainty of self, knowledge: just as the certainty of itself as such has no longer ends of its own, is no longer conditioned and determinate, but is pure knowledge.
Φ 597. Self-consciousness thus now takes its knowledge to be the substance itself. This substance is, for it, at once immediate and absolutel mediated in one indivisible unity. It is immediate — just like the “ethical” consciousness, it knows and itself does its duty, and is bound to its duty as to its own nature: but it is not character, as that ethical consciousness was, which in virtue of its immediacy is a determinate type of spirit, belongs merely to one of the essential features of ethical life, and has the characteristic of not being conscious explicit knowledge. It is, again, absolute mediation, like the consciousness developing itself through culture and like belief; for it is essentially the movement of the self to transcend the abstract form of immediate existence, and become consciously universal-and yet to do so neither by simply estranging and rending itself as well as reality, nor by fleeing from it. Rather, it is for itself directly and immediately present in its very substance; for this substance is its knowledge, it is the pure certainty of self become transparently visible. And just this very immediacy, which constitutes its own actual reality, is the entire actuality; for the immediate is being and qua pure immediacy, immediacy purified by thoroughgoing negativity, this immediacy is pure being, is being in general, is all being.
Φ 598. Absolute essential Being is, therefore, not exhausted by the characteristic of being the simple essence of thought; it is all actuality, and this actuality exists merely as knowledge. What consciousness did not know would have no sense and can be no power in its life. Into its self-conscious knowing will, all objectivity, the whole world, has withdrawn. It is absolutely free in that it knows its freedom; and just this very knowledge of its freedom is its substance, its purpose, its sole and only content.
The Moral View of the World