Encyclopaedia of the Philosophical Sciences
Part III: The Philosophy of Spirit
SECTION ONE: SUBJECTIVE SPIRIT
(a) Consciousness as Such - (b) Self-Consciousness - (c) Reason
Consciousness constitutes the reflected or relational level of the spirit, the level of its appearance. The self is the infinite relation of the spirit to itself but a subjective relation, as self-certainty. As this absolute negativity it is identity in its otherness; the self is itself and extends over the object, it is one side of the relation and the whole relation; — the light, which manifests both itself and the other.
But the identity is only formal. The spirit as soul is in the form of substantial generality; as self-subsisting gravity, it is related as subjective reflection in itself to darkness. And consciousness is, like relationship in general, the contradiction between the independence of the two sides and their identity in which they are suspended.
The object, as it is released by the infinite reflection of the spirit in its judgment, has this finite relation to itself as its essence, and is a subsisting and a given entity in contrast to the being for itself of the self.
Since the self does not exist as the concept, but only as a formal identity, the dialectical movement of consciousness does not seem to it to be its own activity, but seems to occur in itself that is, as a change in the object. Consciousness appears differently, therefore, according to the differences in the given object, and the ongoing development of consciousness appears as a development of the object. The observation of its necessary changes, however, the concept, falls, because it is still as such interior, within us.
Kantian philosophy may be most accurately described as having conceived of the spirit as consciousness, and as containing only determinations of the phenomenology, not the philosophy, of spirit. Kant views the self as the relation to a "thing in itself" lying somewhere beyond, and it is only from this perspective that he treats the intellect and the will. Though with the concept of reflecting judgment he does speak of the idea of the spirit, subject-objectivity, an intuitive understanding, and so on, and even the idea of nature, this idea is itself demoted to an appearance again, namely, to a subjective principle. Reinhold, it may therefore be said, correctly understood Kantianism, when he treated it as a theory of consciousness, under the name of the faculty of imagination. Fichtean philosophy adheres to the same point of view, for his "not-I" is only an object of the "I," only determined as in consciousness; it remains an infinite impulse, that is, a thing in itself. Both philosophies show, therefore, that they have not clearly reached the concept or the spirit as it is in and for itself but only as it is in relation to something else.
The aim of the spirit as consciousness is to make its appearance identical with its essence, to raise the certainty of itself to truth. The existence of the spirit in consciousness is formal or general as such; because that is determined only abstractly, or it is only self-reflected as an abstract self its existence retains a content which is not yet its own.
The levels of this elevation of certainty to truth are: (a) consciousness in general, which has an object as such; (b) self-consciousness, for which the self is the object; (c) the unity of consciousness and self-consciousness, where the spirit sees itself as the content of the object and as in and for itself determinate; — as reason, the concept of the spirit.
(a) Consciousness as Such
Consciousness is: (1) immediate consciousness, and its relation to the object is accordingly the simple, unmediated certainty of it. The object itself is subsisting, but as it is reflected in itself it is determined further as immediately individual. This is sensory consciousness.
To sensory consciousness belongs the categories of feeling as content, external or internal, and spatial and temporal experience as form. But these both belong to the spirit in its concrete form, both as feelings and as intuitions. Consciousness as a case of relation comprises only the categories belonging to the abstract self and these it treats as features of the object. Sensory consciousness therefore apprehends the object immediately as subsisting, a something, an existing thing, an individual entity, and its immediacy as determined in and for itself. What the object is otherwise in its concrete form concerns the spirit; the self as a concrete entity is the spirit. Even the categories of feeling are only sensory in the form of immediacy; their contents can be of a quite other nature. In consciousness, the self is still abstract thought and has initially as object, therefore, the abstract categories of thought. Spatial and temporal singularity is the here and the now, and the object of sensory consciousness, as I determined in my Phenomenology of Spirit. More essentially, the object is to be taken only according to the identity of the relation by which it has its determination. In this way it exists for consciousness only as an external entity, neither externally for itself nor a being external to itself. The other can achieve this freedom only through the freedom of the spirit.
The sensory as something becomes an other; the reflection of something in itself the thing, has many qualities, and as a single individual it exists in its immediacy as manifold predicates. The many individual moments of sensory consciousness become therefore a broad field, a multiplicity of relations, categories of reflection, and generalities. As the object is so changed, sensory consciousness becomes sense perception.
(2) Consciousness, having passed beyond the sensory level, wants to grasp the object in its truth, not as merely immediate, but as mediated, reflected in itself and general. Such an object is a combination of sensory qualities and categories of thought; consciousness here combines concrete relations and reflection into itself. In this way its identity with the object is no longer the abstract one of certainty, but now the determinate identity of knowledge.
The particular level of consciousness at which Kantian philosophy conceives the spirit is perception, which is in general the standpoint of our ordinary consciousness, and more or less of the sciences. The sensory certainties of individual apperceptions or observation form the starting point. These are in turn supposed to be elevated to truth by being observed in their relations, reflected upon, and according to categories of the understanding turned at the same time into something necessary and general, into experiences.
This linkage of the individual and the general is a mixture, because the individual remains basically hardened being, whereas the general by contrast is reflected in itself. It is, therefore, a many sided contradiction — between the individual things of sense apperception, which supposedly constitute the ground of general experience, and the general, which supposedly has a higher claim to be the essence and the ground — between the individuality of things themselves, which constitutes their independence, and their manifold qualities, which are free from this negative bind and from one another, and are independent, general materials.
The truth of perception is the contradiction, instead of the identity of the individual object and the generality of consciousness, or the individuality of the object itself and its generality. The truth is thus that the object is appearance, and that its reflection into itself is an interior subsisting for itself The consciousness which receives this object, into which the object of perception has been transferred, is the understanding.
(3) For the understanding the things of perception count as appearances; their interior, which the understanding has as an object, is, on the one hand, their suspended multiplicity, and in this way it is the abstract identity, but, on the other hand, it also contains the multiplicity, but as internal, simple difference, which remains self-identical in the changes of appearance. This simple difference is, in the first place, the realm of the laws of phenomena, a copy, but brought to rest and general.
The law, at first as the relation of general, lasting determinations, has, insofar as its difference is the inward one, its necessity in itself; the one of the determinations, as not externally different from the other, lies immediately in the other. But in this way the interior difference is what it is in truth, namely, the difference in itself or the difference which is none.
Consciousness, which as understanding has at first only an abstract interior, then takes the law as its object, and has now found the concept. But insofar as consciousness and the object are still a given, it observes the object as a living entity, — an inferiority, which is in and for itself determinate generality, or truth.
Self-consciousness is sparked, however, by the consciousness of life; for as consciousness has an object, as an entity different from itself it is also true in life that the difference is no difference. For the immediacy in which the living entity is the object of consciousness is precisely the appearance, or the mode reduced to negation which now, as inner difference, or concept, is the negation of itself against consciousness.
The truth of consciousness is self-consciousness, and the latter is the ground of the former, all consciousness of another object being as a matter of fact also self-consciousness. The expression of this is I=I.
In this form, however, it is still without reality: as it is its own object, there is strictly speaking no object as such, for it contains no distinction between it and the object. The self however, the concept for itself is the absolute diremption of judgment. In this way self-consciousness is for itself the drive to suspend and to realise itself.
Since abstract self-consciousness is itself immediate, and the first negation of self-consciousness, it is subsisting and sensually concrete in itself. Self-determination is, therefore, on the one hand negation as a moment posited by itself in itself whereas on the other hand it is an external object. Or the whole, which is its object, is the preceding level, consciousness, and it remains this itself.
The drive of self-consciousness is thus to suspend its subjectivity in general; more precisely, to give to abstract knowledge content and objectivity from itself and conversely, to free itself from its sensuality, to suspend objectivity as a given, and to posit itself as identical with itself or to equate its consciousness with its self-consciousness. — Both are one and the same.
(1) Self-consciousness in its immediacy is a singularity and a desire: the contradiction, implied in its abstraction, which should be objective, or in its immediacy, which should be subjective. As against I = I, the concept is in itself the idea, the unity of itself and its reality.— Its immediacy, which is determined to be suspended, has at the same time the shape of an external object, which determines that self-consciousness is consciousness. But, for the self-certainty arising from the suspension of consciousness, the object is determined as null in itself. Self-consciousness, therefore, is in itself in the object, and in this way conforms with the drive. In the negation, as the proper activity of the self it becomes this identity for the self.
To this activity the object, which implicitly and for self-consciousness is selfless, can offer no resistance: the dialectic, which is its nature, is to be suspended, and is here an activity which the self perceives at the same time as external. The given object thereby becomes just as subjective as the subjectivity which externalises itself and becomes objective to itself.
The product of the process is that the self in this reality joins itself with itself; but this return yields at first only existence as an individual, because it relates itself only negatively to the selfless object and the object is thereby merely consumed. Thus desire is in its satisfaction always destructive and selfish.
But self-consciousness has in itself already the certainty of itself in the immediate object, the feeling of self which it acquires in the satisfaction and which thus is not abstract being for itself or merely its individuality, but is an objective entity. For the satisfaction is the negation of its own immediacy, and the diremption of this immediacy thus occurs in the consciousness of a free object, in which the self knows of itself as a self.
(2) It is a self-consciousness for a self-consciousness, at first immediately, as an other for an other. I immediately perceive myself in the other as "I," and yet also an immediately existing object, another "I" absolutely independent of me. This contradiction, that I am only I as the negativity of immediate existence, yields the process of recognition.
The process is a struggle. For I can not know of myself in the other as myself insofar as the other is an immediate other existence for me. I consequently concentrate on the suspension of this immediacy. But this immediacy is at the same time the existence of self-consciousness, in which as in its sign and instrument self-consciousness has its own feeling of self and its being for others, and has the general means of entering into relation with them. In the same way I can not be recognised as immediate, except insofar as the "I" suspends the immediacy in myself and thereby brings my freedom into existence.
The struggle for recognition is thus a matter of life and death: either self-consciousness imperils the life of the other and brings itself into danger — but only into danger, for each is no less determined to preserve its life as the essential moment. Thus the death of one, which from one perspective solves the contradiction — though by the abstract, therefore crude negation of immediacy — is yet, from the essential perspective or the existence of recognition, the greater contradiction.
Since life is as essential as freedom is, the struggle ends in the first place — for in this sphere the immediate individuality of the two self-consciousnesses is presupposed — as in inequality: whereas one of the fighters prefers life and retains its abstract or individual self-consciousness, but surrenders its claim for recognition, the other holds fast to this universality, and is recognised by the former as his superior. Thus arises the relation of master and servant.
The struggle for recognition and the subjugation under a master are the phenomena in which the social life of people emerges. Force, which is the basis of this phenomenon, is thus not a basis of law, but only the necessary and legitimate moment in the transition from the state of self-consciousness mired in appetite and selfish isolation into the suspension of immediate self-hood. This other, however, overcomes the desire and individuality of sunken self-consciousness and transforms it into the condition of general self-consciousness.
This relation is in the first place and according to its identity a shared feature of the need, the desire, and the concern for satisfaction. In place of the crude destruction of the immediate object there follows the acquisition, preservation, and formation of it, as of the intermediary by which the two extremes of dependence and independence are welded together.
According to the distinction between the two, the master has in the servant and its servitude the intuition of the objectivity of his individual being for itself in its suspension, but only insofar as it belongs to an other. — The servant, however, in the service of the master, works off his individual or self-will, suspends his inner immediacy, and through this externalisation learns fear of the master and beginning of wisdom, — the transition to general self-consciousness.
(3) General self-consciousness is the positive knowledge of self in another self: each self as a free individuality has absolute independence, though in virtue of the negation of its immediacy without distinguishing itself from that other. Each is thus general self-consciousness and objective; each has real generality in such a way as it recognises itself in the free other, and knows this insofar as it recognises the other and knows it to be free.
This general reappearance of self-consciousness, the concept, which knows itself in its objectivity as a subjectivity identical with itself and therefore general, is the substance of all true spiritual life, of the family, the fatherland, the state, and of all virtues, — love, friendship, bravery, honour, fame.
This unity of consciousness and self-consciousness has in the first place individuals existing in contrast to each other as beings for themselves. But their difference in this identity is entirely indeterminate diversity, or rather it is a difference which is none. Hence its truth is the unmediated generality subsisting in and for itself and the objectivity of self-consciousness, — reason.
The essential and real truth which reason is, exists in the simple identity of the subjectivity of the concept with its objectivity and generality. The generality of reason has, therefore, the meaning of the object given in consciousness as well as the self in consciousness.
Reason has, therefore, as the pure individuality of the certainty that the categories of self-consciousness are just as objective, categories of the essence of things as its own thoughts.
As this identity reason is the absolute substance, which is truth. The unique determinacy which it has here, after the object presupposed against the self has suspended its one-sidedness as much as the self set against the object, — is the substantial truth, whose determinacy is the concept itself subsisting purely for itself, I, — the certainty of itself as an infinite generality. This knowing truth is the spirit.
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