Encyclopaedia of the Philosophical Sciences Part III

The Philosophy of Spirit (1817)
Preliminary Concepts

§ 299

Spirit has for us nature as its presupposition, of which it is truth. In this truth, its concept, nature has disappeared; spirit has therefore produced itself as idea, of which the concept is both the object and the subject. This identity is absolute negativity, because in nature the concept has its completely external objectivity. But it has suspended its articulation, and in this it has become identical with itself. It is this identity only insofar as it is a return from nature.

§ 300.

The essence of the spirit is therefore freedom, the identity of the absolute negativity of the concept with itself. It can distance itself from everything external and from its own externality as well as from its being, and thus bear infinite pain, the negation of its individual immediacy; in other words, it can be identical for itself in this negativity. This possibility is its self-contained being in itself its simple concept, or absolute generality itself.

§ 301

This generality is also, however, its determinate sphere of being. With a being of its own the general is self-particularising, yet remains self-identical. The nature of the spirit is therefore manifestation. The spirit is not determinate as a being in itself and against its externality, nor does it reveal something. Instead, its determinacy and content are this revelation itself. Its possibility is therefore an immediate, infinite and absolute reality.

§ 302

The revelation is the positing of its objectivity, which is in the abstract idea as the immediate transition or becoming of nature. But the revelation of the spirit, which is free, is the positing of nature as its world; a setting forth, which as reflection is at the same time the presupposition of the world as a nature existing independently. But the true revelation is revelation in the concept, the creation of the world as its being, a being in which the spirit has the positivity and truth of its freedom.

The absolute is the spirit; this is the highest definition of the absolute.— To find this definition and to comprehend its content was, it can be said, the absolute tendency of all education and philosophy. It was the point on which all religion and science turned, and World history is to be comprehended on the basis of this point alone.— But the essence of the spirit is the concept. The word and the representation of the spirit were found at an early period, and the content of the Christian religion is to reveal God as spirit. To grasp what is given here as representation, and the essence in itself in its own element, the concept, is the task of philosophy. But this task is not truly and immanently solved as long as the concept and freedom are not the issue and the soul of philosophy.

§ 303

This idea is the concept of the spirit; or it is this in itself as a universal entity. But it is only spirit absolutely insofar as it is the concept for itself or as individuality; and it is essentially for itself only as it is separated from itself. has its concept as a presupposition, and relates to itself as to its immediacy. This is nature, as the being of the spirit, which is therefore its beginning .

§ 304

This beginning is the first moment of its concrete concept, which in its totality: (a) grasps the subjective spirit in itself; (b) as objective spirit realises this concept; and (c) as absolute spirit is itself the unity of its concept and its objectivity.

§ 305

The two first parts of the doctrine of the spirit embrace the finite spirit. Spirit is the infinite idea, and finitude here means the disproportion between the concept and reality, with the qualification that it is a shining within itself – an appearance that the spirit itself posits as a barrier, in order, by its suspension, to have and to know freedom for itself as its essence. The different steps in the activity of the spirit are steps towards its liberation, and in the absolute truth of this liberation these three steps are one and the same: finding a world presupposed, the generation of the world as a world posited by the spirit, and gaining freedom from the world.

The category of finitude is primarily fixed by the understanding in relation to the spirit and reason. It is held not only as a matter of strict logic, but also treated as a moral and religious concern, so that to recognise it as a standpoint of modesty and to adhere to it as a last step, or the wish to go further, are taken as an audacity of thought, even as a mark of insanity.— In fact, however, such a modesty of thought is the worst of virtues, for it treats the finite as an absolute, and remains fixed in untruth and an ungrounded type of knowledge. The category of finitude was not only developed and explained at different points (cf. nos. 15, 34, 45, and so on), but logic must, for the simple thought forms of finitude, as the rest of philosophy will for concrete forms, only show that the finite is not fixed, but exists above all only as transition. It can, therefore, least of all be said that reason and the spirit are finite. There are finite spirits: this is the expression of the imagination which remains at the level of the untruth of immediate appearance, of that which is meant, of a being which the abstract understanding fixes through the form of abstract generality or identity. But the finite spirit is least of all just any finite entity, or being itself. and infinitely less, since other finite entities have their cessation through another; the spirit itself however, the concept and eternity, complete this nullification of nullity, the vanity of the vain. By contrast, the modesty alluded to is not only this vanity itself but the greater vanity, the fixation of vanity against truth. In the course of the development of the spirit, this vanity shall appear as wickedness at that turning point when mind has reached its extreme immersion in subjectivity, and its most central contradiction.


§ 307

Spirit can be called subjective insofar as it is in its concept. Since, however, the concept is the reflection of its generality originating from its differentiation in itself the subjective spirit is (a) immediate, the spirit of nature— the object usually treated by "anthropology" as "the soul"; (b) spirit as the identical reflection into itself and into others, relationship or differentiation— consciousness, the object of the Phenomenology of the Spirit, (c) spirit existing for itself or as subject— the object of "psychology." Consciousness awakes in the soul; consciousness posits itself as reason; and subjective reason frees itself for objectivity through its activity.

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