PhoS: The Master and Slave [Prt. 2]

Encounter and Struggle:
Consciousness’ Experience of
Recognition

Self-consciousness first exists as consciousness which excludes all before it as other to itself. For itself, it is the Ithe abstract selfwhich is an immediate unity of itself with itself. Thus, it is purely individual in that it does not have a universal mediated character.—[Refer to the section on consciousness in Life.]

Each self-consciousness sees the other as a mere object like any other, however each is a self-consciousness that opposes the other. They first encounter each other in the way they encounter all other ordinary objects for recognition is not yet occurring. They are independent living beings that do not depend on each other for their own existence as living entities. Both are beings submerged in the being of life, i.e. as consciousness they have not abstracted themselves from the immediacy of their living activity; consciousness does not yet stand detached above its own life and does not yet reflect on it. Such consciousnesses have not taken themselves to be self-consciousness as such, the pure negativity which negates all immediacy of being. They have not yet absolutely abstracted themselves, i.e. these consciousnesses have not yet recognized themselves as a free standing entity. Self-consciousness is such in that it is being-for-itself apart from the immediate submersion in its living activity. It is a mediated consciousness and as such is mediated being; it is pure being-for-itself.

[Comment:] The point about self-consciousness’ absolute abstraction, I think, ties to thought, which Hegel in the preface connects to abstraction itself. In self-consciousness, then, we also find a necessary condition for thought which can contemplate thought itselfpure conceptsor what technically we may call the categories of cognition itself.

Each encounters the other certain of itself, but unsure about the other. They are sure of themselves as the ‘I am I’, but not sure of the absolute exclusion/negation of otherness. They could only be certain of their being-for-self if in their eyes this were exhibited as an independent object, or, that the object turned out to be this pure certainty of itself. The certainty of these consciousnesses is self-consciousness, for only in such a structured relation does consciousness become an object of cognition for itself. In recognition, the other must be for the first what the first is for the other, each in itself achieves this pure abstraction of being-for-itself, that is, both achieve their being-for-self in their mutual recognition, in their own activity and the activity of the other, closing the circle of recognition between themselves and only themselves.

[Comment:] Remember that self-consciousness as consciousness in the prior section on Life was desire, and finds its certainty only in the act of negation of the other; however, this very negation is the annulment of consciousness’ own being as mere desire for an object. No object —> no desire —> no consciousness. Consciousness’ certainty relies on something external to it, and for the certainty to hold the external object must itself hold against the power of consciousness to negate.

Along with this—something brought to my attention by a gracious comment by someone elsewhere—one must note the suspicion with which recognition begins and remains with. If consciousness, and thus self-consciousness, is impenetrable as such without its will’s allowance, the only way to ‘read’ the other as consciousness is to recognize from it tell-tale signs which imply its being there. This is seen in its capacity to mirror the ways we react, not in a mechanical sense, but in a logical and active sense. Machines do not present such logical mirroring, for they do not have genuine thinking and genuine consciousness; thus, we do not recognize them as conscious. This fundamental and irremovable suspicion born from the opaqueness of (self-)consciousness as an object of knowledge is quite curious and has strong ramifications.

The other displays incredulity and curiosity, apprehension and precaution, it answers to my call, it claims and demands to my claim and demand. There is part of me, my consciousness, which I know the other has no access to, my process of cognition and private thoughts, yet if the other too is conscious they too have such privacy from me. Consciousness has become my object, yet despite being like me in kind, I am faced with a fundamental opaqueness which limits my penetrating gaze into the other. I can only read so much into them insofar as they think as I do, have such a character as I have encountered and learned to navigate, have motives of which I can be aware, yet beyond this the other is forever a fundamental mystery towards which I must give something newly social: trust.

Due to consciousness’ absolute negativity and impenetrability by an external other without its will’s allowance, there is beyond the uncertainty of an individual’s being-for-self also an uncertainty about what is within the impenetrable consciousness of the other. We are apprehensive both because of our doubts about ourselves in relation to the other, but also in doubt of the other in relation to ourselves, especially when we recognize them as one like ourselves. Because they are like us and we know our own impenetrability, we recognize theirs and are ultimately left to wonder what truly lies behind the appearances we have access to regarding the intention and cognition of others.

Now… what happens when two such entities encounter each other for the first time? How does this appear to them?

ABSTRACTION  FROM  LIFE: Struggle to the death.

The way self-consciousness exhibits itself as the pure abstraction of being-for-itself is by negating its connection to life. It denies that it is shackled to life itself, its own objective mode of being. Life as such is nothing to self-consciousness, let alone the other’s life. It proves life is nothing to it, and affirms its own certainty as being-for-itself, by staking its own life in struggle against the other. It proves its worth to itself, and the other proves its worth to it through this show of the insignificance of life. The struggle happens of necessity. Each must prove the truth of their worth to themselves and each otherto prove their self-certainty.

This truth of existing-for-self must be proven in the other and in one’s selfe.g. I prove my being-for-self to myself by staking my life and destroying or overcoming the other. Self-consciousness is pure being-for-self, not immediate being as living being; it is pure negativity which holds on to nothing but itself. Both risk their lives for the sake of proving their self-certainty and being-for-self to themselves and to the other. They act towards each other in a doubled reflection of action and recognize the other as other against themselves. In the struggle, having wagered life, both aim at the death of the other as the certainty that shall prove the supremacy of being-for-self that they take themselves to be. This otherness is the essence of each; thus, they each have their being outside themselves and must sublate it. The other, if it is to be genuine essence, must be intuited as pure being-for-itself, as absolute negation, i.e. as self-consciousness.

[Comment:] Hegel comments that those who do not stake their life may be recognized as a person, but do not achieved the truth for themselves. This is to say, others may recognize you as any ‘x’, but if you have not truly struggled in the realization of being that ‘x’, you are not that ‘x’ in your own right. You may be recognized as an independent person, but insofar as you do not struggle to assert that truth you have not shown this certainty for yourself. Truth is found in the act of realization; I show my independence by acting in capacity of such independence and making the certainty true in the moment of actuality.

The trial by death, however, “sublates the truth which was supposed to emerge from it and, by doing so, completely sublates the certainty of itself.” That is to say, the wager of life, while first seeming to preserve self-certainty for consciousness, only cancels the intended result, recognition.

“Just as life is the natural location of consciousness, that is, self-sufficiency without absolute negativity, death is the natural negation of this same consciousness, negation without self-sufficiency, which thus persists without the significance of the recognition which was demanded.” (§188)

If both are unrelenting in their unwillingness to recognize while demanding recognition, they will struggle until one is dead. For the one that dies and fails in the struggle, through death the certainty is established that they risked their life, acted on the claim that they were consciousness as pure being-for-self, and refused to recognize the other as one like itself. Self-consciousness fully wagers everything in the attempt to make true the claim that it alone is truth and essence. Life and death are nothing to it for itself nor in the other, but in its refusal to recognize the other it loses itself in giving up its life.

For the one who ‘passes’ the test, i.e. the survivor, they indeed appear to achieve the sublation of their consciousness, but it ends in a double movement of nullification. They achieve the sublation of the alien essence which was posited outside themselves as natural existence (self-sufficient life), i.e. they nullify the other in the relation. “They elevate themselves and, as extreme terms wanting to exist for themselves, are themselves sublated.” That is, in the first moment of sublation they preserve their consciousness in the negation of the other as the moment of certainty which makes true and their claim to self-certainty and being-for-self. However, as has already been made clear in prior posts, such a victory is self-defeating in its actuality and is undone in a second moment. In destroying the other self-consciousness, self-consciousness destroys its own essence and its own self-certainty—it loses itself as an object of cognition. The movement of recognition is terminated; the essential moment of the the unity existing in extremes of opposed determinate beings ceases (the genus is destroyed in the destruction of its differentia, or, the universal is cancelled in the cancelling of its determinate independent existing shapes in relation); the middle term through which self-consciousness exists (the other self-consciousness through which it turns inward to itself) collapses into a dead unity (the empty ‘I am I’) which turns into dead extreme terms (no movement of recognition is happening between or within them) that merely exist without being immanently opposed (they relate externally as indifferent objects, not as self-consciousness which is differentiated in itself as two existent shapes).

“They only indifferently leave each other free-standing, like things. Their deed is abstract negation, not the negation of consciousness, which sublates in such a way that it preserves and maintains what has been sublated and which thereby survives its having become sublated.”(§188)

[Note:] Abstract negation, as opposed to determinate or concrete negation, does not preserve the object of negation, but simply annihilates it. It abstracts, disconnects or rips away from, the term which annihilates the other from the relation to the other.

Why Self-Consciousness Needs Two

Why Are Two Consciousnesses Necessary For Self-Consciousness?

Hegel’s claim that self-consciousness requires two (self-)consciousnesses is something I don’t think anyone should find convincing at the face of it, for I myself do not find it convincing without elaboration. Part of the issue that I think highly confuses the understanding of the section is that Hegel brings up the “I am I” of the not-yet-self-conscious consciousness. Bringing this in ends up being confusing, for in the common understanding the “I am I” is considered a basic form of self-consciousness. But what does the ‘I am I’ say that makes us think this?

In §176 Hegel gives the following recap of self-consciousness:

A) The pure I without distinctions is its first immediate object.

B) This immediacy, however, is absolutely mediated, for it exist only in the act of sublating the independent object (life) before it, thus the I exists only as desire. The satisfaction of desire is the very reflection of self-consciousness into itself, that is, it is the certainty which has become the truth.”

C) The truth of the certainty gained in the sublation of the other (life), is only a reinforcement of the truth that consciousness is a doubled reflection as self-consciousness. “There is an object for consciousness which in itself posits its otherness, that is, which posits the distinction as a nullity and is therein a self-sufficient object.”

x

Am I not self-conscious when I reflect on myself and claim “I am I”? It seems utterly ludicrous to say one is not self-conscious in such a situation, so what gives? Well, what does ‘I am I’ say in its mere claim? This claim by consciousness is merely the law of tautological self-identity which merely separates the I from all else as other to it—it is not yet a self-reflecting claim or awareness. The ‘I’ here is also not yet a universal kind differentiated between one particular instance and another, it is a pure immediate contentless individuality. This is to say, this claim is purely one without difference in that ‘I am I’ does not imply ‘I am not you’ or someone else.

When we make this claim it is very different to the claim of Hegel’s self-consciousness on its own. In our claim we implicitly carry universal notions of self and other. As language bearers and  developed cultural beings we have language, culture, and a divided consciousness. We carry an internal other within us from which we reflect: our conscience and our internalized imagination of how others view us. A consciousness with no such power of language, conceptual thought, cultural history, nor social existence has no concept of self for all it has is its own experienced pure empty individuality. ‘I am I’ as opposed to… what? You? There is no ‘you’ at such a point, for such a consciousness has no recognition of anything that is like itself. There is no community of ‘I’s, only the existence of I alone. All that I means and is at such a point is the power of negation of all before it. The I is nothing but pure desire, the consciousness which is at home with itself as desiring life and its endless task to negate all by consumption and nullification.

This I acts towards a world that faces it as other, but in the consumption of desire it attempts to prove to itself that nothing is truly other, that is is truth and essence alone, for there is nothing that withstands its negation. To it otherness is but an appearance whose truth is the I. The issue with “I am I” is not just its poverty as a claim, for it is a meaningless tautology, but also an ontological one. The ontology of self-consciousness is not simply a tautological declaration of self-relation, nor is the experience of self-consciousness simply such a declaration. To be capable of self-consciousness is not the capacity to simply recognize myself as an individuality, but to recognize consciousness in general, that is, to recognize other consciousnesses and their likeness and difference to mine. What does ‘I am I’ mean when I have no concept of other ‘I’s against which I differentiate? Nothing.

The problem with mistaking the claim of ‘I am I’ as a proof of self-consciousness lies in that for us it carries too many assumptions from our already deeply socially embedded self-awareness and the resulting internally self-reflective consciousness. To be genuinely self-conscious is to see my consciousness from the point of another consciousness while in the standpoint of my own consciousness. When we say we are very self-conscious about ourselves in any manner, Hegel means something deeply similar by his concept of self-consciousness. We mean by this that we are aware of how others are aware of us, and that we are aware of their actual or possible capacity  of being aware of our being aware of them.

Recall that consciousness is a cognition directed towards an outer other as object. Its awareness is always pointed outward and never is reflected back inwards. A self-consciousness can exist as a mere consciousness insofar as it does not have another self-consciousness to cause the cognitive awareness to reflect back inwards. Alone, two self-consciousnesses are mere consciousness, but when they encounter each other they have the capacity to recognize each other as self-consciousnesses. Like a light beam projected outwards from an infinitely deep and dark abyssal mirror, consciousness’s awareness reaches outward and grasps the other in its gaze. When two encounter, however, each is primed to detect and recognize the gaze, the emitted light beam, of the other impinging on it. Immediately consciousness recognizes consciousness at one and the same time as 1) consciousness as its object of awareness 2) itself as the object of the other’s awareness 3) as being recognized as consciousness by the other.

The formula of self-consciousness is thus this: I am aware of you being aware of me being aware of you. Through you, I have been forced into becoming aware of myself as consciousness which is the object of consciousness, i.e. self-awareness has been achieved for both through a mediation of each other. In other words, self-consciousness is a reflective cognition between two genuine others in which the other is recognized as other yet as of the same kind. Self-consciousness is this closed circuit of recognition between two.

PhoS: The Master and Slave [Prt. 1]

Following from the development of life and self-consciousness, we now are at Hegel’s most well known and famous philosophical passage, the Master/Slave dialectic of self-consciousness. Like prior sections, this is going to be a long one. There is much here that deals with some very dense phenomeno-logical developments.

One thing to comment here is that there is a vast misinterpretation of this section by most readers. Many take the account given in this section to be Hegel’s positive account of how we become self-conscious, however, this is not the case. The logic of self-consciousness,  found in the Philosophy of Spirit, is something different than the account of the master/slave. This is by and large an account of how the coming to be of recognition and self-consciousness appears to a self-consciousnesses.

The Conclusion of Life and
The Appearance of Spirit

At the end of the prior section Hegel tells us that the concept of Spirit in its most basic form is properly at hand in the concept of self-consciousness as the divided existence of mind in unitary form. Self-consciousness is an “I that is a we, and a we that is an I”. Not only that, but we have also stumbled on the first formulation of the substance as subject: The object of self-consciousness is another subject to whom itself it is an object. 

From here on the forms of consciousness are all expositions and unfoldings of Spirit’s inner development of its self-knowledge as knowledge of self-consciousnesses in relation to themselves and the world. These shall all be subject forms that are embedded in inter-subjective relations and norms. They are all cultural, social, and historical insofar as they build upon a legacy of thought and activity carried and transmitted by communities of individuals. Insofar as this holds, even the ‘objective’ knowledge claims of so-called reason in the objective mode of world observation—such as in empirical science—shall be shown to be grounded in Spirit’s conception of itself.

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The Logic of Recognition

Self-consciousness only exists in being recognized. It exists in and for itself only for an other. As a realization of the concept of Infinity, i.e. as an empirically determinate form of it, self-consciousness must be taken in its opposed meanings of a self-differentiated unity in which the differences are real and independent, yet dependent and the same. By this it is meant that if self-consciousness is posited as the united universal, it must be thought as the divided plurality of self-consciousnesses, and if posited as plurality of self-consciousnesses, it must be thought as the immanently necessary universal unity of this plurality.

Recognition is a movement, that is, it is an activity and not simply a state of mere being—it is a process. Empirically, consciousness does not simply just recognize another consciousness, there is a process to the coming about of this recognition. Consciousness must be forced to recognize the other as one like itself and become self-conscious, and only a self-consciousness like itself may inflict upon it the experience of an independent other which denies the negation imposed by another.

As the concept of it shows, the essence or source of self-consciousness is outside it in another self-consciousness. This, however, is at first not seen as another, but as itself. As self-consciousness faces another self-consciousness as its essence, it must sublate the otherness to be certain it is the essence, but in doing so it thus only sublates itself, for the other was its essence.

The sublation is double-edged in multiple senses.

1) Self-consciousness is outside itself; the other is itself

2) The sublation of another is only a sublation of itself

3) The sublation of its other gets the essence of self-consciousness back into itself, yet this return is a letting go, for it requires that the other indeed be recognized as the essence of self-consciousness, a free self-consciousness itself. This is to say, since the other is the essence in which self-consciousness exists for itself, self-consciousness thus sublates itself into the other, and thus the other is free as well. One cannot be self-conscious without recognizing the other as a self-consciousness and giving it its due as well.

The prior exposition is from one standpoint of one self-consciousness, but the other is self-consciousness as well, thus it also carries on this activity of recognition. Thus, the activity of one is the activity of the other for they are both independent self-sufficient beings that carry out the same activity in relating to the other for themselves. The other is also itself in-itself, thus it does not exist merely as an object that is initially and foremost for the desire of the first. The first self-consciousness cannot penetrate into the other self-consciousness and make it do anything unless the other does in-itself what another does to it.

[Comment:] This is to say this much: In my consciousness nothing can enter that I do not allow to be there for myself. No amount of physical coercion nor enticement can make any consciousness recognize anything or anyone within itself. You may make me say things and do things out of forced capitulation in the face of negative consequences, but never can you make me believe, respect, or recognize anything I refuse to. In my consciousness I have a being which seems immune to the penetration of any kind of other by any means external to my will, thus I have the power to deny all power over me—even my life itself.

In seeing the other do as one does, and recognizing the other to be as one is, one does what one demands of the other, i.e. by demanding recognition one has already recognized the other as the kind like one’s self. We only recognize insofar as we are recognized. I demand you to submit to me, and you do the same. I wager my life as proof of my absolute independence, and you do the same. I struggle, and you do likewise. Recognition as a movement is only possible with two self-consciousnesses, it would be pointless, useless, and meaningless for one consciousness to do such alone. To demand an entity incapable of recognition to recognize us is an empty act. The activity of recognition is double-edged in the sense that it is as much directed towards the other as it is to oneself. To demand recognition from you presupposes recognizing you.

—The analogy to the play of forces—

Hegel comments that this recalls the disintegration of Genuine Force into Force and Expression as the play of forces; each was nothing but the transition into its opposite and the endless circular movement shifting to the other. Expression was the becoming of Force, and Force the becoming of Expression. Self-consciousness finds its essence only in another consciousness, in its circular movement in the activity of recognition which shifts from self to other and back to self.

Self-consciousness as consciousness is outside itself for it faces another consciousness as its object. As self-consciousness however, its being is this very external relation which allows for self-reflection, hence the externality is internal to it, in it, and for it—as such it is outside of itself in-and-for-itself. The other immediately is and is not another consciousness, for it exists only in the relation of two self-consciousnesses. Each side of the difference requires the other to exist-for-itself as an independent entity which nonetheless is only being-for-itself insofar as the other is in relation to it. Self-consciousness thus finds itself self-mediated in its two existent extremes.

Each is the middle term to the other, through which each mediates itself with itself and integrates itself with itself. Each is, in its own eyes and in that of the other, an essence immediately existing for itself which at the same time exists for itself in that way only by way of this mediation. They recognize themselves as mutually recognizing each other.” (§184)

Comment: The Unity of Self, Concept, and the World

Bernstein, in the first lecture part on the “Introduction” chapter in the Phenomenology, has this very interesting bit to about this quote from Hegel near the end:

The Concept, when it has developed into a concrete existence that is itself free, is nothing other than the I, or pure self-consciousness, but the I is first this pure self-related unity.”

Hegel, Science of Logic

[Bernstein:] “This sentence basically means the following: What he is claiming here is that the driving idea is that nothing can be of significance in my mind unless I can put it into functional conversation with everything else in my mind (call that the Holism requirement), hence the fundamental structures and principles of mind that Kant calls Categories and Hegel calls the Concept are functions of unity. So the unity of the Self and the unity of the Concept are the same, but since the work of unifying is the condition for anything being recognizable by the Human mind at all, then the unity of the subject is responsible for the unity of the world, or rather the world comes to appear as a world at all only if it can appear as in accord with the functions providing for the unity and freedom of subjectivity.

This is the principle of idealism (the unity of self = unity of concept = unity of the world). The principle of idealism simply states that we can have a world at all, and to represent the world to ourselves, only through conceptual unification where establishing such conceptual unification simultaneously yields the unity of the Self with itself. The world necessarily appears as my world. In generating the unity of itself with itself the Self is determining itself, it is acting in a free way, not following from without.

For Plato there is a unity to the world, but it is not the unity in my mind. First it’s the unity of the Ideas that maybe I can internalize to order my mind to get in accordance with, but for Hegel it’s the freedom of self-determining subjectivity itself that generates categorial unity and in so doing it is unifying itself with the world. Making the world determinate presupposes the self-determining act of Reason (that’s the principle of Idealism restated and the entire structure of the Logic).  This is all about ‘The space of Reason is the space of freedom”, and therefore just seems to be an objective Idealist claim. This is all about the mind securing itself, and in securing itself it secures the world, and that turns out to be not reductive or idealist.”

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The Unity of The Self and World

I would like to make a derivative comment on this by using the conceptual keys given to us by Hegel in the Phenomenology’s “Preface” itself on the very closely linked relation of Substance as Subject. From what I know so far, I think Bernstein here jumps the gun far too quickly to anthropomorphize the “self” being referred to in the quote. He assumes that one is well acquainted with Hegel’s meanings, otherwise what he says here can be very misinterpretative of Hegel. That is not to say, however, that I think anything he stated here is wrong, I find these thoughts very interesting examples of how Hegel’s conceptual structures scale through ontological levels.

The I is, yes, the human subject’s I, but Hegel also makes it clear that in a much broader sense the I is, as he states, “first this pure self-related unity.” Regarding concrete existence, in the Logic Hegel has a semi-famous (to Hegelians) line, “The Idea is, first of all, life.” That is to say, the objective form, the independent existence of the Concept as such—the concrete Universal—is life, and in the Philosophy of Nature‘s end, with the arising of life, consciousness arises simultaneously. Life is always already conscious life. This is to say, as a unified self-differentiated whole with parts, a living being has a unified locus of being, a self-identity in its determined organization as an extended body; it is a self in this manner. It is conscious in its living activity, it metabolizes its environment because it is driven by desire manifest in the unignorable impetus of feeling which dominates its existence.

Concept and self are functions of unity. Bernstein’s point that nothing can be of significance to us which cannot enter into the web of other things in our minds is a significant one. Things which have no universal character, which are pure individualities, enter into no relations to anything other than themselves—they have no internal reason to be connected at all. A self is already a unity—a universal—in which individuals are connected within the subject even if they themselves refuse this connection in themselves. The self not only unites seemingly external individuals, but also unites itself with itself. In the mind, when we lack concepts with which to subsume individualities, they are but flickers of experience which are meaningless series in consciousness. The self in such a scenario experiences its world as an unending flux of myriad expressions—to this self nothing in the world appears to it as enduring or essential except itself as the enduring locus of united experience.

A global flash of light in the middle of the night in a dark forest is conceptually meaningless and forgotten insofar as we find no relation in it to anything else, not even to our self. However, the moment a concept arises to grasp and hold fast to the individual, things become meaningful and enduring beyond the abstract self. In the concept of my “self” I already grasp at certain individual instances and unite them in my self to form a core concept, even if arbitrary, that nonetheless becomes meaningful to me and endures in me. In it I unite the experience of something I call my body, my memory, my feelings, and my dreams. In the experience of the random flash I may grasp it in no concept; thus it comes and disappears as yet another moment of flux. However, were I to grasp the individual experience in a concept, say an omen, then the flash gains significance and enters into my self, partaking in my cultural worldview.

When Bernstein says that the world cannot appear as a world without allowing for freedom and subjectivity this is not a statement about the world depending on our self unity, but rather on the very structure of self-related unity as such. This unity is not just the unity of the conscious living self, but also the unity of all things that exist; be they atoms, rocks, or stars. The universe is only possible because self-unity as such is possible. Concepts are also unities like self-relation, often thought of as purely mentally subjective, however, since Concepts have the structure of self-related unity, they allow for the intelligibility of real existing external self-related unities.

The Unity of Self and World

Bernstein’s formulation of the “principle of idealism” is interesting. The unity of self and unity of concept are visible in what Hegel says, but concerning the perception of a world there is a lot more to say in order to make explicit the connection which makes his claim convincing. When Bernstein says that we can only have a world at all when we can establish conceptual unification that simultaneously establishes the self, this is a claim that seems to boldly claim what now is called correlationism by some philosophers, i.e. that the world as it is cannot be what it is beyond what it is for us.

This claim, I think, makes more sense if we take it from the perspective of implicit meaning, and furthermore, by clarifying the subject as not necessarily being a conscious one.—”The world necessarily appears as my world.”—That is to say, the very appearing of a world already implies a self to which such world appears. Insofar as a world appears, it appears to someone, and as a consciousness contemplating this the world thus necessarily appears to me. However, is Bernstein making a more general point here about the concept of a world itself? Does the concept of world make sense when one considers a world without subjects to who it is represented? Of course it does, but I don’t think Bernstein is making a point about the world as such being dependent on our self.

To imply that a world is not a world without subjects to appear to is not something easily accepted. I cannot defend Bernstein’s phrasing, for I think it much too strongly implies something that seems wrong considering experience and concept, but I don’t think Bernstein is being a subjective idealist here—it’s also not implied by what Hegel says. I would like to offer a rephrasing to what I think makes it into a far more acceptable claim.

Recalling the earlier point about the self as a self-related unity, the self to which a world appears is not a consciousness which deals with representations, but rather, a self with connection to other things—as such, the concept of appearance is not proper here. Instead of representation as a relation, relation itself is what has to be considered. To have a world is to have an absolute totality as differentiated unity. The world does not arise without things related in a web of relations, but to what and how are these relations relating? To a “self”, the world self, a unified self-differentiated unity that holds fast to itself in self-relatedness. The world does not merely depend on an abstract unity of itself with itself, but on the unity of that which constitutes it as a myriad of selves that in their self-relating relate to others in myriad ways.

The issue of self and world seems, however, a mostly superficial point to what Hegel seems to be aiming at. While it is a relatable point of entry to the issue—it’s a catchy claim that hooks you—it does more to confuse. Bernstein’s talk of representation, self, and world tinges his account in this excerpted part of his lecture with subjective idealist flavor, betraying Hegel’s own dense intentions. As Bernstein closes the thought, comparing Plato’s ideas and their unity in relation to our own self-unity, the tinge of subjectivism is strong. To reiterate, the unity of self/subject Hegel is concerned with is something far more basic and universal than our human subjectivity. The world is not unified because my mind is unified; it is unified because it has a self-unity itself—it has subjectivity, i.e. active self-related unity.

What is Bernstein getting at in all of this? If it is obvious that the world is unified and existing for itself without our mind’s unification, what is at stake in what he is saying? The issue, I think, is intelligibility. His closing statement that the securing of the unity of the mind shall be the securing of the unity of the world is indeed in line with Hegel’s project: to decisively grasp the system of the mind as conceptual thought—to show that reason can ground itself and attain absolute knowledge of itself. If thought can grasp its own unity as intelligible to itself, it guarantees itself as the absolute against which all else is relative. As self-grounding, reason does not show itself to be determined by anything other than itself, thus it is free in that it is self-determined.

PhoS: Is There Justification of Method?

The method of the Phenomenology’s development is mysterious to the uninitiated, but even when you understand the movement of the method you cannot help but wonder: why this method with this content and in this manner? The lack of justification or explanation of the method in the Phenomenology itself is an interesting and good critique leveled at Hegel by some (see the interesting draft of “The Greatest Mistake: A Case for the Failure of Hegel’s Idealism” by Peter Wolfendale for one such critique).

Now, the development is logical in Hegel’s peculiar sense, i.e. we have an immanently logical development ordered by a progression from immediate abstraction to mediated concreteness expanding into a system of concepts which take up the entirety of concepts before them, in this case a mix between phenomenal forms of consciousness and purely logical categories discovered and developed through phenomenal forms. Hegel does not give us a justification or explanation as to why he can proceed with the inquiry of the Phenomenology in its immanently dialectical manner. Indeed, Hegel does not bring up the question of method until the end of the Science of Logic.

The original title of the Phenomenology of Spirit was Science of The Experience of Consciousness, i.e. the work was clearly already intended to have the form of science despite supposedly being the journey of consciousness to discover science through ‘natural consciousness’—the unscientific form of thoughtIt is peculiar indeed that Hegel should be so bold as to give us the power of his science implicitly without yet having justified ground to do so. Without Hegel’s implicit logical method we would have no capacity to choose between forms of consciousness in any ordering which would allow for such a progression as Hegel gives us, but at the outset of the Phenomenology Hegel has no way to justify this method, indeed, he himself had not yet completely explicated it as he would in the Science of Logic. 

This issue seems, to me, to be a more specific form of the general issue of Hegel’s claim that his work is presuppositionless. This is usually considered to mean logical presuppositionless, but such a lack of presupposition does not deny much of any other presupposition. When Hegel wrote the Phenomenology, we can be certain that he’s presupposing his own final insight, or some form thereof—as a matter of fact, he tells us this much in the Preface and Introduction. If we did not presuppose that the Absolute was with us already, and knowledge was possible, why would we bother? He wouldn’t have written the Phenomenology if all he thought to be doing was to reiterate ancient skepticism on a more general ground, and then he just happened to find a form of consciousness that achieves Absolute Knowing while going through a random order of claims one could be immanently skeptical about. He presupposes, as Bernstein aptly tells us, that one is part of the tradition of philosophy that has accepted that Kantianism made pre-critical dogmatism impossible to return to.  He presupposes his standpoint ending in the present he is in as a historical trajectory, and he presupposes his language and way of thinking.

Because of all of these presuppositions allowed in the work, Hegel can never really convince everyone that the Phenomenology really accomplishes what it claims. Partly because, let’s face it, most people seem to not realize what the method which is driving the movement even is, and partly because even understanding the basic immanent logic one is left with the question of why this logic? How he could do such a thing within the Phenomenology is a big question. Could he have done so at all, or did he really have to wait until the end of the Logic to finally justify or explicate his method? If the Phenomenology is supposed to justify the conclusion of the basic concept of science, and the concept of science is fully fleshed out only afterward, yet the  Phenomenology already is in the form of science, where in the theory is the justification for science itself really made?

One could, perhaps, consider that it might be impossible to deduce science from any other method but itself, and that science is merely stumbled upon in the process of history, after which it retroactively justifies itself. It seems like this is what some may have already said; take for example Zizek, who never tires of reminding us of retroactive necessity. Another position to take is what I think Hegel’s own may be: science has always been present as it is the true form of cognition, unrecognized, but nonetheless present as the engine which forces all forms of knowing which stand against it to fall apart. Science is, then, the only standpoint that can explain or judge just why natural consciousness’s forms cannot sustain themselves as knowledge, and indeed, why their failures through history have come to lead to the explicit final appearance of science out of all their failures.

Does this satisfy? Wolfendale says no, and I’m just pondering it now.

PhoS: Life, Desire, and Self-Consciousness

The end of Force and the Understanding yielded the concept of Infinity, the self-differentiated unconditioned universal (what is later to be termed in the system as the concrete Universal). Not only did the object of the Understanding have the form of Infinity, but the consciousness which faces this object finds itself caught in the structure of Infinity as well. The structure of Infinity is one in which differences are no differences, hence what is on one side is not different from what is on the other, as such consciousness faces itself in the object opposed to it, and in Infinity we find Infinity doubled against itself in opposition. Consciousness as a section was concerned with knowledge of an other that was not consciousness, but Self-Consciousness as a section is concerned with knowledge of itself.

This section on life is the most brutally dense in the text so far.

The Problem of Self-Consciousness

The beginning of Self-Certainty starts with what seems like a peculiar and radical shift from the type of knowledge which Consciousness dealt with. Self-consciousness splits into the moments of consciousness facing an external object—the object is life. We shall see here a phenomenological development of the categories of life, desire, and self-consciousness. The aim of the section is to show by logical development through the structure of Infinity that self-consciousness requires at minimal two consciousnesses

As the moment of absolute negative unity, self-consciousness as consciousness is desire, which seeks to nullify all distinctions against its absolute unity. The object of desire is life, which first appears externally against independent desire.

[Comment:] Why is the object of desire life? Because life is a necessary condition for self-consciousness that is embodied despite its former ignorance of such. There is also a developmental necessity for the concept of life, for no object like the inert objects of Consciousness can advance the knowing of self-consciousness. Life is brought in as the phenomenological factor which enables the further development of the knowledge of consciousness. Extending the “Why life?” issue, life must be developed to consciousness for what seems to me a metaphysical point swinging around a phenomenal point. It seems Hegel wants to take self-consciousness in a direction familiar and radically new. For one, consciousness will only attain self-consciousness in the recognition that there is another consciousness like itself which shall be an external object of itself. Second, it seems that Hegel wants to show us that the recognition of another consciousness is what takes us from an external relation of you and I, to an internal reflection of I am I. This is to say: So long as I face a world which I not only do not recognize as different from me, but also do not recognize in that world anything other than me that is like me,  I really do not know I am a specific self, that I am not the universal consciousness of the world as a whole, thus “I am I” is first an empty claim that is not making a difference amongst different selves.

In desire’s attempt to nullify life and assert itself as the negative unitary truth and essence of all things before it, it shall learn from experience that it is incapable of nullifying life without nullifying itself. On the other hand, life shall show in its development to be composed of a genus (universal) with differentia (individuals), repeating the structure of Infinity determinately in itself. In its own moment as genus—the universal negative unity—life and self-consciousness share the same structure. It is in this logical equivalence that self-consciousness as a living desire meets self-consciousness as another living desire—a predicament in which neither can nullify the other. Since the equivalence is total, living consciousness meets living consciousness.

The Meaning of Self-Certainty

The concept of Infinity attained at the end of Understanding has a peculiar kind of certainty, for it is not a certainty about something external to itself, but certainty of itself—it is a certainty that is the same as its truth.

Note: This character of self-certain truth should to be kept in mind, even if merely in the background for now. This characteristic is one which belongs to Absolute Knowing, however, self-certainty obviously shall somehow fail to attain to this character.

What does self-certainty look like? If the movement of knowledge is the Concept (the movement of moments in the cognition of the object), and the object is knowledge as unity at rest (in the case of self-consciousness this is the I, but it is also the negative unity of Infinity which is the restlessness at rest), then the object corresponds to the Concept, not only for us but also for the knowledge itself. This is otherwise said as the following: Knowledge and knowing are one and the same, or, knower and known are one and the same. The knowing and the object are the same structural relation like Infinity. I remind you that the forms of consciousness have shown themselves to be knowings, and as we found in the Understanding, these knowings only find themselves in their objects. In Infinity and self-consciousness self-certainty is found explicitly.

Put in the usual charm of Hegelese: If Concept is the in-itself of the object, and the object is as object what the in-itself is for-an-other, then the in-itself and being-for-other are the same. Why? For one, this is just what Infinity already hinted at in the impossibility of splitting its inner opposite moments, e.g. the one and the many were what they were only because of their relation and opposition to their other. Because the in-itself being dealt with in this section is consciousness, Hegel tells us that we shall see consciousness is necessarily in-itself what it is for an other by observing its development.

Note: Self-certainty in the speculative spirit of its meaning here is taken from Fichte’s “First Absolutely Unconditioned Principle” in the Science of Knowledge. It is a very dense but short 11 page essay which makes a more expanded argument of just why this equivalence of certainty and truth—existence in the Fichte’s argument—is the case specifically for the self.

False Self-Consciousness

Hegel makes the case that self-consciousness is not yet self-conscious when it only takes its reflection to be only a mere appearance of itself. Why? Though at the end of Understanding we ended with the truth of the reflection of consciousness which faced an object no different in kind to itself, the phenomenal consciousness comprehends this truth differently than we and Hegel do. While consciousness became self-conscious when the object was logically revealed to be of its own kind, and it seemed it was forced to be self-conscious, phenomenally the first moment of encounter has no such actual result. In order for self-consciousness to be it must recognize that indeed it does face another consciousness, however our observed consciousness has recognized no such thing. In Infinity it does not see against it a genuine other like itself, but rather sees a false other and takes only the first moment of Infinity to be the truth: What is different is self-same; thus the moment of oneness prevails against differences. Since consciousness at this point only takes itself to only have access and certainty of its own being, it takes this to mean that everything only appears different from it, and thus everything is in truth only this single consciousness itself.

The distinction of “I am I” is the tautology of self-consciousness, of the difference that is no difference. The distinction itself does not exist for self-consciousness for there is only it, and it alone is truth, as such it is not yet really self-consciousness for in truth it does not face itself—it has not truly gone out of itself and returned out of otherness. It is only consciousness, and we must recall that consciousness is consciousness of external objects, hence consciousness is merely the consciousness of its awareness of external otherness, but not truly of itself. It has a double object: the external object of perception, and consciousness as the object’s essence. In the first moment the other exists as a distinguished being, and in a second moment it exists as the unity and non-distinction with the self. The first moment is consciousness, but this moment exists only in relation to the second moment, the unity of self-consciousness with itself, i.e. self-consciousness only is when it genuinely distinguishes itself from itself yet remains in unity in this existing distinction. The self must encounter a self which it first recognizes as not itself,  yet also as like itself, for only in the knowing of this otherness is it given the necessary mirror to turn onto itself and gain self-knowledge and awareness.

[Comment:] Hegel is does not spell it out for us, but there is a straightforward answer to the question of why self-consciousness is not had by the ‘I am I’. Consciousness, let us not forget, as a general form of consciousness was a consciousness of external objects, i.e. an awareness or knowledge always directed outwards. If a consciousness is capable of self-consciousness, it is able to know/recognize an object which is a consciousness, but being that as a singular consciousness it is merely consciousness directed outwards, without another consciousness it has no impetus to turn that outward attention inwards toward itself. When consciousness which can be self-conscious encounters another consciousness it recognizes it as consciousness, i.e.

its outward awareness is aware of a being which is also outwardly aware. Both consciousness are aware of the outward attention of the other, and immediately they recognize that they are the object of the other’s awareness—in being aware of the other’s awareness of them, they are aware of themselves. This is true self-consciousness.

Consciousness and Its Object

In the beginning of the transition we return to the opposition of consciousness to an object. From the perspective of consciousness the object is at first an object-for-consciousness with no true being or essence. Now, consciousness is that for which an other in-itself exists, but this other is not yet the other-for-itself. It is only for consciousness that the other exists in-itself and as a being-for-other. In facing the object, consciousness recognizes itself not as a genuine other of its own kind, but as merely its own unitary reflection in a false appearance, i.e. for it self-consciousness means its consciousness of merely itself, “I am I”, not of an other like itself.

For self-consciousness the sensible world is a durable existence of mere appearance. In the opposition between appearance and truth, however, only truth is the essence, and the truth is the unity of self-consciousness with itself. The unity must become essential to self-consciousness. As such a unity with itself, self-consciousness is also desire itself, i.e. desire is the moving drive towards unity which in Infinity is the driving back to unity from difference, the infinite negative unity.

As consciousness, self-consciousness has a doubled object: the sensible immediate object which is merely negative to it and has no true being; and second, itself as the true essence which is at the outset only in mere opposition to the sensible object. Self-consciousness shows itself in the movement in which this opposition is sublated, Infinity, and within which it comes to see for itself the selfsameness of itself with its object come to be, i.e. self-consciousness does not begin in full knowledge of its self-consciousness, but must become aware through experience.

==The Concept of Life==

Just as consciousness turns inward to itself to be self-consciousness, the object turns inward to itself—to our perspective as the phenomenological observer—and becomes life; Infinity’s poles themselves become infinite in themselves. This is due to the inherent inner reflective structure of Infinity into itself (a structure of necessary determinacy found in the sections on Determinate Being in the future Science of Logic). Because what is other is truly the same as consciousness, and because it exists just as independently, it carries all the modes of consciousness up to now in itself: Sense Certainty, Perception, and Understanding. The object of desire (consciousness) is living because it itself has the structure of Infinity, the unity of unity and difference, the structure of an organism, true universality. This is coming from Hegel’s romantic views and organicism, it is a phenomenological rearticulating shift of the concept.

The structure of Infinity is the self-repelling of the the selfsame, and this self-repelling creates the opposition within self-consciousness; the opposition between consciousness and life which is no true opposition. Consciousness is the infinite unity for which the infinite unity of distinctions exist, but life is the infinite unity itself which is not yet for-itself. Consciousness takes itself to be independent being, and life is also thus independent on its own side of Infinity. Self-consciousness is utterly for-itself and considers the object the mere negative moment of it, but it will learn from experience that this object is just as independent as it.

Development of the Moment of Inorganic Nature

[Comment:] The following paragraphs are a bit confusing, mainly because it is a determination of what life is through a developing of the necessary preconditions of life in nature, these conditions being the spatial and temporal substance from which life arises from. Hegel does not explicitly tell us this, but I must infer §169 concerns something not yet specifically living because of the developments of §171, where Hegel tells us of the consumption of the inorganic nature of the universal medium which sustains the independent shapes. If it were not the case that this first section concerns the universal substance of inorganic nature upon which life depends, then I could not make sense of the phenomenal injection of inorganic nature into the development of that section.

The essence of life is Infinity as the unconditioned universal which is sublation of all distinctions; it is at rest in absolute restlessness; at unity in absolute diremption. It is self-sufficient because it contains itself and its distinctions entirely. Life is characterized as the essence of Time, the non-selfsameness of the selfsame endlessly, to which the moment of selfsameness is the pure shape of Space. In the simple universal medium the distinctions within it exist as true distinctions, the universal medium existing as their mutual negation by sublating them in their truly existing distinction. The universal fluid medium is independent as the universal moment in selfsameness, however, its durable existence is  also the durable existence of its individual distinctions; it is their substance, in which they are distinct members/parts where each is existing-for-itself as this very substance.  Being no longer means “the abstraction of being”, and this abstraction is no longer the pure essence as the abstraction of universality. Being is now the simple fluid substance of organic life/Infinity which is distinct and moving in-itself. The members within the fluid medium, however, are distinct from each other only in the determinateness resulting from the moments of Infinity’s pure movement of self-diremption into independent moments, for it cannot remain the one without the many.

[Comment:] These equivalencies of life, Infinity, space, and time, appear as if for no reason other than to show how Hegel’s logic can structurally link such seemingly disconnected concepts. I think Hegel is actually being brutally dense in §169-171, providing absolutely minimal links between these determinations, only giving enough to hint at the fact that he has implicitly—and at one moment explicitly—provided for a distinction between a simple infinity of inorganic being within which life exists, and the infinity of life which exists as the distinction for itself within said inorganic being. The reason to mention space and time in relation to life as essences of life is not simply just because they are determinations which are themselves also infinite in relation to each other, but that life is an object that exists temporally and spatially. The reason for mentioning a simple universal medium in which the distinctions exist as distinctions to each other and to the simple universal is to implicitly set up the distinctions of the infinite organic substance as the distinctions, and the universal inorganic substance, i.e. the universal in this moment is an existing universal medium we can consider spatio-temporal substance and not an abstract concept. Just as life and consciousness are opposed in their infinite structure, life in itself is now in a new structure of infinite opposition against the simple universal substance, from which it has repelled itself as an other which is not truly other, for life itself is spatio-temporal substance.

Development of Life and Its Parts

The natural ground of life having been developed, we leave the universal fluid medium and turn our focus to the independent distinctions in their independence—it is these distinctions, which inhere in the universal  inorganic fluid medium, that are now the true shift towards the concept of life proper. The independent members exist for-themselves, but as we already know from Infinity this immediately brings them into unity just as much as the unity splits into the members again. The unity is absolutely negative unity, Infinite unity, which is durably existing, and thus the distinction of individual parts only is independent in this negative unity. The independence of the parts is determinate and for-another, and through this immanent relation to another the negative unity results. The sublation of the distinction as one and many is Infinity itself, which is the substance of the independent shapes. The substance is Infinite, as such in its durable existence it is the diremption into the distinction in itself from itself, the sublation of its being-for-itself and back again in the movement and structure of the universal and particular individuals, of the one to many.

Movements of Life

Life now being structured as a whole with parts, and Infinity having been recapped, Hegel takes us in the development of life as Infinity in a determinate phenomenal form.

1st Movement – Life as Process

In the first movement, the independent parts—”shapes” Hegel calls them—clearly have durable existence-for-themselves within the universal fluid medium. This moment suppresses the act of distinguishing in-itself, an act which is their being-for-another—this suppressed moment betrays their independence and denies their durable existence in-themselves. In a second movement, however, these independent shapes are subjugated (sublated) by the negative unity of their distinction. In the first moment these determinate independent shapes of the universal substance confront the universal substance as such, the previously developed fluid medium of spatio-temporal nature, as other to them and deny its fluidity and continuity with them; they assert themselves as not dissolved within it by virtue of their separation from this universal inorganic nature by consuming this inorganic nature—this is the fact of life’s basic form and minimal subsistence. Life as these independent shapes in the universal fluid medium was first in its motionless elaboration of itself, but we see now that the shapes cannot help but move in their consuming; thus life becomes the movement of these shapes—life becomes a process.

[Comment:] The process of consumption here is a very apt phenomenological shift that gives a specific determinate form of the way the logic of the one and many works. The individuals “consume” the universal in the process of how individuals sustain themselves against the universal in the process of thinking, they hold fast to their being in negating the universal moment of the one, and it is this process of negating that is what consumption is a concrete determinate form of.

2nd Movement – From Simple Living Things to Complex Life

The universal fluidity (the universal medium) appears first as the in-itself of life’s distinct shapes, and the distinction among shapes is the other. As we already know from what was learned from Infinity, the in-itself and being-for-other are two sides of the same coin. Because of the distinction within it, the fluidity is itself inverted into the other, since it now exists for the distinction which exists in-and-for-itself, i.e. the one/universal becomes other and subservient to its particulars. The distinction of the particular shapes of life exists in-and-for-itself and is the infinite movement that consumes the fluid medium—life is living things, for in the distinction of the shapes there is a plurality. This is by virtue of the structure of Infinity in which the in-itself/for-other are the self-repelling self-same, i.e. life opposes itself as another life.

The distinction, which is now a plurality of living things, subsist by consuming the passive medium. However, the inversion which has occurred with fluidity and the independent shapes of life is itself now inverted in-itself. In the shapes of individual life what is consumed is essence in order to maintain life’s individual unity with itself, i.e. life finds itself tied to the universal inorganic fluidity as an other which is not alien to it, thus the distinction with it is sublated—individual independent existence-for-itself is tied in a radical dependence on the universal. This very fluidity is what allows for the moment of independent existence of the individual shape in-itself, and thus the life comes into unity with itself in the consumption of its own essence, the other to it which is no other. This process of consumption, the unity of life with itself, manifests as the fluidity of the distinctions, i.e the distinction itself is no distinction just as we should expect of Infinite structures. The power of negation which is this fluidity of distinction is the universal dissolution of all distinctions and similarities alike. This dissolution is of the same manner as the in-itself vanishing into being-for-another, and the way the many vanish into one and vice versa.

This sublation of the individual durable existence with the essence is as much its dissolution as its generation through its fluidity. Since the essence of the individual shape is universal life, and this essence and what exists-for-itself are in-themselves the simple substance (i.e. universal life is the simple substance that exists-in-itself), the other of universal life—the independent shapes—are posited within it. In this way life sublates its simplicity, yet in this sublation it equally repels it and estranges it from itself in order to posit its individuality as the independent shapes. This point is seemingly primarily a logical point: about the universal that exists only in its differentiated individual shapes and not as abstract concept. We can, however, take this logical development to also take on a phenomenal form that is not explicitly said by Hegel. Here we have arrived at the more complex life within life in which a living whole is itself constituted by inner living beings existent-in-themselves yet in mutual dependence with the whole which is a living individual being itself.

The Completed Concept of Life

The simple substance of life has shown itself to be the estrangement of itself into distinct shapes and their dissolution back into one. The dissolution of the distinction is itself an estrangement, however, and returns back to the division into distinct shapes. Both aspects of the entire movement collapse into one another, repeating Infinity’s determinate structure—this time in triadic, not in dialectical, form. Life is both shapes motionlessly in the universal self-sufficient medium and the process of life which collapses into one another (dissolution and generation of fluidity). The process of life is as much a taking shape as it is the sublating of shape (being-in-itself and for-another), and the taking shape is as much a sublating into one as it is a division into shapes. The fluid element, the universal life, is merely the abstraction of essence, i.e. it is only actual as a shape. The whole cycle of estrangement from abstract universal whole to determinate individual shapes—their motionless enduring and their dissolution in developmental process—is what life is. Life is the whole developing itself, dissolving its development, and in this total movement being the simple whole sustaining itself through this restless development.

==Living (Self-)Consciousness==

The Other for consciousness was at first merely an immediate unity of being, but now both moments have fully been developed as independent and returned to unity once more; it is a reflected unity that is different in kind to the first immediate unity. The first unity was expressed as merely a being, but this second unity is the universal which contains its independent moments sublated in itself. The universal is the simple genus which is not yet present in the movement of life for it does not exist for itself as this “simple”, it lacks the determination of the genus which will give it true independence from its other—at this point life is merely the living shapes which are only for consciousness. As life does not yet exist for-itself as the “simple” pure negative unity, it points towards something other than itself in order to achieve developmental completion—it points towards consciousness, which has taken itself to be absolute and for-itself up to now, the infinite negative unity from which the independent shapes arise, and to it we now turn in order to finish the development.

Since what faces consciousness is an other which is not an other, and as such consciousness is just as much like this other, consciousness is life as well. In developing its object consciousness developed itself, but it is not yet cognizant of this for it holds itself in its own eyes to merely be the simple essence of the pure I. Consciousness will now learn from experience what has been developed logically about the abstract object, life.

The genus is the simple universal, and the I is this genus for which the distinctions before it are no distinctions at all. The genus is the negative essence of the independent shapes of life. Self-consciousness is therefore only certain of itself in the act of sublating this other, which is independent life. Self-consciousness is desire which nullifies its object; it is certain of the nullity of this other, and posits for itself this nullity as its truth (i.e. self-consciousness is this negation of the other), and thus it destroys the independent object and gives itself the certainty of itself as true certainty which in its eyes has come to be in an objective manner by this actual nullification of the other. In the satisfaction of nullifying its other, however, self-consciousness learns about the independence of the object, for it learns it cannot eliminate it without eliminating itself as desire and its certainty in negation. Because self-consciousness is the genus itself, it generates its object anew in order to reassert itself as desire and its certainty. This experience shows self-consciousness that the object of desire is truly something other than itself; self-consciousness has learned it is not alone and not the singular absolute essence of its world. Its desire is not solipsistically for itself, but for an independent other which is the essence of desire.

The other thus has asserted its being just as independent and durably existing as self-consciousness; it resists self-consciousness’s complete negation of it. However, self-consciousness is desire (the absolute negative unity); it exists absolutely for itself only by sublating (negating and preserving) the other before it, and this sublation is its truth. Negation must be the case for self-consciousness to be; it is desire, and it must be satisfied. If self-consciousness’s desire needs the negation of the object , yet negation of the object cannot be effected by self-consciousness’s absolute negation since such destroys it, then the negation must be effected by the other in itself in order that self-consciousness may find satisfaction in the negation of the object while at the same time preserving it. Only the Genus of life, the infinite negative unity, can effect such an absolute negation that also preserves the object. Negation in the other already was developed such that its negation was found in an other (in desire), or as its determinateness of independent shapes, or in the universal inorganic nature; these, however, are not the negations which can satisfy the conditions of the life’s independent self-negation. Life is thus in itself the negative, it must effect in itself the negativity of desire. Now it is seen that it effects negation in itself independent from self-consciousness—it does so for-itself. It now shows itself to also contain its genus. As the genus it is the infinite negative unity, and as such it is consciousness as well. It is for-itself what it is for its other—it is consciousness for itself and for the other; it and the other are now truly self-consciousness“Self-consciousness attains its satisfaction only in another self-consciousness.”

[Comment:] What does it mean for self-consciousness to find satisfaction only in another of its kind? Why in the world does desire only find satisfaction in an object that negates itself? This is my interpretation: This whole last section about desire and its satisfaction in negation of the other is a purely abstract development of something we all are familiar with: The search for a source of satisfaction that can keep us desiring while at the same time providing satisfaction without being exhausted.

Insofar as we keep chasing objects of desire which in satisfaction are destroyed, we are left empty and forced to keep seeking anew as the genus recreates desire as yet another object—existing physically or as an ideal. The only desire that can endure in satisfaction is one that can negate without destroying the object of desire, and the only way to achieve such negation is by allowing the object to negate itself. This is to say, we only find maximum and enduring satisfaction in the recognition of another self-consciousness which willingly negates itself for us, which of its own free activity generates and gives us what we want without our having to force ourselves on it as we do with dead objects. Because the other is a desiring living consciousness as well, they too desire, and they willingly negate themselves to satisfy us for no other reason than to satisfy our desire, finding satisfaction in satisfying our desire—they desire our desire, and we desire theirs.

Recap on Self-Consciousness

Self-consciousness and life find their completion in a final differentiated unity of both. The movement in general went as follows:

1) The I without distinctions was the first immediate object.

2) This immediacy showed itself to be absolute mediation. This is so because the I exist only as desire that is mediated by the “independent” objects it is impelled to sublate to attain its own certainty of being-for-self. The satisfaction of desire is the “very reflection of self-consciousness into itself, that is, it is the certainty which has become truth.” That is, self-consciousness takes itself to be the essence and truth, yet must prove this in destroying the object of desire in satisfaction an only in this does it attain to the truth of its certainty.

3) The truth of that certainty is to a greater degree the doubled reflection of living self-consciousness, i.e. there is another self-consciousness. “There is an object for consciousness which in itself posits its otherness, that is, which posits the distinction as a nullity and is therein a self-sufficient object.” Desire cannot endure

The living shape that does not contain its own genus also sublates its independence in the process of life, but it ceases to be in its very distinctions, which dissolve in this process. The object of self-consciousness is not a mere living shape, but another independent genus, a living self-consciousness.

Fichte’s Science of Knowledge: On The Self’s Necessary Necessity For Itself

Our task is to discover the primordial, absolutely unconditioned first principle of all human knowledge. This can be neither proved nor defined, if it is to be an absolutely primary principle.

—Fichte,  Fundamental Principles Of The Entire Science Of Knowledge

Outside of German Idealism enthusiasts, mainly scholars, there isn’t that much about ol’ Fichte out there online nor in books. While I’m not deeply interested in Fichte’s own system, I am curious about his philosophy and took the opportunity to read a small snippet because I just happened to read somewhere that said snippet was pertinent to understanding the section on Self-Certainty in the Phenomenology. Pertinent it was, for this small section sets some background on what Self-Certainty as such is, and elucidates a bit on some claims Hegel just asserts.

It is very interesting that Fichte puts great emphasis on activity, telling us that the first principle of philosophy expresses an act which “does not and cannot appear among the empirical states of our consciousness, but rather lies at the basis of all consciousness and alone makes it possible.” What we seek is a proposition which will express this act, and if said proposition must be granted to us, then the act is necessarily also granted along with it. This proposition must be one of the greatest possible reflective abstraction, the most general one in order to be the basis of all following propositions in the system.

He tells us something else of great interest, to put it in my own paraphrasing: philosophy must lift itself up by its own bootstraps. It must at first assume certain things, such as the laws of logic—which he assures us he will prove later upon the principle that assumes them, making a logical circle. Circles aren’t anything new—not particularly scary—for those who are familiar with Hegel. One can only hope it is a nice virtuous circle, and not a vicious one.

Without further ado, this is my summary of Fichte’s argument for the absolute necessity of the self for itself.

The meaning of A=A, or A is A

The process of abstraction aside, Fichte gets right to business and asserts that the highest point of abstraction is the proposition of identity, A is A, or more commonly known in the form of A=A. No one can deny this principle is “perfectly certain and established.” If anyone asks for proof of this, Fichte tells us, we should not embark on such an attempt since it is a proposition of absolute certainty grounded by nothing else. In asserting this absolute certainty as characteristic of the proposition we ascribe “to ourselves the power of asserting something absolutely.”

Now, in insisting that the proposition is absolutely certain we do not assert that A is the case. A=A is not equivalent to A exists. Even if A is defined as something specific, though A is A remains true, it still does not entail that A exists. What A=A means is only the possibility of A being A if it exists, i.e. that if A exists, then A exists. The existence of A is irrelevant to the necessity, the connecting is/= in the proposition. In the proposition the form is all that is relevant, not the content, for A is an indeterminate universal abstraction. It is “not of that about which you know something, but of what you know about anything at all.” Now, if A itself is not absolutely certain and necessarily self grounded…what is it in the proposition that is absolutely certain without external ground? Fichte makes an interesting observation that borders on the cusp of the most obvious obviousness that may seem laughable at first: What is absolutely certain is the connection between the if and then of the A—it is a necessary connection.  This necessary connection is symbolized by X. A necessarily is A.

This being the case—that A=A on its own tells us nothing of much interest—how does Fichte move along? By making a transcendental turn.

Under What Condition Does A Exist?

A problem is posed: Under what condition is A necessarily, i.e. exists? Under condition that it is posited by the self in the self.

How do we get there? Recall that in asserting that A=A is an absolute certainty with no external ground we ascribed ourselves the power to assert something absolutely. A is only a possibility, it can only assert its own necessity if it is posited, but clearly we have no grounds to consider that A has any power of self-positing. Luckily for us, we already granted ourselves the power to posit something. The necessary connection of A to itself, X, is the absolutely certain piece of the proposition. As it is our self that judges the proposition A=A according to the law of X, X must be a law which the self gives to itself whether A is or is not posited.

“Whether, and how, A is actually posited we do not know,” but since X is a connection between a possibly posited A absolutely asserted as A, and since X is posited in the self, A is necessarily posited in the self as well—so far so good. In the proposition A=A, the first A occupies the logical position of subject, the second A the predicate position; X connects and unites subject and predicate. If X is posited, then the first A is posited, and necessarily and absolutely the second as well, i.e. if A as subject, then A is predicate of A. More formally: If X, then A=A; or, if A is posited in the self, then A is A; or more simply, A is (exists).

So far we know: The self asserts through X that A exists absolutely for the judging self which posits A, i.e. X, therefore A, therefore ‘A=A’. Fichte says this can also be said as: “It is asserted that within the self… there is something that is permanently uniform, forever one and the same.” From here Fichte makes what seems as his first leap of logic, from the assertion of permanently uniform something in the self to, “hence the X that is absolutely posited can also be expressed as I=I; I am I.” This problem of a leap aside, Fichte continues. The proposition ‘I am I’ is equivalent to ‘I am‘; this expresses not an act, but a fact—we do not want to mistake this as the first principle Fichte is after.

[Note:] Now, Fichte is right, can be expressed as I=I, but this is something entirely different and not necessarily derived from the argument which has developed from A=A. The new proposition, I=I, though it does not contradict the first, does not necessarily follow from the first as a determinate form of A=A. This I=I seems to be a bold and bald assertion coming from nowhere as far as the argument goes, but there may yet be a way to save this from being a groundless leap. ‘A=A’ as posited is an assertion that there is something within the self that is permanently uniform. Fichte may here be appealing to an empirically given minimal determinate content of A which can be identified as this something—this something is the self; the I.

X has already been shown to be posited absolutely by the self, but now X is equivalent to the proposition ‘I am I,’ which is therefore also asserted absolutely. Here Fichte explains that he’s no fool equivocating ‘A is A’ with ‘I am I,’ they are different in important ways. ‘A is A’ is only a possibility, a contentless form which only exists under a certain condition if it is posited as a content, but the proposition does not tell us whether it is posited as subject nor whether it has any particular predicate necessarily attached, i.e. whether A is posited at all as A, or A as B/C/D/etc. 

‘I am I’ is different from ‘A is A’ in that it is “unconditionally and absolutely valid, since it is equivalent to the proposition X (X therefore A); it is valid not merely in form but also in content.” That is to say, Fichte tells us in a footnote, that “I, who posit A in the predicate position, necessarily know, because the same was posited in the subject position, about my positing of the subject, and hence know myself, again contemplate myself, am the same with myself.” That is, in the proposition of ‘I am I’ within the self the I is posited absolutely with the predicate of equivalence to itself by the self. That isI posit ‘I am I’ and in my positing’s necessary connection I likewise find a necessary connection to myself as its positing subject just as one would find in the predicate A the necessary connection to the subject Atherefore the I “really is posited, and the proposition can also be expressed as I am.

[Note:] In ‘I am I’ the I is posited as subject and predicate of itself by the self, and can be expressed in the simpler form of ‘I am’ because,  to put another way with consideration to the equivalence to X: ‘I am I’ is necessarily necessary because there is necessity in the connection of the subject and predicate which the I posits.

‘I am,’ as a determinate form of ‘A is A’ is merely a fact and only has factual validity, however should the proposition A=A—more precisely X—be certain, then ‘I am’ is also certain, i.e. if necessity is certain then the propositions are certain. Fichte here claims that it is a fact of empirical consciousness that we are compelled to regard X as absolutely certain, i.e. that necessary connection connects things necessarily is certain, therefore ‘I am’ is also certain. “Hence it is a ground of explanation of all the facts of empirical consciousness, that prior to all postulation in the self, the self itself is posited.” That is, if necessary connection is certain, then I am certain I exist by virtue of my necessary connection to my positing of A, for in positing A I necessarily pre-posit myself as its positor.—[Fichte tells us that this all hinges on X indeed is the highest fact of empirical consciousness which underlies and contains all others, a fact which might be conceded to him without proof yet which his system will nonetheless attempt to prove.]

The Primordial Act: The Self’s Positing Of Itself

After such an arduous journey of the mind, we have finally arrived at the doorstep of the principle being sought after, the primordial act upon which all things rest, and this act shall be nothing less than the act of the I positing itself and therefor guaranteeing its own existence.—[This reminds me of the old ontological proof, and I would not be surprised at all if Fichte did have this in mind, for this is seeking after the proposition/concept which in itself provides for its own necessary existence.]

X being given, A being given through X, and now the I being given through X and A together…

Once more Fichte pushes us forward. A=A, we are reminded, is a judgment, and judgments are an activity of the human mind which presupposes all the conditions of activity which are known and established for purposes of reflection, e.g. logic. This activity rests on the ultimate ground of X=I am, therefore we at least know judgment as one particular activity which is grounded by X (but it is all activity, Fichte tells us, that is grounded in X). In knowing this activity of judgment we thus know of the pure character of X’s activity as such in abstraction from empirical conditions. What is this activity?

“The self’s own positing is thus its own pure activity. The self posits itself, and by virtue of this mere self-assertion it existsand conversely, the self exists and posits its own existence by virtue of merely existing. It is at once the agent and the product of action; the active, and what the activity brings about; action and deed are one and the same, and hence the ‘I am’ expresses an Act, and the only one possible, as will inevitably appear from the Science of Knowledge as a whole.”

[Note:] This is where Hegel draws the structure of his notion of self-certainty from, the proper concept in which content and form, certainty and truth, etc. are one and the same.

After this bold declaration from the prior results, Fichte asks us to consider the proposition ‘I am I’ once more, this time considering what is absolutely posited as the first I in the position of formal subject, while the second I is in the position of predicate representing that which exists. If this is the case, then we can absolutely assert the valid judgment: The self exists because it has posited itself.—[This seems like a bit of what Wittgenstein would call language gone on holiday. Just because we can say this does not mean it has any actual meaning. Fichte here is drawing upon notions of an essence in potential being to essence in actual being.]

In a footnote he adds that the general form of all propositions plays out this fundamental movement of positing when we reflect on the activity which occurs in A=A, i.e. that the first A is posited in the self—which is absolute subject—as a posited subject, and the second A designates what the self finds present in itself after having posited it. None of this movement is really pertinent of A, but is really the self’s for the self posits something of itself, a predicate to it, within itself, this predicate being A, i.e. the self posits A, and in reflecting upon the presence of the posited A becomes aware of A as its own predicate;  the “is expresses the passage of the self from positing to reflection on what has been posited.”

Fichte concludes thus:

The self in the first sense, and that in the second, are supposed to be absolutely equivalent. Hence one can also reverse the above proposition and say: the self posits itself simply because it exists. It posits itself by merely existing and exists by merely being posited.”—[A claim that is not convincing in the slightest in the form he presents it here, however, once more, there is a way to redeem the claim in a more reasonable form, and Fichte shall quickly supply it.]

Once more he continues:

And this now makes it perfectly clear in what sense we are using the word ‘I’ in this context, and leads us to an exact account of the self as absolute subject. That whose being or essence consists simply in the fact that it posits itself as existing, is the self as absolute subject. As it posits itself, so it is; and as it is, so it posits itself; and hence the self is absolute and necessary for the self. What does not exist for itself is not a self.”

[Note:] Here we see where Hegel’s theory of the self draws heavily on Fichte’s internal reflection in the self. Hegel not only takes up but also adds to that last statement the inverted equivalent beyond consciousness’s form: What is not a self does not exist for itself, i.e. what is not a subject cannot be an independent substance.

Continuing:

If the self exists only insofar as it posits itself, then it exists only for that which posits, and posits only for that which exists. The self exists for the self—but if it posits itself absolutely, as it is, the it posits itself as necessary, and is necessary for the self. I exist only for myself; but for myself I am necessary… To posit oneself and to be are, as applied to the self, perfectly identical…’I am absolutely, because I am’… Furthermore, the self-positing self and the existing self are perfectly identical… The self is that which it posits itself to be; and it posits itself as that which it is. Hence I am absolutely what I am.

To finally conclude: “I am absolutely, i.e. I am absolutely BECAUSE I am; and am absolutely WHAT I am; both FOR THE SELF.” That is, “The self begins by an absolute positing of its own existence.”

Fichte has just attempted to derive something the vast majority except the most die hard and stubborn skeptics have thought necessary: an argumentative proof of Descartes’ famous “I think, therefore I am.” To put it in normal terms:

The self exists in a moment which is unique in the realm of existence and logic alike—it exists because it posits itself, i.e. it reflects itself within itself and recognizes itself in this reflection, the self exists because it is self-conscious; however, it only posits itself because it already first exists as self-consciousness, then posits itself and becomes aware of its self-consciousness. Its positing and existence occur in one and the same moment.

To summarize: I am certain that I am because I am aware that I am when I posit that I am, and because that awareness is necessarily my awareness, for I posit what I am aware of, I am absolutely certain that I necessarily am absolutely… if necessity is indeed absolutely certain.

Comments on the PhoS: Consciousness

Up to now I’ve been writing expositions of the chapters, but here I’ll add my thoughts on the Phenomenology up to the end of the first section, “Consciousness”.

What Is Logical About the Phenomenology of Spirit?

First off, I’d like to make a comment on the logical—meaning Hegelian logic—structure of the Phenomenology so far. Hegel claims that the development of the investigation in the Phenomenology is strictly logical, but this is a truth that I think is interestingly qualified in the work so far. The structures internal to the forms of consciousness do not arise from a strict logical development of categories following from prior forms of consciousness, e.g. from the results of Sense Certainty, the categories posited by Perception do not follow. In Sense Certainty, Perception, and Understanding, the structure of the object and consciousness’s knowing are historical forms of consciousness which Hegel takes up and abstracts from their empirical forms into pure forms. These forms are arranged in an order in which they are brought into consideration as forms that posit an answer to the problems resulting from prior forms of consciousness, and as the Introduction tells us, the problem before us is the problem of knowledge and knowing. Why begin with Sense Certainty? Is it because it is the simplest claim to knowledge possible, and here Hegel is a good believer in the principle of simplicity against unnecessary complexity? If we shall entertain claims of knowledge, the simplest one that can do the trick should be our first target of observation, right? This would be only reason I could think of IF the systematic character of the future system did not already loom in the Phenomenology. Hegel already has the Logic‘s path in mind, and thus the form of the beginning is really for a logical reason. The way that science begins is always with the greatest level of abstraction possible, with the bare immediate being of things.

Since the forms of consciousness are not what follow any immanent logical chain, what does? Well, what does follow so far is the specification of the general concept of the object. With Sense Certainty we began with pure abstraction facing determinate sense experience, and therefore a lack of any determinate knowledge. In the experience of Sense Certainty, through its very experience of its act of knowing, immediate knowledge turns out to necessarily be mediated by the temporality, spatiality, and conceptual cognition of consciousness. From this result, restated into the proper category of determinacy, Perception attempts to give a determinate conceptual account of an object that is mediated in itself as a sensuous unity with individual differences and mediated through a universal concept. The failure of Perception is the inability to capture the experienced unity of unity and difference that is the object with a universal determined by sensuousness. Its categories fail, and what is learned from its experience is that the logical structure of the object has a unity that falls into difference and vice versa regardless of what perspective it takes of it.

Understanding then appears on the scene and offers new categories that take up this result and further develop it. In Understanding the categories of Force and Law take on the role of an unconditioned universality within which the dependence of unity and difference are taken as a single movement of a unity which contains both—a unity of unity and difference. Understanding is able to see that its answer requires a single concept that can generate this movement in itself, but in attempting to find a third concept to ground the movement it fails to attain anything but the concept of an object that is merely the movement of unity and difference. This movement has no third in its relation to act as grounding substance or essence, and any attempt to formulate a third ends in collapse back into the movement. From this experience of the Understanding we are left with the structure of opposed inversion in the movement of unity and difference in its pure form of pure opposition, i.e. self-opposition, or what appears in the future Logic as Something and Other, which immediately contain their opposite as their familiar inner essence and remain in difference and unity at the same moment. Through the incessant logical movement of inverted oppositions Hegel shifts to the category of infinity, and in an aside through infinity—via the slingshot of the Hegelian Universal—he brings forth life.

Here the forms of consciousness which correspond to traditional epistemology concerning an external world come to their end. Hegel sees no use in any further forms of consciousness of this kind for they have developed themselves to the point where the object of understanding shares the very structure of the consciousness which apprehends it, consciousness faces only itself in its object. Through the self-opposition of this pure concept of infinity he calls forth self-consciousness in this moment of consciousness facing its object. Consciousness, in opposing itself to an external object, posits itself as for-itself against it, and through the cognition of the other as an other to itself it becomes aware of itself as non-distinct from it for it has learned that this process of distinction in infinity is itself a non-distinction. In this awareness that what it faces is not distinct from it, consciousness is self-consciousness. We find here that the very cognition of external objects can only be for a self-consciousness, as such self-consciousness is a necessary condition for consciousness as we have observed it. What and how this self-consciousness is is what remains to be seen in the following developments.

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One can also see something else that’s interesting: that the structure of the object of a form of consciousness is only as complex as the form of consciousness itself, or put in another way, the object faced is structured in the way it is known, and a form of consciousness is a knowing. The object of the forms of consciousness correspond to the shape of consciousness itself, which—jumping ahead a bit into Self-Certainty—is why self-consciousness curiously begins the development of its object with the categories of lifedesire, and self-consciousness itself, for only an object which has these structures properly corresponds to the knowing of self-consciousness, that is, the knowing of itself.

Transcendental Deductions

I had heard/read about this before, but I can see now reading the Phenomenology that there is reason to think it might be one giant transcendental deduction of the conditions of possibility for knowing. Through each of the first three forms of consciousness we find something immanent to their experience which requires a further expansion in the concept of the object. In Sense Certainty we find that its immediacy requires mediation. In Perception we find that its cognition of the sensuous requires the use of pure universal structures, and at the end of Understanding we find that the very cognition of any object other to us—sensible or thought—requires a self-consciousness to make a distinction between itself and an other. Each consequent form of consciousness functions as the presupposed condition of possibility for the prior. Whether this holds after the first section, I don’t know.

Connections to the Science of Logic

Through these first three chapters—if one has read the first two chapters of the Science of Logic—interesting conceptual structures show up in an unfinished and disconnected form prior to the writing of the Science of Logic where they would properly be explicitly developed in their pure conceptuality. Particularly pertinent are pure Being, Determinateness, Becoming and Ceasing/Coming to be, and Something and Other.

Pure, or abstract, Being appears structurally in Sense Certainty (SC) in its concept of the object. SC  merely took its object as Being and refused to determine it conceptually, and this is all that Being is in the Logic, indeterminate meaning. Determinateness comes up at the end of SC and plays a major role in Perception, and it first appears interestingly as the mere fact of mediation. In Perception it is indirectly defined as a “this which is not this,” a very close definition to the development in the Logic where it is ‘Being with non-Being taken up into itself’. Becoming comes into prominence in the Understanding’s concept of Force, in which the moments of Becoming are structurally present in the Force and Expression which are nothing but the yet-to-be of the other. Becoming’s moments are Coming to Be and Ceasing to Be, which are just this same self-vanishing transition. Something and Other, by contrast to these other concepts, is very prominent through Perception and Understanding. The issue of substantive or essential being in these chapters is an unmistakable presence of this structure, for each posited moment either as the universal medium or the one, or as Force and Expression, repeats the movement of Something and Other in their positing of themselves as different when in fact their substantive essence is their Other. While structures from the logic of Essence in the Logic appear in this same movement, Essential and non-Essential, and Ground and Grounded, I haven’t read these portions and thus do not know to what extent they are of importance here. What I do know, however, is that the end of Understanding is basically the pure concept of Something and Other as the first true concept in the spirit of the Logic, as such Hegel calls the development of this concept as belonging to the realm of science, i.e. his later system.

The Connection of Forms of Consciousness

As the chapters go on, there is something noticeable, and that is that prior forms of consciousness return. Sense Certainty is taken up in Perception, and both are taken up into Understanding. This is not something hard to see, for Hegel constantly is reminding us of the sensuous and the perceived through Perception and Understanding. Since self-consciousness has been shown to be a precondition and logically prior to the consciousness of external objects which are other to consciousness, it should be interesting to see how these forms of consciousness will return in later chapters once self-consciousness develops up to consciousness proper again.

Whose Consciousness?

The layers of the Phenomenology run deep, and one can interpret the forms of consciousness in a few ways. One is that the forms of consciousness are akin to our own individual development of consciousness. As an infant we begin with Sense Certainty, as children we Perceive, as teens we Understand, and as adults we become explicitly self-conscious and aware of our role in the world. It seems like plausible reading for this first section.

Another one is, of course, that these are  actual historical forms of consciousness, but in these three chapters this actually does not make much sense to me. Sense Certainty, as a historical form of knowing, would have to correspond to a far gone pre-human stage of mere symbolic reference, a stage of “thinking” which is hardly any thinking at all, and that is pure signaling without memory. The first three forms of consciousness seem almost inseparable in actual life beyond this logical division into determinate moments once we move into Perception in which Sense Certainty dominates over the Understanding, yet the Understanding is implicitly present in its function already, and indeed finds its way out given the conditions for its free speculation. That said, Perception seems to be the pre-Socratic Greek’s naturalist world views, such as the universalization of a determinate element into the essence of all things.

Another view is that this is the very process of cognition of the general human being. First we encounter the sensuous object and have no determinate knowledge of it, but in perceiving we begin to determine the object through sensuous and conceptual categorization, after which we begin to engage in the pure understanding of the object. Were the inquiry to be one inquiring after absolute knowledge, we would then have to conceive of ourselves as knowers and our relation to the known explicitly, hence self-consciousness would come into the picture.

Ontology and Epistemology: The Structure of Objects and Knowing

Part of what smacks you, or at least should smack you in the face, when reading the introduction and this first major section is that ontology and epistemology come hand in hand and never are apart from one another. An ontology always has an epistemology to justify its knowing, and an epistemology always already presupposes the ontology of the knower, its knowing, and the objects it knows. The only ones that probably escape this criticism are the pragmatists because, well, they don’t care about Truth.

Phos: Force and Understanding (pt.2)

Following from the collapse of Force as the unconditioned universal, we here begin with the Understanding’s second attempt at conceiving such universal. We shall tread the path through Law, see Force appear once more, and once again encounter collapse. From there we shall make a transition from the external object to the Understanding itself, from where a second Law shall be posited and the strange argument of the inverted world—the culmination of the structure of inversion—shall be laid out. The inverted world and the second Law shall then lay the way to transition from the preoccupation with external objectivity in Consciousness to Self-Consciousness.

This is a long one.

Transition From Force to Appearance

With the collapse of Force as the unconditioned universal into its pure movement as vanishing being-for-another, a rearticulation of terms occurs in the Understanding. Force—as the unconditioned universal—has shown its essence to be the concept of the Understanding and not the object itself. If the first universal, the oneness, in the relation of Force is considered the mere concept of the Understanding, the second universal, its actual existence as the play of Forces in the Expression, is “the essence as it exhibits itself in and for itself” as the perceived object. In the inverse view we can regard the first universal, Expression, as the immediately existing actual object for the perceiving consciousness, and the second universal, Force, as the negative of the first, i.e. as mediated and un-objective essence—what is the inner being of objects as inner; the concept of Force as concept. Nonetheless, the vanishing play of Forces remains, and the Understanding takes up the results of the ruin of its first attempt and rearticulates this result.

Because the true object of the Understanding is the concept of Force, which is the un-objective essence it posits through the objective being of this essence—the play of vanishing Forces—the genuine essence of the object is in truth not immediately existing for the Understanding. It is mediated by a term that stands between the inner essence and consciousness. The play of Forces is this mediating term—it is the developed being of Force—with its immediate vanishing into two extremes with no true being. This term is Appearance, for it is “being that is immediately in itself a non-being,” a mere seeming-to-be. This Appearance is not merely an appearance, but the totality of Appearance, i.e. this refers to no individual appearance, but to the very category of Appearance as such, therefore this is not the sensuous character of the object or merely the play of Forces before perception, but the universal concept and truth of this very play of Forces. The play of Forces appear now as the developed negative of the object—its incessant vanishing as the sensuous being of the perceived object—but Appearance is now the positive being of the object for the Understanding, the universal concept which is existing-for-itself and endures through this very vanishing.

Understanding and Appearance

Through Appearance, the Understanding reflects itself into itself as if it were reflecting itself into the truth of the object, i.e. the Understanding takes its own cognitive reflection to be the object’s own movement and inner truth rather than its own. The Appearance of the object is thus the mediator of the truth of the object for consciousness, yet the Understanding does not take itself to be a part of its knowing, instead considering it a purely objective truth in which it has no hand. The inner is the in-itself of the object and thus its being-for-itself and not its being-for-consciousness, however, the ground upon which this inner is being posited is Appearance itself. The Understanding does not yet recognize Appearance as itself being-for-itself (it is merely being-for-other); thus it is not acquainted with the true nature of its concept.

Because the true is now posited as the unconditioned universal in which the opposition of universal and individual are contained within once again—the truth being the universality as the concept of the shifting sensuousness of the world—a supersensible world is now posited as the true world above the sensuously Appearing world. This supersensible world is a stable and enduring “other-wordly beyond,” while the world of sensuousness is a vanishing impermanence upon this essence.

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We see what Understanding does not, i.e. that it is as much a part of this so called truth as what it assumes is an external object. As the phenomenological observer we see that there is what Hegel here calls a syllogism of the [inner]-[Appearance]-[Understanding]. This syllogism maps not just the term relations to each other, and their movement, but also what the Understanding will learn from the experience of this relationship.

[Note:] Syllogism here must undoubtedly seem a bizarre term for Hegel to use. This is because it is indeed not a classical syllogism as it is conceived in formal logic. For Hegel, syllogisms are self-moving arguments that in each concept or proposition generate their subsequent term and conclusion. In the syllogism of the inner, Appearance, and Understanding the relation is such that the positing of an inner and an Appearance necessarily yields the conclusion that there is consciousness—here the Understanding—which apprehends such terms. The distinction of an inner behind an Appearance is only made by a consciousness, or, a consciousness which posits an Appearance before it must posit an inner behind it.

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At this point in the chapter Hegel brings up a short critique of the Kantian position that in this relation of consciousness, Appearance, and the inner truth of the object. At this point the development of the inner is merely the negative of Appearance, i.e. it is merely the negation and opposite of this Appearance which is empty and undeveloped. Kant claims that it is impossible to get behind Appearance and know a thing-in-itself; all we can know is the Appearances before consciousness, thus the inner is necessarily opaque and empty for us. Against this claim Hegel makes the counterclaim that even if this were true, it is better for us to speculate emptily beyond these Appearances, which we know to be false, with Appearances created by consciousness, for daydreams of the mind are better than the emptiness of reality.

The First Law of Appearance: The Stable Image

The inner world as the supersensible world emerges out of Appearance. Appearance is both the mediation of the supersensible and its essence—its fulfillment and actual being. Nonetheless, “The supersensible is the sensuous and the perceived posited as they are in truth.” It is Appearance as Appearance, the enduring substance behind the flux. Remember, Appearance is not the sensuous world which is for immediate Sense Certainty and Perception, but its concept. It is the world as sublated, with the sensuous vanishing taken up into enduring supersensible universality.

Appearance is but the inner truth of the play of Forces perceived, which is nothing but the “absolute exchange of determinateness with constitutes the sole content of what is coming forth: To be either a universal medium or a negative unity.” In the play of Forces we already discovered there is no enduring substance in the moments, indeed we saw that there was not even a difference in the moments as they were both Force merely soliciting itself to express and retreat into itself through the other Force. The distinction of content and form itself collapses in Force as it is itself the passive medium which it solicits to express. All particular distinctions of the two Forces collapse at this point. All that remains in the alternating movement is the “distinction as the universal distinction, that is, as the kind of distinction into which the many oppositions have been reduced.” This distinction as itself universal is the simple unity of the play of Force and what is true in it, its enduring essence; it is the Law of Force. The true essence of the play of Forces is the law of distinction which endures unmoving in this movement. This has come about due to the relation of Appearance to the Understanding, whose inner simplicity is posited as the simple distinction of Appearance’s Law.

The Law and Appearance

The inner as Law is in-itself and simple, but is also the universal distinction of the flux of Appearance, and thus this flux is its essence. The Law, however, is the stable image of this flux and is at rest within the flux perceived. The law is supersensible and beyond the perceived world, but it is present within this world as its “immediately motionless likeness.”

The Law, however, is not yet the unconditioned universal. It does not truly subsume Appearance completely, for it does not yet take up the determinate distinction of Appearance; it merely posits in itself the universal indeterminate distinction, i.e. it merely states there must be a distinction, but not what distinction or why. Thus, the Law is not yet Appearance as Appearance which is for-itself the stable flux. In each moment of Appearance the Law has a different actuality which it yet cannot account for. One may here posit that each moment of Appearance corresponds to its own determinate Law, one Law of many, but this undermines the very concept of Law which is to unify these many moments of Appearance’s flux into a simple unity. Up to now we merely have the concept of Law, i.e. that “everything has a constant distinction with regard to everything else,” but not the Law which generates a determinate distinction itself.

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The Understanding takes the Law it has found as one “which expresses universal actuality as such,” but while it has failed to attain a determinate Law that actually does this, it has inadvertently discovered in this thought that “actuality is in itself lawful.” Basically, the Understanding is at least insightful in seeing that the mere immediate being of Sense Certainty and Perception are mere appearances which have little value as truth themselves.

The Concept of Law

The Law as pure concept is the essence and truth of determinate Laws, but these determinate Laws owe their determinateness to Appearance, which owes its determinateness to the flux of sensuous being. The pure concept of Law does not just go beyond determinate Laws, however, it goes beyond itself as the law as such, for it determines itself to be more than the Law through its moments. The determinateness of Law and Appearance is itself merely a vanishing moment that seems unessential in the very concept of Law for they must ultimately depend on it as it is their truth and essence, and the Law itself is simple unity. However, since the Law contains in itself the distinction as immediately in the universal, these moments have enduring existence in it, for the Law expresses the relation of these moments as “indifferent essentialities existing in themselves.” Since these moments in the Law are themselves determinate, yet the Law itself is their simple unity, the pure concept of Law must be conceived in such a way that these determinate moments do not exist completely in-themselves, but return into the inner as simple unity, and in doing so the inner necessity of Law for its products and itself is shown in itself. That is to say, Law must somehow provide not only for its determinate self-differentiation, but also must determine these differences in such a way that their very determinateness returns these moments back into its simple universality and show the necessity of this Law as the unconditioned universal. 

[Note:] Hegel is here alluding to his concept of the concrete Universal which contains its determinate difference in it and in which each moment points back to the simple unity of the Universal moment.

Unification of Force and Law

Law has shown itself to have two moments: the Law as simple unity that is being-that-has-returned-into-itself, and the Law as expressed as independent moments. This should seem very familiar, for it is Force’s structure which has returned with a new face. The concept of Law is the moment of genuine Force as unconditioned universal returned in its apprehended truth as an abstraction which contains the distinctions of its moments and movement, but is itself not immediately these moments. The Understanding, seeing this, rearticulates its conception and posits Force once more as the passive universal medium as substance; Law in turn is now posited as the necessity of Force’s self-distinction in expression,i.e. Force’s self-soliciting to express is now externalized to the Law completely as pure independent expression of the unconditioned universal. Law is now a separate substantive moment that is, however, at the same time not a separate moment which solicits Force’s self-distinction, or what was prior known as its expression. Seem familiar? The only difference is that this time the moments are not explicitly structured by reference of being in the process of becoming the other like in Force and Expression; now Force and Law are posited as independent temporal moments supposedly linked in concept.

Force is the concept as such again, and the Law is the expressed determinate relation of independent terms related. Unity belongs to Force, but now the expression of distinction belongs to Law. The Understanding has once again committed itself to force a distinction where there is none. It brings together two concepts to explain the object, yet these concepts have no clear relation of need for each other.

The Indifference of Force and Law

When the relation of Force and Law is examined it is easy to see this as the Understanding’s mere positing without objective meaning. Hegel shows many examples of the disconnection of these terms and lack of any necessary relation. In the example of electricity, simple electricity is the Force, but the distinction of positive and negative charge belongs to its Law. The Law says Force must express itself in this way, but when it comes to determinate Forces and Laws we must ask why this Law for this Force and not some other combination? How does one go from the concept of electricity to the actuality of its inner distinction into positive and negative charge? Where is the necessity of the Law of electricity in the concept of electricity? This issue is not trivial and meaningless, for we know very well of terms which do have the necessity we’re seeking, the Law of electricity being just such an example. To posit positive charge is at one and the same time to necessarily posit negative charge in opposition to it, the distinction is in itself already. We may, Hegel tells us, just give up and say that the distinction itself is electricity as such, that it is its definition and there is nothing more, as such the existence of the Force is its concept and essence. However, if this is the case, then the existence of the Force itself becomes unnecessary and contingent, for the it relies either on our detecting it, or it relies on external conditions of existence which means its necessity is external. This cannot be the case, however, since this goes counter to the very concept of Force and Law which the Understanding has already developed out of its need to explain the object. It is clear that its attempts to discover the unconditioned universal has failed, the connection between Force and Law being unnecessary, i.e. the self-differentiation of the universal has not been achieved.

False Universals: The Indifference of Expressed Individuals

Hegel gives an interesting example of a concept which seems to be what is being sought, but in truth is not. Motion as a universal, he says, divides itself into time and space, or distance and velocity. Motion, however, is merely the relation of these terms; space, time, distance, and velocity themselves do not express any inner relation to any origin in motion as their universal. The terms are united in motion, but they are all independent and indifferent to each other, they have no necessary connection in this universal either to each other nor to the universal. Motion necessarily divides itself into its parts, but each part has no necessity for the other parts or for motion, and this is because motion is a false universal. It does not show itself to be the simple essence and origin of anything, it is already merely a superficial complex of divided independent terms. The truth of motion, says Hegel, is gravity, for it is the simple essence of motion as Force, but gravity does not contain these distinctions in itself.

Collapse of the Law of Force

The necessity of Force and Law  to each other has shown itself to be as unnecessary as the necessity of one expressed term to another. “The distinction is therefore in both cases no distinction in itself.” That is, the relation of terms is not an inner necessary distinction in the terms themselves. There is nothing within Force which necessarily posits its Law, nor is there anything in the Law which necessarily posits its Force just as there is nothing in the terms of motion which posit each other nor the universal of motion itself. The distinction and the relation are the positing of the Understanding and are not inherent to the object itself, thus their necessity is merely the necessity of the Understanding for simple unity. However, in the Law the Understanding already has the concept of this distinction in itself, i.e. as an inner existence-in-itself which is distinguished in itself.

The problem at hand is due to the Understanding’s stubbornness. It states this distinction in such a way that it is expressed as no distinction in the object itself, i.e. Force and Law are posited as different in one moment and then collapsed in a second moment as a unity of a single movement of the essence. Force is posited as the grounding essence of Law, but then this very Force is stated to be structured entirely in the same way as the Law. The ground and grounded collapse into one as the terms share one and the same structure (recall the structure of genuine Force and its mere doubling of the relation of its moments). In all this the Understanding believes itself to be explaining the object, but its explanations are empty tautologies. Not only do the distinctions of Force and Law have the same form, they have shown themselves to have the same content and thus they collapse. Nonetheless, the basic structural distinction remains, i.e. the distinction of the movement of the moments which immanently hold their other within themselves and find their essence outside in another.

Transition From the First Law to the Second Law

So far, the Understanding has taken its object to be a stable unity at rest, and therefore the movement of difference has taken place only in itself. In the movement, however, we can see the essential piece that had been missing in the concepts of the unconditioned universal of the Understanding up to now: the flux of actuality. Standing back from the moments of the movement and looking at the movement itself we notice a structure of self-opposition: “It posits a distinction, which is not only no distinction for us but is a distinction which it itself sublates.” The movement itself posits a distinction which in its very realization is sublated back into a unity of no distinction and back again into distinction. In the explanation, then, the alternating flux is now finally taken into the supersensible world itself—the determinate distinction is no longer Appearance’s alone.

The Understandings enacts a shift away from the object to itself through its experience of repeating the same structural movement in every iteration of its explanation of the object—it becomes aware that the movement is so far only actual in itself. The first Law merely stated the being of a distinction, now a second Law comes forth which will make the structure of the movement into a Law itself.

The Second Law of Appearance: The Law of Inner Distinction

The alternating flux is yet to be posited in the object itself, but in virtue of this the object “turns out to be pure alternating fluctuation in that the content of the moments of the alternating fluctuations remains the same.” That is, The object is one and many at the same moment. The concept of the Understanding is still the inner of things; thus the flux becomes the inner Law of the Understanding. A second Law is now conceived in contrast to the first Law—the law of the external object—whose content was enduring distinction remaining selfsame. This second Law “expresses the becoming-non-selfsame of what is selfsame and the becoming-selfsame of the non-selfsame.” That is, the second Law is the conception of Understanding’s operation regarding the external object itself. Whatever the Understanding encounters in the external object, its truth is the opposite of what it appears. The concept demands that both laws be brought together and their opposition be recognized consciously, i.e. the Understanding is impelled by its own movement to bring them together.

The second Law, like the first, is also selfsame, but it is the selfsameness of the non-selfsame, “a constancy of inconstancy.” This is the structure which the play of Forces had, as such it is the very distinction in the object which has been at issue this entire time. The Understanding thus brings both laws together into opposition within the objective world.

plɹoM pǝʇɹǝʌuI ǝɥʇ }{ the Inverted World

The first supersensible world was the realm of selfsame laws at rest, the stable image of Appearance, i.e. the inversion of the perceived world of sensuousness. At first the supersensible world as the inner was opposed to Appearance; both remained selfsame and separate, but now we have the second Law as the inner truth of both; thus they are to an even greater degree the opposite of themselves, i.e. Appearance is in its inner truth the stable image, and the stable image is in its inner truth the flux perceived. It is only with the determination of the second Law that the inner distinction of the universal is truly made. A second supersensible world thus arises out of the first as its inversion, for it already had one moment of itself in it, i.e. the selfsame which now becomes non-selfsame. The first supersensible world took the alternating flux of appearance only into stable universality, but now the second supersensible world takes up the flux into itself and attains for itself the completion of the concept of Appearance as Appearance at last, i.e. it is the stable image that itself is fluctuation.

Here Hegel goes on to make a slew of examples of this absolute law of inversion,  but I shall not go into all of them here. In general, the point is that which is one thing in the first world of law is its opposite in the second: what is sweet in the first is sour in the next, what is positive in the first is negative in the second, etc. There is one specific example that drives home the point Hegel wants to make, and it is the example of law and punishment. In the immediate law of the first world revenge on an enemy is the satisfaction of the harmed individual who is not recognized as an essential self by the transgressor. This satisfaction is attained by way of showing one’s self to be the essential being by in turn not recognizing the enemy’s essential self through retribution, destroying them and sublating their essence by showing one as their true essence in return. In the second world this act is inverted and turns not into the reestablishment of the individual but to his own self-destruction. If this inversion, which is exhibited in the punishment of crime, is made into law, it is still merely a law of a world which has the second world standing in inverted opposition to itself.  Punishment according to the law of the first world dishonors and destroys a person, but in the inverted world this punishment is transformed into the pardon which preserves his essence and honors him. It is not hard to see that this opposition is united in the very truth of OUR world. The serving of the punishment of law is vengeance and forgiveness in one. Thus, the second supersensible world overreaches itself and sublates the first supersensible world as part of itself. The inverted world and the first world are not different, not separate, they are at one moment one and the same world. It is this world of ours which is in-itself inverted. Another way to put it is in terms of what we have already dealt with, e.g. the play of Forces and the first Law of Appearance were already both in the same world this entire time. The Understanding, however, does not see this.

The Actuality of Inverted Opposition

Now, superficially, the inverted world is the opposite of the first in that the first world is external to the second, and it repels that first world from itself as an inverted actuality. One is Appearance, the other the in-itself. One is being-for-others, the other is being-for-itself. This opposition has already shown itself to be impossible to work, for we have seen that the assumption that both sides of the inversion are separate substances or actualities cannot hold since they do not have substantial being in-themselves to support them independent of the other. The Understanding cannot turn back to these positions without falling into the same problems. In terms of actuality, the attempt to posit a distinction between an actual sensible world against an equally actual supersensible world itself does not work. If one moment of the duality is posited as substance in the perceived sensible world, then one of the two laws would be the case, and an inner world would be posited against it as the same kind of sensible world as the first, but which exists in the realm of representation. This second inner world cannot be pointed out or sensed with any of our senses, yet it would be represented in terms of the sensible world. “But if one posit is in fact something perceived and if its in-itself, as its [inversion], is likewise what is sensuously represented,” then the in-itself of the perceived would be just as actual as what is perceived, for it clearly has actually appeared through this sensuous actuality. One example is that in the first world something is sweet, and in the second inner world it is sour. This inner world, however, being the essence of the first, must be as actual as it, otherwise it is a mere fiction. If the inner is really represented in the outer, then the inner must be as actual as its outer appearance, i.e. the inner sourness must be an actual sourness just as actual as the outer sweetness.

Once again, the example of law and punishment helps illustrate the point: the actual crime has its full reality and inversion in its actual punishment by the law, not in some supersensuous punishment by a law that never reaches it in its own actuality. “The actual punishment has in it its own inverted actuality” in such a way that it is the actuality of the law itself despite being actual only in the moment of the very transgression which would seem to suspend law. Law is only actualized as law in its punishment of transgression against it as crime, and crime is only actually crime in its being punished in its transgression of law. Crimes which are never punished cannot be crimes, and laws that never actually punish cannot be laws. The inversion does not exist in separate alternating moments nor in separate world, but in one and the same moment and world.

This is the truth of the inverted world: that it is the absolute concept of distinction exhibited and grasped as inner distinction in which the selfsame repels itself into the non-selfsame and vice versa in one and the same world and moment. The opposing contradiction is within each moment of the fluctuation in the form of an opposite of an opposite in which the other is immediately already present within it. If one tries to take one of these opposites as in-and-for-itself and sets the other to one side, one finds its inner truth to be that it is the opposite of the opposite, i.e. the opposite of itself. This is how the second supersensible world, as inverted, overreaches itself and envelops the first world within itself. As the inverted world it is its own inversion and is both opposites in one unity. This is the true inner distinction, the distinction in itself, and thus is Infinity for its distinction, unity, and ceaseless movement is wholly within itself. It is what the Understanding has sought, the unity of unity and difference, what seems to be the unconditioned universal.

[Note:] This recategorization of the final Law is a bit strange, but not for Hegel. Now, the infinity referred to here is not just endless infinity, but absolute infinity which fully contains itself in itself, for it is as concept unbounded and no external limitation or difference enters into its determination. Infinity is also characteristic of Hegel’s concrete Universals.

From Consciousness to Self-Consciousness

Through infinity, we see that the Law of Appearance has acquired it necessity at last in all its moments. Hegel says that what is simple in Law is Infinity in the following ways, recounting the developments of Understanding’s concept of the object:

  1. What is selfsame, the unity of the object, is the distinction in itself.
    a
  2. What was called simple, or genuine, Force doubles itself, and in its infinity is Law
    a
  3. What is dirempted, which represent the individual parts or terms in the Law, turns out to be what is durably existing independent and indifferent to each other and Law
    a
  4. By virtue of the concept of inner distinction, what is unlike and indifferent is a distinction that is no distinction, for they are as independent and indifferent like a distinction of the same magnetic pole, whose essence is unity. Just as poles that are “like” repel each other, so too are the indifferent repelled from each other. They are because they are not the others, and in doing so they only posit themselves to be in unity to an even greater degree. Both poles exist in themselves as opposites, and thus opposites of themselves in a unity.

Infinity has shown itself to be the essence of all the movements of the Understanding, and when it finally appeared it appeared as explanation of the unity of difference. This structure is the Understanding’s structure as well, and when this consciousness becomes aware of this it becomes self-conscious. The Understanding’s activity and necessity is this infinite movement of explanation, but at first in the movement of the first Law this movement is not its object. The objects of the Understanding are a myriad of objects which it considers external to itself, but in them it finds nothing but its own structure, in otherness it finds only itself.

[Note:] Just an interesting side bit—Hegel says that this fact is why explanation is so satisfying to consciousness, because in truth it only “consorts” with itself.

In the movement of the second Law infinity becomes the object of the Understanding, but the Understanding does not recognize infinity as such in the division of two worlds or substances, etc. For the Understanding the movement is as it is in experience, an event, in which the different moments are separate predicates of an existing substrate. The Understanding is unable to rid itself of the sensuous appearance of the object, and only we as the phenomenological observers grasp the pure concept as it is in-itself. Hegel says that the exposition of this concept belongs to science, meaning, its proper development shall only come in his future system beyond the Phenomenology itself.

Consciousness, however, has this concept immediately within it, and therefore returns as a new form of consciousness which looks at what has gone before it not as its own essence but as an other. The concept of infinity is in its view the object, and it is conscious of this distinction; thus the distinction is immediately sublated. Consciousness is itself the structure of infinity, and it is aware now that it is for-itself—it is a distinction from what is not distinct. Because what it faces is thus not distinct from it, it faces itself in the object,  it is self-consciousness. “I distinguish myself from myself, and in doing so, what is immediately for me is this: What is distinguished is not distinguished.” Consciousness of an other, of an object as such, is necessarily self-consciousness already. Consciousness of other things than consciousness is only possible for a self-consciousness. The truth of consciousness is thus self-consciousness. However, self-consciousness now first appears for itself, but not yet in unity with consciousness itself. It has not yet attained to the truth of its claim of being self-consciousness for it at first does not recognize the other as another self-consciousness as independent as itself.

[Note:] This is akin to a transcendental move, a chain of a condition of possibility. Self-consciousness thus must be developed into consciousness.

The syllogism of the [inner]-[Appearance]-[Understanding] has dissolved itself, for the inner and the Understanding are one and the same; likewise, the truth of Appearance is nothing but the truth of consciousness. Here the forms of Consciousness—this first section of the Phenomenology—must be left behind as their results have vanished their objects of knowledge and their ways of knowing alike. To know what consciousness knows we must know what consciousness knows in knowing itself.

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PhoS: Force and Understanding (pt. 1)

Force and Understanding is considered the hardest chapter within the Phenomenology. Furthermore, its transition to Self-Consciousness through the Inverted World argument is considered one of the most strange arguments ever made and its meaning is highly contested. With this in mind, it is no easy task to provide a simple summary exposition. I will make a positive assertion here that, lack of consensus aside, the chapter has a logical development up to and even through the Inverted World, and I shall do my best to lay it out. In the original text Hegel uses Force often to mean both the totality of the movement of Force and the moment of Force within the totality of Force—an equivocation that points to the lack of true distinction—however, this can easily cause confusion without keeping in mind the distinction and paying attention to the context. I have here opted to use genuine Force to designate the totality of Force, and Force to point merely to the moment within the totality through the movements, but keep in mind that the distinction is ultimately false despite the initial attempts to maintain a difference.

Be forewarned that the movements of this chapter are tedious and repetitious, but this is in my view a necessary aspect. Prepare for a lot of “However…,” and a whole lot of Force.

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Following from Perception, we now transition into Understanding, the form of consciousness which was implicit in the activity of Perception, but which was leashed by the arbitrary and sensuous distinctions of it. Understanding is aware that the truth of the object is universal through and through—that the unity of the object must be unconditioned universality (unity) which subsumes its individual expression. This universal object exists and is cognized as a movement in which the object has its being-for-other (the also) within itself.

Like Perception, Understanding stands back from its object once again and faces it as an external object fully independent of consciousness and as the essential in the relation of cognition. This object, unlike Perception’s object, is purely conceptual. Understanding faces the object and pretends to merely apprehend it.

The General Problem of Understanding

Understanding, having rid itself of the arbitrary distinctions and sensuousness of Perception’s object, accepts that universality (unity) and individuality (plurality) are unified in the object. Just like Perception, Understanding faces the challenge of cognizing this difference, but now in pure unconditioned universality. Understanding has come to grasp that there is a unity (unconditioned universal, being-in-and-for-itself) of difference (individuals existing in a universal medium, being-for-other) and unity (universal, being-for-self). To this end, Force and Law shall be posited by the Understanding as attempts of conceiving an unconditioned universal which carries difference in-itself as a conceptual movement of the universal as one to the universal as many . This difference, however, shall in its development show itself to be in essence no difference. Perception faced inversions in its conceptions; however, its inversions pale in comparison to the viciousness of the Understanding’s inverting structure.

The dissolution of Understanding shall arrive at last with the grasping of the first form of universality which can give an answer to a question that has been implicit through Sense Certainty, Perception, and Understanding: How can difference and unity be united? The resulting concept is such that the very problems of the forms of Consciousness will require a whole new framework to answer.

The Development of Force

The direct results of Perception were that of a dissolution of the difference of the moments of being-for-itself and the  being-for-other into an abstract unity. Perception could not conceive of the object as it truly is in-itself, for its distinctions erased such an inwardness of the object by subordinating it to an external other as its implicit essence. The distinction, nonetheless, exists as the universal medium and multiplicity of matters which Perception last dealt with, a distinction Perception was unable to conceive as a true distinction and thus collapsed. Understanding brings forward the new categories of form and content in order to explain the possibility of an unconditioned universality with difference. What Perception had conceived as the true is relegated to the category of mere form—the universal medium along with the multiple matters—both  which vanish into the unconditioned universal, whose content remains unchanging and self-same in the difference of its form.

Force first appears as the movement of the transition between Perception’s universal medium and its multiplicity of independent matters. Recalling said movement, the universal medium was posited as the also—a negative unity—which was merely a collection of independent matters. These independent matters, however, remained independent only through the universal medium and thus are in essence merely the medium, which itself is nothing in essence but this multiplicity of distinct and independent universals (matters) without which it does not exist—inversion occurs. The universal thus exists in-itself in undivided unity with this plurality which is within it, for the matters subsist in the universal medium. The matters are in the same place within the unity yet do not touch, for they are independent. However, as independent, each matter has being-for-itself, but this is nothing but by virtue of the medium which is the essential moment that grants their distinction and keeps them apart. The universal medium and matters engage in a constant movement of pointing to and dissolving into the other as the self-sufficient moment. Unity passes into multiplicity and multiplicity into unity endlessly; this movement is Force.

force-2

In Force, the terms of the movement are rearticulated. The movement from universal medium  to plurality of matters becomes the moment of Expression; the inverse movement becomes the moment of Force driven out of its expression back into itself—into its truth—as genuine Force (the unconditioned universal). Force must express itself, but in this Expression Force is no less within itself, for Expression is nothing external to Force, but internal to it; it is Force existing within itself. Defined in this way, Force is its vanishing into Expression and Expression  its vanishing into Force. This is an explicit self-sublation of the terms as their immanent linking to each other in their opposition—a link which does not allow their true separation. Nonetheless, the Understanding posits these two moments, Force and Expression, as different immediate unities instead of the unity their content suggests—two different forms of one content, or a being-for-itself that is a being-for-another—thus Force in truth belongs as concept to the Understanding and not to the object. The movement of Force is the movement of the Understanding’s cognition itself; as such, the Understanding is really the concept of this movement, i.e. the structures and movements of the concepts of Understanding are in truth its own structure and its own movement imposed on the supposed external object.

Force as Force (genuine Force) is posited as the unconditioned universal which is in-itself what it is for-another; thus the distinction is in itself. Because genuine Force is the existent truth of its moments—Force and Expression—it is set free from them and posited as their persisting substance in-and-for-itself, for it is their inner truth, essence, and substance. Genuine Force is Force and Expression.

Note: First, here we see the emergence of the moment of sophistry in the Understanding, for though genuine Force was derived in the moment of Force’s return from Expression, this moment in its return is arbitrarily lifted above itself and posited as a distinct third underlying its original existence. Second, notice that genuine Force conceptually appears through its Expression. Genuine Force Expresses itself as Force and Expression in one moment; thus it doubles the form of Force, and this is exactly what we see in the second diagram. Force and Expression are themselves the form of Expression, the plurality, of genuine Force.

As its moments, however, Force and Expression are in genuine Force and thus take on its enduring substantiality; they likewise exist for themselves. The moment of Force driven back into itself (Force for short) is the essence of an excluding one for which the Expression in many matters is another enduring essence. However, Genuine Force, as the movement of the whole and the unconditioned universal, “remains what it is according to its concept,” i.e. the distinctions are its mere forms and are superficial vanishing moments within it and not external to it, and thus cannot be truly substantive independent existences. However, the distinction between the moment of Force and its unfolding in its moment of Expression as independent matters could not exist if these moments did not have an enduring existence themselves, which further means that the genuine Force as the unconditioned unity would not exist if it did not exist in truly substantial and distinct forms, for their separate substantial existence is the essence of its substantial existence. Genuine Force must exist as these distinct forms of one content.

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Recall now the movements of Perception and it is clear that the movement of medium and matters is repeated. Unity and difference are once again posited as independent and for-themselves at one moment, and dependent and for-another in the next. Force is, again, just this very movement of unfolding into many and collapsing into one within its unconditioned unity.

As such, genuine Force appears as a middle term of these two extremes as forms of itself. It, however, vanishes into these two extremes which are for-themselves only in this vanishing of genuine Force. As this entire movement, genuine Force is not merely its objective forms—object being here the object of perception—in the movement of Force and Expression. The unconditioned universal is un-objective, for it is the inner unity of things which goes beyond the mere form of the object.

Movements of Force

Note: as a reader you must keep in mind that all this Force talk is not in truth about anything specifically and only related to physics, nor is the movement between terms a physical process. Force, Expression, and later Law, are terms for Understanding’s attempt to get at the concept of an object as a Universal differentiated in-and-for-itself. The movements are conceptual movements of implicit essential or substantive positing, i.e. the shift of category due to one concept depending on another. Force is one and inner because Expression is many and outer and vice versa, etc. The terms, however, are not merely dressed in a physics garb; they truly are concepts of physics, but Hegel removes them from their usual perceptual form in which sensuousness blocks the view of just what these concepts as absolute explanations would entail. Force truly is the force of physics, the absolute force, which is posited as the origin and true substance of all real objects.

1st Major Movement: Force and Expression Solicited/Soliciting

Because genuine Force as such is represented and determined as reflected into itself, it is one aspect of its own concept. It is represented as the durable substantial extreme of Force determined as the moment of the “one.” As one, Force excludes its Expression (its unfolding into many matters) as another durable substance which is other to Force’s oneness. However, since Force must Express itself, but in-itself is not yet expressed, its Expression is represented as an external other to Force that “approaches” it—it is not just an inert other beside it—and solicits it to express itself. Thus Force cannot truly be one, for its essence is the universal medium of many matters—its Expression. However, since Force is this Expression, and the essence of the multiplicity of matters is the universal medium in which they inhere and are separated in, Force as Expression posits its oneness outside itself as Force that solicits Expression to drive back into itself as a one.

Genuine Force has shown itself to really be the reflection into itself as the movement of the oneness of Force and its Expression as many. These have shown to necessarily be what they are not yet posited as being, i.e. Force is not yet its Expression, and vice versa. The other approaches Force in this way, as its not yet being the other, and solicits it to make a reflective turn into itself as the other. Genuine Force as Force is solicited to Express, and Force as Expression is solicited to return into itself as Force. However, this other has already shown itself to be nothing but Force itself. Thus, genuine Force has shown itself to truly be this movement of being-reflected-into-itself and thus takes Expression into itself; it sublates what was other to it. The oneness of Force disappears in the way it appeared, for another Force is posited outside it as the very Expression which is its essential moment. Force is thus Force driven into itself by its positing itself externally to generate its movement into itself. Force merely moves from moment of Force to moment of Force.

2nd Major Movement: Force Solicited by Force

Genuine Force as Force driven into itself seems unitary but in fact explodes the moment of absolute unity it seems to deliver. As a movement into itself, Force is a distinction against itself. Force must express itself, yet this Expression is merely Force itself. Force is simply the moment of Force as not yet its Expression, and its Expression is merely the moment of Force as not yet driven back into itself—the soliciting and solicited are one and the same Force, yet there is a difference. How is this possible? Force’s inner diremption as its moments shows itself to be not just superficial, but enters into a full duality of two fully independent Forces. As two Forces, however, there is no determination of conceptual difference between solicited and soliciting Force. The second Force—as a universal medium of many matters—at first appears as the solicitor of the first Force, but because it is a Force it shares in the exact fluctuating duality of expressing itself as such a universal medium of many matters and in such expression being driven back into itself. Both Forces solicit the other and are solicited in the same moment by virtue of their mutual soliciting. Both Forces enter into a play with each other in which they mutually determine each other as the opposite and reciprocally transition into the other determination, i.e. Force driven back into itself and Force as universal medium solicit each other to transition into the opposite moment.

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Both Forces begin in mutual contrast: the first as Force as a one (or in-itself), the second as Force as the universal medium. They are each by virtue of this contrast and thus are  contrasted only in their being-for-each-other in which this determination occurs. The Force posited as universal medium, for example, solicits the Force in-itself. However, the former is universal medium by virtue of the other being the Force in-itself; thus the latter is in truth the one which solicits the former to solicit it, for it is the positor and determiner of the former. The first Force in-itself seems to be in an overdetermining role as absolute self-solicitor, but since both Forces share the same concept and moments both have already been in-itself and universal medium. The second Force as Expression is such because it had already solicited the first to solicit it to express. The movement of soliciting completed, the Forces do not just transition into the moment of the other, but already had passed over into the other. The second Force as universal medium is solicited by the first Force in-itself to solicit it, but this occurred only because the second Force had already as Force in-itself solicited the first to solicit it to express as universal medium. Force as Force shows itself to be the positor of the soliciting Force as its own essential determination, yet this shows Force is even more its soliciting Force through its own inner determination. Force is in truth the universal medium of independent matters through the very moment it seems to attain absolute self-unity. The Understanding’s sophistry begins to unravel as the truth of Force more and more appears to be merely the relation and self-othering movement.

General Movements of Form and Content

The distinctions of Force can be can be looked at from the lens of content and form. In content, Force is distinguished as its two extremes of Force reflected in-itself as a one and the medium of matters. In form, Force is distinguished as the soliciting (active) and solicited (passive) Force. In the distinction of content the moments are as such only distinguished as independent for the Understanding, for they have shown themselves to exist only in their movement into the other. In the distinction of form the moments are self-sufficient in their relation to each other, dividing themselves off from each other and contrasting through their positing of the other to solicit them. In the movement of force, the Understanding perceives that in this way the extreme terms of genuine Force are nothing in themselves—each moment is merely a vanishing into the other which it is contrasted with and posited as momentary essence. Force in-itself is only its vanishing into the universal medium, and the medium its vanishing into Force in-itself. For us, the phenomenological observers, there is also the acknowledgement that the distinctions of form and content in Force themselves vanish, and thus Force itself is left as a movement of vanishing.

The Collapse of Force

Developed as it has, Force as genuine Force faces immanent collapse into its moments, for its distinction from them is no distinction and its essence an ever shifting yet to be. Genuine Force becomes actual only in its being doubled into two Forces, and “it emerges just how it comes to be actual”, i.e. genuine Force only is posited through the relation of these Forces and in truth is only the movement of these two forces. These Forces seem to be essences existing for themselves, yet each proves to be utterly dependent and existing only in its being posited through the Force that opposes it. The being-for-itself of Force has proved to be its being-for-another in the play of Forces. In truth the two Forces are but one single movement and moment of being through another; they lack any true independent essence to preserve them as separate.

The concept of genuine Force at first appeared as the unconditioned universal represented within itself as Force separate from its Expression, but this has shown itself to be false. Genuine Force actually exists as Force in-itself purely in its Expression, which is nothing but the play of two Forces and their self-sublating inversion. Force in-itself, however, has already shown itself to be nothing but a moment of its Expression, i.e. Force as Force only exists in its Expression (which itself is the play of forces)—it does not truly underlie this duality as an unconditioned unity all. Force has failed to attain unconditioned universality, and its movement has collapsed it into its moments. It is merely a viciously circular opposing duality where no true essence or substance can be found to unify them within their circular unity.

[Note:] Recall back to the second diagram when genuine Force was introduced, and remember that all it did was double the form of Force. What applies to genuine Force also applies to Force in-itself, or simply Force, for they are one and the same. Force too is only actual in its Expression, but once again this Expression is nothing but the play of Forces. Recall now another thing, Force was posited as substance earlier on, and its moments took on substantive being, but there was found no stable substance to rely on in Force, for itself and its moments were merely yet to be. Force has shown that its being-in-itself was nothing but its being-for-another. This is very important! The truth of Force is that it is this pure movement of being-for-other. Force as the play of Forces vanishes itself and is not a concept of any true grounding substance or essence at all. The conceptual structure of Force, having no substance, points to a new category of substance outside itself to ground it, for what is vanishing must vanish into something else.

The truth of Force as Force is thus merely that it is the thought of the unity being-for-itself which underlies this actual circularity of being-for-another in the Expression which is perceived by the Understanding. There has been no true being-in-itself discovered in Force, but the Understanding does not give up on the conception of the unconditioned universal. A new universal category thus is attained in the Expression, a universal with a content of pure self-diremption and vanishing into two extremes, its being-for-itself being nothing but its being-for-another. Since Force is nothing but its Expression as two forces in play, and its moments are nothing but vanishing yet-to-bes, Force itself is nothing but a vanishing in its concept. The unconditioned universal is once again posited against its Expression as the inner truth of the object, but no longer as Force. Force now stands as a vanishing term between the inner of the object and the Understanding which perceives the object. As a vanishing, this universal is but a seeming—a mere Appearance—through which the Understanding must get behind to reach the true essence of the object, its Law, the true being-for-itself.

"There is no royal road to science, and only those who do not dread the fatiguing climb of its steep paths have a chance of gaining its luminous summits."-Karl Marx