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.


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.


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.


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.
  2. What was called simple, or genuine, Force doubles itself, and in its infinity is Law
  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
  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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