Appearance & The Essence of Things

Phenomenology of Spirit: §143

This ‘being’ is therefore called appearance; for we call being that is directly and in its own self a non-being a surface show. But it is not merely a surface show ; it is appearance, a totality of show. (Miller trn.)


For that reason, it is called appearance, for being that is immediately in itself a non-being is what is called seeming-to-be. However, it is not merely a seeming-to-be but rather an appearance, a whole of seeming-to-be’s. (Pinkard trn.)


From this quote, particularly from Miller’s translation, one can see a very interesting consequence from the concept of appearance, and that is that appearance as appearance in truth hides nothing underneath. In opposition to the Kantian problematic of our knowledge being limited to appearances and unable to access things-in-themselves, Hegel strongly and decisively argues the opposite: it is only because of appearances that we have access to things-in-themselves. The very fact and concept of an appearance is already the lifting of the veil, for in positing an appearance as that which is before us we necessarily posit that there is such a thing-in-itself hidden behind it as the reality which has shown itself to us as a moment of appearance. The essence of things which supposedly is veiled underneath momentary and ever vanishing appearance is in the end the enduring still image of this very vanishing as a whole, hence the totality of show. In this totality of show the essence of things fully shines through, every moment of appearance revealing one more moment of the intelligible rational principle which springs forth as this appearance, a principle only accessible to beings with the capacity to reason.

Though there is indeed a veil, this veil is the very thing which reveals the unseen that underlies it. Appearance is not the dark veil of space hiding essence underneath, but is instead the illuminating light which brings things-in-themselves into relation with us. In truth, appearance is not the total veil of a finite limited mind that keeps us apart from things-in-themselves as Kant thought, but rather the key to the total revelation of things-in-themselves or essence.


9 thoughts on “Appearance & The Essence of Things

  1. Than what we perceive is THE thing in itself? Are all things a surface show, a superficial “layer” in space, with its own not being what it is on the other side of this layer?


    1. Appearance as a totality is the way essence exists. One moment of appearance is not the thing-in-itself, but the “total show” fully reveals it.

      Take for example an apple: in first encountering the apple we have only one moment of appearance, the apple only seems to be something it is in truth more than. We cut the apple, we find another moment of appearance. We analyze the apple’s biological structure and chemistry—another moment of appearance. We see the apple’s life cycle—yet another moment of appearance. What >is< an apple? In essence it is the entirety of its appearance/manifestations as the natural object it is: the entire process of its species and its reproduction. It is no single moment, but in truth it is a whole process of a species that appear as seeds, trees, flowers, and fruit.

      ALL things are appearances in that essence cannot fully reveal itself all at once, it can only do it over moments. An appearance is a non-being only in that it's not the totality of being, it is only a momentary existence, but it is a being.

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      1. I think I would phrase it more as we have the Apple in front of us and that indeed is the Apple in itself. When we cut it open we have bracketed essence or appearance; now we have the in itself that is “Apple: (inside of apple)”. It is not somehow that the essence of the Apple or the in itself Apple miss somehow is transferred into the cutting open of an apple to find what it is consistent of; it is more that we had an apple and now we have apple juice, and then we have apple flesh. There is no transference of Apple to these other places or spaces except in as much as we “believe” that these appearances hold in themselves objects as relations to other objects in themselves. In effect if we think that there is a transference from the Apple to what the Apple is made of as if we are in this unfolding of appearances finding what is more true of an Apple which unfold itself into ultimate nothingness or ultimate for filament in appearance, we have missed what Hagel is really saying.

        I like how Zizek puts it in his book “event”: that the role of philosophy is to prevent spaces of emptiness, of equality, where the phrase or clause of structure in analyses and is up with a nothingness. But indeed what we must find of Hagel his first this nothingness at every occurrence that all unfolds into what Badiou might call multiplicity, but at the same moment that this multiplicity falls back into nothingness. It is only at this point that we can really understand what Hagan was talking about so far is a historical consciousness.

        So far as we find an unfolding plethora of appearances that reveal the object in itself at one time and then another time the complete relativity of everything we really missed the point of what Hagel saying; or rather when we have completely ‘fell’ into this nothingness, which is to say with no remainder left, nothing by which to establish an identity within a multiplicity, then Hagel begins to ring true and not merely another philosophical argument.

        What do you think?


  2. .. and has to Kant: I think it is a particular type of miss reading of kant to say that there is some sort of veil between our knowledge and the thing in itself. Indeed he does have an issue with the thing in itself but really when we see that both of these philosophers H and K I really just using different terms to talk about the same situation. Four, the only way that they could be putting forth different types of arguments was if we took their term stripper referring to objects in themselves, as if one of them were true we would have to discount the other person — but how could that be the case?

    The question I’m always come up on in Flossa fee is if we are really taking to heart with these philosophers are saying then how is it possible that we could have an opinion on what they’re saying? It seems to me in the analysis of what they’re saying we’re really missing their point in order for me to create some sort of identity that is not a part of what they really mean. It’s as if in my philosophical approach I have to purposely miss their meaning in order to come up with the meaning of them by which I can have a new meaning and use that new meaning by which to segregate every philosopher and history.

    I mean think about it; you have an opinion on these authors ideas. How is it possible that your opinion is false? How are you able to argue any sort of truth at all in the context that really you’re just making an argument among arguments? It would seem that your position in that situation relies upon a very veil that you’re saying that K proposes, while at the same time relying upon a certain meaning of Hp by which to justify your essential angency by would you come to opinion to through segregating all these philosophers ideas.

    In this context it would seem that your negating the argument that you’re putting forth. Because you’re relying on both of those philosophers in order to have an understanding of how they might be right or wrong.



    1. Well, as to how we can have opinions it’s simple: we can think for ourselves and interpret words. It is in the nature of language and thought that the full depth of meaning really can’t be given in the mere form of a sentence. The thinker reading those symbols themselves must think the content in those symbols, and they way the thinker thinks them is different to how they appear in the grammar of the sentence or the structure of a formal syllogism. Sure, I can’t say I have some access to what Hegel or Kant ‘really’ meant, but neither does anyone else since they’re dead and not around to answer questions. Frankly, I don’t care. What I care is to have a cogent account that best makes sense of both on their own when I want to deal with each as their own, but here I am just taking what Hegel claims.

      The whole point about the thing-in-itself is a simple attack made by others on Kant even as he lived: If there really was no access to a thing-in-itself because we are limited to appearances, how in the world does Kant get the concept of a thing-in-itself in the first place without violating his own imposed limits on knowledge. Some denied the thing-in-itself, others affirmed it through other means violating Kant’s limits. Hegel’s simple answer to the problem is that we know there are things in themselves because we are very aware that our immediate contact with things is in appearances which on inspection reveal something unseen underlying them. Hegel does not assume Kant’s limits on knowledge, for if there was a limit we would not know it since the beyond is unthinkable. The very concept of an appearance is what links us and the thing-in-itself, or as Hegel calls it in the chapter on Force: the ‘inner’ truth of things.

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      1. Yes; but you beg the question with your first sentence. The significance of K anf H (at least) is that they do not beg the question, and so thereby give an account of a truth of things that do not rely upon a redundancy of the circular given. When we can see this of them (at least) then we find a meaning where the thinker as a priviledged universal element , loass its agency: we have Hs stuff and also we have the synthetic a priori.

        The reason why these great thinkers are great is becuase they are involved in the confrontation of the axiomatic given centrality of the thinker.

        But, theres really, in a certain way, nothing wrong with maintaing your central agency.


    2. Well, I don’t think begging the question is what the first sentence does since no formal argument is made after. It’s a simple point that is repeated in the whole short thing: to be a thing-in-itself, or an essence, is to be that which appears through appearance. The concept of appearance itself already implies the thing in itself. The reason we make the difference in the first place is precisely in that we do not encounter the totality of appearance of a thing immediately, but over subsequent moments of investigation. The apple as we first encounter it is in fact NOT the apple as it is in essence. That apple is whatever it is without our judgment, we don’t need to know what it ‘truly’ is for it to be so, but we don’t know what it truly is until we go beyond a mere moment of appearance and bring the totality together in our conception of it.

      I don’t quite understand what your comment on nothingness or fulfillment regarding the apple.

      Regarding Hegel as ringing true only when things bottom out, well, no. The point as I see it is that only in the Absolute as the finished system does everything find its real ground and explanation in the infinite which includes the enduring yet vanishing finite. I really don’t like reading philosophers through others. Here I’m not trying to read Hegel and Kant through each other and speak over something I think they say. I am merely conveying what I understand Hegel to be saying as I understand Hegel to be saying it. It’s not saying anything I think is original, it’s just something I think is interesting to note from the phrasing of what Hegel says and how it connects to the context of his own work. I do have my own comments on what I think about what Hegel says, but this isn’t one of them.

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