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A Critique of a Standard Misreading of Hegel

I was bored a few days ago and decided to put on a random Hegel lecture to listen to and waste away my time more than usual, but it happened that I found this lecture in many ways more amusing with how much is wrong coming from a professor whom, I had already assumed, must have studied Hegel with those people we call supposed experts. Unlike the hilariously bad “water + not-water = Water” from this gem(1:57:22-2:00:10) of a lecture that qualifies as not even wrong, this one is at least plausibly wrong for very understandable reasons… except for some parts which I’m puzzled as to their source. I don’t expect everyone who ever teaches a lecture on Hegel to be an expert and be up to date with Hegel scholarship and the ‘acceptable’ interpretations, but I do expect someone to at least teach me what the philosopher actually thinks rather than talk about and around what he or she thinks the philosopher thinks. Most of my problems with this lecture would frankly be solved if it was all qualified with ‘This is what I think Hegel means‘ rather than with ‘Hegel says/thinks…’

2:13—The knowledge (“fact”)/Being distinction set up by Kant. “It doesn’t make any sense if Being is real.” (according to “Hegel”)

I don’t get where this notion that Hegel is against Kant on the basis of the question of Being’s reality comes from considering Hegel tells us no such thing. The question is about the Absolute and the rational limits of our cognition and knowledge. Can we have ANY absolute knowledge whatsoever, or are we indeed stuck with opinions? This can be knowledge of Being itself or of beings of one kind or another. This has nothing to do with Being’s “reality.” One would be stupid to deny that there is whatever there is; Kant himself did not deny there is something, whatever it may be in-itself. The question is whether we can know the something without the doubts that maybe we’re muddling it up just with our mere determinate form imposing something upon it. Of course, being charitable here, Mr. Stroup likely means to convey the skeptical question of so-called external reality to the subject which was taken up by the likes of Fichte who denied the thing-in-itself in total—this, of course, cannot be understood as the denial of the reality of Being, but the denial of a reality of a certain kind of Being. The question is: can we know the absolute, whatever it may be, whether it is an epistemic framework or an ontological category, or are we stuck with mere opinions? Even Kant is ultimately under attack for being too satisfied to remain in opinion when he himself can explain neither the subject nor the categories of its objects. Schelling first offers the question of the unity of unity and difference, and though he is unable to answer it, this is the question of any conception of an absolute: how do we go from the complete in-itself (universal) to the obvious incompleteness of its manifestation (particular/individual)? How does that make sense? How can there be things that are connected yet are thought to be radically disconnected at the same time (neumena/phenomena, or the knower and the known)? That’s something Hegel quietly sets out to answer.

5:35—Reading from a textbook, he says “In part B of the Phenomenology, Hegel discusses a relationship that he calls Lordship and Bondage to illustrate how it is through conflict and struggle that the world evolves and moves forward by means of a synthesis of opposing forces. . . . What Hegel attempts to do here is something like a reconstruction of his own [mind] of events that have already been carried out over past philosophical history. The theme of Lordship and Bondage that he emphasizes appears to be his own subjective reconstruction of a process of thought beginning with Socrates and ending with Christian philosophy.”

The historical reading here is one of those common mistakes people obsess about when they learn that Hegel is very historically minded, thus there is a temptation to attempt to map the Phenomenology’s forms of consciousness onto historical eras or events despite there being very little purpose to apply it in such a way according to the work’s own epistemic and phenomenological aims—these are, after all, forms of consciousness, ways of thinking, and their resultant activities, not historical events. This is like the foolish attempt to read Sense Certainty as the caveman’s cognition, Perception as the Greek’s, and Understanding as the modern. In truth, this categorization makes little sense since all three are far more basic and universal to humans than people realize. Nobody can live with mere Sense Certainty, cavemen definitely needed to Perceive, and the Greeks, for all their errors, very much understood things. The Phenomenology of Spirit IS NOT The Philosophy of History, yet it is a common mistake to read it as if it were. The Phenomenology is, from Hegel’s own telling of it in the Introduction, about the journey of Spirit to discover what  scientific knowledge is. It’s not meant to explain to us the trajectory of our history except as a logical history of the progression of knowledge.

In this section, Mr. Stroup speaks of Self-consciousness in the mode of mere consciousness focused outwardly as the Greek form of consciousness, but this is a very broad paintbrush over Consciousness and why Hegel even gets to the master-slave position in the first placeReading the Phenomenology as if it were The Philosophy of History completely misses the point of what the Phenomenology itself is meant to show.

Here, there are quite the errors, mostly because what is claimed is simply not there and is being externally read into the argument. For one, Hegel doesn’t speak of the “revolt of the slave who then becomes the master of the master, and the master the slave of the former slave” or that this transitions to medieval Christianity from Greece/Rome because “Christianity is about the meek overcoming the strong.” His Nietzschean reading of this about force and weakness is just plain false in the text itself.  There is no passage about the weakness or meekness of a slave and its inversion into the dominant master form in this in the whole section. This section has nothing to do with the Nietzschean inversion of master and slave morality, and it is not Hegel’s point that “Christianity must be overcome” because of this.

What there is plenty of is about the slave’s fearful existence under the master and the ultimate master, death itself. There is also a lot on internal and structural contradiction: the slave is the master insofar as the master depends on them, and the master is the slave insofar as they need the slave. The slave is master of his desires, master of his craft, master of his knowledge of concepts—he is the master in content, but not master in form and vice versa. No one wins in this situation, for the next three forms of consciousness are all forms which slaves and masters alike may have. This relationship falls apart only to reappear right after as an internalized duality of a master aspect and slave aspect of all self-consciousnesses.

12:30—”Everything for Hegel is necessary.”

Everything logical is necessary for Hegel, not ‘everything empirical is necessary.’ There is a big difference between logical and empirical necessity—they don’t quite align. There is a real contingency in empirical Nature, and Hegel is not Spinoza and hasn’t much love for sufficient reason—Spirit can fail to achieve the logically necessary for a myriad of empirical contingent reasonse.g. we could indeed be stupid enough to nuke this world to oblivion. Mr. Stroup mentions the so-called necessity of Napoleon invading/conquering Germany and says that if Hegel can say that it was a historical necessity, then a Hegelian would say that Nazism was necessary because it happened. Stupidity and civilizational collapse sending us to the stone age can happen, but that’s not a logical necessity that will advance anything towards greater knowledge. If there were a metaphysical logical necessity for something like the Holocaust and WWII happening, we would not claim it had to happen just because it empirically happened, but have to prove some logical advance that comes with it, either as a negation or as a positive advancement towards some teleological end.

15:44—”Hegel is looking as history in terms of Being.”

No, Mr. Stroup, he certainly is not, and I have no idea where you got that notion. Hegel is not Parmenideshe’s not worried about substance or Being. Hegel is looking at the history of knowledge approaching scientific knowledge from the standpoint of those structures of knowing as they are in their abstracted and purified form. These forms of knowing match historical epochs because they are indeed real forms of knowing we have employed and keep employing. 

16:00—Genocide as necessary

The example of Nazism and genocide to show a point of “We needed a little bit of genocide to learn it was wrong” is a bit silly. Hegel has no monopoly on the wisdom that in order to answer a problem one has to have a problem to begin with. Jay Bernstein comments on the outright stupidity of this point by precisely pointing to the Holocaust and the “path of despair of Spirit” in order to get a much more interesting and fitting interpretation concerning the idea of total irretrievable loss: historically bad shit happens on individual and collective levels from which we unfortunately learn nothing, and all we have is a set of horrendous memories to keep—sometimes events really advance nothing, and this too is a Hegelian point about empirical existence. Everything makes sense on some level, but Hegel is not stupid enough to claim that everything makes complete sense at any particular level. If anything, the very system he builds is one in which this is a precluded possibility: the only thing that will ever make complete sense is Absolute Spirit itself; everything else is in one way or another more or less irrational, arbitrary, and contingent.

16:45—”Don’t worry; it’s all good in the end.”

While Hegel is an optimist, there is plenty in his philosophy which speaks quite against this. Let’s not forget this is one of the philosophers of endless despair and all things falling apart the moment things seem to get good and safely sublate. Logically, sure, it’s all good in the end, but empirically there is no guarantee of this. Modernity is not considered by Hegel to be nearing the “end of history” for an arbitrary reason of being a status quo lover, it’s actually because he sees structures of absolute self-determination begin to appear and match somewhat what they logically should look like insofar as we have logically derived them. This is good… because self-determination is the only logically valid normative rule. Try to derive any prior historical formation as a completely immanent and positively derived logical development, and you’ll see what happens in the Phenomenology: things will fall apart.

17:05—Marx on the master/slave

All I have to say is that, since Mr. Stroup misread the Master/Slave to begin with, this further misreading of Marx does not sit well with me. “The master will resist the slave revolt to overcome and become masters themselves”—truly, if that was the insight of Marx to destroy Hegelianism, I would think both to be thinkers so poor as to be banal. Marx’s refutation of Hegel is far more sophisticated than this, and Hegel’s argument in the master-slave is not that eventually one day we realized we were all equals and recognized each other, and that that is why slavery ended. It’s implied that the slaves may rise up and become masters to the master, but this is logically not an advance, and here Mr. Stroup is right. If the slave revolts, the real advance would be the dissolution of slavery in general, for the slave has gained and internalized the universal structure of self-consciousness and conceptual thinking—the slave can conceive of the universal required to recognize others like oneself unlike the master who treats them only as objects and denies their subjectivity.

19:30—Mr. Stroup interprets the dialectic to be primarily about faith and reason while still ignoring the onto-epistemic conceptions being carried out in each shape of consciousness on the way, each itself—including faith—a form of reason itself.  Somehow, he ends this with the resulting concept of Nothing “after reason and faith and spirit vanish.” This is what he takes to be the explication of Hegel’s reasoning for why we arrive at the notion that Being and Nothing are one and the same. This could not be farther from Hegel’s result of Absolute Knowing in the Phenomenology—it’s not about Nothing, but about the knowing of knowing. Once again, this is reading into the work what isn’t there.

21:50—Once again, the mistake is made from the textbook reading of thinking the Phenomenology to be the Philosophy of History. This ignores that the Phenomenology is about a logical history of consciousness’ KNOWING coming to scientific absolute knowing, not about explaining human history in general. Once again, the Phenomenology is about explaining how and why we were able to get from the mere appearance of knowledge to true absolute knowledge and how we had to go through these various forms due to the logical way they develop and interrelate despite not appearing in the order of our empirical historical meandering.

23:00—The myth of progress.

No, Hegel is not the source of the myth of progress. This myth was around long before Hegel, and it’s silly to blame Hegel for the misuse of his ideas others made through their own misunderstandings—that’s like blaming Marx for the USSR. No, wage work is not slavery by any stretch of conception; we make distinctions for a reason—slaves, serfs, and proletarians are not the same thing and do not exist in the same relation of domination. No, the master-slave dynamic does not continue forever between us—it continues within us. One merely has to read the section right after concerning Stoicism, Skepticism, and the Unhappy Consciousness to know that the dynamic of knowledge regarding recognition turns inward to an inner split self that enables internalized self-consciousness.

30:00—History proving Hegel, or Hegel using history to back himself up

Hegel never tries to explain our empirical history as empirical. Once again, the difference between logical and empirical history must be made. The reason for Hegel’s logical ordering of history and its difference from empirical history is ignored here, and unfortunately, it’s a very common point of ignorance.

32:00—Hegel describing modernity as just another contradiction, ‘predicting the next movement’

…except he doesn’t, and we can see this in the Philosophy of History and the Philosophy of Right. There is something unique about modernity which isn’t like what prior forms of society in history are like, that is, modernity shows an immanently systematic and organic logical structure unlike slave societies, feudalism, and what have you. Its foundations are not arbitrary like the others, and it is why modern structures can be developed in a positive internal dialectic instead of an internally self-undermining negative dialectic. Modernity for Hegel is a time in which legitimate structures of freedom are beginning to appear. Hegel is not in the business of prediction and says so himself. He is convinced of and logically develops a priori that the structures of self-determination and reason are arising in his day, but they are incomplete, and Hegel admits to not knowing how the system of society is to come to completionhowever, he does screw the dialectics up with injecting contingent historical bias in quite a bit, so I have to give Mr. Stroup that one. Though Marx assumes the modern state and economy are just another negative dialectic like any other, Hegel thinks no such thing, but is well aware that there are problems he does not know how to solve. He certainly would not predict a master-slave class struggle to keep occurring if the structures of self-determination are actually upheld in a society that is freely free. Of course, someone like Marx and many after Hegel question whether this society can be freely free, but one must first ask what that state of affairs would logically look like to make some judgment about that which wouldn’t be mere opinion.

34:00—Description of the diremption and unification

It seems Mr. Stroup completely misses the point of the ‘synthesis/unification’ as itself the structure of an absolute form of a specific total movement. He is unaware of the concrete universalwhat Hegel in the Phenomenology terms Infinityas the genuine basic conceptual structure which explicates the possibility of a unity of unity and difference, a self-differentiated whole that dirempts and in its diremption is unified. With this being missed, of course the endless diremption seems to arbitrarily be said to stop in a final synthesis of Absolute Spirit. For Hegel, the diremption never endsit just finds self-grounding systematic closure in which the process is absolute unto itself and fully self-contained in its total resulting structure. The Absolute isn’t a state of thingsit is a structure and process of the coming to be of that structure: ‘The Idea is Life.’

34:20—Mr. Stroup mentions: Being, Nothing, Existence as the realm of Becoming; life in the realm of Becoming; Being “wants to experience itself,” Being posits itself as Nothing, God posits something outside itself that isn’t him. How do you get movement in Being/Absolute Spirit? The Absolute posits necessity outside of itself, and that necessity must get back to the Absolute….

First off, no, Being does not posit Nothing and Becoming is not the return of Nothing back into Being. Where the hell did this come from? Being can’t posit anything because positing is a structure of Essence, the major logical form after the Doctrine of Being. See the Doctrine of Being. This is just textually outright wrong.

Second, everything is Becoming; Life is so far beyond simple Becoming it’s mind boggling—Life is in the “realm” of the Concept. Thinking there is anything that isn’t Becoming is to show you misunderstand what Becoming is as the very moment of all transitioning vanishing—the very differentiated unity of black text on white background is itself a Becoming. Third, Existence is NOT the “realm” of experience. What that ontological order is called is Nature. Mr. Stroup is not to blame here, I think, so much as the poor teaching his Hegel instructors gave. This mix-matching of categories is typical of people who are chronic superficial readers of Hegel who constantly read into his work rather than read out of it.

Being isn’t God and it doesn’t want anything in Hegel’s account… This is close to Schelling’s conception, except Schelling’s God does not posit something outside, and this seems far closer to Fichte, yet I do wonder if it’s right. Where, then, does this come from? Here, I think, one can find things hinting at this in the Philosophy of History. This reading, however, would miss Hegel’s points on teleology in the Science of Logic concerning immanent telos which is just…the principle of development of things. God no more wants to come into existence than an an electron wants to float around a positive atomic nucleus or matter wants to come together with other matter in gravitational attraction.

The Absolute does not posit anything outside itself to get motion going. This, again, misunderstands what the Absolute is. Hegel has no issues with change, it’s the very beginning of the system as Becoming in the Logic. Read the 1st chapter of the Doctrine of Being.

Finally, to respond to a comment reply of his to a comment I made: Hegel is not a “monist.” He’s not Spinoza, he’s not Parmenides, and he’s not Fichte. He’s not a metaphysical/ontological monist for there is more than one kind of thing around. If there is one thing one could say about his “monism” it would be epistemic monism: everything is understood relative to one normative standard, the Absolute (cf. James Kreines’ work on the issue of thinking Hegel is a metaphysical/ontological monist).

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 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.”

**********************

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.

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.

On Hegel’s Project in the Science of Logic

The Science of Logic is a giant tome of what some may consider pure arcane abstraction. A work that bills itself the science of pure thinking of thoughts, one question that inevitably arises regarding  it is what purpose it serves. Hegel refuses to tell us much of what the purpose of the Logic is beyond two basic things: it has to do with the concept of the Absolute, and the derivation of valid thinking from pure presuppositionless thought itself.

It is clear from the very concepts used in the Logic that the work was intended to function in multiple roles within philosophy in general. Not only is the Logic about logic as the thinking of valid thinking, but also about the objects which logic is meant to investigate, hence we see metaphysics and ontology as its conceptual content, for these are the general concepts of thought itself, and this makes sense when one gives just a little thought to it. What else could logic be about if not the very general object kinds, structures, and relations of reality itself? If the necessity of logical determinations is not the same necessity of the world itself, what value do the results of logic have for determining anything but arbitrary and subjective mental fictions? Logic and ontology must be identical in some key manner in order for objectivity and normative judgments to be fully intelligible, and the Logic is meant to show just how this is possible through the connection of concept and objectivity.

Jumping ahead into the thinking which occurs within the Logic itself, one can begin to see a bit more of what this project entails. First is that the Logic has to do with the relation of ontological categories to each other. As each category develops itself it does so through analytic definition, yet this analytic definition presupposes or posits another concept and synthetically relates what is not itself as constitutive of itself. This analytic and synthetic expansion of conceptual relations allows for an inner relation between them in a growing chain of concepts building upon each other such that one can go from abstract Being to Existence to Essence, etc. and see the direct chain that makes intelligible their exact relation.

Second, the Logic concerns the relation of thought to itself as thought. From the beginning of the project until its end, by looking at the process by which one thought moves to another, thought shows a power of self-determination, self-mediation, and self development through its analytic/synthetic expansion, its self-oppositions, and its unifications. This self-expansion of thought and its capacity to mediate its contradictions into intelligible unity, its capacity to go beyond itself through a renewed expansion of content, shows thought as having content in itself and points to the boundlessness of thought by this process of self-differentiating expansion and self-mediation.

Third, looking at the skeletal categorial framework of the Logic one can see that the penultimate major category is the Idea. The Idea is the concept in which an object and concept correspond. When an object corresponds perfectly with its concept then we may say it is ideal. Against the common-sense notion that it is ideas that must correspond to objects, Hegel puts forth the doctrine that the determination of truth is the inverse: it is objects, insofar as they are actually objective, that must correspond to concepts (ideas). Part of the results of the Logic is the derived proof of the identical structure of objects and concepts through the necessary aspect of self-determination inherent to the concept of objectivity itself, and as the Logic shows, concepts share this very key aspect of self-determination. This capacity of concepts to self-determine is what allows Hegel to claim that there is no issue in thought grasping true objectivity in itself. When the concept in its self-development matches the object as it is in its living development, from genesis to completion, we can say not only that we have grasped its truth in thought, but that the object itself has become what it should be in virtue of this same correspondence. If a concept shows a logical development which the object does not, then this object is judged as lacking full reality.

Fourth, because of the role which concepts have in Hegel’s system as the measure of truth, the normative dimension of reality becomes intelligible only as an object being in agreement with its concept. Recalling Aristotle’s ancient teleology, Hegel brings back the sense of normativity in Aristotle as the measure of good being the accordance of object to its telos, but Hegel reformulates it as the accordance of object to concept. For Hegel the one normative rule to settle all questions of ultimate good is the form of the universal which self-determines, which is what it is of its own developmental freedom, and as such shares the structure of objectivity. An organic being, for example, is freely what it is and becomes what it is of its own inner constitution and teleological development, but only to a certain point. The ultimate truth and therefore the measure of what ultimately should be, what is the highest good of all reality, is the Absolute. When judged from the Absolute standpoint all other things are relative and are objectively inferior, false, or incomplete in kind by failing to live up to the Absolute’s complete self-determination (freedom).

The Absolute is the completed system as it is from Logic to Spirit, completed in the final concept of Absolute Spirit which knows itself completely. In the Logic the Absolute Idea is just as it says: it is only the idea of the Absolute, the general logical character of it. What this idea shows itself to be, however, is nothing less than the consummate process of the Logic‘s self-developing concepts. Hegel equates the Absolute with freedom, for it is the concept of that which is what it is in-and-for-itself and not merely by a given determining compulsion external to it.

Fifth, the totality of the process of the Logic, because it is the pure process of thought in-itself as pure universality, shows the way to answering the question of what logic is as logic. Valid and true thought follow not just the structure of the Logic’s pure concept; it is not formal, but is ordered and systematized according to the products of the inner development of any content it is applied to. This aspect sets the first rule of valid thinking: necessity. There is, however, something more that the Logic shows about a general structure of conceptual thinking. Until Hegel concepts were encountered and developed unsystematically and haphazardly, but each concept is nothing less than the very general process of the Logic‘s categorial determinations and their progression. As is argued by Andy Blunden in some of his papers regarding the topic, when we first encounter a new and true object that embodies a genuine concept we develop the concept first in its immediate appearance using determinations of the logic of Being, and having exhausted such a poor conception we are forced to eventually conceive of further determinations behind appearances through the logic of Essence, from which we eventually develop further determinations through the logic of the Concept once systematic development is possible. Often determinations of a concept will be discovered in experience in a disconnected  order and disarray with no clear necessary unity other than that we observe these determinations to be in some kind of relation. It is the work of the logician to penetrate through the arbitrary order of experience and see into the necessary logical conceptual relations and developments as a specific systematic and unitary organic whole. It must be said that one must not mistake this general conceptual developmental description as the development of all concepts. The Logic‘s own development and categories are unique to itself and not not merely make an abstract form through which empirical concepts are filtered through, rather, empirical concepts have their own logical development which only follows the broad structures of the Logic.

It is also interesting, as Markus Gabriel notes, that the Logic can, because it is logic, be understood as the very principle of intelligibility in all things. Insofar as anything is thinkable (conceptualizable) it must conform to some categorial determination in the Logic. That which fails to enter the system of the Logic is, quite literally, unthinkable. Whether this is understood to point to a reality beyond thought that is ineffable yet existent, or the inverse, that what is ineffable is so because it really lacks ontological reality, such as James Kreines argues in his reading of the Logic as ontologically pluralistic due to the existent domains of reality that are ontologically incomplete via the fact that they are logically incomplete, is up to the reader’s interpretation. Suffice to say, a lot of interesting thoughts arise when one considers the totality of the Logic as logic and as ontology.

These are but a few of the general projects which run through the Logic and you can be sure there is far more that can be gleamed in the detailed examination of the text itself. Overall it’s one hell of a project, and if you’re fascinated by systematic philosophy like I am, it’s well worth giving it a chance.

Why You Should Read the Science of Logic Before the Phenomenology

The Science of Logic (simply the Logic from here on) is G.W.F. Hegel’s most important work, at least according to him. After Hegel’s death and the reaction against Hegelianism there was a cold period after which the Phenomenology of Spirit made a sudden surge from obscurity and it has been a mainstay of Hegelianism since. The Phenomenology has in the last century dominated the reception of Hegel in the continental and analytic philosophy circles and is considered Hegel’s greatest masterpiece, a strange thing considering that Hegel seemed to consider it less and less the more he taught the system based on his Logic.

Hegel is, in my experience, a philosopher that is monumentally difficult and yet offers incredibly accessible and clear points that require no background or skill other than the capacity to think. There is a surface to Hegel’s system which is, because of its logical nature, very accessible to any thinker who is open to tread the path of a thought alongside Hegel, but at the same time there is the depth beneath the surface which reveals a set of interconnections beyond what is apparent in the path of the straight logical steps on the surface. This depth is a result of ‘recollection’, of reflective thought about the reflexivity of thought which went on in its logical mode. The more life experience, and the more intellectual breadth and depth, the richer the recollection’s insights. First, however, one must have a grasp of how to think along with Hegel, and the Phenomenology does not actually make clear just what Hegel’s famous core method (dialectics) is supposed to be, but worse, it has the phenomenological method in play alongside the dialectical method and the confusion increases. Though logically and historically the Phenomenology is prior to the Logic, I strongly suggest one to read part of the Logic before engaging the Phenomenology.

The Phenomenology was originally intended to be the “introduction” to Hegel’s system, particularly his Logic, by way of a negative dialectical argument. It aimed to eliminate all possible avenues for foundational philosophy to provide a ground for knowledge, and was to decisively leave Hegel’s own take on the problem of knowledge as the only remaining possibility for moving on and doing Philosophy at all once he negated the opposition of consciousness to an absolute external object in all its forms. The final result was a moment of Absolute Knowing where Spirit would gain the knowing of knowing by way of the reader’s own realization of it—this knowing would merely give the starting point of science as its abstract indeterminate beginning. The book is written in such an abstract way that one should not need any background for it, and while one can certainly go at it this way, it doesn’t help that Hegel wrote it as if the intent was to force you to reread the book multiple times in order to reach its intellectual depths. He mentions terms which he never defines: the Concept (translated as Notion by Miller), the Idea, and Spirit very early on and maintains their use as if the reader just knows what he means despite his meaning being utterly unknown at such points beyond contextual hints. Due to the difficulty and seemingly winding arguments of the book very few ever make it through this initiation, and fewer still seem to remember what it is that Hegel intended to teach them at the end. The book is certainly worthy of praise and with many insights as well as fascinating literary, cultural, and conceptual analyses and interpretations, but it is written in such a manner that no novice to philosophy could ever understand much of its significance without expertise to guide them in the intricate backgrounds of references of arguments, the dense and sometimes obscure phrasing, and the sometimes obscure transitional arguments which move the story of Spirit’s experience along.

As an introduction the Phenomenology is as difficult an introduction as could have ever been designed, an obstacle that a reader must willingly put themselves through wholeheartedly and lose themselves to in order to reap the benefit of its conclusion: the full realization that the opposition of consciousness presupposed by almost all of philosophy prior to and after Hegel cannot lead anywhere fruitful in the end. The Phenomenology ends in Absolute Knowing, a form of consciousness which has gone beyond the opposition of consciousness to its object. It sees that all along it had merely faced itself in its object; it is an indeterminate end where nothing but the identity of consciousness and its object is known—thought faces itself as all it knows (make of that what you will for now). As a popular introduction to Hegel’s system the Phenomenology is a failure as historical experience shows most simply do not understand its language, argumentation style, and what it is meant to conclude. The Phenomenology may be said to be the most immediately interesting and readable of Hegel’s works, yet one of the least immediately comprehensible since Hegel seems to be all too happy to use terms he never defines—at least not straightforwardly—and an argumentation method that has popularly come to be unfortunately known as the ‘dialectic’, which seems to resist any clear definition if the popular understanding of it is anything to go by. In contrast, the Logic is Hegel’s most immediately comprehensible yet least immediately interesting or readable work. This is a very strange affair for people are constantly told of the necessity of the Phenomenology to understand the (supposedly) even less understandable Logic. If the Phenomenology is this difficult, it’s no surprise the vast majority avoid the Logic since it is considered even more so.

The Logic is the “sequel” to the Phenomenology, the first part of the system it is meant to introduce. For a few years in Jena Hegel taught material similar to what later would be in the Phenomenology, but once he had settled his account of the matters he ceased to teach it in favor of expanding his positive system. He hardly mentions the book ever again in lecture or writing. Despite the seeming abandonment of it to history, the work, in its function, is ever a necessary part for understanding Hegel and his thought. The Phenomenology, or something akin to it in scope and function, is necessary to fully break the spell of wandering natural consciousness that presupposes that it is a knower that faces an object different from itself, and which must answer the dual problem of ontology and epistemology which elude unification in a coherent account of their relation to each other and to consciousness as a knowing. While some may easily accept Hegel’s claims against the opposition of consciousness to an object of knowing, the real argument and proof against it is in the completed path of the Phenomenology of Spirit. While we do not submit ourselves to its path of despair we are always left to the nagging doubt and temptation that perhaps there may be a way to work epistemology/ ontology/ ethics/ aesthetics/ etc. as first foundational philosophy despite Hegel’s claims against such a possibility.

Despite what most say about the difficulty of the Logic and its status as the result of the Phenomenology, you should actually read a very small part of it before reading the Phenomenology. Reading the Logic in its entirety is a big commitment if what you really are interested in is the Phenomenology, but reading the first few chapters will help greatly in following Hegel’s argument style in its predecessor. The Logic is where Hegel’s method is in its most clear and obvious form, even if you only read the first chapter it is sufficient to see what the so-called method is. If one reads the chapters on Being and Existence/Determinate Being carefully, then the reading of the Phenomenology isn’t as mysterious or difficult due to his method being clarified. Not only is the method clear, but it shall be made clear what some otherwise seemingly unclear terms have to do with the developments that Hegel takes us through in the Phenomenology, e.g. if one has read the chapter on Existence it shall be clear as day what one of the major formal problems  dominating the three chapters of Consciousness is. Now, it’s not that it’s impossible to discern the logical train in the Phenomenology, but it takes an incredible memory and constant hindsight to maintain logical chains in mind and remember that that one seemingly random sentence about Being and thought 40 pages ago is a key to understanding why a Being with immediacy is mediated and therefore is determinate and implies a plurality—this disconnection of underlying logical forms, unfortunately, is a product of the phenomenal presentation.

The Logic is a bit more merciful on the reader concerning its developments, and maintains its concept developments directly connected in the chain you follow.  The beginning of the Phenomenology is rather simple and the arguments in it quite easy to follow, but even in the second chapter the argument begins hinging on logical moves which already depend on a supremely careful eye to the terms used, how they’re used, and what is being related—I actually consider the second chapter’s beginning to be one of the hardest parts in the first three chapters. There is chapter 3, “Force and the Understanding”, which is a bit of a maze of many dialectical moves ending in the dissolution of Consciousness, the mode of cognition which takes knowing as merely the confronting of an external object and the correspondence of thought to such object.

Besides being able to notice the logical moves underlying the phenomenal aspects of the Phenomenology, you’ll also be able to take notice of what is going on in the phenomenal aspects themselves—you’ll be able to comprehend and appreciate just why every form of consciousness comes up in the order that it does. While every form of consciousness faces destruction with its own immanent negative dialectic, each dialectic unfurls a positive logical concept immanent in the structure of a form of consciousness. These positive results, which are the end of every form of consciousness, are key to grasping why the work flows the way it does.

Now, there are two prefaces and two introductions to the Logic since it was clear many would simply not read the Phenomenology or understand it. These essays in a way attempt to give some justification of the project of the Logic, and all amount to repeating two central points: 1) formal logic isn’t logic since logic is the thinking of thinking which establishes the validity of valid thinking and as such has itself as the content and form of its inquiry, and 2) we must start with indeterminacy, without givens of any kind, so forget everything you think you know. In this regard the Logic is certainly very readable in that it is very intelligible, in fact it is surprising how readable it is for a book by the supposedly obscure Hegel. Because of the presuppositionless aspect of the work one can jump in and merely focus on what is built up in the work itself in order to comprehend it. Though it is very intelligible (usually), its subject matter is very dry and abstract, and because it only deals with thought itself there is no escape for any kind of picture/metaphorical thinking with examples we are accustomed to. Very few will find much to excite them in the book if they are not interested in metaphysics and categories of thought as such.

To say something brief on the value of the Logic itselfit is the systematic development of valid thinking which can prove itself to be valid thinking. The only rule on the ground at the beginning of it is that we think, and that we think only what is thinkable in and through the content with which we begin. This demand for thinking only with what is available and its relations, if it have any, is merely the first demand of all valid thinking: necessity. If we are to discover anything else about valid thinking we must at least discover these new insights necessarily following from our concepts inner contents. The Logic goes on to develop and move as thought shows itself to be at once both analytic and synthetic, for by analytic definition it points beyond itself and determines itself further through what is not immediately itself.

highly suggest you to read the Logic‘s first two chapters to get a sense of Hegel’s actual method in its purest practice as well as to know two of the fundamental structures which appears throughout the Phenomenology over and over again—the something/other relation, and more importantly the concept of  Infinity. This alone will help immensely with increasing your comprehension in a reading of the Phenomenology of Spirit and every other of Hegel’s works.