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JosephKnecht

Phenomenology of Spirit - Hegel

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Probably the most challenging and the most rewarding book I have ever read. I am including excerpts that I have enjoyed the most. Enjoy! 

 

Foreword:


For, on Hegel’s view, all dialectical thought-paths lead to the Absolute Idea and to the knowledge of it which is itself.

The mind for Hegel, as for Aristotle, is thus the place of forms, a bustling Agora where such forms are involved in endless transactions and conversations, and though it is by the intermediation of such forms that there is a reaching-out to their individual instances, they none the less enjoy a relative independence there, a detachment in the thought-ether, that they never enjoy elsewhere.

For absolute knowledge is simply the realization that all forms of objectivity are identical with those essential to the thinking subject, so that in construing the world conceptually it is seeing everything in the form of self, the self being simply the ever-active principle of conceptual universality, of categorial synthesis
 

Preface:

To judge a thing that has substance and solid worth is quite easy, to comprehend it is much harder, and to blend judgement and comprehension in a definitive description is the hardest thing of all.

To help bring philosophy closer to the form of Science, to the goal where it can lay aside the title ‘love of knowing’ and be actual knowing—that is what I have set myself to do.

If, namely, the True exists only in what, or better as what, is sometimes called intuition, sometimes immediate knowledge of the Absolute, religion or being—not at the centre of divine love but the being of the divine love itself—then what is required in the exposition of philosophy is, from this viewpoint, rather the opposite of the form of the Notion. For the Absolute is not supposed to be comprehended, it is to be felt and intuited; not the Notion of the Absolute, but the feeling and intuition of it, must govern what is said, and must be expressed by it.

The ‘beautiful’, the ‘holy’, the ‘eternal’, ‘religion’, and ‘love’ are the bait required to arouse the desire to bite; not the Notion, but ecstasy, not the cold march of necessity in the thing itself, but the ferment of enthusiasm, these are supposed to be what sustains and continually extends the wealth of substance.

The power of Spirit is only as great as its expression, its depth only as deep as it dares to spread out and lose itself in its exposition. Moreover, when this non-conceptual, substantial knowledge professes to have sunk the idiosyncrasy of the self in essential being, and to philosophize in a true and holy manner, it hides the truth from itself: by spurning measure and definition, instead of being devoted to God, it merely gives free rein both to the contingency of the content within it, and to its own caprice.

In a proposition of this kind one begins with the word ‘God’. This by itself is a meaningless sound, a mere name; it is only the predicate that says what God is, gives Him content and meaning.

The goal is Spirit’s insight into what knowing is. Impatience demands the impossible, to wit, the attainment of the end without the means. But the length of this path has to be endured, because, for one thing, each moment is necessary; and further, each moment has to be lingered over, because each is itself a complete individual shape, and one is only viewed in absolute perspective when its determinateness is regarded as a concrete whole, or the whole is regarded as uniquely qualified by that determination. Since the Substance of the individual, the World-Spirit itself, has had the patience to pass through these shapes over the long passage of time, and to take upon itself the enormous labour of world-history, in which it embodied in each shape as much of its entire content as that shape was capable of holding, and since it could not have attained consciousness of itself by any lesser effort, the individual certainly cannot by the nature of the case comprehend his own substance more easily. 

Consciousness knows and comprehends only what falls within its experience; for what is contained in this is nothing but spiritual substance, and this, too, as object of the self. But Spirit becomes object because it is just this movement of becoming an other to itself, i.e. becoming an object to itself, and of suspending this otherness.

The disparity which exists in consciousness between the ‘I’ and the substance which is its object is the distinction between them, the negative in general. This can be regarded as the defect of both, though it is their soul, or that which moves them.
 

INTRODUCTION

But the goal is as necessarily fixed for knowledge as the serial progression; it is the point where knowledge no longer needs to go beyond itself, where knowledge finds itself, where Notion corresponds to object and object to Notion

Consciousness, however, is explicitly the Notion of itself. Hence it is something that goes beyond limits, and since these limits are its own, it is something that goes beyond itself.

The experience of itself which consciousness goes through can, in accordance with its Notion, comprehend nothing less than the entire system of consciousness, or the entire realm of the truth of Spirit.
 

CONSCIOUSNESS

A simple thing of this kind which is through negation, which is neither This nor That, a not-This, and is with equal indifference This as well as That—such a thing we call a universal. So it is in fact the universal that is the true [content] of sense-certainty.

Now, there also occur in the perception various properties which seem to be properties of the Thing; but the Thing is a One, and we are conscious that this diversity by which it would cease to be a One falls in us.

For us, this object has developed through the movement of consciousness in such a way that consciousness is involved in that development, and the reflection is the same on both sides, or, there is only one reflection

Our consciousness, however, has passed over from the inner being as object to the other side, into the Understanding, and it experiences change there.

We see that through infinity, law completes itself into an immanent necessity, and all the moments of [the world of] appearance are taken up into the inner world. That the simple character of law is infinity means, according to what we have found, (a) that it is self-identical, but is also in itself different; or it is the selfsame which repels itself from itself or sunders itself into two. What was called simple Force duplicates itself and through its infinity is law.

This simple infinity, or the absolute Notion, may be called the simple essence of life, the soul of the world, the universal blood, whose omnipresence is neither disturbed nor interrupted by any difference, but rather is itself every difference, as also their supersession; it pulsates within itself but does not move, inwardly vibrates, yet is at rest. It is self-identical, for the differences are tautological; they are differences that are none. This self-identical essence is therefore related only to itself; ‘to itself’ implies relationship to an ‘other’, and the relation-to-self is rather a self-sundering; or, in other words, that very self-identicalness is an inner difference. These sundered moments are thus in and for themselves each an opposite—of an other; thus in each moment the ‘other’ is at the same time expressed; or each is not the opposite of an ‘other’ but only a pure opposite; and so each is therefore in its own self the opposite of itself. In other words, it is not an opposite at all, but is purely for itself, a pure, self-identical essence that has no difference in it.

We see that in the inner world of appearance, the Understanding in truth comes to know nothing else but appearance, but not in the shape of a play of Forces, but rather that play of Forces in its absolutely universal moments and in their movement; in fact, the Understanding experiences only itself.

It is manifest that behind the so-called curtain which is supposed to conceal the inner world, there is nothing to be seen unless we go behind it ourselves, as much in order that we may see, as that there may be something behind there which can be seen.


SELF-CONSCIOUSNESS

And it is only through staking one’s life that freedom is won; only thus is it proved that for self-consciousness, its essential being is not [just] being, not the immediate form in which it appears, not its submergence in the expanse of life, but rather that there is nothing present in it which could not be regarded as a vanishing moment, that it is only pure being-for-self. 

Rather, it is a consciousness existing for itself which is mediated with itself through another consciousness, i.e. through a consciousness whose nature it is to be bound up with an existence that is independent, or thinghood in general.

Consciousness, therefore, can only find as a present reality the grave of its life. But because this grave is itself an actual existence and it is contrary to the nature of what actually exists to afford a lasting possession, the presence of that grave, too, is merely the struggle of an enterprise doomed to failure. 

The fact that the unchangeable consciousness renounces and surrenders its embodied form, while, on the other hand, the particular individual consciousness gives thanks [for the gift], i.e. denies itself the satisfaction of being conscious of its independence, and assigns the essence of its action not to itself but to the beyond, through these two moments of reciprocal self-surrender of both parts, consciousness does, of course, gain a sense of its unity with the Unchangeable.

REASON

Reason is the certainty of being all reality. This in-itself or this reality is, however, a universal pure and simple, the pure abstraction of reality

For its freedom or its being-for-self is just this, to treat the necessity [of the relation] as of no importance.

Consequently, the way in which difference, qua inert, expresses itself is just this, that it is an indifferent difference, i.e. difference as magnitude

The infinite judgement, qua infinite, would be the fulfilment of life that comprehends itself; the consciousness of the infinite judgement that remains at the level of picture-thinking behaves as urination. 

The realization attained by this individuality consists therefore in nothing more than this, viz. that it has cast forth this circle of abstractions from its confinement within simple self-consciousness, into the element where they are for self-consciousness, in other words, are expanded into an objective existence.

The individual, therefore, knowing that in his actual world he can find nothing else but its unity with himself, or only the certainty of himself in the truth of that world, can experience only joy in himself. This is the Notion which consciousness forms of itself,...

It has the value of the Absolute, for self-consciousness cannot and does not want any more to go beyond this object, for in it, it is in communion with itself: it cannot, for it is all being and all power; it does not want to, for it is the self or the will of this self. The object is in its own self real as object, for it contains within itself the distinction characteristic of consciousness; it divides itself into ‘masses’ [Massen] or spheres which are the determinate laws of the absolute essence

All that is left, then, for the making of a law is the mere form of universality, or, in fact, the tautology of consciousness which stands over against the content, and the knowledge, not of an existing or a real content, but only of the essence or self-identity of a content.

But this self-consciousness is the actuality and existence of the substance, its self and its will.
 

SPIRIT

Both worlds, however, when grasped by Spirit—which, after this loss of itself, withdraws into itself—when grasped by the Notion, are confounded and revolutionized by the insight [of the individual] and the diffusion of that insight, known as the Enlightenment; and the realm which was divided and expanded into this world and the beyond, returns into self-consciousness which now, in the form of morality, grasps itself as the essentiality and essence as the actual self; it no longer places its world and its ground outside of itself, but lets everything fade into itself, and, as conscience, is Spirit that is certain of itself.

This world is, however, a spiritual entity, it is in itself the interfusion of being and individuality; this its existence is the work of self-consciousness, but it is also an alien reality already present and given, a reality which has a being of its own and in which it does not recognize itself.

The Spirit of this world is a spiritual essence that is permeated by a self-consciousness which knows itself, and knows the essence as an actuality confronting it. But the existence of this world, as also the actuality of self-consciousness, rests on the process in which the latter divests itself of its personality, thereby creating its world.

On the other hand, the individual, through the enjoyment of wealth, gains no experience of his universal nature, but only gets a transitory consciousness and enjoyment of himself qua single and independent individual, and of the disparity between himself and his essence

It stands on the very edge of this innermost abyss, of this bottomless depth, in which all stability and Substance have vanished; and in this depth it sees nothing but a common thing, a plaything of its whims, an accident of its caprice.

In the will of the self that is certain of itself, in this knowledge that the self is essential being, lies the essence of what is right.

The reconciling Yea, in which the two ‘I’s let go their antithetical existence, is the existence of the ‘I’ which has expanded into a duality, and therein remains identical with itself, and, in its complete externalization and opposite, possesses the certainty of itself: it is God manifested in the midst of those who know themselves in the form of pure knowledge.
 

RELIGION

Absolute Being is, in the latter form, indeed the self and present, since other than present the self cannot be

Absolute Spirit is the content, and is thus in the shape of its truth.

As essence it is only in itself or for us; but since this purity is just abstraction or negativity, it is for itself, or is the Self, the Notion.

it is said that the eternal Being begets for itself an ‘other’. But in this otherness it has at the same time immediately returned into itself; for the difference is the difference in itself, i.e. it is immediately distinguished only from itself and is thus the unity that has returned into itself.
 

ABSOLUTE KNOWING

This last shape of Spirit—the Spirit which at the same time gives its complete and true content the form of the Self and thereby realizes its Notion as remaining in its Notion in this realization—this is absolute knowing; it is Spirit that knows itself in the shape of Spirit, or a comprehensive knowing [in terms of the Notion]. Truth is not only in itself completely identical with certainty, but it also has the shape of self-certainty, or it is in its existence in the form of self-knowledge

goal is the revelation of the depth of Spirit, and this is the absolute Notion.

from the chalice of this realm of spirits foams forth for Him his own infinitude.
 

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Thanks for posting and sharing your experience with reading it! Really interesting topics. I also heard its one of the most difficult books to read and understand. Looking forward to read it in the future too, but there is so much to read already. 

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On 9/9/2021 at 6:10 AM, JosephKnecht said:

This simple infinity, or the absolute Notion, may be called the simple essence of life, the soul of the world, the universal blood, whose omnipresence is neither disturbed nor interrupted by any difference, but rather is itself every difference, as also their supersession; it pulsates within itself but does not move, inwardly vibrates, yet is at rest. It is self-identical, for the differences are tautological; they are differences that are none. This self-identical essence is therefore related only to itself; ‘to itself’ implies relationship to an ‘other’, and the relation-to-self is rather a self-sundering; or, in other words, that very self-identicalness is an inner difference. These sundered moments are thus in and for themselves each an opposite—of an other; thus in each moment the ‘other’ is at the same time expressed; or each is not the opposite of an ‘other’ but only a pure opposite; and so each is therefore in its own self the opposite of itself. In other words, it is not an opposite at all, but is purely for itself, a pure, self-identical essence that has no difference in it.

This is gold right here!


You are God. You are Love. You are Infinity. You are Leo.

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