SPIRIT: HEGEL’S PHENOMENOLOGY OF SPIRIT

YOUTUBE: SPIRIT. Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit.

This is the next section in the Phenomenology of Spirit series. The first videos of this series cover:

  • Foreword
  • Introduction
  • Consciousness
  • Self-Consciousness
  • Reason

This section covers Spirit.

This section starts focusing on a dialectical split of Alienated Spirituality. This split is historically unique to the modern period, and the emergence of “Enlightenment Consciousness”. In the emergence of Enlightenment Consciousness there is a split between abstract reason (disembodied) and faith or belief. The structure of faith and belief, for Hegel, is embedded in intimate community. This is a dialectical split between individual abstract universality of reason, and embodied community and faith-based practice or action.

From that dialectical split, Hegel starts to work towards an understanding of spiritual morality. In that sense, spiritual morality, for Hegel, is what needs to be actively worked through by spirit, as a spiritual work, in the modern period. From the working of spiritual morality, as the work of spirit itself, again, between abstract universality and community, there is the inner notional discovery of conscience, the work of conscience, and the formation of duty, and also, the dialectical split which then re-emergence within spirit, as it relates to conflict between consciences.

In the conflict between consciences, there is the problem of good and evil, which in fact, Hegel tries to dialecticize as a “beyond” of good and evil, and the first attempt to push towards religious consciousness, which is grounded, for Hegel, in reconciliation and forgiveness. Towards the end of the chapter, we see what Hegel’s God looks like, in a radical spiritual acceptance of duality beyond good/evil, which is consequently, beyond rational consensus. This brings us full-circle on this chapter, in fact, where we are starting with an Alienated Spirituality in disembodied reason.

You have on the one side, logical side A, on the other, logical side B. If you followed the previous lectures of this series, Hegel’s logic is the logic of A=B. There are always two split sides attempting to work through their antagonism or conflict. Again, with the start of this chapter, we are working through the conflict of Enlightened Subjectivity, which engages in an abstract life, disembodied reason, and we see it bring forth the individual citizen and the modern state. The individual citizen and the modern state, as the foundation for modern consciousness, is distinct and antagonistic, here, logical side B, which is faith/belief grounding intimate concreteness of the community. We can here use the term tribe or family, and here Hegel specifically uses the sexuation of man and woman. Here you can see, in the context of this split, that many of the antagonisms between science and religion, secularism and supernaturalism, are found in this split between the disembodied abstract individual citizen, the notion of Enlightenment, of the individual, individual rights and freedoms. The consequent formation of career-oriented individuals, professionals living in the abstract life of disembodied reason; and still remains the opposite trans-individual necessity to form families: that we are sexuated between man and woman, that we have a demand for intimacy, for connectivity, on a deeper level and in an embodied way. Again, many of the abstract tensions in the modern world qua science and religion, are found in this contingent historical split of this modern subjectivity.

To quote Hegel:

“442. The living ethical world is Spirit in its truth.  When Spirit first arrives at an abstract knowledge of its essence, ethical life is submerged in the formal universality of legality or law.  Spirit [is] henceforth divided within itself, [tracing] one of its worlds […] in the harsh reality of its objective element; [and another] over against this realm, [in] the world of belief or faith, the realm of essential [intimate] being. [/] 448. In the form of [abstract] universality it is the known law, and the prevailing custom; […] [which] as a simple individuality [i.e. citizen] is that Spirit as government. [/] 449. Confronting this clearly manifest ethical power there is […] another power, the Divine Law [which governs the family]. For the ethical power of the state […] finds its antithesis in the simple and immediate essence of the ethical sphere[.] [/] 456. The Divine Law […] has likewise on its side [three] differences within itself whose interrelationships constitute the living process of its actuality[:] husband and wife, parents and children, brothers and sisters[.]”

In this quote we see that Hegel is saying that in the formation of the universality of law, in the formation of abstract individuality (again, this notion of the modern world of individual rights, individuality as fundamental, separation from the pre-modern world); there is something lost in this positing of spirit, which is why Hegel says that spirit is divided within itself. The division is between, on the one hand, form of individuality trying to establish an objectivity, in law, an equal rights for everyone; and on the other hand, the side of conscious spirit dealing with its intimate being. This division is something which Hegel says is on the one hand, the embodiment of government, in the abstract individual citizen, and on the other hand, what you might call the family spirit, the family man and woman, and their interrelationships: husband and wife, parents and children, brothers and sisters. Now, in Hegel’s language, what we are dealing with, on the one hand, is secular law, what he is calling the government; and divine law, what he is calling family law. This tension between secularism and divinity, secularism and religiosity, is starting to make its appearance very clearly, in Hegel, with this antagonism.

On the one hand, the side of the abstract law, individual citizen, we here see that Hegel notices the lack in this side, as the heart’s alienation. Meaning the abstract individual and the life of the universal citizen, comes at a cost, which is the heart. The individual who becomes the universal citizen is alienated from his heart, and that the abstraction which that individual is positing and acting out, mean nothing, or are a pure emptiness, without concrete implementation.

On the other side, you have the life of faith and belief in the family, what Hegel is calling particular piety, and the action of the heart. Here we have abstract alienation. The traditional distinction between the intelligent individualist, modern citizen; and the familial heart-centric subject who is intellectually out of touch, or simply living behind the times, so to speak. So on the one hand, the alienation of the heart, on the other hand, the alienation of abstraction. And the reason for this alienation of abstraction, for Hegel, is that the heart as an indifference to the external and the literal; whereas, of course, the abstract universal, is only caring about the external and the literal, as opposed to the internal and the metaphorical. Whereas, for the heart, the internal and metaphorical, is fundamental. So this split here, whatever side the subject falls upon, has a great cost, and a feeling of lack.

From Hegel on this distinction:

“485. Spirit is the consciousness of an objective real world freely existing on its own [abstract universal]; but […] is confronted by the unity of […] actual consciousness by pure consciousness [heart’s faith]. [/] 486. Consequently, this Spirit constructs for itself […] a world that is double, divided and self-opposed [i.e. family/nation]. The equilibrium of the whole […] rests on the alienation of opposites [and is] therefore, […] a self-alienated actuality [falling] apart into a realm in which self-consciousness as well as its object is actual [i.e. objective real world], and into another [i.e. realm of pure consciousness] which, lying beyond the first, is not a present actuality but exists only for Faith. […] In its hostility to Faith as the alien realm of essence lying in the beyond, it is the Enlightenment. This Enlightenment completes the alienation of Spirit in this realm, […] [and] upsets the housekeeping of Spirit in the household of Faith by bringing into that household the tools and utensils of this world.” 

In this passage, on the one hand, the abstract universal citizen is existing in what it is calling the objective real world, with freedom as its goal; but it is confronted by its opposite, which is a type of pure consciousness of the heart. This division, again, sets up the subjectivities embodying the family and the nation. However, the family and the nation are resting on an alienation of opposites, going through a specific asymmetrical tension. The asymmetry is that the household is being dominated by the Enlightenment consciousness (this is in the part where Hegel is saying Enlightenment consciousness is “upsetting the housekeeping of Spirit and the household of Faith”). What this is doing to the faith-based consciousness, the pure consciousness, and why it is an asymmetry, is that it is forcing upon the household, the family and the heart, the demands of utilitarianism, utilitarian consciousness. What does Hegel do dialectically with this notion that faith-based households must come to face the utilitarianism of the Enlightenment?

The Enlightenment forces upon consciousness as a whole, usefulness towards human ends, and casts all skepticism and criticism possible, on faith and belief in a beyond. This is again the classical distinction between secular and supernatural or religious consciousness. The whole point of that tension, for Hegel, is the forcing upon all consciousness a type of utilitarian principle. Hegel accepts the universality of this utilitarianism, but he of course, identifies a dialectical flaw. That dialectical flaw is an “unsatisfied yearning” which is inherent to Enlightenment. This unsatisfied yearning inherent to Enlightenment, is that abstract consciousness, the individual citizen, has become alienated from its heart. This emptiness is where this unsatisfied yearning situates itself, and grounds the logic of utility. In other words, utilitarianism is not the final term, but rather what is being put in service to the filling of emptiness. The actualization of utilitarian notions, therefore, is ultimately leading towards, not something external and literal, but rather the internal discovery of truer self-insight.

“486. In this negative activity [of Enlightenment] pure insight at the same time realizes itself, and produces its own object, the unknowable absolute Being [negative] and the principle of utility [positive]. [/] 573. Enlightenment itself bears within it this blemish of an unsatisfied yearning: […] in its empty absolute Being; […] in the lack of selfhood in the thing that is ‘useful’. [/] 580. While the Useful does express the Notion of pure insight, it is not pure insight as such but insight conceived by it in the form of object[.] […] But returned into itself, that Notion is pure insight[.] What is thus lacking is obtained in Utility in so far as pure insight there acquires positive objectivity; pure insight is thereby an actual consciousness satisfied within itself. […] This insight is thus a true knowing, [where] truth as well as presence and actuality are united.  The two worlds are reconciled and heaven is transplanted to earth below.”

Hegel has worked through, dialectically, the tension between abstract universality of the modern individual citizen, alienated from his/her heart, and the intimate community, faith-based community, which is alienated from abstract universality. This is done through the telos of utilitarianism, but with utilitarianism, being forced to situate itself in the cultivation of pure insight, since utility is more the product of insight, but not insight itself. So utilitarianism find its reconciliation in the cultivation of pure insight, which Hegel claims is an actual consciousness, satisfied within itself. And this reconciles Heaven and Earth, on the side of bringing Heaven to Earth.

Here are the three dialectical relationships, on the one hand, family/state, the tension between them in intimacy and abstraction; the irreducible conflict between the two, which is reconciled in concrete implementation (utilitarianism); and the abstract having to come to terms with the unsatisfied yearning, and that in this situation of utilitarianism in the unsatisfied yearning, there is the cultivation of pure insight. Again, it is not pragmatic utility for pragmatic utilities sake, but for pure insight.

In the cultivation of pure insight, we have here a push towards, what Hegel is going to be calling “dutiful subjectivity”. Again, cultivation of pure insight through utilitarianism, is leading towards dutiful subjectivity. Dutiful subjectivity is a conscious reconciliation of what Hegel is calling “blind obedience”, to either the state or the family. The state include the “daylight laws” of abstract universality, which are in some sense missing concrete implementation with the heart; and also blind obedience to the family, which Hegel is calling “underground laws”, which are laws of the heart, which are in some sense, missing their connection to abstract universality.

The problem for dutiful subjectivity, Hegel recognizes, is basically two forms of harmony. On the one hand, morality and nature, that nature is immoral; and on the other hand, morality and sensuous will, that our will is immoral. What dutiful subjectivity is tarrying with, and where we will have another dialectical split, is in the inexistence of perfect morality.

“599. Self-consciousness knows duty to be the absolute essence. It is bound only by duty, and this substance is its own pure consciousness[.] [/] 604. The first postulate [of duty] was the harmony of morality and objective Nature, the final purpose of the world; the other, the harmony of morality and the sensuous will, the final purpose of self-consciousness as such. […] But what connects, as middle term, these postulated two extreme final purposes is the movement of actual conduct itself. […] 610. In this [action], the moral view of the world is completed[.] 616. In the moral view of the world we see […] consciousness itself consciously produces its object […], it proceeds in every case in accordance with a principle on the basis of which it posits objective being.  It thus knows this latter to be its own self, for it knows itself to be the active agent that produces it.  It seems, therefore, to attain here its peace and satisfaction, for this can only be found where it no longer needs to go beyond its object, because this no longer goes beyond it.”

Here Hegel is saying that self-consciousness comes to know itself as duty, but that this duty is in term struggling with harmony of morality, both harmony on the natural objective side, and the harmony on the sensuous will side. The work of morality, again you might connect this to empty yearning, yearning in emptiness, where emptiness is imperfect morality, comes to know a deeper peace and satisfaction from attempting to actualize this morality, because it is the self’s own work. This is why the self is here, to do this work. That is why Hegel says, it no longer goes beyond its object, because it no longer goes beyond it.

However, and of course, there is a problem. That the morality dutiful subjectivity is attempting to actualize, is a perfect impossibility. Namely, here, what dutiful subjectivity thinks its will actualize as a perfect morality, is nothing but a “whole nest of contradictions”, namely, an imperfect actuality. The moral worldview, basically, runs into deeper and deeper problems of its own self-contradictory, and we may say, hypocritical nature. To be specific, in regards to the ultimate aim of this perfect morality, the world and will as a moral unity (or what I am calling an impossible telos), is basically what consciousness would recognize as endless survival (immortality), indefinite moral progress (cultivation of the good), and eternal happiness (that is, good-positive feeling or emotion). Hegel is saying this is impossible and, again, runs into a whole nest of contradictions.

“616. However, consciousness itself really places the object outside itself as a beyond of itself. [/] 617. The moral world-view is, therefore, in fact nothing other than the elaboration of this fundamental contradiction in its various aspects. It is, to employ here a Kantian expression where it is most appropriate, a ‘whole nest’ of thoughtless contradictions. [/] 622. Consciousness itself shifts [perfect morality] away into infinity, i.e. asserts that the perfection is never perfected. [/] 623. What consciousness really holds to the truth of the matter is only this intermediate state of imperfection, a state nevertheless which at least is supposed to be a progress towards perfection. [/] 630. It knows its morality to be imperfect because it is affected by the sense-nature and Nature opposed to it, which in part adulterate morality itself as such, and in part give rise to a host of duties by which in concrete cases of real action it is embarrassed. […] 631. What finally is posited […] to be absolute […] is pure duty, and the knowledge of duty as essence[.]”

Hegel is basically saying that the moral worldview is fundamentally flawed in a “whole nest of contradictions”, and then the consciousness becomes even more deeply divided into itself between the perfect morality shifted into infinity, and its actual concrete situations, where Hegel says, it is embarrassed. This is a very emotionally disruptive and divisive discovery for consciousness. What consciousness ultimately comes to is this knowledge of pure duty which we need to go into deeper. Pure duty is here untethered to, or unburdened by the moral presuppositions of its own consciousness.

This is where we push from the moral view of the world to the law of conscience, which is not necessarily tied to this impossibility of moral unity between nature and will, but pure duty of simple actions. From the confrontation with a whole nest of thoughtless contradictions, consciousness massively simplifies itself in pure duty, and the formation of its own notional necessity, which is more about simple action, then getting caught up in big ideals, let us say.

Conscientiousness as pure duty in simple action, renounces the way in which self-contradiction and self-hypocrisy, lead to passivity, which is for Hegel even a worse situation than the whole nest of contradictions themselves. The whole nest of contradictions is what brings consciousness to a simplification of itself.

“634. Moral self-consciousness having attained its truth [in pure insight as pure duty] abandons, or rather supersedes, the internal division which gave rise to the dissemblance, the division between the in-itself and the self, between pure duty qua pure purpose, and reality qua Nature and sense opposed to pure purpose.  [/] 635. Conscience [dominates as] the negative One, or absolute self, which does away with these various moral substances; it is simple action in accordance with duty, which fulfills not this or that duty, but knows and does what is concretely right. It is, therefore, first of all moral action qua action into which the previous moral consciousness that did not act has passed. [/] 637. It renounces all these attitudes and dissemblances, connected with the moral view of the world, when it renounces that consciousness which thinks of duty and reality as contradictory. [/] 639. It is now the law that exists for the sake of the self, not the self that exists for the sake of the law.”

A few important points here. The moral consciousness gives rise to a huge division within itself, between its actual state and an impossible perfection. However, this perfect image gets destroyed. What comes to take its place is a negative one or absolute self. That is what grounds the law of conscience. From the law of conscience, the moral consciousness, its attitudes and dissemblances, fall away, and what we get is a simple self. Hegel ends this passage by saying that we get a law that exists for the sake for the self, that is the law of conscience.

From deep reflection in-itself, we get pure insight; we got pure insight from the universalization of utilitarianism; from this pure insight we get consciousness reflecting on a perfect morality, and attempting to actualize that perfect morality, again uniting nature and will, and finding only contradictions between the perfect morality and reality; and from the failure of this notion, we have a further deepening of consciousness in the conscience and the law of the conscience, where it finds simple action in pure duty, as opposed to upholding and defending some complex moral worldview.

We have here a battle of species of conscience working in the law of conscience. In the law of conscience we have another division emerging. You can see Hegel’s dialectic is always producing a new division, and is this processual division as such. In this division we have the acting duty, which in-itself is simple action, and calls itself good or right. And we have the other conscience which will judge that duty, and the division between consciences is that one action, which a conscience deems right and true, another conscience will view as evil or wrong. This is the emergence of irreconcilable differences. Irreconcilable differences in the law of conscience is of course responsible for most divorces, and is structuring most battles between consciousness. You can have two consciousness that are in-themselves living up to their notion and duty for what they believe is right, and you will still have the emergence of this problem of good and evil, of irreconcilable differences, and the emotional turmoil that can emerge as a consequence of this irreconcilable difference.

648. This right thing which conscience does is at the same time a being-for-another, [and thus] it seems that a disparity attaches to conscience. The duty which it fulfills […] is the self of consciousness, […] but once fulfilled, set in the medium of being, […] the action is a specific action, not identical with the element of everyone’s self-consciousness, and therefore not necessarily acknowledged. Both sides, the conscience that acts and the universal consciousness that acknowledges this action as duty, are equally free from the specificity of this action. On account of this freedom, their relationship in the common medium of their connection is really a relation of complete disparity[.] The latter acts, it gives being to a specific content; others hold to this being as this Spirit’s truth, and are therein certain of this Spirit; it has declared therein what it holds to be duty. [/] 649. Others, therefore, do not know whether this conscience is morally good or evil[.]

We here see that the problem that conscience has, and the problem inherent to the law of conscience, is that the individual self-consciousness is not only acting for itself, but for an other, and cannot control what that other thinks about its own duty and action. On the other side, the judging conscience, cannot tell if the simple action of the other, is morally good or evil, and has to presuppose that the other is acting in an evil way.

This battle between species of conscience, action and judgement, good and evil, is a pure determination of opposites. One conscience can say I am acting in the good, and the other conscience can judge action as evil; and vice versa. Both consciences in their action can see their action as good, whereas both judgers can see the other’s action as evil. Hegel’s working through of this contradiction is that the condemning other, the judging other, is in fact condemning his/her self and the spirit must work towards a higher order understanding of good and evil, which comes about in forgiveness. This working towards higher order forgiveness is a really complicated spiritual mess and also an element where we may say there is the risk of spiritual by-passing, if it is not done authentically in the image, where there is really a recognition of the higher order nature of good and evil.

662. In denouncing hypocrisy as base […] it is appealing in such judgement to its own law, just as the evil consciousness appeals to its law. [/] 664. Now, though this judgement, it places itself, […] alongside the first [acting] consciousness […] for the [judging] consciousness of duty maintains an attitude of passive apprehension; but it is thereby in contradiction with itself as the absolute will of duty[.] [/] 669. The true, i.e. the self-conscious and existent, equalization of the two sides [action + judgement] is necessitated by […] [the] breaking of the hard heart, and the raising of it to universality[.] [/] 670. The forgiveness which it extends to the other is the renunciation of itself […] and acknowledges that what thought characterized as bad, viz. action, is good; or rather it abandons this distinction […], just as the other abandons its subjective characterization of action [as good]. The word of reconciliation is the objectively existent Spirit […] — a reciprocal recognition[.]

What Hegel is saying ultimately is that the judging consciousness is basically in the wrong because it is a passive apprehension. In other words, it is not pure duty. Judgement is not a part of action, and so the passive judgement is itself in need of letting itself go, what he calls forgiveness in renunciation of itself, renunciation of its own judgement of the other as evil. This is in the quote-unquote breaking of the hard heart. This is spiritual work, which is the work of the heart, because rational reconciliation. What the judging consciousness viewed as bad, is in fact good, if we are dealing with two actors abiding by the law of the conscience, and again, what Hegel is ultimately pushing towards is a beyond of good and evil. This beyond of good and evil, is similar to Nietzsche’s notion in beyond good and evil, that what we call evil is merely a more direct expression of the good; and what we call good, is kind of like a sublation or sublimation of evil, but they are part of the same process, and they are ultimately the same thing, which is again why we have to say there is a “beyond” of good and evil, in this distinction. The working through this distinction, on the part of judgement, requires a letting of itself go, and seeing what is bad, as possibly what was part of the good, from a higher order point of view.

You have the possibility in this forgiveness to a higher-order discovery of self which Hegel starts to point towards as God, as the I in duality. What Hegel means by this, is that the “I” qua “Self” are distinct, and that the “I” needs to be connected very deeply in order to accept duality fully. That is the paradox. In order to be One, two-ness needs to be fully accepted. Two-ness as the working through of good and evil; until the two-ness in the working through of good and evil, is accepted, there is no real connection with what Hegel is calling God. Consequently, no real understanding in consciousness, for what Hegel will point towards as religion. In that sense, for the subjectivity, for the consciousness, which has yet to fully accept duality, there is no possibility for the Hegelian notion of God and religion.

671. [Spirit] enters into existence only at that point where its pure knowledge about itself is the antithesis and alternation [of its dual aspect]. […] Each of these two self-certain Spirits has no other purpose than its own pure self, and no other reality and existence than just this pure self. But yet they are different; and the difference is absolute because it is set in this element of the pure Notion. […] Consequently, they are these sheer opposites for one another; it is the completely inner being which thus confronts its own self and enters into outer existence. […] 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, posses the certainty of itself: it is God manifested in the midst of those who know themselves in the form of pure knowledge.

To reiterate, spirit working through good and evil, has to come to a reconciliation of duality, and to basically see itself in absolute difference, come to see what it formerly saw as the worst evil, and to see itself in that, and to come to see what formerly provoked the deepest emotional heart break, as its own self. This is in what Hegel is calling a reconciling Yea, where the two-I’s let go of their antithetical existence. And in another great passage where he is saying the existence of the I which has expanded into a duality, and therefore remains identical with itself. In other words, there is no problem anymore for the I to expand into the dualistic world, because it knows it cannot lose itself, and it will not lose itself in duality, no matter how much difference it confronts in this externalization and opposition. This is getting towards, pointing towards, his own notion of God as manifest, God as actual in the historical process.

Here we have irreconcilable differences between species of conscience, a contradiction between evil actions and condemning judgement; we have the pushing towards the reconciliation of these irreconcilable differences in the breaking of the hard heart; and in this we have the emergence of the dual-I of God, the God which can actualize itself and manifest itself fully in duality. That is in the acceptance of duality we are capable of being rational in a situation which is beyond rational consensus or without possibility of rational unity between two absolute differences.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s