Section 4

The Truth which Conscious Certainty of Self Realises

by Hegel

1. Consciousness In Itself

166 IN the kinds of certainty hitherto considered, the truth for consciousness is something other than consciousness itself.

The conception, however, of this truth vanishes in the course of our experience of it.

What the object immediately was in itself — whether mere being in sense-certainty, a concrete thing in perception, or force in the case of understanding — it turns out, in truth, not to be this really.

But instead, this inherent nature (Ansich) proves to be a way in which it is for an other.

The abstract conception of the object gives way before the actual concrete object, or the first immediate idea is cancelled in the course of experience.

Mere certainty vanished in favour of the truth. There has now arisen, however, what was not established in the case of these previous relationships, viz. a certainty which is on a par with its truth, for the certainty is to itself its own object, and consciousness is to itself the truth.

Otherness, no doubt, is also found there; consciousness, that is, makes a distinction; but what is distinguished is of such a kind that consciousness, at the same time, holds there is no distinction made.

If we call the movement of knowledge conception, and knowledge, qua simple unity or Ego, the object, we see that not only for us [tracing the process], but likewise for knowledge itself, the object corresponds to the conception; or, if we put it in the other form and call conception what the object is in itself, while applying the term object to what the object is qua object or for an other, it is clear that being “in-itself” and being “for an other” are here the same.

For the inherent being (Ansich) is consciousness; yet it is still just as much that for which an other (viz. what is “in-itself”) is. And it is for consciousness that the inherent nature (Ansich) of the object, and its “being for an other” are one and the same. Ego is the content of the relation, and itself the process of relating.

It is Ego itself which is opposed to an other and, at the same time, reaches out beyond this other, which other is all the same taken to be only itself.

167 With self-consciousness, then, we have now passed into the native land of truth, into that kingdom where it is at home. We have to see how the form or attitude of self-consciousness in the first instance appears.

When we consider this new form and type of knowledge, the knowledge of self, in its relation to that which preceded, namely, the knowledge of an other, we find, indeed, that this latter has vanished, but that its moments have, at the same time, been preserved; and the loss consists in this, that those moments are here present as they are implicitly, as they are in themselves.

The being which “meaning” dealt with, particularity and the universality of perception opposed to it, as also the empty, inner region of understanding – these are no longer present as substantial elements (Wesen), but as moments of self-consciousness, i.e. as abstractions or differences, which are, at the same time, of no account for consciousness itself, or are not differences at all, and are purely vanishing entities (Wesen).

What seems to have been lost, then, is only the principal moment, viz. the simple fact of having independent subsistence for consciousness. But, in reality, self-consciousness is reflexion out of the bare being that belongs to the world of sense and perception, and is essentially the return out of otherness.

As self-consciousness, it is movement. But when it distinguishes only its self as such from itself, distinction is straightway taken to be superseded in the sense of involving otherness. The distinction is not, and self-consciousness is only motionless tautology, Ego is Ego, I am I. When for self-consciousness the distinction does not also have the shape of being, it is not self-consciousness. For self-consciousness, then, otherness is a fact, it does exist as a distinct moment; but the unity of itself with this difference is also a fact for self-consciousness, and is a second distinct moment.

With that first moment, self-consciousness occupies the position of consciousness, and the whole expanse of the world of sense is conserved as its object, but at the same time only as related to the second moment, the unity of self-consciousness with itself. And, consequently, the sensible world is regarded by self-consciousness as having a subsistence which is, however, only appearance, or forms a distinction from self-consciousness that per se has no being. This opposition of its appearance and its truth finds its real essence, however, only in the truth — in the unity of self-consciousness with itself.

This unity must become essential to self-consciousness, i.e. self-consciousness is the state of Desire in general. Consciousness has, qua self-consciousness, henceforth a twofold object — the one immediate, the object of sense-certainty and of perception, which, however, is here found to be marked by the character of negation; the second, viz. itself, which is the true essence, and is found in the first instance only in the opposition of the first object to it. Self-consciousness presents itself here as the process in which this opposition is removed, and oneness or identity with itself established.

2. Life

168 For us or implicitly, the object, which is the negative element for self-consciousness, has on its side returned into itself, just as on the other side-consciousness has done.

Through this reflexion into self, the object has become Life.

What self-consciousness distinguishes as having a being distinct from itself, has in it too, so far as it is affirmed to be, not merely the aspect of sense-certainty and perception; it is a being reflected into itself, and the object of immediate desire is something living.

For the inherent reality (Ansich), the general result of the relation of the understanding to the inner nature of things, is the distinguishing of what cannot be distinguished, or is the unity of what is distinguished.

This unity, however, is, as we saw, just as much its recoil from itself; and this conception breaks asunder into the opposition of self-consciousness and life: the former is the unity for which the absolute unity of differences exists, the latter, however, is only this unity itself, so that the unity is not at the same time for itself.

Thus, according to the independence possessed by consciousness, is the independence which its object in itself possesses. Self-consciousness, which is absolutely for itself, and characterizes its object directly as negative, or is primarily desire, will really, therefore, find through experience this object’s independence.

169 The determination of the principle of life as obtained from the conception or general result with which we enter this new sphere, is sufficient to characterize it, without its nature being evolved further out of that notion.

Its circuit is completed in the following moments. The essential element (Wesen) is infinitude as the supersession of all distinctions, the pure rotation on its own axis, itself at rest while being absolutely restless infinitude, the very self-dependence in which the differences brought out in the process are all dissolved, the simple reality of time, which in this self-identity has the solid form and shape of space.

The differences, however, all the same hold as differences in this simple universal medium; for this universal flux exercises its negative activity merely in that it is the sublation of them; but it could not transcend them unless they had a subsistence of their own.

Precisely this flux is itself, as self-identical independence, their subsistence or their substance, in which they accordingly are distinct members, parts which have being in their own right.

Being no longer has the significance of mere abstract being, nor has their naked essence the meaning of abstract universality: their being now is just that simple fluent substance of the pure movement within itself. The difference, however, of these members inter se consists, in general, in no other characteristic than that of the moments of infinitude, or of the mere movement itself.

170 The independent members exist for themselves.

To be thus for themselves, however, is really as much their reflexion directly into the unity, as this unity is the breaking asunder into independent forms. The unity is sundered because it is absolutely negative or infinite unity; and because it is subsistence, difference likewise has independence only in it.

This independence of the form appears as a determinate entity, as what is for another, for the form is something disunited; and the cancelling of diremption takes effect to that extent through another. But this sublation lies just as much in the actual form itself.

For just that flux is the substance of the independent forms. This substance, however, is infinite, and hence the form itself in its very subsistence involves diremption, or sublation of its existence for itself.

171 If we distinguish more exactly the moments contained here, we see that we have as first moment the subsistence of the independent forms, or the suppression of what distinction inherently involves, viz. that the forms have no being per se, and no subsistence. The second moment, however, is the subjection of that subsistence to the infinitude of distinction.

In the first moment there is the subsisting, persisting mode or form; by its being in its own right, or by its being in its determinate shape an infinite substance, it comes forward in opposition to the universal substance, disowns this fluent continuity with that substance, and insists that it is not dissolved in this universal element, but rather on the contrary preserves itself by and through its separation from this its inorganic nature, and by the fact that it consumes this inorganic nature.

Life in the universal fluid medium, quietly, silently shaping and moulding and distributing the forms in all their manifold detail, becomes by that very activity the movement of those forms, or passes into life qua process.

The mere universal flux is here the inherent being; the outer being, the “other”, is the distinction of the forms assumed. But this flux, this fluent condition, becomes itself the other in virtue of this very distinction; because now it exists “for” or in relation to that distinction, which is self-conditioned and self-contained (an und für sich), and consequently is the endless, infinite movement by which that stable medium is consumed — is life as living.

This inversion of character, however, is on that account again invertedness in itself as such. What is consumed is the essential reality: the Individuality, which preserves itself at the expense of the universal and gives itself the feeling of its unity with itself, precisely thereby cancels its contrast with the other, by means of which it exists for itself.

The unity with self, which it gives itself, is just the fluent continuity of differences, or universal dissolution. But, conversely, the cancelling of individual subsistence at the same time produces the subsistence.

For since the essence of the individual form – universal life – and the self-existent entity per se are simple substance, the essence, by putting the other within itself, cancels this its own simplicity or its essence, i.e. it sunders that simplicity; and this disruption of fluent undifferentiated continuity is just the setting up, the affirmation, of individuality.

The simple substance of life, therefore, is the diremption of itself into shapes and forms, and at the same time the dissolution of these substantial differences; and the resolution of this diremption is just as much a process of diremption, of articulating.

Thus both the sides of the entire movement which were before distinguished, viz., the setting up of individual forms lying apart and undisturbed in the universal medium of independent existence, and the process of life – collapse into one another.

The latter is just as much a formation of independent individual shapes, as it is a way of cancelling a shape assumed; and the former, the setting up of individual forms, is as much a cancelling as an articulation of them. The fluent, continuous element is itself only the abstraction of the essential reality, or it is actual only as a definite shape or form; and that it articulates itself is once more a breaking up of the articulated form, or a dissolution of it.

The entire circuit of this activity constitutes Life.

It is neither what is expressed to begin with, the immediate continuity and concrete solidity of its essential nature; nor the stable, subsisting form, the discrete individual which exists on its own account; nor the bare process of this form; nor again is it the simple combination of all these moments. It is none of these; it is the whole which develops itself, resolves its own development, and in this movement simply preserves itself.

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