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Hegel on Freedom of Self-Consciousness.

When Hegel deals with the freedom from self consciousness he is at the last moment in the history of Spirit. Consciousness up to this point has had an identity in relation to outside objects. Now consciousness has returned back to itself, and sees the dialectic as being part of itself. At this last moments in the history of Spirit, the consciousness while still seeing it self as dual has the Notion of having an it-self existencem, in dual form. Hegels attempt is to give an account of the history of Spirit into the Absolute, and about an non-dual incarnated manifestation of Spirit. His effort and belief is that he can reach this realm, of the Absolute, by thinking. His system of thought is based on the presupposition that consciousness manifests itself as dual. Hegel at this point of his Phenomenology of Spirit has arrived to where the consciousness has a Notion from itself. What he means is that the consciousness at this point sees the objects of thoughts not as separate of itself. The objects of thought have become part of the consciousness, not as objects of thought but as objects that the consciousness has a Notion of. Notion says Hegel, is something that immediately isi. The consciousness at this point is a thinking in-itself entity. The objects of consciousness have become part of the awareness that they have been created by this consciousness. This self consciousness has become conscious of itself, but not as an object of thought, but as a Notion. The basic dialectic has been incorporated into this consciousness.

Consciousness though not complete has the dialectic within itself, it is conscious in itself of this dialectic This moment in the history of Spirit had its conscious manifestation during the time of the Stoics. The principle of the Stoics is that consciousness is a being that thinks, and that consciousness holds something to be essentially important, or true and good only in so far as it thinks it to be suchii. In other words, consciousness at this point doesnt have an external object that gives consciousness an in itself identity as we saw in Hegels exposition of sense-certainty and the master/ slave relationship. What we have here is a consciousness that has an in itself awareness of itself, because the thinking process gives the consciousness a notion of self, not an idea nor a thought, but a Notion. This notion is the notion of existing in itself. There is no object with in itself existence living outside this consciousness. At this stage in the history of Spirit, which as Hegel said, occurred during the time of the Stoics, the world was in a time of universal fear and bondage, but also a time of universal culture which raised itself to the level of thoughtiii. Consciousness at this point is in the realm of thought. Because all seems to fall in the realm of thought, this consciousness gives importance to what itself thinks, as if it was a thing in itself. In the realm of thought there are differences, but the differences are not between things outside the consciousness as it was before in the a priori forms of consciousness. Now, the idea of lord and bondsman for example doesnt apply, because in the master/slave relationship they are both having their in itself existence dependent on the other. The Stoic consciousness aims for freedom into the realm of pure universality of thoughtiv.

What we have here is a consciousness that its essence is nothing outside itself. For this consciousness the otherness is in itself in the form of thought. Otherness for this consciousness is really a form of its own thought. Freedom for this consciousness says Hegel..., freedom in thought has only pure thought as its truth, a truth lacking the fullness of life. Hence freedom in thought, too, is only the Notion of freedom, not the living reality of freedom itselfv. The problem that Hegel is expounding here is that this consciousness has cut itself off from the living world. Hegel seems to be suggesting that the dialectic here occurs between the Notion and the consciousness. In this case the notion as an abstraction cuts itself off from the multiplicity of thingsvi. Hegel goes on to say that the Notion (of freedom) has a determinedness in itself that makes it an alien object inside the consciousness. For Hegel this abstract thinking consciousness is not complete. There is still the Notion of freedom in the Stoics mind. This Notion of freedom is the otherness, alien, object at this stage. After Stoicism, Scepticism becomes the next stage in the history of Spirit. In Scepticism all the determinatedness of the outside world is annihilated, and the abstract thinking becomes that which is determinate. Now the Sceptic is free from the world and has become the consciousness as a determinate being, but then says Hegel, consciousness itself is the absolute dialectical unrestvii . The Sceptics moment in history incorporated the notion of freedom of the Stoics, and went further into the Absolute. What Hegel is saying here is that consciousness even though it has incorporated all into a certain unity of thought, this consciousness is still dialectical. The dialectic that this consciousness has is that it can perceive the restless confusion and the non essentiality of its being. The non-essential is the changing

world of thought. The dialectic that happens here is that this consciousness while denying the non-essential; really, it is this non essential what constitutes it. This consciousness recognizes that it has to raise above this confusion, but at the same time it is about this confusion and non-essentiality which this consciousness occupies itself with. This consciousness pronounces an absolute vanishing, but the pronouncement is, and this consciousness is the vanishing that is pronounced.viii The Sceptic at vanishing everything creates the pronouncement. The argument here is similar to the argument the Pyrroean Sceptics attacked the Academian Sceptics. The Academian Sceptics would say we dont believe in anything. So, the Pyrroan Sceptics would say, so your belief in nothing is your belief. In this case for Hegel the Sceptic is in the same situation. The Sceptic for Hegel is in fact like the squabbling of self-willed children, one of whom says A if the other says B, and in turn says B if the other says A, and who by contradicting themselves buy for themselves the pleasure of continually contradicting one another.ix There is a constant unrest and continuos contradiction in this consciousness. The Sceptic consciousness brings about the Unhappy consciousness. The Unhappy consciousness contains the dialect of the Sceptic in a single consciousness. The dialectic in the Unhappy consciousness is the contradiction of the Sceptic which has become conscious, acknowledged. There is state of unrest because the Unhappy consciousness sees itself as dual natured. On one side there is the self-liberating, unchangeable consciousness, and on the other is the consciousness of being self bewildering and self-perverting, using Hegels words. Basically, what we have here is the awareness of two consciousness in one consciousness, an apparent contradiction in its nature.

The concept here seems very closely related to the concept of sin in Kierkegaard when Kierkegaard says that, sin is, before God in despair not to want to be oneself, or in despair to want to be one self.x At this point there is a bridge in their arguments. For Kierkegaard self is freedom. This freedom is a kind of middle point between self and the infinite, God. Hegel has a similar point in this respect. For him the Unhappy consciousness is in the threshold of Spirit realizing itself. The Unhappy consciousness as Kieerkegaards self are aware of their infinite and finite natures, but both at this stage have not reconcile them. It is not the point of this paper to compare both philosophers, so I will leave this thought only up to here. Continuing with Hegel, the Unhappy consciousness is conscious of its inner contradiction, sees in it self as dual natured. Its true return into itself, or its reconciliation with itself will, however, display the Notion of Spirit that has become a living Spirit, and has achieved an actual existence, because it already possesses as a single undivided consciousness a dual nature. The unhappy consciousness itself is the gazing of selfconsciousness into another, and itself is both, and the unity of both is also its essential nature. But it is not as yet explicitly aware that this is its essential nature, or that it is the unity of both.xi The Unhappy consciousness is at the threshold of Spirit achieving an actual existence. Hegel is precise in his use of words when he uses the word Notion. A Notion is not a thought because a thought, somehow, implies an itself existence. A Notion seems to imply a subtler form of cognition. It is interesting also the importance he gives to Notion due to the fact that he uses a capital letter to address it.

The Unhappy consciousness is in a dialectic between the Changeable, which takes as the unessential and the Unchangeable that it takes to be the essential. This consciousness see this two aspects as a contradiction. This consciousness is itself this contradiction. This consciousness identifies itself with the Unchangeable and takes the Unchangeable as its essence and denies the Changeable, thus denying itself, because it also knows that it is part of the Changeable. There seems to be a constant unrest. This consciousness now wants to come to terms with this seemingly contradictory instances, For the oneness of the particular individual with the [formless] Unchangeable is henceforth the essence and the object for this consciousness...xii this consciousness is now trying to come to terms with the embodiment of this formless Unchangeable in its incarnated form, and not to vanish into the eternal. The incarnated Unchangeable is the alien reality in this consciousness. To achieve oneness with this incarnated Unchangeable the unessential consciousness has a threefold movement in accordance with the threefold relation this consciousness will have with its incarnated beyond: first, as pure consciousness; second, as a particular individual who approaches the actual world in the forms of desire and work; and third, as consciousness that is aware of its own being-foritselfxiii. In the first unfolding, this consciousness attempts to get a hold of the Unchangeable, to pure thought. At this point Hegel seems to introduces two aspects of cognition. He says in pp217 that at this point there is only movement towards pure thought; it is not pure thought nor is a Notion. He calls it devotion. He seems to make a difference saying that it is not a Notion because this would be an incorporation of pure thought into this state. We have not reached there yet. And, it is not a thought it is a

feeling which he is calling devotion. The moment when this consciousness wants to conceptualize the formless Unchangeable, it has brought it to becoming an individuality, and thus loosing its formless Unchangeability. When sought as a particular individual, it is not a universal individuality in the form of thought, not a Notion, but an individual in the form of an object, or an actual individual; an object of immediate sense-certainty, and for that very reason only something that has already vanishedxiv. What we have here is a feeling self. A self that in its inner most heart has the object of his desire. This feeling, while still separated from the Unchangeable is a feeling that gives the feeling of self. From this sensation sprouts the second unfolding. On this second stage, that of desire and work the consciousness is still not enjoying itself. The Unhappy consciousness still doesnt have the awareness that it is in the working and the desiring that the Unchangeable manifests. There is no enjoyment, so Hegel takes this as a sign that this consciousness is incomplete. Still there is a division. The text for me at this point becomes rather obscure because Hegel has changed the purely rational philosophical discourse into states of feeling and surrender. He says that the Unchangeable 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 actions not to itself but to the beyond, through these two moments of reciprocal selfsurrender of both parts, consciousness does, of course, gain a sense of its unity with the Unchangeablexv. With this act of surrendering and giving thanks there seems to be a meeting. The incarnated Unchangeable surrenders while the particular individual gives thanks

acknowledging the Unchangeable seem to have closed the circle, but it only seems because the particular with its thanks is giving essentiality to the Unchangeable and counts itself as nothing. The particular has not really surrendered. By its thanks it acknowledges the surrender of the Unchangeable but itself has not really surrendered. There is a subtleness at this point of the argument that I feel I dont quite grasp. In general terms there are still traces of a dialectic going on which is manifested in one part surrendering and the other giving thanks. All this terms while being in a philosophical discourse seem like if they where hiding some religious connotation. To pick up in the argument I will quote Hegel, this canceling-out [of the particular] is in truth a return of consciousness into itself, and moreover, into itself as the actuality which it knows to be true.xvi At this point the individual consciousness realizes that all that it has done is really nothing because it is still of the realm of the nonessential. So, at the same moment when consciousness feels the nothingness of its actions it is feeling the unchangeable. The problem is that the dialectic has not been solved. At this moment Hegel suggest that the reconciliation happens with a third element, which he calls a mediator or minister [priest]xvii. This mediator, having a direct relationship with the unchangeable Being, ministers by giving advice on what is right.xviii This is a rather obscure passage. Is he suggesting another human? How does this come about? Nevertheless, Hegel with this third element which I cannot fully describe (or my subconscious doesnt want after being persuaded so far) solves the problem of the individual for not having surrendered as total as the Unchangeable has, who as we saw before surrendered its incarnated form. Now the individual consciousness is surrendering

its will to this third element, and not only the will but the fruit of its labor. It renounces the actuality of this elements, says Hegel.xix The renouncing of the will is what saves the individual consciousness of perpetuating itself in self consciousness. Moreover, in the surrendering of the will by the individual consciousness the surrendering of the Unchangeable is also implicit. It is in the Notion of action that the object is also essence, says Hegel. There is no principle for action so no object. For it self action and the actual doing and its enjoyment are pain for the individual consciousness, because it brings it back to the dialectic of particular and universal. The last sentences of Hegels essay, and in my paper are very obscure. I am unable to figure out an apparent jump in which he brings the idea of Reason and then the realization that as he puts it, is all reality.xx

Hegel G.W.F Phenomenology of Spirit. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1977. (pg. 120) Ibid. (pg. 121) iii Ibid. (pg. 121) iv Ibid. (pg. 121) v Ibid. (pg. 122) vi Ibid. (pg. 122) vii Ibid. (pg. 124) viii Ibid. (pg. 125) ix Ibid. (pg. 126) x Kierkegaard, Soren. The Sickness unto Death. London: Penguin Books. 1986. (pg. 128) xi Hegel G.W.F Phenomenology of Spirit. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1977. (pg. 126) xii Ibid. (213) xiii Ibid. (214) xiv Ibid. (217) xv Ibid. (222)


Ibid. (223) Ibid. (228) xviii Ibid. (228) xix Ibid. (228) xx Ibid. (230)