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Revelance of Hegel's Jena Phenomenology

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The subject of this talk started as a response to Kai Froeb's `Is the Phenomenology needed or recommended as introduction to Hegel's System.'After scribbling palimpsest jotting primitives to approximate the opening chapter of Hegel's Phenomenology,[PhS, hereafter] it was clear that starting with pure immediacy as indicated by `this', `what',`that', not-this, not what',`not-that' are simple twofold ~ abstractions. The moment this' is uttered about any thing, smell or sound it is as immediate for senses as the passage to `not-this' as that moves away sooner than a blink by another immediacy.`This' can only be if `non-this' and `not-this' if no `this'.In language, to say `this is' would already grant a movement to the `is'as something more or less of `that'.Phenomenology would have no other justification other than other than beginning with experiencing this becoming, transitional flux in the unity which is the truth of sense-experience.

There are no suppositions,axioms to prove `this'.The presupposition is the transition, the unity of becoming. For reason the being that is `this' is as simple an abstraction as its nothing,`not-this'.There is no relation between them. Each this is equally non-this, which makes a unity;the fluidity in the immediate passage as time.None are true as facts for they are not separate.Saying that `nothing is' is ridiculous for senses. Only reason grasps that nothing as the concept that makes `this' of the sense as a determinate `this'. What is true can be for reason where the play of senses takes place in consciousness. In this consciousness these simple unities are raised to a level for the flux or becoming to get seized by perception.

As a first, the truth of sense is untrue. Only when its unities are raised to a higher region do we arrive at the truth of self-certainty. But the level of perception can only have the truth by removing the immediacy of transition for senses. Perception preserves sense-experience by annulling its immediacy without annihilating it.The term `sublate' means to preserve/keep the predecessor by ceasing its immediacy so what is kept is negative, as mediation.In perception, empirical consciousness remains sublated.

It stays as a state of revolving.Reason accesses experience at the level of understanding.That is what theoretical reason has as its presupposition.Each access,even a point of acceleration has its phenomenological shape that passes through aperture to become a snapshot.Ideally the conjunction is experienced ecstatically.Yet these remain as facts of consciousness. What is, is not and what is not, is.However radicalized, empirical consciousness has its limit in the discrete, heterogeneous operations at the level of experience. 

The `dialectic of sense-certainty' like natural consciousness is the `simple history of its movement.[ Ref. Pinkard, Terry, Phenomenology of Mind', Zusatz,109, put in single quotes] What is learnt from experience is easily forgotten and erroneous sequences repeat themselves. Through the medium of consciousness, reason makes the simple abstraction that in this truth of experience lies the truth all of experiences.Yet the very vastness of experience coming and ceasing in the abyss of duration cannot be enveloped by perception and reason.Like the first contact that initiates by opening a dimension that is invisible, reason steps in not to designate the invisible as absolute but establish the level of perception that sustains the visible of sense experience.Invisible inheres in the world to sustain the visible.

Even animals are aware of it as the simple negative that is celebrated by the whole of nature. Only in perception is nothing the condition for any determinate.Now the reception of being passes the the action of negative into the phenomenal world. The plenitude of being is external for all while the dimension opening from initial, first self- mediation results in self relation of negative by splitting/dividing and a retreat into inwardness as the essence of all separate and manifold phenomenon.

The determinate nothing like `doubled sublation', is unknown, though somewhere in the medium of determinate beings/things. The essence, as self-alienating is posited in consciousness as `contradictory'.However, conditions for dialectic shows up in the clearing as consciousness reflects on it to register a transformation of movement to development, e.g., the singular unity of things are now a multiplicity and diversity.

What is said in the first two sections of PhS is a mode of sublation externalizing what gets preserved open to influences and that which was caused to cease or ended would be the neomatic curvature resembling a non-linear "movement of returning back to itself, reflection into self or a self-relation of inner time-dialectic. By now the break with Kant's aporias, antinomies is crystal clear.

At any rate, going by the history of acceptance of Hegel's texts/books, Jena Phenomenology may only lag behind Encyclopedia Logic in a broader definition of acceptance.However, Encyclopedia Logic remains a part of Hegel's system.This is said after taking into account a fact that PhS does not easily find a place in university `reading lists' since it is not an easy book to teach from the lectern or pulpit.Nor was the book really written for universities since it addressed the wider concerns of Bildung..

PhS is is like a stepping stone for introduction to Hegel's systematic philosophy for reasons such as : a]suitable for middle level education equivalent to `civil society' that is prior to the next level, Logic/Encyclopedia; b] it is a lively exposition pulsating with the dialectic as a method of movement and as an organizing principle of scientific exposition;c]almost all the concepts of Hegel's system prefigure with considerable clarity in PhS; d] teaches critical method in the movement from one field to the next with precision and economy of thought;e] prefiguring almost all the subjects of Hegel's systemic philosophy in terms of the notion/concept as unfolding;f]data structures from history bereft of their individuality and shown to belong to the movement of self-consciousness as the truth of historical `facts', which opens up another dimension of historical inquiry into the presupposed res gestae or the subdued voice in silence;g]as a book standing on its own not for reasons of any `system' but in the anti-systemic sense.

Hegel had mentioned that even Kant would have written phenomenology but instead of pushing the activity of immanent Reason from consciousness in the `objective' world that is identical with the subject,not leaving empirical consciousness as prior and apart from reason or leaving ordinary consciousness as a sad, empirical fact for enlightened understanding, Kant makes the manifold world of unfolding appearances as material of speculative philosophy into abstractions of understanding.An abstraction of this order of magnitude provides the illusion of being reason, which makes reason finite.

Turning towards the subject, Kant makes it the active side that wills, aims towards actualizing the ends of moral-ethical nature but as ceaseless activity of what he calls `ought'.The subject of cognition turns into an entity with infinite possibilities. Here again, the possibility is there due to inability, activity that has within itself some shortcoming or defect stamped on its forehead that eliminates the possibility for identity with the end.Only in his treatment of morals does Kant seem to find a resolution in metaphysics though falling short of crossing the abstract, privatized understanding of religion of Enlightenment.

Hegel was an astute reader, extraordinarily gifted by nature, and freed from innocence and guilt.The two main concerns of Hegel in his lifetime were religion/church and state/despotism. During his youth Hegel was openly talking about the church that practices the despotism of the state. Following from this concern, Hegel's legacy was immediately political.PhS can be read as political critique of modern theology

The philosophy of his age arose from the need that conditions of civil society produced estrangement, oppositions and prevalent antagonisms.Instead of a possession qualified subjectively, consciousness for Hegel is the restless indwelling spirit in terms of individuality and as the indwelling spirit of community throbbing with life and inconceivable as standing apart from the `sociality of reason'.However,self- consciousness would be embodied and opposed to itself, as self-alienation.

PhS is the work of time producing shapes of opposing consciousness, which get reconciled in a time line considered in epochal terms.These shapes are shown to emerge in various cultures as aesthetics that religion creates.Further it is relevant to keep in mind facts such as Hegel suspending the ontological meaning of ethical life and politics by 1803-4.The very absence of consciousness by Aristotle, who emphasized the course of natural teleology was sufficient to move away fro Aristotle. Aristotle is suspended in the same way that religion and God had been taken out of the History of Philosophy.

This response is sensitive to historical contexts, durations and time especially when the subject is Hegel, whose life mysteriously co-coincided with historical drifts.

There is no dispute that the aftermath of PhS casts a shadow on Hegel's post-Jena work.Its opaque effect befalls the reader mainly due to the language of PhS.In it thinking speaks to itself and equally listens, which arranges density, clears confusions in the manner of the incipient language of early Greek philosophy, rich in phonetic attributes.He deploys a fair amount of Swabian dialect and vernacular traditions that may be seem unrefined and uncouth grammatically.Yet great moments of spirit's journey may be lying precisely in those regions.Urges and instinct are more than ambivalent when they end up saying `yes' and `no' at the same time.These paradoxicals come on their own through the medium of instincts and Hegel, it seems, hardly reversed his `urges' though they were kept as negative moments of dialectic.There are other instances of psychic life that brings out the naivete. Hegel was earthier who figured language acquisition as belonging to spontaneous mental growth.

However, I would be cautious about mentioning the Encyclopedia of Philosophical Sciences in comparative terms with PhS.I know this may sound trite but not without its worth to state the only other book that Hegel wrote was Science of Logic. Given this standard of comparison, the only justification for inveighing PhS over Science of Logic could only be due to refractive and/or ethereal affect.The importance of Science of Logic over PhS lies in the realm of Philosophy as such. Phenomenology of Spirit, or the study of opposing consciousness [ subject-object to subject-subject relations]is presupposed in Science of Logic.The method of Philosophy consists in its being freed from oppositions of consciousness showing up in the phenomenal worlds, which is quiet different from `freeing the mind from misconceptions'.

If Kai means by Hegel's Phenomenology a "ladder","because Philosophy does not start from the blue", that would fall in an area of deep-seated disputation. For one,PhS has a definite point of departure, the beginning, so to speak, in sense-experience.

The metaphor `ladder' can be thrown away after climbing the last step, as suggested by Wittgenstein. Here, Kai does not provide the consequential logic of the `ladder'; should it be kept, internalized or thrown away, externalized or what? The formulation also begets answer to the question why didn't Hegel extend whatever he did write his earlier piece titled Philosophie der Geistes' to the Phenomenology?

Moreover, one cannot overlook the transition problem of moving from `here' to`there' that is so distinct in philosophy and not so in Phenomenology.In Encyclopedia Logik,Hegel puts Phenomenology between Anthropology as the presupposed part and Psychology as the following part.All the three subjects - Anthropology, Phenomenology and Psychology- came under Philosophy.

Kai's argument is that PhS was hurriedly written by Hegel whereas in the earlier writings, the subjects - logic, nature,spirit/mind/history/aesthetics - make a better template for reading all that Hegel wrote after PhS.Kai sees PhS as a work that systematically includes [`sublated']"all reasonable perspectives from all philosophers before him" and none of these philosophers used Phenomenology to teach and come to conclusions.This is a strange thing to say. It amounts to denying a breakthrough in the domain of philosophy to Hegel. I mean even somebody like Charles S Pierce says that Hegel was the first modern Realist philosopher while others had been nominalists.


Why was this the case ? The answer may be found in Kant's philosophy, which came very close to a phenomenology for giving a theory of consciousness from the appearance of the subject to an object but,he could not push through the concept that would show the truth of the said relation for he could not go beyond appearances. Actually this a-symmetry of Kant's thought has been pointed out repeatedly by Hegel.At any rate, Hegel pushes the argument not just in terms of the shapes of subject-object relations in the experiencing consciousness but goes much further on the direction of positing the truths of all relations, including self-relations, thereby negating the aporias of Kant.

Hegel proposed Geistes/ Spirit, as Mind such as understood by Alcemeon of Creaton [500-450 B C], the ancient Greek writer on medicine, who was the first to discover the brain as the seat and power, understanding and perception in a harmonious united in mind, or, possessing the power to equalize opposites <wet/dry; hot/cold;sweet/bitter, etc.>, which he designated by the use of the original term for democracy, i.e., isonomia.

Hegel could derive speculatively that this Mind <brain> was not stuck up or submerged either in nature or reflection/representation, but has the power to raise itself in increasing degrees so as to unite the single consciousness with the real, vital feelings animating the community.Such "indwelling spirit of community", the prius of Geistes emerging as a co-relate, or consciousness that is on-and-for-itself would both subordinate and transform, aufhaben/sublate by exposition of laws expressing relations of subordinate-mutual reciprocity in the commons [of life]. This would be the Spirit/Geistes having suspended its subjective nature of consciousness.


Considering the conservative construct, those inclined towards reading Hegel in a theological sense, I would insist why is it compulsive for them to omit the Preface? The Preface is no configuration for what Hegel wrote later.That is also its beauty.I think that what Hegel says about the truth as the Bacchic ravel the choreographic moment of the rose in the cross, does not sit comfortably with the theologians.

On the other hand, the analytical, neo-Kantian, `phenomenological' and positivist/empiricist thinker would also prefer to dispense with the Preface because of the manner of Hegel's break identity logic and the self-certain Ego as the I; retaining it as when "I say `I', this singular `I', I say in general all `I's'; everyone is what I say, everyone is `I' the singular" [ 'PhS', 83].However, the sense of it can be felt by radicalized souls who see 'PhS' as a book that constitutes a ‎break with previous philosophies in the same way that Heraclitus' systemic notion marked a ‎revolutionary moment in the history of philosophy, according to Hegel.

In addition, many philologists would also join the bandwagon because of anomalies in language and the spontaneous, `stream of consciousness' type writing that may be found there.However, the anomalous part belongs very much to the discourse of Grammarians, and it is not possible to write on consciousness without giving its own streaming automatic flow the requisite due.

To begin with the production side of the first book on Phenomenology, the `Geistes'/Spirits was part of the first, original title covering around 750 pages in all, the number of pages being equivalent to the number of copies released in April 1807 and published by J Hoffmeister in Bamberg.Hegel reached there in Jan. 1807, remained preoccupied with the book-release in April, 1807.Other than proof reading, because proofing-cum-typesetting-cum-formatting constituted the last stage of publication, self-proofing of handwritten pages by the author must have been made clear, edited, copy-edited, details from contents, written matter for Hoffmeister the publisher, due to Hegel's involvement.

It was in that period,from January winters, 1807, that he wrote the Preface.Almost the entire book seems written straight, on the singular plane that makes writing a volitional and responsible deed, without too much, rather minimalist reworking of drafts.That spurt layered a Polyphony to the sounding of PhS.

The thinking that lead to the book, however,covered at least five years prior to its writing.The book "completed the night before the battle of Jena" and that year of Jena makes the dramatic point of intersection where the abstract freedom of French republic " passes out of its own self-destructive activity over to another land" that would be Germany.< Letter to Naithammer, Apr. 29, 1814>Jena,for Hegel was this apparent,visible passage of self-consciousness for truth awaiting `refreshment' while remaining in thought.

It should be kept in mind that given that there was hardly any philosopher who had identified herself with philosophy as much as Hegel.Sometimes the identification bets so personal and completed that philosophy seems to become an euphemism for the use of `I' by Hegel in certain contexts, by pitching himself as identical with philosophy.

Hegel saw a philosophical calling before the world historical spirit and this was resolved by announcing the new born as Phenomenology, as (an already) absolute self-consciousness. The main body comprised in the working of the way by the use of a revolutionary method of the knowledge that knows itself in a non-exoteric unity of experience and cognition..

The spirit of the age whether or not Napoleon,was/is political after the procession of Spirit becomes absolute self-consciousness at Golgotha, as that level of the brim beyond which the froth spills over.The inner, philosophical engagement and dialoguing with Christianity as religion and spending of long periods of time with Christ would also terminate in a Phenomenology whose contents,the becoming encompassed by consciousness resulted in a Spirit/`Geist,which was absolutely adequate for Philosophy that had sublated/`aufheben Religion.

This needs to be restated somewhat axiomatically, on the diagonal that without the appearance of the in-and-for-itself moment there would not have been a Phenomenology that would have united the diachronic and the synchronous, the latter prescencing [presenting itself]/``Darstellungen',or in the dramatic progression/procession of consciousness from experience to perception to understanding and force.The orientation and thinking of all that appears before consciousness is posited dynamically.After exposition of the main structure of neoma < the invisibility of consciousness> consciousness moves to the diachronic plane, i.e., self-consciousness.


Self-consciousness is the activity of knowledge of its truth after having grasped the truths of of sense-certainty, beginning the arche of desire that exceeds the appetative/appetizing object as desired,which appears in the field of perception-that finds its truth in `recognition', the terrain where desire is consummated through the dialectic of lordship and bondage prescencing with force, as a fight unto death between two embodiments of consciousness.The fight is a metaphor, a ruse of reason because one embodied consciousness submits to `recognizing' because the submitted consciousness knows in advance that its truth can only be constituted in the diachronic through work/labour/production, as unfolding by production of time.This would be dialectical becoming,opposed to the eternal knowing of the recognized consciousness,though only by the effect of the future on the present that mark out events of duration, each moment of actualization marks the road to freedom.

Freedom starts in the interiority at first, but whenever the opposition externalizes through combats, interiority too externalizes itself as expansive, multiple units of the self. Thus the self that returns back into its indwelling site after the combat is an enriched self that can only progress concretely whenever the action of the future - the time to be made- is universal.In terms of a dialectical procession of consciousness, which makes the truth of freedom as universal, these moments cannot be grasped by the recognized consciousness even though it learns about freedom by a limited unity with its other. The limits are the one's that it has already realized in the first two moments of individuality [ in desire]and particularity [of recognition by the other].

Hegel's `Phenomenology of Spirit/s' was seen as a journey through a picture gallery later on by Hegel himself and this gallery turns out to be a vision-in-the-making as we move from conceptualizing one picture, as mental image,to another conceptualization to yet another and in this sense Phenomenology is linked to earlier traditions their initial glimmerings may be found in Plato,marking the great moment in Greek ontology where conceptions/`ennoiai of genera and species/ ''`ennoimeta end up in thoughts/`noemaas concepts/`'en-noema. Plato introduces these themes and in the course of dialogues the difficulties of the themata emerge prominently instead of resolutions. Aristotle appealed to internal representations or fractals of Plato's `noemaas a resolution and this was contradicted by Stoical arguments on non-existent representations of thought-objects.

Later Stoics used propositional and semantic logic applied to entities/`ens' shifting to the ontological terrain, that had already been made problematical by Plato. That remained suppressed through philology though in Latin the cognates of `intentio were interpreted variously by Sextus Empiricus,Diogenes Leaterus and most prominently, Zeno of Cleanthes.`Intentio had different meanings though as the two-fold division between mental state and mental acts clarified the terms of references.Early Arabic philosophy referred to terms such as `ma'naand `ma'qul mean more like `mood' of soul as it occurs in Indian philosophical term,`mana and mental acts that had more to do with practical, `to do' of ontology instead of pure mental states , thought-objects that were self-generating and not as they were mentioned in religious scriptures.


PhS is mainly an exposition of reason. Since self-consciousness is reason' what had been the negative relation to otherness turns out to be a positive relation' . Reason is the certainty that consciousness has of being all reality. [PhS # 232]

Reason reaches the most critical, spiritless and terrifying point when it assumes the shape of abstract universal freedom when all being of self is emptied into non-being.That this happens in the political sphere is consistent with critical philosophy. Subjectivity turns into something like an empty object when thought becomes so bad that ` it becomes difficult to say exactly where the badness lies.[PhS # 340]. This is what happens during French revolution when `the general will' took on the shape of abstract universality of freedom that used virtue leading to suspicion for universal terror with human heads coming under the Guillotine like `cabbages under kitchen knife'.At this point that the Spirit falls, turns into abyss, into meaninglessness and consequently, meaningless death.

The destabilization of the dialectic by abstract unmediated negativity of universal freedom would face revolt from `observing instinct of self-conscious reason' in the principle of individual freedom or the opposition between universal liberty as embodied by the state and the individual liberty that was the principle of liberalism.

PhS may also be seen as transformation of preconscious to the fully developed form of consciousness is also in addition to the discovery, creating a product [eidos], or idea-product though work is a mark of general, social labour, which is what makes the `we' in Hegel's philosophy..When Hegel worked out the path to write Phenomenology, Kai is correct in tracing its genealogy to 1801-'02, the organization of that, as demanded by cumulative non-quantified logic, in 1806 did not qualify as Phenomenology to Hegel.However one should not infer that Phenomenology is something of an advance from Philosophy. There is a difference and an opposition resulting in subordination of Phenomenology to Logic or the method proper to Philosophy.


Resemblances are and should be deceptive, fully recognized as intrinsic to aesthetics. But in Philosophy, where the right word may be `meme' [ contentious terrain for sure], yet all such acts remain subordinate to the concept [begriff],when the world is actively involved, as with prayers,with the `Enlightenment Idea' about opinion [doxa]governing the world.In terms of dialectic Hegel broke a barrier of linearity and the work of 1807 was preceded by a leap that could only be found in the Preface where Hegel shows the destabilizing nature of truth as the ravel.

To round up what is being said, there is the difference between Hegel's perception of the product of his labours [and the use of `we' by Hegel contains others in the course of work]and the perception of social labour that produced 750 copies. If that is self-evident then the next unity must be the dynamic unity of these two modes of work and perception all the way to the moment of absolute synthetic, non-oppositional/oppositional, non-differentiated/differentiated unity.That would be the work of Spirit.