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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 recommended as introduction to Hegel's System.'Few clarifications and my intent needs to be stated.My intent has been to primarily emphasize the relevance of Phenomenology of Spirit/Mind 1806/07 [ hereafter PhS]by showing some anomalies that are singular only to PhS.It also includes modifying the first chapter on Sense-Experience that made Hegel uncomfortable later. The justification,however,pertains to philosophical knowledge that is found in the opening sections of the book from the chapters sense-experience to self-consciousness. It needs be said that Kant pursued the question of justifying reason and knowledge unlike anyone, other than Plato.Kant started with sense-experience,which he saw as prior to nature, as spontaneously `free without cause'. This fitted well with Enlightenment's empiricist, reductive/deductive, sensationalist, physicalist epistemic boundary in Kant's endeavor to find among the least or the lowest a confirmation of Enlightenment sensibility.Kant saw the world of things with its co-relate individualistic atomism as a state about which we cannot know anything.To him experience was limited by abstract understanding where he stopped.The world of thing hood, said Kant is the nominal of which nothing could be known. We could, at best believe in them but that is not knowledge. Consequently, by limiting or cutting knowledge down Kant made room for faith.Even in matters of faith the question of God's existence was undecidable.Hegel observed that for Kant things were externally related by understanding before its disappearance into nothing. For consciousness , this was made into an illustration for pointing towards Kant's limit in various modes of expressiveness though formal-abstract relations had an absolute limit for the dialectical unfolding of consciousness similar in terms for producing sensitivity that irrupts when Hegel would show a clear progression from quantity [external relations] to quality. As for the manifold of external relations,they were doomed to pass away.To Kant, thing hood is a finite moment proceeding with non-things and this latter negative conditioned the first moment of vanishing. God, on the other hand was non-finite in the advanced level of concept-existence. Hegel said of Kant that `knowledge has reached a conclusion that it knows nothing.

Let me hasten to add that if the issue at hand pertains to people who read PhS as Hegel's main work, the `real thing' without proceeding any further in the direction of post-Jena works then the worthies are chasing a chimera. Besides, to approach PhS directly without ever reading early Hegel, if not direct then at least through Lukas,Dilthy or H S Harris' work, is a disastrous start.Again if a perception informs that the reception of PhS is unusually overwhelming at the expanse of Science of Logic and Encyclopedia of Philosophical Sciences among Anglo-Saxon and French readers then Kai's corrective makes good deal of sense. This is difficult to believe about the Francophone world, who may otherwise be disinclined towards Hegel and Hegel studies, in a way understandable instead of waiving PhS above all.

Yet it is also conceivable that within the tendency or/and discipline of phenomenological research, which has a long tradition in French inquiry, PhS may have emerged with some show.In that case we are not really talking about Hegel.It is somewhat pathetic to see the French `intellectual tradition' persisting with disregard or indifference towards their own enthusiastic reception of Hegel in his lifetime [V Cousins], Claude Bernard's lucid , brief exposition about Hegel,some of Ludwig Michelet's unsurpassed commentaries, somebody who was faithful to the meaning in Hegel's systematic philosophy Vera's expositions/commentaries on Hegel, de Velliers metaphysical grasp and many from the ranks of the truly best,kindred traditions of 19h c. French culture. In the 20th c. that long 19th c. tradition came under a vicious attack from positivism, which was sealed by ww1.I would not make a similar argument about the traditions of the Anglo-Saxon world though what maybe seen as somewhat alarming is a surfacing and growing super-ego type dismissing of Hegel. Neither does it have that bit of wit and wisdom to sustain the barbs and the none too subtle homologous `consensus based' post modern's dressed up invectives on Hegel.Again, the significance of of parallel tendencies too must be active but that life has been truly miserable, unhappy [consciousness]. Well case of idiosyncrasy on the nationalist side for quiet a few, to have seen the `chief Hegelian' of 20th c. in the person of A Kojeve.

While the `meaning of Geistes in German as equally Spirit and Mind is an example of the anomalous there seems as a bias, not German though from the side of Hegel scholarship in Germany. This comes up unexpectedly in Kai's preference, not his motive. I remember reading one article of his on Hegelianism in Germany which makes it clear that institutionally Germany is way ahead in Hegel studies,iterative publications like Yearbooks and archival resources in a comparative sense.Though that alone need not show up in either the quality of books, articles and the sort of sweep and wisdom for judgment of a magisterial kind, what it does is indicating uneven and skewed distribution of resources on Hegel. It is far easier to those knowing good German to access a good deal of Hegel's than it would be in the Anglo-Saxon world.Even Hegel's `Differenz' essay on Schelling and Fichte cannot be easily accessed in English. Sure this would not bother most University based Hegel scholars and `specialists' but when it comes to the bigger intermediate level these things matter.Other than that, sensitivity towards translated versions in any single language, say Italian or Japanese seems amiss and the reason for that has little to do with authenticity, chanted by purists. It may have more to do with the ring of`philological fetishism' around `the written stuff'.The demand for so-called `exactitude' , accuracy or reading the original German version is quiet unlike the spirit of Hegel who was not only not a purist Cartesian in matters of linguistic composition. He considered philology as soft corpus of science.

After scribbling palimpsest jotting primitives to approximate the opening chapter of Hegel's Phenomenology,it became clear that starting with pure immediacy as indicated by `this', `what',`that', not-this, not what',`not-that' means a simple twofold ~ being is as non-being is.The cardinal importance of Hegel's Jena Phenomenology is in pushing the justification of all philosophy beyond abstract experience of understanding.Mind/Spirit experiences immediacy and pushes beyond the limits of understanding towards theoretical reason. `This' can only be if `non-this' and `not-this' if be `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.

There are no suppositions,axioms to prove `this'and not-this. That you have eyes to see white that is enough. Here the presupposition is also as posited.The road up and down are the same. The same is posited in the up and down What is posited is a simple movement.The beginning and end is the same . The same is the unity as becoming.The thing, in that it is,is not and in that it is not, is.Inquiry into the self or when self looks within consciousness finds the interposition/-change of the two in the unity , becoming.This is the truth that comes from inwardness or inquiry into self. However, being is only a determinate abstract as becoming shows up as simple unity.As equal abstractions both find no further unfolding in the absence of concept. This is when reason, nous, irrupts like a contingency/accident in the self. Reason takes the abstract unity of becoming by negating the abstract and unfolds as the negative unity.This is the next elevation from becoming.Self conscious reason experiences the truth in the becoming/same.Reason is common to all even when most humans prove uncomprehending because they make as if they had an understanding of their own.But thinking is common to all and inquiry into oneself shows this thinking beyond understanding as reason as the unity of self-consciousness. Reason grasps that nothing as the concept that makes `this' of the sense as a determinate `this' by keeping the truth of becoming of perception.

But the level of perception can only have the truth by removing the immediacy of 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. Even when it is radicalized, empirical consciousness in the discrete, heterogeneous scale is operative and limited to understanding. Theoretical reason goes beyond empirical understanding, under the terms of rational consciousness.

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.

The reception of being passes by the action of thinking into the phenomenal world. The plenitude of being is external for all.

The determinate nothing remains an active nothing after the `double sublation' of becoming and abstract understanding. It is as though one expects the unexpected ; there is no unexpected sans expecting for there is no known passage to access it. Speculation is the movement of reason needed to get to the unexpected or unknown. This is where conditions for dialectical movement shows up clearly for consciousness as it reflects in relation to itself and registers a transformation of movement into dialectical self-unfolding.

What is said as of relates to 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.He saw the `act of experience' as free act, `prior to natural cause' in the observations on the `third antinomy' [Critique of Pure Reason, Miklejohn tr., p. 2375 ff]

Phenomenology may not easily find a place in university `reading lists' nor can it be thrust upon someone since it is not an easy book to teach from the lectern or pulpit.Nor was the book really written exclusively for universities since it addressed the wider concerns of Bildung..This figures in Hegels Philosophical Propadeutic [1808-11] to be taught in the middle class/form/section in school `The subject of mind/spirit is phenomenal when essentially relating to an existing object, insofar as it is consciousness.' Mind which is spontaneously active within itself as self-referential gets a step higher, for the next, highest level, as Psychology.


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 could read like those 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. `What in religion was content, as the form of representing the other is self's own activity.[PhS # 797]

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'.

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

In the language of PhS it is thinking that 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.Hegel used native dialects 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.

I know this may sound trite but not without its worth to state the only other book that Hegel wrote was Science of Logic. The influence of PhS over Science of Logic could only be seen as refractive and/or ethereal. Science of Logic has PhS as its presupposition but in its own movement,the moments stand opposed to sensuous, figurative and 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'.

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?

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. It is like calling it as a compendium of hitherto existing perspectives.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.


Hegel proposed Geistes/ Spirit, as Mind such as understood by Alcemeon of Creaton [500-450 B C], as I tend to allege, 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.


Question : Why should the preface cut off from the book ? What sense does it make to impute attributes to the preface when there are none ? So what if it was written in some hurry [which I doubt]in 1807, Jan.? The Preface is no configuration for what Hegel wrote later.That is also its beauty.Philosophy busies with the essential . Its content in the actual in movement that constitutes truth.Only that exists which constitutes the actuality of the self movement.What Hegel says about the truth as the Bacchic ravel where not a member is sober, because`in isolating itself from the revel each member is immediately dissolved with it'.[PhS # 47] This may not sit comfortably with the theologians.But Hegel is hardly talking about some `Greek reverie'; it is important to figure out the importance of truth, alethia in Greek thinking.

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.

Jena Phenomenology was 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, final check on proofing of handwritten pages by the author must have clarified, edited, copy-edited, 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 of activity imbricated Polyphony into 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 gets so personal and complete that philosophy seems like euphemism for the use of `I' by Hegel in certain contexts.

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 roads 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 clarity 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, which 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 the Spirit falls,turns abyssal, 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 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 `mime' [ contentious terrain for sure], yet all aesthetic shapes remain subordinate in the concept [begriff], absolute self-consciousness. The work of 1807 was preceded by a leap, which was also put to words by the end of the work 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 as the historical dynamic, self-organizing,a self-driven progression as a net expanding historical accumulation. richer and more elevated [Jantsch on self-transcendence , Turchin on synthetic evolution and T de Chardin]. Finally, the fact that Hegel `changed' his grasp on concepts as much as widening his horizon of knowledge over the years is not in the least unexpected. Would this constitute a shift that we find in early and late Plato? I do not think so. To get to know why that was not so PhS holds the key. Nevertheless many views, facts and ideas that he learnt or was given by others was trivial in relation to his own self-development, autocatalytic, self-sublating dialectical, to put it in a nutshell.The influence of others in Berlin was mainly exoteric. Humboldt for instance was stumped inversely, the other way around. But yes, I find Hegel' stubborn defense of Goethe in the Berlin years commendable exemplifying what it means to hold steadfast to a position regardless of what others say, the wise attitude.