Preface to Hegel's phenomenology of Spirit

(trans. A. V. Miller, OUP, 1977)

notes by Erik Empson, 2003

"...Philosophy moves essentially in the element of universality, which includes within itself the particular..." (p. 1)

Hegel sees the "diversity of philosophical systems' as a 'progressive unfolding of the truth' which is more than a series of disagreements. (p. 2)

"To judge a thing that has subsance and solid worth is quite easy, to comprehend it is much harder, and to blend judgement and comprehension in a definitive description is the hardest thing of all" (p. 3)

Hegel's project is to make philosophy more than the love of knowing but actual knowing; to turn philosophy into science.

"The inner necessity that knowing should be science lies in its nature, and only the systematic exposition of philosophy itself provides it" (p.3)

The truth must be a scientific system of such truth.

"The truth has only the 'notion' as the element of its existence" (p. 4)

Hegel is reacting to intuition as a source of absolute knowledge. Demands are made of philsophy to confirm and edify this substance.

$6-8 Before man needed to turn attention away from celestial light and contemplate the world of experience. Now (in Hegel's time) the reverse is true, the spirit is impoverished. There is a preoccupation with wordly things induced by the enlightenment. Now, according to Hegel, people desperate for the divine, will accept the idea that the way to know God is through intuition. God however, ought to be found through reason.

$10 - criticises those who abjure science

The formalism which recent philosophy denounces and despises, only to see it reappear in its midst, will not vanish from science, however much its inadequacy maybe recognised and felt, until the cognising of absolute actuality has become entirely clear as to its own nature (p. 9 $16)

For Hegel all rests on "grasping and expressing the truth, not only as substance, but equally as subject" (p. 10 $17)

"The living substance is being which is in truth subject, or, what is the same, is in truth actual only in so far as it is the movement of positing itself, or is the mediation of it's self othering with itself. This substance is, as subject, pure, simple negativity, and is for this very reason the bifurcation of the simple; it is the doubling which sets up opposition and then again the negation of this indifferent diversity and its antithesis (the immediate simplicity). Only this self restoring sameness or this reflection in otherness within itself - not an original or immediate unity or such - is the true. It is the process of its own becoming, the circle that presupposes its end as its goal. Having its end also as its beginning; and only by being worked out to its end is it actual." (p. 10 $18)

Cannot look at essence of absolute as in itself even if its essence is the same as form - need to consider the divine as also for itself - only with both perspectives is it an actuality.

"The true is the whole"

the absolute is thus a result

"only in the end is it what it truly is and precisely in this consists its nature viz. to be actual, subject, the spontaneous becoming of itself" (p. 11 $20)

Truth is as such as much the thing in itself as the process of becoming. Reason is then purposive activity. Actuality of the absolute is self movement. A principle/ basic proposition is both true and false because it is only the beginning it is not actual knowledge. The refutation can not be made externally but by the development of the proposition. (p. 12-13)

The spirit is the actual, the relation of self to self, the self as object of otherness. ( p. 14 $25)

"Lacking strength beauty hates the understanding for asking of her what it cannot do but the life of spirit is not the life that shrinks from death and keeps itself untouched by devastation, but rather the life that endures it and maintains itself in it. It wins its truth only when, in utter dismemberment, it finds itself. It is this power, not as something positive, which closes its eyes to the negative as when we say of something that it is nothing or is false, and then having done with it, turn away and pass on to something else; on the contrary, spirit is this power only by looking the negative in the face, and tarrying with it. This tarrying with the negative is the magical power that converts it into being." (p. 19 $32)

Spirit becomes object because it is just this movement of becoming an other to itself, i.e. becoming an object to itself, and of suspending this otherness. (p. 21 $36)


Dastellung = presentation/ exposition/ laying out

justification and exposition are the same

the phenomenology is science

$37? Demonstrating the necessity of science would at the same time be its accomplishment.

The outline of the logic appears present here in nebulous form - Chitty comment.

Spinoza - one substance - has two modes/ attributes - absolute is: matter/ mind (this seems incorrect as it is only these two modes of substance man can know - it is in fact infinite). Like Schelling, Spinoza sought to resolve these Cartesian dualisms.

Hegel dissatisfied by Schellings concept of the absolute.

Both Kant and Fichte begin with subject (Kant: grounded in Individual I; Fichte: grounded in more universal I (absolute ego) ad their reason is too subject centred for Hegel. Schelling begins with the object and atempts to unify I with external world where internal to nature is the drive to subjectivity. The subject and object identity achieved by Schelling is where subject contains objecthood and object contains subjecthood. Hegel gives no credence to this identity and seeks rather the unity of identity and non-identity. Thus movement, the contradiction between these two, negation, to unity generates the categories of the absolute.

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