Hegel’s Phenomenology of Mind (1)

Excerpts from a few selected pages

(Numbers from the Baillie translation have been inserted into the text.)


The true being of a man is…his act; individuality is real in the deed, and a deed it is which cancels both the aspects of what is “meant” or “presumed” to be. In the one aspect where what is “presumed” or “imagined” takes the form of a passive bodily being, individuality puts itself forward in action as the negative essence which only is so far as it cancels bring. Then furthermore the act does away with the inexpressibleness of what self-conscious individuality really “means”; in regard to such “meaning”, individuality is endlessly determined and determinable. This false infinite, this endless determining, is abolished in the completed act. The act is something simply determinate, universal, to be grasped as an abstract, distinctive whole; it is murder, theft, a benefit, a deed of bravery, and so on, and what it is can be said of it.

It is such and such, and its being is not merely a symbol, it is the fact itself. It is this, and the individual human being is what the act is. In the simple fact that the act is, the individual is for others what he really is and with a certain general nature, and ceases to be merely something that is “meant” or “presumed” to be this or that. No doubt he is not put there in the form of mind; but when it is a question of his being qua being, and the twofold being of bodily shape and act are pitted against one another, each claiming to be his true reality, the deed alone, is to be affirmed as his genuine being — not his figure or shape, which would express what he “means” to convey by his acts, or what any one might “conjecture” he merely could do. In the same way, on the other hand, when his performance and his inner possibility, capacity, or intention are opposed, the former alone is to be regarded as his true reality, even if he deceives himself on the point and, after he has turned from his action into himself,. means to be something else in his “inner mind” than what he is in the act. Individuality, which commits itself to the objective element, when it passes over into a deed no doubt puts itself to the risk of being altered and perverted. But what settles the character of the act is just this — whether the deed is a real thing that holds together, or whether it is merely a pretended or “supposed” performance, which is in itself null and void and passes away. Objectification does not alter the act itself; it merely shows what the deed is, i.e. whether it is or whether it is nothing.