Hegel’s Phenomenology of Mind (2)

Excerpts from a few selected pages

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

Φ 303. Observational psychology, which in the first instance states what observation finds regarding the general forms brought to its notice in the active consciousness, discovers all sorts of faculties, inclinations, and passions; and since, while narrating what this collection contains, the remembrance of the unity of self-consciousness is not to be suppressed, observational psychology is bound to get the length at least of wonderment that such a lot and such a miscellany of things can happen to be somehow alongside one another in the mind as in a kind of bag, more especially when they are seen to be not lifeless inert things, but restless active processes…

… Since, however, the process of apprehending it causes it at the same time to pass into the form of universality, to apprehend it is to find its law, and seems in this way to have a rational purpose in view, and a necessary function to fulfil.

Φ 305. The moments constituting the content of the law are on the one hand individuality itself, on the other its universal inorganic nature, viz. the given circumstances, situation, habits, customs, religion, and so forth; from these the determinate individuality is to be understood and comprehended. They contain something specific, determinate, as well as universal, and are at the same time something lying at hand, which furnishes material for observation and on the other side expresses itself in the form of individuality.

Φ 306. The law of this relation of the two sides has now to contain and express the sort of effect and influence these determinate circumstances exert on individuality. This individuality, however just consists both in being the universal, and hence in passively and directly assimilating and blending with the given universals, the customs, habits, etc., thus becoming conformed to them, as also in taking up an attitude of opposition towards them and thus transforming and transmuting them; and again in behaving towards them in its individual character with complete indifference, neither allowing them to exert an influence over it, nor setting itself actively against them…. If these circumstances, style of thought, customs, the whole state of the world, in short, had not been, then assuredly the individual would not have been what he is; for all the elements that find a place in this “ state of the world “ constitute this universal substance.

If the external element is so constituted in and for itself as it appears in individuality, the latter would be comprehended from the nature of the former. We should have a double gallery of pictures, one of which would be the reflexion of the other: the one the gallery of external circumstance completely encompassing, circumscribing, and determining the individual, the other the same gallery translated into the form in which those circumstances are in the conscious individual: the former the spherical surface, the latter the centre reflectively representing that surface within it.

Φ 307. But the spherical surface, the world for the individual, carries on the face of it this double meaning: it is in and for itself the actual world and situation, and it is the world of the individual. It is the world of the individual either in so far as this individual was merely fused and blended with it, had let that world, just as it is, pass into its own nature, and had taken up towards it merely the attitude of a formal consciousness; or, on the other hand, it is the world of the individual in the sense in which the given has been transformed and transmuted by that individual.

Since reality is capable of having this twofold meaning on account of this freedom of the individual, the world of the individual is only to be understood from the individual himself; and the influence of reality upon the individual, a reality which is represented as having a being all its own (an und für sich), receives through this individual absolutely the opposite significance — the individual either lets the stream of reality flowing in upon it have its way, or breaks off and diverts the current of its influence. In consequence of this, however, “ psychological necessity” becomes an empty phrase, so empty that there is the absolute possibility that what is said to have this influence could equally well not have had it.

Φ 308. Herewith drops out of account that existence which was to be something all by itself, and was meant to constitute one aspect, and that the universal aspect, of a law. Individuality is what its world, in the sense of , is. Individuality itself is the cycle of its own action, in which it has presented and established itself as reality, and is simply and solely a unity of what is given and what is constructed — a unity aspects do not fall apart, as in the idea of psychological law, into a world given per se and an individuality existing for itself. Or if those aspects are thus considered each by itself, there is no necessity to be found between them, and no law of their relation to one another.