Tommy Maranges Self-consciousness is a tricky motherfucker. Like every other idea, it has to encounter its opposite before it can be complete. I guess this is reality, just with some glitches. An idea encounters its opposite, and after some struggle, a new idea emerges, more concrete than before.

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Philosophical reflections emerging from various encounters. Only so is it in fact self-consciousness; for only in this way does the unity of itself in its otherness become explicit for it. With this, we already have before us the Notion of Spirit.

If we attend to the quote above we are struck by its density, furthermore, if we attend to it carefully we might find the announcement of a departure, a properly Hegelian account of the status of self-knowledge. This departure is radical in the sense that we are no longer faced with an account of consciousness as the passive apprehension of the world. Rather, it is an account of the activity of self-consciousness, not as an epistemological subject, but as an active agent in the world populated by a multiplicity of agents, that is an individual subject acting within a social totality.

We have shifted away from an account of the knowing subject to an account of intersubjectivity. As such, from a purely historical perspective we are presented with the first truly social institution, or of the first instance of human institutionality as such. The tendency, in many cases, has been to take the section out of its context, that is, to remove it from the larger context of self-consciousness in general and see it as an end in itself rather than a moment in the movement of Spirit.

Let us turn then toward the notion of self-consciousness in order to provide us with a trajectory. The satisfaction of Desire is, it is true, the reflection of self-consciousness into itself, or the certainty that has become truth.

Perhaps, stated otherwise, it must bring together the for-itself of Life, the organic totality, which maintains its sameness in difference. Desire, however, is a negative structure as such it can only negate and cannot overcome the negated other, as such it must reproduce both the object and the other repeatedly.

Self-consciousness can be certain of itself only through the overcoming of an independent life. If we follow the structure, Desire can only be satisfied by an object which in turn is capable of negating itself, that is Desire can only be satisfied by another self-consciousness.

It is therefore the case that the failure to satisfy Desire has led us to its possible satisfaction in the Notion of Recognition. The Notion of recognition allows for the satisfaction of Desire, that is it allows Desire to establish its self-certainty as truth.

Recognition, therefore, must allow for the doubling of self-consciousness, that is only an action that is equal and by another self-consciousness can bring about the Desired result, which is mutual recognition of an other as equal and independent, the recognition of the other in its freedom.

As such Hegel presents us with a normative example of recognition. Each [self-consciousness] is for the other the middle term, through which each mediates itself with itself and unites with itself; and each is for itself and for the other, an immediate being on its own, which at the same time is such only through mediation.

They recognize themselves as mutually recognizing one another. Self-consciousness, as a negative structure, cannot come back to itself, that is it cannot realize its freedom, but rather is mediated by the object, or the other of it experience, which is at the same time nothing more than itself duplicated.

Only a recognitive structure can successfully allow Desire to satisfy itself, thereby establishing its self-certainty as freedom. The individual who has not risked his life may well be recognized as a person, but he has not attained to the truth of this recognition as an independent self-consciousness.

It is therefore the case that the struggle to the death does not realize the normative goal of mutual recognition, rather, as a result recognition becomes impossible. As such, this particular structure fails in that it establishes no institution in its wake, there is no properly social moment therefore it does not maintain the three moments of self-consciousness. The third moment of self-consciousness has been established phenomenologically, or at least its structure has been uncovered.

We have, as it were, returned to an earlier moment of the Phenomenology. If we turn back toward the earlier shapes, or forms of consciousness we were faced with a natural subject, whose purely negative relation to the object, was such that in order to incorporate the point of view the other must be annihilated.

This is what Hegel terms an abstract negation, which retains nothing of the negation, the negated is simply reduced to nothing. It should be noted that the movement of history itself is the movement of these failures, or mis-recognitions, which are always brought about by the trace of their possible accomplishment in the present. As such the dialectic lays the ground for the possibility of freedom through the development of a truly social institution. If we remain faithful to the structure, which has guided Hegel throughout, that is the structure of independence and dependence, sameness, or identity, in change, or difference, them we cannot help but notice that the notion of freedom is impossible without the notion of dependence.

This is, furthermore, why the struggle to the death did not realize freedom, because no one was left in a position of dependence in order to recognize the freedom of the victor. The Lord, or Master, is independent consciousness, absolute identity with itself, in many ways a reversion back to the animal Desire, which characterized the earliest forms of consciousness.

As recognized the lord exists as absolute negativity for the Bondsman, or Slave, the lord represents the negation of the bondsman to the bondsman.

Therefore, the Desire of the lord can be satisfied, as he has mediated his Desire through The bondsman. The bondsman, having failed to give up his chain, or having failed to place his life on the line, becomes dependent consciousness and can only recognize the lord. The lord is absolute negation, or the fear of death, as an object for the bondsman. In true psychological jargon the lord embodies both the ego-ideal and the super-ego; that is to say that the lord, is both an independent consciousness that the bondsman can strive to become and that which causes the bondsman to repress its own Desire in the form of work.

As such, the bondsman has overcome the chain, which bound it to the lord, that is through work, which takes place upon the threat of death; the bondsman has managed to overcome his animal desire for a Spiritual desire.

It therefore, becomes apparent that through its work the bondsman is able to overcome the chains which bind him and now, having an actual context of freedom and repression can strive to accomplish the task of freedom.

Or, how the slavish, or bonded, consciousness is able to overcome its purely natural Desire for a Spiritual one. The movement, also establishes an unequal social institution between acting agents in the world, one which enables the development of further historical movement, as such, it is also a material historical structure, which actually existed.

It becomes apparent, when viewed in this way, that what is true for the individual is also true for the historical development of the totality. Although Slavery, might be lamentable, and regrettable.

In hindsight, perhaps viewed from our historical situatedness as an institution, perhaps the first institution, it was necessary in order that we might come to understand that we could transform our natural limits through work. Furthermore, it necessitates the development of an objective sphere between the lord and the bondman, wherein the Desire of the lord can be articulated and understood by the bondsman. Have we come to a better understanding of the Hegelian notion of freedom and the departure undertaken in the chapter on self-consciousness?

This work became far more expository and exegetical than was initially anticipated; perhaps the trajectory itself was a necessary one. The movement seems necessary, that is in order to truly grasp what has transpired in Hegel one must actually go through the movements oneself. That being said, I have attempted to offer a reading, an attempt to make sense of the work, which in turn has contributed a great deal to my own understanding. For that I am grateful, and if nothing else about this paper is true it has at least been a valuable journey.

F Hegel. Phenomenology of Spirit. Trans A. Oxford: Oxford University Press,


Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770–1831)

For Hegel, self-consciousness is in itself for itself. However, the consummation of self-consciousness—that is, self-understanding—depends on the other. Hegel takes this proposition from the book of Genesis, where Adam is lonely and not fully himself without Eve. Humans are made for each other as social creatures, but Adam does not fully know himself and is not content with his being without Eve.


Hegel: Dialectical Self-Consciousness (Lordship-Bondsman, sec. 178-196 Phenomenology of Spirit)

The conception of this its unity in its duplication, of infinitude realizing itself in self-consciousness, has many sides to it and encloses within it elements of varied significance. Thus its moments must on the one hand be strictly kept apart in detailed distinctiveness, and, on the other, in this distinction must, at the same time, also be taken as not distinguished, or must always be accepted and understood in their opposite sense. This double meaning of what is distinguished lies in the nature of self-consciousness: — of its being infinite, or directly the opposite of the determinateness in which it is fixed. The detailed exposition of the notion of this spiritual unity in its duplication will bring before us the process of Recognition. Self-consciousness has before it another self-consciousness; it has come outside itself.


Master–slave dialectic

Biography G. He was educated at the Royal Highschool in Stuttgart from and steeped in both the classics and the literature of the European Enlightenment. In Hegel received an M. Shortly after graduation, Hegel took a post as tutor to a wealthy Swiss family in Berne from During this time he wrote unpublished essays on religion which display a certain radical tendency of thought in his critique of orthodox religion. With the closing of the University, due to the victory of the French in Prussia, Hegel had to seek employment elsewhere and so he took a job as editor of a newspaper in Bamberg, Bavaria in Die Bamberger Zeitung followed by a move to Nuremberg in where Hegel became headmaster of a preparatory school Gymnasium , roughly equivalent to a high school, and also taught philosophy to the students there until

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