Consciousness A. – Part I

Sence-Certainty and ‘This’

When Hegel talks of immediate knowledge, he is referring to the person who experiences the object in itself. There is no reflection back into self at this point. We do not comprehend it at this point, by which Hegel means to analyise and break down the object into its constituents.

It appears both as the richest and truest form of knowledge, as it can be used in the infinite process of mediation and because as of yet, it has not yet ommited or extended anything in or for itself. However, because it is this certainty, it is also a very poor form of truth. For all that can be said of it is that we know that it is. Its truth contains nothing but the sheer being of the thing. Consciousness’ being, is known as the pure I, as in ‘I am a pure this‘. The I at this point, neither contains a manifold of imagination or thought. In itself, it is a tabular rasa. The thing meanwhile, does not signify anything that has a host of qualities. At this point, the thing is, merely because it is. This is pure being, which constitutes truth. Similarly, the I is nothing more than a pure this.

Hegel however argues that there is much more involved in pure being which constitutes the essence of certainty. Sense-certainty is not a complete immediacy, but rather an instance of the immediate. What does he mean by this? Basically, that by having an object of our consciousness in our grasp, we are already past the stage were we had no object of our consciousness. In other words, we have moved from the tabular rasa of consciousness, to the object. Hence, Hegel makes the distinction of this:

1. This as the I, Subject, Pure Consciousness, etc.
2. This as the Other, Substance, Object of Consciousness, etc.

When we reflect on the differences between the I and Object, we find that they are not truly immediate and complete from the start. Rather, they are apart of a process of mediation. Whereby our empty consciousness comes to accumulate the identity of itself and the object through reflecting on differences in the world. Our consciousness grasps certainty through something other than itself, even the certainty of its own identity is grasped through the means of something other than itself.

It is not just we ourselves who make a distinction between essence of a thing and the instance in which we perceive it. On the contrary, it is already there in sense certainty itself and it is to be taken up in the form in which it is present there, instead of how we define it. There is an essentiality of the object in itself. Even if we do not know of it, the object is still there. We need to find out however, if the thing in itself, is the same as how we perceive the thing. To do this, we do not have to digest and analyise the thing, rather consider how it is present in sense certainty.

We need to understand the ‘what is this?’ in regards to sense certainty. Hegel thinks that the being of this, is the now and the here. It is interesting to note, that the now has a temporal function, while here has a spatial function. The now-function is a function used to preserve a thing. For example, to say ‘It is now night’, is to preserve the temporal location of night. Yet even though it acts to preserve night, Hegel claims it is not night in itself. Now is not immediate, but mediated. It depends on something else for its own existence. This could be day, night, the 21st centaury, this very moment, etc.

When we utter what is sensuous, we treat it as a universal. This is the universal this. It is is universal as well. This is not to say we think about it as being a universal thing, merely that we utter it as a universal. We are not so much referring to the content, merely acting in a way as to treat it as universal. Here similarly has a universal function, wherby we are not so much occupied with the content of Hereness, but rather the way we are using the word. Here must always depend on another, just like now. Thus its being is mediated.

Pure being remains the essence however of sense-certainty, the truth of the object still universal (if mediated). Hegel is not denying it has existence outside ourselves, rather that our grasp of is not in a pure instance, but rather apart of a mediated process. However, we must still question if this is being as a pure universal, or being as a kind of abstraction. The essentiality of objects and knowing, in regards to sense certainty, is reversed. The essential being that makes the object the object is not what is most important here. Instead, it is our capacity to understand the object, which was previously thought of as being unessential. This is because truth is in the object as my object. The object as itself does not matter, it is rather what I take back into myself. Now, the intensity of the truth, now lies in the I.

Hence, the now and here exist because of the I (and by extension, this). There truth and falsity depends of the perceiver. Here can refer to London or Moscow, it just depends on the I that is using them. When I say ‘this here’ or ‘this now’, I am saying all variations of this. Everything in this regard is a this. However, when we say ‘this man’ or ‘Now it is noon’, there is a demand for a thing in regards to the this-function, which makes what we say more intelligible. What I mean is unessential, in that it is neither based purely on the I or the object, but rather the complete process of mediation between I and object. In other words, taking my interpretation of the object back into myself. Again, the truth and falsity of here and now depend on the individual. The immediate now and here depend on me, who is perceiving them at that particular time or place. The truth of the thing however, is not a given. It is rather a conscious action of the individual to make it so. By positing the now, here or this, we make it become so as well. It has not the essential truth of being, but truth relating to us. The movement of ‘Now’, can be best described as this:

1. I point out the now, by which I come to supersede the ‘pointing out now’ by objectifying it.
2. I assert that it has been superseded
3. I negate that it was the case that I ‘pointed out the now’. The now hence, becomes the is.

The now and pointing it out, are hence, never things that are immediate. They are always apart of a mediated process. It is always a process of succession. There can be many nows, e.g. minutes, hours, seconds, etc. Each meaning of the term, depending on the I that uses them in a certain context. The here that is pointed out, is similarly a this here and not this here, but rather a left, right, above, below, behind, in front, in the middle, etc. This is because, the this here we point out will eventually be succeeded by another. Each here though becomes universal by referencing a certain here in a certain context. The same applies to now.

Sense certainty, Hegel concludes, is nothing other than the history of movements (or history itself). There is an endless flow of superceding points i.e. this, now, here, etc. There is always a supercesion of universal experience, though we posit a universal at a certain point, the truth of that point will eventually disappear as we find a new truth at a different point. There is no eternal truth here, rather what Hegel describes is the flow of the evanescent. We cannot have a truly universal this, as we cannot reach it by the means of language. Though Hegel has no problem with the this of the mediated subject, he does have a problem of claiming to know this as the thing in itself. Hegel views calling a thing actual, the thing in itself, etc., the most abstract of generalities. The thing in itself seems to be unutterable for Hegel, we cannot put it in language, but rather make an abstraction of it. All we can do, is point out our own interpretation of the object.