Hegel’s Preface – Part II

Hegelian Dialectic

Hegel talks of subject and substance. I won’t give you the meaning of the terms here, but I will give you the general gist of how they are used:

Subject

The point of origin, the In-Itself, the I or Person, etc.

Substance

That which is next to the point of origin, the otherness, the thing, etc.

The subject is the thesis, the substance is the negation. The antithesis refers to how both the subject and substance are opposed. Meanwhile, the synthesis refers to even though they are opposed, they are none the less joined at the same time. This seems confusing, but think of it this way: white and black, male and female are terms that are opposed to each other. Yet one cannot be the other. We cannot have white without black, male without female, etc. They are by nature, opposed (antithesis). Yet this very opposition is what gives their existence (synthesis).

On Reason

Reason is purposive activity. Purpose is what is immediate and is caused by a lacking within ourselves. For Hegel, the beginning presupposes activity.

‘Self-Moving Self Sameness’

What does this mean in regards to human consciousness? That we come to know ourselves through the means of the other. Hegel talks about ‘self-moving self-sameness’. This again, seems like a contradiction of terms, but it is actually quite a simple concept. To give an illustration:

A man who has never seen himself before gazes in a mirror and sees his own reflection. At first, he tries talking to his reflection, thinking that the image in the mirror is someone different. He eventually, comes to realize that it is he himself who he is looking at in the mirror.

The term ‘self-moving self sameness’ then refers to how we become self-conscious of ourselves through the means of other objects. If we existed in a world without objects, even though we may be conscious, we would not know that we were a conscious entity. Yet if we had an object, we would see that this object is other or different to us. The question arises however: what is this object other or different to? The answer would be this entity here, which is viewing the object. We gain a sense of ourselves through the means of the object. This is known as mediation, which refers to the process of extending our understanding of ourselves through things. The important thing to note here for Hegel, is that we never exist as a complete or fufilled being. Rather, our existence is lacking which causes us to go into a process in which we are constantly developing ourselves.

Disparity

Consciousness contains both the ‘I’ and ‘Object’, the latter being something which is not us. There is therefore, a disparity between the two which creates the antithesis. Reality is not dependant on us, but rather is an extension of ourselves. The objects then are subjects (since they are a part of my own consciousness), created by me, which go back into me.

Absolute as Subject and Substance

When Hegel talks of the subject here, it is in the grammatical sense of the word i.e. the subject of a sentence. Subject then, refers to being as ‘Us’, ‘I’ or ‘Self’. Any term, such as God, Tree, Air, glarb, etc., is meaningless without a predicate i.e. substance. It is a blank slate which tells us nothing about the thing to which it is referring. It is the predicate which tells us what the term is. If the term is used as a predicate, then it can tell us nothing about what the thing we are referring to is. For example:

a) A = A
b) God is God
c) God is The Absolute

If we claim God refers to the Absolute, and the Absolute refers to God, then we are effectively Calling god and the Absolute the same thing. If this is the case, why do we need two terms for them? The predicate must not be the same thing as the subject if we are to understand the subject. Only once the subject has mediated off a predicate, can the subject then reflect into itself. This in turn, leads us into understanding things like ‘A = A’. The term absolute cannot be pure subject, as this would render it meaningless. Rather, the absolute refers to the joining of substance and subject through the process of mediation.

Principles of truth and falsity

We use principles not as eternal foundations, but only at the beginning of a process. There will always be exceptions to a principle, but we should not be so hasty as to dismiss it. If we wish to refute a basic principle, we can get it to refute itself by taking them to the absurd. We start off with basic propositions, but can get rid of them if we deem them to be faulty. However, we should not be so hasty as to completely abandon them. Though someone might be wrong about something, they might be right on a deeper level. For example, Anaximander was for example an advocate of evolution in Ancient Greece, but some of his reasoning behind it was flawed.

Spirit

Spirit in its most reductive definition can be said to mean cultural consciousness. It is not just any cultural consciousness however, there is a specific way in which it comes about. Three things are needed in order for spirit to occur: Being in itself, Being for itself and Being for us.

1. Being in itself, refers to a blank consciousness, tabular rasa, a consciousness which is lacking in any form of recognition.
2. Being for itself, refer to how a conscious becomes self-conscious through the means of an object which it mediates off of.
3. Being for us, refers to the human beings who partaking in the process of spirit. It is we who are apart of the process of becoming self-conscious.

While the absolute refers to being in itself and being for itself, absolute spirit (or just spirit) refers to all three types of being. For Hegel, science i.e. knowledge, has to become spirit, by coming to know itself and manifest in the world.