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Use this page to help you read the Preface. Go through this page section by section. Read the indicated paragraph from the Phenomenology, then read the commentary here; then re-read the paragraph from the Phenomenology.
2. Read paragraph 2 in the Phenomenology; then read this commentary; then re-read paragraph 2 from the Phenomenology.
Truth emerges historically as the soul ascends the Divided Line out of the Cave; it's like a picture coming into focus gradually; each new philosophical system brings the truth into better focus. With the Phenomenology, truth has come into clear focus.
The ascent of the soul out of the Cave is like the growth of a plant. A plant has many stages in its life or history. At some point it produces a bud, then a blossom, then its fruit. Another good analogy is that of an insect: egg, caterpillar, pupa, butterfly. In all living things there is growth.
The stages of a play are called acts or scenes. Hegel refers to the stages of any process as its "moments". So, he'd say that the bud, blossom, and fruit are "moments" of the plant; likewise, egg, caterpillar, pupa, and butterfly are moments of the insect (not moments of the butterfly, since the butterfly itself is just a moment -- it's the whole that counts).
Each stage supersedes the previous stage. Later stages seem to more fully realize the potentiallity of the plant, but the whole history of the plant is a process of increasing self-actualization. If you think of one stage as the truth of the plant, as the true nature or objective of the plant's life-process, then the earlier stages are false. But looking at it this way is naive: each stage is necessary, and you have to look at the entire sequence of stages. It's not the final stage that is the whole plant, but the series of stages.
Here you should recall Plato's Divided Line, and the ASCENT OUT OF THE CAVE. Hegel's whole Phenomenology is basically the story of the soul's ascent out of the cave of ignorance to the world of enlightenment above. But it isn't just the arrival in the intelligible world that is the truth: the truth is the journey, not the destination.
3. Looking at the development from egg, through caterpillar and pupa to butterfly, you might say that the butterfly is the goal of the process of growth, and so is the truth that finally comes into focus at the end. But the end-result is not the whole truth.
THE WHOLE TRUTH IS A HISTORICAL SERIES. Truth is not static or motionless, truth is mobile and dynamic. Each stage of the growing plant has its own reality; analogously, each stage of human culture has its own truth. You shouldn't say that people in the old days (your own ancestors) were dumber than we are because they thought, for instance, that the sun revolved around the earth. Science makes progress, but at each stage it is just as true as the previous and later stages. Truth is the whole process of historical development, not just the present age.
If an image is gradually coming into focus, you might think of the final perfectly focused image as the truth; but the truth is really like the MOVIE formed by the whole series of images as the focus increases. The past is just as valuable as the present.
Of course, you have to think about this in terms of your own life: is the true nature of your self, the real you, gradually emerging? As you look back on your own personal history, does it make sense, or is it just a haphazard collection of memories and events?
5. By science, Hegel means "philosophical science", not natural science like physics. Philosophical science is SYSTEMATIC. This means that it has to show how the stages of human thought form a series in which earlier and later stages are logically related. It isn't enough to show, for instance, that there is an egg, then a caterpillar, then a pupa, then a butterfly. What the systematic philosopher needs to show is that the egg implies the caterpillar, the caterpillar implies the pupa, and the pupa implies the butterfly. You have to show that one stage logically produces the next.
The Phenomenology is going to write the autobiography of human life on earth: "the shape in which time sets forth the sequential existence of its moments." These moments are the stages of human history, from barbaric savagery to modern civilization.
This applies to your own life. Your life doesn't make sense unless you systematize the events and stages, that is, you have to analyze them to see what each stage means, and how each stage is really a developing story with a plot. Initially, if you look back on your life without reflection and analysis, it's just a SCRAPBOOK. Philosophical analysis turns that scrapbook into an AUTOBIOGRAPHY in which the reader sees that what happens next is not an accident, but a necessary consequence.
11. When a new stage of life appears, everything is changed so that the new stage does not comprehend itself; it does not know where it is going. The newly emerged butterfly does not yet know that it can fly; it has this power, but it has not yet exercised it.
Likewise, the newly emerged stage of life does not know where it has come from: the newly emerged butterfly does not realize that it came from the pupa. The new form of life does not RECOGNIZE itself in its past forms; these seem alien or foreign to it.
The same is true for human consciousness. As the man emerges from the boy, or the woman from the girl, neither man nor woman know their powers; they have not yet exercised them. Nor are they aware of how they were shaped by their past histories.
Hegel sees that his day is a "birth-time". Hegel sees that the world is going through dramatic and revolutionary changes. Birth is an example of a change of stages. The caterpillar is born from the egg; the pupa is born from the caterpillar, the butterfly is born from the pupa.
For humans birth seems to happen only once, but that's an illusion: as you change from a child to an adolescent, from an adolescent to an adult, and so on, you are born over and over again. Or at least you should hope so: the alternative is to remain permanently stuck at some earlier, primitive stage. The process of full self-actualization, of fully realizing your potential, requires many births. Birth is a quantum leap to a new stage, a new way of life. It is an abrupt emergence, not gradual.
Of course, every birth requires a death: the pupa has to die so that the butterfly can be born, the boy must die so the man can be born, the girl must die so the woman can be born. Death is NEGATIVE; though the man or woman want to be born, the boy or girl do not want to die. Death is painful, just like ascending out of Plato's cave. Hegel sees that this painful process of negativity is beneficial. Death is negative in a logical sense too, since the boy is NOT the man, the girl is NOT the woman. These NOTs are logical negations. History is the work of negativity.
Hegel refers to the energy of the historical process as "Spirit". Spirit is the power at work in history, driving human consciousness and culture to its full self-actualization. "Spirit is indeed never at rest but always engaged in moving forward." Hegel believes in PROGRESS: things are getting better all the time. Progress is driven forward by negativity; otherwise, history would stagnate.
12. What is born is never yet fully realized. A newborn infant is not yet a mature adult. Indeed, even the newly hatched butterfly is not yet able to fly -- it has to strengthen its wings. The acorn is not yet an oak; the boy or girl not yet man or woman.
To describe the beginning of a stage, Hegel uses the word "immediacy". The immediate is immature, in the sense that while it does in fact have all its powers, it has them only potentially or IMPLICITLY. The acorn has the whole structure of the oak, but only IMPLICITLY. It has to grow, to develop into a mature tree, for the implicit to become EXPLICIT. The acorn has a job to do: it has to become an oak. You have a job to do: you have to get out of Plato's cave, to move from childhood superstition to mature adult rationality. Notice that Hegel describes the path of Spirit as complex and tortuous: it's a painful process, as growing up usually is. Getting out of the cave takes hard work.
The acorn contains a plan or blueprint to do this (what Aristotle called its entelechy, its formal-final-efficient cause). Hegel uses the word "Notion" (it should really have been translated as "Concept", which is what I'll use) to replace Aristotle's notion of entelechy. The Concept is like a living blueprint, an animated plan. In fact, the Concept is really like a computer program. Everytime you see "Notion" in our book, just replace it with "program". A program guides a computer; it tells the computer what to do. Just so, the acorn contains a program that guides its development into an oak. The plant, of course, is never aware of its program. But since you are self-conscious, you can become aware of your own program. You cannot change it -- for if you were to change your own program, you would turn into somebody else. You have to be you; who else would you be?
17. If you're writing your life's story (your "spiritual autobiography", then you're task is to organize your SELF-KNOWLEDGE; this is Hegel's objective too, since Hegel (and you) are both humans, and Hegel is telling the life story of human consciousness.
Initially, self-knowledge is immediate: it's just raw data. If you've got a scrapbook of your past (that contains, say, old photos, old school report cards, newspaper clippings, pictures you drew, letters you wrote, diaries, and so on), then you've got a lot of RAW DATA to use to tell your life's story. This is the raw material you can use.
One thing you have to do to write your autobiography is to remember the past; but you also have to figure it out, to make sense of it. Initially, the raw data of your life is just a bunch of facts and images you don't understad (you know you lived it, but what does your life mean? what was its purpose?). The raw material of your life's history is just stuff. The immediate (i.e. only superficially understood) raw data is what Hegel calls SUBSTANCE. The substance of your life is like a big box of souvenirs.
If you own anything at all, or have a room or a house that you live in, you know what Hegel means. There are reasons why you have the things you have. You bought clothes, for instance, because they express your personality or maybe you just wear them because somebody bought them for you. Nobody knows but you: it's esoteric. If you were to suddenly die, you'd leave behind a big pile of stuff. That stuff is your SUBSTANCE. It's what your life is made of. To you, it's an expression of your personality; to other people, it's just junk. But you might not even understand it yourself. Why do you have the things you have? Do they really express your personality? How?
Looking through your scrapbook or going through your personal possessions, or even remembering your past, you are just rummaging through your history. You own it only in the most superficial (immediate) sense. You don't really possess it until you know what the photo really means, how your clothes really express your true self. You've got to be able to make sense of all the data, to organize the substance so that you really understand it. You've got to make substance into SUBJECT. Substance becomes subject when you actually claim it as your own by making sense of it.
Substance also becomes subject when it becomes self-active, when it exercises the powers that it has but does not know it has. The substance of the newly born butterfly becomes subject when it realizes it can fly, and actually does fly. Your substance becomes subject when you realize you can think rationally, and you actually do think rationally.
The world is the substance of God; the history of human spirituality is the history of how this divine substance becomes subject in fully enlightened humanity (what Hegel will call "Absolute Knowledge"). By God, Hegel is talking very generally about the divinity of consciousness, the divinity of mind. Think of Plato's Divided Line -- there are different levels of cognition. The highest level of cognition is divine; it is God.
18. By SUBJECT, Hegel now says that he means self-actualizing substance. Substance is living only insofar as it is active, only insofar as it dynamically shapes itself and is aware of its self-shaping. Living substance is TRULY what it is only insofar as it is actualizing itself by being involved in some life-project or plan. That's what Hegel means when he says "the Living Substance is being which is in truth Subject . . . only insofar as it is the movement of positing itself".
Here's another way of thinking of the relation between SUBSTANCE and SUBJECT. A caterpillar is only a potential butterfly; the butterfly exists in the caterpillar as substance (for the substance of the caterpillar will turn into the substance of the butterfly); but the butterfly does not exist in the caterpillar as subject, for the butterfly is there only potentially and not actually or truly.
When you're on a journey that's going to some destination, you POSIT yourself at the destination. You conceive of yourself as being at the destination, and you act so that the idea "I am at the destination" comes true. But what you posit as you're travelling isn't true while you're travelling. While you're on your way, the statement "I am at my goal" is only true in your imagination; in reality, what you posit is false. Your journey overcomes that falsehood, and makes it true. Your journey is a process of SELF-OTHERING: that means, you move away from where you are and you move towards the goal. You always cause the proposition "I am here" to become false, so that you can make the statement "I am at the goal" true. Self-othering means you are changing yourself, you are taking an active role in shaping your life. You are making your substance become subject.
Here you are in this philosophy course. You have a project: to learn the material, to pass the course. That's part of a larger project: to get a degree. That's part of a still-larger project: to get a job. The largest project of all: to live YOUR life. You are self-actualizing insofar as you are involved in the plan you have for your own life. Your parents or others might try to tell you what you should do, but ultimately it's your plan.
Life is like a journey. Each project is like a journey whose goal is the destination. At each level of projects, you POSIT yourself. This means you imagine yourself or CONCEIVE of yourself as passing the course, getting a degree, getting a good job, having a family, living your own mature life. But you're not doing any of those things now.
As your plan unfolds step by step, stage by stage, it's a process of self-othering. As you gain knowledge, as you move closer to your degree and to maturity, you're moving away from your past. The boy who is growing up is self-othering: he is making the statement "I am a boy" false; the same with the girl: she is making the statement "I am a girl" false as she makes the statement "I am a woman" true.
Substance as self-actualizing (as Subject) is self-othering, self-negating. The boy who is growing up is negating his boyhood; the girl who is developing into a woman is negating her girlness. So long as you think of yourself as just a person, you think of yourself as one thing -- you're SIMPLE (simple meaning ONE). But in fact, the self-othering shows that your are complex. You are SPLIT by the present into your past and your future, the road behind and the road ahead. This is the "doubling which sets up opposition": there is a tension between the boy who wants to stay in the happy fantasy world of childhood and the man who wants to face the responsibilities of adulthood, between the girl who wants to play with toys and the woman who wants to accept a powerful social role.
The child and adult, boy and man, or girl and woman, are opposed. Growing up is about working out the problem of RECONCILING the boy or girl you were with the man or woman you will be. This reconciliation restores the unity of the self. First you were divided into child/adult -- your life was divided by a self-negation; then you negate this self-negation. The NEGATIVE OF THE NEGATIVE IS THE POSITIVE. You negate the split by reconciling your childlike past with your mature future. This reconciliation produces something positive, the whole person composed of both child and adult. The adult is the result, but remember the WHOLE = RESULT + PROCESS.
Here Hegel uses his THESIS, ANTITHESIS, SYNTHESIS way of looking at things.
THESIS: The child is the thesis because it comes first.
ANTITHESIS: The adult is the ANTITHESIS of the child, since the adult is the self-negation of the child (the child who grows into an adult is NOT a child anymore, the child is negated). The adult is the opposite of the child, but repeats the child's character in a more sophisticated way.
SYNTHESIS: The whole person is the synthesis of child and adult. The thesis negates itself to become the antithesis; the split between the thesis and antithesis negates itself to become the synthesis. The synthesis RECONCILES the thesis and antithesis.
The reconciliation of thesis and antithesis is SELF-RESTORATION. A person who is growing up "is the process of its own becoming, the circle that presupposes its ed as its goal, having its end also as its beginning; and only by being worked out to its end, is actual." Every project shows how the goal is the beginning of the project, since the goal is what motivates you right from the start. The destination of your journey, which is what you will ACTUALLY or TRULY reach at the end, is already what motivates you from the start. Suppose you decide to drive cross-country (I encourage this); at the very start you form the thought "I am on the shore of the Pacific ocean" although in reality you are stuck in traffic in Paterson. In one sense the thought "I am on the shore of the Pacific" is true, in another false. It is true potentially, false actually. It is true as the motive, but not as the result. So you work out your journey to its end; then "I am on the shore of the Pacific" is actually true. It is the truth of the WHOLE journey. This truth of the whole is what Hegel means when he says "Only this self-restoring sameness, or this reflection in otherness within itself -- not an original or immediate unity as such -- is the True." The original or immediate unity is just the whole journey in your imagination when you start; it's immediate because it's only superficially realized (it's just an imaginary journey). The otherness is the distance between where you are and where you're going. Once your motive gets you to your goal ("self-restoring sameness"), then the goal is True.
The thesis/antithesis/synthesis way of looking at things is not the sterile repetition of a dead formula, it's a way of recognizing the dynamic process of development. The adult grows out of the child; the person is a whole that combines both.
20. Here it is: "The True is the whole." The TRUE journey is both the PROCESS of travelling plus the RESULT of arriving at the destination. But "the whole is nothing other than the essence consummating itself through its development." The whole oak is the program in the acorn as it expresses itself by driving the growth of the oak.
The Absolute is Absolute Knowledge, complete self-comprehension of human self-development, Substance that is also Subject. The Absolute is the fully realized self of humanity. The Absolute is the result; it comes at the end. Of course, the Absolute is also a motive ("We will become fully enlightened"). But the motive is not yet reality, so it is not yet TRUE. Only after the journey of humanity up the painful way out of Plato's cave of ignorance is the Absolute ACTUAL and TRUE in the full sense.
Hegel says that only in the end is "it wat it truly is" and that the nature of the Absolute is to be "actual, subject, the spontaneous becoming of itself". So, "actual", "subject" and "spontaneously self-becoming" mean the same thing. Something that is spontaneously self-becoming is something that self-consciously guides its own development. Every process is a becoming; every biological process of growth is self-becoming (the seed becomes an oak on its own); every historical process of development is spontaneously self-becoming, since in addition to being a living process it is also a free process. An infant is not yet spontaneously self-becoming, for an infant is not yet a freely self-directing living thing; but a mature adult human who is rational is freely self-directing, so a mature rational person is spontaneously self-becoming.
21. If you were to observe the development of an insect from egg, through caterpillar and pupa to butterfly, you would have to state what sound like contradictions. As you watch the sequence of metamorphoses or transformations, you see the same thing change its forms. The one insect goes through a sequence of many forms. The forms are different.
Suppose you took pictures of the egg, the caterpillar, the pupa, and the butterfly. You lay them out on a table and you show them to somebody. You point to the caterpillar, then to the butterfly, and you say: "This is the same as that". Well, the other person could easily object: "No, they're not the same; one is a caterpillar and the other is a butterfly, they're not the same, they're different!". Same or not same?
You were once an infant; that infant grew up into you. This is the odd thing about personal identity: you survived the change. You are NOT the infant from which you came; the infant is NOT the adult it grew into. Neither is the other, and yet they are both the same thing! The infant is not the adult; the adult is not the infant; but both are you. The only way to see that they are the same thing is to look at the WHOLE process from start to end. It's the process that unites them. Hegel's language isn't really as whacked as it seems. He's talking about something truly weird: how it is that two things that are NOT each other are really the SAME thing. The fact that you grow is your self-motion; but the fact that your personal identity stays the same is the self-sameness of this self-motion.
This self-moving self-sameness is a a REFLECTION INTO SELF. Reflection into self is like self-recognition. You recognize yourself in the infant that you were. You recognize and acknowledge that the infant IS you (not that it WILL BE you, but that it IS you).
Reflection is the recognition of self in otherness. For instance, you recognize your own face in the mirror. You recognize your reflection. But the mirror is not your face: so, you recognize your self in the otherness of the mirror.
As you grew up, you probably identified with your parent of the same gender, and internalized many of his or her values, preferences, and personality traits. If you are male, at some point you will recognize your father in yourself; if you are female, at some point you will recognize your mother in yourself. You will recognize that an other (your same-gendered parent) exists in you. This recognition is the reflection into self of your parent. Your parent became other in you (for you are not your parent), and when you recognize your parent in yourself, you realize that in some deep (mediate) sense your parent continues to exist in you. Just like the caterpillar continues to exist in the butterfly. But the immediacy (the surface) is different. You are your own self. But you are like a mirror in which your father or mother, and perhaps even older ancestors, see themselves. The difference is that you are a living mirror.
When you begin to be your own spontaneous self-becoming, when you become free and start to live on your own, you will REPEAT some of the characteristcs of your parent, but not in the same way. You will (I hope) REFLECT on what is good and what is bad about your parent's character, and you will decrease the bad and increase the good. Insofar as your parent persists in yourself, this is your parent's own evolutionary development: the progressive development of your whole past series of ancestors. You modify what you've inherited: that is REFLECTION INTO SELF. The butterfly takes the caterpillar to a higher stage, to a more advanced MOMENT. In dialectical development, the past is not lost; it is repeated in a more advanced form.
Hegel is talking about this rational self-reflection when he says: "Though the embryo is indeed in itself a human being, it is not so for itself; this it only is as cultivated reason, which has made itself into what it is in itself." An infant doesn't make its own decisions; the parents make the decisions FOR the infant; the infant is just IN-ITSELF. But the adult makes decisions FOR ITSELF. As an employee, your existence is IN-ITSELF; but the existence of your boss is FOR-ITSELF. It's the old substance /subject distinction: substance is IN-ITSELF, subject is FOR-ITSELF. Something is FOR-ITSELF if it decides both WHAT it's going to do and HOW it's going to do it.
22. To the extent that you are not rational, you do not decide for yourself, you do not give yourself your own purpose. If your are rational, your being is for-itself (you make your own decisions); you give yourself your own purpose only insofar as you are rational. So: "Reason is purposive activity." Only rational activity is truly free.
Teleology is the study of purposes, of final causes or goals. Aristotle thought that natural living things had purposes and goals (the acorn has a purpose: to be an oak). The goal is in the acorn and determines its growth. It is an EN-TEL-ECHY (literally, an IN-GOAL-THING). While modern science seems to deny the existence of ENTELECHIES (the purposes in the thing), that denial is wrong. Things really do have PROGRAMS in them that guide their development (like the genetic program in the DNA).
On the one hand, the DNA in your genes is immediate: it is just what it is, and it is at rest. For it does not change during your whole life: you have the same DNA now as you did when you were an infant. But the DNA is self-moving insofar as it is in the zygote (the fertilized egg) that grew into you. Your DNA has a POWER TO MOVE. This power to move is BEING-FOR-ITSELF. In other words, your DNA is FOR ITSELF. Nobody else told your DNA to develop into you. Your DNA decides for itself how to control the growth of your body. This being-for-itself is PURE NEGATIVITY, since growth is change: the growing thing is NOT what it was and NOT what it will be. The NOT is the negative.
Your DNA is your GENOTYPE; your mature adult body is your PHENOTYPE. The genotype EXPRESSES ITSELF in the phenotype. The genotype is the beginning of you (the fertilized egg). The genotype is also the purpose: it has the phenotype as its goal. So, "The result is the same as the beginning, only because the beginning is the purpose".
Here: "the actual is the same as its Notion only because the immediate, as purpose, contains the self or pure actuality with itself". Translation: the phenotype (the actual) is the same as the genotype that produced it (the Notion) only because the genotype (the immediate) is really a program (purpose) that contains a blueprint or plan for the phenotype (it contains the pure actuality implicitly, not explicitly).
Of course, Hegel's really talking about the Absolute. The Absolute is the fully self-realized self-consciousness of humanity as a whole: it's perfected humanity, utopia. The Absolute is the phenotype into which the Notion (the Concept) is developing. The Concept is like the genetic program that is guiding the evolutionary self-development of humanity. The Absolute is divinized humanity. Humanity is becoming God.
28. Ontogeny is the history of the single individual. Phylogeny is the history of the universal individual (the World Spirit, the collective spiritual activity of humanity). Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny: the development of the single individual repeats the development of the universal individual.
"The single individual is incomplete Spirit, a concrete shape in whose whole existence one determinateness predominates, the others being present only in blurred outline"
"In a Spirit that is more advanced than another, the lower concrete existence has been reduced to an inconspicuous moment; what used to be the important thing is now but a trace; its pattern is shrouded to become a mere shadowy outline."
"The individual whose substance is the more advanced Spirit runs through this past just as one who takes up a higher science goes through the preparatory studies he has long since absorbed, in order to bring their content to mind: he recalls them to the inward eye, but has no lasting interest in them".
"The single individual must also pass through the formative stages of universal Spirit so far as their content is concerned, but as shapes which Spirit has already left behind, as stages on a way that has been made level with toil."
The child at school runs through the same course as Spirit did: "as far as factual information is concerned, we find that what in former ages engaged the attention of men of mature mind, has been reduced to the level of facts, exercises, and even games for children; and, in the child's progress through school, we shall recognize the history of the cultural development of the world traced, as it were, in a silhouette"
In ancient Greece, Pythagoras was working on his theorem concerning right triangles. His was one of the most mature minds of the age carrying out the solution of the most difficult problems in geometry. The World-Spirit, or universal individual, was active through the mind of Pythagoras, through the mind of that single individual. Ancient Greek mathematical culture, the community of ancient Greek mathematicians or geometers, embodied a shape of the World-Spirit. And yet, after Pythagoras derived his theorem, it became immediately available to every educated person, eventually even to school children. So it is true that, "so far as factual information is concerned, we find that what in former ages engaged the attention of men of mature mind, has been reduced to the level of facts, exercises, and even games for children"(28).
The World-Spirit, having surpassed the ancient Greeks and moved forward in time. The World-Spirit or universal individual no longer animates the mind of Pythagoras. The work of Pythagoras is cancelled by the passage of time, but it survives as the Pythagorean theorem, a2=b2+c2. This theorem, a mere formula superficially memorized and applied by school children, is simply an "abbreviated, simple determination[s] of thought."(29) Although the activity of solving the problem of the relation of the lengths of the sides of right triangles is cancelled, the solution to the problem is preserved. Hence Pythagoras, the single individual, and his work, is sublated: cancelled (as process) but preserved (as result).
The shape of the World-Spirit embodied by ancient Greek mathematical culture has vanished; the problems on which that culture was working have been solved, they are no longer unsolved problems, they no longer have "existence in the form of being-in-itself."(29) Nor are they problems on which contemporary "mature minds" are working, they are not problems at the cutting-edge of knowledge, and hence ancient Greek mathematical culture is not "submerged in existence," in the activity of present-day mathematicians.
The shape of Spirit embodied in ancient Greek mathematical culture exists for living individuals as mere solutions like the Pythagorean theorem. When such solutions are memorized by school children, ancient Greek mathematical culture is "recollected." But only in a superficial sense; the problem on which Pythagoras worked remains closed, the child learning the theorem does not try to solve the problem. Hence the problem stays "in-itself," and the contemporary schoolchild's knowledge of ancient Greek mathematical culture, his memorized Pythagorean theorem, is merely a "recollected in-itself."
This solution is "in-itself" and not for itself because the mind does not know the solution intimately: it knows the theorem, but not the proof. It has learned the theorem through rote memorization, but not gone through the process which led to it. It knows the result, not the process. And, since for Hegel the whole is not the result but the result plus the process, the mind of the single individual alive today can only return to ancient Greek mathematical culture, can only recapitulate that past shape of Spirit, by rediscovering the process which led to the theorem. When it has gone through the proof of the Pythagorean theorem, the single individual has transformed the being in itself of the theorem into being-for-self.
29. The education of the single individual and the history of the universal individual.
"Since the Substance of the [universal] individual, the World-Spirit itself, has had the patience to pass through these shapes over the long passage of time, and to take upon itself the enormous labor of world-history, in which it embodied in each shape as much of its entire content as that shape was capable of holding, and since it could not have attained consciousness of itself by any lesser effort, the [single] individual certainly cannot by the nature of the case comprehend his own substance more easily."
Yet, the single individual learns more easily than the universal individual, since the knowledge is already IMPLICITLY accomplished (it has been embodied in a TEXTBOOK). The student who learns the theory of relativity from a TEXTBOOK learns it in a much different way than Einstein learned it (that is, the way he discovered it). Einstein learned it from nature; the student learns it from a textbook.
32. Life, death, and resurrection are related as thesis, antithesis, and synthesis.
1. THESIS: LIFE. This life is the existence of the solution of the problem in the mind; the existence of the theorem without understanding of the proof, the superficial familiarity with the result without knowledge of the process.
2. ANTITHESIS: DEATH "Death . . . is of all things the most dreadful, and to hold fast what is dead requires the greatest strength." The understanding is the "mightiest power," the power to hold fast what is dead, that is, to return to a past stage of Spirit and dwell there. The life of Spirit "is not the life that shrinks from death and keeps itself untouched by devastation, but rather the life that endures it and maintains itself in it." The Understanding takes one of its inherited ideas, dissolves it, and so dissolves a part of itself (it dismembers itself, first negation; it goes up in flames like the Phoenix).
3. SYNTHESIS: Having dismembered itself, it must reconstitute itself,
it must solve the problem again (negation of the first negation): "It
wins its truth only when, in utter dismemberment, it finds itself"
(pure self-recognition in absolute otherness). The understanding has dissolved
a part of itself by passing from the solution to the living problem; it
reconstitutes itself out of them, it resurrects itself out of its scattered
members (Spirit rises from its own ashes, like the Phoenix).
William Paterson University Philosophy Department