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再谈《精神现象学》 2021-02-15 13:57:06

最近我又接到另一篇关于黑格尔思维现象学《The Phenomenology of Mind》或《Phenomenology of Spirit》的线上讨论的邀请。是一位专业黑学研究生的论文,有一位英国的专业黑学教授发表了评论。我发现他们仍然没有真正理解黑格尔的思维现象学到底在讲什么,就再次参与了讨论。我的评论并没有完全针对那篇原文(只针对其中一部分问题),因为我主要想指出最近我发现西方专业哲学界对于黑格尔的思维现象学所出现的最主要误解。这里是该讨论的链接:https://www.academia.edu/s/e4ca12cc2e?source=link, 对黑格尔的思维现象学感兴趣的朋友可以去参加讨论。下面是我的评论:

Dear Santo,

Thanks for the invitation. Here is some of my thought:

Before we get into the difficult readings of Hegel, we might need to first to ask ourselves why we want to read his works. Do we just want to get some inspirations from his works or do we want to figure out what he really means and thus from there we might get what we can get. Many (or most) Hegelian scholars seem to have been more interested in getting some useful or powerful inspirations, or some kind of big pictures, from the works of Hegel, than getting to know what Hegel really meant to tell in his works.

Although getting big pictures from the works of Hegel might sound exciting, or even politically useful, it is a much easier job than to get to know what Hegel really meant to tell in his works. This is because people can get inspirations from their own imaginations instead of the real meanings of the original text of Hegel's works, and this is exactly what many scholars have been doing for the past centuries. It is so common that when they need to discuss work A, they would base their discussion on work B, and when they discuss work B, they would base their discussion in work C or might even back to A, and in all their discussions, they would use the historical political background as a major factor for their interpretation of the text.

Of course, historical background could help greatly in interpreting the classic texts, and the relevant works of the same author, or even some other authors, would undoubtedly helpful for understanding one specific book of his, and sometimes, the knowledge of those background events and relevant works are even a must for a satisfactory understanding of some particular content if that content is referring to those others. Nevertheless, it is still that specific book which needs to be focused on for a good understanding and honest interpretation. Otherwise, if a scholar always depends on other works to interpret one specific book, instead of the book in question itself, then even if he could list a large volume of references and use plenty of citations to show off his knowledge about the relevant works in the field or even in the whole history, it could still be an indication that he might have given all of those referenced or cited works the same treatment as he does to the book in question, and have always used other works to interpret any of those works and never truly dug into any of those works at all.

If we can agree on the principle that the most important thing of interpreting a classic text is to respect and hold onto the original text even if it is very difficult to read, then it would be more meaningful for us to look into the subject that you are discussing here, "Self-Consciousness in Hegel's Phenomenology".

We might look at this issue from two different levels: the level of that specific Chapter IV that you are interested in, and the level of the book of The Phenomenology of Spirit as a whole.

Let’s first look at the level of the whole book. As the book title “The Phenomenology of Spirit” indicates, this book would talk about how phenomena would lead to the knowledge of Spirit, or how Spirit would impact phenomena, and thus it would cover issues from phenomena to Spirit. This title would give a strong indication of the influence of Kantian work of the separation of phenomena and noumena upon the current work of Hegel. In fact, from the very beginning of The Phenomenology of Spirit, it might make anyone who is familiar with The Critique of Pure Reason (CPR) feel that it looks like the work of a postdoctoral fellow hired by Kant to expand his The Critique of Pure Reason into greater details. It looks like someone takes what Kant started in “The analytic of principles” of the CPR and develops it into a big theory. Of course, it is just “looks like”, since the theme of The Phenomenology of Spirit is quite different from CPR; nevertheless, Hegel started The Phenomenology of Spirit with the exploration of how “phenomena” are created in consciousness (without using the term “phenomena” though), instead of following the popular common conviction that phenomena are the display of the things themselves. Therefore, we could reasonably say that Hegel was working in the vein of the Kantian doctrine, with a difference from the Kantian work by mentioning the “thing” in the his analysis while Kant intentionally left that “thing” to a very limited scope for his transcendental idealism.

Strangely, and very strangely, this very simple fact about how Hegel started his discussion in The Phenomenology of Spirit seems to have been ignored by most (if not all) Hegelian scholars in the past centuries, and thus nobody seems to have paid particularly meaningful attention to the relationship between the title of the book to the Kantian doctrine about how phenomena are created. One reason might be because Hegel did offer very harsh criticism about the Kantian separation of phenomena and noumena. If that is the reason, it would be a VERY SAD thing about how careless those scholars in reading Hegel (and Kant as well). If they did read The Phenomenology of Spirit carefully for the past two centuries and thus understand each sentence in the book very well, then they would not have ignored how Hegel started his discussion in The Phenomenology of Spirit, and thus would not have missed the connection between the title of the book and the Kantian doctrine about how phenomena are created, and would not have missed point that the term “Phenomenology” actually relates to “the study of how phenomena are created”, simply because Hegel offered harsh words against the Kantian separation of phenomena and noumena!

It is critically important to understand how Hegel started his discussion in The Phenomenology of Spirit for a correct understanding of the whole book, including the famous Chapter IV, of course. Once we are clear about this, it would be easier for us to get a big picture of what Hegel talks about in that book:

Unlike many other authors of studying human quest of knowledge and truth, and unlike his own other works, in The Phenomenology of Spirit, Hegel does not directly look into the practice of the quest or the nature of the knowledge and truth; instead he investigates the quest through the investigation of how consciousness operates, which could be reasonably deemed as a continuation of the venture started by Kant in CPR although Hegel has a very different agenda and different perspectives for the venture. To Hegel, it is clear that everything in the universe is the manifestation of the Idea of Spirit, so certainly is the consciousness, and thus the reason and the spirit of each individual, and accordingly the whole world, the whole history is the self-realization of Spirit. Therefore, the building block of his Phenomenology of Spirit is the universality of the operation or movement of the consciousness (just like universal molecules are the building blocks of the biochemistry), and from there he not only looks into the universality of abstract and concrete knowledge (e.g. categories) and the individuality of behavior, but more importantly, looks into the collective social behavior as the manifestation of the grand social consciousness (Reason).

However, when digging into the operation or behavior of consciousness, it is inevitably for Hegel to notice that what lies in the core of human consciousness is the fact that we know what we know (i.e. the self-consciousness, which to him is the most important nature of Spirit so that he even equals Spirit to Self-consciousness), just like Kant has to deal with the apperception as the supreme principle of understanding.

Therefore, it is critically important to read The Phenomenology of Spirit as an investigation of how consciousness including self-consciousness operates to know the world and life, and to drive the individuals and society to act, so to form the culture and history as the self-revelation and realization of Spirit. Otherwise, if we take his discussions on consciousness and self-consciousness only as metaphors to life contents, instead of how consciousness and self-consciousness create and build those life contents, then it would like to use molecules as the metaphors of the biological bodies, instead of the building blocks of the biological bodies, and we would utterly get lost in his idiosyncratic use of language in The Phenomenology of Spirit, and we would have difficulty to understand why he would consider self-consciousness as desire and why he call self-consciousness as reality.

In terms of the relationship between Reason, Spirit, Absolute Idea, and Self-consciousness, Hegel often consider all the others as different aspects of Spirit. For example, he mentioned in The Phenomenology of Spirit: {REASON is spirit, when its certainty of being all reality has been raised to the level of truth, and reason is consciously aware of itself as its own world, and of the world as itself. } (Translated by by J B Baillie)

Now let’s come to the Chapter IV that you are focusing on in the paper. Here we face such a simple question whether Hegel allegorically use self-consciousness to demonstrate the relationship between the lordship and bondsman, or the opposite. If we dig into the text sentence by sentence of the section “Lord and Bondsman” in Chapter IV, then it would not be difficult for us to find that the discussion of how self-consciousness operates is the central theme of Chapter IV, and the relationship between the lordship and bondsman is a metaphor used to serve that central theme.

However, that does not mean the discussion about the relationship between the lordship and bondsman itself does not have any direct revelation about the true relationship of lordship and bondsman in real world. This is for two reasons: 1) The description of the relationship of lordship and bondsman is not purely fabricated empty imagination, but rather based on his own observation of real life scenarios; more importantly, 2) as mentioned earlier, The Phenomenology of Spirit is a work to look into the world and life by investigating how consciousness and self-consciousness operates, and thus it would be naturally meaningful for Hegel to look into the real relationship of lordship and bondsman during his discussion of how consciousness and self-consciousness operates.

Therefore, the challengingly confusing part of the section “Lord and Bondsman” in Chapter IV is the mix of allegorical analysis of how self-consciousness operates using the metaphor of master and slave with the analogy of that analysis back to the real life relationship of lord and bondsman. This indeed is a pervasive style in the book The Phenomenology of Spirit, and thus one of the reasons that make it hard to read. Still, the central theme here is self-consciousness instead of the relationship of master and slave. The reason is quite simple: if this section is not about self-consciousness but about the relationship of master and slave, then it would be definitely elaborated in a very different way, since the description of the relationship of master and slave in this section is so partial and meager, while its depiction of self-consciousness is so thorough and rich.

Now let’s take a look at the passages relating to “recognition” in the section “Lord and Bondsman” in Chapter IV (Translated by by J B Baillie). The word “recognition”, or “recognize” or “recognized”, or “recognizing” appear in sections Φ 178, Φ 184 - Φ 188, and Φ 191, where the meanings of recognition in sections Φ 184 - Φ 186 are unambiguously about how self-consciousness operates as follows:

{Φ 184. …..Consciousness finds that it immediately is and is not another consciousness, as also that this other is for itself only when it cancels itself as existing for itself , and has self-existence only in the self-existence of the other. Each is the mediating term to the other, through which each mediates and unites itself with itself; and each is to itself and to the other an immediate self-existing reality, which, at the same time, exists thus for itself only through this mediation. They recognize themselves as mutually recognizing one another.

Φ 185. This pure conception of recognition, of duplication of self-consciousness within its unity, we must now consider in the way its process appears for self-consciousness. It will, in the first place, present the aspect of the disparity of the two, or the break-up of the middle term into the extremes, which, qua extremes, are opposed to one another, and of which one is merely recognized, while the other only recognizes.

Φ 186. …..By the notion of recognition, however, this is not possible, except in the form that as the other is for it, so it is for the other; each in its self through its own action and again through the action of the other achieves this pure abstraction of existence for self.}

…….

Complication first appears in section Φ 178, where the first “recognition” is undoubtedly about how self-consciousness operates but the second one, the capitalized Recognition, obviously refers to a social behavior, just like Reason as a collective social consciousness differs from reasons. As mentioned earlier, this is not in conflict with the general theme of The Phenomenology of Spirit at all. Both the Recognition in this paragraph and Reason in other places all directly belong to Spirit self, although all recognitions and reasons are operated by the all-powerful Spirit in general:

{Φ 178. SELF-CONSCIOUSNESS exists in itself and for itself, in that, and by the fact that it exists for another self-consciousness; that is to say, it is only by being acknowledged or “recognized”. 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.}

Confusion about the “recognition” in sections Φ 187, Φ 188, and Φ 191 might arise because of the mentioning of master and slave, as well as death and life:

{Φ 187. ….. The individual, who has not staked his life, may, no doubt, be recognized as a Person; but he has not attained the truth of this recognition as an independent self-consciousness. In the same way each must aim at the death of the other, as it risks its own life thereby; for that other is to it of no more worth than itself; the other’s reality is presented to the former as an external other, as outside itself; it must cancel that externality. …..

Φ 188. This trial by death, however, cancels both the truth which was to result from it, and therewith the certainty of self altogether. For just as life is the natural “position” of consciousness, independence without absolute negativity, so death is the natural “negation” of consciousness, negation without independence, which thus remains without the requisite significance of actual recognition. Through death, doubtless, there has arisen the certainty that both did stake their life, and held it lightly both in their own case and in the case of the other; but that is not for those who underwent this struggle. …...

Φ 191. In these two moments, the master gets his recognition through an other consciousness, for in them the latter affirms itself as unessential, both by working upon the thing, and, on the other hand, by the fact of being dependent on a determinate existence; in neither case can this other get the mastery over existence, and succeed in absolutely negating it. We have thus here this moment of recognition, viz. that the other consciousness cancels itself as self-existent, and, ipso facto, itself does what the first does to it. …... But for recognition proper there is needed the moment that what the master does to the other he should also do to himself, and what the bondsman does to himself, he should do to the other also. On that account a form of recognition has arisen that is one-sided and unequal.}

But still, as long as we remember that Hegel explores human quest of knowledge and truth as well as human social behavior through his investigation of how consciousness and self-consciousness operates, just like the biochemists investigate the biological bodies by looking into how molecules behave instead of using molecules as metaphors, then we can handle the complications arisen in the above paragraphs with ease.

Hope this might help.

Ron

 

 


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