Notes on Section 210 of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit

Reading through Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit (just to understand Zizek’s “The Most Sublime Hysteric”) and the section on Unhappy Consciousness, I come across this interesting passage that appears problematic
 
From the A.V Miller Translation of Sec. 210
 
“Thus there exist for consciousness three different ways in which individuality is linked with the Unchangeable. Firstly, it again appears to itself as opposed to unchangeable, and is thrown back to the beginning of the struggle which is throughout the element in which the whole relationship subsists. Secondly, consciousness learns that individuality belongs to the unchangeable itself, so that it assumes the form of individuality into which the entire mode of existence passes. Thirdly, it finds its own self as this particular individual in the unchangeable. The first unchangeable it knows only as the alien being who passes judgement on the particular individual; since, secondly the unchangeable is a form of individuality like itself, consciousness becomes, thirdly, spirit, and experiences the joy of finding itself therein and becomes aware of the reconciliation of its individuality with the universal.”
 
Compare that to the Baillie translation
 
“This unity becomes a fact to it, but in the first instance the unity is one in which the diversity of both factors is still the dominant feature. Owing to this, consciousness has before it the threefold way in which particularity is connected with unchangeableness. In one form it comes before itself as opposed to the unchangeable essence, and is thrown back to the beginning of that struggle, which is, from first to last, the principle constituting the entire situation. At another time it finds the unchangeable appearing in the form of particularity; so that the latter is an embodiment of unchangeableness, into which, in consequence, the entire form of existence passes. In the third case, it discovers itself to be this particular fact in the unchangeable. The first unchangeable is taken to be merely the alien, external Being, which passes sentence on particular existence; since the second unchangeable is a form or mode of particularity like itself, it, i.e. the consciousness, becomes in the third place spirit (Geist), has the joy of finding itself therein, and becomes aware within itself that its particularity has been reconciled with the universals.”
 
I will not try to reconcile the two nor recommend a translation, but both seem to point a difficult passage where Hegel uses Einzelheit (particular). Both have two corresponding consequences.
In Miller’s translation, the use of the word individuality, instead of particular, means that individual consciousness will eventually find itself back to the universal after a perilous journey of its own alienation, going back to its own substantial point of emergence. Here, Hegel seems to be pointing at a narrative of the self, going back to itself, reflecting Augustine’s Noli folas ire, in te ipsum redi, in interiore homine, habitat veritas. The impression given here is that the path of consciousness is that of a constant externalization of itself and back again to itself as an individual consciousness reconciled with a universal substance.
 
Baillie’s translation has wide ranging ontological consequences, it introduces a consciousness that is not singular, but particular. Although the translation merely points to a usual classical metaphysical distinction akin to Thomism wherein particulars always reflect the universal or is reconciled with it when the accidents are suspended in the mind, the translation points towards a struggle that is difficult to see in the Miller translation (where individuality and universality reads like an adventure of consciousness back to its own): when the particular is seen as an alien being (das andere, i.e. as an external Other, an obstacle in the Lacanian sense) in the second sense, the reconciliation of the particular with the universal points towards a struggle inherent to the particular-universal relationship. Here, unhappy consciousness implies a struggle with an alien being that can only be experience in its particularity.
What then is the difference between individual and particular in both cases? It seemed to point at the same thing, but the use of individual over particular and vice versa has consequences to any understanding of Hegel and consciousness. The passage quoted above runs after his reflections on Stoicism and Skepticism, both schools have two different ways of seeing thinking and consciousness and its relation to the world. It would seem that Hegel wanted to reconcile stoicism and skepticism and the synthesis is the absolute knowing. However, we are presented with the Unhappy Consciousness (unglückliche Bewußtsein), an “indwardly disrupted consciousness” and “It is itself the gazing of one self-consciousness into another, and itself is both, and the unity of both is also its own essence; but objectively and consciously it is not yet this essence itself — is not yet the unity of both.” Negativity is at the core of the unhappy consciousness, a contradiction that it confronts in the universal.
I think this is an invitation to study further the concept of negativity later on in the Science of Logic. To dispel the idea of a substantial return to itself, the core of the negative core of the dialectic has to be handled and not merely mystified.    
Advertisements
Notes on Section 210 of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s