Hegel on Self-Consciousness

Hegel on Self-Consciousness: Desire and Death in the Phenomenology of Spirit

Robert B. Pippin
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 120
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  • Book Info
    Hegel on Self-Consciousness
    Book Description:

    In the most influential chapter of his most important philosophical work, thePhenomenology of Spirit, Hegel makes the central and disarming assertions that "self-consciousness is desire itself" and that it attains its "satisfaction" only in another self-consciousness.Hegel on Self-Consciousnesspresents a groundbreaking new interpretation of these revolutionary claims, tracing their roots to Kant's philosophy and demonstrating their continued relevance for contemporary thought.

    As Robert Pippin shows, Hegel argues that we must understand Kant's account of the self-conscious nature of consciousness as a claim in practical philosophy, and that therefore we need radically different views of human sentience, the conditions of our knowledge of the world, and the social nature of subjectivity and normativity. Pippin explains why this chapter of Hegel'sPhenomenologyshould be seen as the basis of much later continental philosophy and the Marxist, neo-Marxist, and critical-theory traditions. He also contrasts his own interpretation of Hegel's assertions with influential interpretations of the chapter put forward by philosophers John McDowell and Robert Brandom.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-3694-9
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Introductory Remarks
    (pp. 1-5)

    One of Hegel’s main concerns in the revolutionary book he wrote in the German city of Jena while only in his thirties, hisPhenomenology of Spirit, is a familiar modern philosophical concern: the attempt to understand the various competencies involved in distinctly human sentience, sapience, and agency, and, especially and above all in Hegel’s project, the complex inter-relations among all such competencies. So there are in his unprecedented book accounts of sensory receptivity, perception, judgment, generalization, inference, self-consciousness, nomic necessity, justification, as well as of intention, purpose, practical reason, linguistic community, and sociality in general. Hegel’s account is unusual in...

  5. Chapter One On Hegel’s Claim That Self-Consciousness Is “Desire Itself” (Begierde überhaupt)
    (pp. 6-53)

    Kant held that what distinguishes an object in our experience from the mere subjective play of representations is rule-governed unity. His famous definition of an object is just “that in the concept of which a manifold is united” (B137). This means that consciousness itself must be understood as a discriminating, unifying activity, paradigmatically as judging, and not as the passive recorder of sensory impressions. Such a claim opens up a vast territory of possibilities and questions since Kant does not mean that our awake attentiveness is to be understood as something weintentionally do, in the standard sense, even if...

  6. Chapter Two On Hegel’s Claim That “Self-Consciousness Finds Its Satisfaction Only in Another Self-Consciousness”
    (pp. 54-87)

    You all at this moment know what you are doing—reading a book about Hegel, let us say—and, as Elizabeth Anscombe among others made famous, you know it not by observation (the way you would know that someone else is reading something) nor by inference from observation. You know it justbyengaging in such activity and sustaining that activity. Likewise, you know what you believe I mean to be saying without inspecting some mental inventory of your beliefs or any other mental items. You know it by knowing what you take me to be saying. Likewise, “knowing” what...

  7. Concluding Remarks
    (pp. 88-98)

    In ¶184, Hegel sums up what he takes himself to have shown to be the basic “movement,” as he calls it, of self-consciousness. Self-consciousness, that is, is never the direct presence of anything like a “self-object” to itself; it is a processual or dynamic self-relation that is to be achieved. Self-constituting self-construals (taking oneself to know something or taking oneself to be committed to doing something) are as mere avowals only provisional and are redeemable as such only in the future and with others. We have just seen why Hegel thinks that such a self-consciousness, construed this way, can only...

  8. Index
    (pp. 99-103)