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date: 20 June 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter argues that the wide range of topics that Hegel considers in the chapter of the Phenomenology of Spirit titled “Self-Consciousness”—including desire, recognition, death, work, and spirit—are all components of a non-genetic account of the self-conscious experience enjoyed by all persons. For Hegel, self-consciousness is essentially practical insofar as it involves a desiring relation to objects, and it is essentially social insofar as that relation becomes self-consciousness only through the recognition of other subjects whose ends constrain one’s own desiring activity. Hegel presents this position on self-consciousness through the figure of the bondsman that relates to itself as a subject only by recognizing the authority of others. This chapter concludes by considering how Hegel’s rethinking of the norms of self-conscious thought and action as ‘spirit’ both grounds his position on the unboundedness of cognitive capacities and makes necessary an examination of the historical development of spirit.

Keywords: Hegel, self-consciousness, recognition, desire, spirit, death, work

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