This will be the reading for Saturday, January 18th’s meeting. We will meet at 4:00 here.
In this portion of the Phenomenology, we finally see the emergence of something recognizable as a thinking person. Servile self-consciousness found a measure of independence in fearful work, and through this independence discovered freedom of thought, in which the distinction between master and slave became null. The master was supposed to be essential, while the slave was inessential; now, the free self-consciousness sees both the essential and inessential within itself. This freedom passes through three moments. The initial moment is stoicism, which is the attempt to ignore the world in favor of one’s own detached view on it; eventually, this detached view runs amuck and becomes skepticism, which completely negates the world that stoicism was merely detached from. The skeptic attempts to purify thought of anything inessential; yet in its complete negation of any determinate position, it constantly vacillates between falling into bullshit fanciful opinions and that higher hope of a purified knowledge. Skepticism eventually recognizes that it is split between these two poles, and becomes the unhappy consciousness, a position which is anxiously trapped between the knowledge of its own Earthbound particularity and the inaccessibility of an unchangeable beyond.
This is one of the readings for Saturday, December 14.
Last week, we saw the passage from being conscious of inanimate objects to being conscious of one’s self via a relation with another person. Self-consciousness can only be self-consciousness when it has a double object: its own independence and negativity and the independence and negativity of another. Consciousness can negate an apple, but only another person can negate themselves – that is, cry uncle.
Two consciousnesses staked their independence and attempted to negate one another; one was willing to die, and so became the master, an apparently fully-developed self-consciousness. The other was not willing to die, and so in concert with the master’s negation, partially negated themselves and became the slave. The slave maintained his “independence” by becoming an inert object merely in relation to other inert objects. Those other inert objects – like an apple orchard – can be completely negated or enjoyed by the master, while the slave merely works on them. In short, the slave will find his own form of self-consciousness by picking apples.
Overview (until the end of ¶190):
Consciousness is characterised in all its stages by trying to know an object that is “outside” consciousness, but finally it is forced back on itself and we reach self-consciousness. Self-consciousness is desire and as such sustains itself only in the face of an outside (“life”) that must constantly be negated so that self-consciousness can be itself. However, self-consciousness only attains its truth in being the object of another self-consciousness. This recognition of two self-consciousness causes a battle almost to the death, the result of which is a winner (the lord or master) and the loser (the bondsman or slave).