Chapter 5, entitled “Spirit”, has passed through two moments. First, we found that the harmony of the ethical world was unsustainable due to the unstable relation between family and state. Second, we saw that culture inevitably produces alienated individuals, an alienation that is quickly recognized as freedom. The initial attempt to directly realize freedom, the French Revolution, ended in chaos and terror.
The moral worldview is a second attempt to realize freedom, while avoiding anarchy. It must balance freedom and duty. Hegel tackles the moral worldview in its Kantian form, which he characterizes as an interplay between two sides of consciousness: the rational self, which recognizes duty, and the natural self, which is driven by various particular, contingent concerns.
In that interplay between the rational and natural selves, Hegel finds “a whole nest of contradictions.” The rational self seeks after duty, while the natural self seeks happiness. The basic contradiction is this: because both are moments of the self, they are both equally present and cannot be separated. However, the moral, rational self is just as much the essential moment, while the natural self is inessential. Put another way, duty and happiness are equal, but duty is more equal.
This basic contradiction produces a series of other contradictions. Kant does recognize this, and introduces the postulates of freedom, immortality and God in order to resolve them. Hegel criticizes the postulates as a series of insincere dissemblances; basically, the moral worldview constantly shuttles back and forth between universal and particular, duty and happiness, rationality and natural impulses, in an attempt to place the contradictions at an infinite distance.
Self-consciousness becomes tired of this endless displacement, and seeks to establish personal conscience as the ultimate authority. It tries to create a purely moral world, yet discovers that it cannot banish the lower impulses. Hegel’s own solution to the relation between pure duty and the impure impulse to happiness is forgiveness: moral self-consciousness recognizes that one cannot keep their hands clean, and the natural self-consciousness recognizes its complicity in evil. They learn to forgive one another, and true spirit – the I that is we and the we that is I – is actualized in the world.