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The Phenomenology of Mind

1. It is difficult to find a current English equivalent for this term (die Sache Selbst). "Fact itself" or "actual
fact" does not seem to convey much meaning. It seems best to try to bring out the significance implied, even
though at the sacrifice of literal translation.
[[Translator's comments: The next step in the development of individuality is to bring out the universal
conditions of its co−existence with other individualities. This it can do because it is complete in itself, and is
essentially self−conscious reason. These conditions are many, because of the diversity of its own content and
of the relations in which it stands; and are yet the conditions of individuality which is one and single. Hence
their plurality never implies a separation; the conditions limit each other's operation and their precise
operation must be determined.
These, then, are the two stages in determining the general conditions or laws of co−existence of individuality:
(1) the enunciation of different laws by and for rational individuality, (2) the relation of these laws inter se,
and to the single principle from which they all proceed. Both stages owe their existence to the activity of
reason. Reason promulgates laws, and criticizes, tests the validity of, the laws.
Hence the two following sections.]]
SPIRITUAL essential reality is, in its bare existence, pure consciousness, and also this self−consciousness.
The originally determinate nature of the individual has lost its positive significance of being inherently the
element and purpose of his activity; it is merely a superseded moment, while the individual is a self in the
sense of a universal self. Conversely the formal "real intent" gets its filling from active self−differentiating
individuality; for the distinctions within individuality compose the content of that universal. The category is
implicit (an sich) as the universal of pure consciousness; it is also explicit (fer sich), for the self of
consciousness is likewise its moment. It is absolute being, for that universality is the bare self−identity of
Thus what is object for consciousness has (now) the significance of being the true; it is and it holds good, in
the sense of being and holding good by itself as an independent entity (an und fer sich selbst). It is the
"absolute fact", which no longer suffers from the opposition of certainty and its truth, between universal and
individual, between purpose and its reality, but whose existence is the reality and action of
self−consciousness. This "fact" is therefore the ethical substance; and consciousness of it is ethical
consciousness. Its object is likewise taken to be the truth, for it combines self−consciousness and being in a
single unity. It stands for what is absolute, for self−consciousness cannot and will not again go beyond this
object because it is there at home with itself: it cannot, for the object is all power, and all being: it will not,
because the object is its self, or the will of this self. It is the real object inherently as object, for it contains and
involves the distinction which consciousness implies. It divides itself into areas or spheres (Massen) which
are the determinate laws of the absolute reality [viz. the ethical substance]. These spheres, however, do not
obscure the notion, for the moments (being, bare consciousness and self) are kept contained within it−−a
unity which constitutes the inner nature of these spheres, and no longer lets these moments in this distinction
fall apart from one another.
These laws or spheres (Massen) of the substance of ethical life are directly recognized and acknowledged.
We cannot ask for their origin and justification, nor is there something else to search for as their warrant; for
something other than this independent self−subsistent reality (an und fer sich seyendes Wesen) could only be
self−consciousness itself. But self−consciousness is nothing else than this reality, for itself is the