The Phenomenology of Mind HTML version

This aspect of social existence can be over−emphasized and may be regarded at times as the sole nature of
society. The result can only lead to confusion. Such a conception of society may perhaps be said to be found
where, as in certain economic conceptions of society, society is viewed as a herd of self−interested units each
pursuing his own individual ends. It is also seen in certain historical forms of national polity which recur
from time to time.]]
THE above substantial individuality, to begin with, is again single and determinate. Absolute reality, which it
knows itself to be, is thus, in the way it becomes consciously aware of that reality, abstractly universal,
without filling and content, merely the empty thought of this category. We have to see how this conception of
substantial individuality is made explicit in its various moments, and how it comes to be conscious of its true
The conception of this individuality, as it takes itself as such to be all reality, is in the first instance a mere
result: its own movement and reality are not yet set forth; it is here in its immediacy as something purely and
simply implicit. Negativity, however, which is the same as what appears as movement and process, is
inherent in this implicit state as a determinate quality; and being, i.e. the simple implicit state, comes to be a
determinate compass or range of being. Individuality confronts us, therefore, as an original determinate
nature: original, in virtue of its being implicit: originally determinate, in virtue of the negative moment lying
in that implicitness, which negative element is thereby a quality. This limitation cannot, however, limit the
action of consciousness, for this consists at the present stage in thorough and complete relation of itself to
itself: relation to what is other than itself, which its limitation would involve, is now overcome. The character
inherent originally by nature is thus merely an undefined (simple) principle, a transparent universal element
in which individuality finds itself free and at one with itself, as well as unfolds its diversity without restraint,
and in realizing itself is simply in reciprocal relation with itself. We have here something similar to what we
find in the case of indeterminate animal life: this breathes the breath of life, let us say, into water as its
element, or air or earth, and within these again into still more determinate conditions: every aspect of its life
is affected by the specific element, and yet animal life still keeps these aspects within its power and itself a
unity in spite of the limitations of the element, and remains qua the given particular organization animal life
throughout, the same general fact of animal life.
This determinate original nature of consciousness, in which it finds itself freely and wholly, appears as the
immediate and only proper content of the purpose of the individual. That content is indeed a definite content,
but is only content so far as we take the implicit nature in isolation. In truth, however, it is reality (Realitat)
permeated by individuality: actuality (Wirklichkeit) in the way consciousness qua individual contains this
within itself, and is to begin with taken as existing, but not yet as acting. So far as action is concerned,
however, that determinateness is, in one respect, not a limitation it wants to overcome; for, looked at as an
existent quality, that determinateness is simply the colour of the element where it moves: in another respect,
however, the negativity is determinateness merely in the case of what "exists". But acting is nothing else than
negativity. Hence when individuality acts, its specific determinateness is dissipated into the general process
of negation, into the sum and substance of all determinateness.
The simple "original nature" now breaks up, in action and the consciousness of action, into the distinction
which action implies. To begin with, action is here an object, an object, too, still belonging to consciousness;
it is present as a purpose, and thus opposed to a given reality. The other moment is the process of this
statically presented purpose, the process of actualization of the purpose, bringing the purpose to bear on the
entirely formal reality, and hence is the idea of the transition itself. In other words, this second moment is the
"means". The third moment is, finally, the object, no longer as immediately and subjectively presented