Hegel Phenomenology | Sense certainty #1

The knowledge that for us is the first and immediate form of consciousness, can be no other knowledge than what is immediate knowledge, knowledge of the immediate, that is knowledge of being.

A knowledge that takes its objects, the whole world, in an immediate manner, just the way it is without any change, has to be considered by us in the same immediate manner without any change.

The true, the in itself of the object, for this consciousness, is the object as it is found immediately within consciousness.  That immediacy is the truth of the object and therefore also the criterion that this consciousness uses for the truth of its knowledge.

For this knowledge the truth is  the immediate harmony of knowledge with the object as given immediately within consciousness, and within this harmony the in itself, the truth of the object is known.

We can therefore distinguish three separate elements:

  • Knowledge of the in itself as the true in the sense of immediacy. Immediate being is the criterion.
  • The object of this knowledge as this, here and now. Whatever is given and found within consciousness.
  • The truth of the object posited by  knowledge as its immediacy or the immediacy of being.

The object that is known by this consciousness, is the world in as far as it can be given and found within consciousness to its full extent. Therefore it seems to be the richest knowledge, without limit in space and time. Consciousness can move toward the infinite both by expanding its attention to the end of the cosmos and by concentrating its attention to the micro-cosmos.

This knowledge seems to be the most true as well.  Because it takes its objects just the way it is, without any change, addition or subtraction, this consciousness seems to know the in itself of its object, the essence.

In its expression however, this knowledge is the poorest.  Its truth is only this, that it is, the being of the object, a pure immediacy and a pure relation to itself: this is this. This category of being applies to everything that is without any distinction, indifferent as to their existence or reality, how they are, how they are determined.  This being as such is one indeterminate determination, a determination without content, that is the most abstract of all categories.

The immediate certainty of an object as a this that is, has an enormous variety of content, a wealth of properties and relations, but it cannot express these.  In explaining its truth, in the attempt to hold all the today’s wealth of determinations without losing anything, it has to resort to a category of indeterminacy and immediacy, that has no distinction within itself and no determination: being.  There is a difference between the expression of this truth, and the inner movements and mediations that are presupposed in it.

If such a consciousness has to express itself, it cannot even use the category of its truth, i.e. being.  In fact to be consistent, it can only give an example of itself.  Being there for me expresses the truth of its object, but the truth of its object is not its true object.

The true object of sense certainty is something that is taken as a being but not something that is taken as (identical to) being. If the object for sense certainty e.g. is a this here and now, it is night, a color, a tree.  Whatever its object is, it is affirmed simply as a being: this here and now IS. To affirm however this being as this being, with the aid of the category of being, implies a relation between that category – the general way of affirming any object -and the object, which is an example of that category. Being turns out to be a universal because it is applied to the real object of sense certainty, while remaining distinct, the Universal is not identical to its examples, and yet the only thing that is said about the examples, is precisely the categorical determination of being.

This relation between the Universal that is being and the examples that are a being, is a form of mediation.  The one is only because of the other, with which it is not identical. Being is not identical to a being, nevertheless the content of any being is simply the content of the Universal: being, i.e. being given or being found within consciousness.

This distinction between being and a being, between the Universal and the example, this mediation therefore, is not just found within our philosophical observation.  This distinction is part of sense certainty itself.

We have found it as a distinction that shows itself both in the object and in the subject of knowledge.  The subject of knowledge is also a mediated as a universal because every singular case of a consciousness implies a subject is certainty as an example of the Universal. The subject in the object both show the same kind of mediation.

Our reflection shows the inner paradox of this consciousness by a fairly simple logical analysis. The subject of consciousness is on the one hand for us essential, immediately given, it IS just like the object in that respect; and on the other hand, to itself it is non-essential, mediated and dependent upon its object. The object IS even when the subject is not.

The object is for it the primary essence, immediately given, and yet it is also – for us – mediated and dependent upon a subject. To us it seems obvious therefore that the mediation is reciprocal and belongs to the character of knowledge itself.  However, within immediate sense certainty itself, this kind of mutual mediation cannot be expressed.  Immediate certainty takes the object as the truth and itself, its knowledge in the subject of this knowledge, as untrue.  It claims that the object is immediately and in reality, even without the knowledge of the subject.  This knowledge does not yet affirm that the immediate certainty is a reciprocal mediation that implies that both subject and object have been posited in their relation in a certain way.

It accepts mediation, the untrue, only on the side of the subject.  It posits the immediate being, the essential or true, as something that is independent of anything else, objective being.

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2 responses to “Hegel Phenomenology | Sense certainty #1

  1. jagdish

    Excellent summary of all that we’ve read in the sessions thus far. In the festive spirit of the season let me suggest that the distinction you make between being as a category as against an instance of being might be also illustrated by the the distinction we make between Santa Claus as an abstract universal category and the various instances of individual santa clauses operating across the globe at this time of year – the one not being identical to the other but to which it nevertheless refers.

  2. …all of which would imply that American Xmas is a festival of immediate sense certainty.

    Hope you had a good Xmas this year, with lots of instances of Gift. 🙂

    Happy New Year!

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