Hegel's Phenomenology: class on par 124 (Miller)


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8 responses to “Hegel's Phenomenology: class on par 124 (Miller)

  1. João V

    I’m sorry the class was canceled.
    On my part i would like to reiterate my full interest in attending the classes.

  2. WYate

    In lieu of lecture this week maybe we could give our own provisional readings of 124 in the forum and debate? It’s a very difficult paragraph and I doubt we’ll make much substantive progress, but it will at least sharpen our questions and give us better focus next week on wiziq.

  3. Agreed. Why don’t you kick off then? 🙂

  4. João V

    Hi Robbert, William and all,

    I’ll kick off then:
    Parg. 124:
    The essence, or truth, of the thing in paragraph 124 appears as determinateness, appears as being a one with properties, but this determinateness has an essencial and unessencial side.

    The essencial side is the determinateness by which a thing has a different from other things, the unessential, the determinateness by which a thing has a difference within itself.

    The contradiction of the play between the one and the properties in a thing becomes, here, the unessencial, being the essence the difference by which this play, in each thing , in relation to other things, is a determinateness of difference from, or contradiction with, these other things.

    The effort here seems to be the turning of that which was a contradiction in the thing – the play between the one and the properties – into that by which a thing can be determined as different from other things, for that consciousness takes that play, or contradiction within the thing, as unessential for the thing’s integrity when relating with itself, but as essencial when relating to other things as this play, in that relation with other things becomes in each thing a factor, or a determination, of difference by which the thing, each thing, is asserted as being for itself.

    The problem right here is that one and the same thing, meaning, the properties, are essencial and unessential, are essencial inasmuch as they are determinateness of difference from other things and unessential inasmuch as they are difference within each thing.

    I would say paragraph 124 ends with this suggestion or hint to a problem, or problems, with this solution. We see consciousness, i think, falling into an impossible position, because that which is deemed unessential, the difference within the thing, is at the same that that by which the thing is being posited as in its truth, so that, without this difference which is being said unessential, the difference within, there would be no difference by which the essence of the thing is posited, there would be no difference from other things. (The multiplicity of properties, which is unessential difference within the thing as one, is what is being posited as essential when positing difference from other things.)

    And along with this contradiction between an unessential which is, really, essential, we also find that this difference between essential and unessential can only be posited by consciousness, contradicting, thus, the presupposition of natural consciousness in having the true in the thing as independent from consciousness activity – Perception, although not admittingly so, is in fact “organizing” its object as well as its truth in an effort to make a match.

  5. João V


    Please read “essential” and “unessential” where i wrotte “essencial” and “unessencial”, as these last, and incorrect, forms are made up hybrids of portuguese and english.

  6. WYate

    Hi Robbert,

    I just added a new discussion topic in the forum devoted to §124. I started off with my sentence-by-sentence reading of the paragraph, then attempted a summary. I invite the other students to join me in some preliminary discussion before class on Friday.

    I do have two questions for you though:

    1. When we last discussed this chapter I suggested a similarity to Locke’s secondary qualities and as I recall you thought this was an apt comparison. In attempting to interpret §124 in detail, however, I have come to the opposite conclusion. Below I am pasting the relevant section of my unfortunately rather long interpretation in the forum:

    [Sentence 7 of §124] “Consequently, the thing does indeed have the twofold ‘insofar’ within its unity, but the aspects are unequal in value.”

    The “insofar” is a reference to §123: “[Consciousness] would have to say that _insofar_ as it is for itself, the thing is _not_ for an other.” _Insofar_ as the object is a unity within itself, it is _not_ the properties that consciousness sees in it. This sounds like pretty straightforward Lockean secondary qualities. The essential difference is like a primary quality: the thing’s essence, what it truly is. And the manifold constitution of properties—the determinate properties that express the essential difference—are like secondary qualities.

    But I think this is deceiving, for in Locke secondary qualities do not find their cause in the object. They are subjective or observer-dependent. But I think in Hegel the “manifold constitution” aspect is not merely subjective. Each essentially different object is a _unique_ simple determinateness (see my possible answer to my question about sentence 4). Its manifold constitution only shows up as manifold (as properties) when consciousness holds that object in opposition to another. And in this sense it may seem like Hegel is similar to Locke, because the manifold constitution only shows up as properties _for_ consciousness. But the object actually has these “properties” independently of consciousness, only they aren’t properties yet. This is what is meant by “simple determinateness” and “essential difference.” The simple determinate object really does have a manifold constitution in the sense that consciousness doesn’t just imagine it or read it into it. It’s just that the object only shows up as having a manifold constitution _for consciousness_, whereas in itself it is just a simple, unique determinacy.

    2. In your summary of Perception, you describe the two differences as follows:

    “the difference that is internal to the Thing that is inessential, and the difference that is between one Thing and another, that it claims to be essential.”

    My conclusion was the opposite: The essential difference is the simple determinateness that the object is in itself; the inessential difference is the “manifold constitution” that only shows up for consciousness.


  7. WYate

    Hi Joao,

    I didn’t see your responses when I posted. I have just started a discussion of §124 in the forum. My interpretation is rather long and I wouldn’t wish my worst enemy to have to read it all, but it has helped me work out an interpretation of the paragraph, and one good thing I’ve done is to separate and number the nine sentences of the paragraph. This will facilitate discussion of disputed points.

    As I just wrote to Robbert, I have the diametrically opposed reading of yours and his. As you put it:

    “The essencial side is the determinateness by which a thing has a different from other things, the unessential, the determinateness by which a thing has a difference within itself.”

    Perhaps we should move this discussion over to the forum? I will repost this and other questions about your interpretation there.


  8. João V

    Very good Will. I must go now for a few hours but i’ll “meet” you in the forum later.


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