The Owl of Minerva 25 (1):15-21 (1993)
AbstractThe struggle for self-consciousness in the Phenomenology of Spirit is fraught with false achievements. In sense-certainty, consciousness is aware of itself as consciousness of an object, but this awareness of self is thoroughly mediated by the object, which remains the essential element in the relation until this view collapses with the untenability of the theory of force. As self-certainty, consciousness then becomes immediately aware of itself, and so seems to have achieved real self-consciousness. But such is not the case, since self-consciousness requires the recognition of others; certainty of self must be raised to the level of truth. This is easier said than done. The ensuing dialectical passage from the life-and-death struggle through the unhappy consciousness seems to end in failure - at least up until the very end, when, out of despair, the individuals sacrifice their sense of self only to regain it through the action of the mediating counselor. In renouncing their one-sided claims to self-consciousness, the alienated consciousnesses who confess their misery gain precisely what had seemed irredeemably lost just a moment before. It is a dialectical irony that, though the struggle for recognition began with the individuals’ willingness to risk everything for the sake of self, they achieve genuine self-recognition only when they are willing to risk their sense of self for the sake of everything else.
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