Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit (1807)


Key Quote:

                “For this consciousness has been fearful, not of this or that particular thing or just at odd moments, but its whole being has been seized with dread; for it has experienced the fear of death, the absolute Lord. In that experience it has been quite unmanned, has trembled in every fiber of its being, and everything solid and stable has been shaken to its foundations. But this pure universal      movement, the absolute melting-away of everything stable is the simple, essential nature of self- consciousness, absolute negativity, pure being-for-self, which consequently is implicit in this      consciousness. The moment of pure being-for-self is also explicit for the bondsman for in the lord it exists for him as his object. Furthermore, his consciousness is not this dissolution of everything    stable merely in principle; in his service he actually brings this about. Through his service he rids himself of his attachment to natural existence in every single detail; and gets rid of it by working on it.”


There is a progression of the mind from sensory perception, to understanding, and then reason, consummated in the German state as Geist. The mechanism is the Dialectic with Freedom in the bureaucratic state its highest manifestation as revealed by codified laws.


Hegel had a philosophy of language that revealed the stages of consciousness in both individuals and cultures.


The Dialectic in his philosophy of consciousness in its development works with a thesis, antithesis, and then synthesis. The Unhappy Consciousness is pathological until freedom removes its constraints. The consciousness is “for itself and in itself,” which means that an individual entity or collectivity must have self-awareness while history unfolds ineluctably towards its end.


A problem in Hegel is the objectification of the Other in the master/slave relation, evidenced in alienation from the Spirit. The individual achieves freedom through the activity of work. How can we know the other? Through work, there comes about a state of mutual recognition and reciprocity. There might be moments when historic actors kill the hostile Other to win freedom. There is a celebration of Bastille Day and the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen (1791, which has a universal application


Historicism works in Hegel’s logic of history where the forces in the conflict among cultures culminate in the Absolute, which is the universe of freedom where contradiction in the contingency of existence reconciles itself to the ideals of emancipation. The Absolute is the Reschtsstaat, which is the rule of law in the civil service in an era where modern Germany is emerging under Napoleonic domination. Germany becomes “great” as it rids itself of the tyrant and expands beyond its borders, fashioned during the Middle Ages, because it embodies Geist and virtue and is not corrupt like the French occupiers.


Phenomenology is the study of appearances in contrast to reality. The philosopher has to ascertain the logic of the phenomenon by recovering the “lost” self through labor and ultimately by dialoguing with others. The master is very dependent upon the slave. Hence, slavery provides a thesis in history; work is its antithesis; and killing the master and appropriating his property becomes the synthesis of the Happy Consciousness in which subject and the object become transcended into a unity and history ends. The states of history can be described progressively as mythology, metaphysics, and science. Mythology is religious fundamentalism in which history has its most abstract disembodiment. Metaphysics is the study of the ultimate nature of reality in general. Particularity and emancipation come with science as it objectifies reality by controlling nature and human nature. The Dialectic blends these contrasts of parts into the emergent whole, which is a series of overlapping dynamic events.


Hegel is a reaction to Enlightenment reason of Kant where thinking is purely abstract and archetypal. Hegel reformulates reason in dialectical form where the real is rational and the rational is real. Marx still believed that both Kant and Hegel had it wrong. Reason is illusory and gives us ideology where it becomes presented in fictions in a world where social productivity creates a society’s labor value. This labor value is the residue of class conflict culminating in the communist society where all contradictions have been overcome.





William Edward Burghardt Du Bois (1868-1963)

Professor Du bois wrote this classic and empirical social science study of the condition of black people in the United States at the turn of the twentieth century, called The Souls of Black Folks: Essays and Sketches (1903). Except for an elite minority of African Americans, the plight of the black masses was deplorable. What emerged from this work was the concept of a double consciousness in blacks that they were alienated by biological racism from the mainstream of the white population in both the industrial North and the semi-feudal South, ruled by a hereditary caste system that was not broken until the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s under President Johnson.

A double consciousness is the self divided by an awareness of being black and looking at yourself as a thing or object from a black person’s perception of being reified by white hate and loathing. Given their distressed economic condition in which education was virtually limited to manual training because of the misconception of the limited intelligence of whites, black people developed a conception of being a stranger in their own house. Dr. Du Bois believed that the top tenth of the black educated would lead the masses through liberal education into the promised land of a biracial democracy with equality in rights, institutionalized in practice. By recovering your pride and hence the alienated self-consciousness of blacks from being defined by the Other (the oppressive white man with his system of racial apartheid), a true emancipation would be the result. Du Bois borrowed heavily from the master/slave relationship of Hegel in which even the master is the slave when he is dependent upon stereotyping the Other and hence objectifying him. By doing so, he himself lives in a delusional world with the presumption of racial superiority that is not biological in origin but politically and economically conditioned. Du Bois became a radical who would accept nothing less than his full constitutional rights for both himself and his race. His main concepts pivoted about racism, classism, nationalism, and imperialism. He thought that the ensuing struggle would have international characteristics; hence, he was heavily influenced by Marx’s Dialectic and historical materialism.

Du Bois felt ambivalent in the white world. He believed that white people viewed him as a generic object. Even though he was accomplished, he felt that he would never be given respect for his racial identity or given due recognition of his accomplishments. White people viewed all black people generically, as deviant from a human, white norm. That could only be overcome by education and racial struggle (even violence in which you kill the master). The Subject/Object schizoid personality dwelling in the black soul had to be sublimated by constructing a new man—the African American in which he attained Freedom. Race, class, achievement, and culture were the criteria to attain the Absolute in Freedom. The oppressed had to confront his oppressor to regain his humanity, even if violence resulted. The shedding of blood sanctified black manhood and virility in a new America that would be socialist, because workers and women, too, had to be included in a redeemed democracy true to the ideal of the Founding Fathers. Eventually, Dr. Du Bois saw the struggle entailed a global dimension in order to free a world historical Africa from European domination. Marx influenced Du Bois to realize that class distinctions were a cause in racism, even though not the only one. Racism was the other major factor. The blind worship of the God of Money led to the need to have cheap labor. The capitalist in alliance with the Southern Bourbon, by demeaning whole categories of others, such as workers, women, and people of color, as inherently sinful and genetically inferior, gave the powers that be the ideological justification to pay merely subsistence wages, since any raise in wages would not only drive down

profits but augment the embrace of lifestyles incompatible with the work discipline of the masses. Hence, racism has an economic rationale; there is also a dynamic of social psychology in which whites feel superior as an inbred quality of their race, hence, forgetting that the white workers had common grounds with black workers to look at the powers that be that are dominant in the political economy.


Concepts of Dr. Du Bois


Talented Tenth

The Veil



Master/Slave relationship

The Dialectic




Sorrow Songs


Double Consciousness


The Atlanta Compromise