Hegel, Georg

Assigned: Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich. From Phenomenology of Spirit, “The Master-Slave Dialectic” (549-55) and from Lectures on Fine Art, from Introduction. “The Work of Art as a Product of Human Activity” (555-63). Also read the editors’ introduction (545-48).

From Phenomenology of Spirit

The Master-Slave Dialectic (1807)

1. On 549-50 (§178-§184), how does Hegel characterize the emergence of “self-consciousness”? In what sense is the affirmation of self-consciousness notsimply a matter involving a single individual, but rather a matter between one self-consciousness and another, a matter of recognition? Try to describe the process whereby, according to Hegel, one self-consciousness faces another, and is soon confronted with “ambiguities” (§180-81) pertaining to its own stability.

2. On 550-51 (§185-§187), what is required, according to Hegel, for true “self-certainty” (§186)? Why is it necessary in this regard that there can be nothing short of a “life-and-death struggle” in which “each must seek the other’s death” (§187)? Why wouldn’t an interaction somewhat less violent, less “risk-it-all,” serve the purpose of confirming self-certainty?

3. On 551-52 (§188-§189), how does Hegel analyze the immediate aftermath of this “life-and-death struggle”? How does he describe the two kinds of consciousness that he calls “lord [Herr] and bondsman [Knecht]” (§189)? What happens to the “certainty of self” that the struggle was supposed to confirm? What two essential “moments” does self-consciousness go through to arrive at this outcome in which “lord” and “bondsman” come to exist as “two opposed shapes of consciousness” (§189)?

4. On 552 (§190), how do the lord and bondsman, respectively, relate to each other and to the “thing”? Describe this relationship as accurately as you can for both the lord and the bondsman: in what sense does the lord have a “mediated” relationship with the thing through the bondsman? How does the bondsman take away the thing’s independence, and yet not have the ability to be “altogether done with it”?

5. On 552-53 (§191-§192), after the struggle, what contradiction or problem besets the lord’s attempt to achieve true self-certainty through his conquest of the one now called the bondsman? Why is the outcome of the struggle previously described “a recognition that is one-sided and unequal” (§192), one wherein the lord cannot be “certain of being-for-self as the truth of himself”?

6. On 553 (§193-§194), how does the bondsman’s servitude lead to the surprising development of “a truly independent consciousness” (§193)? In what way does “dread” or the fear of death fundamentally transform the bondsman’s sense of who he is? How does laboring or “work[ing] on” (§194) the thing turn out to be vital to the bondsman’s consciousness?

7. On 553-55 (§195-§196), how is it, further, that “consciousness, qua worker, comes to see in the independent being [of the object] its own independence” (§195)? In other words, how, according to Hegel, does work, as “formative activity” (§196), allow the bondsman to produce his own independent identity? Why is the initial moment of “fear” based on the struggle previously described so necessary to the bondsman in his production of an identity, so that “being-for-self belongs to him…” (§196) and not to the lord?

8. General question: What is your view of Georg Hegel’s model of the development of self-consciousness in “The Master-Slave Dialectic” from Phenomenology of Spirit? That model is clearly predicated on the necessity of a violent struggle and its outcome. To what extent do you believe this view can track the development of humanity across great spans of history? (Marx’s work is an obvious example of adapting the Hegelian model; see Leitch 652-80; cultural studies authors are generally indebted to this influential model as well.) Can you imagine another way to describe the development of self-consciousness, one that does not posit strife as the foundation of certainty? If so, what would it be? If not, why?

From Lectures on Fine Art (1835-38)

From Introduction

The Work of Art as a Product of Human Activity

1. On 555-56 (“As for the first point, that a work…”), how does Hegel moderate between those who say art is merely a skill, and those who say art is entirely a production of genius and not “a product of general human activity” (556 top)? On the one hand, why is it invariably inadequate to talk about artistic production only in terms of mechanical skill? On the other hand, why doesn’t it make sense to dispense with consideration of technical skill and reflection altogether? What considered statement does Hegel make to bring the two disparate viewpoints together? (556)

2. On 557 (“A third view concerning the idea…”), why, according to Hegel, is art superior to the works of nature? What about the fact that the work of art, “regarded as an external object, is dead”? What reason does Hegel give as to why this external “deadness” does not strip the work of art of its superiority over the living organisms of the natural world?  In what sense, according to Hegel, does the human spirit permeate a work of art, thus rendering it higher than natural things?

3. On 557-58 (“But nevertheless the higher standing…”), why, according to Hegel, is it also incorrect to insist that nature is higher than art because “nature and its products, it is said, are a work of God, created by his goodness and wisdom” (557), while human works are merely human? On what basis does Hegel reject that argument as inadequate?

4. On 558-59 (“Now granted that the work of art…”), Hegel, having discussed the manner in which people create works of art, now addresses the question of why they feel the need to create art. From what “universal and absolute need” (558) does he suggest creative activity springs? In what “two-fold way” (558), according to Hegel, do people attain to consciousness of themselves? How does he link the need to achieve self-recognition through creative expression to “all acting and knowing” (559), thereby claiming for art a high degree of intellectual and spiritual significance?

Development of the Ideal into the Particular Forms of the Beauty of Art

5. On 559-60 (“But because the Idea is in this way…”), how does Hegel describe the general significance of artistic “forms” (559)? What is responsible for the existence of these forms? What is the first or “symbolic form of art” (559)? In what lies its chief value? In what way does it try to relate the Idea or spiritual realm with the material forms of art? What “double defect,” according to Hegel, leads to the giving way of the symbolic phase to the classical stage of art?

6. On 560-61 (“In the second form of art…”), how does the second or “classical art-form” (560), according to Hegel, do away with the defects of the first form? How does it achieve such progress? Nonetheless, what defect eventually becomes manifest because of classical art’s success in discovering the human form as “the one and only sensuous appearance appropriate to spirit” (561)? How, by implication, does Hegel suggest one must conceive of “spirit” in order to represent it adequately in material form?

7. On 561-62 (“The romantic form of art cancels again…”), how does the third or “romantic form of art” solve the problem with classical art’s self-limiting achievement of adequation or correspondence between spirit and the material realm, between “the Idea and its reality” (561)? How does Hegel define “spirit” in this section (see 561 bottom) in a manner that underscores the defect in classical art? How does romanticism’s success in this regard amount to “the self-transcendence of art but within its own sphere and in the form of art itself” (562), and in what sense does Christianity’s emphasis on “inwardness” play a vital role in romantic art?

8. On 562-63 (“We may, therefore, in short, adhere…”), as we should expect with Hegel, the romantic form, as he discusses it in our excerpt from Lectures on Fine Art, is shown to contain the seeds of its own eventual supersession by a more advanced form. So how does romantic art’s very success lead it to reach its own point of failure or self-limitation? How is this problem of incommensurateness of the Idea to material shape similar to the problem found in earlier, “symbolic” art? Even so, what, according to Hegel, is “the essential difference” (563) between the respective problems? Finally, how do you interpret Hegel’s summation that the symbolical, classical, and romantic phases of art “consist in the striving for, the attainment, and the transcendence of the Ideal as the true Idea of beauty” (563)?

9. General question: In our selections from Lectures on Fine Art, Hegel’s dialectical view of the development of art through historical process is undeniably brilliant, but why might some readers be troubled by its attempt at such a sweeping understanding of the history of art and self-understanding? What perspectives does such a view necessarily leave out? Can a Western philosopher like Hegel subsume world art’s complexities into an all-embracing scheme that accounts for the total development of art and indeed self-conscious endeavors of all kinds? Explain how you understand the value of what Hegel is attempting to do in Lectures on Fine Art.

Edition: Leitch, Vincent B. et al., eds. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. 3rd ed. New York and London: W. W. Norton & Company, 2018. ISBN-13: 978-0-393-60295-1.

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