Posted by: cochinblogger | November 1, 2010

Hegel’s Simplest Sentence

I’ve referred previously to Paul Strathern’s The Essential Hegel (see The Midnight Bell). I present now for your delectation the following morsel. Hegel’s The Phenomenology of Mind is considered his masterpiece. However, the prolixity of its prose style tops anything by his illustrious predecessor, Kant. Hegel, it seems, whether writing about philosophy or lecturing on it (and Strathern gives an unforgettable description of Hegel at work in the classroom in the words of one admiring student), was incapable of constructing simple sentences. Strathern says the following is one of the simplest and clearest sentences in The Phenomenology of Mind:

Meanwhile, as mind itself is not an abstractly simple entity, but a system of processes, wherein it distinguishes itself into moments, but in the very act of distinguishing remains free and detached; and as mind articulates its body as a whole into a variety of functions, and designates one particular part of the body for only one function: so too one can represent to oneself the fluent state of its internal existence (its existence within itself) as something that is articulated into parts.

Got that? πŸ™‚

I was initially going to stop here, but strangely enough, even as I was composing this post, I stumbled into this beauty (from Photography and Consciousness):

A camera is an automated blink supplying that superficial bit of information called a photograph, which offers an image that seems like a sophisticated judgment or appraisal of reality — all the more so when its formal or structural or systemic features are made more or less abstractly explicit, as in “arty” modernist photographs — but in unconscious fact only skims from its surface the information necessary to secure and survive the specious present, and with that facilely suggests there is no past and future — no passage of time, indeed, no time at all.

A worthy competitor to Hegel, you’ll agree. πŸ™‚



  1. The full stop/period is a wonderful aid to understanding.

    • That was not so much a comment as a wonderful epigram. πŸ™‚ Thank you!

  2. to me, Hegel describes a very ‘Vedantic’ view point, from which one could describe the same ideas thus:

    nature of ‘mind’ including consciousness is such that it is aware of thought upon thought upon thought, one after the other, each thought a begin-sustain-end process. Hegel calls them ‘moments’

    and it clearly distinguishes itself from its thoughts, for it recognizes them as such, and therefore, has the potential to be unaffected by them, however ‘real’ these thoughts may be, however capable of deluding and entrapping the mind, these thoughts may be

    however, the nature of the ‘mind’, which includes the observer of these never ending ever streaming thoughts, is in a ‘fluent state of internal existence – existence within itself’ i e self sustaining

    Vedanta calls this observer athma

    and goes on to describe the athma as everlasting indestructible essence of every being etc etc

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