"[this] inner world is determined as the beyond of consciousness."
Newton's quote, in responding to Parisian Jesuit Ignance Gaston Pardies question about the validity of Newton's hypothesis on the motion of objects, is perhaps the best origin ( if we can even have an origin!) to begin at for a discussion (or possible explication) of Hegel's epistemology of consciousness, as put forth in the Phenomenology of Spirit . Hegel , evident from the second quote, seems to agree with Newton's view that through testing, validating using statistics, or conducting experiments to find inner patterns and natures, is but a futile effort to really know something as it really is, as it exists in the sensuous world. For something to be in the world, it must be in this world as a mere appearance, an illusion of what it really is as a Notion. As soon as something presents itself, according to Hegel, it is always already past, it is something that was, or has been, and will never be that same way (night passes into day, and then back into night, but two nights and two days are never the same). Its properties have been sublated, past on, and now in the past temporally and spatially. A 'something' can never really be known, Hegel would argue (as well as Newton I believe), because its Notion is but a moment (it seems Germans love this idea of "moment") that has already been and is constantly changing itself accordingly, moment upon moment.
Hegel begins his analysis of consciousness from the primary idea of sense-certainty as being the basis from which consciousness relates to all things around it in the world. This sense-certainty provides insights into objects outside of the subject and, in its ("consciousness") nearsightedness, provides meaning for them in their appearance, as they are perceived by the senses. Sense-certainty is what Hegel considers the primary "occupation" of consciousness. It relates everything around the subject to the subject and provides for points of departure and meaning for the subject. This departure is one of many departures for consciousness because its main concern about what is in the world is its relation to the subject and what the object actually ëis.í The ëisí of the object is an appearance that the object provides for consciousness to perceive, and this appearance remains within the realm of sensuous and 'real.' I see a car, and I know it 'is' a car because I relate it to previous appearances of cars that I have had. But this now enters in to another problem that Hegel also expounds upon. How do we as subjects know what the 'is' of an object is? How can we really know that what we perceive to be a car really is a car? This question leads us to take in to account what the properties of cars are, which I will get to a little bit later in this discussion. The object 'car' is in relation to me because my perception says it merely 'is.' That is, as Hegel points out, the "essential point for sense-knowledge," that the 'is' of an object is its truth, its certainty, or singularity.
Hegel's line of thought leads to the fact that to take experience in to account means to of speak of experience in general and not specifically. Experience is always occurring, in that we do not say to experience, "Stop, I want to get off," but that it occurs in spite of us, or against us (or the 'I'). Experience thus is not related to us in a specific sort of way or pattern, but is constantly changing and mediated by time and space. We know something because our experience shows it to us in the moment after we have experienced it. It is as if I throw a rock in to a rushing stream, but the stream was already there rushing by and my rock being thrown in is but a moment which has already past. It is mediated by the second after the fact. I threw the rock in now, but that now is already past, so we see it as it had been or it was, and our experience throwing that rock in to the rushing brook is through the mediation of the now and here with the was and had been. We have here an idea that is rather difficult to grasp when looking at it (perceiving it) because it is, in a sense, already in our past, along with everything else that is in our past. But even our past is mediated by a sense of nostalgia, which is, I think, a subtle, but motivating force in Hegel's thought--the idea of experience at the first moment--but this moment, like everything else is already in our past and will never be the same again (the first kiss, the first time with training wheels off of a bike, any first really). Consciousness, is then trying to, in vain, relive past experiences with the same intensity and passion that might have fueled the first moment. Thus we are trying to unite all of the differences and particulars of an experience with a general, or universal, as Hegel specifies it, moment of time and space when a experience occured.
So we have here three moments of experience that Hegel points out to us: That of the exact now, which is immediate (and that we can never know), we have the now as superseded or negated in that same instant, and then we have the now of the moment ago, which is the positive of the negation (or two negatives equals a positive),and which is the way consciousness knows everything, as mere experience, or the universal. This three-fold process is at once instantaneous, but for me (and maybe for many "I's") it induces this idea of nostalgia for the lost moment, that superseded presence and absence of something or of some feeling that consciousness once registered but is now in the past which can never be regained again in its complete exactitude. My perception tells me that I am feeling similar or 'like' I did, but it is always as if I am receiving mere imprints of what once was, as if it was a mere facsimile of the original.
Hegel continues his discussion by analyzing "perception." He explicates
the two ideas of unity and diversity, the singularity of an object and its
many manifold differences inherent within it. Going back to the example
of the car, I perceive a car in its general unity, that its being a whole.
But at the same time, the car has many different, little particulars that
make up the whole of the car. Without these particulars (tires, transmission,
windows, steering wheel, etc.) the car would cease to be a car and would
take on the unity of another concept that is 'not car.' This idea involves
both negation inherent in objects and its universal appearance that perception
observes. For something to be ìnot car,î it would have
to be universally something else. It would have to be a horse and
buggy, for example. In general, the ìIî takes these particulars,
its diversity, and perceives it as a whole universal, because it has already
experienced it as diversity and no longer thinks of car in its diversity.
We negate its particulars and bring forth its universals. Thus, Hegel
says, all perception is perception of the whole, or of universals, which
is in a sense, void of particulars. When one says 'body,' one automatically
assumes the whole of the experience or perception of 'body' and not the
arms, and legs, and head, and torso. Consciousness, in effect, is
not real perception of the object but perception of object as universal
perception and experience, thus leaving out singularity and difference.
But within perception, the idea of perceiving 'not car' is as instantaneous as perceiving 'car.' This process is repeated over and over again until consciousness wavers back and forth between where the assignment of unity and diversity rest. At one moment unity is within itself, in consciousness, and at another moment unity is with in the object; at one moment diversity is within the consciousness and at another it is within the object. This goes on ad nauseum. Hegel says that the diversity is for us because we perceive it to be so. It is a phenomenon in time and space. Hegel also says that the unity is within the object because of its universal element within it. All cars have diverse parts but its unity is in the universal Notion of the car as an object in the world, in-itself. We can never know the thing-in-itself, because we would almost have to go forward and behind the object to get at its Notion, its true essence in the world. Hegel reappoints this idea to never-ever land that is beyond consciousness, but at the same time parallel to our world. This is the land of Ideas or Notions. This seems to me a bit difficult to swallow, but for the sake of continuing, lets believe that we pull our notions and ideas out of this parallel world, behind objects.
Hegel's final discussion about consciousness is his entrance in to the idea of what must be first evident to consciousness if it is to come to an understanding of true reality. This idea, and he doesnít say this till the very end of the section on consciousness, is the idea of self-consciousness, which is the preliminary state of being before we rise to the understanding of consciousness. As Hegel's points out, for an ìIî to have any sense-certainty, it must have recognition that it is alive, or that it is self-conscious. One has to be alive in order to understand what being alive means. One must be able to digest before one begins to eat. So we have here the idea that the particularity of existence must be already in place for us to realize the objectifiable world and to realize other "I's." For consciousness depends upon self-consciousness. This happens very early in the development of an 'I.' As Lacan later pointed out, this might occur in the "mirror-stage" of development whereby a child realizes that it is what makes its own hands and legs move; and that it is the one that wets its diapers and feels all soggy. This can happen by just looking in a mirror and seeing that your arms are connected to a body that is connected to a head with eyes in it that perceives all of this action occurring. It is difficult, I guess, to really equate when this occurs, or even when it occurred to me. I felt as if I just happened upon these notions of realizing that I control my own behavior and actions, that I am a self-conscious being. I donít know if anyone can remember that moment, as it already passes one by and is stored forever in a small folder entitled, "baby pictures."
As Hegel points out this necessary pre-condition to consciousness, it is
very interesting to note though, that everything that is already in the
world is there before we are conscious of it. That is, they are present
and have been present, so that we are just added in to the universal 'stew'
that seems to be brewing all the time continuously. Experience and thought
may be thought as something that has already occurred, and that we are just
recycling old experiences of the first people that ever lived. The
differences are obvious, but has the nature of consciousness really changed
in a ten thousand years? Has self-consciousness really changed?
Maybe the methods whereby we receive both have been altered or permutated,
but in essence, I think, we have remained rather stationary subjects.
This is obviously not the forum to pose such questions, but a discussion of
consciousness and self-consciousness seems to lead in to this idea of change
and permutation from what once was. Hegel would say that we are still
in our teleological process of becoming, as history shows us, and we are
still far away from the point of pure identity as humans. Will
we ever reach that goal? Maybe so, maybe not. But the question
should really be, "was it for this my life I sought?"