Reading Hegel’s Philosophy of Mind IV: Slavery and Poetry

Note: A somewhat controversial journal entry.

A Clockwork Orange: a movie not for the faint-hearted.

16 September 1999

In reading sections 413 through 450, a few passages popped up for me, to which I shall respond.

Zusatz (that is, “Additional Note”) to section 435: “This subjugation of the slave’s egotism forms the beginning of true human freedom. ….Without having experienced the discipline which breaks self-will, no one becomes free, rational, and capable of command. To become free, to acquire the capacity for self-control, all nations must therefore undergo the severe discipline of subjugation to a master” “(175).

The rational part of me understands this passage as being true. In the Hobbesian sense of a state of nature, which I assume exists in the natural soul, the individual self-will, caught up in itself, wills itself on another without regard for the other’s individuality because, for the self-will, that other’s individuality does not exist.

Therefore, there is diffidence, war, and no real liberty (if my memory of Hobbes serves me right). Only with the reigning in of one’s will, usually with the aid of some higher governor, does man form the stable space to make rational choices and thus become free. Theoretically, this sounds true.

Unfortunately, I do not think this is what happens in practice, and I do not know if anybody would call “slavery” a necessary stage in which the state must undergo in order to become free. I suppose this “slavery” stage is akin to the “insanity” stage that the natural soul must undergo in order to attain feeling soul — not necessarily part of the process but showing the extremes that the mind might go through in the process.

This passage also reminds me of what Nietzsche was writing against.

Zusatz to section 436: “The master confronted by his slave was not yet truly free, for he was still far from seeing in the former himself. Consequently, it is only when the slave becomes free that the master, too, becomes completely free” (176).

Common-sense tells me that this passage is wrong: how can the master be not free since he has a slave, who is ostensibly not free?

American history, however, tells me that this passage is right: the master, enslaved in his role of master, is not fully human until he recognizes that his slave is also human, is also a man. The slave realizes his freedom by seeing himself as human but shackled and also knowing that his master is human but without integrity.

Thus it is as it was with black slavery in the U.S.: the state, and the citizens in that state, could not fully move on as a republic, could not become “completely free,” until their slaves were also free.

Zusatz to section 449: “People often imagine that the poet, like the artist in general, must go to work purely intuitively. This is absolutely not the case. On the contrary, a genuine poet, before and during the execution of his work, must meditate and reflect; only in this way can he hope to bring out the heart, or the soul, of the subject-matter, freeing it from all the externalities in which it is shrouded and by so doing, organically develop his intuition” (200).

This passage reminds me of Wordsworth, and the misconception that most people have when they think of Wordsworth and Romantic poetry in general. Sure, poetry is an expression of feeling; but only after that initial, intuitive feeling has been meditated and reflected upon in a philosophic silence, “emotion recollected in tranquility” as Wordsworth puts it.

There is much artifice in art, and there is much reason in feeling, which I believe both Wordsworth and Hegel would agree.

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About lizardqueen

If single-mothering were a paid job, I'd be rich. However, it doesn't, so I write (which doesn't pay the bills) and teach (which does). I'm overly-educated in the liberal arts, but that doesn't hinder my ability to be pragmatic and realistic. YAY.
This entry was posted in Academic Research, AVOCATIONS, EDUCATION, Learning, Reading, The Writing Life and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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