Wednesday, February 2, 2011

G. W. F. Hegel's "Lordship and Bondage": A Summary

Self-consciousness is a tricky motherfucker. Like every other idea, it has to encounter its opposite before it can be complete. Why? Because otherwise, it's way too fucking abstract. Have you ever had a friend get really high and say, "Bro, I think I understand ultimate reality!" And then after you listen to his explanation about how we're just a simulation or a computer game or some bullshit you say, "That's fucking retarded. There has to be some level of reality that isn't a simulation - why should I believe this isn't it?" And unless your friend has baked himself beyond comprehension, he'll stare into space for ten minutes and then say, "Oh. I don't know, bro, it just occurred to me. But maybe we just misinterpret things sometimes so they don't seem real. I guess this is reality, just with some glitches." It's not a perfect explanation, but it's closer than it was. An idea encounters its opposite, and after some struggle, a new idea emerges, more concrete than before. And it happens at every level of consciousness.


So why is self-consciousness so fucking tricky? Because its opposite is just  other self-consciousnesses. To become aware of ourselves, something else has to be aware of us, too - otherwise, we see everywhere but inwards. It's like having a flashlight that only points away from you and into the world. Sure, it helps you see everything else, but you can't see yourself for shit because you're cloaked in darkness. And you can't infer your existence from everything else; nothing can resist you, since you're a bro and bros get what they want. You exist for yourself and no one else, and when the entire world also exists for you, the line is blurry. When the world is identical to your desires, you can't tell the difference between the two. It's not until you meet another bro with a flashlight that you becomes illuminated. Self-consciousness absolutely must meet another self-consciousness, or else it can't exist - it's just plain consciousness, a bro with a flashlight and no sense of self.




Once the flashlights meet, two things happen - both bros see each other, and they immediately see themselves. And once one recognizes the other as outside itself, and vice versa, that's when shit gets crazy. Normally, any bro considers himself the most important fucking thing on the planet; so far, everything he's encountered with his flashlight, he's been able to bend to his will. And then he meets another bro, who he realizes is exactly like himself. "Fuck that bro; that other consciousness thinks it's more real than me. He's exactly like me, except I'm real and he isn't. How fucking dare he intrude on my reality like that! I'll fucking show him." Bros hate not having control, and the one thing a bro can't control is another bro. We're exactly like consciousness itself.


And then the struggle begins. Two bros, both convinced they're more real, fighting for control of the other. Except that each bro only knows he's real, knows himself, because of the other bro's light. So if one bro kills the other, or decides not to risk his life and walks away from the fight, he is blind again; he loses himself. Instead of being made better by his opposite, he has destroyed it, and is no better off. So bros (and consciousnesses) must risk themselves to become completed; if both bros risk take the proper risks, then eventually, one taps out, and becomes the servant of the other bro.


So now one bro is the master, and the other is the servant. It sucks to be the servant, but it turns out it sucks way more to be the master. Why? Because the master has to keep saying, "Hey servant, shine your fucking light on me!" to remind himself that he exists - he depends on another consciousness for his self-awareness. Have you ever had someone really creepy, whom you hated, tell you how awesome you are? That's not fucking helpful. You feel weird afterward, because you've been complimented by someone whose opinion you don't respect. "He thinks I'm cool, but he also wears fucking cargo shorts. Does he think I'm as cool as cargo shorts?" The master has made this servant his bitch, and now he depends on the affirmation of a bitch. That fucking sucks, and of course the master begins to doubt himself.


Meanwhile the servant has to do work, something he's never had to do before. He used to just get his desires fulfilled, since objects can't resist being shaped, which was awesome. When he was just a bro with a flashlight, everything bent to his will; now, he has to bend his own desires to his will, because his fear of the master outweighs his desires. That's miserable for a little while, but this internal conflict between desire and fear turns out to be really fucking helpful. Suddenly consciousness is interacting with itself without needing a flashlight to see. And as the servant shapes the world according to the desires of another, he begins to see it distinct from himself. When the flashlight shines on something he made but doesn't want, he realizes that the world doesn't exist only according to his will; he recognizes his desires are different from the world, that the holder of the flashlight exists apart from the world, and he comes to know himself.


Finally, when the servant has fully become aware of himself on his own, without needing the light of another, and the master is full of self-doubt, there is another struggle, a rebellion, and the bro who was the servant becomes the master, until the new servant also finds himself through work. At this point, the two bros can go their separate ways, for they no longer fear each other; they no longer have to prove to anyone that they are the bro-in-charge. They've discovered it themselves. They have become truly self-conscious, without needing the help of any other consciousness to do it.


And so in this way self-consciousness arises and becomes independent, by encountering the other, struggling with it, and emerging renewed and improved by it. We must know fear before we can conquer it; we come to know ourselves first by knowing others.

32 comments:

  1. Wow... that just blew my mind bro. Fucking amazing.

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  2. What a coincidence; I was just thinking about signing out The Phenomenology of Spirit from the college library today.

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  3. Bro, thank you for doing this.

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  4. This might be your best ever, bro.

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  5. definitely the most confusing work covered thus far.

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  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  7. Love your work. As cool as cargo shorts, bro!

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  8. So many utterly baseless assumptions in this. So if I encounter a waterfall by falling down it, does the waterfall resisting my will constitute the waterfall being self-conscious?

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    1. A waterfall doesn't have consciousness. This struggle for self-consciousness is only between humans. Hope that helps.

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    2. No bro, it doesn't work that way. A waterfall isn't a conscious subject, its an object. It can never become self-aware like a bro, even if you shine a flashlight at it.

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  9. Well! I beleive that I know more about myself since you shined your flashlight right in my face.
    I'm 55 so "Thanks Broth" (circa 1973)

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  10. WOW!!! Muthafucking WOW!!!

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  11. Awesome!! I just listened to a professor talk about this for 2 hours and didnt understand shit and now I do

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  12. I suggest some heidegger next... or wittgensteins post tractatus stuff. you know, the good stuff.

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  13. oh shit, just kidding on the heidegger bro

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  14. I would really like to see your take on Jaspers. You just may love it. (Existentialism)

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  15. BRO. That was phenominologically awesome. Just helped me organize thought for a paper.

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  16. Hegel has never been this clear or insightful.
    "The master has made this servant his bitch, and now he depends on the affirmation of a bitch" was particularly outstanding.

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  17. @Exhausted - which is why you should read the actual text as well as the Philosophy Bro article... (he quite clearly states he's talking about animals, for one; for another, it's not about the slave "resisting the will" of the master)

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  18. You are absolutely amazing. Seriously, thank you so much, saved my ass <3

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  19. That was very enlightening. I have always had trouble understanding men and why they are the way they are, being a woman this has given me great insight and also greatly explains why I am submissive. As a survivor of rape I also am beginning to understand what that was all about and feel only pity for my perpetrators as they do not understand themselves or others. Thankyou

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  20. pretty fucking awesome man, well played
    dude above me, seems like youve missed the point of this article, but also of hegelian dialectical thinking and how it applies to manifold shit. sure, he is talking about animals, but so was george orwell!

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  21. holy shit, that just made everything so much clearer and entertaining. THANK YOU

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  22. fuckin primo bro. I was struggling through this text but you cleared it up with grace

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  23. Some kind of wonderful; made me think of this from a while ago:

    "I've seen how people are undone,
    It's always done man to man, one to one..."

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hTr0dYSZx2s

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  24. I used to think..if I could go back in time...I'd strangle Hegel in his crib...and then things would be fine...but you've done one better, and written something true that he would hate, but it so right on...

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  25. Hey bro, what about the dick joke he put in "Phenomenology of Spirit"?

    That shit was funny yo.

    If you want, I can help you work out the rest of "Phenom... of Spirit". I'm sure you understand it bro but I need something to do, and I got it DOWN. Also anything else you don't yet have I can help with, like Adorno - he's the Batman of art/aesthetics, compared to Schopenhauer being the Robin of art/aesthetics and Hegel being the Dick Greyson of art/aesthetics (because any Robin ever, even Jason Todd, is better than Dick Greyson).

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  26. This is very impressive considering the difficulty of the Phenom., so congratulations. I found one mistake that I think you could easily fix: when you say "... It turns out it sucks way more to be the master. Why? Because the master has to keep saying, "Hey servant, shine your fucking light on me!" to remind himself that he exists - he depends on another consciousness for his self-awareness."
    I'm going to go into full Hegel mode for a minute. It sucks for the Lord to be the Lord because he depends on the Bondsman to work the land (remember the bread that the Bondsman makes the Lord). All the Lord does is consume the bread - i.e. negate it, but since he does not work to make the bread, the negation is empty - merely the husk of the true action of working upon something for consc. to realize itself. What would be better, ironically, would be for the Lord himself to work on the land for his own self, and negate his own work (the final act of negation being what the Lord deprives the Bondsman of). So, in truth, the Lord has to keep trying to be consc. of itself, and by earlier definition, this occurs by being consc. of an other consc. (namely, the Bondsman). So finally back to Bro talk, its not that the Bro has to tell his bitch to always shine his light on him (the Bro) - the bitch shines the light on the darkness the Bro tells him to - but instead, its that the Bro always has to keep shinning the light on his Bitch! Imagine that. Its sort of like, employing a bunch of workers to paint your house on a hot day, and then *going outside yourself to sit there and watch them paint your house*. What will happen is, being a Bro, you'll be like, "fuck this, gimme that brush I'll paint the damn thing myself because sitting here watching you paint it is even worse than painting it. But I payed you. Gah, fuck this shit!" Thus this is why it sucks to be the Bro.

    Hope that helps. Only trying to be critical to improve what I think is already a great summary.

    - The Bro Who Wasn't There

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  27. This is very impressive considering the difficulty of the Phenom., so congratulations. I found one mistake that I think you could easily fix: when you say "... It turns out it sucks way more to be the master. Why? Because the master has to keep saying, "Hey servant, shine your fucking light on me!" to remind himself that he exists - he depends on another consciousness for his self-awareness."
    I'm going to go into full Hegel mode for a minute. It sucks for the Lord to be the Lord because he depends on the Bondsman to work the land (remember the bread that the Bondsman makes the Lord). All the Lord does is consume the bread - i.e. negate it, but since he does not work to make the bread, the negation is empty - merely the husk of the true action of working upon something for consc. to realize itself. What would be better, ironically, would be for the Lord himself to work on the land for his own self, and negate his own work (the final act of negation being what the Lord deprives the Bondsman of). So, in truth, the Lord has to keep trying to be consc. of itself, and by earlier definition, this occurs by being consc. of an other consc. (namely, the Bondsman). So finally back to Bro talk, its not that the Bro has to tell his bitch to always shine his light on him (the Bro) - the bitch shines the light on the darkness the Bro tells him to - but instead, its that the Bro always has to keep shinning the light on his Bitch! Imagine that. Its sort of like, employing a bunch of workers to paint your house on a hot day, and then *going outside yourself to sit there and watch them paint your house*. What will happen is, being a Bro, you'll be like, "fuck this, gimme that brush I'll paint the damn thing myself because sitting here watching you paint it is even worse than painting it. But I payed you. Gah, fuck this shit!" Thus this is why it sucks to be the Bro.

    Hope that helps. Only trying to be critical to improve what I think is already a great summary.

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