Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Phenomenology of Spirit, Preface, paragraph 28

The task of conducting the individual from his undeveloped [ungebildeten] standpoint to knowledge is to be taken in its general sense, and the general individual, self-conscious spirit, is to be considered in its development [Bildung]. As to the relation between these two, every moment, as it gains concrete form and a unique figuration, is shown in the general individual. The particular individual is incomplete spirit, a concrete shape in whose existence, taken as a whole, some specific thing is predominant, whereas the others are found only in blurred outline. Where one spirit is at a higher level than another, the lower concrete existence has sunk to an inconspicuous moment; that which hitherto was the main thing, is now a mere trace; its shape has been veiled and become a simple shade. Such a past runs through the individual whose substance is spirit at the higher level, in the way that one who takes up an advanced scientific study reviews those preparatory forms of knowledge which he has long made his own, in order to recall their content; he brings back the recollection of them without stopping to fix his interest upon them. The individual must also pass through the stages of development of general spirit in terms of content, albeit as shapes already cast off by spirit, as stages on a road which has been prepared and leveled out. Hence it is that, in the case of various kinds of knowledge, we find that what in former days occupied the energies of men of mature mental ability sinks to the level of information, exercises, and even games for children; and in this pedagogical progress we can see the history of world culture delineated as it were in silhouettes. This bygone existence is the already acquired property of general spirit, which constitutes the substance of the individual, and thus, appearing externally to him, his inorganic nature. In this respect, regarded from the side of the individual, culture consists in his acquiring what lies at hand, living off of its inorganic nature and taking possession of it. But from the side of general spirit as the substance, it is nothing other than that which gives to general spirit its self-consciousness, which brings about its becoming and its reflection in itself.

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