By Nathan Andersen

Nathan Andersen, Eckerd College

If discussions and debates of the last few decades on the politics of multiculturalism have established anything conclusive, it is that cross-cultural understandings and multi-cultural communities are never pre-given and can never be taken for granted. 1 Moreover, if it were not already obvious from the experience of living in a contemporary world, such discussions have made clear that the problem does not only affect clear cultural borders; every affirmation of solidarity among individuals, every claim to belong to the “same community” or even the same group within a larger community is in fact open to challenge on a number of grounds. We now know that we can never assume in advance that we are actually communicating or that we stand together on common grounds. To put the point another way: “we” can never assume that there is a “we” to assume or that does the assuming. How, then, should we now think the possibility and nature of community? What I want to show is that we can find resources for thinking an answer to this question in what is perhaps a surprising place: Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit. This will be surprising to those who have accepted what has come down as a standard criticism of Hegel: that he takes for granted a readership that shares his metaphysical presuppositions, to whom he refers when as narrator he adopts the royal “we.” It should not be surprising, however, for those who know that one of the central problems of the text as a whole is to conceive adequately the character of this “we.”

That the universality of the “we” – of Spirit considered as the community that has come to understand itself – is never pre-given in a sense that would allow it to subsume differences between individuals or between cultures, is demonstrated perhaps most powerfully by the culminating analysis of Hegel’s chapter on “Spirit” in the Phenomenology. There he examines the phenomenon of conscientious action, action rooted in the agent’s subjective understanding of the moral demands of her particular situation. I think it does not presuppose too much, in this case, to say that weare or at least take ourselves to be for the most part, conscientious agents. This does not presuppose too much, because all it says in the end is that we cannot with full justification presuppose anything else about anybody else. Insofar as we are conscientious, we insist that all action be judged, not according to an external standard or universal principle, but only according to the demands of the situation of action as they are experienced by the agent.

The problem with conscience, however, is that when voiced by the agent herself this insistence calls upon her the judgment that she has violated her own criterion, insofar as she expects

others to act in accordance with a general principle. I, for example, expect others to judge my actions, not according to their unique perspective on these actions, not on the basis of their own conscience, but solely in accordance with my claim to have acted conscientiously. It is the apparently extreme subjectivity of this demand that at first glance strikes one as being at odds with the values of community. Indeed it appears to preclude the possibility of the mutual understanding and communication that form the basis for genuine community. It is for this reason that Hegel’s analysis of the community spirit that emerges out of the conflict of conscience is a special one, with profound bearing upon the question of the possibility of community in a multicultural world.

The conflict of conscience, as we will see, motivates a resolution that does not so much dissolve the conflict as reveal the both inescapable and productive dimension of contrasting self- definitions. The conscientious agent comes to recognize that the truth of the situation in which she has an individual obligation to act is not comprised merely of the circumstances of action as they appear to her all at once. Rather, the truth of this situation is what dynamically unfolds as she risks action on the basis of a limited perspective and then finds herself obliged to reformulate that perspective as a result of discovering the compelling character of the judgments of others that this action calls down upon itself.

Hegel’s analysis of conscientious activity, and the forms of social life that are set up around this activity, is quite complex, drawing on a fascinating wealth of literature from ancient Greek tragedy and the dialogues of Plato through Protestant and Pietistic writings to the work of contemporaries such as Jacobi, Goethe and Novalis. Much has been written on the literary background of Hegel’s work on conscience. 2 For the purposes of the present investigation into the nature and possibility of community, his analysis can be broken into three basic stages, corresponding to three paradigmatic types of relationship that can be set up between conscientious agents. There is, first, the spurious community that is built on mutual assurances of respect without concern for content. 3 The second stage makes clear why this form of community must ultimately fail: this stage makes explicit in social life the conflict that we have already suggested is built into the very idea of conscientious action. 4  The third stage, that Hegel identifies as the stage of forgiveness, indicates important features of a genuine community, one that does not overcome the differences between its individual members, so much as reveal these differences to be both inevitable and productive. 5

Sharing the same space or belonging to the same economic network of associations, asserting the importance of mutual toleration and respect, are never enough to generate genuine community. All this is, of course, obvious insofar as such assertions hardly serve to stem conflict and aggression, in both its subtle and explicit forms. Even the suppression of conflict or the overcoming of opposition cannot serve to secure a stable and vital community that truly answers to the needs of a diverse population or group. What Hegel’s account suggests is that genuine community, an “I that is we and a we that is I,” 6 can only emerge as we learn to interpret the inevitable conflicts that arise from our differences as legitimate expressions of the true nature of our shared situation.

  1. The Mutual Admiration Society: The Community of Conscience Built on Assertions

The basic principle of an ethics rooted in conscience is that an agent can only be responsible to the moral demands of a particular situation insofar as she herself experiences those demands. Since one can never have more than a partial understanding of the total situation wherein one acts, the principle of conscience takes this partially illuminated situation to be the genuine situation of action, in relationship to which alone the conscientious action can legitimately be evaluated. The ethics of conscience insists, therefore, that all action be judged according to the particular demands of the conscience of the agent alone. The problem with the concept of conscience is that it appearsto sanction an extreme form of subjectivism as grounds for action. 7 If in the last analysis all we can appeal to is ourselves, and our subjective knowledge of our own situations, this would appear to render community and communication unnecessary, if not impossible. At the same time, even if the particular content of an agent’s conscientious grasp of her situation is inaccessible to others – the fact of its uniqueness can at least be understood by others, who can endorse her claim to act conscientiously even if they cannot endorse it of their own right. The community of conscience is, to begin with, rooted in the mutual understanding of the significance of this claim.

The claim of conscience – whose distinctive content is the assertion of the conscientious agent in the face of others that she is indeed acting as conscience demands – aims to give a universal weight to a particular conscientious action. Hegel writes that “in calling itself conscience, [the individual agent] calls itself a universal knowing and willing which recognizes and acknowledges others, is the same as them – for they are just this pure self-knowing and willing – and which for that reason is also recognized and acknowledged by them.” 8  This mutual acknowledgment results in the formation of a community of conscientious agents, a community in which, allegedly, the differences invoked by the principle of conscience are embraced a priori. Yet what this community in fact embraces is merely difference in an abstract sense; it accepts a multiplicity of voices, but only to the extent that they are all saying essentially the same thing. It is the community composed of self-proclaimed conscientious agents, and built upon the “mutual assurance of their conscientiousness, good intentions, the rejoicing over mutual purity, and the refreshing of themselves in the glory of knowing and uttering, of cherishing and fostering, such an excellent state of affairs.” 9

On Hegel’s account, genuine universality, the true community of conscience, is not what is achieved in this “mutual admiration society.” 10  Thegenuine community of conscience is forged only out of the situation wherein conscientious agents are unable to rejoice in the purity of one another, but find themselves in fact engaged in a conscientious conflict. It is this situation that forces a recognition of a unity that emerges only in and through difference, and a discovery of the true character of their differences precisely in that unity.

Likewise and in general, true community requires more than merely the mutual admiration of different individuals or groups. To the extent that in the modern world we embrace the idea that for the most part people will act in the ways they deem best, given their background and values, to this extent we should be committed to a general acceptance of others. This general acceptance, however, does not by itself establish community. For it fails to consider the real power of the differences between the individuals and groups that share the same space. 11Unless these differences are heeded, and unless careful thought and planning is given to the development of social institutions that respond to these differences, they can become the seeds of destruction for the anticipated community. I will now turn to an investigation of the differences that characterize the community of conscience, and then to Hegel’s account of the specific manner in which these differences can be addressed in the interests of a genuine community.

  1. Conscientious Conflict: The Agent and the Judge

There are, of course, numerous ways in which conscientious agents might come into conflict with respect to a particular content of action. My conscience need not and often will not dictate that I be satisfied with the way you find yourself compelled to act in a determinate situation. Insofar as each of us is committed to acknowledging the authority of conscience, however, we still maintain a certain kind of communal bond. We may fight, and I may decide that it is my obligation to constrain your activity. Yet to the extent I take seriously the principle of conscience, then even as I do so, I cannot help but respect your willingness to put your life on the line in following your conscience. Insofar as I know you to be adhering to what you take to be your duty, we share a common bond.

The real or essential conflict of conscience, however, does not, on Hegel’s account, arise as a disagreement about some particular course of action. Rather, Hegel argues, this conflict arises as a result of the fact that there is a tension or ambiguity in the principle of conscience itself. The claim, on the part of the conscientious agent, that she is acting in accordance with the dictates of her own conscience, can as a result of this ambiguity be taken up in a sense quite different from the one in which it is intended by the conscientious agent. This ambiguity in the utterance of conscience is at the heart of the conflict out of which the true situation of conscience comes to light, according to Hegel.

The problem with the utterance of conscience, as Hegel puts it, is “that the two moments constituting this consciousness [of the agent], the self and the in-itself, are held to be unequal in value within it, a disparity in which they are so determined that the certainty of itself [i.e. the conviction of the conscientious agent that she is acting as she must] is the essential being in the face of the in-itself or the universal [i.e. the acceptance of this utterance by the community], which counts only as a moment.12 To proclaim the conscientiousness of one’s actions is to know oneself as a singular being whose actions carry out a lived experience of necessity that may not be accepted by others, at the same time as it is to insist that these actions be respected by these others. What matters for the conscientious individual is the fact that her claim to conscientiousness be genuine and that she recognize herself in this claim; to the extent that she does she expects that others will recognize this as well. The aspect of universality, or of universal acceptance, however, is taken for granted. The agent does not, in other words, take this judgment on the part of others to matter to the character of her action asconscientious. For the agent, her action is conscientious, and hence justified, regardless of what others think, and yet she nevertheless expects others to recognize automatically her right to act on the basis of her conscience.

For the judging consciousness, by contrast, it is the judgment alone that matters when considering the utterance. Even when the judge takes for granted the feeling of conscientiousness that the agent proclaims in the utterance, even when the judge accepts that the agent thinks of herself as conscientious, there still remains to her the task of determining whether the utterance itself is a conscientious act. The judge knows the utterance to be justified through the principle of conscience only to the extent that she judges it to be such; yet since the utterance of the agent poses this judgment as a foregone conclusion, as something that need not in fact take place, the judge must reject the utterance as a failure to live up to the demands of the principle of conscience.

The sacred, inviolable character of claims to conscience is, from the standpoint of the judge, taken lightlyby the conscientious agent. From the standpoint of the judge, who knows that she is not in a position to judge whether or not the agent in fact operates on an undeniable conviction, the assertion that she does appears as a contingent strategy for acceptance, one that indicates her not really to be in earnest about being accepted. She is, in that sense, according to the judge, a hypocrite. 13

To make this clearer, I will turn briefly to one of the literary sources that Hegel could have drawn upon in his development of the account of conscience; whether or not he had actually read this piece at this point in his career, he was definitely familiar with several similar literary sources, among them writings by the same author. We find a very good example of the kind of conflict Hegel has in mind in the case of Edward Allwill, as judged by Sylli and Lucy and documented in Jacobi’s fictional novel entitled Edward Allwill’s Collection of Letters. The young Edward insists repeatedly that in his actions he only follows his conscience and his heart, even if the actual paths he follows may appear erratic and misguided to others. In fact, however, no one ever denies his good intentions, or argues that his claims to conscientiousness are not sincerely uttered, at least in light of his feelings of the moment. Sylli, whose brother-in-law has taken Edward under his wing, writes:

The unruly fellow may well be a worthy young man, and one who regularly means to do more good to others than to himself: but that only makes him all the more dangerous; that’s what gives him the open, innocent countenance, against which no counsel holds, so that one reaches out one’s hand to him from afar, entwines one’s lot with his, and makes company with him. Only later does one become aware how uncertain the ways he travels are, how foolhardy he is in action, how cheaply he offers his skin for sale, and hence the skin of his associates as well. 14

What is reprehensible in Edward, according to Sylli, is not that he acts as he feels to be right in the moment, but that he fails to take seriously the impact that his very expressions of conviction have upon those others who accept them.

Lucy, who is in fact the deceived one that Sylli describes here, who had fallen in love with Edward only to discover later that his heart and conscience were fickle, likewise claims that what is wrong with Edward is not his wholehearted immersion into his various projects, but his failure to consider the effects of these projects upon others. After reminding him of how he had once been seriously troubled by the fact that others took him to be frivolous, and therefore did not trust him, she writes: “How great, how lovely! At that time, how close my Edward to the bestof his species!” 15  Now, however, on Lucy’s account, since he no longer cares for what others think of his actions, as long as he feels himself to be right, he has cast away the innocence of the soul that allows the reactions of others to trouble his conscience. From a “dear, sincere – royal youth” he has become “alas, so lowly degraded to … an anxious, squinting sophist!” 16 His sophistry, from the point of view of Lucy, consists in the fact that he makes use of a true principle, the principle of conscience, not in order to seek out truth or become better, but rather to maintain his feeling of self-complacency in the face of the criticisms of others.

From Edward’s standpoint, by contrast, Lucy herself has become the insensitive judge who in her insistence upon the respect for principles has lost the ability to feel, and to follow her conscience as it is expressed in the immediate inclinations of the heart. According to Edward, it is she who treats the genuine convictions of others as if they were a matter of little importance when they come up against her own steadfastly adopted principles.

In general, the conscientious agent will consider the judgment that opposes her actions to be itself one-sided, and to rest upon a particular and idiosyncratic way of taking up the principle of conscience in the same way that this judgment proclaims to be true of the agent. The judge does violence to the expectations of the agent, just as much as this judge considers the agent to show disregard for the expectations of others. For this reason, however, it is precisely in her confrontation with the judge that the conscientious agent is able to see herself. The judge takes her own position to be just as obvious as the agent takes hers to be.

  1. The Possibility of Reconciliation through Forgiveness

The agent who is troubled by this conflict, and does not, like Edward Allwill, merely brush it off as the result of too much seriousness on the part of the judge, is enabled thereby to learn two important lessons; it appears, moreover, to begin with that learning these lessons will help her resolve the conflict. On the one hand, the condemnation by the judge makes the agent aware that her own way of taking up the principle of conscience is not universally acceptable. It is not enough merely for her to be convinced that she does right. On the other hand, because she herself does not interpret the principle in the same way as does the judge, she knows as well that the judge’s position also lacks universal acceptability. As a result of the conflict, she has found herself compelled to see the truth of the judge’s condemnation, and now knows that not only is her course of action controversial but even her claim to be acting conscientiously is open to multiple interpretations. For that reason, she can no longer anticipate that others will automatically accept her claims to be conscientious. She recognizes the possibility of failure to communicate as inevitable, and characteristic of her shared situation with others.

Having recognized this, however, she expects that the mutual acceptance of failure will produce a kind of reconciliation. The next stage in Hegel’s analysis of conscientious conflict is the confession of the agent that she was wrong to expect immediate acceptance. While she cannot accept the judge’s response to her actions, she nevertheless comes to respect this response, as a

singular expression of the judge’s own conscience. As a result, she is able to admit that she understands why her expression of conscience was unacceptable. She is willing to confess that when she acted, though her choices seemed right at the time, yet her expectation of acceptance did not take into account the conscience of the judge.

To the extent, however, that she expects the judge to accept this confession and admit also that her judgment was one-sided, she merely repeats her error at a higher level. Her confession merely indicates that she has so far continued to interpret the judge’s position solely in light of her own, and on her own terms. From her perspective, as we saw, what mattered was to act in accordance with the dictates of her conscience, and she expected that all would recognize and sanction such a course of action. Having recognized and acknowledged that the judge is also acting as she feels she must in light of her own best understanding of the situation they share, she expects that her confession will be automatically acknowledged and accepted by the judge, in the same way that she had previously expected her claims to conscience to find an immediately accepting audience.

Reconciliation, or forgiveness, can only come, on Hegel’s account, when both agent and judge come to acknowledge not merely that conscientious conflict is possible – so that the recognition of the validity of one’s claims can never be automatically expected – but that the very character of the claim to conscience calls forth such conflict. Each must come to recognize, in the opposed claims of the other, the experience of necessity that animates her own claims. Moreover, each must come to recognize the essential bearing of opposed claims upon her own conscientious character. As Hegel puts it, “just as the former [agent] has to surrender the one-sided, unacknowledged existence of its particular being-for-self, so too must this other set aside its one- sided, unacknowledged judgment.” 17The agent has recognized the demands of her own conscience to include respect for the demands of the other, and therefore no longer takes the recognition of her claims to conscience by this other as inessential to her own identity as a conscientious agent. Likewise, the judge must come to recognize that what is essential is not the legitimacy of her judgment per se, but that the agent herself come to recognize the legitimacy of her judgment, and thereby come to judge herself.

Forgiveness, for Hegel, is not merely a matter of accepting and tolerating the finitude and partiality of the stances adopted by others. Forgiveness does, however, come to recognize the futility of a merely external criticism. It involves the acceptance of the other in her uniqueness, as a self-determining being who is not in principle confined to the particular, finite stance she appears to adopt, but who will nevertheless accept and respond only to criticism that she can understand on her own terms. At the same time, the forgiving conscience comes to acknowledge that the criticisms of her, made by others, cannot themselves be merely external, and recognizes the demand to come

to comprehend as necessary the experience of her own shared situation with others that called forth precisely their concerns. Forgiveness, in Hegel’s sense, is thus not something that one can decide whether or not to extend to the other; to forgive is rather to have learned to respond to and acknowledge the other as genuinely conscientious,both in the sense that she responds to her own situation as she knows best and in the sense that her own appraisal of a shared situation cannot be ignored or taken lightly.

Conscientious forgiveness identifies as genuine community only that which emerges out of particular situations wherein individuals and groups discover themselves and the character of the situation they share with others and with other groups in and through their acknowledgement of the compelling character of the other’s affirmation of difference. The community that is achieved between them is not a community that exists prior to their opposition, a shared identity that they come to realize they had already possessed. It is not built upon a tacit contract. It is not even the community that comes by way of affirming differences in advance, and that for that reason overlooks the formative role of differences in establishing identity. It is, rather, the unity that emerges through the dynamic interaction and opposition of distinct individuals, who refuse to be assimilated by each other and yet, because they recognize this refusal in the other as well, discover who and how they are by affirming and identifying with the other in their differences. They discover the uniqueness of their own experienced demands precisely insofar as they open themselves up to a discovery and awareness of the demands that animate the actions of others. This self- discovery, moreover, is just as much a matter of self-formation or self-creation, insofar as it involves the active reformulation of the boundaries between each individual and its others, that takes place as each comes to comprehend ever more adequately the necessity that motivates the activities of these others – expressed explicitly by conscientious agents – to be a necessity according to which she is herself bound. Each must learn to accommodate her own conception of self, and the actions that correspond to that conception, to the realities of a situation defined by competing conceptions.

  1. Community as Emerging from the Shared Recognition of the Reality of Difference

We become the (spurious) “we” that we are, in the first place, through our failures to consider the differences that divide us. Such failures can be productive, however, insofar as they establish points of conflict that enable such differences to come to expression. Genuine community does not resolve or overcome these differences, and cannot render them innocuous or irrelevant. Rather, it is only by thinking and acting in ways that render such differences explicit that we can avoid collapse into the spurious community whose shared identity exists in name alone. The results of this process are always particular, in the sense that the result is always the formation of a determinate shape of community in which uniquely situated individuals have to some degree come to terms with or even defined themselves in relation to their differences. To make such differences explicit involves more than merely embracing what is innocuous or interesting, as in the case of the mutual admiration society we examined above.

Community is never pre-given, and yet the activities, institutions and thoughts through which particular individuals or communities fail to appreciate the distinctive characteristics of others are activities, institutions and thoughts that do constitute these individuals and communities in relation to the others they fail to consider. Community can only be created and established by way of the specific encounters wherein opposed individuals and groups reveal to themselves and to each other the nature and implications of their own expectations, precisely as these expectations call forth opposition or resistance from others who are differently situated. Only as divisions, stratifications, and mutual oppositions become explicit can they begin to be addressed. At the same time, it is only as these divisions become explicit for the members of a divided community that the community as a whole can develop a shared sense of what kind of community they are. As differences are made explicit, and with the shared acknowledgement that these differences are real, there can emerge a collective sense that these differences constitute a problem for all, a problem that all are implicated by and all must deal with. Assurances of mutual respect and toleration are empty insofar as they fail to speak to the reality we share, a reality whose tensions cannot be spelled out and forgiven in advance. It is only through the interpretation of the significance of conflicts as they emerge that we develop a collective sensibility of who we really are and what is at stake in our being together. It is this collective sensibility that in forgiveness can abandon futile hopes that our situation should be something other than it in fact is, and only thereby constitutes the real beginnings of genuine community that can learn to develop meaningful changes.

It is not, then, according to Hegel, just that opposed individuals or groups come better to understand themselves by relating to opposition. Rather, they become themselves only as each begins to acquire through the other a genuine sense for the unique character of her own situation. Genuine community is forged only as the thinking, activities, and institutions that divide us as individuals and cultures are taken seriously, which means recognized as mutually defining insofar as they establish the conditions under which alone we can interact fruitfully. Denying difference, by asserting and operating as if at bottom we are all the same and ought to be able to act out the dictates of our own conscience, can in the short run only generate implausible and untruthful optimism and in the long run lead to the kind of radical misunderstandings that result in injustice, violence, and terror.

Works Cited

Bernstein, Jay. “Confession and Forgiveness: Hegel’s Poetics of Action,” in Beyond Representation: Philosophy and Poetic Imagination. Ed. Richard Eldredge. New York: Cambridge UP, 1996.

Bernstein, Jay. “Conscience and Transgression: The Exemplarity of Tragic Action,” in Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit: A Reappraisal. Ed. G.K. Browning. London: Kluwer, 1997.

Hegel, G.W.F. Elements ofthe Philosophy ofRight. Trans. H.B. Nisbet. New York: Cambridge UP, 1991.

Hegel, G.W.F. Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit. Trans. A.V. Miller. Oxford UP, 1977.

Hegel, G.W.F. Phänomenologie des Geistes. Hrsg. von Hans-Friedrich Wessels u. Heinrich Clairmont. Felix Meiner Verlag GmbH, Hamburg, 1988.

hooks, bell. Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center. Cambridge, MA: South End Pr, 2000.
Hyppolite, Jean. Genesis and Structure of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit. Trans. Samuel Cherniak and John

Heckman. Evanston: Northwestern UP, 1974.

Jacobi, Friedrich Heinrich. Allwill, in The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill. Trans. by George di Giovanni. Buffalo, NY: McGill-Queen’s UP, 1994.

Sax, Benjamin C. “Active Individuality and the Language of Confession: The Figure of the Beautiful Soul in Lehrjahre and the Phenomenologie.” Journal of the History of Philosophy 21:4 (1983): 437-66.

Shklar, Judith. Freedom and Independence: A Study of the Political Ideas of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Mind. New York: Cambridge UP, 1976.

Taylor, Charles. Multiculturalism and the Politics of Recognition. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 1994.







  1. See, for example, bell hooks, Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center or Charles Taylor, Multiculturalism and the Politics of Recognition.
  2. See, for example, Hyppolite’s chapter on conscience in his Genesis and Structure of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit and Sax’s “Active Individuality and the Language of Confession: The Figure of the Beautiful Soul in the Lehrjahre and the Phenomenologie.”
  3. Hegel writes of this community that “the spirit and substance of their association are thus the mutual assurance of their conscientiousness, good intentions, the rejoicing over this mutual purity, and the refreshing of themselves in the glory of knowing and uttering, of cherishing and fostering, such an excellent state of affairs,” M656, W/C 431. References to Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit throughout this essay will be to the numbered paragraphs in the translation by A.V. Miller, indicated by an M followed by the paragraph number. These references will be followed in each case by references to the German edition of the Phänomenologie des Geistes, indicated by W/C and then the page number.  
  4. M659-68, W/C 433-40
  5. M669-71, W/C 440-42. My reading of Hegel’s notion of conscience is indebted to the excellent studies of Jay Bernstein. See his “Confession and Forgiveness: Hegel’s Poetics of Action” and “Conscience and Transgression: The Exemplarity of Tragic Action.”
  6. M177, W/C 127
  7. Hegel appears to criticize conscience on just these grounds in the Philosophy of Right (in section 3 of Part Two, entitled “The Good and Conscience”) in Elements of the Philosophy of Right, arguing that the individual must come to acknowledge duties to the institutions that sustain it. Still, to the extent that such acknowledgement takes place, it remains the responsibility of the individual to make sense of what such duties entail. To that extent, the principle of conscience is not rejected in the Philosophy of Right but merely complicated in ways similar to the developments of conscience in the Phenomenologyas they are described here. That is to say, the individual who embraces the ideal of conscience must discover that the significance of his or her own situation and the obligations it entails is not what appears all at once, but appears only as these actions solicit a response from the others and organizations they impact.
  8. M654, W/C 430.
  9. M656, W/C 431.
  10. As it is described by Judith Shklar in Freedom and Independence: A Study of Political Ideas of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Mind 191.
  11. A similar point can be made against social contract theories in general, insofar as they refer to a pre-established or tacit commitment to living together under conditions that make this possible while failing to acknowledge that the character of these conditions is never simply given but emerges, historically, in an irreducibly particular fashion.
  12. M660, W/C 434.
  13. According to the judge, as Hegel explains, one cannot even consider the agent’s employment of the principle of conscience as a sign of respect for its sanctity, for “the fact that [she] uses what is an essence as a being-for-another implies rather [her] own contempt for that essence, and the exposure to everyone of its own lack of any substantial being. For what lets itself be used as an external instrument shows itself to be a thing which possesses no importance of its own,” M661, W/C 435.
  14. The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill 428.
  15. The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill 475.
  16. The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill 475.
  17. M669, W/C 440.  

Nathan Andersen

Nathan Andersen is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Eckerd College, in Saint Petersburg, FL. He focuses on the history of philosophy from Descartes to Nietzsche, on environmental philosophy and ethics, and on the philosophy of film. He is the founder and director of “International Cinema at Eckerd College,” a successful film series for the Tampa Bay region, and is co-director of “Visions of Nature, Voices of Nature,” an annual Environmental Film Festival. He completed his Ph.D. at the Pennsylvania State University in 2000. [email protected]