Notes on Hegel: “Lordship and Bondage.”

I wrote these notes for a presentation on Hegel’s “Lordship and Bondage” for a graduate seminar last year. I have decided to post them here, although I admit they’re not very detailed and lack the explanations needed for a more detailed piece.


“All the World’s a Stage.” -Shakespeare, As You Like It, Act II Scene VII

The man who becomes aware of himself directly in the cogito also perceives all the others, and he does so as the condition of his own existence. He realizes he cannot be anything (in the sense in which we say someone is spiritual, or cruel, or jealous) unless others acknowledge him as such. I cannot discover any truth whatsoever about myself except through the mediation of another. The other is essential to my existence, as well as to the knowledge I have about myself.
– Sartre, Existentialism is a Humanism.


Self-Consciousness exists “in and for itself ” insofar as it exists “in and for itself ” for another. It exists only in being acknowledged. Human action requires recognition to exist. Without recognition, I cannot truly “act.” Action is public, political, and moral existence. The second sentence of this passage is a mistranslation. It reads better:

The concept of this unity within its doubling, of infinity realizing itself in self-consciousness, is a many-sided and pluri-significant webbing such that its moments must one the one hand be held strictly apart, and on the other hand must in this differentiation at the same time also be taken and known as not distinct, or in their opposite significance. The double meaning of the distinct [moments] lies in the essence of self-consciousness, [viz.] that it is infinite, or directly opposite of the determinateness in which it is posited. -H.S. Harris’ Translation

Notice the movement of infinity from “Force and the Understanding.” Further, we’ve seen this play throughout the Phenomenology; something is many, yet also unified within its difference. They have this “double meaning” because such duplicity belongs to the essence of consciousness – i.e. consciousness posits itself as “determinate,” but is in fact the opposite, an infinite movement of “self-sundering.”

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