Hegel: An Introduction to the Science of Wisdom

Rosen, Stanley. Hegel: An Introduction to the Science of Wisdom. New Haven, 1974.


Stoic and Skeptic

We have now arrived at the threshold of history in the proper sense: the war and work of self-consciousness. This is the history of the unhappiness or homelessness of the human spirit. The unhappiness, of course, is not unmitigated. Thus the dialectic of the master and slave might also be called the dialectic of enjoyment and work. Man must learn how to enjoy his work; and this is possible because man is already in his proper dwelling, even if not yet fully master of it. “Homelessness” does not refer to an impossible longing for heaven, but rather to the desire for satisfaction on earth. Since this desire is itself defined by alienation or reflection, it is painful. History, as the education of the race in the enjoyment of work, is thus the odyssey of the unhappy consciousness. The immediate result of the master-slave dialectic, which frees the master from labor, is to make the worker unhappy with the fruits of his own labor. The slave becomes a Stoic. According to Hegel, Stoicism is the first philosophical response to universality. The stoic is the first man to respond philosophically to both aspects of human life, enjoyment and work (or theory and practice). Self-consciousness, as we recall, originates in dread before death. The consequence of this dread for the slave is work. At first, the slave conceives of himself as an instrument of the will of the master, and so dependent upon him, but also as limited by the objects of the external world, even by those which he himself produces.