Studies on Marx and Hegel

Hyppolite, Jean. Studies on Marx and Hegel, tr. John O’Neill. New York, 1969


The Phenomenology is the history of human consciousness in its progression to Absolute Knowledge. this history is much more a description than a construction of the experiences of consciousness. Moreover, by the term “experience” we must understand not only theoretical knowledge, but also human notions of Religion, Ethics, and Art. The philosopher in this instance describes the entire compass of human experience, and though he never loses sight of the goal of the work, which is to elaborate a system, he is nevertheless not afraid to stop at each stage of his experience and describe it for its own sake. At each stage of this voyage of discovery he seeks to grasp the essence of a particular world vision; occasionally this method of unfolding an essence suggests modern phenomenological descriptions of essence. When Hegel speaks of the Renaissance or of the Terror, when he evokes Antigone or Creon, one feels that his thought grasps their very nature and that he penetrates to the heart of experience as lived by man. The Phenomenology possesses such a wealth, and often such an obscurity, that we must confine ourselves to choosing certain aspects which illustrate in a special way what one could already describe as a concept of existence.

We shall therefore consider the chapter on self-consciousness and the conflict which Hegel found between self-consciousness – or what we would call human existence – and life in general. It is in this conflict that the “unhappy consciousness” emerges, and it is the latter which best illustrates the conception which Hegel had of man’s existence.