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Lecture 14 February 2, 2011
Master Slave Dialect
-Hegel wants a reconciliation between the active and passive mind of the world. It is
the story of the human mind and its relationship to the world, and then its
relationship to other minds
-Story of how humans grasp the world and relate to each other – it’s a developmental
-He is saying in one sense that our ability to grasp the world properly and to
understand how we grasp the world happens over time. The story is told historically.
-The first part of the phenomenology is becoming aware; the second half is the
understanding of the role of sociality and how it affects the way we think/the way we
conceive the world
-This is a radical move that takes place in the master-slave dialectic
-It is a story, not an argument; a story of two individuals. The story contains the whole
world. What he does in this story is explain how humans grasp the world, how they
grasp themselves and why is that knowledge of the world and yourself requires
another person (a mediated other)
-It is a story about psychology: what we need from others to be satisfied
-It is a story about society explaining why we are social beings
-it is a story analogous the state of nature dialogues – it is an explanation of political
-It has a grandiose metaphysical idea: the end of the book is the end of history
Levels upon levels…
The problem is the problem of self-consciousness. The central thing to solve this
problem is recognition. What is the problem of self-consciousness?
•It involves a knowledge that something exists (humans are conscious of their
existence). How do you know you exist? This problem has all sorts of levels.
Part of the problem of self-consciousness is what gives us certainty that we
•Furthermore we don’t just want to know that we exist, we want to know who
we are. There is a problem with this: it’s very hard to think about who you are
(who you are depends on who you ask). Who you are is partially constituted by
who you think you are. How other people grasp you also constitutes who you
-Hegel wants to talk about the idea of self-consciousness at the individual level
-But more importantly what it means to be a human
-History is understood as all these humans trying to figure out what it means to be
human – the effort to grasp who are we constitutes who we are, and we are free
-What it means to be human is to be FREE
-Humans first had to constitute themselves as free before they became free
-We want to be certain of ourselves; we want to control the world.
-We have wills – we want action and results
-We want to establish ourselves
-Then we come up against another person. We realize this other person is not like a
rock or a squirrel. The first thing we see is identity. Then we see that no they aren’t
me, they are different. As an object that is me, but as a subject that is not me.
-Primordial need for recognition
-Who am I? I am not you.
-Not only are these people opposite, but they enter into a struggle unto death. Why?
-Love has almost an identical structure to war – the outcome of love is the recognition
of two people at a higher unity. The outcome of struggle/war is the same – a
recognition of freedom.
-The inevitability of the struggle. Eventually human wills will compete over things. At
this early undeveloped stage, there is a prude desire to assert yourself and to ensure
-When someone is an obstacle to your will, you want to show that you have authority
-Why is the struggle unto death?
-To affirm my existence I seek to destroy you
-In this pursuit, who you are and what you are, you need a sense of self and
independence. The sense of independence first leads you to just want to kill the other
person – you want to be in charge and nothing to impede your will. So you have a
desire to kill the other person. But death is contradictory for two reasons:
a) In your search for independence/self you want the other person to
acknowledge you as the boss – they are submitting to you in order to show your
strength. Right until the moment of killing the other, you decide that it is against your
purpose to kill them. Risking your life is a way to show that you are independent of
life. Independent of life…
b) The slave who loses realizes that he risked his life but that life has value. He
gains a respect for life – his life.
-One side submits and learns the value of life
-The other side chooses not to kill because it defeats the purpose
-I am a slave – this is how the master sees me
-I am a master – this is how the slave sees me
*The slave is recognized as a slave by the master (who knows what he thinks of
himself). A slave is a slave from the perspective of the master. I am a slave only
insomuch as the master sees me as a slave.
I affirm myself in subjugation/objectifying the slave. But it fails, it turns into its
opposite. Why? He wants to have a strong sense of self – to be recognized as a
master. But he has made someone nothing. A slave’s recognition is worthless. The
enslavement of the slave is contradictory because the desire for recognition fails. The