The Unhappy Consciousness in Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit: A Secular Reading

Farivar, Sahand
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University of Guelph

In this thesis, I present the unhappy consciousness as it appears in the “Freedom of Self-Consciousness” section of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit in a secular light. The unhappy consciousness is the inward search for some stable, eternal existence, a search typically understood in light of the religious person’s search for God. Whereas Hegel’s presentation of this experience is wrapped up in religious language, I will argue that the significance of his argument is more universal, and I will interpret the unhappy consciousness in a secular fashion. The thesis proceeds exegetically. First, I introduce the unhappy consciousness by discussing the experiences of stoicism and scepticism, highlighting how the unhappy consciousness is a deeper experience implicit in both of these. Then, I trace the unhappy consciousness itself through the development of its first and second forms. And third, I discuss the third form of the unhappy consciousness, suggesting that the human condition, defined as the unending, discontented search for eternity, is fundamentally tragicomic.

Hegel, Unhappy Consciousness