The Here and Now

In Phenomenology of Spirit, G.W.F. Hegel discusses the meaning of “here” and “now” to determine how they relate to truth and “universality” (95, 96). Hegel indicates that at the exact moment of “now,” that is the “truest knowledge” because at that exact moment it is true that we are in the “now,” but he goes on to indicate how “now” simultaneously lacks all aspects of truth (91). 

The problem that Hegel astutely points out is that the second after someone says “now,” it is no longer “now,” and now “has become stale” (95). Therefore “now” no longer is, but rather it “is not,” thus “now” loses the immediacy and truth that Hegel initially pointed out (96). Thus, to characterize this phenomenon Hegel relates it to the idea of negation and universality, indicating that “now” is “self-preserving” because “something else . . . is not,” therefore, relative to everything else, there will always be a “now” (96).

Hegel characterizes this idea that “a simple thing of this kind which is through negation, which is neither This nor That, . . . we call a universal,” which “is in fact . . . the true [content] of sense-certainty,” thus indicating that the way “now” or “this” can generate truth is through the idea that they are always different than everything else (96).

This idea of “universality” is better characterized through Hegel’s description of “here.” The example Hegel gives is “here is, e.g., the tree. If I turn around, this truth has vanished and is converted into its opposite: no tree is here, but a house instead. ‘Here’ itself does not vanish,” but rather, “it abides constant in the vanishing of the house, the tree, etc…” (98). This example demonstrates how “here” is a constant and is always discussed relatively to what is being viewed, thus there is always a “here,” therefore making it a “universality.”

This principle that Hegel discusses of everything existing through the “negation” of itself relative to all other objects is intriguing. It is odd to think that nothing truly exists by itself, but that everything’s existence is reliant upon the the existence of everything else.

3 responses to “The Here and Now

  1. This argument really reminds me of that scenario that’s always talked about; “if a tree falls in the forest and there’s no one there to here it, will it make a sound?” The obvious answer is yes, there’s no denying it. But I also thought it was interesting because sound is a concept that makes sense if the waves generated from the cracking of the tree reaches a certain threshold/receiver. If there’s no ear to receive the sound waves, then technically, I guess you could say that there’s no “sound” made. That’s why like you said, it’s odd to think that nothing truly exists by itself because without another being, you can’t really make a situation where its existence can truly function.

  2. Great minds think alike Jacob!!! I actually wrote about that exact question in my blog post if you want to check it out. After browsing through the comments I was pleasantly surprised to see you also had the same thought…the tree example in the text is what made me think of it. I think it is a great question to look at for this particular section of reading, as well.

    The idea behind my post is that I used the same ideas of “Here” and “Now” that Harry has defined here to argue that if Hegel was asked the question “if a tree falls in the forest and there’s no one there to here it, will it make a sound?” he would answer no.

    It is actually kind of baffling to think there would not be a sound because my science oriented brain is saying there would be a sound because of the waves produced and the transfer of energy. However, like you guys are saying and what Hegel implies is that nothing can exist by itself and if there is no receiver, there must be no sound.

  3. Jacob and Alexia, I think you make a great concrete example to compliment my blog post. For the most part I agree that based on Hegel’s discussion of perception and how perception is critical to our understanding, if asked your question about the tree falling in the forrest, he would state that no, the tree did not make any sound. But, I also think that based on his characterization of needing a more concrete understanding of the principles surrounding one’s perception of an object or occurrence it could be argued that he would indicate that the tree does make a sound. As we discussed in class, although our “sense-certainty” maintains some level of truth due to our immediate understanding of what happened, that truth is actually greatly lacking due to concrete evidence backing that perception. The concrete backing of the perception could be the scientific evidence that causes the tree to make a sound, thus there is a reason for Hegel to argue in favor of the tree making the noise. It is difficult to know if he would argue in favor of scientific facts vs. immediate perception. Great question!

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