Looked at on the surface, this inverted world is the antithesis of the first in the sense that it has the latter outside itself, and repels that world from itself as an inverted reality; that the one is the sphere of appearance, while the other is the inherent being; that the one is the world as it is for an other, the other again the world as it is for itself. In this way, to use the previous examples, what tastes sweet is properly, or inwardly in the thing, sour; or what is north pole in the case of the actual magnet belonging to the sphere of appearance, would be, in the inner or essential being, south pole. What is shown to be oxygen pole in electricity as a phenomenon, would be hydrogen pole in the case of electricity not failing within the sphere of appearance. Or again, an act which in appearance is a crime would in its inner nature be capable of being really good – a bad act may have a good intention; punishment is only in appearance punishment; in itself or in another world it might well be, for the criminal, a benefit. But such oppositions of inner and outer, appearance and supersensible, in the sense of two sorts of reality, are no longer to be found here. The differences repelled are not divided anew and assigned to two substances such as would support them and lend them a separate subsistence, the result of which would be that understanding would leave the inner region, and fall back again on its previous position. The one aspect or substance would be once more the world of perception, where the one of those two laws would carry on its existence, and in opposition to it an inner world, just such a sensible world as the first, but in the sphere of ideas; one that could not be indicated, seen, heard, and tasted as a sensible world, and yet would be thought of as such a sensible world. But in point of fact, if the one element set up is a perceived reality, and its inherent being, as its inverted form, is at the same time a sensuously represented element, then sour, which would be the inherent nature of the sweet thing, is a real thing just as much as the latter, viz., a sour thing; black, which would be the inherent nature of white, is the actual black; the north pole, which is the true reality of the south pole, is the north pole present in the same magnet; the oxygen pole, the inherent nature of the pole of hydrogen, is the given oxygen pole of the same voltaic pile. The actual crime, however. finds its inversion and its inherent nature qua possibility, in the intention as such, but not in a good intention; for the truth of intention is simply the deed itself. The crime, so far as its content goes, recoils upon itself, finds its inversion in actual punishment; this is the reconciliation of the law with the reality set up against it in crime. Finally, the actual punishment carries its inverted reality with it in such a way that it is a kind of realization of the law, whereby the activity, which the law exercises in the form of punishment, is cancelled in the process, a manner of realization through which the law, from being actively operative, becomes again quiescent and authoritative, and the conflict of individuality with it, and of it with individuality, is extinguished.
From the idea, then, of inversion which constitutes the essential nature of one aspect of the supersensible world, we must dissociate the sensuous idea of keeping distinctions substantively fixed in a different element that sustains them; and this absolute notion of distinction must be set forth and apprehended purely as inner distinction, self-repulsion of the selfsame as selfsame, and likeness of the unlike as unlike. We have to think pure flux, opposition within opposition itself, or Contradiction. For in the distinction, which is an internal distinction, the opposite is not only one of two factors – if so, it would not be an opposite, but a bare existent – it is the opposite of an opposite, or the other is itself directly and immediately present within it.
No doubt I put the opposite here and the other, of which it is the opposite, there; that is, I place the opposite on one side, taking it by itself without the other. Just on that account, however; since I have here the opposite all by itself, it is the opposite of its own self, that is, it has in point of fact the other immediately within itself. Thus the supersensible world, which is the inverted world, has at the same time reached out beyond the other world and has in itself that other; it is to itself conscious of being inverted (für sich verkehrte), i.e. it is the inverted form of itself; it is that world itself and its opposite in a single unity. Only thus is it distinction as internal distinction, or distinction per se; in other words, only thus is it in the form of Infinity.
By means of infinity we see law attaining the form of inherent necessity, and so realizing its complete nature; and all moments of the sphere of appearance are thereby taken up into the inner realm. That the simple and ultimate nature of law is infinity means, according to the foregoing analysis, (a) that it is a self-identical element, which, however, is inherently distinction; or that it is selfsameness which repels itself from itself, breaks asunder into two factors. What was called simple force duplicates itself, and through its infinity is law. It means (b) that what is thus sundered, constituting as it does the parts which are thought of as in the law, puts itself forward as subsisting, as stable; and, if the parts are considered without the conception of internal distinction, then space and time, or distance and velocity, which appear as moments of gravity, are just as much indifferent and without necessary relation to one another as to gravity itself, or again as this bare gravity is indifferent to them, or as simple electricity is indifferent to positive and negative. But (c) by this conception of internal distinction, this unlike and indifferent factor, space and time, etc., becomes a distinction, which is no distinction, or merely a distinction of what is selfsame, and its essence is unity. They are reciprocally awakened into activity as positive and negative by each other, and their being lies rather in their putting themselves as not-being, and cancelling themselves in the common unity. Both the factors distinguished subsist; they are per se, and they are per se as opposites, that is are the opposites of themselves; they have their antithesis within them, and are merely one single unity.
This bare and simple infinity, or the absolute notion, may be called the ultimate nature of life, the soul of the world, the universal life-blood, which courses everywhere, and whose flow is neither disturbed nor checked by any obstructing distinction, but is itself every distinction that arises, as well as that into which all distinctions are dissolved; pulsating within itself, but ever motionless, shaken to its depths, but still at rest. It is self-identical, for the distinctions are tautological; they are distinctions that are none. This self-identical reality stands, therefore, in relation solely to itself. To itself; which means this is an other, to which the relation points; and relation to itself is, more strictly, breaking asunder; in other words, that very self-identity is internal distinction. These sundered factors have, hence, each a separate being of their own; each is an opposite-of an other; and thus with each the other is therein ipso facto expressly given; or it is not the opposite of an other, but only the pure opposite; and thus each is, therefore, in itself the opposite of itself. Or, again, each is not an opposite at all, but exists purely for itself, a pure self-identical reality, with no distinction in it. This being so, we do not need to ask, still less to treat anxiety over such a question as philosophy, – or even regard this as a question philosophy cannot answer, – “how distinction or otherness is to come out of this pure essence, how these are to be really got out of it”. For the process of disruption has already taken place; distinction has been excluded from the self-identical entity, and put on one side so far as it is concerned; what was to have been the self-identical is thus already one of the sundered elements, instead of being the absolute essential reality. That the self-identical breaks asunder means, therefore, just as truly that it supersedes itself as already sundered, that it cancels itself qua otherness. The unity which people usually have in mind when they say distinction cannot come out of unity, is, in point of fact, itself merely one moment of the process of disruption; it is the abstraction of simplicity, which stands in contrast with distinction. But in that it is abstraction, is merely one of the two opposed elements, the statement thus already implies that the unity is the process of breaking asunder; for if the unity is a negative element, an opposite, then it is put forward precisely as that which contains opposition within it. The different aspects of diremption and of becoming self-identical are therefore likewise merely this process of self-cancelling. For since the self-identical element, which should first divide itself asunder or pass into its opposite, is an abstraction, i.e. is already itself a sundered element, its diremption is eo ipso a cancelling of what it is, and thus the cancelling of its being sundered. The process of becoming self-identical is likewise a process of diremption; what becomes identical with itself thereby opposes itself to disruption, that is, itself thereby puts itself on one side; in other words, it becomes really something sundered.
Infinitude, this absolute unrest of pure self-movement, such that whatever is determined in any way, e.g., as being, is really the opposite of this determinateness – has from the start been no doubt the very soul of all that has gone before; but it is in the inner world that it has first come out explicitly and definitely. The world of appearance, or the play of forces, already shows its operation; but it is in the first instance as Explanation that it comes openly forward. And since it is at length an object for consciousness, and consciousness is aware of it as what it is, consciousness is in this way Self-consciousness. Understanding's function of explaining furnishes in the first instance merely the description of what self-consciousness is. Understanding cancels the distinctions present in Law, distinctions which have already become pure distinctions but are still indifferent, and puts them inside a single unity, Force. This identification, however, is at the same time and immediately a process of diremption; for understanding removes the distinctions and sets up the oneness of force only by the fact that it creates a new distinction of force and law, which at the same time, however, is no distinction. And moreover in that this distinction is at the same time no distinction, it proceeds further and cancels this distinction again, since it lets force have just the same constitution as law. This process or necessity is, however, in this form, still a necessity and a process of understanding, or the process as such is not the object of understanding; instead, understanding has as its objects in that process positive and negative electricity, distance, velocity, force of attraction, and a thousand other things – objects which make up the content of the moments of the process. It is just for that reason that there is so much satisfaction in explanation, because consciousness being there, if we may use such an expression, in direct communion with itself, enjoys itself only. No doubt it there seems to be occupied with something else, but in point of fact it is busied all the while merely with itself.
In the opposite law, as the inversion of the first law, or in internal distinction, infinitude doubtless becomes itself object of understanding. But once more understanding fails to do justice to infinity as such, since understanding assigns again to two worlds, or to two substantial elements, that which is distinction per se – the self-repulsion of the selfsame, and the self-attraction of unlike factors. To understanding the process, as it is found in experience, is here an event that happens, and the selfsame and the unlike are predicates, whose reality is an underlying substratum. What is for understanding an object in a covering veil of sense, now comes before us in its essential form as a pure notion. This apprehension of distinction as it truly is, the apprehension of infinitude as such, is something for us [observing the course of the process], or is implicit, immanent. The exposition of its notion belongs to science. Consciousness, however, in the way it immediately has this notion, again appears as a peculiar form or new attitude of consciousness, which does not recognize its own essential nature in what has gone before, but looks upon it as something quite different.
In that this notion of infinitude is its object, it is thus a consciousness of the distinction as one which at the same time is at once cancelled. Consciousness is for itself and on its own account, it is a distinguishing of what is undistinguished, it is Self-consciousness. I distinguish myself from myself; and therein I am immediately aware that this factor distinguished from me is not distinguished. I, the selfsame being, thrust myself away from myself; but this which is distinguished, which is set up as unlike me, is immediately on its being distinguished no distinction for me. Consciousness of an other, of an object in general, is indeed itself necessarily self-consciousness, reflectedness into self, consciousness of self in its otherness. The necessary advance from the previous attitudes of consciousness, which found their true content to be a thing, something other than themselves, brings to light this very fact that not merely is consciousness of a thing only possible for a self-consciousness, but that this self-consciousness alone is the truth of those attitudes. But it is only for us (who trace this process] that this truth is actually present; it is not yet so for the consciousness immersed in the experience. Self-consciousness has in the first instance become a specific reality on its own account (für sich), has come into being for itself; it is not yet in the form of unity with consciousness in general.
We see that in the inner being of the sphere of appearance, understanding gets to know in truth nothing else but appearance itself, not, however, appearance in the shape of a play of forces, but that play of forces in its absolutely universal moments and in the process of those moments; in fact, understanding merely experiences itself. Raised above perception, consciousness reveals itself united and bound up with the supersensible world through the mediating agency of the realm of appearance, through which it gazes into this background that lies behind appearance. The two extremes, the one that of the pure inner region, the other that of the inner being gazing into this pure inner region, are now merged together; and as they have disappeared qua extremes, the middle term, the mediating agency, qua something other than these extremes, has also vanished. This curtain [of appearance], therefore, hanging before the inner world is withdrawn, and we have here the inner being [the ego] gazing into the inner realm – the vision of the undistinguished selfsame reality, which repels itself from itself, affirms itself as a divided and distinguished inner reality, but as one for which at the same time the two factors have immediately no distinction; what we have here is Self-consciousness. It is manifest that behind the so-called curtain, which is to hide the inner world, there is nothing to be seen unless we ourselves go behind there, as much in order that we may thereby see, as that there may be something behind there which can be seen. But it is clear at the same time that we cannot without more ado go straightway behind there. For this knowledge of what is the truth of the idea of the realm of appearance and of its inner being, is itself only a result arrived at after a long and devious process,, in the course of which the modes of consciousness, “meaning”, “perception”, and “understanding” disappear. And it will be equally evident that to get acquainted with what consciousness knows when it is knowing itself, requires us to fetch a still wider compass, What follows will set this forth at length.