Freedom and servitude: the master and slave dialectic in Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit
French, Adam L.
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The recognition of the other and how the other affects our individual, free self-consciousness, is explained by Hegel in the dialectic of the master-slave relationship. In Hegel's view, self-consciousness is a self-consciousness only by existing for another self-consciousness. Hegel makes it clear that the relation between individual, independent, and free, self-consciousnesses is needed for the freedom of all self-consciousness. This process first exhibits the side of the inequality of the two, one self-consciousness only recognizing, the other self-consciousness being only recognized, the master and the slave. When the slave submits to the master, the master does not directly relate to the slave. What really confronts the master is not an independent consciousness, but a dependent one, although it is in his labor that the slave transforms servitude into mastery. Since the master's desires are fulfilled by the slave in the things the slave produces, the master becomes dependent on the slave and is no longer an independent self-consciousness. The slave then recognizes he no longer needs the master to fulfill his development as a free self-consciousness. The master must thus come to acknowledge this in the slave and learn to map his own point of view on that of the slave who is emerging as independent. We come to understand both why the situation of mastery and slavery emerges, why it is inadequate as a stance of free self-consciousness and why mutual recognition alone will lead us to free self-consciousnesses discovered in a social community consisting of independent, free individuals.