God Is Watching: Hegel and the Idea

Posted on January 14, 2022 at 10:45 PM by Coleman Gariety

From Christopher Nolan’s 2006 film, The Prestige:

Are you watching closely? Every magic trick consists of three parts, or acts. The first part is called “the pledge.” The magician shows you something ordinary. A deck of cards, a bird or a man. He shows you this object. Perhaps he asks you to inspect it, to see that it is indeed real, unaltered, normal. But, of course, it probably isn’t. The second act is called “the turn.” The magician takes the ordinary something and makes it do something extraordinary. Now you’re looking for the secret, but you won’t find it, because, of course, you’re not really looking. You don’t really want to know. You want to be fooled. But you wouldn’t clap yet, because making something disappear isn’t enough. You have to bring it back. That’s why every magic trick has a third act. The hardest part. The part we call “the prestige.”

Likewise, every ιδέα consists of three sides, or moments. The first side is called Being. The ιδέα shows itself in the form of abstract indifference. A tree, a flower. It appears as this object. The ιδέα invites you to inspect it, to see that is is indeed real. But, of course, it probably isn’t. The second side is called Essence. The ιδέα withdraws itself into itself, disappearing inside of itself. The tree becomes the seed. Essence is divorced from appearance. Now you’re looking for the secret, but you won’t find it, because of course, you’re not really looking. You don’t really want to know. You want to be fooled. But you don’t have knowledge yet, because making something disappear isn’t enough. You have to bring it back. That’s why every ιδέα has a third side. The hardest part. The part we call the Concept.


Consider for example a door or gate, which swings backwards and forwards—or left and right when viewed from the side. On its hinge, that is the mechanism, the door is the immediate embodiment of directionality. But the relation of left and right, or backwards and forwards, is not an essential relation. This means that the sides of the door, the “this side” and the “that side,” in fact sit simply side-by-side in their abstract, mutual indifference. This indifference is different from the difference of essence and appearance, in the following way: that the essence is already implicitly the appearance, and in fact also vice versa—the appearance is implicitly the essence. And this is such that each side interpenetrates the other, and is the other, in a relation of absolute inequality. The seed is the tree and the tree is the seed. They are in a dialectic, yes. But this dialectic does not switch, as it were, without the one disppearing in the other and vice versa. The mutual interpenetration of the sides is complete, and the eternal instability is grasped immediately as a development. A succession of lower and higher, lesser and greater. Yet in this relation there is still dependence of the external sort, such that the one is subordinated to the other and vice versa. And this determination of subordination is resolved only in what is called the Concept, or Begriff. In the Concept, all expression requires descent into a lower sphere, because the Concept is in and for itself the totality of the movement from Being to Essence and back again. Or the Concept is realm of utter freedom.