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2023-24 Colloquium: “Self-Consciousness as Species-Consciousness”

Apr 26 @ 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Kaplan Hall 193,
April 26, 2024 | 4:00PM – 6:00PM
Kaplan Hall 193


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Meeting ID: 964 8137 0381
Passcode: 648893


Join us on April 26, 2024 for a colloquium with Karen Ng, Vanderbilt University. The talk will take place in Kaplan 193 (and via Zoom) from 4:00PM – 6:00PM with a reception to follow.




Self-Consciousness as Species-Consciousness


Although self-consciousness has been a central theme in many discussions within post-Kantian philosophy, this paper aims to understand and defend an undertheorized aspect of Hegel’s account of this theme, namely, his claim that self-consciousness is species-consciousness. I approach this problem in three stages. First, beginning with Hegel’s account of self-consciousness as desire and its connection with life, I show that Hegel defends a version of the materialist conception of self-consciousness (Cassam) by focusing specifically on what he calls the “self-sufficiency” of living objects and subjects. Second, I turn to Hegel’s account of the significance of what he calls the “simple universality” of the Gattung or species in relation to self-consciousness. This universality arises as a result of his account of the processes of life, and here I show that Hegel defends a version of Michael Thompson’s argument about the significance of life-form consciousness for self-consciousness. Finally, I conclude by reconstructing the central paragraphs 172-173 from the Phenomenology of Spirit where Hegel describes self-consciousness as the species or Gattung for itself, and draw out several consequences and problems of Hegel’s account. Among these include the idea that self-consciousness is an achievement, alongside the idea that our self-conscious form of life that Hegel calls Geist exists as a living species among other living species.


Karen Ng is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Vanderbilt University. She specializes in nineteenth- and twentieth-century European philosophy, focusing in particular on Hegel, German idealism, Marx, and Frankfurt School critical theory. Between 2023 and 2025, she will be an Alexander von Humboldt senior research fellow at the Center for Post-Kantian Philosophy at the University of Potsdam. Her first book, Hegel’s Concept of Life: Freedom, Self-Consciousness, Logic, was published with Oxford in 2020 and was awarded the Journal of the History of Philosophy Book Prize.




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Apr 26
4:00 pm - 6:00 pm
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Kaplan Hall 193


UCLA Department of Philosophy