Hegel’s Concept of Desire


Hegel’s assertion that self-consciousness is desire in general stands at a critical point in the Phenomenology, but the concept of desire employed in this identification is obscure. I examine three ways in which Hegel’s concept of desire might be understood and conclude that this concept is closely related to Fichte’s notions of drive and longing. So understood, the concept plays an essential role in Hegel’s non-foundational, non-genetic account of the awareness that individual rational subjects have of themselves. This account, I argue, is part of a larger concern with demonstrating the relation between theoretical and practical capacities of the subject. I also argue that my reading explains Hegel’s emphasis on the figure of the bondsman in “Lordship and Bondage.” The bondsman’s experience of itself and its world instantiates Hegel’s views on the integration of subjective capacities and the reality of objects of experience.