In paragraph 76 of Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit it is written:

But science, insofar as it comes onto the scene, is itself an appearance; science's coming onto the scene is not yet science as it is carried out and unfolded in its truth. It makes no difference in this regard whether one thinks that science is an appearance because it comes onto the scene alongside a kind of knowing that is other than it, or whether one calls that other, untrue kind of knowing science's own appearing.

What is meant by "science's coming onto the scene"? What is science's appearing? And how science comes onto the scene alongside a kind of knowing that is other than it? What is that other kind of knowing?

1 Answer 1


1. Exegesis

Firstly, let me suggest you use the Pinkard translation which has the advantage of being recent, free, and bilingual. The text reads as follows in there:

However, in coming on the scene, science is itself an appearance, and as it comes on the scene, science has not yet itself been worked out in its truth in any extensive way. It makes no difference in this regard whether we think of science as an appearance because it comes on the scene alongside other ways of knowing, or whether we call that other untrue knowledge its appearance.

The German sentences read:

Aber die Wissenschaft darin, daß sie auftritt, ist sie selbst eine Erscheinung; ihr Auftreten ist noch nicht sie in ihrer Wahrheit ausgeführt und ausgebreitet. Es ist hiebei gleichgültig, sich vorzustellen, daß sie die Erscheinung ist, weil sie neben anderem auftritt, oder jenes andere unwahre Wissen ihr Erscheinen zu nennen.

The first sentence roughly says that insofar as science is not eternal and unchanging in its being ("auftreten" = change from not being there to being there, hence the "coming on the scene" translation), it is only an appearance. The German text also says more pointedly in the second half that science as it has come on the scene, ie. in the form it has when it has established itself as a form of knowledge, is not yet science developed and elaborated in its truth. This is also a play with equivocations hard to catch in translation since "auftreten"/"Auftreten" bears both 'the change from not being there to being there' and 'the current appearance of something' as two different connotations.

The second sentence clarifies that as long as there are "other forms of knowledge", science (German "Wissen-schaft" = that which produces (true) knowledge) has not developed into its true being and there still is a form of "mere appearance" of science. It still is faced with an "other" kind of knowledge that is not itself while it is, as a concept, literally that (ie. the only thing) which produces true knowledge. In other words: if we want to realize the concept, there actually should not be any kind of knowledge that is not scientific. Therefore, it makes no difference which side (science or "other kinds of knowledge") you name the appearance of science, the point is that science still is as mere appearance as long as there are other kinds of knowledge at all.

2. Explanation

Mind, this was a time where natural sciences just started to unravel various insights into nature, ie. scientific knowledge was apparently (sic!) incomplete since science proper "just came on the scene", historically speaking. Hegel was very interested in natural sciences and read recent books he could get his hands on, as evident by his remarks on chemistry earlier in the book.

The other factor is that in Hegel's terminological system, the idea of science (its truth) consists of Being (the totality of that which is) being in full accordance with the concept, ie. the sublation of object (being) and subject (concept) into a single Being where there is no "other" anymore. And if science is that which produces knowledge, then any knowledge other than scientific knowledge means the idea has not come to itself, ie. is not fully realized. Therefore, what he writes here is just an explanation of what it takes for science to become real/true. See also his following remarks:

But science must free itself from this semblance, and it can only do so by turning against it. This is so because science cannot discard a nontruthful cognition on the grounds that it is merely a common view of things while at the same time assuring us both that it is itself an entirely different kind of knowledge and that the other kind of knowledge amounts to nothing at all for it. Nor can it appeal to some vague intimation about there being something even better in the common view. By way of that assurance, it declares its power to lie in its being. However, untrue knowledge equally appeals to the same thing, namely, that it exists, and it assures us that in its eyes science amounts to nothing.


As long as there is knowledge that is not scientific, science as - per concept - literally "that which produces true knowledge" has not come to itself, ie. its idea is not real yet.

  • “ In other words: if we want to realize the concept, there actually should not be any kind of knowledge that is not scientific.” I just want to ask that would it be better to replace “scientific” with “systematic”?
    – ConGovDeIn
    Commented Jul 19, 2021 at 11:24
  • @ConGovDeIn No, the point is that the only kind of knowledge has to be scientific knowledge if science is to be realized in its truth. Scientific knowledge is also systematic in Hegel, of course, but your suggestion would be misleading IMHO.
    – Philip Klöcking
    Commented Jul 19, 2021 at 11:32
  • Is Hegel saying that all kinds of knowledge are science, it is just a matter of how much science is appeared in them? (I would like if you begin your reply with “Yes” or “No”.)
    – ConGovDeIn
    Commented Jul 19, 2021 at 11:59
  • @ConGovDeIn No, I would put it differently: Strictly speaking, science (proper) is the only thing that produces knowledge (proper), so as long as there is non-scientific knowledge, knowledge and the method behind it is mere appearance and not in accordance with the idea of science, which is exactly that it is actually the only method of producing knowledge. One should be careful about the concepts of "science" and "knowledge" he uses here and their historical, technical meaning, though, see this answer of mine.
    – Philip Klöcking
    Commented Jul 19, 2021 at 12:05
  • The method of Hegelian science is consciousness (Absolute Geist) coming back to itself through various (5 it was I think) levels of opposition being sublated and finally cognizing itself in its Being. That is actually the structure of the Phenomenology of Spirit, going through the stages: Sensuality, perception, understanding, self-consciousness, reason, spirit. I highly recommend the chapters of Förster's book mentioned in the linked answer for some basic understanding of that movement and structure
    – Philip Klöcking
    Commented Jul 19, 2021 at 12:10

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