Continuing from part one our close reading of The Phenomenology of Spirit (1807), ch. 3, “Force and the Understanding.”
We start off with the dynamic between the expressed and merely stored up aspects of force and how this relates to the forcing and the forced entities in the interaction. Which of these is the “solicitor” and which is being solicited? Either one can be seen as the solicitor; while it seems like you’ve got one object that goes out and exerts force on something else, it’s really a symmetrical interaction, in that if you didn’t have something providing resistance (and so holding on to its force internally), then you wouldn’t have interaction at all; the forced is providing a medium for the expression of the forcer.
The important move in this section is that we’re now talking about something driving appearances which is beyond them, but yet only has its expression through appearances. Unlike in previous sections, we’re not just talking about images in perception, but something posited as the source of images.
Why is this “soliciting”/”solicited” distinction important for Hegel to undermine? Because it’s essentially the distinction between form and content. Where for Kant, our mind comes equipped with forms (e.g. causality, number, space) which are then shaped by some content from a perceptual given (sense data), Hegel sees this interaction between mind and world as more symmetrical: It’s not that the world exerts force on us and we receive these impressions and shape them, but that we’re part of the system that is the world, and it’s part of us. By doing science and so discovering things about the world, we’re really dredging into the depths of our own minds.
Hegel’s goal here is to argue that the Kantian notion of the thing-in-itself doesn’t work because if we posit such a thing, we realize that it has the same structure as the categories of the Understanding: it just is the mind (the self), not something beyond the field of our experience that we can never grasp.