The master–slave dialectic is the common name for a famous passage of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit, though the original German phrase, Herrschaft und Knechtschaft, is more properly translated as Lordship and Bondage. It is widely considered a key element in Hegel's philosophical system, and has heavily influenced many subsequent philosophers. The passage describes, in narrative form, the development of self-consciousness as such in an encounter between what are thereby (i.e., emerging only from this encounter) two distinct, self-conscious beings; the essence of the dialectic is the movement or motion of recognizing, in which the two self-consciousnesses are constituted each in being recognized as self-conscious by the other. This movement, inexorably taken to its extreme, takes the form of a "struggle to the death" in which one masters the other, only to find that such lordship makes the very recognition he had sought impossible, since the bondsman, in this state, is not free to offer it.
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