This article develops a Hegelian account of self-consciousness by grounding it in being animal. It draws on contemporary naturalist and rationalist philosophy to support a transformative picture of the relationship between self-consciousness and animal purposes, setting work by Danielle Macbeth, Terry Pinkard, Michael Thompson, and Matthew Boyle into dialogue with two passages from Hegel’s Aesthetics. Because we are conscious of them as such, the article argues, our ends are never simply given to us and must be determined, which means working them out collectively. But this makes dependency a structural feature of human life, as attaining the right relation to our ends means finding ourselves through the eyes of others instantiating our lifeform. Grounding these Hegelian insights in a naturalistic understanding of organic norms, we see that we should not oppose the self-transparency afforded by rationality to the opacity of animal drives. The article concludes that the mark of rationality is not the capacity to transcend or control animal instinct but that we can be problems to ourselves. Spiritual life is just natural life: natural life finding itself problematic.

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