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I have a question about the usage of for here. Can I replace it with by without changing the meaning? The full sentence is as follows:

Yet we must here leave aside the explanation of the nature of free thought existing for itself, and remark rather that for the attainment of the union in and for itself of faith and thought a long period of time has been necessary [...]

The context is Hegel's thoughts on free thought and its interaction with faith and thought again, which is weird.

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No, you can't replace it with by without affecting the meaning

Existing for itself implies a purpose, existing by itself doesn't.

In other words, if I say I exist FOR myself, I'm saying I exist to take care of/entertain myself.

If I say I exist BY myself, I'm simply stating that I am unaccompanied by anyone else.

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Probably not. For itself seems to be an established translation for Hegel's für sich, in contrast with in itself (an sich), see e.g. here. I wouldn't change it, unless you have a very good argument why by itself better renders the meaning of für sich (as intended by Hegel).

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