Joseph Dietzgen 1870s
Source: Project Gutenberg www.gutenberg.org;
Translated: by Ernest Untermann.
Title: The positive outcome of philosophy: The Nature of Human Brain Work; Letters on Logic. The Positive Outcome of Philosophy;
Written: by Joseph Ditezgen, with an introduction by Anton Pannekoek, edited by Eugene Dietzgen;
First Published: by Charles. H. Kerr & Co., Chicago 1906;
Transcribed: by Kavindu Herath.
The “Letters on Logic,” treating on the same subjects as “The Positive Outcome of Philosophy,” were intended by the author to be replaced by this subsequent work.
We publish, however, both these works in hopes that the reader will pardon the frequent repetitions on account of the additional light that other parts of the “Letters on Logic” are apt to impart.
Twenty-third Letter (a)
Twenty-third Letter (b)
You have now reached the age at which the students go to the university. There, according to custom, they register first of all for a course in logic, whether they choose the study of law, medicine, or theology. Logic is, so to say, the elementary study in all branches of learning. Now you know, my dear, that school and life are regarded as two separate things. I should like to call your attention to their connection. We live also in school, we are schooled also by life. I should like to consider your trip across the Atlantic ocean as your first venture in the high school of life, and assume the role of your professor of logic.
I feel well qualified for this office. Although I am not well up in Latin and Greek, still I feel competent to guide you to the depths of logical science better than a German professor trained and installed according to the most approved pattern. You will admit the possibility of such a thing. For one who knows little may explain that little with more ease and efficacy than one who has his head stuffed full of the prescribed bunch of official wisdom.
You, my son, have been so fortunate as to enjoy a seven years’ course in a German college. And since your teachers, at your departure, gave you the highest certificate, I may well consider you as qualified not only to enter the school of life in the United States, but also to listen intelligently to my lectures on logic.
But in order that my well trained pupil may not look down upon his self-taught teacher, I appeal to the fact that even the man with the best all-around education will be a tyro in specialties; and that, on the other hand, ignorance in many things does not exclude the possibility of knowing more about a certain specialty than science has heretofore grasped. Now I claim in this case to have acquired a knowledge of the subject with which I intend to deal here that surpasses anything I have been able to find in the professional literature. I mention this, my dear Eugene, with all due modesty, not for the purpose of throwing a halo around my personality, but in order to give a certain authority to my office as teacher and to inspire my pupil with confidence.
Yes, I value confidence. Although you know me as a democrat who cares nothing for authority, you shall also learn to know me as a graduate in dialectics who, though he may empty the bath, still retains his hold on the child and does not permit it to float off with the water. Children, and one may say nations in their childhood, cannot do without authority, and a teacher, whether he instruct children or nations, cannot dispense with a certain confidence-inspiring air. The pupil must believe in the wisdom of his teacher, in order that he may approach the master with the necessary attention and willingness to learn. Later on the understanding of the subject makes all authority superfluous. Thus a thing so sublime as authority is subject to the destructive tendencies of time, to the historical process.
Hitherto mankind has often been tempted by preconceived notions to idolize vain things. It has been attempted to shield not only authority in general, but, what is still worse, this or that throne or altar, against the attacks of time. The relation between the perishable and the imperishable has always been subject to much misunderstanding. Now since logic is that science which aims to set the intellect aright, we shall have to touch occasionally on the general misconception of time and eternity.
The most famous expounders of logic are reproached for their cumbrous style and their obscure mode of explanation. Even masters of languages have complained in my hearing about the foreign terms used by that branch of science, terms which even they could not understand. Much of the blame for this condition of things may fall on the difficulties of the subject, which have baffled all elucidation for thousands of years. Some of the blame also falls on the bad habit of using learned vernacular. But the greatest fault lies with the mental laziness of the students. Nothing can be learned without mental exertion. If you are concerned in your further development, you will recognize the Christian word as to the curse of work as untrue. Work cannot be descended from sin, for it is a blessing. You will have experienced in yourself how elated one feels after successful physical or mental work.
The things which science yields without exertion can be at most axiomatic commonplaces.
I assume that you are quite willing to perform the necessary mental labor, and I promise you that I shall do my best to make this study easy for you. I do this so much more readily, as I frankly confess that these letters to my son are written with the intention of making them accessible to a wider circle of readers by means of the press.
Before concluding, let me say a word about my aim of speaking especially of democratic-proletarian logic. You will think or say: Logic may be a subject worthy of study, but a special democratic-proletarian logic can surely treat of nothing but party matters. But just as the special accomplishments in this or that line, the special advances of this or that nation, are at the same time general advances, progress of civilization, so the ideas of proletarian logic are not party ideas, but conclusions of logic in general. You may reply: Even though the special thought of a Chinaman may be quite consistent and logical, still we would not call it Chinese logic. That would be quite true, but it does not meet my point.
The thought on which the proletarian demands are based, the idea of the equality of all human beings, this ultimate proletarian idea, if I may say so, is fully backed up by the deeper insight into the tortuous problem of logic. Now, since this idea dominates mankind, it certainly has more right than any Chinese idea. Furthermore, industrial development has leveled, simplified, cleared all social conditions to such an extent that it becomes ever easier to penetrate with sober eyes into the secrets of logic. Finally, my logic deserves its proletarian qualification for the reason that it requires for its understanding the overcoming of all prejudices by which the capitalist world is held together.
The cause of the people is not a party matter, but the general object of all science.
The people’s cause as the ultimate object, and logic as the most elementary and most abstract science, as ultimate science, are as intimately connected as plants and botany, or as laws and the legal profession. So are the interests of democracy and the proletariat intimately connected. The fact that this has not been well recognized in the United States so far, is more a proof of the lucky condition of that country than of the scientific knowledge of its democracy. The spreading primeval forests and prairies offered innumerable homesteads to the poor and they obscured the antagonism between capitalists and wage workers, between capitalist and proletarian democracy. But you still lack the knowledge of proletarian economics which would enable you to recognize without a doubt that it is precisely on the republican ground of America that capitalism makes giant strides and reveals ever more clearly its twofold task of first enslaving the people for the purpose of freeing them in due time.
Having written the first letter by way of introduction, I now am ready for a gradual approach to my subject.
Logic aims to instruct the human mind as to its own nature and processes; it will lay bare the interior working of our mind for our guidance. The object of the study of logic is thought, its nature, and its proper classification.
The human brain performs the function of thinking as involuntarily as the chest the function of breathing. However, we can, by our will, stop breathing for a while, and accelerate or retard the breathing movements. In the same way, the will can control the thoughts. We may choose any object as the subject matter of our thought, and yet we may quickly convince ourselves that the power of our will and the freedom of the mind are not any greater than the freedom of the chest in breathing.
While logic undertakes to assign the proper position to our brain, still it has to remember that nature has already assigned that position.
It is with logic as it is with other sciences. They draw wisdom from the mysterious source of plain experience. Agriculture, e. g., aims to teach the farmer how to cultivate the soil; but fields were tilled long before any agricultural college had begun its lectures. In the same way human beings think without ever having heard of logic. But by practice they improve their innate faculty of thought, they make progress, they gradually learn to make better use of it. Finally, just as the farmer arrives at the science of agriculture, so the thinker arrives at logic, acquires a clear consciousness of his faculty of thought and a professional dexterity in applying it.
I have two purposes in mind in saying this. Firstly, you must not expect too much from this science, for you cannot set contrary brains to rights by any logic. Secondly, you must not think too little of it, by regarding the matter as mere scholastic word-mongery and useless hairsplitting. In daily life, as well as in all sciences, we never operate without the help of thought, but only with it, hence an understanding of the nature of the processes of thought is of eminent value.
Logic has its history like all sciences. Aristotle, whom Marx calls the “Grecian giant of thought,” is universally recognized as its founder.
After the classic culture of antiquity had been buried by barbarism, the name of Bacon of Verulam rose with the beginning of modern times as a philosophical light of the first order. His most famous work is entitled “Novum Organon.” By the new organ he meant a new method of research which should be founded on experience, instead of the subtleties of the purely introspective method hitherto in vogue. After him, Descartes, or Cartesius, as he called himself in literature, wrote his still famous work, “About Methods.” I furthermore recall Immanuel Kant’s “Critique of Reason,” Johann Gottlieb Fichte’s “Theory of Science,” and finally Hegel, of whom the biographer said that he was as famous in the scientific world as Napoleon in the political.
Hegel calls his chief work “Logic,” and bases his whole system on the “dialectic method.” You have only to look at the titles of these philosophical masterpieces in order to recognize that they all treat of the same subject which we are making our special study, viz., the light of understanding. The great philosophers of all times have searched for the true method, the method of truth, for the way in which understanding and reason arrive at science.
I merely wish to indicate that this subject has its famous history, but I do not care to enter more deeply into it. I will not speak of the oppression and persecution, which was inaugurated by religious fanaticism. I will not enumerate the various events that led to a greater and greater light from generation to generation. The attempt to trace this history would entangle us in many disputed questions and errors which would only increase the difficulties of this study for the beginner.
If a teacher of technology were to instruct you on steam engines and, to explain their first incomplete invention, trace their further development historically from improvement to improvement, until he should arrive at the height of perfection attained in their present day construction, he would also be advancing on a path, but on a tedious one. I shall endeavor to show my subject at the outset in the very clearest light which has ever been thrown on it by the help of the nations of all times. If I succeed in this, it will be easy in the future, in the reading of any author, to separate the chaff from the wheat.
I can afford to dispense with quotations and proofs from others in trying to make my case and demonstrating the positive product of social culture, for we are dealing with the most universal and omnipresent object, – one which enters into every spoken or written sentence with its own body. If anybody tells of far off times or wonderful things, he must quote witnesses. Now, much of what I have to say for my case may sound wonderful, because it runs counter to the popular prejudice, but the only witness required to prove the truth of my statements is the clear brain of my pupil, who has only to examine his own experience without preconceived notions, in order to find proofs on every hand.
It is surprising in the first place, that such a near at hand object has not been understood long ago and that so much still remains to be explained and to be taught after thousands of years of study. But you know that just as the small things are often great, and great things small, so the nearest things are often hidden and the hidden things nearest.
I promised you in the first sentences of this letter, dear Eugene, that I would now pass from introduction to subject matter. But since I have really continued to move around the outer edge of the subject instead of entering into its midst, you might become impatient, and so I will justify my method. It is a peculiarity of this subject matter that it exposes me to this charge. It is a peculiarity of thought that it never stays with itself, but always digresses to other things. The thought is the plank to which I should stick, but it is the nature of this plank never to stick. Thinking is a thing full of contradictions, a dialectical secret.
Now I know that here I am saying something which it is very hard for you to understand. But look here, has it not always been so? When you began declining Latin words in the sixth class, you were unable at once to grasp the full meaning of declension. You knew what you were doing, and yet you did not entirely understand it. Only after penetrating more deeply into the construction of the language did the meaning and purpose of the beginning become clear to you. In the same way, you now must try to digest as much as you can of what I say, and after you have gone more deeply into this matter, you will fully understand me from beginning to end. In taking lessons from an author, on an unknown subject, I have always followed the method of first getting a superficial view of the subject, of glancing over its many pages and chapters, in order to return to the beginning and acquire a thorough knowledge by repeated study. With the growing familiarity with the subject the ability to understand it grew, and at the conclusion the thing became clear to me. This is the only correct method I can recommend to you.
In conclusion let me say for to-day in passing that the recommendation of the correct method for studying logic is not only an introduction, but, as I have already said, the subject matter of science itself.
My task of teaching logic requires two things: a logician and a teacher.
The last named capacity requires that I should clothe the subject in an attractive way. Permit me, therefore, to combine the didactic style with that of the story teller, and to relate at this point an episode from a novel of Gustav zu Putlitz:
The organist of a certain village is lying on his deathbed. His last strength has been spent on the previous day in playing a hymn, and after its conclusion he was carried from the church in an unconscious state. He had played his masterpiece, but at the same time his last piece. A despised stage girl had accompanied him with a voice like that of a nightingale. But neither she nor the organ player had earned any applause from the stupid villagers.
The old man looked around in his room, his eyes were first riveted on his faithful piano, his friend and companion through life. He extended his hand, but it sank down exhausted. He had not had the intention to touch the piano anyway. It was only like stretching out one’s hand for a friend far away. Then he looked through the window trying to recollect what time of the day it was. And when he had taken in the situation, he turned to the girl kneeling at his feet.
“Poor child,” he began, “you were deeply disappointed yesterday. I felt very much hurt, when I first heard of it, but after that everything became clear to me while I heard the music all night, until a short while ago. Rejoice, my girl, at being reviled, for it is done for the sake of that sacred music, and it is an ecstasy, a blessing, to be martyred for one’s music which is well worth all injuries. I did not fare any better all my life, and if I thank God for all the good he has done me until this hour, I also thank him first and most fervently for the gift of music which he bestowed on the world, and which he revealed to me most wonderfully in my most painful hours.
“For my music I have starved and suffered all my life, and my gain was delicious, my reward celestial for this poor perishable stake.
“My father was an organist in a little town of Eastern Frisia. His father had held the same position in the same church, and, I think, so did the father of his father follow music for a profession. Music has been the heirloom of our family for generations. True, it was the only heirloom, but I have cherished it and held its flag aloft all my life. When God calls me away, I shall leave nothing behind but that old piano and the sheet music which I wrote myself, for in all other respects I have always been poor. I might have done differently, and my wife has often upbraided me for it, but she does not understand the blessing of music. I do not blame her for that, for it was not her fault that God closed her ear to music as he did the ears of many others. Poor people, how cold and dreary must be their lives when music does not scatter blossoms in their path and bathe their temples in light. But there will come a time when their ears will be opened, and God will compensate them in heaven for what they missed here below.
“We who love music have tasted a part of eternal bliss here below, for harmony which dissolves all chords is eternal life and its wings are fanning us in this terrestrial life – –
“Do you see, I know it well, and no one besides me, how it is when the soul prepares to leave the perishable body and enter the song of the spheres –
“You do not understand me, my girl, but do not worry, you also will understand some day. I will only tell you this much, and it shall be a consolation to you when the world treats you roughly hereafter. All of us, whether rich or poor, whether reclining on soft silken cushions or on hard straw, all of us enter life with the celestial melodies in our hearts. The beating of time goes with us as long as we are breathing. It is the beating of the heart in our breast. We may seem to lose the melody, even the measured step of time seems to become confused by our passion, but in the blessed hours we always find our melody anew, and then we feel at home in the path of our life.”
Thus the old organist idolized his music.
But it is not alone the harmony of music which has such a power over the mind. The harmony of colors, every art and science, has the same power. Even the most common craft, and the most prosaic of all prose, the chase after the dollar, may take possession of a man’s soul and prostrate him in adoration before its idol. True, not every one is so sentimentally inclined, and even the sentimentalist is so only in especially sentimental moments. Furthermore it cannot be denied that artists, inventors, and explorers are worshipping the most worthy and most adorable objects. And I admit that no great success can be accomplished without putting your whole soul into some great aim.
Nevertheless you should know that anything which may take possession of one’s soul shares its sublimity with all other things, and is for this reason at the same time something ordinary. Without such a dialectic clarification of our consciousness all adoration is idol worship.
The actual experience, then, that anything and everything may serve as an idol should clearly convince you that no one thing, but only the universe is the true God, is truth and life.
Now, is this logic or is it theology?
It is both. At closer range you will notice that all great logicians occupy themselves a great deal with God and deity, and that on the other hand all honest theologians are trying to base their faith on some logical order. Logic is by its whole nature metaphysical.
There exists a class of logicians who attempt to deny the inevitable connection between the celestial region and the tangible universe. Some of them do so from excessive religious delicacy of feeling, in order to protect the sublime from the disintegrating effects of critique. Others have such an antipathy against the religious abuses that they do not wish to hear any more about religion. Both classes adhere to the so-called formal logic.
These adherents of formal logic may be compared to a maker of porcelain dishes who would contend that he was simply paying attention to the form of his dishes, pots, and vases, but that he did not have anything to do with the raw material, while it is evident that he is compelled to form the body in trying to embody forms. These things can be separated by words only, but not by actions. In the same way as body and form, the finite and infinite or so-called celestial spheres, the physical and the metaphysical, are inseparable.
Logic analyzes thought. But it analyzes thought as it is in reality, and therefore it unavoidably searches for truth. And whether this truth is found above or below, or anywhere, is a question which just as inevitably brings the logician into contact with the theologian. To think of avoiding such a meeting from considerations of sympathy or antipathy, would be a rude lack of consideration for science.
Metaphysical logic which aims to extend its field to eternity, which looks for logical order even in heaven, and seeks to solve even the so-called last questions of all knowledge, differs in a distinct way from formal logic, which selects a restricted field for its research and confines itself to investigating the logical order of the socalled physical world. This difference is worthy of your special attention, because in it there is hidden the kernel of our whole correspondence.
It is quite a practical method to set a limit for one’s investigations, not to fly into clouds, not to undertake anything that cannot be accomplished. Yet you must not forget that practical boundaries are not theoretical boundaries, that they are not invariable boundaries for you, or for others. Although you cannot fly to heaven and will give up the idea of flying machines from considerations of practical expediency, yet you will not wish to deny to man the theoretical freedom of infinite striving even in the matter of airships, and you will not be so small as to give up the idea of the capacity for our race for metaphysical, or in other words, infinite development.
3. In the sense of: mental and physical world embracing, all-embracing. – Editor.
In my first letter I acquainted you with my purpose, in the second I lifted the subject on my finger tips, so to say, to show it for a brief moment; in the third I showed that its color had inevitably a religious shade. Now, to continue, permit me to introduce another point to your consideration.
The great cause of the working class has hitherto always been the beast of burden of a small and exclusive minority. This is most evident in the slave states of antiquity, in Egypt, Greece, Rome. Likewise in the feudal and guild systems of the middle ages the oppression of the mass of the people is sufficiently apparent. At present this condition of things is more visible in Eastern Europe, in Russia, Turkey, Bulgaria, Hungary, Eastern Prussia, etc., than in the industrial countries of the West. In the United States of America it is most obscured, so that there the people hardly realize their enslaved condition. In America, many of the upper ten thousand have made their way from the bottom up, and it happens more frequently than in Europe that the captains of industry laid their foundation by hard work. The shortsighted observers then easily forget out of sympathy for the hard beginning that there is sharper’s practice at the end, and they indulge in the idle hope that every hard working beast of burden might transform itself into a happy millionaire by thrift and smartness.
You will probably ask: What has that to do with logic or the art of reasoning? Patience! You will admit that the emancipation of the nations from beastly toil, misery and suffering is the highest goal of the human mind. Nor will you deny that the thought is the most essential instrument for reaching this high goal. The accomplishments of thought are visible in the results of civilization. The proletariat of the present, also that of Russia, Turkey, East Prussia, participates in these accomplishments of thought. It participates not alone in the sense that its brains are better educated and cultured, but also that its food, clothing, and shelter have become more civilized through the progressive deeds of intellect.
You see, then, that the people’s cause is connected with the faculty of thought, and the nature of the latter may be illustrated as well by the example of the development of civilization. The complicated network of wheels in a watch may also serve to demonstrate the nature of that which language designates by many names, such as spirit, intellect, faculty of knowledge, reason, etc. Only it must be remembered that this mysterious something cannot be shown by itself, but only in connection with other things, whether they be the history of civilization or a watch. There will then be no contradiction in finding that the intellectual life appears more powerful and magnificent through the clockwork of the history of civilization than through any miniature product of thought.
In searching for the connection of things, one generally seeks to recognize the manner or the degree of the connection. But we, in this case, disregard the question as to how the things of this world are related to one another and to thought, and we simply make a note of the fact of the interdependence of thought and being, of nature and mind. This fact of the universal interconnection of things contradicts the untrained prejudice. The uncultivated brain nurses the illusion that the earth, the trees on it, and the clouds and the sun above them are separate things. But it requires a better training of reason to understand that the earth, the tree, the clouds, and the sun, can be what they are only in the universal interconnection. I remember reading an article from Fichte, in a German school reader, which clearly showed that the disarrangement of an insignificant object during the process of thinking causes us to disarrange the whole history of the world in our thoughts. It is well known that one unfamiliar with political economy overlooks the fact that the business men not only carry on their trading for their private benefit, but are also members of the process of social production. It is overlooked that all labor, aside from being individual activity, is at the same time an organic part of social labor. And just as ignorance of economics overlooks the industrial interdependence, so ignorance of logic overlooks the cosmic interrelations.
Here is a drop of water. Look how different it is according to the different things with which it is connected. It cannot be what it is without a certain temperature. According to changes in temperature, it will assume either the form of ice or of steam. In fat the drop remains compact, in salt it divides infinitely, runs downhill in general and uphill in a loaf of sugar. According to the specific gravity of a certain fluid, with which it may come into contact, it either floats on the surface or sinks. Without a connection with the earth, its temperature and gravitation, this drop and all others would disappear in the fathomless abyss and have no existence. Thus the forms of things change according to their connections, and they are what they are only as parts of the universal interrelation.
What is true of a drop of water, is true of all things, all forces and substances, even of our thoughts. The human mind lives and works only in connection with the rest of the material universe – and the recognition of the organic unity of all things is the fulcrum of my logic.
Old line metaphysical logic was so enamored of its object that the descent, the kinship, and the connection with the common things of this world seemed too ordinary for the exquisite spirit. That logic was transcendental, and therefore its chosen object likewise had to be in touch with a transcendental world. And though it was scientific enough to regard the tale of the creation of the first soul by the breath of God as a fable, it was nevertheless so prejudiced in favor of the extraordinary nature of the intellect that it did not abandon, for thousands of years, the hope of finding in that intellect a source which would reveal transcendental matters. Formal logic now entirely discards this hope of a fantastical world, but at the same time it misunderstands the natural connection between the spirit and the common world. It isolates the instrument of thought and leaves the question undecided whether this instrument has a natural, supernatural, or no connection at all. It overlooks that just as logic is real, so reality is logical, and does not see that the back door which leads to illogical heaven by way of faith deserves the disdain of science.
Thought, intellect, are really existing, and their existence is a uniform part of the universal existence. That is the cardinal point of sober logic.
The fact that the thoughts are of the same worldly substance as the other parts of the universe, that they are parts of common nature and not a transcendental essence, has already been expressed by Cartesius in the famous words: “Cogito, ergo sum,” I think, therefore I am.
The fact of my thinking, says the philosopher, proves my existence. In order to come to an absolute conviction on the nature of truth and error, he sets out by doubting everything. And then he says that he cannot doubt the existence of his thoughts. He thus placed the spirit on the basis of real life, delivered it of its transcendentalism, and that constitutes his everlasting merit.
However, not alone Cartesius, but also your own experience testifies to the inseparable connection between thinking and being. Have not your thoughts been connected always and everywhere with some worldly or real object? If you attempt to isolate thought in order to ponder over it, you can only do so because that thought has been experienced by you and therefore was in every instance attached to some worldly object. True, you have thought of Greek gods, brownies, and mermaids. But you, an amateur in painting, are familiar enough with that part of the mind which is called imagination in order to admit that even this eccentric part of the mind does not only act, and therefore, exist in reality, but also derives all its products from reality, so that even its most fantastical vagaries and illusions are still real pictures, reflections of reality.
But how is it that I require such a multitude of words in order to state over and over again that the thought has a real existence and is a uniform part of the universe? Simply because from time immemorial the confusion in matters of logic is so great that the human spirit is in the same breath exalted to heaven, and yet its thoughts regarded as nothing real, nothing true. This is made plain by the fact that a sharp distinction is commonly made between that which is real and that which is only imagined, and this difference is exaggerated to such an extent that it appears as if the idea, which indeed is only in the brain, has no real existence at all.
In order that you may understand the interrelations of the things of the universe, I must warn you against this exaggeration and prove that the intellect has a real existence which is connected with the universe or reality. Botany, which occupies itself with plants, does not only teach us to divide them into classes, orders, and families, but it also does more by showing us what place in the entire realm of nature is occupied by the vegetable kingdom, by pointing out the differences which distinguish the plants from the inorganic mineral kingdom or the organic animal kingdom. Formal logic similarly dissects the spirit into its parts, makes distinctions between conceptions, ideas, judgments, conclusions, divides these into subdivisions, classifies conceptions according to species, separates abstract and concrete thought, knows many varieties of judgments, registers three, four, or more modes of conclusion. But at the same time this formal logic recoils from touching on the question as to how the universal spirit is related to the universe, what role it plays in the general existence, whether it is part and parcel of nature or transcendental. And yet this is the most interesting part, the part which logically connects the intellect and the science of the intellect with all other sciences and things.
Logic must teach us how to distinguish. It is not a question, however, of distinguishing sheet iron from gold, or a greyhound from a pug-dog, for this is done by special lines of knowledge. Logic must rather enlighten us about that part of the faculty of distinguishing which is generally required in all branches of knowledge, whereby truth and error, imagination and reality are recognized. To this end I feel impelled to advise you not to overlook that even error and imagination belong to the one infinite and absolutely coherent reality. For the purpose of distinguishing true imagination from actual reality, it must be remembered that just as rye bread and cream puffs agree in belonging to the general category of baker’s products, so imagination and truth, thought and reality, are two different kinds of the same nature.
To sum up the contents of this letter, let me point out that its beginning shows the connection of the intellect with the development of the people, while its conclusion explains the wider connection of the mind with the universal existence.
A man not trained in logical thinking is handicapped by the absence of a monistic method of thought. Monistic is synonymous with systematic, logical, or uniform.
If we call a cream puff a tidbit and rye bread a food without remembering that every food is a tidbit and every tidbit food, and if we ignore the fact that both of them, in spite of their difference, belong to the same category and are, therefore, related, then we lack logic. And logic is lacking whenever the fact is ignored that all things without exception: substances, forces, or qualities of the world, are chips of the same block, finite parts of the infinite, which is the only truth and reality.
That insects, fishes, birds, and mammals form one and the same animal kingdom, is an old story which has long been patched up by the logical instinct. Darwin did not only enrich the natural sciences, but also perform an invaluable service for logic. In proving how amphibia developed into birds, he bored a hole into the hitherto fixed order of classification. He brought motion, life, spirit into the zoological swamp.
In case you should not be familiar enough with Darwin’s work to understand my allusions, I will enter a little more deeply into the matter in a few sentences. The zoologists knew well enough that all species of animals belonged to the animal kingdom; but this classification was a mechanical affair. Now the “Origin of Species,” which demonstrates that the zoological classification is not constant but variable, which outlines the actual transition from one species of animals to another, reveals at the same time that this alignment of all animal species in one kingdom is not only a logical mechanism, but also a fact of actual existence. This classification of all animals from the minutest to the most gigantic in one kingdom appeared before the time of Darwin as an order which had been accomplished by thought alone, while after him it was known as an order of nature.
What the zoologists did to the animal kingdom, must be done by the logician to existence in general, to the cosmos. It must be shown that the whole world, all forms of its existence, including the spirit, are logically or monistically connected, related, welded together.
A certain narrow materialism thinks that everything is done and said when the inter-connection between thought and brain is pointed out. A good many things may still be discovered by the help of the dissecting knife, microscope, and experiment; but this does not make the function of logic superfluous. True, thought and brain are connected, just as intimately as the brain is related to the blood, the blood with oxygen, etc.; but moreover thought is connected quite as intimately with all other things as all physical objects are.
That the apple is not alone dependent on the stem which attaches it to the tree, but also on sunshine and rain, that these things are not one-sidedly but universally connected, this is what logic wants to teach you particularly in regard to the spirit, the thought.
If a traveler in Africa had to report a new animal species, he would not make special mention of the fact of its existence, because that is obvious. And though he were to relate things about the most abnormal existence, we should still know that this abnormality is only a deviation in degree which does not overstep the bounds of existence in general. But the human intellect is a greater novelty than the most wonderful animal species of the interior of Africa.
You know my sharpwitted friend Engländer. When I told him that I was writing articles on the human mind, he advised me not to bother my head about it. He said that this was a subject no man knew anything about. And when the learned Mr. Hinze, whom you also know, wanted to prove the inevitability of religious faith and the inadequacy of all science, he always asked the pathetic question: What is consciousness? And he used to take on an expression, as if he had presented a book with seven seals. Now I don’t want to class the professors of logic with such men. But it is a fact that the great multitude, among them many scientists, are quite unfamiliar with the truth that the existence of the blue sky and of the green trees is a uniform part of the same generality with the existence of our intellect.
For this reason it is necessary to prove that the intellect exists in the same way that all other things do. For it is denied and misunderstood, not only by those who regard the spirit as a being of a transcendental nature, but also by those who admit the existence of the true contents of an ideological concept, but not of thought itself. In short, the matter is so obscure that I feel sure that you will likewise be as yet in doubt whether there are not two kinds of ideological concepts, one of them real, the other unreal.
For two thousand years logic has proclaimed the sentence that thought is a form to be filled with real contents. True thought “must coincide with reality.” It is true that there is a germ of sense in this statement, but it is misunderstood. The central point of logic is overlooked. Every thought must not only have a real content, but it is also necessary, in order to distinguish true thoughts or perceptions from untrue, to realize that thought is always and everywhere a part of reality and truth, even when it contains the most singular imaginations and errors.
Just as the domestic cat and the panther are different species of cats and yet belong to the same genus of cats, so true and false thoughts, in spite of all their differences, are of the same genus. For truth is so great that it comprises absolutely everything. Truth, reality, the world, the all, the infinite and the absolute are synonymous expressions. A clear conception of truth is indispensable for the understanding of logic. And in the last analysis it is simply using different words for the same thing, when I base the quintessence of logic, its fulcrum, cardinal, salient, or distinctive point on the spirit intimately united to nature or on the concept of a uniform world, truth, or reality. I cannot give you a clearer view of truth than by quoting at this place the famous words of Lessing: “If God were to offer me the ever active striving for truth in his left hand and truth in his right hand, I should grasp his left and say: Father, keep truth, it is for you alone.” This statement is somewhat highflown and mystical, and Lessing was no doubt somewhat embarrassed by mystical thinking. Still there is a sober truth in these words, which is quite clear and to the point.
“Truth itself” is the universe, the infinite and inexhaustible. Every part of it is a finite part of the infinite and is, therefore, finite and infinite, perishable and imperishable at the same time. Every part is a separate part and connected inseparably with the whole. The human mind, among others, is such a part.
The universal existence, or truth, is the inexhaustible object of the human mind. The fact that in the study of logic the human mind has itself for an object must be explained to the student by pointing out that in this case the subject and the object are both things like all other things, in other words, are a part of truth, a part of natural existence.
“Truth itself” cannot be wholly conceived by the human brain, but in parts. For this reason we possess only the ever active striving for truth; for this reason, furthermore, the conception or knowledge can never be completely identical with reality, but can be only a part of it.
Now permit me to say a few words which do not sound as would those spoken on the throne of logic, but which are expressed in popular language. If you conceive some real object, whether a church steeple or a thimble, then this object exists twice, viz., in reality and in conception. On the other hand, a certain creation of imagination has only a simple fantastical existence. Such a popular way of thinking is undoubtedly correct. It is incorrect only when the fact is universally ignored that all modes of existence belong to the same genus, the same as a domestic cat and a panther, so that the existence of a thing in our brains, and outside of them in the heavens, on earth, and in all places has a logical meaning only when it is the same existence in spite of all multiplicity. An existence not partaking of the general nature of all existence would be an illogical, nonsensical, thing.
Now, I think you will have no difficulty in understanding me when I say that a church steeple in imagination and the same church steeple in reality are not two church steeples, but that imagination and reality are forms of the same existence.
Ancient logic ordered a medal and had stamped on its face: The thought must be identical with the reality. We now stamp on its reverse side: (1) The thought is itself a part of reality and (2) the reality outside of thought is too voluminous and cannot enter thought even with its smallest particle. What good, under these circumstances, is the old inscription, especially since it does not teach us at all how the identity between thought and its real object is to be attained, known, or measured?
If you, my dear Eugene, should become confused by these statements instead of enlightened, you should have patience and consider that a thing which is to be illuminated by logic must, of course, be first obscure. I believe that I have served you in some way by simply raising a doubt in your mind as to the soundness of the popular way of speaking and if I thus have convinced you of the confusion and inadequacy of the plausible idea of the identity of thought and reality.
True, a thought must agree with its object just as a portrait should. But what good will it do a painter to have his special attention called to this fact?
Have you ever seen a portrait or a copy that did not agree in some respect with the original? I am convinced that this has never been your experience any more than a portrait which was a complete likeness of its object. Your experience will be sufficiently cultivated to know that it can always be a question only of a more or less. I would seriously recommend to you to reflect on the relativeness of all equality, similarity, and identity. By far the greater part of humanity is in this respect barbarously thoughtless. It is very difficult to grasp for the logically untrained brain that two drops of water or twins are only relatively alike or unlike, just as are man and woman, negro and white man, and that all existence is just as alike as it is unlike.
It is with the thinker as it is with the painter. They both search for a likeness of reality and truth. In painting as in understanding there are excellent pictures and bad ones. In this respect one may make a distinction between true and false thoughts, but you must also know that even the unsuccessful portrait has some likeness, and that even the most accurate likeness is yet far from being in perfect harmony and identical with its object.
Reality, truth, universal nature, stands in the pulpit and preaches: “I am the Lord, thy God. Thou shalt not make any graven image to worship it.” You must have a far too sublime conception of truth to entertain the idea that any painter or thinker might encompass it fully within the limit of a picture, no matter how good a likeness it may be.
Now, that we have recognized the human mind as a part of actual reality and truth, we see at the same time that undivided reality, the sum of all that is, represents absolute truth which comprises everything. In their capacity of parts of the universe, true and false thoughts, good and bad men, heaven and hell, and all other things, are all pieces of the same cloth, bombs of the same caliber.
My Dear Son:
After the third letter had acquainted you with the fact that the subject of logic has a certain religious flavor, the two subsequent letters endeavored to show that the logical subject is interconnected with the universal existence of the world, that the faculty of thought is an inseparable part of actual truth. In the vernacular of theology my last two letters have represented the human mind as a part of the living true God.
Christianity teaches: God is a spirit and who would worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.
And logic teaches: The spirit is a part of universal existence. Whoever worships the spirit, is an idolator, for he worships a part and misunderstands the whole truth. Truth itself is identical with the universal existence, with the world, and all things are simply forms, phenomena, predicates, attributes, passing expressions of it. The universal existence may be called divine because it is infinite, being the alpha and omega which comprises all things as special truths. The intellect is such a limited part among other special parts of divine truth, and the latter is frequently called world without any bombastic emphasis.
Undoubtedly, every science, profession and trade can say the same thing of its object. The blue sky and the green trees are divine parts. Everything is interrelated and connected. If that were a good reason for not making any subdivisions, every part and description would become endlessly tiresome.
However, the specialty of logic is the cosmic sum of all truths, because it aims at a general elucidation of the nature of the human brain. This purpose is not so well served by an accumulation of other knowledge as by the general understanding of truth.
Logic, which seeks to enlighten the mind for the purpose of scientific thinking, does not so much treat of true conceptions as of the general and absolute conception of truth which is inseparably linked to the infinite universal life.
If you wish to think scientifically, you will first of all strive after clear ideas. And yet your head may be quite clear in regard to everyday things, without getting any nearer to general clearness. Nor is such clearness obtainable by the accumulation of mere special knowledge, for even if you were to grow in wisdom to the end of your days, nevertheless the fountain of wisdom, the universe, is inexhaustible and your brain will remain imperfectly informed or unclear as before. Yea, even the smallest part of the world is so inexhaustible that the most talented can never acquire all the knowledge necessary to understand entirely even the most minute object. The strongest microscope cannot see all there is to see in a drop of water, and the wisest man can never learn all there is to shoemaking.
You can see by all this that the scientific use of our intellect is furthered by special knowledge only in the corresponding details. For this reason it does not satisfy us to have some logicians tell us how many kinds of concepts, judgments and conclusions are contained in our intellect. These are special details of logic. But the thing of first importance for the student of logic is the elucidation of the universal concept of truth, not the accumulation of special truths.
Special truths enlighten the intellect. But the understanding that all specialties are connected with one another by one monad or unit which is truth itself gives us a certain general enlightenment which certainly does not render any special research unnecessary, or take the place of it, but which may well serve as the foundation of all research, which may therefore be called a fundamental assistance.
I may remark in passing that the understanding of logical science is rendered especially difficult by the fact that the unpracticed understands all terms and concepts only in their narrow popular meaning, while the subject matter leads up continually into the widest fields.
When I speak of parts of the world, you must not think merely of geographical parts, but you must think farther until you arrive at the insight that stars and bricks, matter and force, in short all parts of the world are world parts.
The logical difficulty may be principally traced to the lack of familiarity with the comprehensive categories. It will be clear to you that thinking and being, phenomenon and truth, etc., are conceptions of the widest scope. So you may have some difficulty in distinguishing between concepts of truth, and true concepts. And yet this is the same as making a distinction between the general class of herbs and its individual species. The mere intercourse with such comprehensive concepts as truth, existence, universe, is an excellent school of intellectual enlightenment.
Perhaps you may object to the deviation of a science devoted to the special study of the faculty of thought into such fields as existence or truth. But a logic confined to an analysis of the faculty of understanding would be narrow compared to one representing this faculty of understanding at work in real life. If the science of the eye were to treat only of the various parts of the eye without considering the things outside connected with its function, the light, the objects, in short, the vision of the eye, it would be more an anatomy of the eye than a general science of the eye. At all events a science which represents not alone the subjective faculty of vision, but also the living activity of the eye, the objective field of vision inseparable from the subjective faculty, is a far more comprehensive instruction, a higher enlightenment of the human brain.
In my opinion, logic should not so much treat of the analysis of the intellectual subject as of the purpose and object of the faculty of thought, its culture, which is not accomplished by the intellect itself, but by its connection with the world of truth, its interrelation with the universal existence.
What can a logic accomplish which divides thought into analytical and synthetical thoughts, which speaks of inductive and deductive understanding and of a dozen other kinds, but which finally declines to meet the question of the relation of thought and understanding to truth, and fails to indicate what and where is divine truth and how we may arrive at it?
Pilate, the typical sceptic, shrugs his shoulders; the clergymen make a mystery of divine truth; the natural sciences care only for the true conceptions, but naught for the concept of truth; and then the special science of understanding, formal logic, tries to refer its task to philosophy or world wisdom.
I have already pointed out that the titles of the principal works on philosophy indicate that the whole world wisdom turns around the question: How can our brain be enlightened, how can it arrive at truth? The naturalists answer that this can be accomplished by special studies, and they are frequently opposed to philosophical research which makes general truth its main object, and belittle it. You will readily see that this is a mistake when you consider that, to illustrate, a machine or an organism as a whole is still something more than a mere sum of its parts.
No matter how well you may know each single part, yet you will not understand the whole machine or organism by this means alone. The universe is not an aggregation of unorganized parts, but a living process which must be understood not only in its parts but also as a whole. We may pass for the moment the question whether the Milky Way may be dissolved into stars, and whether the stars may become globes like our Earth which may develop plants, animals, and intelligent beings. The thing which is evident is that there is a process of development, that all nature takes part in this movement, that the universe is a whole without end, composed of an infinite number of parts; a coming and going, an eternal transformation, which is always identical with itself and always the same world. What all this would be without our eyes and ears and without the intellect by means of which we use eyes and ears, what the world “in itself” is, that is a senseless and transcendental speculation.
The science of logic must deal only with the actual world which is inseparable from us and from our thoughts.
This world which we hear, see, smell, in which we live and breathe, is the world of truth or the true world. That is a fact. Must I prove this? And how is a fact proven? How do we prove that a peach is a delicious fruit? One goes and eats it. In the same way, you may now go and enjoy life, of course in a rational manner, and I am convinced that your own love of life will tell you that it is proof positive of the truth of the world, of its actuality.
But even in the midst of this actual world there is present an inconsistent element, a human race with a confused logic. This race has been led by various depressing and saddening circumstances to blacken the delicious truth of this world and to look for a transcendental truth in philosophical metaphysics or religious fantasmagorias, both of which are parts of the same stew. The philosophers of misery who make of the world of truth a vain shadow and a miserable vale of sorrow must needs be convinced by logic that the living world is the only true one.
Well, that is not so difficult. But there is a danger of getting into a vicious circle of errors, imitating a snake biting its own tail. I have to prove logically that the world and truth are one and the same thing, before we have come to an agreement as to what is logical truth or true logic. Nevertheless, nature has assisted us. The logic of nature is the true logic by the help of which we can agree. Nothing more is required than a somewhat trained brain.
Take two men having a dispute about truth. One of them says it is one thing, the other that it is something else. So they are arguing about that which is. This last word is a form of the verb to be. Hence in arguing whether the remote nebula in the heavens is a brick or a star, a male or a female, one is always discussing some form of existence. All disputes turn around forms of existence, but existence itself is an undisputable truth.
Have I now still to prove that all existence is of the same category? Are there any stones that do not belong to the category of stones, or any kind of wood which is iron? What would become of reason and language, if such a thing were to be considered? And yet, much that is being said by opponents is of such a nature.
If I have succeeded in convincing you that the universe is the truth, there still remains the special question: What place shall we assign to fantastic ideas, error, and untruth? If the universe is the truth, then everything would be true, and hence it seems contradictory that error and untruth should have a place in truth or in the world. Of this more anon. I shall only point out in passing that untruth may without any contradiction belong to truth, just as weeds are a negation of herbs and still at the same time herbs.
In conclusion I call your attention to the eminently proletarian character of the science of truth. It gives to the working class the logical justification to renounce all clerical and mystic control and to look for salvation in this same world in which divine truth is living.
The philologists distinguish carefully between a science of language and a science of languages. The latter teaches Egyptian, Assyrian, Hebrew, Greek, Latin, English, French, etc., while the former treats of the general characteristics common to all languages, of language itself.
Philosophical logic stands in the same relation to other sciences. The latter make us acquainted with special truths, while logic treats of truth in general. Those overintelligent people who claim that truth is merely a collective term for many truths do not see the woods for trees. Herder, Wilhelm von Humboldt, Max Müller, Steinthal, etc., have many things to say about the science of language of which the linguists with many languages never dream.
The science of language, aside from its many amenities, is also burdened with a difficult problem which it cannot solve without the help of logic. This problem is the point of differentiation where babbling and word-mongery cease and intelligent speech begins. For human speech has a certain meaning, and even the cries of the animals are not without sense. The sparrows know how to converse together, the rooster calls his flock together, the dog knows how to announce that a stranger enters his master’s home. Not alone the jokers, but serious thinkers speak of animal language, of a sign language, and maintain that speech does not alone consist of words, but also of inarticulate sounds and gestures. Poets endow even the storm, the thunder and the winds with speech. We wish to clear this confusion and ascertain what language is and where it begins. Languages, as is well known, have their beginning at the Tower of Babel. But in order to get close to language, we must look for a beginning of things either in God or in logic.
You know the old question: Which was first, the egg or the hen? But only a frivolous mind overlooks the serious side of this question and turns it into a mere joke. The question of beginning and end is an eminently logical one, and an unequivocal and clear answer to it would bring light not alone into the science of language, but also into the human brain.
Let us, therefore, follow up the problem of the “origin of language” a little farther. When our forefathers dealt with this question, they thought that a God had given speech to man or some genius had invented it. They thought of a beginning in time. The modern thinkers speculate more deeply. They have found out that language is not a fixed thing, but fluid, and has risen from low beginnings to a great perfection. We can no more find its temporal beginning by looking backward than we can see its end by looking ahead. For this reason we no longer look for its temporal, but for its ideological beginning. (Steinthal.) We should like to have a fixed mark where we might say: Up to this point that which resembles speech is only roaring, exclamation, noise, and here is the beginning of the well articulated sound which deserves the name of “spoken word.”
But there is still another factor which complicates the question further. Some say: It is not only the sound, the word, which constitutes speech, but the connected sentence; there must be sense and reason mixed with it. And this applies to the speaker and to the listener. Language presupposes reason.
Then, again, intellect is not a fixed thing, but a fluid process which develops in, from, and by speech. So it appears on one side as if the mind produces language, and on the other, as if language produces the mind, the reason. Where, then, is the beginning and end, and how can we bring order into these relations?
For us, who are studying the mind, not the language, the conclusion follows that it is not alone the word, but also the sound, the tone, the gesture, that all things have a meaning and speak a language. We find mind wherever we penetrate with our mind. Not alone language, but the world is connected with the mind, with the thought. But the connection with language may well serve as an illustration by which the connection of the cosmic mind may be demonstrated and the human brain illuminated.
Language shares the honor with the mind of being extolled, even in this sober century, if not to the skies, at least far out of the general connection of common things. For this reason, we must emphasize in the case of language as in that of the mind, that they exist, that they are part and parcel of the universal existence. At this point I wish to give you a vivid illustration of the unity of all being by pointing out that it is indubitably established by the existence of one single name which is sufficient to designate All. True, language employs many names for this unity of the world, but that is a luxury. It is logical and necessary for the intellect to have one name for the All, because everything is not only infinitely variegated, but also infinitely one, or a unit. There are many different waters, but all water partakes of the general nature of water. Unless that nature is present, there is no water and the name of water does not apply. In the same way there are many kinds of oil; olive oil, kerosene oil, castor oil, etc., and each kind has its own subdivisions. But everything that has a common name is a unit.
Kindly observe, now, that the names of things form just such circles as the water does after being struck by a stone. Just as the name water, so the name oil indicates a ring. Then the name fluid constitutes another and wider ring which includes both oil and water. Then the name matter draws a still wider circle and includes solids as well as fluids, and finally the name being, or All, includes mind and matter, all matter and force, including heaven and hell, in one sole ring, in one unit.
On the basis of this universal unity, from which it becomes apparent that high and low, dry and fluid, in short the whole universe is made of the same substance, any fantastic thinker can prove that human and animal language is one, for otherwise one could not refer to both of them as language. He may then justly contend that speech, producing a sound, is a noise, that speech and noise are one. Speech is sound and sound speaks. In this way language would have no beginning and no end. In the last analysis it would be one with all things, and all things would be one with it. In this way the whole universe would become an inexplicable, incomprehensible, inexpressible mixture of speech.
And yet it is an old story that man’s insight grows the more he magnifies a thing. The more excessively we exaggerate a thing, the plainer become its boundaries. Language indeed requires one single name for All, but it also requires an infinite number of names in order to specify the parts of All. Inasmuch as language claims to be only a part of existence, this part has to be bounded, and you should in this connection remember the unlimited freedom of man in drawing such boundaries. Words are not merely empty words, but names of cosmic parts, of cosmic rings of undulation. Language, or rather the mind connected with language, wishes to bound the infinite by the help of language. The instinctive popular use of language does this in a haphazard way. Conscious science proceeds in an exact manner. Just as it has determined on the field of temperature what should be called hot and what warm, so it is at liberty on the field of sounds to determine where the name of language begins or ceases. The end of the discussion of language is therefore this: That which has already been done to horse power has not yet been done to the concept of language; it has been somewhat fixed by common usage, but only insufficiently. And so the moral of this tale is that the things of this world, even mind and language, are connected and intermingling undulations of the same stream, which has neither beginning nor end.
Let me say it once more clearly and without circumlocution: The logic which I teach and the thought which is its object are parts of the world, of the infinite, and every part being a piece of the infinite is likewise infinite. Every part partakes of the nature of the infinite. Hence you must not expect that I should exhaust my infinite subject. I confine myself to the logical chapter of “the One and the Many.” I simply wish to make it plain that without any contradiction the whole multiplicity of existence is of the same nature, and that this oneness of nature subdivides into manifold forms. The world is interconnected and this interconnection is subdivided into departments. It adds to the general enlightenment of the human brain to recognize this in regard to language, to mind, to all parts of the universe.
I repeat, then: One may think logically without having attended any lectures on logic, just as one may raise potatoes without a scientific knowledge of agriculture. It was possible to invent the thermometer, to clearly distinguish between sounds and colors, and a hundred other things, without having explained the faculty of discrimination. But the most abstract distinctions, such as beginning and end, word and meaning, body and soul, man and animal, matter and force, truth and error, presuppose for their explanation a logical explanation of their interconnection with our intellect.
Logic is going through the same experience as economics. The economists of the capitalist era talk solely of the means and ways by which profit and surplus value may be increased. They discuss only its relative size, its increase or decrease. But the thing itself, its origin and descent, is not discussed. It is passed in silence that profit is extracted from labor power by paying less for a day’s work than is produced by it. The gentlemen talk only of the “wealth of nations,” but not of their poverty. And though this was due to ignorance in the beginning, it has later become sheer roguery.
The formal logicians are as ignorant as they are roguish, when they persist in discussing the intellect or thought in the traditional manner as if they were isolated things, while ignoring the necessary connection of the object of the logical study with the world of experiences. This interconnection leads to an explanation of truth and error, of sense and nonsense, of god and idols, and this is very inopportune for the professors. For this reason this unwelcome problem is handed over to the mystical departments, to metaphysics and religion, so that these venerable pillars of official wisdom may continue their services to the ruling classes.
I have already stated in my letters that the kernel of my discussion turns on the distinction between formal and what I call proletarian logic. The formal logicians treat the intellect as a thing “in itself,” while I express in many different ways the fact that the intellect does not exist by itself, but is interconnected with all things and with the universe.
That intellect has indeed a transcendental leaning, which seeks vent by trying to exclude now music, now language, now itself, now some other fetich from the universal interrelation. But the science of the mind teaches that the brain watching its own activity finds out that all affirmations and negations, assertions and contradictions, belong to the one omnipotent world mechanism, which keeps them stored within itself and which is actually truth and life. Inasmuch as the human brain is of the same nature as this automatic universal being and interconnected with it, logic is at the same time religion, metaphysics, and world wisdom.
Formal logic teaches that our intellect must keep all things apart, but does not teach that it must also connect them. This logic is right in one way and yet does not arrive at the goal of a clear world philosophy, because it permits the transcendental leaning to exaggerate the differences and distinctions. It overlooks the paradoxical or dialectical nature of things which are not only separated but also connected. What must be understood is that, generally speaking, the classification of the universe is only a formality. We are, indeed, justified in distinguishing between above and Below, right and left, beginning and end, gold and sheet metal, good and bad, but we must also enlighten ourselves as to how multiplicity can be a unity, the variable constant, and the constant variable. Formal logic has a wrong name. It is not formal, but transcendental. It shares the common prejudice that there are absolutely contradictory things or irreconcilable opposites, that there are essential differences which have no connection, no bridge between them, nothing in common. It teaches that contradictions cannot exist, and contradicts itself by clinging to the belief that there are irreconcilable contradictions. It teaches that a thing which contradicts itself is inconceivable, is not true, and thus reveals that it is not well informed on the formality of contradictions, on the true conciliation of contradictions, and on universal truth. Gold is not sheet iron, that is true enough. Whoever calls gold sheet metal or sheet metal gold, contradicts himself. In the actual world both things are separated. Yet they are not separated to such extent that gold and sheet iron do not partake of the same nature, of the nature of all metal. Gold and sheet iron are unlike metals, but they have the same metallic likeness. That like things are different and different things alike, that it is everywhere only a question of the degree of difference, of formal differences, this is overlooked by “formal” logic and by all who seek truth in any logical diagram or fetich, instead of in the eternal, omnipresent existence of the inseparable universe.
Our logic deals with truth or with the universe, which contains the most sublime gods and the meanest deviltry, in other words, which contains everything. In the world truth there is contained error, pretense, lies, just as death also lives in it. In other words, error, pretense, lies, death are only phenomena, formalities, passing trifles or things which are nothing compared to the one thing, that thing of all things, which is being, truth, life.
The understanding of the one living world truth is so greatly aggravated by the so-called contradictions which it contains. We find for instance that where one thing ends another begins. The end of the one is the beginning of another. Every beginning is at the same time an end. Both are contained in one another, and yet in our minds beginning and end are separated. We find the beginning and the end everywhere and nowhere. Or look into space. You do not see any boundary, and yet your vision reaches only a certain distance. Your vision is bounded and yet there is no boundary to be seen. Or look at life. Death soon arrives, and yet a closer look shows that death is not really death, for “a new life arises from the ruins.” The world proves to be the eternal life which does not know death. It is a contradiction to say that death lives, but this contradiction can be solved by the understanding that the difference between life and death, however great, is still a formal one, a difference which like all other differences is reduced to relative insignificance by the infinite cosmic life.
There exists a widely diffused school, if this term may be applied to the unschooled, that preaches patience in the matter of the systematization of our thoughts or the enlightenment of our intellect, and though it no longer hopes for a mysterious revelation, yet founds its faith on natural science which has explained so many things to us and which is finally supposed to throw light on the “last questions of all knowledge.” But I can easily convince you that the new countries, plants, animals. Esquimaux, that may be discovered on polar expeditions, or the inventions which Edison may perhaps make on the field of electricity, or the experiences which future astronomers may gather in regard to suns, moons, and comets, while they may add valuable contributions to science and life, will yet do little toward a correct general employment of our intellect or to a universal enlightenment of the human brain. On the other hand, an enlightenment as to the nature and meaning of contradictions will spread light to the remotest corners of imagination, into the heavens and eternity, into the existence of the whole, the unity and difference of all things.
The most drastic, and perhaps the most instructive, illustration of the correct meaning of contradictions is given by the contrast between truth and untruth. These two poles are perhaps more widely separated than the North Pole and the South Pole, and yet they are as intimately connected as these two. The commonplace logic will hardly listen to the demonstration of the unity of such apparently wide opposites as truth and untruth. Therefore you will pardon me, if I illustrate this example by others, for instance by the contrast between day and night. Take it that the day lasts twelve hours and the night likewise. Day and night are opposites. Where there is day cannot be any night, and yet day and night constitute one single day of twenty-four hours, in which they both dwell harmoniously. It is the same with truth and untruth. The world is the truth, and error, pretense, and lies are embodied in it, are parts of the actual world, just as night is a part of day without confusing logic. We may honestly speak of genuine pretense and true lies, without any contradiction. Just as unreason has still some reason left, so untruth still lives inevitably in truth, because the latter is all-embracing, is the universe.
“Contradictions cannot exist.” But confused brains full of contradictions nevertheless exist. Knives without handles and blades, two mountains without a valley between them, and other nonsense, exist as a phrase. There are two kinds of contradictions: Senseless ones and very sensible ones. Yea, the whole world is an infinite and inexhaustible contradiction, which contains innumerable sensible statements and misstatements, which never disappear and yet may be solved harmoniously by the help of time and reason.
From this it follows that the formal criteria of truth which are on everybody’s tongue, such as the identity of thought with its object, and the absence of all contradictions, do not furnish a basis at all for the analysis of truth and cannot define it, except in an ignorant and roguish way.
Since the prophet Daniel scattered ashes in the temple and unmasked the servants of Baal, other idol worshippers have continued to stimulate the people to daily sacrifices, in order to steal the victuals at night. This continual rascality and its repeated exposure has blunted the desire of the people to serve truth, so that a great many have become frivolous and indifferent. This rascally logic, not to mention ignorance, encourages the frivolous and indifferent in their godless departure from truth. In the pulpit and in the garb of science it preaches the vanity and inadequacy of research. This is preached not as a dogma, but as a logical science, and thus the senseless contradiction is committed of trying to prove truly by the help of the intellect that the intellect is too limited to grasp the truth and prove it.
In its historical course logical research once arrived at such a result in good faith. This happened in the famous “Critique of Reason” of Immanuel Kant. Our shrewd friends of darkness now seek to utilize the fame of this work, to which it is entitled on account of its great contribution toward the elucidation of cosmic truth, for the purpose of preventing on the strength of it a progress of enlightenment beyond the standpoint of Kant.
By the way, Kant has demonstrated that the truth in general is as much a matter of experience as the brain with which we search for it. He has shown beyond a doubt that our eyes and ears are inseparably connected with our mind and with the whole cosmic truth. But the persistent spirit of transcendentalism, or what is the same thing, the traditional belief in the transcendental spirit, has led him to grant a mysterious existence alongside of or above the human mind, alongside of or above the cosmic truth, to an incomprehensible monster spirit and to a fantastical hyper-truth.
The Kantian critique of reason did not understand the universality of truth. It still affirmed the existence of two worlds and two truths without any unity. And as it is the curse of the evil deed to generate more evil, it produced two intellects. (1) The poor little subservient intellect of man, and (2) the enormous and abnormal intellect of the Lord, who is supposed to understand the incomprehensible and to untie the most senseless contradictions like so many knots.
The truth which is the universe, the cosmic or universal truth, will reveal to you the absurdity of abnormal humility which is contained in the dualistic doctrine of the two minds. Of course, the philosopher Kant had a greater intellect than Peter Simple. But nevertheless all intellects partake of the nature of the general intellect, and no intellect can step above or below this general nature without losing sense or reason. One cannot speak of another, higher, faculty of thought than that acquired by man through experience without dropping from logic to absurdity. No doubt the animal world possesses something similar to intellect. No doubt, also, the animal mind may be separated from the human mind by some special name, for instance “instinct.” No doubt, furthermore, our reason is strengthened by culture from generation to generation. But that anywhere and at any time there should come into existence a faculty of thought which would stand outside of the cosmic interconnection, that is an absurd conception and a senseless thing. Just as necessarily as all water has one and the same nature, that of being wet, just so necessarily every intelligence and every thought partakes of the general nature of thought and must logically be a part, a particular part, of the one universal and empirical world.
4. Religion denotes here as much as conception of the world and explanation of its last questions; and metaphysics stands here for everything conceivable, which meaning embraces more than the mere tangible. – Editor.
5. When we consider its many parts as such. – Editor.
Repetition, my dear Eugene, is the mother of all study.
Logic aims to teach you the proper use of the intellect, not only in this or that branch of study, but in the general branch of truth. Its result is the following precept: In all things always remember the universal interrelation.
In order to illustrate this statement a little, let me point out that in the period of scholasticism thinking was practiced without any interconnection with the rest of the world, merely by brown study. The present age of natural sciences then cultivated a better method. But the method of the natural sciences has not succeeded so far in being applied to the field of law, morals, politics, psychology, and philosophy, because the logical understanding of the total interrelation of the indivisible world truth was lacking, because the concept of truth was enveloped in darkness, and because the privileged classes have a great interest in maintaining darkness.
For this reason, the true method of reasoning still requires many explanations. The socialist, for instance, is charged with inciting the people, with promising more than he can keep and with sowing strife in the hearts of men. Those who make this charge in the commonplace sense, tear two things, viz., peace and strife, out of their due connection. As a matter of fact, peace and strife must always dwell together. A nation whose peace were not intermingled with a certain strife, would be a nation of sluggards. Thanks to the strife in their breasts, the nations are progressive and stirring. Motion is the essence of the world, and national motion is inconceivable without the striving of men. For the sake of development and culture, nations must always demand more than they can immediately attain. On the other hand, striving of this sort is not sufficient. One must not demand more than one can obtain, nor promise more than one can give. For this reason the logical socialist must know that even in the future society the trees will not grow into the clouds, and that the peace for which we hope and strive will always be mixed with strife. The music of the future, although more harmonious than the music of the present, will nevertheless be eternally marred by disharmony. There is nothing perfect in the world, because only the whole universe is perfect, because the universe alone is perfectness itself.
Eternal peace, as the warriors may justly claim, is an illusion, so long as we think of peace in a transcendental way and as being separated from strife. But the sons of the war god who would like to continue the thunder of cannons and the rattle of sabers eternally, are no less the victims of illusion, if not something worse. Eternal is only war in peace and peace in war, although that may seem senseless to the logicians of the old school. Thus even the inevitable war will become more peaceful and humane in the course of time. The barbarian form of war, of which the Prussians are masters, is not destined to last forever, unless we speak of the illogical eternity of the preacher which opens its doors by leaving the temporal world. In defending the social war, I wish to have it understood that neither the conceptions nor the things called war and peace are separated by a Chinese wall.
Everything is interconnected and interdependent. It is true that strife and animosities may be exaggerated, and so may peace. But whatever blame attaches to this, refers only to the exaggeration. It is not the animosity, but the excessive animosity which deserves censure. By recognizing the logical interconnection between peace and strife, the dispute of the parties is rendered saner. There is then no longer a question of a yawning chasm between satisfaction and dissatisfaction, but of something about which an agreement is possible, viz., how much there is of either.
As peace and war in the human breast, so all variety intermingles in the cosmic unit. In the novel “Homo Sum,” by Ebers, the monk Paulus, who tasted the delights of the preliminary celestial ecstasy when castigating his body, says: “I truly believe that it is just as difficult on this globe to find pain without joy as joy without pain.” And Till Eulenspiegel, that type of a practical joker, showed an understanding of dialectics when he lightened the difficulty of ascending a mountain by the reflection that the descent on the other side would be so much easier. Logic is no more senseless in teaching that all things, even the most opposite, are of the same substance than it is in showing that night belongs to day and weeds to herbs.
In order that these petty illustrations may not confuse your mind, it should be remembered that the essential point is the elucidation of the great contradiction between mind and matter, between thinking and being, which includes all petty contradictions.
In order to think in accordance with logical consistency, you must not regard a thing as something independent, but consider everything as fluid particles of the same substance, which is the thing of all things, the world, the truth, and life.
Our logic is therefore the science of truth. This truth is neither above nor below, neither in Jerusalem nor in Jericho, neither in the spirit nor in the flesh, but everywhere.
Our logic is the science of understanding. It teaches that you must not search for understanding by cudgeling your brain, but only in connection with experience, with the interrelation of things.
Since man in his experience also meets errors, science was dominated for centuries by the question whether truth and experience are not two different things, whether all our experience is only an illusion of our senses. Cartesius replied to this: “No; the belief in a perfect, true being cannot admit of such a delusion.” By substituting the concept of truth for the concept of God, we are certain that the world of experience is not a ghost, but the most actual reality.
Although the great Kant called the cosmic truth a phenomenon, because he could not divest his mind of transcendental faith, of the faith in a transcendental truth, still we know today that all distinctions which are ever made constitute but a nibbling at the universal unit. As necessarily as all variety in baking produces bakery wares, just as necessarily heaven and earth, and everything connected with them, are parts of the indivisible truth which is also called nature, cosmos, universe, God, and experience. Language gives to its darling truth many different pet names, just as a happy mother calls her heart’s treasure by a thousand endearing terms.
Feuerbach reasons in this fashion: “If God is not a personal being different from nature and man, then he is an entirely superfluous being.... The use of the word God which is always combined with the conception of a separate being, is a disturbing and confusing abuse. Why do you want to be a theist, if you are a naturalist, or a naturalist if you are a theist? Away with this contradiction! Where God is confounded with nature, or nature with God, there is neither God nor nature, but a mystical amphibious hermaphrodite.”
Feuerbach is right. The name of God is much abused. But truth is also blasphemed by negation and frivolousness. The sober understanding that God, truth, nature, are various names for the same thing permits us to play with them without despairing of the matter. Indeed, this play of words serves to make the subject clear.
But logic demands that we recognize truth as the absolute, as the power, the force, and the glory, which comprises all logical and illogical distinctions, together with the things to be distinguished, even the faculty of distinguishing itself.
Such an understanding of the absolute, such world wisdom, will not make you conceited, because it makes you conscious of the fact that your understanding has grasped celestial truth which at the same time is terrestrial, only in a very general way. You possess nothing but a definition of truth. And without denying that definitions are valuable and instructive, I, at the same time, point out that you know very little about astronomy when you know that it is the science of the stars. No matter, therefore, how clearly I may have defined truth, we require for its complete understanding all the details of science, and that is too much for me, for you, and for any individual human being.
Just as our vision never exhausts the visible, because the eye sees an object but does not fully penetrate it, just so can the intellect never fully understand and fathom the absolute all, the truth, or God. But we can understand and fathom individual truths, parts of the universal truth. What understanding grasps is not the truth itself, but yet it is true understanding.
My previous lectures instructed you as to the very trivial fact that the thought is a part of the world. In proceeding from the part to the whole, I passed logically from the mouth of the river to its source. The universe is the maternal womb of the intellect as of all things.
It occurs to me that you or some teacher of logic might accuse my letters of lack of logic. It may seem that these lectures fail to present the subject matter in a strictly systematized form. You will, please, excuse this in part with the fact that they appear in the form of letters. This form demands that the contents should be logically arranged and rounded off in each letter. It should furthermore serve as an excuse for any defect, that my subject is not a finished one, not perfectly elaborated by others before me. I am here not merely a lecturer, but also an explorer on a field which, though much investigated, yet is still rather obscure.
The conclusion of my last letter explained that the use of the term God for the universe has much to recommend it and much to disqualify it. But it is easily apparent that the universe with its absolute qualities is closely related to that infinite being of whom Jakob Böhme, the philosophical shoemaker, said: “He is neither the light nor the darkness, neither love nor anger, but the eternal One.... Hence all forces are merely one sole force.”
That nothing exists outside of the universe, that everything is contained in the All, that the All, with all real and imagined beings, is everything, that it is neither sweet nor sour, neither great nor small, but just everything and all, this statement is as obvious as the often and long repeated statement of identity: A equals A.
The All is omnipotent, omnipresent, all-wise. This last term might be questioned, since the universe is not a dummy with a monster head and giant brain. For this very reason it was considered inappropriate to apply the name of God to the universe, because that creates the impression of a personal being. The All thinks only by means of human brains, and for this reason omniscience cannot be anything but common human knowledge. Of course, you, I, and every other man, are very limited in our knowledge. But still we may indulge in the hope that the things which we do not know are known by other men or will be discovered by future generations, so that the collective human mind will know everything that is knowable. We cannot see everything that is visible; there are animals that can see even better than we can. But since even the most intelligent animal is supposed to lack the highest degree of intelligence, reason and science, there is no one who knows anything except the human race. Mankind is omniscient. But since all our science is derived only from the world, mankind is only the formal bearer of intelligence, and it belongs to the fountain of all things, to eternal nature. Our wisdom is the wisdom of nature, is world wisdom. Although there may be inhabitants of the moon and of other stars who may know things which are unknown to us, still that is in the first place a mere speculation of little value, and in the second place universal omniscience or the omniscient universe would not in the least be affected thereby. It is a reasonable use of the language to regard human wisdom as the only and omniscient wisdom, just as all natural and wet water is called water without any further modification. I believe in the statement of Protagoras: “Man is the measure of all things.” Whoever uses a different measure, uses a superhuman, transcendental measure.
Hence, when I call the cosmic essence of all existence omnipotent, you will not think of a senseless magic power which forges knives without handles and blades, nor will you read any transcendental meaning into my use of the term omniscience.
Omniscience belongs obviously under the head of logic, because the organ of science and wisdom is the object of the study of logic. And it must now be stated that the human mind does not only exceed the animal mind by far, but is also the non plus ultra of all minds. But it must be retained that this mind can only be whatever it is in connection with the divine universe which I may also be permitted to call worldly deity. This name is fitting because it is a means of understanding that in the first place no monster mind rules the world, and in the second place the natural universe is not a mere sum of all things, but truth and life.
Of course, the identification of the universe with the religious God is only a comparison, and comparisons are lame. Still we may compare the sun with an eternal lamp or the moon with a candle, or the German prime minister with a butler.
Logic shall teach you that everything which may be distinguished by the faculty of understanding is of the same kind, everything is of common clay, but the whole is sublimely elevated above all that is commonplace. Mere frivolous atheism, as created by the free-thinkers, is not sufficient. A bare denial of God always creates some other idol worship. The positive understanding of the divine world truth is an indispensable requirement for the radical extermination of all idol worship.
Logic must begin with the sublime, infinite, absolute. All logical, consistent or interconnected thinking must take its departure from it. The so-called scientific research after temporal causes, after the egg from which the chicken was hatched, after the hen from which the egg came, after the kindred organisms which developed the hen by natural selection and adaption according to Darwin, this is a very valuable research without which we can never understand the world process. But nevertheless, such research must not satisfy the thinking man. Logic demands from everybody that he or she should search for the highest, for the cause of all causes. Whoever feels the desire to bring logical order into his consciousness, must know that the finite and infinite, the relative and the absolute, the special truths and the one general truth, are contained in one another.
Logical thought as demanded by science means nothing but to be aware of the final cause, the absolute foundation of all thought. This foundation is the universe, an attribute of which is the external and internal human head. The thousand year old dispute between the materialists and the idealists turns on the question whether the spirit is material or the world spiritual. Our answer is plain and clear: They both belong together, they together make up the one thing, the thing of all things. Mind and matter are two attributes of the same substance. They may be compared the same as fish and flesh, the former being called very appropriately by some African tribes “water flesh.” In this way, matter and mind are two kinds of meat of a different and yet of the same nature.
I remember reading in a satirical paper the question: “What is a gentleman? Answer: A gentleman is a loafer with money, and a loafer is a gentleman without money.” Just as these two types of men are essentially alike and differ only in the small matter of money, so you should remember that there are no essential differences, that all differences are merely matters of attributes and qualities of the same absolute world substance. To distinguish correctly and logically, that is the point which logic is aiming to teach us. To make distinctions is the function which is also called perceiving, knowing, understanding, comprehending. When you consider that this function is innate in man, and that man together with his faculty of understanding is innate in nature, then you recognize all distinctions and the distinguished objects as attributes of the undistinguished One, of the absolute, compared to which all things are only relative things, in other words, attributes.
I am endeavoring to make clear to you that logical thinking requires the awakening of the consciousness of the one supreme general nature. And you must not think of this sum of all existence in the stupid way in which people used to think of the animal kingdom before Darwin, but regard the world as a living organic unit, from which the faculty of understanding has blossomed the same as all other things. In the logic of the narrow-minded, all animal species are widely separated, without any living interconnection, while Darwin has demonstrated the uniform process, the intermingling life in multiform creation. The illustration of this famous zoologist of the transition from one species to another may serve as an example of the logical transitions in the world process, in which all differences are but undulations. All our classifications must always remember the undivided basis on which they are resting.
We have shown that the intellect divides the universal nature, classifies and analyzes it, and we have learned of the universal nature that it not only furnishes to the intellect the material for its work, but also that the world comprises within its general process the intellectual process, that the intellectual movement is a specialization of the natural movement.
The world is not only the object, but also the subject of understanding, it understands, it dissects its own multiplicity by means of the human intellect. Our wisdom is world wisdom in a two-fold sense: The world is that which is being understood, classified, analyzed, and at the[same time it is that which, by the help of our intellect, practices understanding, classification, etc. When I call the human mind the cosmic mind, the mind of the supreme being, I wish to have it understood that there is nothing mysterious about this, that I merely intend to show that thought or intelligence can only operate in the universal cosmic interconnection, that it is not an abnormal and transcendental thing, but a thing like all other things.
You must not conceive of the spirit as the producer of truth, as a little god, but only as a means. The true god, the divine truth, has our intellect for an attribute. The latter does not produce truth, but only the understanding of truth. It produces only pictures of truth which are all more or less perfect. Of course, it is not at all immaterial whether we produce a more or less faithful, a true or a false picture of truth, but still this is, at present and for us here, a secondary matter. The main thing is to know that truth, or nature, is far above all pictures, and still consists of parts, of forms, which together constitute the whole.
6. Please note the additional explanation on page 77. – Editor.
Johannes Scherr relates in the “Gartenlaube,” a German family paper, in an article entitled “Mahomet and His Work,” that insane doctrinarians are searching for people without religion. This has not succeeded, it is said, although the spark of religious feeling is glowing very dimly in peoples that are close to the animal. But nevertheless, he continues, the expressions of religious feeling mark the boundary line where the beast ceases and man begins. For just as in the higher stages of civilization religion means the consciousness of the finite of being one with the infinite, so in the lower stages of civilization the indefinite impulse is felt by man to connect his special nature with the universal nature and bring them into harmony. This is idealism, the idealistic need. It is obvious that, and why, the people have always and everywhere sought and found satisfaction for their idealistic longings in religion. But, adds the shrewd observer, I must remark that I do not refer to the shifting population when I say “people,” for sad to relate, that population is torn away from all connection with natural conditions. I refer to the “settled, the permanent, the true people.”
This quotation shows that a champion of the “true people” is in conflict with true logic. In dividing a population into shifting and settled people, one should retain as a basis the logical consciousness that all classes of people are embraced by one class; furthermore, that human, monkey, ant, and other nations are parts of the one and the same nation; until finally man and animal, real and imaginary, with all religious and godless things, are ultimately fused in the world unit and can never be “torn away from all connection with natural conditions.”
All distinctions must logically be based on the consciousness of the absolute and universal unity, of the interconnection of all things. For this reason some pious people, with their God in whom everything is living and has its being, have more logic than some freethinkers of the class of Johannes Scherr who have no coherence in their method of thought. The faithful think more logically than the narrowly skeptical, for they begin and end with God. But still they cannot think quite logically, because they cannot establish any logical connection between their eternally perfect Lord and evil, the devil, disease, misery, sin, in short all the sufferings and vanities here below.
The unit of nature, the infinite, is the quintessence of logic. Neither natural science in the narrow sense of the word, nor metaphysics, nor formal logic, can give any clue as to the nature of this thing of things. This can be done only by a science of understanding which recognizes matter and mind and all opposites and contradictions as formalities of the universe. How can a man who is out of touch with the mass of the shifting population feel that he is one with the universe? Whoever regards any special class as the true people, has no understanding either of the common people or of the absolute universe.
Proletarian logic teaches not only the equality of all human beings, but universal equality. And mark well, this universal equality does not conflict with variety any more than a variety of pots and jugs conflicts with the unity of vessels, or the manifold forms of bretzels and rolls with the unity of bakery ware.
The enemies of democratic development, in attacking the idea of freedom and equality, point to the manifoldness of nature, the individual differences of men, the distinctions between weak and strong, wise and fools, men and women, and consider it tyranny to attempt to equalize that which nature has made different. They cannot understand that like things may be different and different things alike. They are blinded by their class logic which sees only the differences, but not the unity, not the transfusion of all classes.
Class logic teaches that contradictory things cannot exist. According to it, a thing cannot be genuine and false at the same time. This class logic has a narrow conception of existence. It has only observed that there are many different things in nature, but has overlooked the fact that all these things have also a general nature. We, on the other hand, recognize that every thing, every person, is a part of the infinite world and partakes of its general nature, is eternal and perishable, true and untrue, great and small, one sided and manyfold, in short contradictory.
Before and after Socrates, philosophy and religion have searched for the genuine, right, good, true, and beautiful, but have reached no harmonious results. But it cannot be denied that in the course of the centuries the problem has become clearer and clearer. The great names of Pythagoras, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Bacon, Cartesius, Spinoza, Leibniz, Kant, Hegel, are milestones on the highway of this progress. The evolution is apparent, but the interrelation between the intellectual and physical, and especially between intellectual and economic evolution, is much ignored. The bridge between mind and body was not found, and philosophical evolution has been regarded up to our day as a purely mental process accomplished by one or two dozen of famous brains. I wish to point out to you now, that proletarian logic is the continuation of the preceding research after the genuine, true, good, and beautiful. It teaches how to conceive of these ideals logically, and it has not so much proceeded from any one talented brain, but is rather the product of the entire cosmic process.
Philosophical brains have developed the science of logical thought only to the extent that the material development of the world has stimulated them to do so. You must regard the human brains only as secondary levers of the universal lever which is not only genuine, true, good, and beautiful, but truth, goodness, and beauty itself, or the world and the absolute.
The understanding of the absolute which is called “good Lord,” and then again “the bad world,” in other words the selfsufficient cosmos, is very inconvenient to the wisdom of the professors, and they are attempting to assign it to a special study which they call “metaphysics.” This division of labor is not introduced for the purpose of making research more productive, but of surrounding this study by mysterious darkness. The professors who lecture to the young people on formal logic set aside the ancient research after the true, the good, the beautiful, and try to place these ideals outside of the light of science in order to be able to preserve them unchanged in the tabernacle of faith.
This charge may seem unjust, because the learned gentlemen reserved a corner for the true, the good, and the beautiful in their metaphysical department. But there is something peculiar about this. The great Kant has asked the plain question: “Is metaphysics practicable as a science?” Answer: No! The transcendental truth, etc., sought by metaphysics, and named God, freedom, immortality in Christian language, cannot be found by any reason. But being ] child of his time, the great philosopher makes a small concession to the transcendental.
He teaches: Although transcendental truth cannot be located scientifically, still the religious faith in its existence is wholesome. We, in our time, think more soberly about this theory of salvation and accept the elimination of all transcendentalism from science. While the spokesmen of the “true people” would like to hide their exalted truth, freedom, and immortality behind the curtains of temples, we throw the full daylight of logic on the absolute truth, goodness, and beauty of the material world.
Logic as the science of correct thought cannot be restricted to any one object, it cannot exclude any object, whether terrestrial or heavenly, from its sphere. The great lights of present day learning do not wish to subordinate the intellect as the object of the logical department, and absolute truth as the object of the metaphysical department, to one another, but to co-ordinate them side by side.
But two co-ordinated things which are not subordinated to a third higher thing lack logic, and the brain which is satisfied by such a condition suffers from disorder. Logical truth must inevitably be a part of absolute truth, and it is our duty to remove absolute truth from the field of metaphysics, of transcendentalism, and to transfer it to the sober world which forms an inseparable unit with the human mind.
So much for the proletarian duty to continue the research after the true, the good, and the beautiful which was the object of the philosophers before and after Socrates. But remember that I am referring only to the truly good, beautiful, etc., which is contained in the universal truth of all true specifications. The question of the ethically good, the esthetically beautiful and the absolutely perfect is as necessarily contained in the question of the universal truth as red, blue, and green in the rainbow, of course only in an abstract sense.
Our logic which has for its object the truth of the universe, is the science of the understanding of the universe, a science of universal understanding or conception of the world. It teaches that the interrelation of all things is truth and life, is the genuine, right, good, and beautiful. All the sublime moving the heart of man, all the sweet stirring his breast, is the universal nature or the universe. But the vexing question still remains: What about the negative, the ugly, the evil, what about error, pretense, standstill, disease, death, and the devil?
True, the world is vain, evil, ugly. But these are merely accidental phenomena, only forms and appendages of the world. Its eternity, truth, goodness, beauty, is substantial, existing, positive. Its negative is like the darkness which serves to make the light more brilliant, so that it may overcome the dark and shine so much more brightly.
The spokesmen of the ruling classes are not open for such a sublime optimism, because they have the pessimistic duty of perpetuating misery and servitude.
Logic, the science of correct thought, demands in the first place true, or in other words, reasonable thought. Logic deals with reason and truth.
These two things have been endowed with a mysterious nature, while they obviously belong to the entire universe and its tangible nature. Reason and truth are not separated from the other things, are not things in themselves. There is no such thing. Philosophers who have looked for them in the depths of the human brain with their hands over their eyes and engaged in brown study, were on the wrong road. Proletarian logic differs from conventional logic in that it does not look for reason and truth behind the curtains of temples, nor in the brains of the learned, but it discovers them in the actual interconnection of all things and processes of nature.
Preachers, professors, judges, and politicians are the leaders of “the wise men of Gotham,” and since we have all passed our youth among them, we find it difficult to get rid of their confused logic.
We owe much of our better insight to the famous philosophers. These men had many an eccentric notion, but on the whole they were reasonable fellows who followed the doctrine of the unreliability of the senses and the faith in the hidden truth and reason more in a theoretical than in a practical way. In practice they operated with open eyes and ears. Thus correct logic, although confused by queer notions, has been handed down to us from generation to generation. Preachers, professors, judges, and politicians cling to the confused notions, while we take the liberty to discard them.
Now we recognize not only that reason and truth are connected with the world, but also that the universe is the supreme reason and truth, is that being which religion and philosophy have long been looking for, the most perfect being, which Plato called the true, good and beautiful, Kant God, freedom, and immortality, and Hegel the absolute.
If he is an atheist who denies that perfection can be found in any individual, then I am an atheist. And if he is a believer in God who has the faith in the “most perfect being” with which not alone the theologists, but also Cartesius and Spinoza have occupied themselves so much, then I am one of the true children of God.
The abuse of sublime feelings and exalted ideas has filled many hearts with disgust, so that they care no longer for any unctuous sermons. The mere flavor of religion is odious to them. Nevertheless I assure you that we shall never get rid of idol worship, unless we understand the supreme being, reason or truth, in its true nature.
“Understand” is a mysterious word. To bring light into the mystery of understanding by a clear theory of understanding, is an integral part of the science of thought, of logic.
Permit me to compare the faculty of understanding with a photographic apparatus, by the help of which you strive to obtain a picture of the cosmic truth. Then you will see at a glance that in this way we can obtain but a dim picture of the whole. The object appears boundless, too infinitely great and sublime to permit of copying. And yet we can approach it. Although we cannot get a true picture of universal truth, yet we can obtain clear pictures of individual truths, in other words, we can picture the infinite in its parts. By the help of your intellect, you can grasp the infinite by means of limitation.
Absolute truth appears to us in relative phenomena. The perfect being is composed of imperfect parts. A “wise man of Gotham” may regard this as a senseless contradiction. But we can separate the arms, legs, head, and trunk from one another, and so separated they will be mere parts of a corpse, while connected they certainly possess the chance of vitality. Life is composed of the dead, the most perfect being is composed of imperfect parts. In the universal truth everything is contained. It is the perfect being, it includes the whole existence, even the imperfect. The false, the ugly, the evil, the nasty are involved in the true, the good, the beautiful. The universal existence is the absolute truth, the whole is composed of relativities, of parts, of phenomena. Our understanding, our instrument of thought, is likewise an imperfect part of the perfect being. Our intellect produces only a dim, imperfect picture of the absolute, but it reproduces true pictures of its parts, although pictures only.
There are good and bad, adequate and inadequate, true and false thoughts and understanding. But there are no absolutely true thoughts. All our conceptions and ideas are imperfect pictures of the most perfect being which is inexhaustible in great things as in small things, as a whole and in parts. Every part of nature is a natural part of the infinite.
I repeat: All parts or things of this world have, apart from their imperfect nature as parts, also the world nature of the absolute being. They are imperfect perfections. Our intellect is no exception. The human mind is the only mind having the name of reason, and is the most perfect reason which can possibly exist. In the same way, the water of this earth is the non plus ultra of all water. The belief in another and different mind, in a monster mind, belongs to the same transcendental category as the belief in a celestial river without the nature of water flowing around the castle of Zion. Even the most perfect mind is nothing else, and cannot be anything else, but an imperfect part of the absolute world being.
The first thing a student of correct thought has to learn is to distinguish true thought from false thought, and for this purpose he must know above all that distinction must not be exaggerated. All differences can only be relative. The bad and the good pictures belong to the same family, and all families finally belong to the absolute, are individuals of the universe.
For the purpose of distinguishing true thoughts from false, it should be remembered that the true thought is only a part of the truth, a part which does not exaggerate its own importance, but subordinates itself to the absolute.
The following illustration may explain this. Although astronomy teaches that the earth revolves daily around its axis and that the sun is standing still, it nevertheless knows that the fixed state of the sun is only a relative truth, so that from a higher point of view both the earth and the sun are revolving. The consciousness of its relative truth alone makes the statement of the sun’s standstill true. Again, when the farmer sees that the earth is fixed and that the sun is moving every day from East to West, he is mistaken only so far as he regards his standpoint as the whole truth, his farmers’ knowledge for absolute knowledge. The knowledge of the absolute alone enables you to distinguish correctly between truth and error. Whoever sees the sun turning around the earth with the consciousness that this revolution is but a partial truth is not in error, but sees truly. The knowledge of the absolute truth clears up error and instructs us as to the method of correct thought. This thought makes us apt, humble, and tolerant in judging.
The “wisest of men” was very proud of his modesty in knowing that he knew nothing. His example may well be recommended to-day. Although we have learned a great deal, we know very little compared to the inexhaustible fountain of all wisdom, good mother nature. We learn every day, but we never learn all there is to learn. What was to the credit of Socrates, was his firm faith in the truth, his conviction of its existence, and his faith in the mission of the human intellect to search for truth.
On the contrary, the sophists confused and disputed everything. They frivolously flouted all truth and research. This same frivolousness now relies upon Kant who, misled by the prejudice of his time, removed truth to a transcendental world and therefore deprecatingly called our actual world the “world of phenomena.” In distinction from him, our logic teaches that the phenomena of this world without exception are parts of the one truth, and that the true art of understanding consists in studying the parts.
The doctrine of the sophists to the effect that everything may be denied and disputed has a certain similarity with ours in that we declare that the universe is the truth and all parts of it true parts, that smoke and fog, reason and imagination, dreams and realities, subject and object, are true parts of the world. They are not the whole truth, but still true. For this reason it is well to call your attention to the difference between the sophistical and the logical method of thought. The contemporaries of Socrates are still alive to-day. They are teaching in the name of God and believe in nothing, while to us truth, every day naked and sober truth, is sacred.
In his “Three Books On The Soul,” Aristotle discussed at length the question whether the human soul has five senses or one. The commentator, J. H. von Kirchmann, the publisher of the “Philosophical Library,” remarks in his footnote 172 that man has six senses. He divides feeling into pure and active feeling. According to this, the phrase of the five senses belongs to the old iron the same as that of the four elements. Now neither you, nor I, nor any reader should worry about the question whether all sensation may be summed up in the one sense of feeling, whether there are five senses according to Aristotle, or six according to Kirchmann, or whether there is even a seventh sense for the transcendental, the organ of which, as some optimists hope, will gradually be developed with the growing perfection of man. We are concerned in this matter only so far as it is connected with the cardinal question, whether the world is only one thing or a mere collection of an infinite number of disconnected things; whether the so-called things are independent subjects and objects, or whether they are only predicates of the one world subject.
Looking through the window I see the river, the street, the bridge, houses, and trees. Everything is a thing in itself and yet is connected inseparably with all others. The qualities of the world are regarded by the intellect as subjects; but the intelligent subject should also know that its actions, its distinguishing and understanding, are formalities, a formal dismemberment of the absolute, which in spite of all division always remains the undivided whole.
In order to master this method of thought, you must understand above all that the things are only so-called things, but are in reality qualities of the universe, in other words, relative things or predicates of the absolute. You will then understand, that our thought has a right to make one thing as well as six of a chair, its back, its seat, and its four legs. You will recognize that the five senses of Aristotle are not an eternal truth, but a classification, which is eternally variable. Distinguishing means classifying.
I know very well that I am making a bold statement here, and that it is not easy to justify it. For this reason you must not expect that I can make my meaning clear in a few sentences. It is not only the general prejudice which prevents this by making a most mysterious and miraculous thing of the intellectual function, but also the fact that this thing is still very obscure, although it has become clearer and clearer in the course of time.
The freethinking pastor Hironymi writes on this point: “The most prominent naturalists of the present, such as Dubois-Reymond, who are at the same time thinkers, admit that they do not know what feeling, life, consciousness, are, and how they arise. And this ignorance is far more valuable for truth and religion than the alleged knowledge. Let us, therefore, continue in the devotion with which we have hitherto admired the universe without understanding it. The higher existence, the consciousness, has not been explained, it has remained a miracle, the only lasting, absolute, miracle.”
Thus speaks the preacher who is a know-nothing by nature and makes a business of admiring and wondering, while we are interested in understanding and knowing. We wish to fathom the mystery, and hence I may write still more letters on logic and you may study some more.
I shall try to demonstrate by a trivial example, how it is that understanding or distinguishing is based on classification.
Take it that you awake at early dawn and notice in a corner of your bed room something uncouth and moving which you cannot clearly distinguish. To know that a phenomenon appears is not enough because the term phenomenon applies to everything, natural and unnatural things, good and evil spirits. Even if you are sufficiently enlightened to know that the thing in question must be something natural, still this explains very little, for the term “nature” again means everything. But you understand or recognize more when you ascertain that the uncouth thing is dead or alive, wall paper or garment, man or animal. You will notice that in this intellectual enlightenment it is simply a matter of classification, of the head under which the mystery should be classed. To classify the phenomena of truth and life, means to understand, to use the intellect, to enlighten the brain.
But we must well consider how far we shall have to go in our classification in order to find the place in the system which will fully clarify and determine understanding. Suppose that in the above mentioned case you have ascertained that the motion is due to a cat, then the inquiring faculty of understanding has not yet reached the end of its tether. The next question is then, whether it is your cat or that of your neighbor, whether it is black, white, or grey, young or old. And when you finally recognize that it is your tomcat Peter, you must remember that the subject which understands as well as the object to be recognized, being parts of the absolute, are absolutely and infinitely divisible parts, which are never fully understood and never fully exhausted.
Please remember that in speaking of something uncouth, we are not so much concerned in Peter or Tabby, but in the intellect which we desire to understand so that we may make a correct use of it. And I refer to it as uncouth merely because its understanding is beset with so many difficulties. When I compared it in the preceding letter with a photographic apparatus which should furnish us with pictures, and in likening it now to an instrument designed to distinguish things by classification, I warn you not to be confused thereby. Classification is most essential as a means of producing intellectual pictures. In this connection I emphasize once more that the faculty of understanding, the same as other things, is not independent by itself, but can accomplish something only in the universal interconnection. The understanding that the phenomenon quoted above belongs to the category of tomcats, and more especially into the column labeled Peter, would not be any understanding at all, if you had not become previously acquainted with the mouse-devouring race and individual in question. Only in connection with your previous experience is the understanding that this tomcat and the uncouth motion are one and the same thing, or belong to the same category, a true understanding.
Ludwig Feuerbach says: A talented writer is recognized by the fact that he assumes talent on the part of the reader also and does not chew up his subject into minute parts like a petty schoolmaster. On the other hand, it seems to me that it is possible to assume too much, and I pursued a schoolmasterly course in this case, because the subject is new to you and still leaves plenty of room for reflection.
I wanted to show by a commonplace example what I mean by insight and understanding and how by means of it the unknown and uncouth becomes known and familiar. True, the understanding in this case was illumined by previous experience, while you are after new knowledge. You want to know how enlightenment arises in order to acquire new insight. Now, all novelty has the dialectic quality of being at the same time something antiquated. New understanding can be acquired only by the help of old understanding. In other words, old and new understanding, which I define here as the faculty of classification, have their existence only in the total interdependence of the universal existence.
You must discard the old prejudice that knowledge can be collected like cents. Although this is well enough, it does not suffice for the purpose of logical thinking. One science belongs to another, and all of them together belong to one class with the entire universe. It will be apparent to you, then, that at the beginning of your young days your knowledge has not sprouted all at once, but has come out of the unknown. And what is true of you, is true of the whole human race. In its cradle it was without intellect. It had, indeed, the germ. But do not beasts, worms, and sensitive plants have that also? In short, the light of perception and understanding is nothing new in the radical sense of the word, but connected with the old and with the world in general, and of the same kind. All our knowledge must be connected and combined into one understanding, one system, one realm, and this is the realm of reality, of truth, of life.
Systematic classification is the task of logic. The first requirement for this purpose is the awakened consciousness of the indivisibility of the universe, of its universal unity. This consciousness is, in other words, at the same time the recognition of the merely formal significance of all scientific classification.
The unity of the universe is true, and is the sole and innate truth. That this sole world truth is full of differences, is just as absolutely different as absolutely the same, does no more contradict a reasonable unity and equality than there is any contradiction in the fact that the various owls have different faces and still the same owl face.
Aristotle divided the sense into five parts, anthropologists the race of man into five races, natural philosophers the space into three dimensions. It is now a question of showing to you that such a division, however true and just, is nevertheless far from being truth and justice, but is merely classification. The fundamental requirement of logic is to designate scientific classifications as that which they are, viz., mental operations. It is the business of the intellect to make classifications. That is its characteristic quality and does not contradict the indivisible truth in the least.
Old wiseacres teach that a reasonable man must not contradict himself, and this is a wise, though very narrow, lesson. Hegel maintains that everything in the world is reasonable, hence the contradictions are also. Under this conservative exterior there is hidden a very revolutionary perception of which the “destructive” minds take advantage in order to flatly contradict the wiseacres and their stable, dead, disordered order which cannot stand any contradiction.
Reason dissolves all contradictions and opposition into harmony by logical classification. “Everything in its own time and place.” If it does not wish to be called unreason, reason must rise to the understanding that its opposite is only a formal antagonism. It must know that God and the world, body and soul, life and death, motion and rest, and whatever else the dualists may distinguish, are two and yet one. Then it becomes clear that the conservatives are the real revolutionaries, because by their senseless adherence to the “good old order” they drive the proletariat to desperation, until it upsets that order. On the other hand, the maligned revolutionaries are conservative, because they subordinate themselves to the world’s evolutionary process which was, is, and will be eternal.
The red thread winding through all these letters deals with the following points: The instrument of thought is a thing like all other common things, a part or attribute of the universe. It belongs particularly to the general category of being and is an apparatus which produces a detailed picture of human experience by categorical classification or distinction. In order to use this apparatus correctly, one must fully grasp the fact that the world unit is multiform and that all multiformity is a unit.
It is the solution of the riddle of the ancient Eleatic philosophy: How can the one be contained in the many, and the many in one?
Shoemaking and beet culture are as much sciences as physics, chemistry, and astronomy. Reading, writing, and reckoning are called elementary knowledge, and though I do not deny that they have an elementary value for the culture of the mind, yet I can truly say that I have met well-informed people who could neither read nor write. I wish to indicate by this that there are indeed high and low degrees of knowledge and science, but that such graduations have only a temporary, local, relative, subjective significance, while in the absolute all things are the same.
The scorn with which you may hear some people speak of the night of the absolute in which all cats are grey and all women beautiful Helenas shall not prevent us from repeatedly studying the absolute which I have again and again praised as the main topic of logic. Only remember, please, that you must not have any mystic idea of it. The absolute is the sum total of all that was, is, and will be.
The subjects as well as the objects of all science belong to the absolute, which is commonly called “world.”
All other sciences have for their object limited parts, relative matters, while the science of the mind treats of all things, of the infinite. This is a point to which I refer frequently because it tends to make my lessons obscure. I am lecturing on the science of the intellect, but I speak of all things, of the universe, because I am obliged to demonstrate, not the relation of the mind to shoemaking or astronomy, but its general interrelations. I have to make plain its general conduct, and this leads necessarily to the all-embracing generality, to the absolute. We wish to learn the art of thinking, not on this or that subject, but the art of general world thought.
The intellect is a special part, the same as every other scientific or practical object. But it is that part which is not satisfied with piece work, which knows that it itself and all special things are attributes or predicates of the absolute subject, that it itself and all things are universally interrelated.
The human mind is sometimes called self-consciousness. But this name is too limited for such an unlimited thing, for the pathfinder of the infinite, for your, my, and every other consciousness of the world and of existence in general.
For centuries the question has been discussed whether there are innate ideas hidden in the intellect or whether it may be likened to a blank paper which experience impregnates with knowledge. This is the question after the origin and source of understanding. Whence comes reason, where do we get our ideas, judgments, conclusions? By the help of brown-study from the interior of our brain, from revelation, or from experience? It seems to me that you will quickly decide this matter when I ask you to consider that everything we experience, together with the intellect going through experiences, is a revelation of the absolute. Everything we know is experience. We may consider the mind as a sheet of blank paper, but in order that it may receive writing on its surface this internal paper is as necessary as the external world which produces the hand, the pen and the ink for this process of writing. In other words, all experience originates from the world organism. Not knowledge, but consciousness, world consciousness, is innate in the intellect. It has not the consciousness of this or that in itself, but it knows of itself the general, the existence as such, the absolute.
The science of the intellect has ever wrestled with one peculiar fact. It found knowledge which the mind had received from the outside, so-called empirical knowledge. But it also found knowledge which was innate, so-called a priori knowledge. That there is always a valley between two mountains, that gold is not sheet iron, that the part is smaller than the whole, that the angles of a triangle are together equal to two right angles, that circles are round, that water is wet, that fire is hot, etc., these are things of which we know that they are true in heaven and in hell, and in all time to come, although we have never been there with our experience. This plainly shows that we harbor a secret in our brains which the lovers of the mystical seek to exploit by making believe that their self-interested wisdom of God and high authority likewise belongs to the eternally innate truths. For this reason it is especially important for the proletariat to bring the controversy of the origin and source of understanding to a close.
Our logic asks: Does wisdom descend mysteriously from the interior of the human brain, or does it come from the outer world like all experience? We shall leave its descent from heaven out of the question.
The answer is: Science, perception, understanding, thought, require internal and external things, subject and object, brain and world. Truth is here and truth is there. Truth is so divine that it is everywhere and absolute.
But how to explain that wonderful a priori knowledge which exceeds all experience? For it is a fact that the intellect has not alone the faculty of knowing things in general, but also that of separating them into their parts and from one another and to name them. It cuts off slices, so to say. But not like the butcher who sees everything merely from the standpoint of his trade. You will remember from your own experience as well as from my repeated statements that the world is not a monotonous, but a multiform unit. This confused knot is dissolved and explained by intellectual separation, by classification. In the absolute everything is alike and unlike. But the intellect makes abstractions from the unlike. For instance, in conceiving of the term minerals, we pass over the distinction between gold and sheet iron. Then, when we continue the classification by subordinating gold and sheet iron as separate species to the general term of minerals, we know very well that gold and sheet iron are different kinds of the same general mineral nature. We know what the names indicate, and so long as they retain their meaning, we know that neither in heaven nor in hell can gold be sheet iron or sheet iron be gold. Water and fire are specialties taken from the universe and named. Is it a wonder, then, that these names have a special meaning and that we have the settled conviction that wherever sense instead of nonsense is master, fire burns, water wets, circles are round, and the sum of the angles of every triangle is equal to two right angles?
These illustrations are commonplace enough, indeed, but it seems to me that they clearly show the mere formality of the distinction between innate and experienced knowledge. You will recognize that both of these kinds of knowledge are different and yet of the same kind, that both are mixtures of the internal and external. Knowledge a priori ceases to be a miracle when we understand that it comes out of the same fountain of experience as a posteriori knowledge, and in either case knowledge is acquired only by means of the intellect. Hence intellect connected with the world is the sole source of all wisdom, and external nature as well as our internal faculty of understanding are parts of the one general nature, which is the truth and the absolute.
“Only a gradual, slow, gapless development,” says Noiré, “can free the thinking mind from the philosophical disease of wondering.”
The art of dialectics or logic which teaches that the universe, or the whole world, is one being, is the science of absolute evolution. “In the whole constitution of all natural things,” writes Lazare Geiger, “there is hardly anything more miraculous than the way in which the miracle avoids our glance and continuously withdraws into the distance to escape observation. In the place of the abrupt and strange things produced by imagination, reason puts uniformity and transition.”
And we add that the science of reason, or logic, teaches simultaneously with the unity of the whole world, also that all things are alike miraculous, or that there is only one miracle, which is existence in general, the absolute. In other words, everything and nothing is miraculous.
In demonstrating that the most different things, such as heat and cold, and all radical distinctions, are only relative forms of universal nature, I prove the uninterrupted and matter of fact transition and the absolute graduality, the fusion, of all things.
I have tried to establish this proof in regard to the two kinds of knowledge and illustrated it with commonplace examples, because these have a popularizing effect. In order to meet the demands of more exacting minds, I shall presently take up the miracle of causality. The indubitable statement that everything must have its cause is regarded as the most miraculous innate knowledge, and is much misused for the purpose of bringing confusion into logic.
If on my return from some voyage I were to tell you of all the things I have not seen, you would justly doubt the order of my senses. Sane reason demands that the description of unfamiliar things be given in a positive, not in a negative manner. If that is so, is it not wrong to proceed negatively by trying to prove in explaining the nature of the intellect that it is not a miracle and no mysterious charm of wisdom? I answer: No. For the present, the intellect is still a sort of ignis fatuus which is magnified into a fiery man. In order to understand the ignis fatuus, it is necessary to remove the fiery man. Logic must show that human reason is not a miracle, not a mystical receptacle of wisdom. The negative process is in such a case positively in order. Wherever a thing is obscured by prejudices, these must first be removed, in order that room may be made for the bare fact.
It was the famous Kant who posed the question: “How is a priori knowledge possible?” How do we arrive at the knowledge of things which are not accessible to experience? The answer is that the intellect cannot accomplish such a miracle, and Kant substantiates this in a long-winded way and with admirable penetration. But he left a nasty hair in the soup.
He found that by the help of our reason we can explain only phenomena. The confusion between truth and phenomena had been handed down to him as an infirmity of ancient times. He worked diligently on its solution, but left some work for those coming after him. Originally the study of supernatural and the profane study of natural things were closely intermingled. Not until the obvious results of natural science became known, did thinkers accommodate themselves to the habit of leaving supernatural things to faith and limiting science to the study of natural phenomena. Science had so to say passed on to the practical order of business, not paying any further attention to the contrast between phenomena and truth. But the logic, which is innate in the human mind, cannot content itself with the dualistic split between faith and science. It demands a monistic system and does not desist until the primeval forests of faith are completely put under cultivation.
The logical impulse of culture caused Kant to continue what was begun by Socrates. Philosophy before Socrates searched for truth externally. While our logic teaches that everything is true, and truth is the universe, the Ionic philosophers made a sort of fetish out of the matter. Thales idolized the water as the thing of things, another the fire, a third numbers. This worship of the fetish was the worship of truth. The search for understanding starts out with misunderstanding. From religious to scientific culture, it is a step, not a leap. When Socrates turned to introspection and started out, with his “Know thyself,” in submitting the prodigy of the human soul to critique, he made another important step.
You know that the “wisest of men” was not interested in air and water, in natural science of the strict order, but rather in the good, the true, and the beautiful, in the human in the narrower sense, in the realm of the spirit, in the soul. It was indeed unwise that he was interested to the verge of idolization, since in consequence of this interest in a special part, the other, the material part was being neglected. According to Goethe’s statement that one thing is not fit for all, Socrates did right. He and all philosophical lights after him studied the intellect. What they missed was the now dawning understanding that the faculty of thought is not a prodigy but a special, and at the same time common, part of universal nature. While these philosophers looked for truth in any one special form of excellence, you are now invited to look for it in the total interrelation of things.
Science has ever endeavored to do away with miracles and prodigies. This could be accomplished only gradually, and the logicians have, therefore, remained more or less biased and confused. The great Kant was no exception. He looked for supreme truth, and for its sake he investigated the intellect. He is celebrated because he explained so well that this intellect feels no mission for anything transcendental, and cannot understand anything but phenomena. Still he permitted something transcendental to remain.
Kant is of the opinion that we perceive things as they appear, but not as they are “in themselves.” Nevertheless we should believe that a mysterious truth is at the bottom of those phenomena, because we should otherwise arrive at the irreconcilable contradiction that there are phenomena without anything which could appear. The intellect, he holds, can operate only on the field of phenomena, and for this reason we should give up the endless grubbing after the transcendental. But we should leave one little room in the house of reason, one little chamber of faith, which points beyond experience up to the point where a mysterious truth guards God and His commands.
The subsequent philosophers, especially the Hegelian philosophy, opposed this separation which assigned to the intellect only the study of phenomena and to faith the absolute and infinite for veneration. But they did not yet succeed in completely mastering the matter, they did not fully arrive at an indubitably clear exposition of the fountain of understanding and of the unity of truth, so that reaction nowadays can again sound the retreat after the melody: “Back to Kant.” You know that Lessing complained about the treatment of “a dead dog” accorded to Spinoza, and Marx added pointedly: “Hegel is more of a dead dog to-day than Spinoza was at Lessing’s time.” The enemies of the working class are the enemies of evolution. They wish to preserve the existing order of things and the good old time in which they feel at home. For this reason it is the mission of the proletariat to continue the work of logic. It is our duty to show clearly that the metaphysical truth which Kant opposed to the phenomena of nature and could not eliminate from the intellect, is nothing but just a metaphysical, a fantastically exaggerated, thing.
According to our logic, the universe is the truth and everything partakes of it. That such a truth is logical and such a logic true, is shown by the interconnection of things, so that this science is applicable to everything which the sciences respect as reasonable and true.
In order to help you in the understanding of the absolute and liberate your thought from all special miracles, I refer to Kant’s critique of reason. It teaches that our intellect becomes a source of understanding only in connection with other phenomena of nature. Only his critique stuck fast in the mysterious fountain of causality. Thus he showed that he was only a seeker after logic, not its master. The conclusion that there must be something that does appear where there are phenomena is certainly correct. But that which Kant was thinking of, something of a transcendental or metaphysical nature, led him to the radically wrong conclusion that there must be something different, peculiar, miraculous, mysterious, wherever there are phenomena.
The Kantian conclusion that there must be an absolute truth by itself behind a phenomenon, an absolute truth that exists independent of and disconnected with such phenomenon, was due to his fetish-like conception of truth. It is the first requirement for a correct use of the faculty of logical reasoning to know that truth is the common nature of the universe.
That a phenomenon must be based on nature, or an effect on a cause, is a fact identical with “causality” which I already promised to discuss in the preceding letter. This same problem may also be expressed in the words: Where there are predicates, there must be a subject that carries them. In order to make quite sure that I will not be misunderstood, I emphasize once more the fact that I am not raising any doubt as to the correctness of this conclusion, but only to the metaphysical application of this conclusion after the Kantian manner which consists in making the same use of it as a clergyman who tries to prove that his theology is innate in reason.
Our conception of logic wishes to show that all causes and effects are matter of the same kind, and that our faculty of reasoning is a matter of fact thing which brooks no mysteries or metaphysical dreams.
Now let me illustrate the interconnection of all things, or the world-unit, by discussing the question of causality. We know that everything has its cause. We know that this is also true on the Moon or on Uranus, although we have not acquired this knowledge by experience on those world bodies. Thus it seemed that the intellect was a mysterious receptacle containing innate wisdom. The same receptacle also contains, for instance, the truth that all white horses are white and all black horses black. We do not know anything about the color of other horses in other countries, but the color of black and white horses we know even if we have never seen them in other countries. It is thus apparent that our intellect is an instrument which reaches beyond experience. For this reason there would seem to be no telling where the supply of such miraculous revelations would stop and into what mysterious worlds the intellect passing beyond the limits of experience would lead us.
In order that the human intellect may not appear transcendental, in order to give it its place in the general classification of natural forces, we must investigate the nature of causality and so-called a priori knowledge.
Kindly observe in the first place that a thing is just as wonderful after it is explained as it was before its explanation. A scientific explanation of a thing ought not to do away with our admiration, but only to reduce it to reasonable bounds. The intellect may very well be regarded as something wonderful, but its wondrous quality should be reduced to the measure of all things which are none of them any less wonderful. After you have explained what water is, after you have learned that it is composed of two chemical elements, after you have realized all its qualities thoroughly, it still remains a wonderful, divine, fluid.
“All things have their causes.” What are all things? They are attributes, qualities of the universe. It is innate in the intellect to know that the world is one thing, that all things belong, not to any different thing, but to one and the same subject. The intellect is by nature the absolute feeling of unity. It knows of itself that everything is interrelated and that the consciousness of causality is nothing else but the consciousness of cosmic interrelation. And I maintain that the innateness of the consciousness of cosmic interrelation in our brain is explained when we realize that it is an actual thing like all others, a phenomenon which has the same general nature as every other phenomenon.
The fact is undeniable that a certain knowledge is innate in our consciousness. The only difficulty has been to explain this fact. At this point I call your attention to the exaggerated notion entertained in regard to explaining, and understanding, things. By explanations, a thing is not dissolved, but only classified.
The hatching of an egg is explained when you perceive that this process is part and parcel of a whole class of similar processes. If you modify the exalted idea of the effect of explanations in this sense, you must realize that the innate consciousness of the general interrelation of things is natural and intelligible and requires no other explanation than the humidity of the water, the gravity of bodies, or the color of black horses.
Even after it has been explained and understood, the intellect with its logic remains a wonderful thing. Just as clay is by its nature untransparent and pliable, or glass transparent and brittle, so consciousness has its peculiar innate qualities. In this way knowledge comes to the intellect not only by experience, but it is also a sort of receptacle full of wisdom. Still this receptacle would no more contain wisdom without experience than the eye would have impressions without light.
In order to straighten out the intricate windings of our subject, I recapitulate them. We wish to learn the proper use of our intellect, the conscious application of consciousness. To this end we analyze its hitherto hidden mystical nature. So long as we exalt this nature transcendentally to the clouds, we do not acquire its proper use. Therefore the first paragraph of our lesson reads: The intellect belongs in the same category with all things of the universe. And the second paragraph says: If we distinguish two classes of thought radiated by the human intellect, viz., innate thoughts, such as causality, and on the other hand thoughts which come through experience, we must remember that such a distinction is correct only when we realize that in spite of this classification in two kinds they really belong to the same kind. Innate and acquired wisdom, though served on two different plates, still are taken from the same general world dish.
From this it follows that the science of causality, though applicable to all the phenomena of the world, does not apply to the universe. If it is a fact that all wisdom is worldly, then one must not fly outside of the world with the concept of causality.
This is the salient point at issue.
All things are one thing, are interdependent, stand in the relation of cause and effect toward one another, or of genus and species. To say that all things have a cause means that they have a mother. The fact that every mother has a mother finds its final ending in the world mother or mother world, which is absolute and motherless and contains all mothers in its womb.
Causes are mothers, effects are daughters. Every daughter has not only a mother, grand-mother, and great-grand-mother, but also a father, grand-father, and great-grand-father. The origin, or the family relationship, of a daughter is not one-sided, but all-sided. In the same way all things have not one, but many causes which flow together in the general cause.
The intellect which has the innate knowledge that everything has its cause will accept the teaching that all causes in the world are founded in the absolute world cause and must return to it. It is the quintessence of logic not only to ascertain the true nature of the intellect, but also to elucidate the nature of the universe by the help of the intellect.
All things have a mother, but to expect that the world mother should logically have a mother is to carry logic to extremities and to misunderstand the intellect and its art of reasoning.
If you have recognized the faculty of understanding as a part of existence, you will not wonder at its miraculousness. Existence is wonderful. Its parts arise one out of the other, out of the universal interrelations of the one world. They all have their predecessors and causes. But what is true of the relative parts, is not true of the absolute whole.
I am the son of my father and the father of my son. I am at the same time father and son. In the same way all things are simultaneously cause and effect. Although father and son are two different persons, still the capacity of being father and son rest in the same person, and although cause and effect are to be distinguished as two things, still they are two relations of the same thing. Persons and things, causes and effects, are not independent entities, but relative entities, are interconnections or relations of the absolute.
The intellect is innate in us, and with it and through it also the consciousness of being, although it is innate in us only as the teeth of the child which grow after birth. Everything that we become aware of is known only as a part of the universe. In so far as this is wonderful, the consciousness of causality is miraculous. But, in fact, the knowledge of the causality of all things is innate wisdom the same as that of the color of all white and black horses. At the same time it must be observed that every innate knowledge is in part acquired, and every acquired knowledge in part innate, so that both kinds intermingle and form one category.
My whole argument aims to convince you that all things are worldly things, and their causality is only another name for the same thing, just as the German brot is called pain in French and bread in English. Thus we derive the firm conviction that if there is pain in heaven there will be bread, and if there are things, there will be causes and effects, or interrelation with the unit of existence.
The mystery of causality is sometimes expressed by the statement that we possess the indubitable knowledge which extends beyond all experience that wherever a change takes place there must have preceded another change. Indeed, we have the faculty of recognizing the unity in the infinite multiplicity, and infinite multiplicity in the unity. Multiplicity, change, motion – who is to split hairs about them, who will make fine distinctions? The intellect is the photographic organ of the infinite motion and transformations called the “world.” It is and possesses the consciousness of cosmic changes. Is it a wonder that it knows that there is interrelation in its things, that no part of the world, not a particle of its motion and transformations, stands alone by itself, that everything is connected and mutually dependent in and with the universe? Because this understanding is in a way innate in the intellect, therefore it understands that there is nothing but change, infinitely proceeding transformations. And if it detaches any single thing from this process, it knows that changes preceded it and changes will follow.
In short, we must not marvel at any single part of nature, not even at the intellect, but admire the whole universe. Then fetishism will at last end and a true cult, the cult of world truth, can begin.
The art of thinking, my dear Eugene, is not so easy. For this reason I keep on warning you against misunderstanding. I do not mean to advise you with the foregoing against admiring any single part of nature, or of art, a landscape or a statue. My teaching merely tends to moderate admiration by the reflection that the whole world is wonderful, that everything is beautiful, so that nothing ugly remains. The distinction between beautiful and ugly is only relative. Even when I say that the true worship of God, the cult of truth, cannot begin until idol worship ceases, you will appreciate the phrase and will not insinuate that I do not value the cultivation of science in the past, or that I hate idol worship to the extent of forgetting what I have emphasized repeatedly, viz., that idol worship is also worship of God, and error a paving stone on the way toward truth. The most minute thing is a magnitude. Everything is true, good, and beautiful, for the universe is absolute truth, beauty and goodness. I conclude with the words of Fr. von Sallet:
A sunny view of world and life
Is balm for brain and heart,
It is with health and beauty rife,
With noblest works of art.
But do not for a moment think
That it is captured in a wink.
The golden harvest does not grow,
Unless the early tempests blow.
And only bitter woe and strain
Will bright and lofty wisdom gain.
7. E. g. That of natural existence. – Editor.
My subject, dear Eugene, is the simplest in the world, but it requires thorough treatment for all its full understanding. So every letter is in a way but a repetition of the same argument. “It is remarkable,” says Schopenhauer, “that we find the few main theses of pre-socratic philosophy repeated innumerable times. Also in the works of modern thinkers, such as Cartesius, Spinoza, Leibniz, and even Kant, we find that their few main theses are repeated over and over.”
Now I ask you to consider what I said in my first letters, viz., that the titles of the principal philosophical works reveal that philosophy is engaged in the study of logic, in the analysis of the intellect and the art of its use. You will then recognize that in the very nature of the subject my presentation of the matter lacks systematization. It has no real beginning and end, because its object, the intellect, is interconnected with the whole universe, which is without beginning and end, which has neither before nor after, neither above nor below.
You may venture that the relation of the intellect to the universe does not concern the intellect especially, but is a universal matter. That would be true.
But it is easy to show that the art of thinking and wisdom of the world are identical. And although the universal interrelation of things is germain to all things and subjects, yet its consideration is a special task of logic which treats all objects of thought summarily.
My subject therefore begins everywhere, even though it is a specialty. Hence I take the liberty to take my departure from any literature which I happen to study. In the present letter, I deal with “logical investigations” of the prominent Professor Trendelenburg. His is a bulky volume, but you need not fear that I shall weary you with its subtleties. As a rule I read only the preface of philosophical works of the second and third order, their introduction and perhaps the first few chapters. Then I am approximately informed as to what I may expect from them further on. One frequently finds statements which, if they do not throw new light on the subject, still bring out in bolder relief some of the accomplishments of historical research in our field. And in order that the son may not trust to the father alone, which might lead to distrust, I connect my argument with some statements of Trendelenburg.
In the preface to the second edition the author complains of the “dull headache” which the Hegelian intoxication has left in Germany and says: “Philosophy will not resume its old power until it becomes consistent, and it will not become consistent until it grows in the same way that all other sciences do. In other words, it must not take a new departure in every brain and then quit, but it must approach its problems historically and develop them. The German prejudice must be abandoned, according to which the philosophy of the future is supposed to look for a new principle. This principle has already been found. It consists in the organic world conception, the fundaments of which are resting in Plato and Aristotle.”
The Professor is right, but he overlooks that the philosophers, even of modern times, do not begin “each on his own account,” do not have “each his own principle,” or if they have, such a “false originality” is but the indifferent attribute of historical development which has handed the object of logic, the true art of thought, from generation to generation in an ever brighter condition.
I repeat this emphatically for pedagogic reasons, because I consider it essential to convince you and the reader that the apparent paradoxes which I state are the objects of discussion since time immemorial. I also wish to stimulate you to a study of the master works of philosophy which show the cheering spectacle, in the persons of the most brilliant specimens of the human mind, of the onward march of this mind from darkness to light.
In order that the wheat contained in this human treasure box may not be concealed by the tares, I am endeavoring to throw light on the outcome of the historical development of philosophy, and for this purpose I continue to discuss the question by taking my departure in this instance from some further statements of Trendelenburg.
“It is a peculiarity of philosophical methods of reasoning to recognize a part in the whole, and it is tacitly assumed that the whole is descended from a thought which determines the parts. On the other hand, it is peculiar to empirical methods of analysis to study the parts without regard to their interrelation, or at best to collect them and put them together, and it is tacitly assumed that every point is something peculiar in itself which must be studied apart from all the rest.”
“The aim of all human understanding is always to solve the miracle of divine creation by further creative thought. When this task is undertaken in detail, the detail study forces one on to other things: for things must go backwards toward their dissolution by the same force through which they arose out of the depths.”
These sentences state the problem before us. Shall we use the intellect philosophically, or shall we use it empirically? We are striving to understand the parts and the whole, and this is identical with the research after a systematical world philosophy, or with the art of dialectics. Now we must state in the first place that thinking of any kind, whether it be philosophical or empirical, is of the same species, that the same kernel is contained in both forms. Roses are different flowers from carnations, but the flower nature is in both of them. Thus the nature of thought is contained in both philosophical and empirical thinking. The distinction is well enough, but their unity must not be lost sight of.
The philosophers, he says, seek to understand the detail by the whole; the empirical thinkers analyze the details without regard to interrelations. But both methods of research are different specimens of the same genus, and both of them are one-sided when their interconnection is overlooked. The empirical thinker who seeks to understand the details in their isolation, thinks philosophically, when he regards his special research as a contribution to the whole, and the philosopher, who seeks to understand the detail by the whole, thinks empirically when he rightly regards all details as attributes of the whole.
Trendelenburg, then, has expressed his case very obscurely. Both methods of study, if employed one-sidedly, entirely misconceive the art of thinking. The philosophers err when they regard the intellect as the only source of understanding and truth; it is only a part of truth and must be supplemented by all the rest of the world. On the other hand, the empirical thinkers err when they look for understanding and truth exclusively in the outer world, without taking into account the intellectual instrument by the help of which they lift their treasures. In fact, such one-sided philosophers exist only in theory; I mean there are some who imagine that truth could be one-sided. But in practice they all testify, much against their will, to the inevitable interconnection of matter and mind, of inside and outside. In the practical use of the intellect everybody shows that the part operates in the whole, and that the whole is active in its parts.
We know a priori that the universe is a whole. The universal existence can be conceived only as of one kind or nature. The mere thought that there might be something which does not partake of the nature of the universe is no thought, because it is a thought without sense or reason. The whole world is the supreme being, though I grant that we have but a vague conception of it. We have as yet no detailed, true, conception of the universe, but it is gradually acquired in the course of science. Still, our conception will never be perfect because details are infinitesimal and the absolute being is infinite growth.
As to details, we know them more or less accurately and yet not accurately, because even the most minute part of the infinite is infinite. All science has searched in vain for atoms. What our understanding knows, has always been nothing but predicates or attributes of truth, although they are true attributes and are truly understood by us.
I emphasize the inadequacy of all modes of thought and of all understanding in opposition to those who make an idol of science. I emphasize the truth of all perceptions in opposition to those knownothings who claim that truth cannot be understood, but can only be admired and worshipped. Hence it follows for our theory of understanding that intellect and reason and the art of thought are no independent treasure boxes which make any revelations to us. They are theoretical classifications which in practice are operative only in the universal interconnection of things. Understanding, perceiving, judging, distinguishing and concluding, etc., are unable to produce any truths. They can only enlighten and clarify experience by logical classification and distinction. Because man produces works which are preceded by planning, therefore the philosophical mode of research has “assumed that the whole is descended from a thought.” But this is an assumption of human origin, which is shown to be without foundation on closer analysis. The plans of our works are copies of natural originals and are “free creations of the mind” only in a limited sense. The artists are well aware of the natural descent of their thoughts and fictions. To regard the world as the outcome of thought is a perverse logic. It is the first condition of rational, proletarian, thought to recognize the intellect and its products as attributes of the world subject.
Just as in political history action and reaction follow one another, just as periods of economic prosperity are alternated by periods of depression, so we find in literature a periodical fluctuation between philosophical and anti-philosophical tendencies.
After Hegel had for a time thoroughly aroused the spirits, a time of apathy followed, so that this hero of thought who shortly before had been almost idolized could be attacked and reviled. For about a decade, a philosophical breeze has now once more been blowing. The subject of logic, the theory of understanding, is again the object of universal attention. This movement is stimulated by important discoveries in science, such as the heat equivalent of Robert Mayer, the origin of species by Darwin, etc., and natural science and philosophy may be compared to two miners who are digging a tunnel, so that sharp ears on both sides can hear the blows of the hammers and the clanging of the tools.
There is much truth in this picture, but it may also lead to misunderstandings. By the vivisection of frogs and rabbits, by boring into the brain, physiology will not discover the mind. No microscope, no telescope, will reveal the nature of reason and truth or the art of logical discernment.
Neither will Lazarre Geiger, Max Müller, Steinthal, and Noiré succeed in philology in solving the “last questions of all knowledge” by the help of any primitive arch-language.
At the same time, the value of the co-operation of these gentlemen is not denied, only I desire to point out that the comparison with the tunnel is not quite accurate. What Marx said of economic formulas, is true of logical formulas: “In their analysis neither the microscope nor chemical reagents are of any service. The power of abstraction must replace them both.”
The two sciences will finally meet, not because each one of them digs away in its own one-sided fashion, but because the miners meet after working hours and exchange their experiences. And the philosophers may be the dominant party, because they are specialists in logic and therefore prepared to utilize anything which may serve their purpose, no matter from what side it comes. The other party, on the other hand, has its own specialties and promotes the cause of logic in a secondary and involuntary fashion.
Natural science has its own monism which is distinguished from philosophical proletarian monism in that it does not appreciate the historical outcome of philosophical research. One of the most prominent representatives of the former is Noiré. He entitles one of his little works “Monistic Thought,” but shows himself on its pages as a very unclear dualist. He speaks of the “dual nature of causality” and relates that the mind operates with a different causality than the mere mechanical one. He calls this other “sensory causality.”
According to him the world has only two attributes: “Motion and sensation are the only true and objective qualities of the world.... Motion is the truly objective ... though it is admitted that it gives us only the phenomenon.... Sensation makes up the internal nature of things. Every subject, whether man or atom, is endowed with the two qualities of all beings, viz., motion and sensation.”
Thereupon I have carefully looked for an explanation in Noiré’s works, why he regards the nature of things as composed of an external and an internal quality, and why sensation should not be regarded as a sort of motion, but the only reason I could find was the dualistic nature of his “monistic” reasoning.
As Schopenhauer provided the whole world with a “will,” so Noiré provides it with “sensation.”
Kant and his “Critical Philosophy” held in their time that our intellect perceives only the phenomena of nature, while the mystic law of causality, according to him, points to a hidden being, which cannot be perceived but must be believed, which we may venerate but must leave undisturbed by science. Schopenhauer, his brilliant successor, who in spite of his brilliancy did not materially advance the cause of philosophy, mystified the problem of causality by his discovery that the nature of the world is will power. These teachings of Kant and Schopenhauer are dressed up anew and mixed with the recent discoveries of science by Noiré. But he entirely ignores the work of Schelling and Hegel, who by their criticisms have made evident the lack of logic in the Kantian separation of phenomenon (apparition) from noumenon (essence), of cause from effect.
You are familiar with the silly question whether Goethe or Schiller, Shakespeare or Byron, is the greater poet, and you will not think that I am trying to elevate Hegel above Kant or Kant above Hegel. They are just two cogs on the spinning wheel of history. If the second crushes what the first has cracked, such is the result of their succession.
Natural science is also a valuable co-operator in the solution of the world problem, not so much by digging in the logical tunnel itself, or making amateur excursions into the fields of philosophy or metaphysics, but because it elucidates and renders tangible the special object of logic in such far-embracing objects as the unity of natural forces or of animal species. The scientific presentation of this special object, however, requires a brain armed with the full equipment of the historical outcome of philosophy.
Now you must not believe that I am conceited enough to place my own little personality on the pedestal as the only true philosopher. I am too well aware of my shortcomings as a self-educated man. But seeing that I have striven earnestly and without prejudice since my young days to understand the high object of my studies, I feel in my heart a certain confidence in my qualification to deal with it. On the other hand, I know my lack of that sort of learning which is required in order to be able to present the scientifically much-courted nature of the human mind in such a form and with such emphasis as its sublime character deserves. And if I, nevertheless, come before the public on various occasions with my tentative works, I offer as an excuse that hitherto the Messiah has not appeared who will come after me and whose John the Baptist I should like to be.
You, my dear Eugene, will take me soberly and reduce my resounding words to their proper measure, when I, in the intoxication of enthusiasm, flow over like that now and then. You know that I am no hero worshipper. Though all research is but the product of individual minds, the mind of each man is a part of the universal mind which produces science. Now follows the point which forms the conclusion of all my letters: The intellect which produces science is indeed a part of man, but still more a part of the world, it is the universal world intellect, the reason of the absolute, the absolute reason.
The study of this intellect at work, not merely in shoemaking, in anatomy, or in astronomy, but in all fields, in the infinite, of its life in the absolute, is the means by which the art of logic is acquired. It is true that the infinite exists only in finite parts, and you cannot conceive of the infinite directly, you can perceive it only in its parts. And in perceiving them you must always remember that every part is an infinite piece of the infinite universe.
In his “Introduction and Proofs of a Monistic Theory of Understanding,” Noiré, after enumerating the new points contained in his work, adds sneeringly that he is “not in a position to give any new clews as to the nature of the absolute.” For this very reason I want to denounce his “Monism” as a shallow piece of work, which offers only the name instead of the essence.
The well-known Ernst Hæckel knows a great deal more about this subject. In a lecture given at the twenty-fifth convention of natural scientists in Eisenach, he calls the monistic view of nature “a grand pantheistic one.” The essence of all religion, according to him, consists in the “conviction of a final and unmistakably common cause of all things.” And he continues: “In the admission that with the present day organization of our brain, we are unable to penetrate to the final cause of all things, the critical natural philosophy and dogmatic religion agree.” Whether the professor is one of those natural philosophers who regard the human mind as too narrow for the understanding of the “unmistakably (hence somewhat understood) common cause of all things,” is not quite clear to me, nor probably to the famous scientist himself. For he adds: “The more we progress in the understanding of nature, the more we approach that unattainable final cause.” And further on: “The purest form of monistic faith culminates in the conviction of the unity of God and nature.”
Now I ask: If nature, God, and absolute truth are one and the same thing, have we not learned something about the “final cause of all things?” What necessity is there in that case for speaking in such an abjectedly humble tone of human understanding, or to assign nothing but straw and husks to it, in the language of Hegel?
You see, then, that Hæckel has a higher estimate of absolute nature than Noiré who does not care to have anything to do with the nature of the absolute. But my object at this moment is to convince you that neither the one nor the other of these two, nor natural science, so-called, is directly digging in the tunnel which will give us light on the question of the limits of our understanding and the final cause of things. Our logic, on the other hand, which treats the intellect as a part of nature, cultivates a natural science that includes the mere empirical natural science in the same way in which the day of twenty-four hours includes the day of twelve hours and the night.
Natural science proper deals mainly with tangible things. Light and sound, the objects of eye and ear, are still included in its studies. The objects of smell and taste stand on the dividing line. But the socalled sciences of the mind, such as grammar and politics, political economy and history, morals and law, and most decidedly logic, are entirely excluded.
Such a limitation is well enough, if we remember that it is purely formal. However, it must not overlook the bridge which leads from limited nature to universal, infinite, nature.
The monism of natural science has a far too narrow view of the universe. When it says that “all is motion,” it says just as little or as much as Solomon with his “all is vain.” Everything is crooked and straight, everything great and small, everything temporal and eternal, everything truth and life. But nothing is thus said to show the meaning of distinction in this world, to explain how rest exists in motion, and sense in nonsense.
In order to differentiate logically we must know that everything is everything, that the universe or absolute is its own cause and the final cause of all things, which embraces all distinctions, even that of causality and that between matter and mind.
“Philosophy should not try to be edifying,” said Hegel. This means that religious feeling is far below scientific thought. But there is a reverse side to this sentence, viz., that thoughts which do not rise to the edifying interconnection of all things, no matter whether they remain stuck in some specialty on account of frivolousness or of narrowmindedness, are far below a wise world philosophy.
In a former letter I have already emphasized, and I hope to prove it more convincingly, that the conception of “God,” or of the absolute, is indispensable for a logical world philosophy.
You know that in my dictionary the gods and divinities of all religions and denominations are “idols,” and justly so, since they are all manufactured images. Instead of the entire universe, they worship a more or less unessential part of it.
The religions show by their idolatry, the sciences frequently by their little creditable indifference, that they have no conception of the intellect and its art of reasoning.
The universe is a familiar conception. Everybody uses it, and there is apparently little to say about it. But in fact it is the conception of all conceptions, the being of all beings, the cause of itself which has no other cause and no other being beside itself. That the whole world is contained in the universe is so obvious that you may wonder at my waste of words over such a matter-of-fact thing. But when you consider that the people have always searched for a world cause outside of the world, together with a beginning of the world and a transcendental truth, then you will see that they have not grasped the conception of the world as a whole, as a universe. And if that is admitted, then the proof that it is the cause of all causes, the beginning of all beginnings, and the truth of all truths, is not such a superfluous undertaking.
Now you may say that it is presumptuous to try to understand the whole universe at once. This objection is justified in a way, according to the interpretation of the words. Still I hope that it will be my justification to declare that it is not a question of understanding the universe in detail, but only in general, not each and everything in its differentiation, but only in a summary way. And it is only the edifying conception of the universe as a whole which will open for you the door to the understanding of the human mind, of thought, and the art of using it. We wish to understand the conception; not this or that conception, but the whole conception, the conception of the whole. You will no longer indulge in the superstition that the faculty of thought or understanding is a thing apart from the world’s interconnection. I presume that you have now learned enough about the art of thought to be sure not to think of anything without its worldwide interrelation. For so long as one imagines that a piece of wood or a stone is a thing in itself, without connection with light and air, with Earth, Moon, and Sun, he has a very barbarian conception of the things of this world.
I maintain that the understanding of the human faculty of reason and the art of its use are inseparable from the world concept. And I want this understood in the sense, that it is not a mistake to distinguish between the internal mind and the outside world, but that these are merely formal distinctions of the essentially indivisible and absolute universe.
The concept of this true God or divine, because universal, Truth shows on close analysis that it includes the special truth of the art of thought as well as all other sciences, and pre-eminently the science of thought, because this science must not limit itself to any special thing, but must be world wisdom by its very will and nature.
To understand the universe, then, means to become aware that this being of all beings has no beginning, no cause, no truth nor reason outside and beside itself, but has everything in and by itself. To understand the universe means to recognize that one is rushing beyond the worldly infinity into the realm of fantastic transcendentalism and abusing the intellect, when illogically applying such terms as beginning and end, cause and effect, being and not being, to the absolute universe. Such an illogical use of the faculty of thought is well illustrated and rebuked by the poet who questions and answers:
“And when my life has passed away,
What will become of me?
The world has one eternal day,
‘Thereafter’ cannot be.”
In order to acquire the universal sense, you will strive to understand that the universe includes all relative things, while as a whole it embodies the absolute or the edifying deity.
If you would become world-wise, you must learn that the things called opposites and contradictions have a different meaning than is ordinarily applied to them by the logic of the idolators. They say that God and the world, body and soul, truth and error, life and death, etc., are irreconcilable antipodes; that they exclude one another; that they cannot be brought under the same roof, but must be kept wide apart by the laws of eternal reason. But this doctrine of contradiction is merely narrow dogmatism, which confuses the minds instead of enlightening them. Certainly, death differs from life, the perishable from the imperishable, black from white, crooked from straight, large from small. Who would be silly enough to deny that? But even the apparently most contradictory and opposite things may be classified under the same genus, family, or species, as twins in a mother’s womb. The same thing that does not prevent male and female from sitting in the same nest, does not prevent the most widely different things, in spite of their separate characters, from being one and the same, from being two pieces of the same caliber. You are certainly still the same Eugene that you were as a little baby, and yet you are at the same time another. The experts in physiology even claim that they can compute how often a man of sixty has changed his flesh, bones, skin, and hair. Although the old man is the same individual that he was when first born, yet he never remained the same.
You will see by this illustration that all difference is of the same nature, a general, supreme, universal being, absolute and divine, and this absolute world being is highly edifying, because it comprises all other beings and is the Alpha and Omega of all things.
Is this world-god a mere idea? No, it is the truth and life itself. And it is very interesting to note that the so-called “ontological proof of the existence of God” agrees very well with the world truth which I proclaim in the tabernacle of logic. This proof is originally attributed to the learned Anselmo of Canterbury. However that may be, it is certain that Descartes and Spinoza support him with their famous names. They hold that the “most perfect being” must necessarily have existence, because otherwise it would not be the most perfect.
“I understood very well,” writes Descartes in the fourth section of his “Method of Correct Thought,” “that in accepting the hypothesis of a triangle I would have to accept the fact that the sum of its three angles is equal to two right angles. But nothing convinced me of the presence of such a triangle, while I found that my conception of the most perfect being was as inseparably linked to existence as my conception of a triangle is to the identity of the sum of its angles with two right angles.... Hence it is certainly as undeniable as any geometrical proof can be that God exists as this most perfect being.”
This argument appears to me as clear as daylight and ought to convince you, not of the existence of a transcendental idol, but of the truth of the absolute and most perfect world being. If you were to remark that this perfectness is not so very great, considering its many obvious imperfections, I should ask you not to split hairs and to recognize with sane senses that these imperfections of the world belong as logically to the perfect world as the evil desires belong to virtue which becomes virtue only by the test of overcoming them. The conception of a perfection which has no imperfections to overcome would be a silly idea.
Now in conclusion let me say a few words of apology for continually interchanging the universe and the concept of the universe. I frequently speak of the idea of a thing as if it were the thing itself. But see here! Do you not ask on seeing the portrait of some person unknown to you: Who is this? And do you not interchange the portrait for the person itself, without difficulty and misunderstanding? The idea stands in the same relation to the thing, as the portrait to the person it represents. This remark is directed against that unsound logic which knows only the separation of the idea from the thing, of reason from its objects, but does not grasp the mere formality of such a distinction, does not appreciate the unity of the world, the edifying and supreme truth, the truth of the supreme being.
This letter, my dear Eugene, pleads for edification, but only for that kind of edification which includes the unedifying, whereby edification is sobered down. If you would give the name of pantheism to this world philosophy, you should remember that it is not a sentimental and exalted, but a common sense pantheism, a deification which has the taste of the godless.
Today I am going to present my case with the precision of a schoolmaster.
The concept of white cabbage embraces all white cabbage heads that ever were and ever will be.
The concept of cabbage embraces red, white, and many other kinds of cabbage. The concept of vegetable embraces a still wider range. The organic field is still more comprehensive. And finally the world concept embraces everything which we know and don’t know, the end of which we cannot conceive, and which therefore is called infinite.
When we trace our steps backward over the same reasoning, we find at once that the universal concept is divided into two parts, viz., the universe and the conception of it. We thus find the world in the concept and the concept in the world, so that both of these parts are interconnected, each is the predicate of the other, and whether we turn the thing to the right or to the left, the concept is in the world and the world in the concept.
Now it is true that the concept, or the faculty of understanding, is the object of our study rather than the world outside of it. The faculty of understanding, by the way, is nothing but a collective noun for all concepts, hence simply another name for concept in general. But what I eternally repeat is this: We cannot make a concept separated from all the rest of the world the object of our study, because that would be an empty abstraction which does not take on any meaning until we connect it with the world, for instance the special concept of cabbage with sense-perceived cabbage and so forth.
The concepts of white cabbage, cabbage in general, vegetables, or plants, etc., are all of them special concepts and at the same time general concepts. The one and the other is relative. Compared to the various species it includes, the general concept of cabbage is abstract, while compared to the general concept of vegetables it is concrete. And so it is with all concepts. They are abstract and concrete at the same time. Only the final concept, the world concept, is neither concrete nor abstract, but absolute. It is the concept of the absolute, which is indispensable for an understanding of logic.
We found a while ago that the absolute world concept consisted of two parts, viz., the concept and the world. In the same way, the chemists teach us that water consists of two elements, each of which by itself does not make any water, while their compound makes pure water. But we do not need such distant illustrations. My table in its present composition is something different from what it would be if the same pieces were put together in some other way and without a plan.
Therefore the world concept is a far more sublime concept than all the parts of which it consists. And in order to make this quite clear, I may honor this compound of the world and its concept by a special name, say “universe,” so as to distinguish it from its component parts.
Now I declare, without fear of having the word turned in my mouth by any sophist, that the world embracing the thought, or the universe, is the absolute which includes everything, while the world and the thought of it, each by itself, are but classifications or relative things.
We wish to understand thought, not empty abstract thought, but the universal world-embracing thought, the thought in a philosophical sense. This is not mere thought, but living truth, the universe, the absolute, the supreme being.
It is with the universe and its parts as it is with a telescope and its concentric rings. Our intellect is a special ring which gives us a picture of the whole concentric thing. This photographer, as I have called it in a former letter, is not the object of our study for its own sake, nor for the sake of its pictures, but rather for the sake of the original, of the universe. It is as if somebody were to buy a portrait of some historically renowned person. No matter how much concerned the buyer would be with the picture, in the last analysis he is concerned with that person itself. So it is with the art of understanding the absolute, with world wisdom, which we study not for the sake of the wisdom, but of the world itself.
This lengthy discussion might have been cut short by simply speaking of the world instead of going to so much trouble on account of the world concept. But I should then miss my point, which is that the human intellect is a part of the world, and that the ideological distinction which separates this intellect from the rest of the world, requires for the whole an embracing term.
The absolute concept is the concept of the absolute, of the supreme being. To it applies all the true, good, and beautiful ever attributed to God, and it is also that being which lends logic, consistency, and form to all thought.
Plato is a philosopher who has thrown a wonderful light on the faculty of understanding, though he has not fully explained it. In his dialogue entitled “Gorgias,” he makes Socrates say the following: “Does it seem to you that men want that with which they occupy themselves at any time, or that for the sake of which they undertake whatever they may be engaged in? Do those, for instance, who take some medicine prescribed by the physicians seem to want that which they do ... or to want that for the sake of which they take medicine, viz., health?... In the same way those who go on board of ships and trade do not want that which they are doing; for who would care to go to sea and face danger or conquer obstacles? That for which they go to sea is that which they want, viz., to become rich; they are going to sea for the sake of acquiring wealth.”
Plato thus says that the immediate purposes of men are not their real purposes, but means to an end, means to welfare or for “good.” He therefore continues: “It is in pursuit of good, then, that we go when we go, because we are after something better, and we stand still for the sake of the same good.”
Now let us go a step farther than Socrates and Plato. Just as men’s actions are truly done, not for the sake of some immediate purpose, but of the ulterior, of welfare, and just as their socalled ethical actions are justified only by the general wellbeing, so all things of the world are not substantiated by their immediate environment, but by the infinite universe. It is not the seed planted in the soil which is the cause of the growing plant, as the farmer thinks, but the Earth, the Sun, the winds, and the weather, in short, the whole of nature, and that includes the seed germ.
If we apply this reasoning to our special object, the faculty of understanding, we find that it is not a narrowly human, nor a transcendental, but a universal cosmic faculty. According to Homer, the immortal gods call things by other names than mortal men. But once you have grasped the concept of the absolute, you understand the language of the gods, you understand that the intellect by itself is but a minute particle, while in the interrelation with the universe it is an absolute and integral part of the universal absolute.
All things have a dual nature, all of them are limited parts of the unlimited, the inexhaustible, the unknowable. Just as all things are small and great, temporal and eternal, so all of them including the human mind are knowable and unknowable at the same time. We must not idolize the faculty of thought nor forget its divine nature. Man should be humble, but without bowing in doglike submission to a transcendental spirit, and he should be sustained by the sublime consciousness that his spirit is the true one, the spirit of universal truth.
Everything can be seen by eyes, including those of a hawk. Just as the eye is the instrument of vision, so the intellect is the instrument of thought. And just as spectacles and glasses are means of assisting the eye in seeing, so senses, experience, and experiments are means of assisting the intellect in understanding. With this equipment the intellect can assimilate everything in its conceptions. It understands “all,” but “all” only in a relative sense. We understand all, just as we buy everything for money. We can buy only what is for sale. Reason and sunshine cannot be valued in money. We can see everything with eyes, and yet not everything. Sounds and smells cannot be seen. Just as everything is great and small, so everything is knowable and unknowable, according to the meaning given to “everything” in the language of men or gods. That word has the dual meaning of applying to any particle and to the whole universe. So is the human mind universal, but only a universal specialty.
Look at that magnificently colored carnation. You see the whole flower, and yet you do not see all of it. You do not see its scent nor its weight. In the human language “whole” means a relative whole, which is at the same time a part. Every particle of the universe is such a dual thing. But in the language of the gods, which is spoken by philosophy, only the absolute universe is whole.
When the subject under discussion is not the intellect, but some other part of the world, for instance the eyes, the universal concept of the absolute is not so important, because the faculty of seeing, like the faculty of wealth, is in little danger of being metaphysically abused.
One knows that eyes which can see around a corner, or through a block of iron, or which can perceive the scent of a carnation, are as meaningless as a white sorrel. Even though our eyes cannot see the invisible, that does not prevent them from being a universal instrument which can see everything, that is everything visible.
If you understand this, you will also see through the miserable wisdom of the professors which wallows on its belly in the dust and cries with the faithful: O Lord, O Lord! similarly to Du Bois-Reymond, who cries out: Ignorabimus! It is true that the human mind is an ignoramus in the sense that it is ever learning, because there is inexhaustible material in nature. There is also something unknowable in every particle of nature, just as there is something invisible in every carnation. But the unknowable in the sense used by those ignorant people who cannot understand the human mind because they have a transcendental monster in their mind, such a monstrous unknowable exists only in the imagination of the idolators to whom the true spirit reveals itself as little as the spirit of truth.
Just as surely as we know that there cannot be in heaven any knife without a blade and a handle, nor any black horses that are white, just so surely do we know that the faculty of understanding can never and nowhere be the absolute, but must always be a special faculty. The concept of understanding, like the concept of a knife, is limited to a definite instrument. There may be all kinds of knives and intellects, but nothing exists that has escaped from its own skin or from the limitation of its own particular concept.
By this standard you may measure the silly thought of those who speak transcendentally of an unlimited faculty of understanding. They haven’t any right idea of the mind nor of the universe, of the conceivable nor of the inconceivable, otherwise they would not speak in such a nonsensical sense of the “Limits of Understanding.” In short, you see that the relative limitation or absoluteness of reason can only be understood by means of the concept of the absolute.
The proletarian logic of the working class searches after the supreme being. The working class knows that it must serve but it wants to know whom to serve. Shall it be an idol or a king? Where, who, what, is the supreme being to which everything else is subordinate, which brings system, consistency, logic, into our thought and actions? The next question is then: By what road do we arrive at its understanding? Any transcendental revelation being of no use to us, there are only two ways open: Reason and experience.
Now it is a mistake of common logic to regard these two roads as separate, while, in fact, they are one and the same common road, which by the help of empirical reason or reasonable experience leads us to the point where we recognize that the supreme being to which everything is subordinate, is nothing special, not a part or a particle, but the universe itself with all its parts.
We take medicine for the sake of health, we make efforts for the sake of wealth. But neither health nor wealth are an end in themselves. What good is health to us, when we have nothing to bite? What good are all the treasures of Crosus, if health is lacking? Therefore health and wealth must be combined. Nor is that enough. There is a spirit in us that drives us farther ahead. There are still other treasures and requirements, for instance contentment is surely one of them. But the motive power of the world spirit is so infinite, that it is not satisfied until it has everything. Everything, then, in other words the whole world, that is the true end.
Socrates and his school, to whom I alluded in the preceding letter, wandered the way of separate reason for the purpose of finding the supreme being, the true, the good, the beautiful. The platonic dialogues paint a very magnificent picture of the truth that neither health nor wealth, neither bravery nor devotion, are “the greatest good,” but that it is mainly a question of the understanding and use to which mankind put these things. Accordingly they are good or bad, they are but relative “goods.” Love and faith, honesty and veracity, are good enough, but not the good; they only partake of the good. What is sought is that which is under all circumstances absolutely good, true, and beautiful.
When Socrates asked his disciples to define the good or reasonable, they enumerated as a rule a series of good and reasonable specialties, while the master was continually compelled to instruct them, that his research was not aimed at those objects. They name important virtues, and he wants to know what absolute virtue is. They name good things, and he is looking for the good, for pure goodness, while the good things have the bad quality of being good only under certain circumstances.
The Socratic school then finds out that only the understanding or the intellect can find the circumstances under which we may arrive at the absolute. Understanding, the human mind, philosophy, is to them the divine. Thus they arrive at their famous “Know thyself,” which in their language means: Hold introspection and rack your brain. But they did not succeed in thus using the intellect as an oracle. Nor did the Christian philosophers of later times fare any better with that method, when they changed the title of the object of their studies and substituted God, Liberty, and Immortality, for the good, the true, and the beautiful.
In order to get out of the confusion resulting from the many names given to the object of logic in the course of history, it must be remembered that pagan as well as Christian research founded their quest for the absolute on the innate need of understanding the supreme being which was to be the pivot of all thought and action. Polytheism had to have a supreme god, no matter whether his name was Zeus or Jupiter. In consequence of this longing for unity it was very natural that the place of the many immortals was finally taken by one eternal father of all. The philosophers are distinguished from the theologians only in so far as the former seek for the fulcrum of the world more on real than on imaginary ground.
After more than two thousand years of mediation by intermediary links, ancient philosophy has at last been transformed into modern democratic-proletarian logic which recognizes that the intellect is an instrument which leads to the supreme being on condition that it does not rack the brain but goes outside of itself and consciously connects itself with the world outside. This connection constitutes the supreme being, the imperishable, eternal, truth, goodness, beauty, and reason. All other things only “partake of it,” to use Platonic language.
Although the Socratic school were handicapped by many fantastical attributes, still they were on the road towards true logic, as neither health nor wealth, nor any other treasure or virtue satisfied them. They did not care for true phenomena, but for truth itself. But truth is the universe, and man must understand that this is the only truth, In order to be able to use his intellect logically, to be reasonable in the highest and classical sense of this word.
All the world speaks of logic and logical thought. But when you, my son, as a thinking man feel the need of getting out of phraseology and knowing exactly what words should mean, you will hardly find one book that will give you sufficient light on the subject of logic. The best book would be the Bible, perhaps. I mean that, when you inquire after beginning and end, purpose and destination, in short, after that which would give you and all things a definite support, when you search for the vortex around which everything revolves, then the Bible does not tell you about the beginning of this or that part of history, but speaks of the absolute beginning and end of all history, of the general purpose and general destination of all existence. That is what I call logic.
The free thinkers were not satisfied with religious mythology, they wanted to bring consistency and logic into their brains by their own studies. Plato and Aristotle have done good work along this line. So have the subsequent philosophers, Cartesius, Spinoza, Kant. The main impediment for all of them was the obstinate prejudice that man could have reason in his own brain. Of course, that is where he has it, but it is not reasonable reason. The intellect shut up in the skull has not wisdom in its keeping, as the ancients thought. Wisdom cannot be acquired by racking your brain. Hegel is right: Reason is in the brain, it is in all things, “everything is reasonable.” I merely repeat, then, that the universe is the true reason.
You will not misunderstand the term “racking your brain.” I am not an opponent of introspective thought, but only desire to call your attention to the fact that it has led to the wrong habit of separating thought from sight, hearing, feeling, of divesting the mind of the body. Just as the Christian looked for salvation outside of the flesh, so the philosophers looked for reason or understanding outside of the connection with the rest of the world, outside of experience. It was especially the research after the nature of the intellect which imagined it had to creep inside of itself.
When studying the stars, we look at the heavens; when endeavoring to enrich our knowledge of plants, we gather flowers. But if we attempt to understand the mind, we must not rack our brain, nor dissect it with an anatomical knife. We shall indeed find the brain, but not the mind, not reason.
And even the brain is not so easily cut out, as many an overzealous materialist may think. The student of anatomy who pries into the nature of the brain substance knows very well that this substance is not contained in the head of this or that fellow, but must be sought in many heads before the average brain is found, which differs materially from that of Peter or Paul. This will show that your brain is not only your own, but also “partakes” of the universal brain, and you will easily conclude from this how much less your reason is yours alone. Hegel is right: Not only men, but everything is reasonable.
True, the most rotten conditions may be defended by such maxims. Hence the great logician Hegel has the bad name of having been, not a philosopher of the people, but a royal state philosopher of Prussia. I will neither blacken nor whitewash him, nor will I overlook that he left the great cause in a state of mystical obscurity. But I recognize that even the worst prejudices, the most perverted morals, laws and institutions, have their reasonable justification in the times and conditions of their origin. Such an understanding is immediately followed by the further insight, that the most reasonable things, crushed by the wheel of time, will become rotten and unreasonable. In short, the “good” is not any special institutions, but is found in the interrelations of the universe. Only the absolute is absolutely good. And for this reason not only some conservative editors of capitalist papers, but also the revolutionary authors of the “Communist Manifesto,” are genuine Hegelians.
Socrates teaches: When we walk, it is not walking, when we stand still, it is not standing which is our purpose. We always have something ulterior in view, until finally the general welfare is the true end of our actions, in other words, the “good.” And on closer analysis you will find that your individual welfare, the so called egoistic good, is not enough in itself.
You are not only related to your father, mother, brothers, sisters, relatives and friends, but also to your community, state, and finally to the entire population of the globe. Your welfare is dependent on their welfare, on the welfare of the whole.
I know very well that the horizon of the everyday capitalist minds does not reach farther than they can see from the steeple of their church. They think according to the bad maxim: The shirt is closer to the skin than the coat. If I had to choose between the shirt and the coat, I should prefer to wear the coat without a shirt rather than to run around in shirt sleeves as the object of universal ridicule. The old man who plants a tree the fruits of which he will perhaps never see is not such a capitalist mind, otherwise he would sow seeds that would ripen during this year’s summer.
At this juncture we must remember that the disciples of Socrates who looked for the absolute under the name of the “good,” were in so far narrow as they conceived of it only from the moral, specifically human, standpoint, instead of at the same time considering its cosmic side. Just as health and wealth belong together, and even these are not sufficient for human welfare which further requires all social and political virtues, so the good is not comprised in the interrelations of all mankind, but passes beyond them and connects itself with the entire universe. Without the universe man is nothing. He has no eyes without light, no ears without sound, no morals without physics. Man is not so much the measure of all things; his more or less intimate connection with all things is rather the measure of all humanity. Not narrow morality, but the universe, the supreme being, is the good in the very highest meaning of the word, is absolute good, right, truth, beauty, and reason.
In my preceding letter I spoke of universal reason and said that not alone men, but also mountains, valleys, forests and fields, and even fools and knaves were reasonable. Now you are familiar with that student’s song: “What’s Coming from the Heights?” and you know that it makes everything leathern. It speaks of a leathern hill, a leathern coach-driver, a leathern letter, even father, mother, and sister are of leather. And I mention this simply for the purpose of showing that I understand that we cannot call leather reasonable and reasonable leathern without brewing a mixture of language which is lacking the mark by which all reasonable language is distinguished from chattering, howling, and roaring. Language is only reasonable when it classifies the world and distinguishes things by different names.
This is easily understood. But it is more difficult to see that those who use their intellect without logical training exaggerate distinctions to such an extent that they ignore the connection between them. All things are not only distinct, but also connected. But logic so far must be blamed for not rising to the recognition of the interrelation of all things. The science of understanding frequently treats reason and experience as if they were two different things without a common nature. Therefore, I make it a point to insist that there is no experience without reason and no reason without experience.
The linguists who dispute about the question whether reason has developed after language or language after reason agree that both belong together. One cannot speak without the use of reason, or talk without sense, because chattering, or babbling, or whatever one may wish to call it, are everything else but language. On the other hand, there can be no reason without naming the things of this world, so as to distinguish between leather and lady, between reason and experience.
Of course, the idea of a leathern lady is only a youthful prank. Still it is calculated to illustrate the dialectic transfusion of all names and things, of all subjects and predicates. It shows indirectly that according to common sense thought, reason has its home only in the brain of man, and that this reason is nevertheless unsound when it does not know and remember that the individual human brain is connected with all brains, and reasons with the whole world, so that only all existence and the entire universe is reasonable in the highest meaning of the word.
In order to be able to use your reason in all research and on all objects in a reasonable manner, you must know that the whole world has one nature, even leather and your sister. Apparently there is a wide gulf between these two, and yet in both of them the same forces are active, just as a black horse has the same horse nature as a white horse, so that from this point of view your sister is indeed leathern and leather sisterly. Such statements sound paradoxical enough, yet I insist on making them in this extreme manner in order to fully reveal the absolute oneness of all existence, since it is the indispensable basis of a reasonable understanding of logic.
Take one of the questions of the day now agitating the public mind, for a further illustration. Two tendencies are now observed in the most radical political movement of the nations. One of them is called propaganda of the deed. It works in Russia and Ireland with dynamite, powder, and lead. The other recommends the propaganda of the word, of the vote, and of lawful agitation. And the difference between these two is not discussed reasonably with a view to ascertaining for whom, when, where, and why, this or that propaganda is fitting, but every one tries to present his relative truth with the fanatical sectarianism of those who claim absolute truth. But if you have grasped the method of getting at truth, the true method of using your reasoning faculty, you will take sides for one thing today and for another thing tomorrow, because you will understand that all roads are leading toward Rome. And if some of the comrades outvote you occasionally, you will still value these antagonists as friends, and if you combat them, even in a war to the knife, this will still be a relative war, a use of the knife with reason.
Our proletarian logic is tolerant, not fanatical. This logic does not want to be reasonable without passion, nor passionate without reason. It does not abolish the difference between friend and foe, between truth and falsehood, between reason and nonsense, but calms the fanaticism which exaggerates those distinctions. Its fundamental maxim is: There is only one absolute, the universe.
Remember well that the conception of a universe which has anything outside or beside itself is still more senseless, if possible, than the idea of wooden iron. You thus see that all differences have one common nature which does not permit a transcendentally wide difference between things or opinions. Because the universe is the supreme being, therefore all differences, even those of opinion, are unessential.
For the purpose of studying logic, I entreat you to pay special attention to the question of essential differences and to test it by your own experience which will come to you from day to day.
By means of our logic we learn the language of the gods. In the dictionary of this language, there is only one essential being, the universal or supreme being. On the other hand, the language of the mortals calls every particle a “being,” but such being can be relative beings only.
Every ear of a cornfield, every hair of an ox skin, and even every one of their particles, is such a being. But these relative beings are at the same time unessential attributes. Thus all differences between the particles of the world are simultaneously essential and unessential; in other words, they have a relative existence, they merely partake of the supreme being, compared to whom they are absolutely unessential. Whether you are a good or a bad man, whether your country is happy or unhappy, free or oppressed, is very essential to you or me, but compared with the great absolute whole it is very unessential. In the universal history the fate of any single nation has no more significance than one hair on my head, although none of my hairs is there by mere chance and all of them have been counted. Hence everything is in its particular and isolated self an unessential thing, but in the general interrelation everything is a necessary, reasonable, essential and divine particle.
And now we come to the moral of it all. The human reason, the special object of logical research, partakes of the nature of the universe. It is nothing in itself. As an isolated being, it is wholly void and incapable of producing any understanding or knowledge. Only in connection, not merely with the material brain, but with the entire universe, is the intellect capable of existing and acting. It is not the mere brain which thinks, but the whole man is required for that purpose; and not man alone, but the total interrelation with the universe is necessary for the purpose of thinking. Reason itself reveals no truths. The truths which are revealed to us by means of reason, are revelations of the general nature of the absolute universe.
If you think of reason in this way, then, my son, you are thinking reasonably, are world-wise, logical, and true.
Although we know that there is no actual beginning, because we are living in the universe without beginning and end, still we mortals must always begin at a certain point. So I have begun one of my retrospects over the history of my subject with Plato, and at another time I have ended with Hegel, although before and after them there has been much philosophical thought. These two names are luminant points which throw their light over everything which is situated between them.
The errors of our predecessors are just as useful for the purpose of illustration as their positive achievements. More even: the errors form the steps of a ladder which leads toward a universal world philosophy. We clamber up and down on it, perhaps a little irregularly, but nowadays the crooked roads of an English park are preferred to the straight French avenues.
It was an achievement on the part of the Socratic and Platonic schools to seek the good not in good specialties, but in general good, as a “pure” or absolute thing, to search for virtue in general instead of virtues. But it was a mistake which prevented their success, to exaggerate the distinction between the special and the general. According to Plato, the black and white horses canter over terrestrial pavements, but the horse in general, which is neither brown, black, nor white, neither as slender as a race horse nor as clumsy as a draft horse, cantered along in the Platonic “idea,” in the ideal mists. Platonic logic lacked what is taught by our present, or if you prefer, future proletarian logic, viz., the general understanding of the interrelation of all things, the truth that in spite of their individual differences all things belong together as individuals of the same genus. The logical relation between individual and genus stuck upside down in the brain of the noble Plato.
He lived in a time which is similar to our own time in that the world of the gods of the ancients was in the same state of dissolution in which the Christian religions are today. Plato was as little satisfied with Grecian mythology as a basis for a reasonable explanation of the world, as we are with Christian mythology. He wanted to ascend to the universal truth, not by way of little traditional stories, but by scientific philosophy. His intention was good, but his weak flesh wrestled with a task which required thousands of years for its solution.
A while ago I said that it was that topsy-turvy view of religion as to the relation between the special and the general which thwarted Plato. Let me illustrate a little more in detail in what this religious topsy-turvydom consisted.
Here we have wind, the waters of the seas, the rays of the sun, chemical and physical forces, forces of nature. These are specimens of the universal force of nature. These specimens were regarded with sober enough eyes by the Greeks, but the general nature sat high upon Olympus in the form of Zeus. In the same way, the Greeks were familiar with beautiful things, but beauty was an unapproachable goddess, Aphrodite. True, the philosopher no longer believed in the gods, but he was nevertheless still under the influence of transcendental concepts and thus he mystified the general under the name of the “idea.” The Platonic ideas, like the gods of the heathen, are mystifications of the general. Plato furthermore shows himself as a descendant of polytheism in this: Although he clearly distinguished between virtue and virtuous things, between beauty and beautiful things, between truth and true things, yet he did not rise to the understanding that all generalities are amalgamated and unified in the absolute generality, that, in so far, the good, the true, and the beautiful are identical. The research for the absolute did not become monistic until Christian monotheism lent a hand. You will see from this that religion and philosophy form a common chapter which has the genus of all genera for its object. Faith is distinguished from science in that the latter no longer bows to the dictates of imagination and of its organs, the priests, but seeks to fathom the object of its studies by the exact use of the intellect. A partial amalgamation of the two is, therefore, quite natural.
“When a woman is strong, isn’t she strong after the same conception and the same strength? By the term same,” says the Platonic Socrates, “I mean that it makes no difference whether the strength is in the man or in the woman.”
This quotation, taken from Plato’s “Menon,” shows that Platonic research deals with the general, in this case the general concept of strength which is the same in man or woman, ox or mule, Tom and Jerry. It is the genus by means of which black and white horses are known as horses, dogs and monkeys as animals, animals and plants as organisms, and finally the variations of the whole world as the universe, as the same. Plato has grasped this same-ness in a limited way, for instance in regard to strength, reason, virtue, etc. But that in an infinite sense everything is the same, that things as well as ideas, bodies, and souls, are the same, remained for radical proletarian logic to discover.
Hand in hand with the narrow Platonic conception of the general went a narrow theory of understanding or science, a wrong conception of the intellect and its functions. The Socratic Plato and the Platonic Socrates both call understanding by the name of “remembering.” By praising understanding, they teach us that we must not believe the priests, but study by the help of our senses. But, nevertheless, they still teach a wrong method, a narrow art of thought.
In “Menon,” the object of study is virtue. Socrates does not exactly pose as a schoolmaster. He knows that he is called the wisest of men, but explains that this is so, because others have a conceited opinion of their wisdom, while his wisdom consists in humbly knowing that he knows nothing. He does not so much try to teach what virtue is, as to stimulate his disciples to search for it. But his idea of research is distorted.
Among the immortal things which he transcendentally separates from mortal things, he also classifies the soul, “the immortal soul” which dies and lives again, and has always lived, knows everything, but must “remember.” Thus his research becomes a cudgeling of the brain, an introspective speculation. He is not looking for understanding by way of natural science, through the interrelations of the world, but speculatively through the inside of the human skull.
In order to make his theory of memory plain, Socrates in “Menon” calls an ignorant slave and instructs him in the fundamentals of geometry. He quickly succeeds in getting from the ignorant fellow, who at first gives wrong answers, the correct statements by recalling the connections of thought by clever questioning. He thus demonstrates to his satisfaction that man has wisdom a priori in his head. But the Socratic-Platonic art of logic has overlooked that such wisdom requires concepts which are fixed in memory by internal and external interrelations. The socalled immortal soul with its innate wisdom has troubled the world a good while thereafter.
You must not think that I have a poor opinion of Plato, because I criticize him in this way. On the contrary, I am highly delighted with his divine and immortal writings. “Honor to Socrates, honor to Plato, but still more honor to truth.” I also assure you that I am a great admirer of natural science, but nevertheless I should like to show you that it indulges in narrow reasoning.
Robert Mayer, the talented discoverer of the equivalent of heat, has proven that the force of gravitation, of electricity, of steam, of heat, etc., represents different modes of expression of the same force, of the force of nature in general. But no, not quite so! He has ascertained the numerical relation by which the transformations of one force into another is accomplished. Thus a logical understanding sees that the various forces and force in general are distinguished in detail but identical in general. Darwin in his “Origin of Species” has accomplished a similar demonstration. But neither Mayer nor Darwin have given that general expression to world unity which is required by the art of logic. In order to become an adept at this art, you must rise to the understanding that all forces are various modes of expression of the one force, all animals and species transformations of animaldom, that on the moon a part is smaller than the whole, the same as on earth, that there as well as here fire burns, and that as surely as you have no doubt of your being, just as surely is there only one being, the infinite, divine universe which has no other gods beside it, but contains all forces, materials, and transformations.
This is an innate science which is the cause of all other science, an innate science which, indeed, must first be awakened in you by “memory.”
Hence our proletarian logic instructs you not to rack your brain by mere introspection, as the ancient philosophers used to do, not to call the senses impostors nor to search for truth without eyes, nose, and ears, nor on the other hand to start out with the idea of certain natural scientists who try to see, hear, and smell understanding without the help of the intellect.
The mistake committed in making a wrong use of the intellect is a “sin against the holy ghost.” The Socratic-Platonic doctrine of memory is one extreme side of this sin; the other extreme side is represented by that modern science which tries to find truth by mere external means and rejects everything as untrue which is not ponderable or tangible.
As this letter is more intimately connected with the following one than is ordinarily the case, I take the liberty to unite them under the same number and mark them with the letters A and B.
We are still the guests of Plato today, my son, and I should like to show you that this philosopher, in whose time natural science had barely developed its first downy feathers, already suspected its stubborn narrowness, although in a certain sense the Platonic logic was no less narrow than that of the so-called exact sciences still is to-day, at least in part. Still Platonic logic had at least the advantage of its outlook toward the Supreme Being, the absolute, while modern naturalism is still stuck in the narrow land of specialties. Therefore, I hope that you will find it interesting to note with me the way in which universal truth is peeping forth beneath the wings of Platonic speculation.
“Listen, then, to what I am going to say,” remarks Socrates in “Phaedo,” paragraph 45. “In my youth, O Cebes, I had a great interest in natural science, for it seemed to me a magnificent thing to know the cause of everything, to learn how everything begins, exists, and passes. A hundred times I turned to one thing and then to another, reflecting about these matters by myself. Do animals arise when the hot and the cold begin to disintegrate, as some claim? Is it the blood, which enables us to think, or the air or the fire? Or is it none of these, but rather the brain which produces all perceptions, such as seeing, hearing, smelling, and does memory and thought then arise by these, and from thought and memory, when they become adjusted, understanding? And again, when I considered that all this passes away, and the changes in heaven and on earth, I finally felt myself poorly qualified for this whole investigation. Let this be sufficient proof to you: In the things which formerly were familiar and known to me, I became so doubtful by this investigation, that I forgot even that which I thought I knew of many other things, as for instance the question as to how man grows. I thought that everybody knew that this was caused by eating and drinking. For when through the food flesh comes to flesh and bone to bone, and in the same way that which is akin to all the rest of the things which constitute man, it seemed natural that a small mass would become larger, and thus a small man grow tall. Does not this appear reasonable to you?... Consider furthermore this. It seemed enough to me that a man appeared large when standing by the side of something small, that he looked taller by one head, and in the same way one horse by the side of another; or what is still plainer, ten seemed to me more than eight, because it is more by two, and a thing of two feet longer than that which measures only one foot, because it exceeds it by one.”
Thereupon Cebes asks: “Well, and what do you think of this now?”
“I think, by Zeus,” says Socrates, “that I am far removed from knowing the cause of any of these things. I do not even admit that by adding one to one I obtain two, by such an addition. For I wonder how it is that each was supposed to be one when by itself, while now, that they have been added to one another, they have become two. Neither can I convince myself that if one thing divides a thing in two, that this division is the cause of it becoming two. For this would be the opposite way of making two. But when I heard somebody reading something from a book, written by Anaxagoras as he said, to the effect that it is reason which had arranged everything and was the cause of everything, I rejoiced at this cause.... Now if one were to search for the cause of all things, of their origin, existence and passing, he should only find out what is the best way to maintain their existence.... Hence it is not meet that man should care for anything else in regard to himself as well as to all other things, but for that which is best and most excellent, and then he would also know the worst about things, for the understanding of both is the same. Considering this, I was glad to have found a teacher who knows about the cause of all things, who suited me, I mean Anaxagoras, and who would now tell me, first whether the earth is round or flat, and after telling me that, would also explain to me the necessity for it and the cause, by pointing to the fact that it was better that it should be so. And when he claimed that the earth was the center of things, I hoped he would explain why it was better that it should be the center, and when he had explained that, I was resolved that I would not ask for any other cause. In the same way I was going to inquire after the cause of the sun, the moon, and the other stars, etc.... For I did not believe that after claiming all this to have been arranged by reason, he would be dragging in any other cause than that of being best to have it just so. And this wonderful hope I had to abandon, my friends, when I continued to read and saw that the man accomplished nothing by reason and adduces no other reasons relating to the arrangement of things, but quotes air, and water, and ether, and many other astonishing things.
“And it seemed that it was as if some one said Socrates accomplishes all things by reason, and then, when he began to enumerate the cause of everything I do, were to say first that I am sitting here because my body consists of bones and sinews, and that the bones are hard and are differentiated by joints, and the sinews so constructed that they can be extended and shortened, etc. And further, if he tried to name the causes of our discussion, he would refer to other similar things, such as sound, and air and hearing, and a thousand and one other things, quite neglecting the true cause, viz., that it suited the Athenians better to condemn me, and that it suited me for this reason to stay here and seemed more just to me to bear patiently the punishment which they have ordered. For I believe that my bones and sinews would have gone long ago to the dogs or been carried to the Boeotians, had I not considered it more just and beautiful to atone to the state than to flee.
“It is very illogical, then, to name such causes. But if any one were to say that I should not be able to do what I please without these things (sinews and bones, and whatever else I may have), he would be right. But it would be a very thoughtless contention to say that these things are the cause of my actions, instead of my free choice to do the best. That would show an inability to distinguish the fact that in all things the cause is one thing, and another thing that without which the cause could not be cause. And it seems to me that it is precisely this which some call by a wrong name in considering it as the cause. For this reason some put a whirlwind from heaven round the earth and others rest it on air as they would a wide trough on a footstool.”
So far Socrates, whose words I ask you to read repeatedly and carefully, though they may look a little old-fashioned. This quotation is somewhat lengthy, but I thought best not to cut it too short and to present it in its main outlines.
This quotation says on the whole the same thing which I have said in my proceeding letters. According to Socrates, all our thoughts and actions have a wider and more general purpose, which he calls the “good,” so that we even do evil for the sake of good. A crime always aims at some particular good. Evil is misunderstood good. Applied to natural science, this means that it misunderstands the interrelation of all its fine discoveries. And this charge is true even to-day. Although the natural interrelations are more and more recognized from day to day, still the understanding of the absolute inter-connection continues to be overlooked, especially that of the intellect with material things, or of the ideal with the real. Natural science teaches after the manner of the gospel of John: Abraham begot Isaac, Isaac begot Jacob. But it forgets to teach that all these genitors were not genitors in the last analysis, but begotten by old Jehovah himself. The uncultivated condition of Grecian natural sciences may have been ground enough for Socrates to think little of it. We, on the other hand, have to-day good reasons for thinking highly of natural science, and for this very reason I take pains to illustrate by its prominent example in what respect the neglect of the universal world thought results in a narrow conception of the world.
We may well rejoice more lastingly than Socrates when natural science teaches us how it happens that everything has its origin, life, and end, because the knowledge of natural science has been far more enriched by modern experiences than it was at the time of Anaxagoras. Nevertheless you must not stop learning furthermore from logic that all growing, coming into existence, living, and passing away is but a change of form. The causes of natural science are indeed not causes, but effects of the universe. They are reasonable effects of reason in so far as the latter is not an isolated part, but interconnected with the universe. To repeat: Our intellect is not ours, it does not belong to man, but it together with man belongs to the universe. Reason and the world, the true, the good, and the beautiful, together with Godhood which you shall not idolize but understand in the spirit and in the world, in truth and in reality, are all one thing, one being, and everywhere eternal and the same.
Socrates shows that he has as yet only a narrow anthropomorphic, not a cosmic conception of the “best and good” and of reason. He was dominated by the prejudice which still holds sway over the uncultured believers in God, that reason is older than all the rest of the world, that it is the ruling and antecedent creator. Our conception of logic, on the other hand, teaches that the spirit which we have in our brain is but the emanation of the world spirit. And this latter must not be conceived as a nebulous world monster, not as an enormous spirit, but as the actual universe, which in spite of all change and all variation is eternally one, true, good, reasonable, real, and supreme.
The art of thought, my son, for which we are striving, is not pure and abstract, but connected with practice, a practical theory, a theoretical practice. It is not a separate and isolated thing, not a “thing in itself,” but is connected with all things; it has a universal interrelation. Hence our logic, as we have repeatedly stated, is a philosophy, world wisdom, and metaphysics. I include the latter, because our logic excludes nothing, not even the transcendental. It teaches that everything, even transcendentalism, if practiced with consciousness and the necessary moderation, and at the right time and place,for instance at the carnival, is a reasonable and sublime pleasure.
All prominent philosophers were explorers and users of the same art of thought, of living, of viewing the world, although many of them retired to the solitude and were ascetics. Can the world be understood in a hermitage? Yes and no. After you have been traveling and seeing many lands, it is well to retire and classify the impressions received, and thus to reflect about a true philosophy of life. In this way, secluded thought, in the relative meaning of the word, that is, in connection with observation and experience, with enjoyment and life, is a veritable savior. Body and soul belong together, and if they are separated, it must be remembered that such a separation is a mere matter of form, that they are in fact one thing, attributes of the same being which is infinitely great, so great that all other beings are but its fringes.
The art of distinction distinguishes the infinite infinitely with the consciousness that in reality everything is interrelated without distinction and is one.
This truth, and thus absolute truth, is ignored by laymen and professional authorities alike. The thousand year dualism between body and soul has been especially instrumental in preventing the understanding of the universal interrelation. The whole history of philosophy is but a wrestling with the dualism between matter and mind. It was only by degrees that it moved towards its monistic goal.
After the brilliant triple star Socrates-Plato-Aristotle was extinguished, the philosophical sky was covered with dark clouds. The heathens stepped from the stage, and Christianity and the dogmas of its church predominated the logic of men, until at last a new scientific light arose in the beginning of modern times. It was especially Cartesius and Spinoza who were most brilliant among the early thinkers that emancipated their minds slowly and under great difficulties. Spinoza, of Jewish descent, is especially interesting in his fight against narrowmindedness and for a universal philosophy. He wrote an “Essay on the Improvement of the Intellect and on the Way by which it is best led to a true Understanding of Things.” He, as well as we, was looking for the best way, the true way, the way of truth. He, as well as we, seeks to study and practice the fundamentals of the art of thought.
He begins: “After experience has taught me that everything which the ordinary life offers is vain, and I have seen that everything which I feared is only good or bad in so far as the mind is moved by it, I finally resolved to investigate whether there is any true good – whether there is anything the discovery of which will forever secure continuous and supreme joy. What is most generally found in life, and what mankind regards as the highest good, may be reduced to three things, viz., wealth, honor, and sensual pleasure.”
After Spinoza has then uncovered the shadowy side and the vanity of these popular ideals, he calls them “unsafe by their very nature,” while he is looking for “permanent good,” which is “insecure only as regards its possession, but not in its nature.”
But how is that to be found?
“Here I shall say shortly what I mean by true good, and what is at the same time the highest good. In order to grasp this fully, we must remember that good or bad are only relative terms, and thus the same thing may be called good or bad according to its relations, or on the other hand perfect or imperfect.”
Spinoza, forestalling the object of his research, discovers that the true, supreme and permanent good is the “understanding of the unity” of the soul with the entire nature. “This then,” he says, “is the goal which I am coveting.”
“To this end, we must study morals, philosophy, and the education of boys, and combine with this study the entire science of medicine, because health materially assists us in reaching our ideal. Neither must mechanics be neglected, because many difficult things are made easy by art. Above all we must strive to find a way for the improvement of the intellect.”
Here we have once more arrived at the pivotal point of our subject, my dear disciple. Who or what is the intellect, whence does it come from, whither does it lead? Answer: It is a light which does not shine within itself, but throws rays outside of itself for the illumination of the world. For this reason the science which has the faculty of understanding for its object, though a limited, is at the same time a universal science, a universal world wisdom.
But isn’t it a contradiction that a special science wants to be general world wisdom? Is not general wisdom that which comprises all knowledge, all special science? Must I not know everything in order to be world wise? And how can any single brain assume to acquire all knowledge, to know everything? Answer: It is impossible for you to know everything; but you can rise to the understanding that your special wisdom and that of all others is a part of universal wisdom and form together a relative whole which in connection with all the rest of the world constitute the absolute being. This understanding represents pure logic and is universal understanding, understanding of the universal being.
Do not be troubled by the fact that Socrates was looking for virtue and the “best,” or Spinoza for permanent and supreme joy, and that their wisdom aimed only at the narrow circle of human life, without rising to the cosmic interrelation. The means and the instrument by the help of which they strive for their ideal is the intellect. It is quite natural that intellectual research led to the study of the intellect, to the “improvement of the intellect,” to the “critique of reason,” to “logic,” and finally to the understanding that the faculty of thought is an inseparable part of the monistic whole, of the absolute which lends support, consistency, reason and sense to all thought.
On his exploring tour for the improvement of the intellect, Spinoza picks up a remark which seems to me worthy of closer attention. He says in so many words: If we are looking for a way to improve the intellect, is it not necessary for the purpose of finding such a way to first improve the intellect, in order to be at all able to discern the way which leads to an improvement of the intellect, and so on without end? “We must have a hammer to forge the iron, and in order to have a hammer, it must be made; but for this purpose we need another hammer and other instruments, and so forth without end. In this way it must not be proven that men have no power to forge iron. Men have rather accomplished only the easiest tasks with difficulty and imperfectly by the help of the natural tools of their bodies. Gradually they accomplished more difficult things with less labor and better. And thus they slowly proceeded from the simplest tasks to the instruments.”
I admire in this process of reasoning the brilliant understanding that the hammer is not such a limited instrument as the untrained human brain thinks. It thinks that a hammer is not a pair of tongs. But Spinoza says that the bare fist is a hammer when used for striking, much more a stone or a club. A pair of tongs used to drive a nail becomes a hammer; a hammer which I use to draw a nail becomes a pair of tongs. Fist or club, sense or nonsense, all is one. In other words, things are separated, but never so far as the fantastical dreamers think. Just as hammer and tongs, saw and file, are parts of the class of tools, so all things are parts of the one and absolute universe. Recognize, then, dear Eugene, that the relative and the absolute are not separated by such a bridgeless chasm, that the one should be praised to the skies and the other damned to the lowest pit. Understand that everything is dialectically interrelated, that the infinite, eternal, divine, can live only in the finite, special things, and that on the other hand the parts of the world can exist only in the absolute. In short, raise your conception to the universal conception, and at the same time, understand the supreme being in all its parts instead of idolizing it.