J. B. Baillie. The Origin and Significance of Hegel’s Logic 1901
It may not be inappropriate to complete this historical inquiry by some remarks on the more general features of the position which Hegel takes up in his final Logic. It would be out of place in a work of this kind to give a detailed criticism, involving a special analysis of the parts of the system. We have to ask, in the first place, whether Hegel has really accomplished the end he set himself to attain. Does he establish his position? and will that position meet the needs which are to be satisfied? Hegel claims that Logic is the final outcome of Experience, and the goal at which it aims. For here we have self-consciousness most completely expressed, and self-consciousness is the ground of Experience. In Logic we have all Experience behind us, for out of this Logic comes, and is Experience at its highest mode of existence. In the system of Logic Experience gives itself utterance in its ultimate truth. Now, that, for Hegel, is taken to be not our knowledge of Absolute Truth, but the Absolute’s knowledge of itself. He holds this in virtue of the identification of the individual with the Absolute, which appears in Religion, and is simply brought to the daylight of knowledge in the form of Logic. The content of Religion and of Absolute Knowledge is precisely the same; the attitude towards the Object alone distinguishes them. If that is so, then what is presented as the content of the Absolute in Logic must be the expression of the Absolute of Religion. But the former is simply the formulated truth of Experience; hence Experience must be identified with the Absolute of Religion. This follows inevitably from Hegel’s view, but it is not difficult to see that it places either Religion or Logic in a doubtful position.
For what does the attitude of Religion imply? On Hegel’s view it involves a contrast as well as an identification of the individual with the Absolute Mind. The individual shares the very life of Absolute Spirit – hence the significance of “revealed” Religion. But still the opposition between the two remains unremoved; and this means that the object of Religion transcends the individual has a self-subsistent life of its own.
This is recognised by the religious mind in this, if no other way, that the Absolute Spirit is not regarded as having an attitude towards the individual similar to that which the latter holds towards it. Or, in other words, the Absolute Spirit is not “religious” in any sense of that term; Religion is an experience wholly inside the life of finite individuals. In no way can it be maintained that the individual “worships” or “acquiesces in” a power which is merely the projection of its own self. And to identify God with either the “moral order of the world,” or even with the rational order of Experience as a whole, is not merely inconsistent with the essential characteristics of Religion (submission, reverence, etc.), but is illogical. For it involves the paradox, which at first Fichte defended with his splendid audacity, but finally abandoned, that man creates God in order to prove His existence, or rather that man establishes His existence by creating Him, and makes the ground of his Experience the consequence of that Experience itself. If the order of Experience is God, then whence the need of the idea of God at all? The activity of the self determines that order, and nothing more exists or is required. The attempt to go further is simply a confession of the incompleteness or, as Hegel puts it, the “finitude” of the starting-point. And Hegel himself does not admit such a conception, and is far enough removed from the attempt to evolve God out of finite consciousness. Rather he denies altogether the adequacy of beginning with anything except the whole.
But if so, then the Absolute of the religious mind goes beyond the individual. His Experience in time, therefore, cannot, for Religion, exhaust the full life of God, and the content of Experience cannot be identical with the meaning of the Absolute of Religion. Hence we conclude that the body of truth which makes up the Science of Logic does not and cannot express the complete nature of that Absolute found in Religion, and from which also Logic professedly starts. Either, therefore, we look in vain for the content of Absolute Mind in the Logic, or we must give up the meaning of Religion from which Absolute Knowledge proceeds.
Hegel’s deliberate aim and purpose will allow him to do neither of the two; for the former implies that the end he set himself – scientifically to construct Ultimate Reality – has not been successful, while the latter implies a breach with human Experience which he cannot admit. Hegel may be allowed to be on safe ground when he regards the Absolute in Religion as transcending the individual; and when he falls back upon Experience for the contents of Logic, he is again maintaining a defensible and intelligible position. But when he regards the object dealt with in the two cases as the same, the inconsistency is too perilous to be left unnoticed.
Furthermore, the kind of knowledge which is furnished in Logic would not reveal the nature of Absolute Spirit. Logic deals with the “pure” universal content of mind. But in Absolute Spirit we have only what is concrete, neither universal simply, nor abstract nor formal. The concrete life of Experience in all its varied forms is certainly more adequate to the content of the Absolute than the abstract expression of one particular form of Experience. For Religion the Absolute is “revealed” through sense as well as through thought, in the distortions of nature as much as in the completeness of the type, through moral disaster and defeat as well as through the secure goodness of a perfect life. It is because the activity of the Absolute is so manifold and complex that Experience is so rich and diverse. If it therefore takes all the forms of Experience to tell the complete meaning of the life that pervades it, we cannot expect to find in any one, be it even the highest, such a full expression of the truth of Absolute Spirit. The conception of degrees in the realisation of truth implies, as we saw, not merely that the highest implies all the others, but that all are necessary to reveal the entire truth.
But such a conception is inconsistent with the claim of the highest to contain most perfectly the concrete life of the whole. No doubt the Ultimate Reality throughout Experience is Spirit, and no doubt also in Logic mind is completely self-conscious. But this does not mean that in Logic the concrete life of the Absolute is perfectly or exhaustively contained.
The perfection of the knowledge given in Logic is not equivalent to the living processes through which the Absolute Spirit manifests itself in Experience.
This brings us at once to consider what is perhaps the key to Hegel’s whole position – his conception of the relation of Knowledge to Reality.
That in the Logic he is dealing with the Absolute Spirit is not proved, and, even if it were, that the Logic does perfectly reveal the Absolute is untenable; but both positions are in the long run traceable to his view that knowledge and reality are identical. It is not difficult to see how Hegel arrived at this position, and what he really meant by it. He does not of course mean that all reality exists only in its being known in the processes of science, and that his own philosophical works, or, for short, his Encyclopaedia, is a substitute for the universe, a kind of world extract.
Nothing so transparently absurd could be accepted by Hegel. The first point then to determine is his interpretation of “reality.” That for him was simply synonymous with immediacy. In immediate experience we are sharing in, are indeed fused with, the very being of the world. To be “real” is to be absorbed in our direct living experience. We do not merely “touch” reality there, we are real in that way, and reality is what it is in that aspect of Experience. And this holds throughout the various forms in which Experience appears. There is not simply one mode of immediacy, there are as many modes as there are types or kinds of Experience.
Thus we have an immediate in Sense-experience (e.g., in colour, sound); we have an immediate in intelligent “Observation” (e.g., of an animated organism, an electric spark); we have again an immediate in Morality (e.g., conscience, social “instincts”); and so on. Wherever, in fact, we have an object present to the subject, there we have immediacy.
And since Experience is constituted by the subject-object relation, immediacy is a factor found throughout the whole range of Experience.
All this is evident from the Phenomenology and needs hardly to be further elaborated here. This immediacy, then, is the bed-rock of reality. It is obvious that what is immediate must be immediate for consciousness. Only in the case of conscious experience does it have a meaning, just as only if there is immediacy is there a conscious experience. But in human Experience we have not simply consciousness; its essential characteristic is self-consciousness. All experience to be our Experience must be, and always is, accepted by and transformed into the tissue of the self by the conditions of order and arrangement which determine its activity. This reference to and determination by the unity of the self is not an accident or a superfluous addition to the processes of Experience; it is absolutely necessary if our Experience is to be that of self-conscious, i.e., rational, beings. It is as necessary to our Experience as immediacy itself. But this process of self-reference is not one of immediacy; it is that of active determination by a single principle, ordering Experience into a single whole. It is forming or transforming a whole through or by means of a unitary centre; it is a process of mediation. Self-consciousness is the very condition of all mediation whatsoever. Mediation, therefore, is as necessary in self-conscious Experience as immediacy. “There is nothing,” says Hegel, “nothing in heaven or in nature, or in mind or anywhere else, which does not contain immediacy as well as mediation.” The above, then, holds true of all our Experience, and hence of Science as a particular form of that Experience. And so far we seem on familiar, or at least defensible, ground. But here begins Hegel’s characteristic development of this position. All Experience involves the relation of subject to object, and all Experience is fundamentally the life of mind; it finds its meaning and explanation in self-consciousness. Now in the Phenomenology it was further shown that self-consciousness finds its most perfect expression in Absolute Science. In other words, that while all Experience is the realisation of self-consciousness, Science is its truest form; it is “the crown of the life of mind.” Therefore, said Hegel, the immediacy of Experience is the immediacy of Science; the mediation constituting and constructing Experience is the mediation of Science. What is immediate to life in indissoluble union with environment (in the widest sense of the term) is the same as what is “given” or “immediate” in Knowledge. In other words, Reality in its essence is a process of Knowledge.
Now it is safe to say that such an identification is absolutely groundless.
To assert that the whole teeming life of the world, with its boundless activity, its inexhaustible wealth of content, is for knowledge literally “given” in its entirety, and only exists as so “given” – this is surely the mere perversion of Experience in the interests of a speculative preconception.
The “given,” which is the immediate in knowledge, is always and is necessarily isolated. It must be a “this” or a “that,” a “here” or a “there,” one idea or another idea, before it can become an object for knowledge at all. But the immediate in Experience, that immediate which is reality, is absolutely continuous with itself, and admits of isolation in no sense whatever; the immediacy is indissoluble, other-wise Experience simply ceases to be. This single immediacy of Experience we simply cannot have in knowledge; if so, knowledge would not be knowledge, but Experience. Nor is it necessary for knowledge that we should have it. Knowledge is not construction but reconstruction of Experience, and for reconstruction we must begin with fragments, while fragments must come separately and in isolation. Experience again, on the other hand, is the compact and inexhaustible mine of fact to which knowledge ever recurs, which it seeks to fathom, but cannot by its very nature deplete, the reproduction of which in its immediacy may be said to be its aim, but must ever remain its ideal, for the attainment of it would mean its own annihilation.
Moreover, such a position is in reality not warranted by the argument drawn from the course of Experience as traced in the Phenomenology.
That argument goes to show that while in Experience there is always an immediate, yet the immediate is specifically different in each type of Experience. In each case there is reality, and in each case mind is the centre and circumference of Experience. But the form of reality varies with the type of spiritual experience. The reality for Sense-experience, for example, is assuredly not the reality for Moral-experience.
Thus the content of Science is necessarily different from that found in other forms of Experience. Its immediate is an immediate to that peculiar form of Experience. This immediate is Thought, or, in its purest form (as Hegel says at the conclusion of the Phenomenology), the Notions found in Logic. In thought, no doubt, mind is at home with itself, i.e., is perfectly conscious of self; but that only the more emphasises that this immediate in the experience we call knowledge is not the only immediate, is only one form amongst others. Because knowledge deals with that specific immediate, has its being in that immediate, knowledge is obviously reality, for thought is one real mode of Experience; and in that sense Hegel’s claim for the notions to be “concrete” and “real” is, as we shall see, perfectly justifiable. But that admission does not alter the difference between the immediate in knowledge and that found in other forms of Experience.
The confusion seems to have arisen because Hegel overlooked the fact that the Phenomenology in which he proves that the final form of self-conscious experience is pure consciousness of self, is itself a construction of knowledge. Experience as such does not work out the argument; it is the specific activity of knowledge which brings it about. And surely it was even inevitable that a scientific inquiry which sought to find out the highest form of Experience, should find that form in the Notion of Science itself; for what was really being sought from first to last was just the idea of that type of experience (namely, knowledge) which was constructing the whole of Experience. It could not terminate in anything else, for the simple reason that reflexion about Experience presupposes, i.e., has behind it, Experience, and in that sense is above it, i.e., is its highest expression, and therefore must find the goal of Experience in its own ideal. But to suppose that this process of knowledge by which we construct Experience is the actual process of Experience itself, because the idea of knowledge is only determined at the conclusion of the inquiry, may have made the confusion we speak of natural and simple, but it is confusion none the less.
This identification of knowledge and Reality was, we seem forced to maintain, a fundamental claim of Hegel’s system, and this we must unhesitatingly regard as the proton yeudos; of his philosophy. It is the root of much that remains untenable, and much that is ambiguous in the system. The supposition that Experience proceeds in its actual life by a method deliberately adopted for purposes of Science, makes it impossible for us to know whether in actual Experience (as traced in the Phenomenology) we are dealing with Science; or again, whether in what is admittedly a pure science (the Logic) we are dealing with reality. The beam dips now to one side, now to the other, and we are at a loss to find an unhesitating answer to a question of the first importance. And the uncertainty is due solely to the gratuitous assumption that because knowledge deals with the immediate, therefore it is reality. We say “gratuitous” because, as will presently appear, Hegel’s system regarded simply as knowledge can be admitted, or at least be best defended, when we eliminate this implication altogether.
It is the source again of Hegel’s entirely futile attempt to transcend, by knowledge, the finite consciousness of the knower. Because in knowledge we are supposed actually to have Reality, absolute objectivity of knowledge is secured, individual subjectivity is annihilated, Reality “knows itself,” and the finite knower can be altogether ignored: at best he merely “looks on” at the process by which Reality constructs its own system! If this were a highly forcible way of laying stress on the absolute certainty of demonstrable truth, it would undoubtedly be admissible; but when it is asserted as literal fact it is quite delusive. Does it follow that because something is necessarily true for every one, that therefore it is true for nobody in particular, but is true “for itself alone"? As well maintain because every loyal member of a state acknowledges the same sovereign, that the sovereign is monarch “in himself,” and would remain so if the whole state collapsed. It is certainly astonishing to find the arch-apostle of Absolute Knowledge adopting the tactics of pure agnosticism. Because something is independent of any given mind, says the latter, it is independent of all, and therefore “in itself” unknowable.
Because, says Hegel, something holds for all, it is independent of any one, and therefore is true “for itself"! But the fundamental fallacy we are considering is seen most clearly in the content of Logic itself. In the Phenomenology the content transcribed into knowledge is concrete, being the process of Experience itself, and the identification we speak of seems more specious and less objectionable. But that the content of Logic can be held to be at the same time the Absolute, even in its essence, must give us pause. The content is admitted by Hegel himself to be in a legitimate sense abstract.
To regard it as “formal,” even to name it “essence,” still more to consider it as the “shadow” of reality, is surely to mark off with perfect definiteness Logic from the sphere of fact. For Reality is precisely that which is neither “essence” nor “shadow,” but the free and full activity of life itself. The Absolute is only real in its entirety, and only under qualification are we entitled to regard its elements or aspects as real. Elements, moments in fact of any kind, still more when formal, are not the Absolute; they are specific determinations of it for purposes of finite knowledge. The Absolute, as such, is neither essence nor appearance; it is nothing less than the whole in its completeness. And Hegel is in reality keenly alive to the difficulty his view of knowledge meets with here.
It is for this reason that we have such contradicting predicates applied to the notions. He corrects the “abstractness” of notions by affirming their “concreteness.” But this merely emphasises the difficulty; for that “concreteness” is not allowed to prejudice their “abstractness,” it merely names their worth as abstractions; it does not give us back the Reality we have from the outset “left behind.” And the same is true of the “degrees of concreteness” of the notions which we find in the course of the Logic. That Hegel should have regarded the content in this light merely indicates once again the ambiguity of his position, for Reality, even to Hegel himself, has in and for itself no degrees of concreteness. The “truly real,” says Hegel, “is Subject”; and there is only one Subject, which is always and alone real. Furthermore, this difference in concreteness of the notions does not alter their nature as notions; they remain notions from beginning to end. The fact that one notion implies or contains other notions does not make it other than a notion.
To suppose again that merely because the notions constitute a system we thereby have Reality is too obvious an absurdity. A system of unrealities is not real because it is a system, any more than the ghostly army of a defeated marshal’s dreams would fight the battles of the morrow.
Nor, further, when we regard the notions as “objective” do we make them real, unless we confound objective for Knowledge with existence in fact. They may be independent of “us,” but the “independence” of a phantom does not give it part or lot in the world of time and space. Essentialities again they may be, but absolutely real essences they cannot be; for an essence as such is not absolutely real. When from such essences Hegel would, as he states, “produce reality,” the ineffectuality of his whole contention is at once proclaimed. For if the notions “produce reality,” in what sense can they already be reality? The only “reality” which in fact they do produce is the “reality” – of another notion.
And to “create” Nature from such notions is surely mere metaphor.
Even to pass in thought from Logic to Nature seems to have caused Hegel no small difficulty, if we may judge from the repeated changes made in the statement of the transition, all of which tend towards the minimising of the self-containedness of thought, and imparting into the “Idea” that incompleteness which implies a reference to something else. But even such logical implication is not equivalent to evolving the teeming multiplicity of Nature from the “shadow world” of the notion which to begin with is not itself reality. Nay more, Hegel’s own words condemn the suggestion; for if Nature is anything it is pure diversity, which is mere contingency. Yet this very contingency falls outside the notion, cannot be determined by it, and the inadequacy of contingency to realise the notion constitutes the Ohnmacht der Natur, and sets limits to philosophical explanation. But it is needless to expand the objection further; enough has been said to establish its validity. The source of the error in the case of the Logic is again Hegel’s identification of mere immediacy for knowledge with Reality. The immediacy of fact peculiar to the diverse forms of Experience is eliminated from the notions, and for this reason alone it might be thought that the notions could not be “real”; but by Hegel this is overlooked. Their immediacy consists solely in their presence to the self, and they are so presented because constructed by the self. They are known as the essence of the self, but this neither clothes them with the full reality of the self nor with the full Reality of the world. They are isolated expressions of its activity, not full embodiments of its life. They are doubtless its inalienable determinations, and are immediate to the self, for the self-determinations of mind can only be immediate for mind; only there do they exist. But they are not the self in the single completeness which is alone its reality; nor again are they the reality of things, for these are individual, and a notion, however concrete, is, as we maintained above, always a notion, i.e., a universal. The Sache an sich selbst which Hegel identifies with the notion is in reality nothing other than – a notion itself. And when Hegel regards the notions as real, because they live and mould themselves into system “by their own activity,” the confusion is only the more transparent. They live certainly, but only because endowed with the life of the real mind which is active in them and through them, and apart from which they have neither force nor being. That the system of such notions should be “absolute reality,” objective science, “true of itself” and “self-constructed,” becomes manifest illusion when it is pointed out that such notions only are in and for a real self, and that their so-called self-movement is brought about solely by the deliberate activity of that concrete individual self which was to be eliminated! The notions are doubtless necessary for experience, and their construction an essential expression of human knowledge, but it is surely only by self sophistication that we can take the Fata Morgana of a philosophical perspective for the living activity of Absolute Spirit.
Another general feature of the Logic which calls for consideration is the Method by which it is constructed. This method is not taken to be peculiar to Logic, but is merely found there in its purest form. The method is that of Absolute Idealism, in whatever sphere that may be realised. It claims to be the means by which the standpoint of Idealism is established, to be not so much self-evident as self-proved by its “success” to be the process of Reality, and to be the only method of completely expressing and systematising the truth. Now in Hegel’s view all these essentially involve each other; and it is strictly impossible to say which is for him logically prior. If the method is true, then it is the only method of truth. If it is true, it is the very process of Reality; and since it has been used in the Phenomenology it has proved the standpoint of Absolute Idealism; while if it is actually shown to systematise truth and to be the process of Reality what further proof of its validity is required? It is difficult to suppress the suspicion that there is some fallacy in this procedure. And in reality it is easily discovered. The fundamental fact is the relation between the method and Idealism. Hegel does not regard the standpoint of Idealism as self-evident; for it was the aim of the Phenomenology to establish it. And it seems as certain that the validity of the method is not self-evident. We demand a proof of this, and Hegel in so many words holds it is proved, because it is the only method according to which Idealism can proceed and be systematic; that is, the validity of the method depends on the validity of the standpoint of Idealism.
But the latter was established precisely by this method. The validity of the one thus depends on the validity of the other, and the argument is an obvious circle. If then we are to hold both as valid we must either not guarantee the one by means of the other, or regard them as synonymous, i.e., allow that the method is just the process of Absolute Idealism.
Strictly speaking, Hegel cannot maintain that Idealism is in any proper sense established or “proved” by this method in the investigation of the Phenomenology. For the method is not a method of inquiry at all, but the reverse. It is only a method which can come into operation after investigation, after the finished result of Experience and specific (“scientific”) knowledge has been obtained. It cannot claim to establish anything “new” unless ordering what has already been obtained is regarded in that light. It professes to be the explicit union of analysis and synthesis in a single process; and this can only be carried out if the contents to be known, i.e., systematised, are already consciously and definitely determined.
In the detailed knowledge of experience this is not found, nor is it possible. For if so the whole process of scientific investigation would be unnecessary. In such investigation we must proceed by consciously separating analysis and synthesis. The former (analysis) takes place by making use of inherited experience, language, terms, “proved” principles, etc.; the latter (synthesis) takes the form of “suggestion,” “hypothesis,” “construction,” probable “explanation,” etc. The process; therefore, by which the dialectic method obtains its end, and that by which scientific inquiry works, are so distinct that in no strict sense can we regard the former as one of investigation at all. Investigation implies and presupposes the unknown and indeterminate; Hegel’s method is unworkable unless what is handled is not merely known, but completely determinate.
If this is so then Hegel is not justified in regarding his standpoint as proved in the Phenomenology. For this is not strictly a voyage of discovery, but a direct systematisation by a method already possessed. And for that reason we cannot admit that Hegel has achieved one of the main ends which determined the writing of the Phenomenology, namely, proving to the world that Idealism was the only possible standpoint which can be adopted. It was indeed well and appropriate to begin with the “ordinary consciousness” as it finds itself, if he wished to lead it up to Idealism, for it was the ordinary consciousness that he has to convince. But it is surely taking the ordinary consciousness at an unfair advantage if he constrains it to avow that it is idealistic by a method of which it is unaware, or which it, at least, does not admit. If he wishes to convince the ordinary consciousness by starting from what it knows and admits, he is certainly bound, in order to attain his end, to adopt for that purpose the method of proof which it would also admit. Otherwise how could the result be accepted? Hegel was no doubt right in starting from the ordinary forms of experience to lead us up to Idealism, for “the Absolute must not be shot out of a pistol at us.” But we on our part, if we are to be satisfied with his view, should also insist that we must not be shot out of a pistol at the Absolute. Hence, then, it is impossible to allow that in the proper sense Hegel has “proved” absolute Idealism in the Phenomenology; for this is constructed by the method of Idealism itself. And indeed, as we have seen, the Phenomenology is in reality part of his Absolute System; it in a sense is the whole of that System.
In what way, then, can it be maintained that Hegel proves his point of view, and establishes the validity of his method? For undoubtedly he claims to do both. It is not done by getting outside the system; for anything outside the System is irrelevant to its validity, it must belong to a different level of truth or insight from that on which Idealism stands.
That is to say, Hegel does not allow that his System is merely transformed common-sense, which can be understood by, and will approve itself to, its canons of evidence. He maintains at once that it is a distinctive system of truth, and that no method but that peculiar to the System can test its truth, for any other method accepts as self-evident what for that System is not admitted to be such at all. And, moreover, any method of determining truth which might be adopted should find its place inside that System itself. But since there is no way of proving the truth of any view unless we stand in some way outside it, it is clear that Absolute Idealism does not admit of being proved at all, and rightly claims that it cannot be so proved. For if it is Absolute Truth, then to admit that it can yet be “tested” were to admit that its truth is not absolute.
Here then the System stands on a paradox, which meets all those who seek to grasp it, or to examine it. The System because absolute contains its own criterion of truth, and any other which falls without it is invalid, because not part of Absolute Truth. But if we are to examine the System, if we are ever to accept it as true, we must in some valid sense be outside the System to begin with; for in order to accept it we must make use of a method which at least we do not find to begin with in that System itself. It must approve itself, standpoint and method, to us and our way of thinking before we can accept it. All education and inquiry presuppose this, and without it are impossible. Either, therefore, the System cannot be judged to be true at all, or it cannot claim to be Absolute Truth in the sense it maintains. The danger which threatens an Absolute Idealism which defends itself by such means is, that so far from its being admitted to be Absolute Truth, it is impossible to say whether it is true in any sense at all.
And this difficulty ceaselessly perplexes interpreters of Hegel. It has seemed that, to paraphrase for our purpose Jacobi’s remark regarding the category of causality in Kant’s system, without admitting that the System was Absolute Truth, we cannot remain in it, and when we admit it we cannot enter it. But indeed the claim is quite baseless and impossible. No system of human knowledge can so usurp the authority of reason as to determine the conditions, not under which it shall proceed, but under which it can be accepted as truth. A specially constituted court of appeal is in the kingdom of reason a contradiction in terms. And indeed Hegel gives up the claim when he says that the proof of the validity of the method is found simply in the “success” with which it is carried out in the construction of the system. For “success” is not an absolute standard, but implies essentially the relativity of the truth of the whole process. It is relative in two ways, not merely to the individual using the method who must have a specific conception of what will satisfy the ends he sets before him, but also to the individual judging the result. The latter is thereby admitted to be capable of determining the validity of the result precisely because he possesses the condition of making a decision regarding it, namely, a standard of success. Even if we grant, then, that this method does enable Hegel to construct the system of Idealism, this, on his own admission, is no absolute guarantee of the finality of the result, and therefore the absolute validity of the method is imperilled when this is made to depend on the success in working it out.
It is impossible for Hegel to overcome the inevitable limitations under which he works, and which indeed are those of knowledge in general. When he seeks to avoid them altogether by declaring that the method is absolutely valid because it is seen by the argument of the Phenomenology to be the process of history and experience his contention is quite futile. Indeed it is almost incredible that Hegel could have maintained it. For it is a transparent petitio principii. He wishes to prove the absolute validity of the method by appealing to the course of experience whose very process has already been determined by the method itself and the system of which he has constructed by means of that method.
We do not discover the method by simply opening our eyes upon reality.
To determine the “course of experience” we must make use of some method. But when we have done so our construction is a system of knowledge, and can be tested as a system of reason. It cannot claim to be the process of experience and to suppress in advance all criticism by maintaining that it has attained the limits of possible knowledge.
The source of those claims which Hegel makes on behalf of the method is really to be found in that identification of knowledge and Reality above referred to. It is because of this that he asserts that the absolute “knows itself” in the Logic, that the method is the veritable movement of Reality, at the reproduction of the process of which in the system of Absolute Knowledge the individual simply “looks on.” Yet it is precisely here that, by the strange irony of Truth which would mock the efforts of even those who would do it most service, the contrast between knowledge and reality becomes most pronounced. Let us grant Hegel’s contention that Reality reflects itself, that the Absolute knows itself in his System. A little consideration soon shows that such a conception of science overleaps itself.
For, in the first place, if it were true, the ultimate process of Reality would be simply a process of knowledge; Experience would be solely self-knowledge. In that case it would be impossible to distinguish between a process of knowledge and the course of events; the one would literally be the other. But, if so, the position is logically indistinguishable from pure Subjectivism, and our self-knowledge of the Absolute turns out to be convertible with mere Solipsism. The logical result of making our knowledge so objective as to be Reality is not that we are nearer Reality, but that there is no reality to know, is not that we transcend ourselves and attain the Absolute, but that we never transcend ourselves at all. In the next place, if we make this claim regarding the process of knowledge the science constructed is not in reality knowledge by finite human consciousness, but the Absolute’s knowledge of itself. But apart from the fact that such knowledge would again raise. precisely the question put aside, namely, the relation between our finite knowledge and absolute knowledge, it is quite evident that for us as human beings such knowledge is not so much “too high” as simply valueless. We have no concern with any other knowledge but what holds for us, and serves our ends. We could not accept it because we could not know what we should be accepting, still less could we criticise it or affirm it to be true. The attempt, therefore, to get beyond finite knowledge, in order to supply truth as it is for the Absolute, is so far from fulfilling its purpose that it defeats the very aim of philosophy itself, which is to satisfy a human need.
While again, if the process were that of Reality, then it would necessarily follow that the Absolute itself passes through the process of gradual self-knowledge. But this, which is even as it stands incredible, contradicts Hegel’s own contention that the Absolute Subject is the “truly real,” is self-determining, self-complete, and has its purpose ever in itself.
It is somewhat astonishing that a thinker who held that philosophy arises as the recollection, the “after-thought” of a departed epoch, and builds its temple on the ruins of the past, should have identified the recorded memory of a vanished life with the ceaseless process of the Absolute.
But apart from these objections, we found above that the Phenomenology itself proceeds from the fact that the immediate in one type of Experience is not the same as that in another, and that in science it is specifically different from that found in the form of the life of mind.
Now this characteristic distinctness in science becomes still more evident when we consider the “absolute method” by which it has to proceed.
In order that this may operate upon the content to he systematised that content must have been already formed in a definite and specific manner by the course of Experience itself. The content of Logic, for example, presupposes not only Experience in the general sense, but the results of the various sciences dealing with aspects of Experience, Number, Measure, etc. Without that completeness in its “material,” its “datum,” the method cannot be used at all. It is not a method of investigation, but of construction. Its immediate must be of a specific kind, and must be consciously admitted to be so before the kind of system determined by this method can be formed. But if the method necessarily makes such a presupposition nothing could more decisively mark off the procedure of the system of Idealism from the actual process of Experience and events. Experience as a whole contains what we choose, and may even justify our choice; but to take our choice for Experience itself is surely mere confusion. This, indeed, might be allowed to be self-evident when it is admitted that Science is a distinctive form of Experience. For the process of mediation depends on the immediate content known, and the method which holds for Science might even a priori be regarded as inappropriate for Experience as a whole. The method is that which will subserve a specific purpose, namely, the achievement of a complete system of ultimate truth; and apart from that has no significance.
Further, Hegel’s claim that the method is the objective process of Reality is for him synonymous with the elimination of the individual in the construction of the System. If this meant no more than that the individual is to suppress his special point of view, with its “prejudices” and “opinions,” then undoubtedly it would be valid, though even then it would be an ideal aim. But Hegel means more: the individual simply “looks on” at the process. Now in the case of any method of intellectual procedure we might well deny that the activity of the individual thinker does not determine the result; but in the case of such a method as Hegel’s the assumption that he eliminates the individual is quite delusive. The system is simply the expression of the labour of the individual thinker strenuously seeking to realise a conscious ideal of truth. The movement of the notions, the analysis, and the relation of them, do not take place of themselves; nor does the whole pass like an uncontrollable phantasmagoria before the mind. The movement is the very expression of the energy of the self which is moulding such content into a whole, which is realising its own unity in an ideal form. At every step this self is actually present, for at every step its aim has to be satisfied by the process in question. This need not of itself render, from the very start, all the efforts of human reason to attain universal truth futile. It is the only condition under which we can attain truth, and we do attain truth by that Process in spite of the limitations of the individual. But it does make it impossible for any system of truth to claim finality on the ground that the individual has been eliminated from the process of constructing it.
But further, to admit that the activity of the individual is thus essential amounts in reality to the admission of a personal equation in the construction of the Logic, and indeed of any absolute system of philosophy.
It directly affects the content of the system. For if it is true that no man can rise above his age, it is even more true that no man can transcend the environment of tradition, culture, interests, and ideas which make him a member of a given nationality. The thoughts of every nation become embodied in language, and thence become the heritage of its children. To these conditions Hegel and Hegel’s Logic must both submit.
But if so, the conclusion is plain that we can have no guarantee, indeed it is a priori impossible, that either the number or the meaning, or the kind of categories embodied in the language of the German nation, and systematised in the Logic, furnish a complete and accurate transcript of the ultimate truths of human Experience. Nay more, what guarantee have we that Hegel himself has exhausted or can exhaust the notions even of his own experience? Any such suggestion of infallibility is a mere gratuitous assumption. The limitations of the thinker to his nation and stage of culture may not be entirely fatal to his claim to state the truth, but it certainly makes against any claim to deliver the complete system of Absolute Truth.
The personal equation again appears when we ask how the connexion, more particularly the necessity in the system, is to be determined? What guarantee have we that one notion must lead to a certain notion and no other? It is obvious that what a given mind shall find in a notion, what meaning it will have for him, depends entirely on the degree of insight and the extent of knowledge he has at his command. It is impossible it should do otherwise, for notions, on Hegel’s own interpretation, are not counters which have a fixed value and always ring the same sound, they are results of experience, and are therefore endowed with the possessions brought from the past by each human spirit. Should Hegel reply, and quite fairly, that the thinker with the most complete experience will determine the connexion necessarily, and in a manner which will be seen to be inevitable by the individual of less complete experience, then we can only answer that this all the more emphasises the fact that the presence of the individual with a determinate experience is absolutely essential to the construction of the system.
But, indeed, this attempt to transcend the individual altogether, and give the last word of truth, ignores the very end of knowledge, as well as the conditions under which it works. There cannot be for us any absolute science in the sense of a literally completed exposition of Absolute Truth; and as long as this remains as certain as it is self-evident, we must allow for the activity of the individual in the construction of the science, and therefore deny the claims of the Logic to be a finished system of absolute knowledge. And Hegel himself admits as much, and the course of the history of the Logic makes it plain. For both in the first volume of the Logic (1812) and in the last (1816), he expressly apologises for the imperfections of the work, and claims, in view of the unusual obstacles in the way of a reformation of Logic, indulgence for its shortcomings. The Logic, he admits, “is capable of more completeness and elaboration in detail.” While again, the repeated changes which Hegel made in the successive editions of the Logic, indicate with sufficient clearness that the Logic can in no sense be regarded as a single changeless organism of truth, that there is no completeness in its exposition, and that from first to last it is subject to the limitations of the individual thinker, who indeed is the concrete reality determining the process in this realm of shades.
Finally, regarding the general value of the method in the system, we may remark that the conception of degrees of truth which is essential to the nature of the method is inconsistent with any absolute Idealism in the sense of a completed system. Undoubtedly the principle of degrees of truth is an integral element of any idealistic theory. For Idealism is indissolubly bound up with our judgments of value, and these again necessarily imply degree of approximation to a standard. Hegel’s method, therefore, is certainly idealistic. But that very principle of degrees of truth is the expression of, and rests upon the essential finitude of the human spirit, which seeks by means of it to determine the meaning of the Whole and its place in the Universe. It is because man’s life lies between complete attainment and proximate realisation that the conception possesses its significance. At either extreme, taken by itself, the principle ceases to apply. The Absolute per se has no degrees, and cannot be constituted by them. Its life must be of equal value to it in the part as in the whole; its activity is “full and perfect in a hair as heart.” The Absolute Subject, as Hegel puts it, is “truly real.” While again, at the lowest level of the world’s life, that of mere sentiency, there can again be no degrees, for such life has no being for itself at all. But in man’s life the conception is of fundamental importance. His life has an existence for itself, is self-conscious, yet at the same time is not consciously the whole, but exists for the whole, i.e., has in part its existence for an other.
That conception is the admission of his incompleteness, but also the condition of his further development. And this implication of an essential relativity in the conception is seen in the development of Hegel’s own system. It is precisely because of the contrast between the completed whole and the particular results obtained that the system proceeds from Logic to the notion of Nature, and thence to Spirit, only to return again to Logic. The Logic is hardly said to be complete, when this is corrected by a reference to Nature, and similarly from Nature to Mind. And when Hegel declares that the process is that of a cycle of truth, so far from thereby indicating its absoluteness and finality as he seems to suppose, he merely brings out more completely the source from which knowledge determined in such a way proceeds, for that cycle may “return into itself,” but it never rests in itself. No doubt we have the conception of completeness – a conception of the totality, at the realisation of which we aim, and the approximation to which the principle of degrees of truth emphasises, for otherwise the process would not take place at all. But that conception is not completely expressed, for this would render the presence of a standard meaningless. When Hegel, therefore, claims that the method determines the different degrees of truth, and presents a complete system of Absolute Truth, he is contradicting either the aim of the method or the content of Absolute Truth.
The foregoing objections do not, however, seriously damage the real value of Hegel’s general position, or of the Logic in particular.
They are directed against certain aspects of the system which were in large measure, if not entirely due to the historical conditions in the midst of which Hegel’s philosophy was developed. For that philosophy reveals unconsciously its own historical limitations almost more than any other scheme of thought. It was directly produced at once in conscious agreement with a systematic principle which was currently accepted, and at the same time in deliberate opposition to the interpretations and misinterpretations to which that principle had been subjected. Out of these two combined, arose that tendency towards “absoluteness” in the form and content of his system, which influenced Hegel so strongly as to lead him to adopt those positions against which our argument has been mainly directed.
Taking science to mean essentially system, what, however, he really aimed at was, strictly speaking, simply to justify and establish the necessity for science, and its absolute objectivity. For him, as a philosopher who takes all Experience to be his province, this assumed the form of “demonstrating” the logical coherence of the content of Experience.
But carried away by the demands he made on himself, and by the success of his efforts in realising them, he overlooked the significance of the fact which he had himself emphasised, that philosophy arises out of a human need. Thereby, as we have seen, he overreached the truth. But in spite of this his essential purpose was nevertheless secured. He went so far as not only to make Experience a process of Logic, but to identify our knowledge with the self-consciousness of the Absolute Spirit. This did not, however, make it impossible for him to establish what was of such vital importance – the objectivity of knowledge. And this, it seems to me, Hegel has certainly accomplished by an analysis of Experience as profound as it is ingenious.
Stated shortly, his “proof” will amount to this: That knowledge may be shown to be absolutely objective it is necessary to show that the reality within which knowledge is found, namely, self-conscious life, is the Ultimate Reality of Experience. For if this is done, then it would follow that the conditions by means of, and under the constraint of which knowledge is carried on, will necessarily be ratified by the whole, of which we as finite knowers are parts. That is, to establish the position in question it is first of all essential to show that experience is throughout spiritually determined. This is what Hegel sought to do in the Phenomenology.
All forms under which the immediacy of experience appear show themselves upon analysis to be permeated and transformed by the activity of Spirit, to be, in short, spiritually constituted. Before this everything in heaven and earth yields up its secrets, and in the process by which experience is reconciled to Spirit, the veil which formerly hid the inner temple of things-in-themselves is rent in twain from top to bottom.
But if this is so, then in realising those conditions by which in the activity we call Science (Knowledge), we must proceed if we are to work out in detail the inner unity in diversity which constitutes self-consciousness, we cannot but be completely at home, not merely with ourselves, but with the whole. Nay, more, to be at home with ourselves is just to be at one with the whole. There is no opposition between the immediacy of knowledge and the process of reflexion; they necessarily permeate each other. And the more the knower is absorbed in the object, the more does he become aware of the self which knows, while at the same time this objective activity is essentially self-knowledge – consciousness of self.
In this manner then, simple as it appears, Hegel solves his problem; and with this solution the opposition previously supposed to exist between knowledge and the world of things, the very question of the “relation between knowledge and reality,” vanish, or at least cease to disturb the toilers in the fields of knowledge, whose daily labour is their perpetual refutation. No matter in what particular sphere knowledge operates, there will always be an immediate transfused by the process of self-consciousness, the process of mediation, and merely to function by the principles through which self-consciousness realises unity in diversity is not simply to make ourselves agree with the whole, but, ipso facto, to be in harmony with the whole. This is true of all knowledge, and is true also of knowledge of the whole, Philosophy, or, as Hegel calls it, Logic or Absolute Knowledge. Here, indeed, it is more especially true; for here we deal consciously with the content of self-consciousness as this has been evolved and manifested in the course of experience, and deal with it by a method peculiar to the treatment of self-consciousness as such. Philosophy is not so much thinking in general as self-thinking.
We may express Hegel’s result in different ways. The least satisfactory are those which to any extent introduce a suggestion of some distinction between knowledge and reality. Hegel’s own expressions when he seeks to state his essential point of view are extremely treacherous precisely on this account. Indeed they betray continually the powerful influence upon his mind of the method and position of Kant, and are simply the heritage he took with him from a point of view he abandons and seeks to disprove. When he speaks of notions being the “true reality,” or being the “essences” of the real, as being “truer and higher than, because containing sense,” and so on, the essential truth of his result is obscured under the medieval realism of its expression, or its value is lowered by the suggestion of the dualism he wishes to break down. And when again he takes up, in stating his view, such positions as we criticised above, then certainly he falsifies entirely his real achievement. It might be expressed by saying that in Knowledge Experience is reflecting itself in and through us as self-conscious beings. But this personification of Experience seems to pervert the truth itself, and makes so little of that individual life for which the ideal of knowledge may be something of a passion, that it cannot be regarded as entirely satisfactory. The term Experience, moreover, is used too loosely to make the statement of much value. Nor again are we much more successful if we speak of knowledge being the reproduction in us of an Eternal Self-consciousness, the chief objection to which seems to be that it identifies the ideal so completely with the actual process of knowledge that it makes error itself meaningless or inexplicable. Perhaps the simplest expression, which is also more in the manner of Hegel, would be that in his view knowledge is the realisation of experience in the form of reflexion. And when we bear in mind the meaning attached to the terms “realisation” and “reflexion,” we may find this expression not only simple but adequate to his theory.
Now when we regard the result of Hegel’s inquiry in this light we shall find that most of the objections urged against it above cease to hold, while at the same time much of his System as it stands can be accepted as tenable. The Logic in particular thereby becomes not merely a possible science, but admissible, and it may be even valid, as knowl edge. For it can now be considered as simply the attempt to systematically connect the ultimate notions by which self-consciousness, in its process of reflexion upon the various aspects of experience, reveals itself.
Its object-matter is as possible as any other matter of knowledge.
The conceptions used in the process of mediation can themselves be further mediated and constructed into a whole. And such a science will be self-complete in the sense that we do not require to go beyond it to make it intelligible or legitimate. The notions are immediate to the self reflecting on them; and such knowledge of them is therefore both concrete and true. We do not require to think of some further sense-datum to which the notions “refer” in order to render the science of Logic valid. As it stands it is quite valid, for we have all that is necessary for valid knowledge, namely, an immediate element (notions present to the self), united with and transfused by a process of mediation (relation of these notions to one another). That is all we have in any kind of knowledge.
It is therefore unnecessary to demand, as Mr. McTaggart does, that to make the Logic valid there should be given from without some datum to supplement this “ideal” construction. Certainly the construction is “ideal,” but it is still knowledge, knowledge, namely, of mere universal notions. No doubt such knowledge is meagre in the sense that it does not give much “new.” But this is in the nature of the case. The Logic is not an extension of experience, still less an extension of knowledge.
It merely states more precisely and systematises what we are already supposed to be acquainted with. The knowledge furnished by the Science of Logic consists simply in connecting and constructing these notions, not in increasing their content; this is already determined, otherwise it could not proceed. But within these narrow limits the Logic is still a definite kind of knowledge, and justifiable in the form in which it appears.
For a like reason again we do not require to assume, as Haym after Trendelenburg holds, that Logic is impossible without a perpetual reference to history and experience; nor to maintain with them that because this reference is unconfessed and surreptitious the apparently ideal construction is an imposition. The notions must have already been “used” in the determination of experience by various forms of knowledge before they could appear as part of the Logic at all; and because of that they already in themselves have meaning, have a content. They are, so to say, a conceptual remembrance of the various spheres to which they apply, and have significance in themselves on that account. For we do know what we mean by “Quality,” “Substance,” without imagining a particular sense-form which we should determine by means of these notions. If not, knowledge is sheer paradox; for we should determine sense by such notions, and then admit that we did not know what the notions meant by which we determined sense. And when it is argued against Hegel that the Logic is fraudulent because of the “implication” of experience, it is perhaps sufficient to reply, as Hegel himself would do, that it would be worse than fraudulent if it did not have such an “implication.” But not only could the content of Logic be admitted to be a possible object of science, but the Method of construction might be similarly capable of defence from this reinterpretation of Hegel’s point of view.
For it is simply the attempt to combine in the movement of a single process the continuity which pervades the life of self-consciousness with the different ways in which it expresses its activity. Self-consciousness is a continuous unity throughout all knowledge, and yet the forms in which it knows are different. The reality which we know is individual, and all knowledge, we may say, simply seeks to render individuality intelligible by showing the inner relation of its constituent moments identity and difference. This result knowledge accomplishes, and can only do so, by the conceptions, or notions of self-consciousness. Now the ground as well as the possibility of the procedure of knowledge just lies in the fact that the supreme form and type of all individuality is self-consciousness, and there those ultimate elements, identity and difference, fall apart in the form of a conscious distinction inside their unity.
If, then, the actual process by which these two are made organic to each other can be employed as a method of constructing the system of the notions which render Experience intelligible, then we shall certainly reproduce in scientific form the continuity which is the essential nature of self-consciousness. And this, we saw, is how Hegel’s method really proceeds to work. Such a method is bound to show the inner necessity which binds the notions together. For necessity simply means the continuous unity of diverse elements, and the very source and principle of necessary connexion lies in that activity, as comprehensive as it is irresistible, by which self-consciousness makes an absolutely continuous whole of the profoundest contrariety which makes up its content. And when this necessity is actually produced, then one moment must “lead on” to another, and the System will be not a structure so much as a continuous whole, an organism, or rather a spiritual unity. It will unite in itself the continuity which characterises insight with the discreteness which characterises the activity of reflexion. It will further be an objective method, a method not external to the content but absolutely determining it, for it is the ultimate process of self-consciousness, as the notions are its ultimate contents.
Hegel then is quite justified in regarding this as the absolute method of philosophical construction, for obviously no higher method is conceivable than that which reveals the very pulse-beat of self-consciousness itself. And it is the only method of philosophy, for the principle of all experience is self-consciousness, and philosophy has strictly to do with self-consciousness as a whole, in its complete expression. The method, therefore, will be capable of securing that comprehensive completeness which philosophy demands. It is thus precisely a philosophical method, not a method of ordinary science, still less of ordinary knowledge.
It is only possible, as we saw, if the content known is of a specific kind adapted to it. It cannot widen knowledge, but simply comprehend it (begreifen).
The method, therefore, does not “presuppose” experience in any other sense than does the Logic as a whole. It is simply the essential process of self-consciousness made a conscious method of procedure in philosophical knowledge. The objection urged against it by Trendelenburg, that it really proceeds by taking as its analogue and unacknowledged presupposition the figure of “spatial motion,” might be regarded with amusement if it had not been taken seriously. Spatial movement is so far removed from the inner organic relation of an identity with its differences that the only point in common between the two seems to be the word process. To suppose that Hegel sought by his method to imitate or reproduce the continuity which characterises mechanical movement, would mean that he ignored the profound difference between mere change of position in the absolutely homogeneous medium of space, and inner determination of the content of an organic unity by its essential constitutive principle. The conditions and processes of knowledge are so utterly different from those by which spatial movement is produced that it would be useless and impossible to attempt to obtain any aid from the latter in securing the ends of the former. For any thinker to confound the two would be grotesque; but for a thinker, who made his supreme principle even higher than that of mere purpose, to be incapable of distinguishing in his methods between a mechanical and a spiritual process is incredible. The supposition again that he was simply misled by the metaphor of “movement,” by which he characterises the process of the dialectic method, hardly deserves consideration. In point of fact, as we have seen, the fundamental end of the method is not to bring about a “movement” of the notions, but to establish continuity among them. The whole of Experience is a continuity; “motion in space” or any other “movement” is only one form of realising continuity. It is unity which is the ground of continuity, and therefore of the method, not movement, which at best merely symbolises it.
Finally, we see how the content and method of the Logic and of Hegel’s philosophy as a whole are thus made dependent on his ultimate principle that Experience is fundamentally a spiritual unity. These three, the principle, content, and method, are in reality the primary elements of his System, and if we admit these when modified in the way above suggested we leave the System as a whole no less valuable in reality than its author in the extravagance of his claims desired it to be. Only on such a view as Hegel’s, we may admit, can knowledge and all that it means be explained. What we have insisted on is simply that the process of science must not for a moment be taken to be equivalent to the fulness of the life of Experience itself, and therefore the complete realisation of the nature of the Absolute must remain for knowledge even at its best an impossible achievement. Nay more, it must even be maintained that the ideal of human knowledge itself will ever continue an ideal, unrealised as long as change and diversity are the essential consequences of our having experience at all. But this none the less does not convert our knowledge into mere symbol or guesswork, nor does it make our efforts to render the Absolute intelligible of none effect. Necessary connexion is synonymous with truth, and that truth appears at different stages and in different degrees does not make it untrue, but only less than the complete truth. So far again is the Absolute from being unintelligible or inexpressible by finite self-consciousness, that every moment of truth is, ipso facto, at the same time a definite realisation by knowledge of the actual nature of Absolute Spirit. We do not require to go beyond our self-consciousness to know God, for the kingdom of truth is with in us, and the more completely the truth is known, the more will it appear in the form of “pure” self-consciousness, and therefore the more nearly will it approximate to being “revelation.” The Absolute further lives and is to be found in the processes of Nature and History; only thus indeed can we give permanence and security to human ideals and purposes.
All this it is Hegel’s undying honour to have sought to establish, and such a result is obtained directly from his principle and his method.
It is the application of these to Experience which distinguishes Hegel’s position abruptly from that of Spinoza. Hegel’s philosophical principle compelled him to preserve finitude in all its forms, for Spirit, self-conscious Subject, is precisely that which must make endless diversity organic to its essential unity; only so would it be a concrete individual.
Spinoza, on the other hand, could only do justice to the idea of Substance by dissolving finitude into it; for the conservation of the finite would destroy the abstract individuality of Substance. The methods of establishing their result are similarly antithetic, for the method is simply the consequence of their principle. While, therefore, for Spinoza omnis determinatio est negatio, Hegel sought to demonstrate, on the contrary, that omnis negatio est determinatio. Their method, therefore, may be said to characterise their philosophy as accurately as their principle.
The one is in all points the counterstroke of the other.
When, however, Hegel saves the finite not merely from being absorbed in the Infinite, but at the expense of the self-contained life of the Absolute, whether by seeking to exhaust the activity of the Absolute in the flux of events in Time and Space, or to state in systematic completeness the moments of its inmost life, the result can only bring disappointment.
For finite self-consciousness, like all else that is finite, while it exists in spite of contradictions, at least only exists by means of them.
And if there is none other Truth but such as has been known, and no permanent Ideal which yet outlives its temporary realisation, man’s spirit would lose in the very grandeur of the achievement that subtle enchantment of the unattained which draws him on and for ever on.
1. This has been done in part by Mr. McTaggart in a series of articles in Mind, N.S., Nos. 22, 23 (vol. vii), 29 (vol. viii), and 34 (vol. ix).
These deal more particularly with the third part of Hegel’s Logic – the Notion.
2. This point has been developed in recent metaphysical discussion. See especially Bradley’s Logic and Appearance and Reality, Bosanquet’s Logic, i. 76 ff., and Professor Seth’s Man’s Place in the Cosmos, pp. 206 ff.
3. This presence of immediacy in all types of Experience has hardly been sufficiently emphasised in recent analysis. Immediacy has been almost universally limited to sense-immediacy. This seems an error in method, and renders the problem of interpreting Knowledge in all its forms hardly soluble. It is this limitation, for example, which has given rise to the attempt to construct the Moral Order out of sense data. But why should not an “Ideal” be immediate as well as a “feeling"? Hegel’s view seems an immense improvement on all this.
4. v. Chap. ix.
5. This is the essence of Hegel’s criticism of Kant and is a position of profound significance. The denial by Hegel that “things-in-themselves” have any meaning is simply a consequence which follows directly from it.
6. It is easy to see how it arose from the conception of Anschauung above indicated.
7. Natur hat weder Kern Noch Schale Alles ist sie mit einem Male. – GOETHE, Dem Physiker.
8. v. note to Chap. x.
9. Ency.: Philos. d. Natur, § 250; also Ency. § 24.
10. Perhaps the criticism in the immediately preceding paragraphs may seem somewhat overweighted and ungenerous, more particularly in view of the interpretation put upon the Logic in the earlier chapters, and the essential value of his position, which, as will be presently seen, is readily acknowledged. And no doubt the above criticism only concerns a certain tendency or strain which runs through the Logic.
Since, however, Hegel lays such unqualified stress on the reality of the Notions, and even seeks to treat them as real literally at the expense of the rest of the world (see the introductory chapter to the third volume of the Logic), the foregoing criticism seems quite justified, and the results of such a position must be pointed out. Still it is unfair to condemn the Logic in toto (as, e.g., Haym seems to do) on account of this tendency. The above criticism, it will be evident, follows much the same line as that taken in Professor Seth’s Hegelianism and Personality.
11. We could not distinguish between our knowledge and the knowledge by the Absolute, because that is ruled out by the assumption that the individual is excluded.
12. Moreover if Experience were simply knowledge it would be impossible to speak of a knowledge of Experience. In fact in such a case Knowledge would be quite superfluous. That Knowledge is necessary to us shows that it cannot be Experience.
13. It is this contrast between Absolute Knowledge (the Logic) and Re ality which lies at the root of the common objection to the Logic that it is out of touch with actual experience, that it needs something to complete it in order that it may be experience. This has been expressed by Mr. McTaggart in the view that in order that the Logic can hold good there must be some immediate datum, something given over and above the abstract notions. I do not agree with this way of stating the difficulty; for such a process would be quite external; it would simply leave the two side by side. I deny that Absolute Knowledge could give Experience under any condition. Moreover, I think that on Hegel’s view the Logic does contain immediacy, the only immediacy which is relevant to it (v. infra, pp. 367, 368).
14. Too much stress cannot be put on the objection so often made against Hegel, which is based on differences of nationality and culture in different nations. For if pushed too far it would make all scientific knowledge doubtful simply because it is the possession of a given nation. It does not follow because a Hottentot is incapable of understanding the proof of the law of gravitation that this is doubtful or false. If this were so, stupidity could refute all science whatsoever.
15. Log. i. 6, 41, 42; iii. 3, 4.
16. In all this it will be seen how much Hegel is in agreement with Kant.
Whatever principle expresses the indissoluble unity of self-consciousness is ipso facto a “necessary” principle of experience, and constitutive of it. That is Hegel’s restatement of Kant’s “Transcendental Deduction.” “Necessity” for both Kant and Hegel just lies in the unity of self-consciousness, v. infra p. 370.
17. Hegel u. seine Zeit, pp. 317 ff.
18. Logische Untersuchungen, i. pp. 39 ff. (Auf. 2); see also the same author’s pamphlet, d. logische Frage in Hegel’s System, Essay I.
19. This is essentially what Hegel seems to mean by the “ontological proof” of the existence of God, on which he lays such stress. It is merely the assertion that in such a question as the existence of God, ground and consequent, which are the conditions of “proof,” are mutually convertible. It just avoids being a tautology because of the conscious distinction of finite from absolute Self-consciousness.