Hegel. The Difference Between Fichte’s and Schelling’s System of Philosophy

Comparison of Schelling’s Principle of Philosophy with Fichte’s

The basic character of Fichte’s principle, as we have shown, is that the Subject-Object steps out of its identity and is unable to reestablish itself in its because the different [i.e., pure and empirical consciousness] gets transposed into the causal relation. The principle of identity does not become principle of the system; as soon as the formation of the system begins, identity is abandoned. The system itself is a consistent product of the intellect, a mass of finitudes, which the original identity cannot draw together into the focus of totality or to its absolute self-intuition. The Subject-Object, therefore, turns itself into a subjective Subject-Object and it does not succeed in suspending this subjectivity and positing itself objectively.

The principle of identity is the absolute principle of Schelling’s system as a whole. Philosophy and system coincide. Identity does not lose itself in the parts, still less in the result.

For absolute identity to be the principle of an entire system it is necessary that both subject and object be posited as Subject-Object. In Fichte’s system identity constitutes itself only as subjective Subject-Object to complete it, so that the Absolute presents itself in each of the two Subject-Objects, and finds itself perfected only in both together as the highest synthesis that nullifies both insofar as they are opposed. As their point of absolute indifference, the Absolute encloses both, gives birth to both and is born of both.

If the formal task of philosophy is taken to be the suspension of dichotomy,[1] Reason may try to solve it by nullifying one of the opposites and exalting the other into something infinite. This in effect [der Sache nach] is what happened in Fichte’s system. But, in this solution, the opposition remains. For the opposite that is posited as Absolute is conditioned by the other, and just as it stands firm, so does the other. Both of the opposites, subject as well as object, must be suspended if the dichotomy is to be suspended; and they will be suspended as subject and object, if they are posited as identical. In the absolute identity subject and object are related to each other, and thus nullified; so far there is nothing present for reflection and knowledge. Any philosophizing that cannot achieve systematic form gets to this point. It is satisfied with the negative side, where everything finite is drowned in the infinite. It might, of course, emerge again as knowledge, and it is a matter of subjective contingency whether this kind of philosophizing is bound up with the need for a system or not. But if this negative side is itself the principle, there must not be any way out to knowledge, since all knowledge has one foot in the sphere of finitude. Mystic rapture [Schwärmeri] holds fast to this intuition of colorless light; there is manifoldness in it only because it fights against the manifold. It lacks consciousness of itself, it is not aware that its contraction is conditioned by an expansion.[2] So it is onesided, because it holds fast to an opposite and turns the absolute identity into an opposite. In the absolute identity subject and object are suspended, but because they are within the absolute identity they both have standing too. This standing is what makes a knowledge possible; for in knowledge their separation is posited up to a point. The separating activity is reflection; considered in isolation, reflection suspends identity and the Absolute, and every cognition should strictly be considered an error because there is a separating in it. This aspect of cognition – that it is a separating and its product is something finite – turns all knowledge into something limited and hence into a falsehood. But inasmuch as every knowledge is at the same time an identity, there is no absolute error. -

The claims of separation must be admitted just as much as those of identity. When identity and separation are placed in opposition to each other, both are absolute, and if one aims to maintain identity through the nullification of the dichotomy, then [identity and dichotomy] remain opposed to each other. Philosophy must give the separation into subject and object its due. By making both separation and the identity, which is opposed to it, equally absolute, however, philosophy has only posited separation conditionally, in the same way that such an identity – conditioned as it is by the nullification of its opposite – is also only relative. Hence, the Absolute itself is the identity of identity and non-identity; being opposed and being one are both together in it.

In its separating, philosophy cannot posit the separated [opposites] without positing them in the Absolute. Otherwise they would be pure opposites, having no character save that the one is not if the other is. This connection with the Absolute is not [the same as] their being suspended again, for then there would be no separation. Rather, they are to remain separate and must not lose this character when they are posited in the Absolute or the Absolute in them. Indeed, both must be posited in the Absolute, for what right could one of them have to priority over the other? And it is not only a matter of equal right, but of equal necessity; for if only one of them were connected with the Absolute and not the other, they would be posited as essentially unequal, their union would be impossible, and so would philosophy’s task of suspending the dichotomy. Fichte posited only one of the opposites in the Absolute, or in other words, as the Absolute. For him, the right and the necessity reside in self-consciousness; for only self-consciousness is a self-positing, a Subject-Object, and it does not first have to be connected with the Absolute as something higher; rather self-consciousness is itself the Absolute, that is, it is absolute identity. It has a stronger right to be posited as the Absolute, precisely because it posits itself; whereas the object does not: it is only posited by consciousness. But this is only a contingent status for the object, a fact which becomes clear from the contingency of the Subject-Object posited as self-consciousness; for this Subject-Object is itself conditioned. Its standpoint is therefore not the highest. It is Reason posited in a limited form, and it is only from the standpoint of this limited form that the object appears as something that is not self-determining, but absolutely determined. Both of them, therefore, must be posited in the Absolute, or the Absolute must be posited in both forms while yet both of them retain separate standing. The subject, then, is subjective Subject-Object, and the object is objective Subject-Object, and since a duality is now posited, each one of the opposites is opposed to itself and the partition goes on ad infinitum. Hence, every part of the subject and every part of the object is itself in the Absolute, an identity of subject and object; every cognition is a truth just as every speck of dust is an organization.

It is only because the object itself is a Subject-Object that Ego = Ego is the Absolute. For it is only when the objective is itself Ego, only when it is itself Subject-Object, that Ego = Ego does not change into Ego ought to be equal to Ego.

Because both subject and object are Subject-Object, the opposition of subject and object is real; for both are posited in the Absolute and through it they have reality. The reality of opposites and real opposition only happen because of the identity of the opposites.* If the object is an absolute object, it is something merely ideal and the opposition is likewise merely ideal. Since the object is merely ideal and not in the Absolute, the subject, too, becomes something merely ideal. The Ego as the self-positing, and the non-Ego as the self-oppositing are such ideal factors. It is no help [to claim] that the Ego is sheer life and quickness, is doing and acting themselves, the most real [Allerrealste], the most immediate in the consciousness of everyone. As soon as the Ego is placed in absolute opposition to the object, it is nothing real, but is only something thought, a pure product of reflection, a mere form of cognition.[3] And out of products of mere reflection identity cannot construct itself as totality; for they arise through abstraction from the absolute identity which can only relate itself to them immediately through nullification, not through construction. Infinity and finitude, indeterminateness and determinateness, etc. are reflective products of the same sort. There is no transition from the infinite to the finite, from the indeterminate to the determinate. The transition as synthesis becomes an antinomy; for reflection, which separates absolutely, cannot allow a synthesis of the finite and the infinite, of the determinate and the indeterminate to be brought about, and it is reflection that legislates here. It has the right to allow a unity that is only formal, once the dichotomy into the infinite and the finite, which is its work, has been permitted and accepted. But Reason synthesizes them in the antinomy, and so nullifies them. An ideal opposition is the work of reflection, which totally abstracts from absolute identity; while a real opposition, on the other hand, is the work of Reason, which posits the opposites, identity and non-identity, as identical, not just in the form of cognition, but in the form of being as well. And the only real opposition of this kind is the one in which subject and object are both posited as Subject-Object, both subsisting in the Absolute, and the Absolute in both, and hence reality in both. For this reason it is only in real opposition that the principle of identity is a real principle. If the opposition is ideal and absolute, identity remains a merely formal principle, for it is posited in only one of the opposite forms, and cannot claim recognition as Subject-Object. A philosophy based on a formal principle becomes itself a formal philosophy. After all, as Fichte says somewhere,[4] his own system would be only formally correct for God’s self-consciousness – a consciousness in which everything would be posited through the Ego’s being posited. But, on the other hand, if the matter, the object, is itself a Subject-Object, then the separation of form and matter can drop out, and the system, like its principle, is no longer merely formal, but formal and material at the same time: everything is posited through absolute Reason. Only in real opposition can the Absolute posit itself in the form of the subject or of the object; and only then can there be a transition of subject into object or of object into subject in their essence: the subject can become objective to itself because it is originally objective, that is, because the object itself is Subject-Object, or the object can become subjective because originally it is just Subject-Object. Both subject and object are Subject-Object. This is just what their true identity consists in, and so does the true opposition they are capable of. When they are not both Subject-Object, the opposition is merely ideal and the principle of identity is formal. Where the identity is formal and the opposition is ideal, nothing more than an incomplete synthesis is possible. Or in other words, the identity, insofar as it synthesizes the opposites, is itself just a quantum, and the difference is qualitative;[5] in the fashion of the categories where the first, for example, reality, is posited in the third, and so is the second, but only quantitatively.[6]On the other hand, if the opposition is real, it is merely quantitative. The principle is simultaneously ideal and real, it is the only quality; and the absolute, which reconstructs itself out of the quantitative difference, is not a quantum, but totality.

To posit the true identity of subject and object, both must be posited as Subject-Object; each of them is now capable of being, on its own, the object of a special science. Each of these sciences requires abstraction from the principle of the other. In the System of Intelligence the objects are nothing in themselves; nature only has standing in consciousness. That the object is a nature, and that intelligence, as consciousness, is conditioned by it – this is what we abstract from [in the System of Intelligence]. In the System of Nature, on the other hand, we forget that nature is something known; the ideal determinations nature receives in science, are also immanent in it. Still this mutual abstraction is not a onesidedness of the sciences; it is not a subjective abstraction from the real principle of the other science, supposedly made for the sake of knowledge, and destined to disappear at a higher standpoint. It is not here the case that, considered in themselves, the objects of consciousness which idealism takes to be nothing but products of consciousness, are properly something absolutely different and have an absolute standing outside consciousness (ausser dem Wesen des Bewusstseins); or that nature, on the other hand, which is posited in its science as self-determining and having its own ideal side (in sich selbst ideell) is, considered in itself, only object, and any identity Reason recognizes in nature is only a form lent to it by knowledge. We abstract not from the inner principle, but only from the peculiar form of the other science, and our purpose is to obtain purity for each, that is to say, the inner identity of both. Abstraction from what is peculiar to the other is abstraction from onesidedness. Nature and self-consciousness are in themselves as they are posited by speculation in their respective science. They are so in themselves because it is Reason that posits them. Reason posits them as Subject-Object, hence as the Absolute; the Absolute is the only In-itself. Reason posits them as Subject-Object, because it is Reason itself that produces itself as nature and as intelligence, and cognizes itself in them.

The standpoints of the two sciences differ but do not contradict each other; and this is so because of the true identity in which subject and object are posited, both being Subject-Object, and because the opposition of subject and object is therefore a real one, so that each is capable of passing over into the other. If subject and object were absolutely opposed and only one of them were Subject-Object, the two sciences could not stand side by side in equal dignity. Only the one standpoint would be that of Reason. It is only because one and the same [Absolute] is being constructed in the necessary forms of its existence in both of the two sciences that either of them is possible at all. They appear to contradict each other because in each of them the Absolute is posited in a form opposite to that of the other, and this contradiction is not suspended by asserting that just one of the two is the unique science, and nullifying the other one from the standpoint of that one. The higher standpoint from which the onesidedness of both sciences is truly suspended is the standpoint which recognizes the same Absolute in both of them. The science of the subjective Subject-Object has hitherto been called transcendental philosophy; that of the objective Subject-Object, philosophy of nature. Insofar as each is opposed to the other, the subjective has priority in transcendental philosophy, the objective in the philosophy of nature. In both of them the subjective and objective are placed in the relation of substantiality.[7] In transcendental philosophy, the subject, as intelligence, is the absolute substance and nature is an object, an accident. In the philosophy of nature, the absolute substance is nature, of which the subject, intelligence, is only an accident. Now, the higher standpoint is not one that suspends one or the other of the two sciences, and asserts that the subject alone, or the object alone is the Absolute. Nor is it a standpoint which mixes the two sciences together.

What happens when they are mixed together is this. If what belongs to the science of nature is mixed up in the system of intelligence, transcendent hypotheses arise.[8] Because of the false semblance of a union of consciousness and the non-conscious, they can be blinding. They pretend to be natural and, in fact, they do not fly beyond the palpable. The fiber theory of consciousness is an example.[9] On the other hand, if intelligence as much is mixed up in the doctrine of nature, hyperphysical, and especially teleological explanations result. Both of these mixture blunders arise from the urge to explain. For the sake of explanation intelligence and nature are put into a relation of causality, the one being the ground, and the other that which is grounded. Nothing is achieved in this way, however, except that the opposition gets fixed as absolute, and through the semblance of a merely formal identity – such as causal identity is – the way to absolute unification is completely cut off.

The other standpoint from which the contradictory aspect of the two sciences is supposed to be suspended depends on denying that one or the other of the two sciences is a science of the Absolute. Dualism may very well fall in with the science of intelligence; and yet still allow that things [in the objective realm] are proper beings (Wesen); with this in mind it can take the science of nature to be such a system of the proper being of things: let each of the two sciences be as valid as it likes; there is room for both to stay peacefully side by side. The trouble with this view is that the essence of the two sciences as sciences of the Absolute has been overlooked; for the Absolute is no [mere] juxtaposition.

Or there is yet another standpoint which denies that one or other of the two sciences is a science of the Absolute. This is the one which would suspend the positing of the principle of one science in the Absolute, or the positing of the Absolute in the appearance of this principle. The most remarkable example in this regard is the standpoint of what is ordinarily called transcendental idealism. We have maintained that this science of the subjective Subject-Object is one, and only one of the [two] integrating sciences of philosophy. We have shown that this science is onesided when it claims to be science par excellence and we have exhibited the shape that nature has from its standpoint. But we still want to consider here the form which the science of nature assumes when it is constructed from this standpoint.

Kant acknowledges nature: he posits the object to be something undetermined (by understanding)[10] and he views nature as Subject-Object in that he treats the product of nature as an end of nature, as purposeful without a concept of purpose, as necessary without being mechanistic, as identity of concept and being. But at the same time this view of nature is supposed to be merely teleological,[11] that is to say, it only serves validly as a maxim for our limited human understanding whose thinking is discursive and whose universal concepts do not contain the particular phenomena of nature. This human perspective is not supposed to affirm anything concerning the reality of nature. The perspective remains wholly subjective, therefore, and nature purely objective, something merely thought. The synthesis of nature as determined and yet also not determined by understanding, is supposed to remain a mere Idea in a sensuous understanding; and for us men it is quite impossible that explanation in the mechanical mode should ever converge with purposeiveness. These positions adopted in the critical philosophy are on a most subordinate, non-rational plane because they posit human reason in strict opposition to absolute Reason. All the same, they do not rise to the Idea of a sensuous intellect, and sensuous intellect is Reason. Yet in itself, that is to say, in Reason, the convergence of mechanism of nature and purposeiveness of nature is not supposed to be impossible. But Kant has not given up the distinction between what is in itself possible and what is real. Nor has he raised the necessary supreme Idea of a sensuous intellect to reality.[12] So in his science of nature[13] he cannot, in the first place, allow any insight into the possibility of basic forces; and in the second place, a science of nature of this kind, a science for which nature is matter – i.e., something absolutely opposite, something that does not determine itself – can only construct a mechanics. And even with all the poverty of its forces of attraction and repulsion, it has yet made matter too rich; for force is something internal that produces something external, it is a self-positing = Ego, and from the purely idealistic viewpoint no such thing can pertain to matter. [Kant][14] conceives matter simply as the objective, as that which is opposed to the Ego. For him, attractive and repulsive forces are not merely superfluous; they are either purely ideal, in which case they are not forces, or else they are transcendent. The only construction of phenomena that he can allow is mathematical, not dynamical.[15] The phenomena must be given, and they are filtered by the categories. Now this filtering may produce all sorts of correct concepts, to be sure, but it does not confer any necessity on the phenomena; and the chain of necessity is the formal aspect of what is scientific in the construction. The concepts remain contingent with respect to nature just as nature does with respect to the concepts. For this reason correctly constructed syntheses by way of the categories would not necessarily have to be corroborated by nature itself. Nature can only offer variegated displays that could count as contingent schemata for laws of the understanding, exemplary by-plays whose living peculiarity would fade away precisely because only the determinations of reflection [i.e., the categorized aspects] are recognized in them. And conversely the categories are only impoverished schemata of nature.

If nature is only matter, if it is not Subject-Object, then no scientific construction of nature is possible for which knower and known (Erkennendes und Erkanntes) are necessarily one. A Reason which has made itself into reflection by opposing itself to the object absolutely, can only proceed by deduction when it lays down more about nature a priori than its universal character as matter. This universal character remains basic; the manifold further determinations are posited for and by reflection. A deduction of this kind gives the illusion of a-priority because it posits the concept, the product of reflection, as something objective. Because it posits nothing else, it remains, of course, immanent. Essentially this kind of deduction is identical with the view [Wolff’s] that acknowledges only external purposiveness in nature. The sole distinction is that this deduction develops more systematically from a determinate point, for example, from the body of the rational being;[16] but in both views nature is something absolutely determined by the concept, i.e., by something alien to it. The teleological view which only acknowledges nature as determined according to external purposes, has an advantage in respect of completeness, for it is able to absorb the manifold of nature as it is given in experience. [Fichte’s] deduction of nature, on the other hand, has a determinate point of departure and because of the latter’s incompleteness, it postulates more and more – that is what the deduction consists of. It is immediately satisfied with what it postulates, and the postulation is supposed to supply directly whatever the concept requires. Whether an actual natural object can really supply what is required by itself is of no concern to the deduction, which can only find this out by experience. If the directly postulated object cannot be found in an adequate form in nature, then another object is deduced, and so on, until the purpose is found to be fulfilled. The order of these deduced objects depends upon the definite ends that serve as points of departure, and it is only to the extent that the objects have a connection with respect to this end, that they are coherent among themselves. Properly speaking, however, they are not capable of an inner coherence. For if the object that was directly deduced is found by experience to be inadequate to the concept that has to be satisfied, then this single object, since it is infinitely determinable externally, gives rise to an infinite dispersion. The only way in which this dispersion could be avoided at all, would be for the deduction to draw its various points into a circle; but it cannot establish itself at the inner center of the circle because from the outset it is outside it.[17] Concept and object are mutually external to each other.

So then [we have seen that] neither of the two sciences can establish itself as the only one, neither can suspend the other. For then the Absolute would be posited in only one form of its existence; and as soon as it posits itself in the form of existence, it must posit itself in a duality of form; for appearing and dichotomy [of subject and object] are the same thing.

Both sciences present the Absolute as it emerges from the lower levels of one form of its appearance and gives birth to itself as the totality in this form. Because of this inner identity, the two sciences are equal as to their coherence and their sequence of stages. They corroborate each other. One of the older philosophers put it somewhat like this: the order and coherence of idea (the subjective) is the same as the coherence and order of things (the objective).[18] Everything is in one totality only: the objective totality and the subjective totality, the system of nature and the system of intelligence are one and the same; to any subjective determination there corresponds the very same objective determination.

As sciences they are objective totalities and proceed from one limited item to another. But each limited item is itself in the Absolute and is thus internally unlimited. It loses its external limitedness by being placed in the systematic context of the objective totality. In this totality it has truth even as a limited item, and to determine its place is to know it. – Jacobi said that systems are organized systems of not-knowing.[19]We have only to add that the non-knowing – the cognition of single items – becomes knowledge by becoming organized.

Apart from this external equality which holds between these sciences insofar as they are mutually isolated, their principles also necessarily permeate each other directly. The principle of the one is the subjective Subject-Object, and of the other the objective Subject-Object; hence the system of subjectivity also contains the objective, and the system of objectivity contains the subjective. Nature is an immanent ideality just as intelligence is an immanent reality. The two poles of cognition and being are present in each, so that each has also the point of indifference in itself; but in one system the ideal pole prevails, in the other the real pole. In nature, the ideal pole does not reach the point of absolute abstraction, that posits itself over and against the infinite expansion as a point within itself. This is how the ideal pole constructs itself as Reason. In the intelligence, the real pole does not achieve the envelopment of the infinite, which in this contraction posits itself as infinitely outside itself. This is the way the real constructs itself in matter.

Each of the two systems is both a system of freedom and a system of necessity at the same time. Freedom and necessity are ideal factors, so they are not in real opposition. Hence the Absolute cannot posit itself as Absolute in either of these two forms; and the philosophical sciences cannot be, the one a system of freedom, the other a system of necessity. A freedom set apart like that would be a formal freedom, just as a necessity set apart would be a formal necessity. Freedom is the character of the Absolute when it is posited as something inner, something that remains unlimited even when it posits itself in a limited form, i.e., in definite points of the objective totality. That is to say, it remains what it is, even when it is viewed as opposed to its being; and when so viewed, it is viewed as something inner, hence as capable of relinquishing its being and passing into another appearance. Necessity is the character of the Absolute viewed as something outer, as an objective totality, hence as a [system of] externality whose parts, however, have no being apart from the whole [system] of objectivity. Intelligence and nature are in real opposition because they are posited in the Absolute. For this reason, the ideal factors, freedom and necessity, pertain to both of them. But whim and contingency have their place only from subordinate standpoints and are banished from the concept of the science of the Absolute. For whim is only the semblance of freedom, it is a freedom wholly abstracted from necessity, or from freedom as a totality – and this abstraction can only take place where freedom is already posited within a single sphere[20] – just as contingency, which is what corresponds to whim in the realm of necessity, is the positing of single parts as if they were for themselves, and did not exist solely in and through the objective totality. The truth, however, is that necessity belongs to intelligence just as it does to nature. For since intelligence is posited in the Absolute, the form of being pertains to it, too: it must split itself and appear; it is a fully developed organization of cognition and intuition. Every shape that it assumes is conditioned by opposed shapes, and if their abstract identity is isolated from the shapes themselves as freedom, this freedom is only an ideal pole of the indifference point of intelligence – the other immanent pole here being an objective totality. And on the other side, nature has freedom. For nature is not a stillness of being, it is a being that becomes; or in other words, it is not split and synthesizes from the outside, it sunders itself and unites itself by itself; and in all of its shapes it posits itself freely, not just as something limited, but as the whole. Its non-conscious development is a reflection of the living force which, endlessly splitting itself, yet posits itself in every limited shape and is identical [in all of them]. To this extent no configuration of nature is limited, each is free. -

Hence, the science of nature is the theoretical part of philosophy, and the science of intelligence its practical part; but at the same time each science has for itself a theoretical and practical part of its own in its turn. In the system of nature, identity at the level of light, is alien to heavy matter, not in itself but as a potency; it is an alien [force] which splits and integrates matter into cohesion and produces a system of inorganic nature. In the same way for the intelligence that produces itself in objective intuitions, identity is not present at the level of self-positing. The identity does not cognize itself in the [objective] intuition. The identity produces both [the system of inorganic nature and the world of objective intuitions] without reflecting upon its action; and both are therefore the concern of a theoretical part. The intelligence, however, does cognize itself in the will, and places itself as itself [i.e., consciously] within objectivity nullifying the intuitions that it produces non-consciously. And equally nature becomes practical in organic nature in that light joins its product and becomes internal. In inorganic nature, light posits the point of contraction outside in crystallization as an external ideality. In organic nature, light forms itself as something internal, into the contraction that is the brain; already at the level of plant life, there is the blossom in which the inner light-principle disperses itself in colors and rapidly fades away in them. Yet through the polarity of the sexes the inner light posits itself as both subjective and objective in the plant; and it does so still more firmly in the animal: the individual seeks and finds itself in another. In the animal the light remains more intensely inward; it posits itself as more or less changeable voice, or in other words, it posits animal individuality as something subjective in universal communication: it posits itself as cognizing and to be recognized. The identity [of the inner light] is set forth by the science of nature through the reconstruction of the moments [i.e., moving powers] of inorganic nature from the inside outwards. Because of this the science has a practical part. [For instance] reconstructed [i.e., repeated at the organic level] practical magnetism is the suspension of the gravity that expands itself outwardly into poles; it is the recontraction of gravity into the point of indifference which is the brain, and the transposition of the two poles into the inner life, as a pair of indifference-points, such as nature has already set up [outwardly] in the elliptical orbits of the planets.[21] Electricity, reconstructed from the inside, posits the sexual difference of organisms. Each organism produces the [sexual] difference through itself, posits itself ideally on account of the lack [it feels], finds itself objectively in another organism. – Nature, so far as it becomes practical through the chemical process has put the third which mediates between the two difference organisms back into them as something inward. The third appears as a tone, an inward sounding that produces itself. Like the third body of the inorganic process,[22] this sounding [an animal voice] is without potency and passes away; it extinguishes the absolute substantiality of the different beings and brings them to the indifference of mutual self-recognition, an ideal positing which does not die out again in a real identity, as the sexual relation does.

We have thus far set the two sciences with their inner identity against each other. In one of them, the Absolute is subjective in the form of cognition, in the other it is objective in the form of being. Because they are placed in opposition to each other, being and cognition become ideal factors or forms; each of them is present in both sciences, but in one science cognition is matter and being is form, while in the other being is matter and cognition is form. The Absolute is the same in both, and it set forth by the sciences not merely as opposite in form, but insofar as the Subject-Object posits itself in them. Hence the sciences themselves are not just ideally, but really opposed, and for this reason they must also be treated as a single coherent sciences forming one continuous whole. Insofar as they are opposed to each other, they are, to be sure, internally closed in themselves and form totalities; but the totalities are at the same time only relative, and as such they tend towards the point of indifference. As identity and relative totality, the indifference point always lies within the sciences themselves; but as absolute totality it lies outside them. But inasmuch as both sciences are sciences of the Absolute and their opposition is real, they are the poles of the indifference [point] and cohere with one another at this point itself; they are themselves the lines which link the pole with the center. The center is itself doubled, however, identity being one, and totality the other, and in this perspective the two sciences appear as the progressive evolution, or self-construction, of identity into totality.

The indifference point towards which the two sciences strive (inasmuch as they are opposed when looked at in terms of their ideal factors) is the whole regarded as a self-construction of the Absolute; this is their ultimate peak. The point of transition, the middle term through which identity constructing itself as nature passes over to identity constructing itself as intelligence, is the internalization of the light of nature, the lightning stroke of the ideal upon the real, as Schelling calls it,[23] its self-constitution as point. This point is Reason, the turning point of both sciences; and it is the ultimate apex of nature’s pyramid, its final product, the point of arrival at which it becomes complete. But as a point it must likewise expand into a nature. Science establishes itself as this point as its center and divides here into two parts, assigning the non-conscious production to one side and the conscious production to the other. But at the same time science knows that intelligence as a real factor takes the whole self-construction of nature on the other side over into its own realm – it has all that precedes it or stands beside it within itself; and it knows, too, that nature as a real factor has equally immanent in it what is set against it in science. In this knowledge all the ideality of the factors together with their onesided form is suspended; this is the unique higher standpoint where both sciences are lost in each other: for the division between them is acknowledges to be just a scientific one, and the ideality of the factors is only posited for the purposes of science.

This view is immediately only negative. It simply suspends the separation of the two sciences and of the forms in which the Absolute has posited itself. It is not a real synthesis, it is not the absolute indifference point where these forms are nullified in that they both subsist united. The original identity expanded its non-conscious contraction – subjectively feeling, objectively matter – into the objective totality, the endlessly organized arrays and sequences of space and time. Against this expansion the original identity set the subjective totality, the contraction which is self-constitutive by nullifying the expansion, in the self-cognitive point of (subjective) Reason. The original identity must now unite both in the self-intuition of the Absolute, which is becoming objective to itself in completed totality. It must unite them in the intuition of God’s eternal human Incarnation, the begetting of the Word from the beginning.[24]

This intuition of the self-shaping or objectively self-finding Absolute can be viewed once more as a polarity, by positing one of the factors of the equilibrium as predominant, consciousness, on the one hand, or the non-conscious on the other.[25] In art this intuition appears more concentrated in a point, and consciousness is stricken down. This happens either in art properly speaking or in religion. In art properly speaking, the intuition appears as a work which, being objective, is enduring, but can also be regarded by the intellect as an external dead thing; it is a product of the individual, of the genius, yet it belongs to mankind. In religion the intuition appears as a living (e)motion (Bewegen) which, being subjective, and only momentary, can be taken by the intellect as something merely internal; it is the single individual. In speculation, the intuition appears more as consciousness, and as extended in consciousness, as an activity of subjective Reason which suspends objectivity and the non-conscious. Whereas the Absolute appears in art, taken in its true scope, more in the form of absolute being, it appears in speculation more as begetting itself in its infinite intuition. But though speculation certainly conceives the Absolute as becoming, it also posits the identity of becoming and being; and what appears to speculation as self-begetting is at the same time posited as the original absolute being which can only come to be so far as it is. In this way, speculation can rid itself of the preponderance that consciousness has in it; the preponderance is in any case something inessential. Both art and speculation are in their essence divine service – both are a living intuition of the absolute life and hence a being at one with it.

Speculation, then, and its knowledge are at the point of indifference, but not essentially and demonstrably [an und für sich] at the true point of indifference. This will depend on whether speculation recognizes itself to be only one side of it or not. Transcendental philosophy is one science of the Absolute, for the subject is itself Subject-object and to that extent Reason. But if this subjective Reason posits itself as the Absolute, then it is a pure Reason, i.e., a formal Reason, whose products, the Ideas, are the absolute opposite of a sensibility or nature, and can serve the phenomena only as the rule of a unity that is alien to them. In setting the Absolute into the form of a subject, this science has an immanent boundary. Only by recognizing this boundary and being able to suspend itself and the boundary – and that, too, scientifically – does it raise itself to the science of the Absolute and to the absolute indifference point. For there used to be much talk about the boundary stakes of human Reason, and even transcendental idealism acknowledges “incomprehensible limits” of self-consciousness, “in which we happen to be enclosed."[26] But since the limits have traditionally been given out as boundary stakes of Reason, and nowadays as incomprehensible, science recognizes its incapacity to suspend itself by itself, i.e., not by a salto mortale; or in other words, its incapacity to abstract again from the subjective in which it has posited Reason.

Transcendental philosophy posits its subject as as Subject-Object and is thus one side of the absolute point of indifference. So the totality is in it, certainly. The entire philosophy of nature falls, as knowledge, within its sphere. And one can no more prevent the Science of Knowledge – though it would be only part of [a complete] transcendental philosophy – from laying claim to the form it gives to knowledge [i.e., the title of absolute science] and from laying claim to the identity which is in knowledge than one can prevent logic from doing the same thing. That is to say, one cannot prevent them from isolating the form of consciousness and constructing the appearance for themselves. However, this identity, separated from all the manifold that is known, as pure self-consciousness, shows itself to be a relative identity in that it cannot get away from being conditioned by an opposite in any of its forms.[27]

Intellectual intuition is the absolute principle of philosophy, the one real ground and firm standpoint in Fichte as well as in Schelling. Expressed for reflection, this is the identity of subject and object. In science, intellectual intuition becomes the object of reflection, and for this reason philosophical reflection is itself transcendental intuition. Philosophical reflection makes itself into the object and is one with it: this is what makes it speculation. Hence Fichte’s philosophy is an authentic product of speculation. Philosophical reflection is conditioned, or [to put it another way] the transcendental intuition enters consciousness through free abstraction from the whole manifold of empirical consciousness, and in this respect it is something subjective. When philosophical reflection becomes its own object, it is taking something conditioned as the principle of its philosophy. In order to grasp transcendental intuition in its purity, philosophical reflection must further abstract from this subjective aspect so that transcendental intuition, as the foundation of philosophy, may be neither subjective nor objective for it, neither self-consciousness as opposed to matter, nor matter as opposed to self-consciousness, but pure transcendental intuition, absolute identity, that is neither subjective nor objective. As the object of reflection transcendental intuition becomes subject and object. Philosophical reflection posits these products of pure reflection in the Absolute in their abiding opposition. Opposition as it pertains to speculative reflection is no longer an object and a subject, but a subjective transcendental intuition and an objective transcendental intuition. The former is the Ego, the latter is nature, and both are the highest appearances of absolute, self-intuiting Reason. These two opposites, whether they are called Ego and nature, or pure and empirical self-consciousness, or cognition and being, or self-positing and oppositing, or finitude and infinity, are together posited in the Absolute. Ordinary reflection can see nothing in this antinomy but contradiction; Reason alone sees the truth in this absolute contradiction through which both are posited and both nullified, and through which neither exists and at the same time both exist.


1. Compare pp. 90-91 above.

2. For the first mention of this antinomy see p. 114 above. Hegel returns to the problem of reconciling the principles of “contraction” and “expansion” at the end of the essay – see below pp. 192-5.

* Plato expresses real opposition through absolute identity thus: “The truly beautiful bond is that which makes itself and which it binds one [...]. For whenever, of any three numbers, or masses, or forces, the middle is such that what the first is for it, it is for the last, and conversely, what the last is for the middle, the middle is just that for the first, then since the middle has become the first and last, and the last and first conversely, have both become the middle, in this way they will all necessarily be the same; but things which are the same as against each other are all one.”

[The passage comes from Timaeus (31c-32a). Hegel used the “Bipontine” edition of Plato, which included the Latin translation of Marsilio Ficino, 11 vols. (Zweibrugge, 1781-86). His rending of Plato is a fairly literal one, and we have tried to translate it accordingly. For comparison, and to facilitate understanding, here is the version of Cornford: “And of all the bonds the best is that which makes itself and the terms it connects a unity in the fullest sense; and it is of the nature of a continued geometrical proportion to effect this most perfectly. For whenever, of three numbers, the middle one between any two that are either solids (cubes?) or squares is such that, as the first is to it, so it is to the last, and conversely as the last is to the middle, so is the middle to the first, then since the middle becomes first and last, and again the last and first become middle, in that way all will necessarily come to play the same part toward one another, and by so doing they will all make unity.” (Plato’s Cosmology, p. 21).]

3. In this paragraph, at least, Hegel seems to use the forms reell, real, and ideel, ideal quite indifferently.

4. See Fichte, Werke I, 253 (Heath and Lachs, p. 224).

5. Lasson simply deletes this semicolon in the text of the first edition. Glockner preserves it. Méry, who follows Lasson, discusses this difficult passage as length (pp. 183-5, note m).

6. See Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, A 80, B 106; B 111.

7. Compare Kant, Critique of Judgment, section 73.

8. If “transcendent” in Kant meant “beyond those limits of any possible experience which The Critique of Pure Reason established,” “transcendent” here means “below that authentic union of the dichotomies which the speculative philosophy establishes.”

9. Méry suggests that the Traité des membranes (Paris, 1800) of M. F. X. Bichat (1771-1802) may be meant. But (I) it is unlikely that Hegel was so completely au fait with medical research in 1801; and (ii) when he did read Bichat he always regarded him with a respect that was well merited (see the Philosophy of Nature, additions to sections 354-5). Méry’s other candidate, J. C. Lossius (1748-1813), is a much more probable target. His book Physical Causes of Truth (1775) “attempts to explain contradictions as ‘conflicts between nerves'” (L. W. Bech, Early German Philosophy, p. 322 n.).

10. Verstand: see note 52 on p. 143 above.

11. Compare the Critique of Judgment, sections 62-68 (Akad. V 362-84).

12. This curious remark about a sinnliche Verstand refers to Kant’s discussion of the “intuitive intellect” in the Critique of Judgment, sec. 77 (Akad. V, 405-10; Meredith, Teleological Judgment, pp. 60-7). In fact the whole “Dialectic of the Teleological Judgment” (sections 69-78) should be studied here, especially sections 75-78. The Critique of Judgment is more helpful than any of Kant’s scattered remarks about “intellectual intuition” and “intuitive intellect (or understanding)” in the Critique of Pure Reason (for which see Norman Kemp Smith’s index). Fichte’s attempts to revise the Kantian conception of intellectual intuition and intuitive intellect (see for instance Werke I, 471-4; Heath and Lachs, pp. 45-7) also throw some light on the way Schelling and Hegel went about their more radical transformation.

13. Hegel now turns his attention to Kant’s Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science (1786).

14. The intended subject of this and the next two sentences is not quite certain. Hegel’s er could refer to “the purely idealistic viewpoint.” For “Kant” we have to go back to the beginning of a long and complex sentence.

15. For this basic distinction see Critique of Pure Reason, B 110. (Kant’s various discussions of it in the first Critique are easily located with the aid of N. L. Smith’s index.) But the essential context of Hegel’s discussion here is in the Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science. See Akad. IV, 467-79 and 496-553 (especially p. 470). See also Kant’s “Comment” regarding “Explication 4” of the “Phoronomy” (Akad. IV, 486-7; Ellington, p. 27).

16. It is clear that Hegel’s example is now Fichte once more, rather than Kant.

17. Literally “it is at the outer center.”

18. Spinoza, Ethics, Part II, prop. VII

19. Jacobi, Werke III, 29. Jacobi an Fichte: “Our sciences, taken merely as such, are games which the human spirit invents to pass its time. In these games the human spirit organizes only its ignorance without coming a hair’s breadth to what is true.”

20. Innerhalb einer einzelnen Sphäre: probably this means “within the sphere of a singular [rational] agent.” (Compare the following remark about contingency. If this view is right, then “freedom as a totality” refers to the political articulated autonomy of the Volk.)

21. The construction of the planetary orbits by way of a line with two indifference points was a principal task of Hegel’s Latin dissertation On the Orbits of the Planets (1801; already drafted in German before the present essay was written).

22. The reference is probably to the acid medium between the two poles of a Voltaic pile.

23. This reference is to “Darstellung meines Systems der Philosophie” (1801) § 145, Zusatz 3. See Schelling, Werke IV, 205.

24. This is the first explicit reference to Hegel’s life-long concern with the interpretation of the Christian dogma of the Trinity. The son, or Second Person of the Trinity, has always been identified by orthodox theologians with the Logos of Words referred to in the first chapter of the Gospel of John. According to the Creeds, God the Father created the world, but Son was “begotten, not made” and “begotten of the Father, before all worlds.” John, however, says of the Logos “by him (it) all things were made, and without him (it) was not anything made, that was made.” Hegel seems to have been more influenced by John than by Genesis or the Creeds. We know that sometime between 1800 and 1804 he attempted to lay out his philosophy of Nature schematically as a “Divine Triangle” based on the Trinitarian dogma (see Rosenkranz, Hegels Leben, pp. 101-2). If we take the present passage together with the similar remark in Faith and Knowledge (Cerf and Harris, p. 81) we can see clearly that Hegel did not interpret the distinction between the “begetting of the Son” and the “creation of the world” in an orthodox way. By treating the “creation” as the “moment of difference” in the “begetting” he could legitimately assert “all things came to be through the Logos and apart from it not even one thing came to be that did come to be,” (which is what John asserts in the most literal translation possible). Also he could avoid the philosophical inconvenience of a creation of the world in time (which does appear to be implied by the priority which the Nicene Creed gives to the begetting of the Logos). For the way Hegel himself distinguished “the Son” from “the world” in the summer of 1802 see Rosenkranz’ reports of his lecture-manuscripts (Hegel’s Leben, pp. 133-41).

25. The relation of art, religion and speculation set out in the following passage is discussed above in our introduction, pp. 51-2.

26. See Fichte, “Ueber den Grund unseres Glaubens en eine göttliche Weltregierung” (Werke V, 184).

27. Hegel wants to exhibit the latest “philosophical revolution” as a degenerate form of what he calls in Faith and Knowledge “the reflective philosophy of Subjectivity.” The “boundary stakes of Reason” were established in Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding (see Faith and Knowledge, pp. 68-9). Fichte set up the “Science of Knowledge” as the whole of philosophy (within its “incomprehensible limits”). Finally Bardili (seconded by Reinhold) proclaims the “reduction of philosophy to logic” (see p. 79 above and pp. 179, 186-8, 192-5 below).


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