Hegel’s Lectures on the History of Philosophy
THE thought which may first occur to us in the history of Philosophy, is that the subject itself contains an inner contradiction. For Philosophy aims at understanding what is unchangeable, eternal, in and for itself: its end is Truth. But history tells us of that which has at one time existed, at another time has vanished, having been expelled by something else. Truth is eternal; it does not fall within the sphere of the transient, and has no history. But if it has a history, and as this history is only the representation of a succession of past forms of knowledge, the truth is not to be found in it, for the truth cannot be what has passed away.
It might be said that all this argument would affect not only the other sciences, but in like decree the Christian religion, and it might be found inconsistent that a history of this religion and of the other sciences should exist; but it would be superfluous further to examine this argument, for it is immediately contradicted by the very fact that there are such histories. But in order to get a better understanding of this apparent contradiction, we must distinguish between the outward history of a religion or a science and the history of the subject itself. And then we must take into account that the history of Philosophy because of the special nature of its subject-matter, is different from other histories. It is at once evident that the contradiction in question could not refer to the outward history, but merely to the inward, or that of the content itself. There is a history of the spread of Christianity and of the lives of those who have avowed it, and its existence has formed itself into that of a Church. This in itself constitutes an external existence such that being brought into contact with temporal affairs of the most diverse kind, its lot is a varied one; and it essentially possesses a history. And of the Christian doctrine it is true that it, too, has its history, but it necessarily soon reached its full development and attained to its appointed powers. And this old creed has been an acknowledged influence to every age, and will still be acknowledged unchanged as the Truth, even though this acknowledgment were become no more than a pretence, and the words an empty form. But the history of this doctrine in its wider sense includes two elements: first the various additions to and deviations from the truth formerly established, and secondly the combating of these errors, the purification of the principles that remain from such additions, and a consequent return to their first simplicity.
The other sciences, including Philosophy, have also an external history like Religion. Philosophy has a history of its origin, diffusion, maturity, decay, revival; a history of its teachers, promoters, and of its opponents-often too, of an outward relation to religion and occasionally to the State. This side of its history likewise gives occasion to interesting questions. Amongst other such, it is asked why Philosophy, the doctrine of absolute Truth, seems to have revealed itself on the whole to a small number of individuals, to special nations, and how it has limited itself to particular periods of time. Similarly with respect to Christianity, to the Truth in a much more universal form than the philosophical, a difficulty has been encountered in respect to the question whether there is a contradiction in the fact that this religion should have appeared so late in time, and that it should have remained so long and should still remain limited to special races of men. But these and other similar questions are too much a matter of detail to depend merely on the general conflict referred to, and when we have further touched upon the peculiar character of philosophic knowledge, we may go more specially into the aspects which relate to the external existence and external history of Philosophy.
But as regards the comparison between the history of Religion and that of Philosophy as to inner content, there is not in the latter as there is in Religion a fixed and fundamental truth which, as unchangeable, is apart from history. The content of Christianity, which is Truth, has, however, remained unaltered as such, and has therefore little history or as good as none. (2) Hence in Religion, on account of its very nature as Christianity, the conflict referred to disappears. The errors and additions constitute no difficulty. They are transitory and altogether historical in character.
The other sciences, indeed, have also according to their content a History, a part of which relates to alterations, and the renunciation of tenets which were formerly current. But a great, perhaps the greater, part of the history relates to what has proved permanent, so that what was new, was not an alteration on earlier acquisitions, but an addition to them. These sciences progress through a process of juxtaposition. It is true that in Botany, Mineralogy, and so on, much is dependent on what was previously known, but by far the greatest part remains stationary and by means of fresh matter is merely added to without itself being affected by the addition. With a science like Mathematics, history has, in the main, only the pleasing task of recording further additions. Thus to take an example, elementary geometry in so far as it was created by Euclid, may from his time on be regarded as having no further history.
The history of Philosophy, on the other hand, shows neither the motionlessness of a complete, simple content, nor altogether the onward movement of a peaceful addition of new treasures to those already acquired. It seems merely to afford the spectacle of ever-recurring changes in the whole, such as finally are no longer even connected by the common aim.
1. COMMON IDEAS REGARDING THE HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY.
At this point appear these ordinary superficial ideas regarding the history of Philosophy which have to be referred to and corrected. As regards these very current views, which are doubtless known to you, gentlemen, for indeed they are the reflections most likely to occur in one's first crude thoughts on a history of Philosophy, I will shortly explain what requires explanation, and the explanation of the differences in philosophies will lead us further into the matter itself.
a. The History of Philosophy as an accumulation of Opinions.
History, at the first glance, includes in its aim the narration of the accidental circumstances of times, of races, and of individuals, treated impartially partly as regards their relation in time, and partly as to their content. The appearance of contingency in time-succession is to be dealt with later on. It is contingency of content which is the idea with which we have first to deal-the idea of contingent actions. But thoughts and not external actions, or griefs, or joys, form the content of Philosophy. Contingent thoughts, however, are nothing but opinions, and philosophical opinions are opinions relating to the more special content of Philosophy, regarding God, Nature and Spirit.
Thus we now meet the view very usually taken of the history of Philosophy which ascribes to it the narration of a number of philosophical opinions as they have arisen and manifested themselves in time. This kind of matter is in courtesy called opinions; those who think themselves more capable of judging rightly, call such a history a display of senseless follies, or at least of errors made by men engrossed in thought and in mere ideas. This view is not only held by those who recognize their ignorance of Philosophy. Those who do this, acknowledge it, because that ignorance is, in common estimation, held to be no obstacle to giving judgment upon what has to do with the subject; for it is thought that anybody can form a judgment on its character and value without any comprehension of it whatever. But the same view is even held by those who write or have written on the history of Philosophy. This history, considered only as the enumeration of various opinions, thus becomes an idle tale, or, if you will, an erudite investigation. For erudition is, in the main, acquaintance with a number of useless things, that is to say, with that which has no intrinsic interest or value further than being known. Yet it is thought that profit is to be derived from learning the various opinions and reflections of other men. It stimulates the powers of thought and also leads to many excellent reflections; this signifies that now and then it occasions an idea and its art thus consists in the spinning one opinion out of the other.
If the history of Philosophy merely represented various opinions in array, whether they be of God or of natural and spiritual things existent, it would be a most superfluous and tiresome science, no matter what advantage might be brought forward as derived from such thought-activity and learning. What can be more useless than to learn a string of bald opinions, and what more unimportant? Literary works, being histories of Philosophy in the sense that they produce and treat the ideas of Philosophy as if they were opinions, need be only superficially glanced at to find how dry and destitute of interest everything about them is.
An opinion is a subjective conception, an uncontrolled thought, an idea which may occur to me in one direction or in another: an opinion is mine, (3) it is in itself a universal thought which is existent in and for itself. But Philosophy possesses no opinions, for there is no such thing as philosophical opinions. When we hear a man speaking of philosophical opinions, even though he be an historian of philosophy itself, we detect at once this want of fundamental education. Philosophy is the objective science of truth, it is science of necessity, conceiving knowledge, and neither opinion nor the spinning out of opinions.
The more precise significance of this idea is that we get to know opinions only, thus laying emphasis upon the word Opinion. Now the direct opposite of opinion is the Truth; it is Truth before which mere opinion pales. Those who in the history of Philosophy seek mere theories, or who suppose that on the whole only such are to be found within it, also turn aside when that word Truth confronts them. Philosophy here encounters opposition from two different sides. On the one hand piety openly declares Reason or Thought to be incapable of apprehending what is true, and to lead only to the abyss of doubt; it declares that independent thought must be renounced, and reason held in bounds by faith in blind authority, if Truth is to be reached. Of the relation existing between Religion and Philosophy and of its history, we shall deal later on. On the other hand, it is known just as well, that so-called reason has maintained its rights, abandoning faith in mere authority, and has endeavoured to make Christianity rational, so that throughout it is only my personal insight and conviction which obliges me to make any admissions. But this affirmation of the right of reason is turned round in an astonishing manner, so that it results in making knowledge of the truth through reason an impossibility. This so-called reason on the one hand has combated religious faith in the name and power of thinking reason, and at the same time it has itself turned against reason and is true reason's adversary. Instinct and feeling are maintained by it against the true reason, thus making the measure of true value the merely subjective-that is a particular conviction such as each can form in and for himself in his subjective capacity. A personal conviction such as this is no more than the particular opinion that has become final for men.
If we begin with what meets us in our very first conceptions, we cannot neglect to make mention of this aspect in the history of Philosophy. In its results it permeates culture generally, being at once the misconception and true sign of our times. It is the principle through which men mutually understand and know each other; an hypothesis whose value is established and which is the ground of all the other sciences. In theology it is not so much the creed of the church that passes for Christianity, as that every one to a greater or less degree makes a Christianity of his own to tally with his conviction. And in history we often see theology driven into acquiring the knowledge of various opinions in order that an interest may thus be furnished to the science, and one of the first results of the attention paid them is the honour awarded to all convictions, and the esteem vouchsafed to what has been constituted merely by the individual. The endeavour to know the Truth is then of course relinquished. It is true that personal conviction is the ultimate and absolute essential which reason and its philosophy, from a subjective point of view, demand in knowledge. But there is a distinction between conviction when it, rests on subjective grounds such as feelings, speculations and perceptions, or, speaking generally, on the particular nature of the subject, and when it rests on thought proceeding from acquaintance with the Notion and the nature of the thing. In the former case conviction is opinion.
This opposition between mere opinion and truth now sharply defined, we already recognize in the culture of the period of Socrates and Plato-a period of corruption in Greek life-as the Platonic opposition between opinion (doxa) and Science (episteme). It is the same opposition as that which existed in the decadence of Roman public and political life under Augustus, and subsequently when Epicureanism and indifference set themselves up against Philosophy. Under this influence, when Christ said, "I came into the world that I should bear witness unto the Truth," Pilate answered, "What is Truth?" That was said in a superior way, and signifies that this idea of truth is an expedient which is obsolete: we have got further, we know that there is no longer any question about knowing the Truth, seeing that we have gone beyond it. Who makes this statement has gone beyond it indeed. If this is made our starting point in the history of Philosophy, its whole significance will consist in finding, out the particular ideas of others, each one of which is different from the other: these individual points of view are thus foreign to me: my thinking reason is not free, nor is it present in them: for me they are but extraneous, dead historic matter, or so much empty content, and to satisfy oneself with empty vanity is mere subjective vanity itself.
To the impartial man, the Truth has always been a heart-stirring word and one of great import. As to the assertion that the Truth cannot be known, we shall consider it more closely in the history of Philosophy itself where it appears. The only thing to be here remarked is that if this assumption be allowed, as was the case with Tennemann, it is beyond conception why anyone should still trouble about Philosophy, since each opinion asserts falsely in its turn that it has found the truth. This immediately recalls to me the old belief that Truth consists in knowledge, but that an individual only knows the Truth in so far as he reflects and not as he walks and stands: and that the Truth cannot be known in immediate apprehension and perception, whether it be external and sensuous, or whether it be intellectual perception (for every perception as a perception is sensuous) but only through the labour of thought.
b. Proof of the futility of Philosophical Knowledge obtained through the History of Philosophy itself.
From another point of view another consequence ensues from the above conception of the history of Philosophy which may at will be looked at as an evil or a benefit. In view of such manifold opinions and philosophical systems so numerous, one is perplexed to know which one ought to be accepted. In regard to the great matters to which man is attracted and a knowledge of which Philosophy would bestow, it is evident that the greatest minds have erred, because they have been contradicted by others. "Since, this has been so with minds so great, how then can ego homuncio attempt to form a judgment?" This consequence, which ensues from the diversity in philosophical systems, is, as may be supposed, the evil in the matter, while at the same time it is a subjective good. For this diversity is the usual plea urged by those who, with an air of knowledge, wish to make a show of interest in Philosophy, to explain the fact that they, with this pretence of good-will, and, indeed, with added motive, for working at the science, do in fact utterly neglect it. But this diversity in philosophical systems is far from being merely an evasive plea. It has far more weight as a genuine serious ground of argument against the zeal which Philosophy requires. It justifies its neglect and demonstrates conclusively the powerlessness of the endeavour to attain to philosophic knowledge of the truth. When it is admitted that Philosophy ought to be a real science, and one Philosophy must certainly be the true, the question arises as to which Philosophy it is, and when it can be known. Each one asserts its genuineness, each even gives different signs and tokens by which the Truth can be discovered; sober reflective thought must therefore hesitate to give its judgment.
This, then, is the wider interest which the history of Philosophy is said to afford. Cicero (De natura Deorum I. 8 sq.) gives us from this point of view, a most slovenly history of philosophic thought on God. He puts it in the mouth of an Epicurean, but he himself knew of nothing more favourable to say, and it is thus his own view. The Epicurean says that no certain knowledge has been arrived at. The proof that the efforts of philosophy are futile is derived directly from the usual superficial view taken of its history; the results attendant on that history make it appear to be a process in which the most various thoughts arise in numerous philosophies, each of which opposes, contradicts and refutes the other. This fact, which cannot be denied, seems to contain the justification, indeed the necessity for applying to Philosophy the words of Christ, "Let the dead bury their dead; arise, and follow Me." The whole of the history of Philosophy becomes a battlefield covered with the bones of the dead; it is a kingdom not merely formed of dead and lifeless individuals, but of refuted and spiritually dead systems, since each has killed and buried the other. Instead of "Follow thou Me," here then it must indeed be said, "Follow thine own self "-that is, hold by thine own convictions, remain steadfast to thine own opinion, why adopt another?
It certainly happens that a new philosophy makes its appearance, which maintains the others to be valueless; and indeed each one in turn comes forth at first with the pretext that by its means all previous philosophies not only are refuted, but what in them is wanting is supplied, and now at length the right one is discovered. But following upon what has gone before, it would rather seem that other words of Scripture are just as applicable to such a philosophy-the words which the Apostle Peter spoke to Ananias, "Behold the feet of them that shall carry thee out are at the door." Behold the philosophy by which thine own will be refuted and displaced shall not tarry long as it has not tarried before.
c. Explanatory remarks on the diversity in Philosophies.
Certainly the fact is sufficiently well established that there are and have been different philosophies. The Truth is, however, one; and the instinct of reason maintains this irradicable intuition or belief. It is said that only one Philosophy can be true, and, because philosophies are different, it is concluded that all others must be erroneous. But, in fact, each one in turn gives every assurance, evidence and proof of being the one and true Philosophy. This is a common mode of reasoning and is what seems in truth to be the view of sober thought. As regards the sober nature of the word at issue-thought-we can tell from everyday experience that if we fast we feel hunger either at once or very soon. But sober thought always has the fortunate power of not resulting in hunger and desire, but of being and remaining as it is, content. Hence the thought expressed in such an utterance reveals the fact that it is dead understanding; for it is only death which fasts and yet rests satisfied. But neither physical life nor intellectual remains content with mere abstention; as desire it presses on through hunger and through thirst towards Truth, towards knowledge itself. It presses on to satisfy this desire and does not allow itself to feast and find sufficiency in a reflection such as this.
As to this reflection, the next thing to be said of it is that however different the philosophies have been, they had a common bond in that they were Philosophy. Thus whoever may have studied or become acquainted with a philosophy, of whatever kind, provided only that it is such, has thereby become acquainted with Philosophy. That delusive mode of reasoning which regards diversity alone, and from doubt of or aversion to the particular form in which a Universal finds its actuality, will not grasp or even allow this universal nature, I have elsewhere (4) likened to an invalid recommended by the doctor to eat fruit, and who has cherries, plums or grapes, before him, but who pedantically refuses to take anything because no part of what is offered him is fruit, some of it being cherries, and the rest plums or grapes.
But it is really important to have a deeper insight into the bearings of this diversity in the systems of Philosophy. Truth and Philosophy known philosophically, make such diversity appear in another light from that of abstract opposition between Truth and Error. The explanation of how this comes about will reveal to us the significance of the whole history of Philosophy. We must make the fact conceivable, that the diversity and number of philosophies not only does not prejudice Philosophy itself, that is to say the possibility of a philosophy, but that such diversity is, and has been, absolutely necessary to the existence of a science of Philosophy and that it is essential to it.
This makes it easy to us to comprehend the aim of Philosophy, which is in thought and in conception to grasp the Truth, and not merely to discover that nothing can be known, or that at least temporal, finite truth, which also is an untruth, can alone be known and not the Truth indeed. Further we find that in the history of Philosophy we have to deal with Philosophy itself. The facts within that history are not adventures and contain no more romance than does the history of the world. They are not a mere collection of chance events, of expeditions of wandering knights, each going about fighting, struggling purposelessly, leaving no results to show for all his efforts. Nor is it so that one thing has been thought out here, another there, at will; in the activity of thinking mind there is real connection, and what there takes place is rational. It is with this belief in the spirit of the world that we must proceed to history, and in particular to the history of Philosophy.
2. EXPLANATORY REMARKS UPON THE DEFINITION OF THE HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY.
The above statement, that the Truth is only one, is still abstract and formal. In the deeper sense it is our starting point. But the aim of Philosophy is to know this one Truth as the immediate source from which all else proceeds, both all the laws of nature and all the manifestations of life and consciousness of which they are mere rejections or to lead these laws and manifestations in ways apparently contrary, back to that single source, and from that source to comprehend them, which is to understand their derivation. Thus what is most essential is to know that the single truth is not merely a solitary, empty thought, but one determined within itself. To obtain this knowledge we must enter into some abstract Notions which, as such, are quite general and dry, and which are the two principles of Development and of the Concrete. We could, indeed, embrace the whole in the single principle of development; if this were clear, all else would result and follow of its own accord. The product of thinking is the thought; thought is, however, still formal; somewhat more defined it becomes Notion, and finally Idea is Thought in its totality, implicitly and explicitly determined. Thus the Idea, and it alone is Truth. Now it is essentially in the nature of the Idea to develop, and only through development to arrive at comprehension of itself, or to become what it is. That the Idea should have to make itself what it is, seems like a contradiction; it may be said that it is what it is.
a. The Notion of Development.
The idea of development is well known, but it is the special characteristic of Philosophy to investigate such matters as were formerly held as known. What is dealt with or made use of without consideration as an aid to daily life, is certainly the unknown to man unless he be informed in Philosophy. The further discussion of this idea belongs to the science of Logic.
In order to comprehend what development is,-what may be called two different states must be distinguished. The first is what is known as capacity, power, what I call being-in-itself (potentia); the second principle is that of being-for-itself, actuality (actus). If we say, for example, that man is by nature rational, we would mean that he has reason only inherently or in embryo: in this sense, reason, understanding, imagination, will, are possessed from birth or even from the mother's womb. But while the child only has capacities or the actual possibility of reason, it is just the same as if he had no reason; reason does not yet exist in him since he cannot yet do anything rational, and has no rational consciousness. Thus what man is at first implicitly becomes explicit, and it is the same with reason. If, then, man has actuality on whatever side, he is actually rational; and now we come to reason.
What is the real meaning of this word? That which is in itself must become an object, to mankind, must arrive at consciousness, thus becoming for man. What has become an object to him is the same as what he is in himself through the becoming objective of this implicit being, man first becomes for himself; he is made double, is retained and not changed into another. For example, man is thinking, and thus he thinks out thoughts. In this way it is in thought alone that thought is object; reason produces what is rational: reason is its own object. The fact that thought may also descend to what is destitute of reason is a consideration involving wider issues, which do not concern us here. But even though man, who in himself is rational, does not at first seem to have got further on since he became rational for himself-what is implicit having merely retained itself-the difference is quite enormous: no new content has been produced, and yet this form of being for self makes all the difference. The whole variation in the development of the world in history is founded on this difference. This alone explains how since all mankind is naturally rational, and freedom is the hypothesis on which this reason rests, slavery yet has been, and in part still is, maintained by many peoples, and men have remained contented under it. The only distinction between the Africans and the Asiatics on the one hand, and the Greeks, Romans, and moderns on the other, is that the latter know and it is explicit for them, that they are free, but the others are so without knowing that they are, and thus without existing as being free. This constitutes the enormous difference in their condition. All knowledge, and learning, science, and even commerce have no other object than to draw out what is inward or implicit and thus to become objective.
Because that which is implicit comes into existence, it certainly passes into change, yet it remains one and the same, for the whole process is dominated by it. The plant, for example, does not lose itself in mere indefinite change. From the germ much is produced when at first nothing was to be seen but the whole of what is brought forth, if not developed, is yet hidden and ideally contained within itself. The principle of this projection into existence is that the germ cannot remain merely implicit, but is impelled towards development, since it presents the contradiction of being only implicit and yet not desiring so to be. But this coming without itself has an end in view; its completion fully reached, and its previously determined end is the fruit or produce of the germ, which causes a return to the first condition. The germ will produce itself alone and manifest what is contained in it, so that it then may return to itself once more thus to renew the unity from which it started. With nature it certainly is true that the subject which commenced and the matter which forms the end are two separate units, as in the case of seed and fruit. The doubling process has apparently the effect of separating into two things that which in content is the same. Thus in animal life the parent and the young are different individuals although their nature is the same.
In Mind it is otherwise: it is consciousness and therefore it is free, uniting in itself the beginning and the end. As with the germ in nature, Mind indeed resolves itself back into unity after constituting itself another. But what is in itself becomes for Mind and thus arrives at being for itself. The fruit and seed newly contained within it on the other hand, do not become for the original germ, but for us alone; in the case of Mind both factors not only are implicitly the same in character, but there is a being for the other and at the same time a being for self. That for which the "other" is, is the same as that "other;" and thus alone Mind is at home with itself in its "other." The development of Mind lies in the fact that its going forth and separation constitutes its coming to itself.
This being-at-home-with-self, or coming-to-self of Mind may be described as its complete and highest end: it is this alone that it desires and nothing else. Everything that from eternity has happened in heaven and earth, the life of God and all the deeds of time simply are the struggles for Mind to know itself, to make itself objective to itself, to find itself, be for itself, and finally unite itself to itself; it is alienated and divided, but only so as to be able thus to find itself and return to itself. Only in this manner does Mind attain its freedom, for that is free which is not connected with or dependent on another. True self-possession and satisfaction are only to be found in this, and in nothing else but Thought does Mind attain this freedom. In sense-perception, for instance, and in feeling, I find myself confined and am not free; but I am free when I have a consciousness of this my feeling. Man has particular ends and interests even in will; I am free indeed when this is mine. Such ends, however, always contain "another," or something which constitutes for me "another," such as desire and impulse. It is in Thought alone that all foreign matter disappears from view, and that Mind is absolutely free. All interest which is contained in the Idea and in Philosophy is expressed in it.
b. The Notion of the Concrete.
As to development, it may be asked, what does develop and what forms the absolute content? Development is considered in the light of a formal process in action and as destitute of content. But the act has no other end but activity, and through this activity the general character of the content is already fixed. For being-in-self and being-for-self are the moments present in action; but the act is the retention of these diverse elements within itself. The act thus is really one, and it is just this unity of differences which is the concrete. Not only is the act concrete, but also the implicit, which stands to action in the relation of subject which begins, and finally the product is just as concrete as the action or as the subject which begins. Development in process likewise forms the content, the Idea itself; for this we must have the one element and then the other: both combined will form a unity as third, because the one in the other is at home with, and not without, itself. Thus the Idea is in its content concrete within itself, and this in two ways: first it is concrete potentially, and then it is its interest that what is in itself should be there for it.
It is a common prejudice that the science of Philosophy deals only with abstractions and empty generalities, and that sense-perception, our empirical self-consciousness, natural instinct, and the feelings of everyday life, lie, on the contrary, in the region of the concrete and the self-determined. As a matter of fact, Philosophy is in the region of thought, and has therefore to deal with universals; its content is abstract, but only as to form and element. In itself the Idea is really concrete, for it is the union of the different determinations. It is here that reasoned knowledge differs from mere knowledge of the understanding, and it is the business of Philosophy, as opposed to understanding, to show that the Truth or the Idea does not consist in empty generalities, but in a universal; and that is within itself the particular and the determined. If the Truth is abstract it must be untrue.
Healthy human reason goes out towards what is concrete; the reflection of the understanding comes first as abstract and untrue, correct in theory only, and amongst other things unpractical. Philosophy is what is most antagonistic to abstraction, and it leads back to the concrete.
If we unite the Notion of the concrete with that of development we have the motion of the concrete. Since the implicit is already concrete within itself, and we only set forth what is implicitly there, the new form which now looks different and which was formerly shut up in the original unity, is merely distinguished. The concrete must become for itself or explicit; as implicit or potential it is only differentiated within itself, not as yet explicitly set forth, but still in a state of unity. The concrete is thus simple, and yet at the same time differentiated. This, its inward contradiction, which is indeed the impelling force in development, brings distinction into being. But thus, too, its right to be taken back and reinstated extends beyond the difference; for its truth is only to be found in unity. Life, both that which is in Nature and that which is of the Idea, of Mind within itself, is thus manifested. Were the Idea abstract, it would simply be the highest conceivable existence, and that would be all that could be said of it; but such a God is the product of the understanding of modern times. What is true is rather found in motion, in a process, however, in which there is rest; difference, while it lasts, is but a temporary condition, through which comes unity, full and concrete.
We may now proceed to give examples of sensuous things, which will help us further to explain this Notion of the concrete. Although the flower has many qualities, such as smell, taste, form, colour, &c., yet it is one. None of these qualities could be absent in the particular leaf or flower: each individual part of the leaf shares alike all the qualities of the leaf entire. Gold, similarly contains in every particle all its qualities unseparated and entire. It is frequently allowed with sensuous things that such varied elements may be joined together, but, in the spiritual, differentiation is supposed to involve opposition. We do not controvert the fact, or think it contradictory, that the smell and taste of the flower, although otherwise opposed, are yet clearly in one subject; nor do we place the one against the other. But the understanding and understanding thought find everything of a different kind, placed in conjunction, to be incompatible. Matter, for example, is complex and coherent, or space is continuous and uninterrupted. Likewise we may take separate points in space and break up matter dividing it ever further into infinity. It then is said that matter consists of atoms and points, and hence is not continuous. Therefore we have here the two determinations of continuity and of definite points, which understanding regards as mutually exclusive, combined in one. It is said that matter must be clearly either continuous or divisible into points, but in reality it has both these qualities. Or when we say of the mind of man that it has freedom, the understanding at once brings up the other quality, which in this case is necessity, saying, that if Mind is free it is not in subjection to necessity, and, inversely, if its will and thought are determined through necessity, it is not free - the one, they say, excludes the other. The distinctions here are regarded as exclusive, and not as forming something concrete. But that which is true, the Mind, is concrete, and its attributes are freedom and necessity. Similarly the higher point of view is that Mind is free in its necessity, and finds its freedom in it alone, since its necessity rests on its freedom. But it is more difficult for us to show the unity here than in the case of natural objects. Freedom can, however, be also abstract freedom without necessity, which false freedom is self-will, and for that reason it is self-opposed, unconsciously limited, an imaginary freedom which is free in form alone.
The fruit of development, which comes third, is a result of motion, but inasmuch as it is merely the result of one stage in development, as being last in this stage, it is both the starting point and the first in order in another such stage. Goethe somewhere truly says, "That which is formed ever resolves itself back into its elements." Matter -which as developed has form- constitutes once more the material for a new form. Mind again takes as its object and applies its activity to the Notion in which in going within itself, it has comprehended itself, which it is in form and being, and which has just been separated from it anew. The application of thought to this, supplies it with the form and determination of thought. This action thus further forms the previously formed, gives it additional determinations, makes it more determinate in itself, further developed and more profound. As concrete, this activity is a succession of processes in development which must be represented not as a straight line drawn out into vague infinity, but as a circle returning within itself, which, as periphery, has very many circles, and whose whole is a large number of processes in development turning back within themselves.
c. Philosophy as the apprehension of the development of the Concrete.
Having thus generally explained the nature of the Concrete, I now add as regards its import, that the Truth thus determined within itself is impelled towards development. It is only the living and spiritual which internally bestirs and develops itself. Thus the Idea as concrete in itself, and self-developing, is an organic system and a totality which contains a multitude of stages and of moments in development. Philosophy has now become for itself the apprehension of this development, and as conceiving Thought, is itself this development in Thought. The more progress made in this development, the more perfect is the Philosophy.
This development goes no further out than into externality, but the going without itself of development also is a going inwards. That is to say, the universal Idea continues to remain at the foundation and still is the all-embracing and unchangeable. While in Philosophy the going out of the Idea in course of its development is not a chance, a becoming "another," but really is a going within itself, a self-immersion, the progress forward makes the Idea which was previously general and undetermined, determined within itself. Further development of the Idea or its further determination is the same thing exactly. Depth seems to signify intensiveness, but in this case the most extensive is also the most intensive. The more intensive is the Mind, the more extensive is it, hence the larger is its embrace. Extension as development, is not dispersion or falling asunder, but a uniting bond which is the more powerful and intense as the expanse of that embraced is greater in extent and richer. In such a case what is greater is the strength of opposition and of separation; and the greater power overcomes the greater separation.
These are the abstract propositions regarding the nature of the Idea and of its development, and thus within it Philosophy in its developed state is constituted: it is one Idea in its totality and in all its individual parts, like one life in a living being, one pulse throbs throughout all its members. All the parts represented in it, and their systematization, emanate from the one Idea; all these particulars are but the mirrors and copies of this one life, and have their actuality only in this unity. Their differences and their various qualities are only the expression of the Idea and the form contained within it. Thus the Idea is the central point, which is also the periphery, the source of light, which in all its expansion does not come without itself, but remains present and immanent within itself. Thus it is both the system of necessity and its own necessity, which also constitutes its freedom.
3. RESULTS OBTAINED WITH RESPECT TO THE NOTION OF THE HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY.
Thus we see that Philosophy is system in development; the history of Philosophy is the same; and this is the main point to be noted and the first principle to be dealt with in this treatise on that history. In order to make this evident, the difference in respect to the possible modes of manifestation must first be pointed out. That is to say, the progression of the various stages in the advance of Thought may occur with the consciousness of necessity, in which case each in succession deduces itself, and this form and this determination can alone emerge. Or else it may come about without this consciousness as does a natural and apparently accidental process, so that while inwardly, indeed, the Notion brings about its result consistently, this consistency is not made manifest. This is so in nature; in the various stages of the development of twigs, leaves, blossom and fruit, each proceeds for itself, but the inward Idea is the directing and determining force which governs the progression. This is also so with the child whose bodily powers, and above all whose intellectual activities, make their appearance one after the other, simply and naturally, so that those parents who form such an experience for the first time, marvel whence all that is now showing itself from within, comes from; for the whole of these manifestations merely have the form of a succession in time.
The one kind of progression which represents the deduction of the forms, the necessity thought out and recognized, of the determinations, is the business of Philosophy; and because it is the pure Idea which is in question and not yet its mere particularized form as Nature and as Mind, that representation is, in the main, the business of logical Philosophy. But the other method, which represents the part played by the history of Philosophy, shows the different Stages and moments in development in time, in manner of occurrence, in particular places, in particular people or political circumstances, the complications arising thus, and, in short, it shows us the empirical form. This point of view is the only one worthy of this science. From the very nature of the subject it is inherently the true one, and through the study of this history it will be made manifest that it actually shows and proves itself so.
Now in reference to this Idea, I maintain that the sequence in the systems of Philosophy in History is similar to the sequence in the logical deduction of the Notion - determinations in the Idea. I maintain that if the fundamental conceptions of the systems appearing in the history of Philosophy be entirely divested of what regards their outward form, their relation to the particular and the like, the various stages in the determination of the Idea are found in their logical Notion. Conversely in the logical progression taken for itself, there is, so far as its principal elements are concerned, the progression of historical manifestations; but it is necessary to have these pure Notions in order to know what the historical form contains. It may be thought that Philosophy must have another order as to the stages in the Idea than that in which these Notions have gone forth in time; but in the main the order is the same. This succession undoubtedly separates itself, on the one hand, into the sequence in time of History, and on the other into succession in the order of ideas. But to treat more fully of this last would divert us too far from our aim.
I would only remark this, that what has been said reveals that the study of the history of Philosophy is the study of Philosophy itself, for, indeed, it can be nothing else. Whoever studies the history of sciences such as Physics and Mathematics makes himself acquainted with Physics and Mathematics themselves. But in order to obtain a knowledge of its progress as the development of the Idea in the empirical, external form in which Philosophy appears in History, a corresponding knowledge of the Idea is absolutely essential, just as in judging of human affairs one must have a conception of that which is right and fitting. Else, indeed, as in so many histories of Philosophy, there is presented to the vision devoid of idea, only a disarranged collection of opinions. To make you acquainted with this Idea, and consequently to explain the manifestations, is the business of the history of Philosophy, and to do this is my object in undertaking to lecture on the subject. Since the observer must bring with him the Notion of the subject in order to see it in its phenomenal aspect and in order to expose the object faithfully to view, we need not wonder at there being so many dull histories of Philosophy in which the succession of its systems are represented simply as a number of opinions, errors and freaks of thought. They are freaks of thought which, indeed, have been devised with a great pretension of acuteness and of mental exertion, and with everything else which can be said in admiration of what, is merely formal. But, considering the absence of philosophic mind in such historians as these, how should they be able to comprehend and represent the content, which is reasoned thought?
It is shown from what has been said regarding the formal nature of the Idea, that only a history of Philosophy thus regarded as a system of development in Idea, is entitled to the name of Science: a collection of facts constitutes no science. Only thus as a succession of phenomena established through reason, and having as content just what is reason and revealing it, does this history show that it is rational: it shows that the events recorded are in reason. How should the whole of what has taken place in reason not itself be rational? That faith must surely be the more reasonable in which chance is not made ruler over human affairs, and it is the business of Philosophy to recognize that however much its own manifestations may be history likewise, it is yet determined through the Idea alone.
Through these general preliminary conceptions the categories are now determined, the more immediate application of which to the history of Philosophy we have now to consider. This application will bring before us the most significant aspects in this history.
a. The development in Time of the various Philosophies.
The first question which may be asked in reference to this history, concerns that distinction in regard to the manifestation of the Idea, which has just been noticed. It is the question as to how it happens that Philosophy appears to be a development in time and has a history. The answer to this question encroaches on the metaphysics of Time, and it would be a digression from our object to give here more than the elements on which the answer rests.
It has been shown above in reference to the existence of Mind, that its Being is its activity. Nature, on the contrary, is, as it is; its changes are thus only repetitions, and its movements take the form of a circle merely. To express this better, the activity of Mind is to know itself. I am, immediately, but this I am only as a living organism; as Mind I am only in so far as I know myself. Know thyself, the inscription over the temple of the oracle at Delphi, is the absolute command which is expressed by Mind in its essential character. But consciousness really implies that for myself, I am object to myself. In forming this absolute division between what is mine and myself, Mind constitutes its existence and establishes itself as external to itself. It postulates itself in the externality which is just the universal and the distinctive form of existence in Nature. But one of the forms of externality is Time, and this form requires to be farther examined both in the Philosophy of Nature and the finite Mind.
This Being in existence and therefore Being in time is a moment not only of the individual consciousness, which as such is essentially finite, but also of the development of the philosophical Idea in the element of Thought. For the Idea, thought of as being at rest, is, indeed, not in Time. To think of it as at rest, and to preserve it in the form of immediacy is equivalent to its inward perception. But the Idea as concrete, is, as has been shown, the unity of differences; it is not really rest, and its existence is not really sense-perception, but as differentiation within itself and therefore as development, it comes into existent Being and into externality in the element of Thought, and thus pure Philosophy appears in thought as a progressive existence in time. But this element of Thought is itself abstract and is the activity of a single consciousness. Mind is, however not only to be considered as individual, finite consciousness, but as that Mind which is universal and concrete within itself; this concrete universality, however, comprehends all the various sides and modes evolved in which it is and becomes object to the Idea. Thus Mind's thinking comprehension of self is at the same time the progression of the total actuality evolved. This progression is not one which takes its course through the thought of an individual and exhibits itself in a single consciousness for it shows itself to be universal Mind presenting itself in the history of the world in all the richness of its form. The result of this development is that one form, one stage in the Idea comes to consciousness in one particular race, so that this race and this time expresses only this particular form, within which it constructs its universe and works out its conditions. The higher stage, on the other hand, centuries later reveals itself in another race of people.
Now if we thus grasp the principles of the Concrete and of Development, the nature of the manifold obtains quite another signification, and what is said of the diversity in philosophies as if the manifold were fixed and stationary and composed of what is mutually exclusive, is at once refuted and relegated to its proper place. Such talk is that in which those who despise Philosophy think they possess an invincible weapon against it, and in their truly beggarly pride in their pitiful representations of it, they are in perfect ignorance even of what they have and what they have to know in any meagre ideas attained, such as in that of the manifold and diverse. Yet this category is one which anybody can understand; no difficulty is made in regard to it, for it is thoroughly known, and those who use it think they can do so as being entirely comprehensible-as a matter of course they understand what it is. But those who believe the principle of diversity to be one absolutely fixed, do not know its nature, or its dialectic; the manifold or diverse is in a state of flux; it must really be conceived of as in the process of development, and as but a passing moment. Philosophy in its concrete Idea is the activity of development in revealing the differences which it contains within itself; these differences are thoughts, for we are now speaking of development in Thought. In the first place, the differences which rest in the Idea are manifested as thoughts. Secondly, these distinctions must come into existence, one here and the other there; and in order that they may do this, they must be complete, that is, they must contain within themselves the Idea in its totality. The concrete alone as including and supporting the distinctions, is the actual; it is thus, and thus alone, that the differences are in their form entire.
A complete form of thought such as is here presented, is a Philosophy. But the Idea contains the distinctions in a peculiar form. It may be said that the form is indifferent, and that the content, the Idea, is the main consideration; and people think themselves quite moderate and reasonable when they state that the different philosophies all contain the Idea, though in different forms, understanding by this that these forms are contingent. But everything hangs on this: these forms are nothing else than the original distinctions in the Idea itself, which is what it is only in them. They are in this way essential to, and constitute the content of the Idea, which in thus sundering itself, attains to form. The manifold character of the principles which appear, is, however, not accidental, but necessary: the different forms constitute an integral part of the whole form. They are the determinations of the original Idea, which together constitute the whole; but as being outside of one another, their union does not take place in them, but in us, the observers. Each system is determined as one, but it is not a permanent condition that the differences are thus mutually exclusive. The inevitable fate of these determinations must follow, and that is that they shall be drawn together and reduced to elements or moments. The independent attitude taken up by each moment is again laid aside. After expansion, contraction follows-the unity out of which they first emerged. This third may itself be but the beginning of a farther development. It may seem as if this progression were to go on into infinitude, but it has an absolute end in view, which we shall know better later on; many turnings are necessary, however, before Mind frees itself in coming to consciousness.
The temple of self-conscious reason is to be considered from this the point of view alone worthy of the history of Philosophy. It is hence rationally built by an inward master worker, and not in Solomon's method, as freemasons build. The great assumption that what has taken place on this side, in the world, has also done so in conformity with reason-which is what first gives the history of Philosophy its true interest-is nothing else than trust in Providence, only in another form. As the best of what is in the world is that which Thought produces, it is unreasonable to believe that reason only is in Nature, and not in Mind. That man who believes that what, like the philosophies, belongs to the region of mind must be merely contingent, is insincere in his belief in divine rule, and what he says of it is but empty talk.
A long time is undoubtedly required by Mind in working out Philosophy, and when one first reflects on it, the length of the time may seem astonishing, like the immensity of the space spoken of in astronomy. But it must be considered in regard to the slow progress of the world-spirit, that there is no need for it to hasten:-"A thousand years are in Thy sight as one day." It has time enough just because it is itself outside of time, because it is eternal. The fleeting events of the day pass so quickly that there is not time enough for, all that has to be done. Who is there who does not die before he has achieved his aims? The world-spirit has time enough, but that is not all. It is not time alone which has to be made use of in the acquisition of a conception; much else is required. The fact that so many races and generations are devoted to these operations of its consciousness by Mind, and that the appearance is so perpetually presented of rising up and passing away, concern it not at all; it is rich enough for such displays, it pursues its work on the largest possible scale, and has nations and individuals enough and to spare. The saying that Nature arrives at its end in the shortest possible way, and that this is right, is a trivial one. The way shown by mind is indirect, and accommodates itself to circumstances. Considerations of finite life, such as time, trouble, and cost, have no place here. We ought, too, to feel no disappointment that particular kinds of knowledge cannot yet be attained, or that this or that is still absent. In the history of the world progression is slow.
b. The application of the foregoing to the treatment of Philosophy.
The first result which follows from what has been said, is that the whole of the history of Philosophy is a progression impelled by an inherent necessity, and one which is implicitly rational and a priori determined through its Idea; and this the history of Philosophy has to exemplify. Contingency must vanish on the appearance of Philosophy. Its history is just as absolutely determined as the development of Notions, and the impelling force is the inner dialectic of the forms. The finite is not true, nor is it what it is to be-its determinate nature is bound up with its existence. But the inward Idea abolishes these finite forms: a philosophy which has not the absolute form identical with the content, must pass away because its form is not that of truth.
What follows secondly from what we have said, is that every philosophy has been and still is necessary. Thus none have passed away, but all are affirmatively contained as elements in a whole. But we must distinguish between the particular principle of these philosophies as particular, and the realization of this principle throughout the whole compass of the world. The principles are retained, the most recent philosophy being the result of all preceding, and hence no philosophy has ever been refuted. What has been refuted is not the principle of this philosophy, but merely the fact that this principle should be considered final and absolute in character. The atomic philosophy, for example, has arrived at the affirmation that the atom is the absolute existence, that it is the indivisible unit which is also the individual or subject; seeing, then, that the bare unit also is the abstract being-for-self, the Absolute would be grasped as infinitely many units. The atomic theory has been refuted, and we are atomists no longer. Mind is certainly explicitly existent as a unit or atom, but that is to attribute to it a barren character and qualities incapable of expressing anything of its depth. The principle is indeed retained, although it is not the absolute in its entirety. This same contradiction appears in all development. The development of the tree is the negation of the germ, and the blossom that of the leaves, in so far as that they show that these do not form the highest and truest existence of the tree. Last of all, the blossom finds its negation in the fruit. Yet none of them can come into actual existence excepting as preceded by all the earlier stages. Our attitude to a philosophy must thus contain an affirmative side and a negative; when we take both of these into consideration, we do justice to a philosophy for the first time. We get to know the affirmative side later on both in life and in science; thus we find it easier to refute than to justify.
In the third place, we shall limit ourselves to the particular consideration of the principle itself. Each principle has reigned for a certain time, and when the whole system of the world has been explained from this special form, it is called a philosophical system. Its whole theory has certainly to be learned, but as long as the principle is abstract it is not sufficient to embrace the forms belonging to our conception of the world. The Cartesian principles, for instance, are very suitable for application to mechanism, but for nothing further; their representation of other manifestations in the world, such as those of vegetable and animal nature, are insufficient, and hence uninteresting. Therefore we take into consideration the principles of these philosophies only, but in dealing with concrete philosophies we must also regard the chief forms of their development and their applications. The subordinate philosophies are inconsistent; they have had bright glimpses of the truth, which are, however, independent of their principles. This is exemplified in the Timæus of Plato, a philosophy of nature, the working out of which is empirically very barren because its principle does not as yet extend far enough, and it is not to its principle that we owe the deep gleams of thought there contained.
In the fourth place it follows that we must not regard the history of Philosophy as dealing with the past, even though it is history. The scientific products of reason form the content of this history, and these are not past. What is obtained in this field of labour is the True, and, as such, the Eternal; it is not what exists now, and not then; it is true not only today or tomorrow, but beyond all time, and in as far as it is in time, it is true always and for every time. The bodily forms of those great minds who are the heroes of this history, the temporal existence and outward lives of the philosophers, are, indeed, no more, but their works and thoughts have not followed suit, for they neither conceived nor dreamt of the rational import of their works. Philosophy is not somnambulism, but is developed consciousness; and what these heroes have done is to bring that which is implicitly rational out of the depths of Mind, where it is found at first as substance only, or as inwardly existent, into the light of day, and to advance it into consciousness and knowledge. This forms a continuous awakening. Such work is not only deposited in the temple of Memory as forms of times gone by, but is just as present and as living now as at the time of its production. The effects produced and work performed are not again destroyed or interrupted by what succeeds, for they are such that we must ourselves be present in them. They have as medium neither canvas, paper, marble, nor representation or memorial to preserve them. These mediums are themselves transient, or else form a basis for what is such. But they do have Thought, Notion, and the eternal Being of Mind, which moths cannot corrupt, nor thieves break through and steal. The conquests made by Thought when constituted into Thought form the very Being of Mind. Such knowledge is thus not learning merely, or a knowledge of what is dead, buried and corrupt: the history of Philosophy has not to do with what is gone, but with the living present.
c. Further comparison between the History of Philosophy and Philosophy itself.
We may appropriate to ourselves the whole of the riches apportioned out in time: it must be shown from the succession in philosophies how that succession is the systematization of the science of Philosophy itself. But a distinction is to be noted here: that which first commences is implicit, immediate, abstract, general-it is what has not yet advanced; the more concrete and richer comes later, and the first is poorer in determinations. This may appear contrary to one's first impressions, but philosophic ideas are often enough directly opposed to ordinary ideas, and what is generally supposed, is not found to be the case. It may be thought that what comes first must be the concrete. The child, for instance, as still in the original totality of his nature, is thought to be more concrete than the man, hence we imagine the latter to be more limited, no longer forming a totality, but living an abstract life. Certainly the man acts in accordance with definite ends, not bringing his whole soul and mind into a subject, but splitting his life into a number of abstract unities. The child and the youth, on the contrary, act straight from the fullness of the heart. Feeling and sense-perception come first, thought last, and thus feeling appears to us to be more concrete than thought, or the activity of abstraction and of the universal. In reality, it is just the other way. The sensuous consciousness is certainly the more concrete, and if poorer in thought, at least richer in content. We must thus distinguish the naturally concrete from the concrete of thought, which on its side, again, is wanting in sensuous matter. The child is also the most abstract and the poorest in thought: as to what pertains to nature, the man is abstract, but in thought he is more concrete than the child. Man's ends and objects are undoubtedly abstract in general affairs, such as in maintaining his family or performing his business duties, but he contributes to a great objective organic whole, whose progress he advances and directs. In the acts of a child, on the other hand, only a childish and, indeed, momentary "I," and in those of the youth the subjective constitution or the random aim, form the principle of action. It is in this way that science is more concrete than sense-perception.
In applying this to the different forms of Philosophy, it follows in the first place, that the earliest philosophies are the poorest and the most abstract. In them the Idea is least determined; they keep merely to generalities not yet realized. This must be known in order that we may not seek behind the old philosophies for more than we are entitled to find; thus we need not require from them determinations proceeding from a deeper consciousness. For instance, it has been asked whether the philosophy of Thales is, properly speaking, Theism or Atheism, (5) whether he asserted a personal God or merely an impersonal, universal existence. The question here regards the attribution of subjectivity to the highest Idea, the conception of the Personality of God. Such subjectivity as we comprehend it, is a much richer, more concentrated, and therefore much later conception, which need not be sought for in distant ages. The Greek gods had, indeed, personality in imagination and idea like the one God of the Jewish religion, but to know what is the mere picture of fancy, and what the insight of pure Thought and Notion, is quite another thing. If we take as basis our own ideas judged by these deeper conceptions, an ancient Philosophy may undoubtedly be spoken of as Atheism. But this expression would at the same time be false, for the thoughts as thoughts in beginning, could not have arrived at the development which we have reached.
From this it follows-since the progress of development is equivalent to further determination, and this means further immersion in, and a fuller grasp of the Idea itself-that the latest, most modern and newest philosophy is the most developed, richest and deepest. In that philosophy everything which at first seems to be past and gone must be preserved and retained, and it must itself be a mirror of the whole history. The original philosophy is the most abstract, because it is the original and has not as yet made any movement forward; the last, which proceeds from this forward and impelling influence, is the most concrete. This, as may at once be remarked, is no mere pride in the philosophy of our time, because it is in the nature of the whole process that the more developed philosophy of a later time is really the result of the previous operations of the thinking mind; and that it, pressed forwards and onwards from the earlier standpoints, has not grown up on its own account or in a state of isolation.
It must also be recollected that we must not hesitate to say, what is naturally implied, that the Idea, as comprehended and shown forth in the latest and newest philosophy, is the most developed, the richest and deepest. I call this to remembrance because the designation, new or newest of all in reference to Philosophy, has become a very common by-word. Those who think they express anything by using such terms might quite easily render thanks respecting any number of philosophies just as fast as their inclination directs, regarding either every shooting-star and even every candle-gleam in the light of a sun, or else calling every popular cry a philosophy, and adducing as proof that at any rate there are so many philosophies that every day one displaces another. Thus they have the category in which they can place any apparently significant philosophy, and through which they may at the same time set it aside; this they call a fashion-philosophy.
Scoffer, thou call'st this but a fleeting phase
When the Spirit of Man once again and anew,
Strives earnestly on, towards forms that are higher.
A second consequence has regard to the treatment of the older philosophies. Such insight also prevents us from ascribing any blame to the philosophies when we miss determinations in them which were not yet present to their culture, and similarly it prevents our burdening them with deductions and assertions which were neither made nor thought of by them, though they might correctly enough allow themselves to be derived from the thought of such a philosophy. It is necessary to set to work on an historical basis, and to ascribe to Philosophy what is immediately given to us, and that alone. Errors crop up here in most histories of Philosophy, since we may see in them a number of metaphysical propositions ascribed to a philosopher and given out as an historical statement of the views which he has propounded, of which he neither thought nor knew a word, and of which there is not the slightest trace found in history. Thus in Brucker's great History of Philosophy (Pt. I. pp. 465-478 seq.) a list of thirty, forty, or a hundred theorems are quoted from Thales and others, no idea of which can be traced in history as having been present to these philosophers. There are also propositions in support of them and citations taken from discussions of a similar kind with which we may occupy ourselves long enough. Brucker's method is to endow the single theorem of an ancient philosopher with all the consequences and premises which must, according to the idea of the Wolffian Metaphysics, be the premises and conclusions of that theorem, and thus easily to produce a simple, naked fiction as if it were an actual historical fact. Thus, according to Brucker, Thales said, Ex nihilo fit nihil, since he said that water was eternal. Thus, too, he was to be counted amongst the philosophers who deny creation out of nothing; and of this, historically at least, Thales was ignorant. Professor Ritter, too, whose history of Ionic Philosophy is carefully written, and who on the whole is cautious not to introduce foreign matter, has very possibly ascribed to Thales more than is found in history. He says (pp. 12, 13), "Hence we must regard the view of nature which we find in Thales as dynamic in principle. He regarded the world as the all-embracing, living animal which has developed from a germ like every other animal, and this germ, like that of all other animals, is either damp or water. Thus the fundamental idea of Thales is that the world is a living whole which has developed from a germ and carries on its life as does an animal, by means of nourishment suitable to its nature" (cf. p. 16). This is quite a different account from that of Aristotle, and none of it is communicated by the ancients regarding Thales. The sequence of thought is evident, but historically it is not justified. We ought not by such deductions to make an ancient philosophy into something quite different from what it originally was.
We are too apt to mould the ancient philosophers into our own forms of thought, but this is just to constitute the progress of development; the difference in times, in culture and in philosophies, depends on whether certain reflections, certain thought determinations, and certain stages in the Notion have come to consciousness, whether a consciousness has been developed to a particular point or not. The history of Philosophy has simply to deal with this development and bringing forth of thought. The determinations involved certainly follow from a proposition, but whether they are put forth as yet or not is quite another thing, and the bringing forth of the inner content is the only matter of importance. We must therefore only make use of the words which are actually literal, for to use further thought determinations which do not yet belong to the consciousness of the philosopher in question, is to carry on development. Thus Aristotle states that Thales has defined the principle (archi) of every thing to be water. But Anaximander first made use of archi, and Thales thus did not possess this determination of thought at all; he recognized archi as commencement in time, but not as the fundamental principle. Thales did not once introduce the determination of cause into his philosophy, and first cause is a further determination still. There are whole nations which have not this conception at all; indeed it involves a great step forward in development. And seeing that difference in culture on the whole depends on difference in the thought determinations which are manifested, this must be so still more with respect to philosophies.
Now, as in the logical system of thought each of its forms has its own place in which alone it suffices, and this form becomes, by means of ever-progressing development, reduced to a subordinate element, each philosophy is, in the third place, a particular stage in the development of the whole process and has its definite place where it finds its true value and significance. Its special character is really to be conceived of in accordance with this determination, and it is to be considered with respect to this position in order that full justice may be done to it. On this account nothing more must be demanded or expected from it than what it actually gives, and the satisfaction is not to be sought for in it, which can only be found in a fuller development of knowledge. We must not expect to find the questions of our consciousness and the interest of the present world responded to by the ancients; such questions presuppose a certain development in thought. Therefore every philosophy belongs to its own time and is restricted by its own limitations, just because it is the manifestation of a particular stage in development. The individual is the offspring of his people, of his world, whose constitution and attributes are alone manifested in his form; he may spread himself out as he will, he cannot escape out of his time any more than out of his skin, for he belongs to the one universal Mind which is his substance and his own existence. How should he escape from this? It is the same universal Mind that is embraced by thinking Philosophy; that Philosophy is Mind's thought of itself and therefore its determinate and substantial content. Every philosophy is the philosophy of its own day, a link in the whole chain of spiritual development, and thus it can only find satisfaction for the interests belonging to its own particular time.
On this account an earlier philosophy does not give satisfaction to the mind in which a deeper conception reigns. What Mind seeks for in Philosophy is this conception which already constitutes its inward determination and the root of its existence conceived of as object to thought; Mind demands a knowledge of itself. But in the earlier philosophy the Idea is not yet present in this determinate character. Hence the philosophy of Plato and Aristotle, and indeed all philosophies, ever live and are present in their principles, but Philosophy no longer has the particular form and aspect possessed by that of Plato and of Aristotle. We cannot rest content with them, and they cannot be revived; hence there can be no Platonists, Aristotelians, Stoics, or Epicureans today. To re-awaken them would be to try to bring back to an earlier stage the Mind of a deeper culture and self-penetration. But this cannot be the case; it would be an impossibility and as great a folly as were a man to wish to expend his energies in attaining the standpoint of the youth, the youth in endeavouring to be the boy or child again; whereas the man, the youth, and the child, are all one and the same individual. The period of revival in the sciences, the new epoch in learning which took place in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, began not only with the revived study of, but also with the re-animation of the old philosophies. Marsilius Ficinus was a Platonist; an Academy of Platonic philosophy was established and installed with professors by Cosmos de Medici, and Ficinus was placed at the head of it. There were pure Aristotelians like Pomponius: Gassendi later on maintained the Epicurean philosophy, for his philosophy dealt with Physics after the manner of the Epicureans; Lipsius wished to be a Stoic, and so on. The sense of opposition was so great, ancient philosophy and Christianity - from or in which no special philosophy had developed - were so diverse, that no philosophy peculiar to itself could develop in Christianity. What was or could be had as philosophy, either in conformity with or in opposition to Christianity, was a certain ancient philosophy which was thus taken up anew. But mummies when brought amongst living beings cannot there remain. Mind had for long possessed a more substantial life, a more profound Notion of itself, and hence its thought had higher needs than such as could be satisfied by these philosophies. A revival such as this is then to be regarded only as the transitory period in which we learn to know the forms which are implied and which have gone before, and as the renewal of former struggles through the steps necessary in development. Such reconstructions and repetitions in a distant time of principles which have become foreign to Mind, are in history transitory only, and formed in a language which is dead. Such things are translations only and not originals, and Mind does not find satisfaction excepting in knowledge of its own origination.
When modern times are in the same way called upon to revert to the standpoint of an ancient philosophy (as is recommended specially in regard to the philosophy of Plato) in order to make this a means of escaping from the complications and difficulties of succeeding times, this reversion does not come naturally as in the first case. This discreet counsel has the same origin as the request to cultivated members of society to turn back to the customs and ideas of the savages of the North American forests, or as the recommendation to adopt the religion of Melchisedec which Fichte (6) has maintained to be the purest and simplest possible, and therefore the one at which we must eventually arrive. On the one hand, in this retrogression the desire for an origin and for a fixed point of departure is unmistakable, but such must be sought for in thought and Idea alone and not in an authoritatively given form. On the other hand, the return of the developed, enriched Mind to a simplicity such as this-which means to an abstraction, an abstract condition or thought is to be regarded only as the escape of an incapacity which cannot enjoy the rich material of development which it sees before it, and which demands to be controlled and comprehended in its very depths by thought, but seeks a refuge in fleeing from the difficulty and in mere sterility.
From what has been said it is quite comprehensible how so many of those who, whether induced by some special attraction such as this, or simply by the fame of a Plato or ancient philosophy in general, direct their way thereto in order to draw their own philosophy from these sources, do not find themselves satisfied by the study, and unjustifiably quit such altogether. Satisfaction is found in them to a certain extent only. We must know in ancient philosophy or in the philosophy of any given period, what we are going to look for. Or at least we must know that in such a philosophy there is before us a definite stage in the development of thought, and in it those forms and necessities of Mind which lie within the limits of that stage alone are brought into existence. There slumber in the Mind of modern times ideas more profound which require for their awakening other surroundings and another present than the abstract, dim, grey thought of olden times. In Plato, for instance, questions regarding the nature of freedom, the origin of evil and of sin, providence, &c., do not find their philosophic answer. On such subjects we certainly may in part take the ordinary serious views of the present time, and in part philosophically set their consideration altogether aside, or else consider sin and freedom as something negative only. But neither the one plan nor the other gives freedom to Mind if such subjects have once been explicitly for it, and if the opposition in self-consciousness has given it the power of sinking its interests therein. The case is similar with regard to questions regarding the limits of knowledge, the opposition between subjectivity and objectivity which had not yet come up in Plato's age. The independence of the within itself and its explicit existence was foreign to him; man had not yet gone back within himself, had not yet set himself forth as explicit. The subject was indeed the individual as free, but as yet he knew himself only as in unity with his Being. The Athenian knew himself to be free, as such, just as the Roman citizen would, as ingenuus. But the fact that man is in and for himself free, in his essence and as man, free born, was known neither by Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, nor the Roman legislators, even though it is this conception alone which forms the source of law. In Christianity the individual, personal mind for the first time becomes of real, infinite and absolute value; God wills that all men shall be saved. It was in the Christian religion that the doctrine was advanced that all men are equal before God, because Christ has set them free with the freedom of Christianity. These principles make freedom independent of any such things as birth, standing or culture. The progress made through them is enormous, but they still come short of this, that to be free constitutes the very idea of man. The sense of this existent principle has been an active force for centuries and centuries, and an impelling power which has brought about the most tremendous revolutions; but the conception and the knowledge of the natural freedom of man is a knowledge of himself which is not old.
B. Relation of Philosophy to other Departments of Knowledge (next section) — Contents
2. S. Marheineke: "Lehrbuch des Christlichen Glaubens und Lebens." Berlin, 1823. § 133, 134.
3. "Meinug ist mein."
4. Cf. Hegels Werke, vol. VI § 13, pp. 21, 22.
5. Flatt: De Theismo Thaleti Milesio abjudicando. Tub. 1785. 4.
6. Grundzüge des gegenwärtigen Zeitalters, pp. 211, 212; cf. Anweisung zum Seligen Leben, pp. 178, 348.
Hegel-by-HyperText Home Page @ marxists.org