Part One of the Encyclopedia of Philosophical Sciences: The Logic
Being is the notion implicit only: its special forms have the predicate ‘is’; when they are distinguished they are each of them an ‘other’: and the shape which dialectic takes in them, i.e. their further specialisation, is passing over into another. This further determination, or specialisation, is at once a forth-putting and in that way a disengaging of the notion implicit in being; and at the same time the withdrawing of being inwards, its sinking deeper into itself. Thus the explication of the notion in the sphere of being does two things: it brings out the totality of being, and it abolishes the immediacy of being, or the form of being as such.
Being itself and the special sub-categories of it which follow, as well as those of logic in general, may be looked upon as definitions of the Absolute, or metaphysical definitions of God: at least the first and third category in every triad may — the first, where the thought-form of the triad is formulated in its simplicity, and the third, being the return from differentiation to a simple self-reference. For a metaphysical definition of God is the expression of his nature in thoughts as such: and logic embraces all thoughts so long as they continue in the thought-form. The second sub-category in each triad, where the grade of thought is in its differentiation, gives, on the other hand, a definition of the finite.
The objection to the form of definition is that it implies a something in the mind’s eye on which these predicates may fasten. Thus even the Absolute (though it purports to express God in the style and character of thought) in comparison with its predicate (which really and distinctly expresses in thought what the subject does not) is as yet only an inchoate pretended thought — the indeterminate subject of predicates yet to come. The thought, which is here the matter of sole importance, is contained only in the predicate: and hence the propositional form, like the said subject, viz., the Absolute, is a mere superfluity.
Quantity, Quality and Measure
Each of the three spheres of the logical idea proves to be a systematic whole of thought-terms, and a phase of the Absolute. This is the case with Being, containing the three grades of quality, quantity and measure.
Quality is, in the first place, the character identical with being: so identical that a thing ceases to be what it is, if it loses its quality. Quantity, on the contrary, is the character external to being, and does not affect the being at all. Thus, e.g. a house remains what it is, whether it be greater or smaller; and red remains red, whether it be brighter or darker.
Measure, the third grade of being, which is the unity of the first two, is a qualitative quantity. All things have their measure: i.e. the quantitative terms of their existence, their being so or so great, does not matter within certain limits; but when these limits are exceeded by an additional more or less, the things cease to be what they were. From measure follows the advance to the second subdivision of the idea, Essence.
The three forms of being here mentioned, just because they are the first, are also the poorest, i.e. the most abstract. Immediate (sensible) consciousness, in so far as it simultaneously includes an intellectual element, is especially restricted to the abstract categories of quality and quantity.
The sensuous consciousness is in ordinary estimation the most concrete and thus also the richest; but that is true only as regards materials, whereas, in reference to the thought it contains, it is really the poorest and most abstract.
Pure Being makes the beginning: because it is on the one hand pure thought, and on the other immediacy itself, simple and indeterminate; and the first beginning cannot be mediated by anything, or be further determined.
All doubts and admonitions, which might be brought against beginning the science with abstract empty being, will disappear if we only perceive what a beginning naturally implies. It is possible to define being as ‘I = I’, as ‘Absolute Indifference’ or Identity, and so on. Where it is felt necessary to begin either with what is absolutely certain, i.e. certainty of oneself, or with a definition or intuition of the absolute truth, these and other forms of the kind may be looked on as if they must be the first. But each of these forms contains a mediation, and hence cannot be the real first: for all mediation implies advance made from a first on to a second, and proceeding from something different. If I = I, or even the intellectual intuition, are really taken to mean no more than the first, they are in this mere immediacy identical with being: while conversely, pure being, if abstract no longer, but including in it mediation, is pure thought or intuition.
If we enunciate Being as a predicate of the Absolute, we get the first definition of the latter. The Absolute is Being. This is (in thought) the absolutely initial definition, the most abstract and stinted. It is the definition given by the Eleatics, but at the same time is also the well-known definition of God as the sum of all realities. It means, in short, that we are to set aside that limitation which is in every reality, so that God shall be only the real in all reality, the superlatively real. Or, if we reject reality, as implying a reflection, we get a more immediate or unreflected statement of the same thing, when Jacobi says that the God of Spinoza is the principium of being in all existence.
(1) When thinking is to begin, we have nothing but thought in its merest indeterminateness: for we cannot determine unless there is both one and another: and in the beginning there is yet no other. The indeterminate, as we have it, is the blank we begin with, not a featurelessness reached by abstraction, not the elimination of all character, but the original featurelessness which precedes all definite character and is the very first of all. And this we call Being. It is not to be felt, or perceived by sense, or pictured in imagination: it is only and merely thought, and as such it forms the beginning. Essence also is indeterminate, but in another sense: it has traversed the process of mediation and contains implicit the determination it has absorbed.
(2) In the history of philosophy the different stages of the logical Idea assume the shape of successive systems, each based on a particular definition of the Absolute. As the logical Idea is seen to unfold itself in a process from the abstract to the concrete, so in the history of philosophy the earliest systems are the most abstract, and thus at the same time the poorest. The relation too of the earlier to the later systems of philosophy is much like the relation of the corresponding stages of the logical Idea: in other words, the earlier are preserved in the later: but subordinated and submerged. This is the true meaning of a much misunderstood phenomenon in the history of philosophy — the refutation of one system by another, of an earlier by a later. Most commonly the refutation is taken in a purely negative sense to mean that the system refuted has ceased to count for anything, has been set aside and done for. Were it so, the history of philosophy would be, of all studies, most saddening, displaying, as it does, the refutation of every system which time has brought forth. Now although it may be admitted that every philosophy has been refuted, it must be in an equal degree maintained that no philosophy has been refuted, nay, or can be refuted. And that in two ways. For first, every philosophy that deserves the name always embodies the Idea: and secondly, every system represents one particular factor or particular stage in the evolution of the Idea. The refutation of a philosophy, therefore, only means that its barriers are crossed, and its special principle reduced to a factor in the completer principle that follows.
Thus the history of philosophy, in its true meaning, deals not with a past, but with an eternal and veritable present: and, in its results, resembles not a museum of the aberrations of the human intellect, but a Pantheon of godlike figures. These figures of gods are the various stages of the Idea, as they come forward one after another in dialectical development.
To the historian of philosophy it belongs to point out more precisely how far the gradual evolution of his theme coincides with, or swerves from, the dialectical unfolding of the pure logical Idea. It is sufficient to mention here, that logic begins where the proper history of philosophy begins. Philosophy began in the Eleatic school, especially with Parmenides. Parmenides, who conceives the absolute as Being, says that ‘Being alone is and Nothing is not’. Such was the true starting-point of philosophy, which is always knowledge by thought: and here for the first time we find pure thought seized and made an object to itself.
Men indeed thought from the beginning (for thus only were they distinguished from the animals). But thousands of years had to elapse before they came to apprehend thought in its purity, and to see it in the truly objective. The Eleatics are celebrated as daring thinkers. But this nominal admiration is often accompanied by the remark that they went too far, when they made Being alone true, and denied the truth of every other object of consciousness. We must go further than mere Being, it is true: and yet it is absurd to speak of the other contents of our consciousness as somewhat as it were outside and beside Being, or to say that there are other things, as well as Being. The true state of the case is rather as follows. Being, as Being, is nothing fixed or ultimate: it yields to dialectic and sinks into its opposite, which, also taken immediately, is Nothing. After all, the point is that Being is the pure Thought; whatever else you may begin with (the I = I, the absolute indifference, or God himself), you begin with a figure of materialised conception, not a product of thought; and that, so far as its thought-content is concerned, such beginning is merely Being.
But this mere Being, as it is mere abstraction, is therefore the absolutely negative: which, in a similarly immediate aspect, is just Nothing.
(1) Hence was derived the second definition of the Absolute: the Absolute is the Nought. In fact this definition is implied in saying that the thing-in-itself is the indeterminate, utterly without form and so without content — or in saying that God is only the supreme Being and nothing more; for this is really declaring him to be the same negativity as above. The Nothing which the Buddhists make the universal principle, as well as the final aim and goal of everything, is the same abstraction.
(2) If the opposition in thought is stated in this immediacy as Being and Nothing, the shock of its nullity is too great not to stimulate the attempt to fix Being and secure it against the transition into Nothing.
With this intent, reflection has recourse to the plan of discovering some fixed predicate for Being, to mark it off from Nothing. Thus we find Being identified with what persists amid all change, with matter, susceptible of innumerable determinations — or even, unreflectingly, with a single existence, any chance object of the senses or of the mind. But every additional and more concrete characterisation causes Being to lose that integrity and simplicity it has in the beginning. Only in, and by virtue of, this mere generality is it Nothing, something inexpressible, whereof the distinction from Nothing is a mere intention or meaning.
All that is wanted is to realise that these beginnings are nothing but these empty abstractions, one as empty as the other. The instinct that induces us to attach a settled import to Being, or to both, is the very necessity which leads to the onward movement of Being and Nothing, and gives them a true or concrete significance. This advance is the logical deduction and the movement of thought exhibited in the sequel. The reflection which finds a profounder connotation for Being and Nothing is nothing but logical thought, through which such connotation is evolved, not, however, in an accidental, but a necessary way.
Every signification, therefore, in which they afterwards appear, is only a more precise specification and truer definition of the Absolute. And when that is done, the mere abstract Being and Nothing are replaced by a concrete in which both these elements form an organic part. The supreme form of Nought as a separate principle would be Freedom: but Freedom is negativity in that stage, when it sinks self-absorbed to supreme intensity, and is itself an affirmation, and even absolute affirmation.
The distinction between Being and Nought is, in the first place, only implicit, and not yet actually made: they only ought to be distinguished. A distinction of course implies two things, and that one of them possesses an attribute which is not found in the other. Being however is an absolute absence of attributes, and so is Nought. Hence the distinction between the two is only meant to be; it is a quite nominal distinction, which is at the same time no distinction. In all other cases of difference there is some common point which comprehends both things.
Suppose e.g. we speak of two different species: the genus forms a common ground between both. But in the case of mere Being and Nothing, distinction is without a bottom to stand upon: hence there can be no distinction, both determinations being the same bottomlessness. If it be replied that Being and Nothing are both of them thoughts, so that thought may be reckoned common ground, the objector forgets that Being is not a particular or definite thought, and hence, being quite indeterminate, is a thought not to be distinguished from Nothing. It is natural too for us to represent Being as absolute riches, and Nothing as absolute poverty. But if when we view the whole world we can only say that everything is, and nothing more, we are neglecting all speciality and, instead of absolute plenitude, we have absolute emptiness. The same stricture is applicable to those who define God to be mere Being; a definition not a whit better than that of the Buddhists, who make God to be Nought, and who from that principle draw the further conclusion that self-annihilation is the means by which man becomes God.
Nothing, if it be thus immediate and equal to itself, is also conversely the same as Being is. The truth of Being and of Nothing is accordingly the unity of the two: and this unity is Becoming.
(1) The proposition that Being and Nothing is the same seems so paradoxical to the imagination or understanding, that it is perhaps taken for a joke. And indeed it is one of the hardest things thought expects itself to do: for Being and Nothing exhibit the fundamental contrast in all its immediacy — that is, without the one term being invested with any attribute which would involve its connection with the other. This attribute, however, as the above paragraph points out, is implicit in them — the attribute which is just the same in both. So far the deduction of their unity is completely analytical: indeed the whole progress of philosophising in every case, if it be a methodical, that is to say a necessary, progress, merely renders explicit what is implicit in a notion. It is as correct however to say that Being and Nothing are altogether different, as to assert their unity. The one is not what the other is. But since the distinction has not at this point assumed definite shape (Being and Nothing are still the immediate), it is, in the way that they have it, something unutterable, which we merely mean.
(2) No great expenditure of wit is needed to make fun of the maxim that Being and Nothing are the same, or rather to adduce absurdities which, it is erroneously asserted, are the consequences and illustrations of that maxim.
If Being and Nought are identical, say these objectors, it follows that it makes no difference whether my home, my property, the air I breathe, this city, the sun, the law, mind, God, are or are not. Now in some of these cases the objectors foist in private aims, the utility a thing has for me, and then ask, whether it be all the same to me if the thing exist and if it do not. For that matter indeed, the teaching of philosophy is precisely what frees man from the endless crowd of finite aims and intentions, by making him so insensible to them that their existence or non-existence is to him a matter of indifference. But it is never to be forgotten that, once mention something substantial, and you thereby create a connection with other existences and other purposes which are ex hypothesi worth having: and on such hypothesis it comes to depend whether the Being and not-Being of a determinate subject are the same or not. A substantial distinction is in these cases secretly substituted for the empty distinction of Being and Nought.
In others of the cases referred to, it is virtually absolute existences and vital ideas and aims, which are placed under the mere category of Being or not-Being. But there is no more to be said of these concrete objects, than that they merely are or are not. Barren abstractions, like Being and Nothing — the initial categories which, for that reason, are the scantiest anywhere to be found — are utterly inadequate to the nature of these objects. Substantial truth is something far above these abstractions and their oppositions. And always when a concrete existence is disguised under the name of Being and not-Being, empty-headedness makes its usual mistake of speaking about, and having in mind an image of, something else than what is in question: and in this place the question is about abstract Being and Nothing.
(3) It may perhaps be said that nobody can form a notion of the unity of Being and Nought. As for that, the notion of the unity is stated in the section preceding, and that is all: apprehend that, and you have comprehended this unity. What the objector really means by comprehension — by a notion — is more than his language properly implies: he wants a richer and more complex state of mind, a pictorial conception which will propound the notion as a concrete case and one more familiar to the ordinary operations of thought. And so long as incomprehensibility means only the want of habituation for the effort needed to grasp an abstract thought, free from all sensuous admixture, and to seize a speculative truth, the reply to the criticism is that philosophical knowledge is undoubtedly distinct in kind from the mode of knowledge best known in common life, as well as from that which reigns in the other sciences. But if to have no notion merely means that we cannot represent in imagination the oneness of Being and Nought, the statement is far from being true; for everyone has countless ways of envisaging this unity. To say that we have no such conception can only mean that in none of these images do we recognise the notion in question, and that we are not aware that they exemplify it. The readiest example of it is Becoming. Everyone has a mental idea of Becoming, and will even allow that it is one idea: he will further allow that, when it is analysed, it involves the attribute of Being, and also what is the very reverse of Being, viz. Nothing: and that these two attributes lie undivided in the one idea: so that Becoming is the unity of Being and Nothing. Another tolerably plain example is a Beginning. In its beginning, the thing is not yet, but it is more than merely nothing, for its Being is already in the beginning. Beginning is itself a case of Becoming; only the former term is employed with an eye to the further advance. If we were to adopt logic to the more usual method of the sciences, we might start with the representation of a Beginning as abstractly thought, or with Beginning as such, and then analyse this representation; and perhaps people would more readily admit, as a result of this analysis, that Being and Nothing present themselves as undivided in unity.
(4) It remains to note that such phrases as ‘Being and Nothing are the same’., or ‘The unity of Being and Nothing’ — like all other such unities, that of subject and object, and others — give rise to reasonable objection. They misrepresent the facts, by giving an exclusive prominence to the unity, and leaving the difference which undoubtedly exists in it (because it is Being and Nothing, for example, the unity of which is declared) without any express mention or notice. It accordingly seems as if the diversity had been unduly put out of court and neglected. The fact is, no speculative principle can be correctly expressed by any such propositional form, for the unity has to be conceived in the diversity, which is all the while present and explicit.
‘To become’ is the true expression for the resultant of ‘to be’ and ‘not to be’; it is the unity of the two; but not only is it the unity, it is also inherent unrest — the unity, which is no mere reference-to-self and therefore without movement, but which, through the diversity of Being and Nothing that is in it, is at war within itself. Determinate Being, on the other hand, is this unity, or Becoming in this form of unity: hence all that ‘is there and so’ is one-sided and finite. The opposition between the two factors seems to have vanished; it is only implied in the unity, it is not explicitly put in it.
(5) The maxim of Becoming, that Being is the passage into Nought, and Nought the passage into Being, is controverted by the maxim of Pantheism, the doctrine of the eternity of matter, that from nothing comes nothing, and that something can only come out of something. The ancients saw plainly that the maxim, ‘From nothing comes nothing, from something something’, really abolishes Becoming: for what it comes from and what it becomes are one and the same. Thus explained, the proposition is the maxim of abstract identity as upheld by the understanding. It cannot but seem strange, therefore, to hear such maxims as ‘Out of nothing comes nothing: Out of something comes something’ calmly taught in these days, without the teacher being in the least aware that they are the basis of Pantheism, and even without his knowing that the ancients have exhausted all that is to be said about them.
Becoming is the first concrete thought, and therefore the first notion: whereas Being and Nought are empty abstractions. The notion of Being, therefore, of which we sometimes speak, must mean Becoming; not the mere point of Being, which is empty Nothing, any more than Nothing, which is empty Being. In Being then we have Nothing, and in Nothing, Being; but this Being which does not lose itself in Nothing is Becoming. Nor must we omit the distinction, while we emphasise the unity of Becoming; without that distinction we should once more return to abstract Being. Becoming is only the explicit statement of what Being is in its truth.
We often hear it maintained that thought is opposed to being. Now in the face of such a statement, our first question ought to be, what is meant by being. If we understand being as it is defined by reflection, all that we can say of it is that it is what is wholly identical and affirmative. And if we then look at thought, it cannot escape us that thought also is at least what is absolutely identical with itself. Both therefore, being as well as thought, have the same attribute. This identity of being and thought is not however to be taken in a concrete sense, as if we could say that a stone, so far as it has being, is the same as a thinking man. A concrete thing is always very different from the abstract category as such. And in the case of being, we are speaking of nothing concrete: for being is the utterly abstract. So far then the question regarding the being of God — a being which is in itself concrete above all measure — is of slight importance.
As the first concrete thought-term, Becoming is the first adequate vehicle of truth. In the history of philosophy, this stage of the logical Idea finds its analogue in the system of Heraclitus.
When Heraclitus says ‘All is flowing’, he enunciates Becoming as the fundamental feature of all existence, whereas the Eleatics, as already remarked, saw only truth in Being, rigid processless Being. Glancing at the principle of the Eleatics, Heraclitus then goes on to say: Being no more is than not-Being; a statement expressing the negativity of abstract Being, and its identity with not-Being, as made explicit in Becoming; both abstractions being alike untenable. This may be looked at as an instance of the real refutation of one system by another. To refute a philosophy is to exhibit the dialectical movement in its principle, and thus reduce it to a constituent member of a higher concrete form of the Idea.
Even Becoming, however, taken at its best on its own ground, is an extremely poor term: it needs to grow in depth and weight of meaning. Such deepened force we find e.g. in Life. Life is a Becoming but that is not enough to exhaust the notion of life. A still higher form is found in Mind. Here too is Becoming, but richer and more intensive than mere logical Becoming. The elements whose unity constitute mind are not the bare abstracts of Being and of Nought, but the system of the logical Idea and of Nature.
In Becoming the Being which is one with Nothing, and the Nothing which is one with Being, are only vanishing factors; they are and they are not. Thus by its inherent contradiction Becoming collapses into the unity in which the two elements are absorbed. This result is accordingly Being Determinate (Being there and so).
In this first example we must call to mind, once for all, [that]: the only way to secure any growth and progress in knowledge is to hold results fast in their truth. There is absolutely nothing whatever in which we cannot and must not point to contradictions or opposite attributes; and the abstraction made by understanding therefore means a forcible insistence on a single aspect, and a real effort to obscure and remove all consciousness of the other attribute which is involved. Whenever such contradiction, then, is discovered in any object or notion, the usual inference is, Hence this object is nothing.
Thus Zeno, who first showed the contradiction native to motion, concluded that there is no motion; and the ancients, who recognised origin and decease, the two species of Becoming, as untrue categories, made use of the expression that the One or Absolute neither arises not perishes. Such a style of dialectic looks only at the negative aspect of its result, and fails to notice, what is at the same time really present, the definite result, in the present case a pure nothing, but a Nothing which includes Being, and, in like manner, a Being which includes Nothing. Hence Being Determinate is (1) the unity of Being and Nothing, in which we get rid of the immediacy in these determinations, and their contradiction vanishes in their mutual connection — the unity in which they are only constituent elements. And (2) since the result is the abolition of the contradiction, it comes in the shape of a simple unity with itself: that is to say, it also is Being with negation or determinateness: it is Becoming expressly put in the form of one of its elements, viz., Being.
Even our ordinary conception of Becoming implies that somewhat comes out of it, and that Becoming therefore has a result. But this conception gives rise to the question, how Becoming does not remain mere Becoming, but has a result?
The answer to this question follows from what Becoming has already shown itself to be. Becoming always contains Being and Nothing in such a way, that these two are always changing into each other, and reciprocally cancelling each other. Thus Becoming stands before us in utter restlessness — unable however to maintain itself in this abstract restlessness: for, since Being and Nothing vanish in Becoming (and that is the very notion of Becoming), the latter must vanish also. Becoming is as it were a fire, which dies out in itself, when it consumes its material. The result of this process however is not empty Nothing, but Being identical with the negation — what we call Being Determinate (being then and there): the primary import of which evidently is that it has become.
[a] Determinate Being is Being with a character or mode — which simply is; and such unmediated character is Quality. And as reflected into itself in this its character or mode, Determinate Being is a somewhat, as existent. The categories, which issue by a closer analysis of Determinate Being, need only be mentioned briefly.
Quality may be described as the determinate mode immediate and identical with Being — as distinguished from Quantity (to come afterwards), which, although a mode of Being, is no longer immediately identical with Being, but a mode indifferent and external to it. A something is what it is in virtue of its quality, and losing its quality it ceases to be what it is.
Quality, moreover, is completely a category only of the finite, and for that reason too it has its proper place in Nature, not in the world of the Mind. Thus, for example, in Nature what are styled elementary bodies, oxygen, nitrogen, etc., should be regarded as existing qualities. But in the sphere of mind, Quality appears in a subordinate way only, and not as if its qualitativeness could exhaust any specific aspect of mind. If, for example, we consider the subjective mind, which forms the object of psychology, we may describe what is called (moral and mental) character, as in logical language identical with Quality. This however does not mean that character is a mode of being which pervades the soul and is immediately identical with it, as is the case in the natural world with elementary bodies beforementioned. Yet a more distinct manifestation of Quality as such, in mind even, is found in the case of besotted or morbid conditions, especially in states of passion and when the passion rises to derangement. The state of mind of a deranged person, being one mass of jealousy, fear, etc., may suitably be described as Quality.
Reality, Being-for-another & Being-for-self
Quality, as determinateness which is, as contrasted with the Negation which is involved in it but distinguished from it, is Reality. Negation is no longer an abstract nothing, but, as a determinate being and somewhat, is only a form of such being — it is as Otherness. Since this otherness, though a determination of Quality itself, is in the first instance distinct from it, Quality is Being-for-another — an expansion of the mere point of Determinate Being, or of Somewhat. The Being as such of Quality, contrasted with this reference to somewhat else, is Being-for-self.
The foundation of all determinateness is negation. The unreflecting observer supposes that determinate things are merely positive, and pins them down under the form of being. Mere being however is not the end of the matter: it is, as we have already seen, utter emptiness and instability besides. Still, when abstract being is confused in this way with being modified and determinate, it implies some perception of the fact that, though in determinate being there is involved an element of negation, this element is at first wrapped up, as it were, and only comes to the front and receives its due in Being-for-self. If we go on to consider determinate Being as a determinateness which is, we get in this way what is called Reality.
We speak, for example, of the reality of a plan or a purpose, meaning thereby that they are no longer inner and subjective, but have passed into being-there-and-then. In the same sense the body may be called the reality of the soul, and the law the reality of freedom, and the world altogether the reality of the divine idea. The word ‘reality’ is however used in another acceptation to mean that something behaves conformably to its essential characteristic or notion. For example, we use the expression: This is a real occupation; This is a real man. Here the term does not merely mean outward and immediate existence: but rather that some existence agrees with its notion. In which sense, be it added, reality is not distinct from the ideality which we shall in the first instance become acquainted with in the shape of Being-for-self.
[b] Being, if kept distinct and apart from its determinate mode, as it is in Being-by-self (Being implicit), would be only the vacant abstraction of Being. In Being (determinate there and then), the determinateness is one with Being; yet at the same time, when explicitly made a negation, it is a Limit, a Barrier. Hence the otherness is not something indifferent and outside it, but a function proper to it. Somewhat is by its quality, firstly finite, secondly alterable; so that finitude and variability appertain to its being.
In Being-there-and-then, the negation is still directly one with the Being, and this negation is what we call a Limit (Boundary). A thing is what it is, only in and by reason of its limit. We cannot therefore regard the limit as only external to being which is then and there. It rather goes through and through the whole of such existence. The view of limit, as merely an external characteristic of being-there-and-then, arises from a confusion of quantitative with qualitative limit. Here we are speaking primarily of the qualitative limit. If, for example, we observe a piece of ground, three acres large, that circumstance is its quantitative limit. But, in addition, the ground is, it may be, a meadow, not a wood or a pond. This is its qualitative limit. Man, if he wishes to be actual, must be-there-and-then, and to this end he must set a limit to himself. People who are too fastidious towards the finite never reach actuality, but linger lost in abstraction, and their light dies away.
If we take a closer look at what a limit implies, we see it involving a contradiction in itself, and thus evincing its dialectical nature. On the one side limit makes the reality of a thing; on the other it is its negation. But, again, the limit, as the negation of something, is not an abstract nothing but a nothing which is — what we call an "other". Given something, and up starts an other to us: we know that there is not something only, but an other as well. Nor, again, is the other of such a nature that we can think something apart from it; a something is implicitly the other of itself, and the somewhat sees its limit become objective to it in the other. If we now ask for the difference between something and another, it turns out that they are the same: which sameness is expressed in Latin by calling the pair aliad-aliud. The other, as opposed to the something, is itself a something, and hence we say some other, or something else; and so on the other hand the first something when opposed to the other, also defined as something, is itself an other. When we say "something else" our first impression is that something taken separately is only something, and that the quality of being another attaches to it only from outside considerations. Thus we suppose that the moon, being something else than the sun, might very well exist without the sun. But really the moon, as a something, has its other implicit in it. Plato says: God made the world out of the nature of the “one” and the “other” (ton eterou): having brought these together, he formed from them a third, which is of the nature of the “one” and the “other”. In these words we have in general terms a statement of the nature of the finite, which, as something, does not meet the nature of the other as if it had no affinity to it, but, being implicitly the other of itself, thus undergoes alteration. Alteration thus exhibits the inherent contradiction which originally attaches to determinate being, and which forces it out of its own bounds. To materialised conception existence stands in the character of something solely positive, and quietly abiding within its own limits: though we also know, it is true, that everything finite (such as existence) is subject to change. Such changeableness in existence is to the superficial eye a mere possibility, the realisation of which is not a consequence of its own nature. But the fact is, mutability lies in the notion of existence, and change is only the manifestation of what it implicitly is. The living die, simply because as living they bear in themselves the germ of death.
Something becomes an other; this other is itself somewhat; therefore it likewise becomes an other, and so on ad infinitum.
This Infinity is the wrong or negative infinity: it is only a negation of a finite: but the finite rises again the same as ever, and is never got rid of and absorbed. In other words, this infinite only expresses the ought-to-be elimination of the finite. The progression to infinity never gets further than a statement of the contradiction involved in the finite, viz. that it is somewhat as well as somewhat else. It sets up with endless iteration the alternation between these two terms, each of which calls up the other.
If we let somewhat and another, the elements of determinate Being, fall asunder, the result is that some becomes other, and this other is itself a somewhat, which then as such changes likewise, and so on ad infinitum. This result seems to superficial reflection something very grand, the grandest possible. But such a progression to infinity is not the real infinite. That consists in being at home with itself in its other, or, if enunciated as a process, in coming to itself in its other. Much depends on rightly apprehending the notion of infinity, and not stopping short at the wrong infinity of endless progression. When time and space, for example, are spoken of as infinite, it is in the first place the infinite progression on which our thoughts fasten. We say, Now, This time, and then we keep continually going forwards and backwards beyond this limit. The case is the same with space, the infinity of which has formed the theme of barren declamation to astronomers with a talent for edification. In the attempt to contemplate such an infinite, our thought, we are commonly informed, must sink exhausted. It is true indeed that we must abandon the unending contemplation, not however because the occupation is too sublime, but because it is too tedious. It is tedious to expatiate in the contemplation of this infinite progression, because the same thing is constantly recurring. We lay down a limit: then we pass it: next we have a limit once more, and so on for ever. All this is but superficial alternation, which never leaves the region of the finite behind. To suppose that by stepping out and away into that infinity we release ourselves from the finite, is in truth but to seek the release which comes by flight. But the man who flees is not yet free: in fleeing he is still conditioned by that from which he flees. If it be also said that the infinite is unattainable, the statement is true, but only because to the idea of infinity has been attached the circumstance of being simply and solely negative. With such empty and other-world stuff philosophy has nothing to do. What philosophy has to do with is always something concrete and in the highest sense present.
No doubt philosophy has also sometimes been set the task of finding an answer to the question, how the infinite comes to the resolution of issuing out of itself. This question, founded, as it is, upon the assumption of a rigid opposition between finite and infinite, may be answered by saying that the opposition is false, and that in point of fact the infinite eternally proceeds out of itself, and yet does not proceed out of itself. If we further say that the infinite is the not-finite, we have in point of fact virtually expressed the truth: for as the finite itself is the first negative, the not-finite is the negative of that negation, the negation which is identical with itself and thus at the same time a true affirmation.
The infinity of reflection here discussed is only an attempt to reach the true infinity, a wretched neither-one-thing-nor-another. Generally speaking, it is the point of view which has in recent times been emphasised in Germany. The finite, this theory tells us, ought to be absorbed; the infinite ought not to be a negative merely, but also a positive. That ‘ought to be’ betrays the incapacity of actually making good a claim which is at the same time recognised to be right. This stage was never passed by the systems of Kant and Fichte, so far as ethics are concerned. The utmost to which this way brings us is only the postulate of a never-ending approximation to the law of Reason: which postulate has been made an argument for the immortality of the soul.
[c] What we now in point of fact have before us, is that somewhat comes to be an other, and that the other generally comes to be an other. Thus essentially relative to another, somewhat is virtually an other against it: and since what is passed into is quite the same as what passes over, since both have one and the same attribute, viz. to be an other, it follows that something in its passage into other only joins with itself. To be thus self-related in the passage, and in the other, is the genuine Infinity. Or, under a negative aspect: what is altered is the other, it becomes the other of the other. Thus Being, but as negation of the negation, is restored again: it is now Being-for-self.
Dualism, in putting an insuperable opposition between finite and infinite, fails to note the simple circumstance that the infinite is thereby only one of two, and is reduced to a particular, to which the finite forms the other particular. Such an infinite, which is only a particular, is conterminous with the finite which makes for it a limit and a barrier: it is not what it ought to be, that is, the infinite, but is only finite. In such circumstances, where the finite is on this side, and the infinite on that-this world as the finite and the other world as the infinite-an equal dignity of permanence and independence is ascribed to finite and to infinite. The being of the finite is made an absolute being, and by this dualism gets independence and stability. Touched, so to speak, by the infinite, it would be annihilated. But it must not be touched by the infinite. There must be an abyss, an impassable gulf between the two, with the infinite abiding on yonder side and the finite steadfast on this. Those who attribute to the finite this inflexible persistence in comparison with the infinite are not, as they imagine, far above metaphysic: they are still on the level of the most ordinary metaphysic of understanding. For the same thing occurs here as in the infinite progression. At one time it is admitted that the finite has no independent actuality, no absolute being, no root and development of its own, but is only a transient. But next moment this is straightway forgotten; the finite, made a mere counterpart to the infinite, wholly separated from it, and rescued from annihilation, is conceived to be persistent in its independence. While thought thus imagines itself elevated to the infinite, it meets with the opposite fate: it comes to an infinite which is only a finite, and the finite, which it had left behind, has always to be retained and made into an absolute.
After this examination (with which it were well to compare — Plato’s Philebus), tending to show the nullity of the distinction made by understanding between the finite and the infinite, we are liable to glide into the statement that the infinite and the finite are therefore one, and that the genuine infinity, the truth, must be defined and enunciated as the unity of the finite and infinite. Such a statement would be to some extent correct; but is just as open to perversion and falsehood as the unity of Being and Nothing already noticed. Besides it may very fairly be charged with reducing the infinite to finitude and making a finite infinite. For, so far as the expression goes, the finite seems left in its place-it is not expressly stated to be absorbed. Or, if we reflect that the finite, when identified with the infinite, certainly cannot remain what it was out of such unity, and will at least suffer some change in its characteristics (as an alkali, when combined with an acid, loses some of its properties), we must see that the same fate awaits the infinite, which, as the negative, will on its part likewise have its edge, as it were, taken off on the other. And this does really happen with the abstract one-sided infinite of understanding. The genuine infinite however is not merely in the position of the one-sided acid, and so does not lose itself. The negation of negation is not a neutralisation: the infinite is the affirmative, and it is only the finite which is absorbed.
In Being-for-self enters the category of Ideality. Being-there-and-then, as in the first instance apprehended in its being or affirmation, has reality (§ 91); and thus even finitude in the first instance is in the category of reality. But the truth of the finite is rather its ideality. Similarly, the infinite of understanding, which is coordinated with the finite, is itself only one of two finites, no whole truth, but a non-substantial element. This ideality of the finite is the chief maxim of philosophy; and for that reason every genuine philosophy is idealism. But everything depends upon not taking for the infinite what, in the very terms of its characterisation, is at the same time made a particular and finite. For this, reason we have bestowed a greater amount of attention on this distinction. The fundamental notion of philosophy, the genuine infinite, depends upon it. The distinction is cleared up by the simple, and for that reason seemingly insignificant, but incontrovertible reflections contained in the first paragraph of this section.
[a] Being-for-self, as reference to itself, is immediacy, and as reference of the negative to itself, is a self-subsistent, the One. This unit, being without distinction in itself, thus excludes the other from itself.
To be for self — to be one — is completed Quality, and as such, contains abstract Being and Being modified as non-substantial elements. As simple Being, the One is simple self-reference; as Being modified it is determinate: but the determinateness is not in this case a finite determinateness — a somewhat in distinction from an other — but infinite, because it contains distinction absorbed and annulled in itself.
The readiest instance of Being-for-self is found in the ‘I’. We know ourselves as existents, distinguished in the first place from other existents, and with certain relations thereto. But we also come to know this expansion of existence (in these relations) reduced, as it were, to a point in the simple form of being-for-self. When we say ‘I’, we express this reference-to-self which is infinite, and at the same time negative. Man, it may be said, is distinguished from the animal world, and in that way from our nature altogether, by knowing himself as ‘I’: which amounts to saying that natural things never attain free Being-for-self, but as limited to Being-there-and-then, are always and only Being for another.
Again, Being-for-self may be described as ideality, just as Being-there-and-then was described as reality. It is said that besides reality there is also an ideality. Thus the two categories are made equal and parallel. Properly speaking, ideality is not somewhat outside of and beside reality: the notion of ideality just lies in its being the truth of reality. That is to say, when reality is explicitly put as what it implicitly is, it is at once seen to be ideality. Hence ideality has not received its proper estimation, when you allow that reality is not all in all, but that an ideality must be recognised outside of it. Such an ideality, external to or it may even be beyond reality, would be no better than an empty name. Ideality only has a meaning when it is the ideality of something: but this something is not a mere indefinite this or that, but existence characterised as reality, which, if retained in isolation, possesses no truth. The distinction between Nature and Mind is not improperly conceived, when the former is traced back to reality, and the latter so fixed and complete as to subsist even without Mind: in Mind it first, as it were, attains its goal and its truth. And similarly, Mind on its part is not merely a world beyond Nature and nothing more: it is really, and with full proof, seen to be mind, only when it involves Nature as absorbed in itself. Apropos of this, we should note the double meaning of the German word aufheben (to put by or set aside). We mean by it (1) to clear away, or annul: thus, we say, a law or regulation is set aside; (2) to keep, or preserve: in which sense we use it when we say: something is well put by. This double usage of language, which gives to the same word a positive and negative meaning, is not an accident, and gives no ground for reproaching language as a cause of confusion. We should rather recognise in it the speculative spirit of our language rising above the mere ‘either-or’ of understanding.
[b] The relation of the negative to itself is a negative relation, and so a distinguishing of the One from itself, the repulsion of the One; that is, it makes Many Ones. So far as regards the immediacy of the self-existents, these Many are: and the repulsion of every One of them becomes to that extent their repulsion against each other as existing units — in other words, their reciprocal exclusion.
Whenever we speak of the One, the Many usually come into our mind at the same time. Whence, then, we are forced to ask, do the Many come? This question is unanswerable by the consciousness which pictures the Many as a primary datum, and treats the One as only one among the Many. But the philosophic notion teaches, contrariwise, that the One forms the presupposition of the Many: and in the thought of the One is implied that it explicitly make itself Many. The self-existing unit is not, like Being, void of all connective reference: it is a reference, as well as Being-there-and-then was, not however a reference connecting somewhat with an other, but as unity of some and the other, it is a connection with itself, and this connection, be it noted, is a negative connection. Hereby the One manifests an utter incompatibility with itself, a self-repulsion: and what makes itself explicitly be, is the Many. We may denote this side in the process of Being-for-self by the figurative term Repulsion. Repulsion is a term originally employed in the study of matter, to mean that matter, as a Many, in each of these many ones, behaves as exclusive to all the others. It would be wrong however to view the process of repulsion as if the One were the repellent and the Many the repelled. The One, as already remarked, just is self-exclusion and explicit putting itself as the Many. Each of the Many however is itself a One, and in virtue of its so behaving, this all rounded repulsion is by one stroke converted into its opposite — Attraction.
Attraction and Repulsion
[c] But the Many are one the same as another: each is One, or even one of the Many; they are consequently one and the same. Or when we study all that Repulsion involves, we see that as a negative attitude of many Ones to one another, it is just as essentially a connective reference of them to each other; and as those to which the One is related in its act of repulsion are ones, it is in them thrown into relation with itself. The repulsion therefore has an equal right to be called Attraction; and the exclusive One, or Being-for-self, suppresses itself. The qualitative character, which in the One or unit has reached the extreme point of its characterisation, has thus passed over into determinateness (quality) suppressed, i.e. into Being as Quantity.
The philosophy of the Atomists is the doctrine in which the Absolute is formulated as Being-for-self, as One, and many ones. And it is the repulsion, which shows itself in the notion of the One, which is assumed as the fundamental force in these atoms. But instead of attraction, it is Accident, that is, mere unintelligence, which is expected to bring them together. So long as the One is fixed as one, it is certainly impossible to regard its congression with others as anything but external and mechanical. The Void, which is assumed as the complementary principle to the atoms, is repulsion and nothing else, presented under the image of the nothing existing between the atoms. Modern Atomism — and physics is still in principle atomistic — has surrendered the atoms so far as to pin its faith on molecules or particles. In doing so, science has come closer to sensuous conception, at the cost of losing the precision of thought. To put an attractive by the side of a repulsive force, as the moderns have done, certainly gives completeness to the contrast: and the discovery of this natural force, as it is called, has been a source of much pride. But the mutual implication of the two, which makes what is true and concrete in them, would have to be wrested from the obscurity and confusion in which they were left even in Kant’s Metaphysical Rudiments of Natural Science. In modern times the importance of the atomic theory is even more evident in political than in physical science. According to it, the will of individuals as such is the creative principle of the State: the attracting force is the special wants and inclinations of individuals; and the Universal, or the State itself, is the external nexus of a compact.
(1) The Atomic philosophy forms a vital stage in the historical evolution of the Idea. The principle of that system may be described as Being-for-itself in the shape of the Many. At present, students of nature who are anxious to avoid metaphysics turn a favourable ear to Atomism. But it is not possible to escape metaphysics and cease to trace nature back to terms of thought, by throwing ourselves into the arms of Atomism. The atom, in fact, is itself a thought; and hence the theory which holds matter to consist of atoms is a metaphysical theory.
Newton gave physics an express warning to beware of metaphysics, it is true, but to his honour be it said, he did not by any means obey his own warning. The only mere physicists are the animals: they alone do not think: while man is a thinking being and a born metaphysician. The real question is not whether we shall apply metaphysics, but whether our metaphysics are of the right kind: in other words, whether we are not, instead of the concrete logical Idea, adopting one-sided forms of thought, rigidly fixed by understanding, and making these the basis of our theoretical as well as our practical work. It is on this ground that one objects to the Atomic philosophy.
The old Atomists viewed the world as a many, as their successors often do to this day. On chance they laid the task of collecting the atoms which float about in the void. But, after all, the nexus binding the many with one another is by no means a mere accident: as we have already remarked, the nexus founded on their very nature.
To Kant we owe the completed theory of matter as the unity of repulsion and attraction. The theory is correct, so far as it recognises attraction to be the other of the two elements involved in the notion of being-for-self: and to be an element no less essential than repulsion to constitute matter. Still, this dynamic construction of matter, as it is termed, has the fault of taking for granted, instead of deducing, attraction and repulsion. Had they been deduced, we should then have seen the How and Why of a unity which is merely asserted. Kant ... [insisted that] matter must be regarded as consisting solely in their unity.
German physicists for some time accepted this pure dynamic. But in spite of this, the majority of these physicists in modern times have found it more convenient to return to the Atomic point of view, and in spite of the warnings of Kästner, one of their number, have begun to regard Matter as consisting of infinitesimally small particles, termed ‘atoms which atoms have then to be brought into relation with one another by the play of forces attaching to them-attractive, repulsive, or whatever they may be. This too is metaphysics; and metaphysics which, for its utter unintelligence, there would be sufficient reason to guard against.
Quantity and Quality
(2) The transition from Quality to Quantity, indicated in the paragraph before us, is not found in our ordinary way of thinking, which deems each of these categories to exist independently beside the other. We are in the habit of saying that things are not merely qualitatively, but also quantitatively defined; but whence these categories originate, and how they are related to each other, are questions not further examined. The fact is, quantity just means quality superseded and absorbed: and it is by the dialectic of quality here examined that this supersession is effected.
First of all, we had Being: as the truth of Being, came Becoming: which formed the passage into Being Determinate: and the truth of that we found to be Alteration. And in its result Alteration showed itself to be Being-for-self, finally, in the two sides of the process, Repulsion and Attraction, was clearly seen to annul itself, and thereby to annul quality in the totality of its stages.
Still this superseded and absorbed quality is neither an abstract nothing, nor an equally abstract and featureless being: it is only being as indifferent to determinateness or character. This aspect of being is also what appears as quantity in our ordinary conceptions. We observe things, first of all, with an eye to their quality — which we take to be the character identical with the being of the thing. If we proceed to consider their quantity, we get the conception of an indifferent and external character or mode, of such a kind that a thing remains what it is, though its quantity is altered, and the thing becomes greater or less.
Measure is the qualitative quantum, in the first place as immediate — a quantum, to which a determinate being or a quality is attached.
Measure, where quality and quantity are in one, is thus the completion of Being. Being, as we first apprehend it, is something utterly abstract and characterless; but it is the very essence of Being to characterise itself, and its complete characterisation is reached in Measure. Measure, like the other stages of Being, may serve as a definition of the Absolute; God, it has been said, is the Measure of all things. It is this idea which forms the ground-note of many of the ancient Hebrew hymns, in which the glorification of God tends in the main to show that he has appointed to everything its bound: to the sea and the solid land, to the rivers and mountains; and also to the various kinds of plants and animals. To the religious sense of the Greeks the divinity of measure, especially in respect of social ethics, was represented by Nemesis. That conception implies a general theory that all human beings, riches, honour, and power, as well as joy and pain, have their definite measure, the transgression of which brings ruin and destruction. In the world of objects too, we have measure. We see, in the first place, existences in Nature, of which measure forms the essential structure. This is the case, for example, with the solar system, which may be described as the realm of free measures. As we next proceed to the study of inorganic nature, measure retires, as it were, into the background; at least we often find the quantitative and qualitative characteristics showing indifference to each other. Thus the quality of a rock or a river is not tied to a definite magnitude.
But even these objects when closely inspected are found to be not quite measureless: the water of a river, and the single constituents of a rock, when chemically analysed, are seen to be qualities conditioned by the quantitative ratios between the matters they contain. In organic nature, however, measure again rises into immediate perception. The various kinds of plants and animals, in the whole as well as in their parts, have a certain measure: though it is worth noticing that the more imperfect forms, those which are least removed from inorganic nature, are partly distinguished from the higher forms by the greater indefiniteness of their measure. Thus among fossils we find some ammonites discernible only by the microscope and others as large as a cart-wheel. The same vagueness of measure appears in several plants, which stand on a low level of organic development — for instance ferns.
In so far as in Measure quality and quantity are only in immediate unity, to that extent their difference presents itself in a manner equally immediate. Two cases are then possible. Either the specific quantum or measure is a bare quantum, and the definite being (there-and-then) is capable of an increase or a diminution, without Measure (which to that extent is a Rule) being thereby set completely aside. Or the alteration of the quantum is also an alteration of the quality.
The identity between quantity and quality, which is found in Measure, is at first only implicit, and not yet explicitly realised. In other words, these two categories, which unite in Measure, each claim an independent authority. On the one hand, the quantitative features of existence may be altered, without affecting its quality. On the other hand, this increase and diminution, immaterial though it be, has its limit, by exceeding which the quality suffers change. Thus the temperature of water is, in the first place, a point of no consequence in respect of its liquidity: still with the increase of diminution of the temperature of the liquid water, there comes a point where this state of cohesion suffers a qualitative change, and the water is converted into steam or ice. A quantitative change takes place, apparently without any further significance: but there is something lurking behind, and a seemingly innocent change of quantity acts as a kind of snare, to catch hold of the quality. The antinomy of Measure which this implies was exemplified under more than one garb among the Greeks. It was asked, for example, whether a single grain makes a heap of wheat, or whether it makes a bald-tail to tear out a single hair from the horse’s tail. At first, no doubt, looking at the nature of quantity as an indifferent and external character of being, we are disposed to answer these questions in the negative. And yet, as we must admit, this indifferent increase and diminution has its limit: a point is finally reached, where a single additional grain makes a heap of wheat; and the bald-tail is produced, if we continue plucking out single hairs. These examples find a parallel in the story of the peasant who, as his ass trudged cheerfully along, went on adding ounce after ounce to its load, till at length it sunk under the unendurable burden. It would be a mistake to treat these examples as pedantic futility; they really turn on thoughts, an acquaintance with which is of great importance in practical life, especially in ethics. Thus in the matter of expenditure, there is a certain latitude within which a more or less does not matter; but when the Measure, imposed by the individual circumstances of the special case, is exceeded on the one side or the other, the qualitative nature of Measure (as in the above examples of the different temperature of water) makes itself felt, and a course, which a moment before was held good economy, turns into avarice or prodigality. The same principles may be applied in politics, when the constitution of a state has to be looked at as independent of, no less than as dependent on, the extent of its territory, the number of its inhabitants, and other quantitative points of the same kind. If we look, e.g. at a state with a territory of ten thousand square miles and a population of four millions we should, without hesitation, admit that a few square miles of land or a few thousand inhabitants more or less could exercise no essential influence on the character of its constitution. But on the other hand, we must not forget that by the continual increase or diminishing of a state, we finally get to a point where, apart from all other circumstances, this quantitative alteration alone necessarily draws with it an alteration in the quality of the constitution. The constitution of a little Swiss canton does not suit a great kingdom; and, similarly, the constitution of the Roman republic was unsuitable when transferred to the small imperial towns of Germany.
In this case, when a measure through its quantitative nature has gone in excess of its qualitative character, we meet what is at first an absence of measure, the Measureless. But seeing that the second quantitative ratio, which in comparison with the first is measureless, is none the less qualitative, the measureless is also a measure. These two transitions, from quality to quantum, and from the latter back again to quality, may be represented under the image of an infinite progression — as the self-abrogation and restoration of measure in the measureless.
Quantity, as we have seen, is not only capable of alteration, i.e. of increase or diminution: it is naturally and necessarily a tendency to exceed itself. This tendency is maintained even in measure. But if the quantity present in measure exceeds a certain limit, the quality corresponding to it is also put in abeyance. This however is not a negation of quality altogether, but only of this definite quality, the place of which is at once occupied by another. This process of measure, which appears alternately as a mere change in quantity, and then as a sudden revulsion of quantity into quality, may be envisaged under the figure of a nodal (knotted) line. Such lines we find in Nature under a variety of forms. We have already referred to the qualitatively different states of aggregation water exhibits under increase or diminution of temperature. The same phenomenon is presented by the different degrees in the oxidation of metals. Even the difference of musical notes may be regarded as an example of what takes place in the process of measure the revulsion from what is at first merely quantitative into qualitative alteration.
What really takes place here is that the immediacy, which still attaches to measure as such, is set aside. In measure, at first, quality and quantity itself are immediate, and measure is only their ‘relative’ identity. But measure shows itself absorbed and superseded in the measureless: yet the measureless, although it be the negation of measure, is itself a unity of quantity and quality. Thus in the measureless the measure is still seen to meet only with itself.
Instead of the more abstract factors, Being and Nothing, some and other, etc., the Infinite, which is affirmation as a negation of negation, now finds its factors in quality and quantity. These (a) have in the first place passed over quality into quantity (§ 98), and quantity into quality (§ 105), and thus are both shown up as negations. (b) But in their unity, that is, in measure, they are originally distinct, and the one is only through the instrumentality of the other. And (g) after the immediacy of this unity has turned out to be self-annulling, the unity is explicitly put as what it implicitly is, simple relation-to-self, which contains in it being and all its forms absorbed. Being or immediacy, which by the negation of itself is a mediation with self and a reference to self — which consequently is also a mediation which cancels itself into reference to self, or immediacy — is Essence.
The process of measure, instead of being only the wrong infinite of an endless progression, in the shape of an ever-recurrent recoil from quality to quantity and from quantity to quality, is also a true infinity of coincidence with self in other. In measure, quality and quantity originally confront each other, like some and other. But quality is implicitly quantity and conversely quantity is implicitly quality. In the process of measure, therefore, these two pass into each other: each of them becomes what it already was implicitly: and thus we get Being thrown into abeyance and absorbed, with its several characteristics negatived. Such Being is Essence. Measure is implicitly Essence; and its process consists in realising what it is implicitly. The ordinary consciousness conceives things as being, and studies them in quality, quantity, and measure. These immediate characteristics, however, soon show themselves to be not fixed but transient; and Essence is the result of their dialectic.
In the sphere of Essence one category does not pass into another, but refers to another merely. In Being, the form of reference is purely due to our reflection on what takes place: but it is the special and proper characteristic of Essence. In the sphere of Being, when somewhat becomes another, the somewhat has vanished. Not so in Essence: here there is no real other, but only diversity, reference of the one to its other. The transition of Essence is therefore at the same time no transition: for in the passage of different into different, the different does not vanish: the different terms remain in their relation. When we speak of Being and Nought, Being is independent, so is Nought. The case is otherwise with the Positive and the Negative. No doubt these possess the characteristic of Being and Nought. But the Positive by itself has no sense; it is wholly in reference to the negative. And it is the same with the negative.
In the sphere of Being the reference of one term to another is only implicit; in Essence on the contrary it is explicit. And this in general is the distinction between the forms of Being and Essence: in Being everything is immediate, in Essence everything is relative.
VIII. Essence - next section
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