John McTaggart A Commentary on Hegel’s Logic 1910
The Idea       |     The Idea

Chapter X
The Idea

262. The last section of the dialectic is divided as follows

I. Life. (Das Leben.)

A. The Living Individual. (Das lebendige Individuum.)

B. The Life-Process. (Das Lebens-Process.)

C. The Kind. (Die Gattung.)

II. The Idea of Cognition. (Die Idee des Erkennen.)

A. The Idea of the True. (Die Idee des Wahren.)

(a) Analytic Cognition. (Das analytische Erkennen.)
(b) Synthetic Cognition. (Das synthetische Erkennen.)

B. The Idea of the Good. (Die Idee des Guten.)

III. The Absolute Idea. (Die absolute Idee.)

It should be noticed that within II. there are only two divisions, the Synthesis being absent, and that the same is the case with the subdivisions of II. A. Cognition (Erkennen) has its meaning so extended that, as will be seen litter, it covers Volition as well as Knowledge.

263. In the last division of Objectivity, Realised End, we had reached the result that the whole of existence forms a system of differentiated parts, the unity of the system being as fundamental as the differentiation of the parts, and the differentiation of the parts, again, being as fundamental as the unity of the system. In this system the intrinsic nature of each part is dependent on its place in the system. It can only be explained, or even described, by reference to the system, and, through the system, to the other members of it. On the other hand, the unity can only be described as the unity which does, connect these parts. It has no nature which can be stated apart from them, just as they have no nature which can be stated apart from the unity.

This conception, which formed the Synthesis of the last triad of Objectivity, is naturally reproduced in the Thesis of the first triad of the Idea. And this is the conception which we find in the category of the Living Individual.

The general conception of the Idea is, according to Hegel, the unity of the Subjective Notion and Objectivity. (G. L. iii. 240. He also calls it the unity of the Notion and Objectivity. G. L. iii. 238. Enc. 213. This phrase is less appropriate than the other, since Objectivity is also part of the Notion.) In Subjectivity the Individuals were connected by their similarities and dissimilarities, which were realised as forming their inner and intrinsic nature. In Objectivity there was added to this connexion the further connexion of each Individual with other Individuals by means of causal relations[1]. But this was conceived at first as a species of connexion which was external to the Individuals connected, and did not form part of their natures. This externality was gradually eliminated, bat did not completely disappear until the final category of Realised End, Then the determination of each Individual by others was found to consist in their relation to one another in a Teleological System, while the inner nature of each is found to be an expression of its place in the Teleological System. Thus in Idea the connexion of Individuals is, as in Objectivity, inclusive of the mutual determination of each Individual by every other Individual, while, at the same time, the whole connexion of Individuals is, as in Subjectivity, part of their inner nature.

Hegel, however, says that “in a more general sense” the Idea is also “the unity of Notion and Reality (Realität)” (G. L. iii. 240). This seems incorrect. By Reality Hegel appears to mean the plurality in which the Notion is expressed. Now if he speaks of the conception of such a plurality in which the Notion is expressed, that conception is not reached for the first time in the Idea, since both in Subjectivity and Objectivity the Idea was recognised as having such a plurality. If, on the other hand, he speaks of a detailed knowledge of that plurality, or of the actual existent plurality itself, these are not reached in the Idea. The whole dialectic deals only with à priori conceptions, and we cannot acquire by it any knowledge of the different characteristics of particular Individuals, which — for us at any rate — can only be known Still less can the actual Individuals themselves be part of the dialectic.


264. (G. L. iii. 244. Enc. 216.) We must, of course, bear in mind here, as with other categories named from concrete phenomena, the relation between those phenomena and the category. The category of Life does not apply only to what are commonly called living. beings, but is equally true of all reality. Nor does Hegel profess to deduce by tine dialectic process all the empirical characteristics of biological life. The choice of the name is elite to the fact that this is the category of pure thought which is most usually and naturally employed in dealing with the phenomena of life.

Hegel is, I think, clearly right in saying that it is this category which is thus employed in dealing with the phenomena of life. In so far as any matter is held to form a living organism, it is held that the nature of each part of that whole is only capable of explication or description by reference to the organism as a whole, while that organism can only be described is the unity which is the unity of just those parts[2]. (This is the case when the organism is looked at by itself, and for itself. If the organism is regarded as connected with a conscious Spirit., and as used by that Spirit as a means to its own ends, more earl be said about the organism. But then we are considering something beyond biological life.)

It is for this reason that he calls this category Life, and that he calls the element of unity by the name of Seele, and the element of plurality by the name. of Body. It is not easy to find an English equivalent for Seele, in the sense in which it is used by Hegel, and I have therefore retained the German word. Soul would be misleading, since the modern use of that word is to designate what is otherwise called Spirit. But Seele means for Hegel nothing but the unity of which the body is the plurality — the element of unity in biological life.

In the case of Life Hegel makes it even more explicit than he does when dealing with other categories with concrete names, that he intends to keep strictly to pure thought, anti to avoid all empirical intermixture. For he expressly warns its against supposing the Life spoken of in the dialectic to be identical with the life of concrete experience, whether the latter be taken by. itself, or as a manifestation of Spirit (G. L. iii. 245-246). But he falls to carry out fits intentions. The category of Life, as treated by him, possesses two important features which are found in the phenomena studied in biology, but which cannot, as it seems to me, be legitimately deduced by the dialectic process, and which ought riot, therefore,, to have been ascribed to the category.

265. In the first place, the question arises whether the universe consists of one example of the category of Life, or of many such examples. Each of these examples may be called an Are there many such Organisms, or only one?

It seems to me that the right answer to this would have been that there is only one. The whole universe, as I have maintained in the last chapter, forms one Teleological System, and, as it is the Teleological System which, in the new Thesis, is re-stated as the Organism, there should be only one Organism. And in the next category, Cognition, the individual cognizing Selves appear to correspond to the parts of the Organism, while the cognized Whole — which embraces the whole universe — corresponds to the Organism. This, also, indicates that the universe ought to be conceived as one Organism.

But Hegel takes a different view. According to him the universe, as seen under this category, consists of a plurality of Organisms, each of which has a plurality of parts. The Organisms are in relation to one another, and so may be said to form a unity of some sort, but this larger unity — which does embrace the whole universe — is not an Organic unity.

He seems to have been led into this error by the analogy offered by biology, which deals with a multitude of living beings, each of which is an organic unity, while they do not together form an organic unity. And this error vitiates, I think, his whole treatment of the categories of Life.

266. The second case in which, as it seems to me, Hegel has been misled by biological analogies is in treating the living Body[3] as an inadequate manifestation of the Seele. On this, as we shall see, he endeavours to base the transition to the next category. Nosy there is nothing in the dialectic to warrant this view. In the Teleological System the nature of the unity was just that it was the unity which did connect those parts. If Hegel had not demonstrated the validity of this conception, he would have had no right to affirm the category of Teleology, nor, consequently, the category of Life. But if he had demonstrated its validity, how could he be justified in saying that the parts are not an adequate manifestation of the unity?

But the analogy of biology would suggest that the manifestation could be inadequate. For, although biological life is the best example known to us of this category, it is not a perfect example. The parts of a biological organism have some existence independently of the organism of which they form part, since the same matter which now forms part of a living body, existed before that body was formed, and will exist when it has decomposed. Its condition while in the body is in some respects different from its condition outside the body, but it retains certain characteristics unchanged.

Hegel quotes with approval (Enc. 216) Aristotle’s remark that a hand separated from the body is only a band in name, not in fact. But if this is given as a characteristic which is confined to the parts of living beings, the statement cannot be justified. A hand is changed more or less by being cut off — but so is a piece of granite changed, when it is cut out of the quarry. The granite remains more or less the same after the separation, and so does the hand. Even when the hand eventually decays, the atoms, or other units, into which it is resolved, are in many respects the same as they were before the hand was cut off. Thus the difference here between the organic and the inorganic is only a matter of degree.

And, on the other hand, the organism in biology is independent, to a certain degree, of its parts. For during the life: of an organism, much matter is added to it, and much, which previously belonged to it, is excluded from it, while the organism is regarded m being the same through all these changes.

Since the biological organism and its parts are thus more or less independent of one another, the possibility of an inadequate manifestation of the organism by its parts would arise. But this relative independence is not a characteristic of the category of Life, as given in the dialectic, and Hegel is not justified in asserting the possibility, under that category, of an imperfect manifestation.

The approval which Hegel gives to Aristotle’s statement about the hand, seems to indicate that he did not fully realise the imperfect nature of biological unity, to which, as I submit, the possibility of an inadequate manifestation is due. But the fact that biological manifestations were sometimes inadequate — and that so the organism died — was clearly before him. And it was this, I think, which led him to suppose the possibility of inadequate manifestation in his category of Life.

Hegel says that Life is the Idea in the form of immediacy (G. L. iii. 249. Enc. 216). It appears from what he says later with reference to the process by which this category is transcended, that he connects the immediacy of Life with the possibility of an inadequate manifestation. A particular arrangement of parts, which in point of fact exists, may or may not manifest the Seele adequately. If it does manifest it adequately this is a mere fact, which can be recognised as true, but cannot be demonstrated as necessary.

A. The Living Individual[4].

267. (G. L. iii. 249. Enc. 218.) Three characteristics of the Living Individual are given by Hegel — Sensibility, Irritability, and Reproduction. These correspond, he says, to the Universal, the Particular, and the Individual (Das Einzelne). They are not divided off, either in the text or in the table of contents, as separate subdivisions of the category of Life, but it would seem that Hegel does regard them as such, since the third seems to be taken as a Synthesis of the other two, and to form the transition to the next category of the Life-Process. The transition from the Thesis to the Antithesis, however, is not very clear. It would seem that both are reached directly from the general idea of Life, rather than the second from the first. All three assume that there is something. outside each Organism. This naturally follows from Hegel’s view that there is a plurality of Organisms, for then each of them will have other Organisms outside it.

In the first place, then, an Organism which is related to other thin” outside it, will be affected by then), and will the unity of the receive impressions from them. By reason of teh unity of the Organism, these impressions will not only affect that part of the Organism which first receives them, but will also affect the Organism as a whole and in its unity. This affection of the whole by what happens in any part is what Hegel calls Sensibility (G. L. iii. 253. Enc. 218). (Here, as afterwards with Irritability and Reproduction, the name, like the name of Life, is only applied to the logical conception because that conception is exemplified in what is commonly called Sensibility. It does not imply that all existence has the empirical characteristic of Sensibility.)

In the second place, the Organism will in its turn affect whatever is outside it. It will do this by means of the part of its Body which is in immediate relation with the particular outside thing in question. But this part of the Body will be determined to its particular nature by the Seele, the unity of the Organism. And this action of the whole Organism, through its part, on what is outside it, is called Irritability (G. L. iii. 254. Enc. 218).

The third stage is the maintenance of the Organism as a whole, through, and by means of, its relation to what is external to it. In the Greater Logic he says that this, on its theoretical side, may be called Feeling (Gefühl) and on its “ real “ side

may be called Reproduction (Reproduktion) (G. L. iii. 254). In the Encyclopaedia only the name Reproduction is used (Enc. 218).

When Reproduction is found in a series of names which are taken from biological science, we should naturally suppose it to mean that the characteristic after which this category was named was the power possessed by living beings of producing other beings of their own species. But this is not the case. Hegel’s language, in both Logics, is clearly incompatible with this, and moreover the propagation of the species is found later on as an example of a more advanced stage of the category of Life.

The Organism, then, preserves itself in its own identity through its relation to what is outside it. Throughout this triad of the Living Individual, it is assumed that each Organism must enter into relation. with what is outside it, and that it is by means of these relations that it will maintain and express its own nature. This necessarily follows, if it is admitted that there is a plurality of Organisms, and that, consequently, every Organism must have something outside it. For the different parts of the universe cannot be unconnected, nor can their connexion be anything merely external to them. It must be a connexion in which the nature of those different parts must be expressed. This results from previous stages of the dialectic. The only illegitimate assumption is the assumption that there is a plurality of Organisms.

268. With this conception of the relation of the Organism to the outside world we reach

B. The Life-Process.

(G. L. iii. 255. Enc. 219), which consists in just such a self-maintenance of the Organism by means of its external relations. The empirical characteristic of living beings which Hegel compares to this category is the process of assimilation, by which the animal or vegetable not only maintains itself by its relation to what is external to its body, but, in that process of maintenance, actually converts it into a part of its body (G. L. iii. 258. Enc. 219).

In this connexion Hegel says that the living being “stands face to face with an inorganic nature “ (Enc. 219). This, taken literally, could not apply to the relations of the Organism under this category. All the universe is not, according to Hegel, one Organism, but it consists of nothing but Organisms, and thus no Organism could be in relation to anything inorganic, since nothing inorganic exists.

This, however, does not affect the accuracy of the category. For all that the category requires is that the Organism should stand in relation to something with which it is not in organic relation. And this condition, as we have seen, is satisfied if the Organism stands in relation to other Organisms.

In speaking of this category in the Greater Logic Hegel says that “the self-determination of the living being has the form of objective externality, and since the living being is at the same time identical with itself, it is the absolute contradiction (Widerspruch)” (G. L. iii. 256). I do not see why lie should have said this. Of course this category, like all categories from Becoming onwards, contains, synthesised in its unity, moments which if unsynthesised would contradict each other. But they do riot contradict each other when synthesised, so that the name of Contradiction is not appropriate. And, if it were appropriate to a category — which synthesised moments which contradict one another, it would be equally applicable to all categories except Being and Nothing.

In connexion with this contradiction, and the division (Entzweiung) which it involves, Hegel introduces Pain. It may be doubted whether it is worth while to carry so far the parallelism between the empirical characteristics known in biology and the characteristics of the logical category. If it were, it would seem as if Pain should rather be introduced in connexion with the inadequacy of the manifestation — a point not. yet reached.

269. The transition to the next category appears to be by the idea of Universality. In the Life-Process the Particularity of the Organism is transcended, and it is elevated to Universality, by reason of its connexion of itself with that which is external to it, while it maintains its own nature in that connexion.

Through the external Life-Process it has thus posited itself as real, universal Life, as Kind “ (G. L. iii. 259).

C. The Kind.

(G. L. iii. 259. Enc. 220.) Hegel’s view is, apparently, that the idea of the Kind is nosy the Seele, or principle of unity, of each Organism. And it is the inadequacy of any particular Body to manifest the general idea of the Kind, on which he relies to demonstrate the inadequacy of all Organic manifestation.

270. This view seems to me to be quite unjustified. It is true that the Universal element in the Organism. becomes more explicit when we realise that it not only manifests itself in its own Body, but maintains itself iii and by means of its relation to what is outside its Organism. And it is true that a Kind, or species, is Universal as compared to the Individuals which belong to it. But the transition from one to the other is quite illegitimate, for they are two quite different Universals. The Universal which constitutes a Kind is a Universal such as was discussed under Subjectivity — a common quality, or group of qualities, which can be shared by various Individuals. It was because this sort of Universal proved inadequate as a description of existence that the dialectic passed in Objectivity to the Universals of Systems. The Universal throughout Objectivity, and now in Life, has been the Universal which is the unity of a System, a Universal which belongs to and unites certain differentiations, so that each of them has its definite place in the S stem, and, by means of this systematic connexion, they existence of one differentiation determines the existence of another. This is clearly quite a different notion from such a Universal as “ lion.” The latter denotes a group of qualities which may be, as in point of fact it is, shared by many beings, but which does not unite them in any sort of system, since the existence of one lion does not determine the existence of any others — at least, does not determine it by virtue of their common Universal. If all lions but one were annihilated, the survivor would not be any less a lion, while, on the other hand, if all the organs of a living body but one were annihilated, the one which remained would no longer be part of an organic unity.

Hegel has therefore no right to substitute one conception of Universal for the other at this point, they were equivalent — especially as in doing so he a conception which he had demonstrated to be defective for the higher conception which had transcended the defect.

271. Since, according to Hegel’s view, the Seele of the Organism is its Kind-Universal, the Organism, as being only a particular Individual, is unable to manifest this Seele adequately. The inadequacy is displayed in two ways. Firstly, the Individual propagates its Kind, by producing other Individuals which belong to the Kind (G. L. iii. 261. Enc. 220). Secondly, the Individual dies (G. L. iii. 262. Enc. 221).

I cannot see that Hegel has justified his view that the Body of the Organism will be inadequate to manifest its Seele. He has transformed the System -Universal, with which Organism started, to a Class-Universal, which is not the Seele of the Organism. And there seems no reason whatever to say that a particular Organism cannot manifest such a Class-Universal of a Kind. The Class-Universal of the Kind of lions, for example, consists of certain general qualities — the qualities of being vertebrate, mammal carnivorous, etc. There is no reason why a particular Organism should not possess all these qualities, and, if it does, it is an adequate manifestation of the Class-Universal[5].

The statement that the inadequacy is shown in Propagation also seems to me mistaken, because I cannot see what characteristic of the category of Organism, as reached in the dialectic, could possibly correspond to Propagation. The other biological facts whose names have been Seele, Body, Sensibility, Irritability, Assimilation, are, as we have seen, examples of certain characteristics of the category. But there has been no demonstration in the dialectic that one of the Organisms of a particular Kind would be produced by another Organism of the same Kind, not. anything which even suggests that this would be the case. And nothing. but a production of one Organism by another could appropriately be named after the biological fact of propagation.

The biological fact of death could doubtless be taken as an example of the change which would take place if an Organism, as defined by the category, broke up so that the parts of its Body ceased to be connected with one another by the Seele, and so ceased to form an organic Body. Such a dissolution would be incompatible with the conception of Organism, as Hegel first deduced it, for according to that the parts would have no nature apart from their connexion in the Organism, and could not, therefore, exist when it was dissolved. But Hegel, as we have seen, takes the Organism to be an imperfect manifestation of its Seele, and so the parts, which do exist the Organism, might possibly exist otherwise.

But while the inadequacy of the manifestation would thus allow of the dissolution of the Organism Hegel’s attempt to treat that dissolution as an expression of the inadequacy of the Organism must be condemned as invalid. For the inadequacy of the Organism to express its Seele is, according to Hegel, necessary and invariable. If the inadequacy is inconsistent with the existence of the Organism, the Organism can never conic into existence at all, and therefore can never dissolve. If the inadequacy is not inconsistent with the existence of the Organism, then the dissolution of the Organism cannot be accounted for by the inadequacy[6].

272. Death and propagation, while they proclaim the inadequacy of the manifestation, also, according to Hegel, furnish the escape from the inadequacy. “The process of Kind, in which the individual Individuals (die einzelnen Individuen) lose in one another their indifferent immediate existence, and die in this negative unity, has also for the other aspect of its product the Realised Kind, which has posited itself as identical

with the ‘Notion. In the Kind-process the separated individualities of the individual lives pass away; the negative identity, in which the Kind returns to itself, while it is on one side ‘the production of individuality, is on the other side the transcending of individuality, and thus is the Kind which conies together with itself, the Universality of the Idea which is becoming for itself” (G. L. iii. 262. Cp. Enc. 221, 222).

Thus Hegel finds the solution of the inadequacy in the conception of the Kind as a whole, which remains while its members die. He reaches this conception by means of the conception of Propagation, which, as I have endeavoured to show above, is unjustified. But this need not invalidate the present step, since we should have a right to conceive of the Kind as a whole, even if its members were not connected by any tie analogous to propagation in biology. And again, while Hegel was not justified in taking Death — the dissolution of the Organism — as the expression of the inadequacy of the manifestation of the Seele, it is still possible that Organisms may dissolve.

But, when we have reached the conception of the Realised Kind, is the idea of the Kind manifested with less. inadequacy than it was before? It seems to me that this is not the case. The idea of the Kind, as we have seen, is simply that group of Universals which are possessed by every member, actual or possible, of the Kind. These are manifested in the separate members of the Kind, or nowhere. It is, for example, the individual lions who are carnivorous, not the species as a unity, for the species as a unity cannot eat flesh. Now Hegel has arrived, rightly or wrongly, at the conclusion that the individual Organisms cannot, in any case, adequately manifest the idea of the Kind, which is their Seele. And, if that is correct, they cannot manifest it adequately when we take them all together, and call them the Realised Kind. The grouping them together will make no difference to the inadequacy in the case of each Organism, since the inadequacy, according to Hegel, is a necessary characteristic of an Organism. And, if the manifestation is not adequate in the case of particular Organisms, it cannot be adequate at all, for it only occurs in the particular Organisms.

273. It may be replied, possibly, that Hegel has, legitimately or illegitimately, changed his conception of the idea of a Kind, and that that idea is Dot, for him, a Class-Universal, but a System-Universal, which can be realised in all the member., of the Kind taken together, though it cannot be realised in any one of them separately.

There seem to me, however, three objections to this view. In the first place, if Hegel had meant this, he would have held that all the members of each Kind formed together one single Organism, for an Organism, for him, means a system of parts which manifests, as a whole, a unity which none of the parts could manifest separately. Now there is nothing in Hegel’s language to suggest that the Kind is now to be regarded as itself an Organism. He never to it either Sensibility, Irritability, or Reproduction, all of which he considers as essential for an Organism.

In the second place, if he had taken this view, he would have departed very materially from the analogy of biology, where a species, or other kind, does not mean an organic whole, the existence of one member of which involves the existence of all the rest, but a class composed of all the beings who have certain common qualities. We have seen that, up to this point, Hegel has been keeping very close to the biological analogy of the category — much closer than he was Justified in doing. Is it probable that, at this point, while still using biological names profusely, he should have so far departed from the biological analogy, without a word of warning or justification?

In the third place, if the Kind really were meant now to be a System-Universal, which would only be manifested through all the members of the Kind taken together, then, if Death were brought in at all, it could only be on the view that Death did not really remove the individual from the Kind, and so did not destroy the totality required for the manifestation. But this is certainly not Hegel’s view. It is clear from the passage last quoted that the adequacy of the manifestation in the Realised Kind is not dependent on the irrelevancy of Death to the question of manifestation. On the contrary, it is only because “the separated individualities of the individual lives pass away” that the manifestation can become adequate.

Those lives, therefore, cannot be members of an Organism in which the adequate manifestation occurs, and is they are members of the Kind, the Kind is not an Organism.

274. Thus we must, I think, take the Kind-Universal to be, as is certainly suggested by its name, a Class-Universal and not a System-Universal. And in that case, as I pointed out above, the Realised Kind cannot give a more adequate manifestation than the separate members. Nor does the introduction of Death help the matter, though Hegel seems to think that it does so. The inadequate manifestations successively pass away, in the successive dissolutions of Organisms, but they leave nothing better behind them. So long as there are any Organisms left, they are only inadequate manifestations of the idea of the Kind. If, on the other hand, they all passed away, there would not be a Realised Kind at all.

We must, therefore, I consider, reject as invalid the solution which Hegel offers us in the conception of Realised Kind. And there is a further objection. The next category to Kind is the category of the Idea of the True. Since Realised, Kind removes according to Hegel the defects of the category of Kind, it would follow that, when we have reached the conception of Realised Kind, we should find ourselves already to have passed into Cognition, and, more particularly, into the Idea of the True. And this is apparently what Hegel thinks has now happened. He says (continuing the passage quoted above, G. L. iii. 262) “In propagation the immediacy of living individuality dies the death of this life is the emergence of Spirit. The Idea, which. as Kind is implicit (an sich,) is now for itself, since it transcends the particularity, which is produced by the living generations (Geschlechter), and has thus given itself a reality, which is simple universality. Thus it is the Idea which relates itself to itself as Idea, the Universal, which has universality as its determination and definite being (Bestimmtheit und Dasein), the Idea of Cognition.” This, however, does not seem justifiable. BLit before considering this point we must determine exactly what Hegel means by the Idea of Cognition.


275. (G. L. 263. Enc. 223.) He describes it as follows. “The Notion is for itself as Notion, in so far as it exists freely as abstract universality, or as Kind. So it is its pure identity with itself, which so creates such a division in itself, that what is separated is not an Objectivity, but liberates itself and takes the form of Subjectivity, or of a simple equality with self, and thus is the Object (Gegenstand) of the Notion, the Notion itself ... The elevation of the Notion above Life consists in this, that its Reality is the Notion-form, freed and in the form of universality. Through this division (Urtheil) the Idea is doubled, on the one hand the subjective Notion, of which it itself is the Reality, and on the other hand, the objective Notion, which it is as Life. — Thought, Spirit, Self-consciousness, are determinations of the Idea, in so far as it has itself as an Object, and its Determinate Being (Dasein), that is, the determination of its Being (Bestimmtheit ihres Seins), is its own difference from itself” (G. L. iii. 263). This is not very clear, but, with the aid of the concrete states which Hegel takes as examples of this category, we can, I think, see what the logical conception of the category must be. Those examples are a complete system of correct knowledge, and a complete system of ratified volition.

The conception, I believe, is as follows. The whole Universe forms an Organic system. The parts can only be explained or described by reference to the system, and, through the system, to the other members of it, while the unity of the system can only be explained as the unity which does connect those parts. But the fresh element is this — each of these parts, which may now be called Individuals, has within it a system, which corresponds to the larger system — the system of the Universe.

But what sort of correspondence? It cannot be merely that there is one part in each Individual-System for each part in the Universe-System. For that correspondence would be equally exemplified if the Individual judged about each part of the Universe, but judged wrongly, or it’ the Individual willed about each part of the Universe, but willed it to be other than it is.

And it is clear, as we shall see later, that Hegel would not regard such a state as exemplifying the category.

But it is equally clear that the correspondence of the parts does not mean identity of nature. If each part of an Individual-System had the same content with the corresponding part of the Universe-System, then the two systems would have exactly the same nature. For if the parts were exactly the same in the two systems, then the relations between the parts must also be the same. And as the unity in each case is just the unity which is formed by these parts in these relations, the unities would have the same nature in each system. Thus the two systems would be of exactly the same nature, which is impossible, since one is an Individual, which the other is not, and one is the Universe, which the other is not.

The examples, moreover, show that correspondence here does not mean exact similarity in nature. My correct, knowledge that A is courageous does not resemble A’s courage at all closely. Nor, if my will approves the fact that A Is modest, does my gratified volition closely resemble his modesty.

276. If we try to state more positively what this correspondence is, all that we can say, I think, is that each part of the Individual corresponds with a part of the Universe, and each part of the Universe with a part of the Individual; that the correspondence consists of a relation between the natures of the two correspondent terms, which is not a relation of identity; that the relation of a true belief to the fact in which it is a belief is one example of such a correspondence; that the relation of a volition to the fact which gratifies the volition is another example; and that no other example can be given.

For such a correspondence as this the expression “harmony” suggests itself, and we shall, I think, do well to use it. But it must be remembered that harmony does not here indicate the co-operation of two beings for some purpose or design outside themselves. Nor does it indicate any relation which the two harmonious beings jointly bear to a third — as when we say that the sounds of two different instruments unite to form a harmonious whole for the listener. The relation of harmony in this category is simply a relation between the two harmonious beings — the Universe and the Individual — without reference to anything else. (The different Individuals, indeed, are not unconnected with each other, but it is only through their relation with the ‘Universe.)

Thus the advance on the last category consists in the fact that the parts under the category of Cognition, not only, as with Life, form a system which collectively expresses the idea of the system, but, in addition, do this by means of the existence, in each part, of a system in harmony with the system of the whole.

This gives a greater relative prominence, in the new category, to the parts — i.e. the Individuals. For although, since the Universe is an organic system, they only express the idea of that system in so far as, taken together, they form the system, yet it is also the case that each Individual by itself may be said in another sense to be an expression of the Universe, since it contains a system in harmony with the system of the Universe[7]. Whether these two characteristics are compatible will be considered later. At present I merely urge that they are both to be found in the category.

It is probably the greater prominence given to the parts in this category, which causes Hegel to speak of it as an Urtheil (G. L. iii. 262, 263. Enc. 223). For, while he generally rises this word in its ordinary sense of Judgment, he always lays great weight on the fact that etymologically it indicates division.

In reaching the category of Cognition Hegel says that we have left behind the Immediacy which characterised Life. This Immediacy, apparently, consisted in the fact that particular parts might or might not be so arranged as to manifest the Seele of an Organism. From the absence of any necessity that it should be so, he apparently deduced the possibility of an inadequate manifestation — though it would be the impossible to find in it the necessity, which he asserts, that manifestation should be inadequate.

If such an Immediacy did belong to the category of Life, I do not see how it has been eliminated. But the truth seems to be that there is no need to eliminate it, because it should never have been introduced. If Hegel had proved the validity of the category of Life at all. he had proved that the parts not only could, but mast, be arranged in organic unity. That lie should have thought it only a possibility is connected with his view of the possibility and necessity of inadequate manifestations, which we found reason above to reject as erroneous.

277. This, then, is the nature (A tile category to which Hegel passes from the category of Life. Is he justified in the transition? I cannot see that lie is Justified. Ill the first place, the whole of Existence appears, under this category, to form a single organic system. Now in Teleology, as we have seen, Hegel had taken all existence to form one organic system. But he gave this up in Life — gave it up, as I have tried to show above, illegitimately, and misled by biological analogies.

And having once given it up, he has no right to bring it back, except by a fresh demonstration of it, which he does not profess to give us.

Even if we supposed that the Realised Kind was held by Hegel to be an organic unity (a theory which, as I explained above, I think must be rejected) the difficulty would not be removed. For it seems clear that Hegel meant by the Kind something analogous to a biological species, of which there are more than one in the Universe, so that the organic unity of a Kind would not mean that the Universe formed one organic unity. And, moreover, if Hegel had regarded the Realised Kind as an organic unity, his position would have been illegitimate, since the Kind when first introduced is not an organic unity, and no demonstration is given of the validity of a transition. Thus, by basing the organic unity of the Universe in the category of Cognition on the organic unity of the Realised Kind, we should nut avoid an illegitimate transition, but merely throw it a little earlier in the dialectic process.

In the second place, there is a still more fundamental objection to the transition. So far as I can see, there is not the slightest attempt to demonstrate the characteristic which forms the essential difference of Cognition from Life — the existence, in each part, of a system corresponding to the system of’ the whole. The essential characteristic of Realised Kind was the subordination of the particular Organisms to the idea of the Kind. What the connexion is between this and the existence of the systems within Individuals is left in complete obscurity.

Hegel was no doubt justified in naming this category after a concrete state of the human mind. For knowledge, in so far as correct, and volition, in so far as gratified, do form systems which correspond to the objects which are known or which gratify the volition in the way defined above. Indeed, no other examples of this category can, I think, be found. Certainly Hegel does not give any other examples. Indeed, it might be said that he has not completely defined the new category at all, but has left part of the definition implicit in the statement that the correspondence in question is the one of which true knowledge and gratified volition are examples.

278. We have seen in earlier stages of the dialectic that, when categories are named after concrete states, there is considerable risk of falling into error by attributing to the categories characteristics which are true of the concrete states, but which have licit been demonstrated of the categories. Here the difficulty of avoiding this error is greater than elsewhere. In Mechanism and Chemism Hegel is able to give other examples of the category besides those drawn from Mechanics and Chemistry. In Life he, does not himself give ally examples besides those drawn. from biology, but it is possible to supply the deficiency. The unity which is expressed in the different parts of a beautiful object — a Persian rug, for example, or an Adam ceiling — is all example of what Hegel calls an organic unity. And the distinction of the category from the biological state is rendered easier by the fact, which we have remarked, that the biological state is never a perfect example of the category.

Here matters are different. No example of the category has been given, by Hegel or anyone else, except that of a system, each of whose arts is in relation, by. knowledge or volition, p with all the other parts. And this would be a perfect example if the knowledge and volition had reached that perfection towards which all knowledge and volition are directed. And, as mentioned above, it may be held that the category has not been completely defined except by reference to these concrete examples.

The danger of the error is therefore greater here than elsewhere. I do not think, as I shall explain later, that Hegel has entirely avoided it. But it has not affected his argument so seriously as it did in the category of Life.

While it is certainly appropriate to name this category after a state of the human mind, the actual name of Cognition seems unfortunate. Volition, as well as knowledge, is an example of this category, while, as we shall see, volition is the only example of one of its subdivisions. Cognition, then, would only be appropriate if it were possible to stretch its meaning to include Volition, and this does not seem possible, either with the English Cognition, or the German Erkennen. It seems to me that some more general term — perhaps Consciousness — would have been better.

279. Cognition has, according to Hegel, only two subdivisions, Without any Synthesis being explicitly given. These he calls the Idea of the True and the Idea of the Good. In the Encyclopaedia the first of these subdivisions is called Cognition, and the second Volition, the name of Cognition being also used, as in the Greater Logic, for the category as a whole.

Since there is to be a harmony between the Individual-systems and the Universe-system the question naturally arises, which side is active and which side passive. The alternatives, as will be seen later, are not really exhaustive, and neither answer to the question will be finally tenable. But it is, according to Hegel, the natural way in which to begin regarding the matter. If we find two things necessarily agreeing with each other, the natural inference is that one is dependent on the other, or else both on a third. Now here there is no third. There is only the Universe-system on the one hand and the Individual-systems on the other. We seem, therefore, bound to conclude either that the harmony is produced by the nature of the Individuals being dependent on the nature of the Universe, or else by the nature of the Universe being dependent on the nature of the Individuals.

Of these two alternatives we must start with the former. If we took the latter, there would be no guarantee that the Individual-systems, whose nature would then be taken as ultimate, did not differ in such a way that the Universe-system could no t be in harmony with them all. In that case the requirements of the category of Cognition, which Hegel regards as already demonstrated, could not be complied with. But if the single Universe-system is taken as ultimate, and the many Individual-systems are taken as dependent on it, no such difficulty arises.

Hegel therefore starts with the conception of the Universe-system as determining tile Individual-systems, and this gives him

A. The Idea of the True.

(G. L. iii. 274. Enc. 226.) The category has this name because the only example which can be given of it is a system of knowledge in the Individual which truly represents the Universe-system.

280. If we compare knowledge and volition, we find that the object of each is to produce a harmony, and that they differ in the fact that in the one the object, and in the other the subject, is the determining side of the harmony. This can be tested by looking at a case where the harmony is discovered to be imperfect. In such a case, should it occur in knowledge, we condemn the knowledge as being incorrect; and we endeavour to amend it by altering our beliefs till they harmonise with the objects. With volition it is Just the reverse. Here we condemn the outside reality which does not accord with our desires, and we endeavour to restore harmony by altering the objects so that they may be as we desire them.

Thus in knowledge the aim of the knowing subject is that its state should be a representation of the state of the world at large. Of course this does not imply that the mind is

merely passive in the process, and has nothing to do but receive erects from outside. The question is not about the way results are produced, but about the test of them when they are produced. However active the process of knowledge may be, the fact remains that its correctness depends on its agreement with the object known.

Thus knowledge is an example of this category, and it is the only one which can be given, since volition — the only other example of the wider category of Cognition — would not be ,appropriate in this subdivision.

We must of course remember, here as elsewhere, that what we are entitled to predicate of all existence is not the possession of all the characteristics of knowledge which are empirically known to us, but only those which are involved in the logical category.

It is further to be remembered that, according to the category, each Individual-system has to harmonise with the whole of the “Universe-system, and that there is nothing in the Individual except this system which harmonises with the Universal. Accordingly, if we look at an actual knowing individual — such as each of us is — we find that his nature, as it empirically appears to us, falls to exemplify the category in two ways. It is too large, and not large enough. On the one hand, I do not know the whole universe perfectly. On the other hand, I am not merely a knowing being, but have also volitions and emotions.

The Encyclopaedia as was mentioned above, calls this, category Cognition. It is inconvenient, of course, that the same name should be used both for the wider category and for its subdivision[8], but otherwise the nomenclature of the Encyclopaedia seems better. For what exemplifies the category is not truths or true propositions — non-existent realities, which are just as real whether’ they are or are not ever known by anyone. The category is exemplified by knowledge — by existent states of existent conscious Individuals. And this is expressed more clearly if the category is called Cognition than if it is called the Idea of the True.

What have we gained by the establishment of this category? We have not proved that there is some knowledge — that some beliefs are true. The assertion that there is some knowledge could never be proved, for any proof offered would consist of assertions, which, if valid, would be knowledge. Thus the proof would assume the conclusion to be proved. On the other hand, any attempt to disprove it, or even to deny or doubt it, would equally assume its truth.

This then, could not be proved, and, moreover, the dialectic is here concerned, riot with knowledge itself, but with a category

of which knowledge furnishes indeed the only example known. to us, but which must nevertheless be carefully distinguished from that example.

What is really gained by this category is that we know that the Universe is an organic system of Individuals, the nature of each of which forms another system, in harmony with the system of the Universe, and determined by it.

281. The Idea of the True is divided by Hegel into Analytic Cognition and Synthetic Cognition. These appear to be Thesis and Antithesis respectively, but the Synthesis is lacking It seems curious that he did not take Philosophical Thought as the Synthesis, since he certainly regards this as being both analytical and synthetical (cp. Enc. 238).

Hegel discusses Analytic and. Synthetic Cognition at considerable length (G. L. iii. 278-319. Enc. 227-232). What he says about them is sufficiently simple and. straightforward. I omit it here because it seems entirely to the category which we are considering. Once More Hegel has been misled by the concrete state which he has taken as an example of his category.

The distinction which he draws here is not between analytic and synthetic propositions, but that between knowledge obtained by a process of analysis and knowledge obtained by a process of synthesis. Both of these processes can yield synthetic propositions.

Now the distinction between these two processes may be very relevant when we consider the state of knowledge as empirically known to us. But there is no corresponding distinction to be found in the category of the dialectic, with which Hegel is dealing here. Indeed, we may go further. Not only are we unable to see what distinction in the category should correspond to the distinction between analytic and synthetic knowledge, but we are able to see clearly that there can be no such distinction.

For the distinction between analytic and synthetic knowledge relates wholly to the method of acquiring it. The distinction does not exist in the nature of the knowledge, as known. If I know that Caesar is mortal, I know the same truth, whether I learn it by seeing him die, or by deduction from the truth that all men are mortal. The other truths acquired along with it by the same process may be different in the two cases. In the first, I may learn along with the fact that Caesar is mortal, the fact that Brutus stabbed him. In the second, I may learn along with the fact that Caesar is mortal, the fact that Brutus is mortal. But the knowledge that Caesar is mortal will be the same, by whichever method it is acquired.

This distinction can therefore have no place in the present category, the example of which is not the acquisition of knowledge, but the possession of the knowledge when acquired. When the dialectic passed from the lower categories of Teleology to Realised End, it became clear that the application of the category to any subject-matter involved, not that the Means were becoming. the manifestation of the End, but that they were the manifestation of the End. Nothing that has happened since that point has given us a right to change that conclusion. The Means expressing, the End have developed into the Individual-systems which harmonise with the Universal-system, but. the relation between the whole and the parts has remained a relation of manifestation, not a relation of a process towards manifestation.

Nor is anything in Hegel’s treatment of Life inconsistent with this view. He takes the Body, indeed, as an inadequate and temporary manifestation of the Seele, but still, such as the manifestation is, it is always present when the category of Life is present. The category does not deal with the gradual production of Life.

Thus the principle on which these subdivisions, Analytic and Synthetic Cognition, have been introduced seems unjustified. And the mass of detail given under them, while applicable enough to the concrete process of acquiring knowledge, contains nothing which has any significance with regard to the category. I therefore believe myself justified in omitting it.

282. Hegel’s error in introducing these subdivisions does not destroy the line of his argument, for we can go directly from the undivided category of the Idea of the True to the next category — the Idea of the Good. Hegel himself indeed makes the transition from the subdivision of Synthetic Cognition, but, if it was not for the error which led to the introduction of the subdivisions, he could have made the transition just as well from the undivided category.

The transition, according to Hegel, rests on the necessity of Cognition (G. L. iii. 319. Enc. 232). As the account in the Encyclopaedia is both clearer and shorter than the account in the Greater Logic, I will quote the Encyclopaedia. The two accounts do not, I think, differ in meaning. “The necessity,” says Hegel, “which finite cognition produces in the Demonstration, is, in the first place, an external necessity, intended for the subjective intelligence alone. But in necessity as such, cognition itself has left behind its pre-supposition and starting-point, which consisted in accepting its content as given or found. Necessity qua necessity is implicitly the self-relating notion. The subjective idea has thus implicitly reached an original and objective determinateness — a something not-given, and for that reason immanent in the subject. It has passed over into the idea of Will.”

It is obvious from this that Hegel regards the necessity of the harmony of the Individuals with the Universe as giving so much stability and self-centredness to the Individuals that we must add to the statement that they harmonise with the Universe, the further statement that the Universe harmonises with them. If the harmony of the Individuals with the Universe were gradually attained, then the necessity of the harmony would also be gradually attained. And since his comparison of the harmony with the concrete state of knowledge has led him to regard the harmony as gradually attained, he regards the necessity as gradually attained also. He supposes it to be attained by something analogous to the process of Demonstration, which he treats under Synthetic Cognition, and therefore does not find himself in a position to make the transition to the Idea of the Good till he has reached the end of Synthetic Cognition.

If, however, we realise that the harmony must exist in its full completeness if the category of the Idea of the True is applicable at all, we shall see that in reaching the Idea of the True we have reached the conception that the harmony is necessary. If the category valid, then the Individual-systems are determined by the Universe-system to harmonise with it, And therefore the harmony is necessary — which is, as Hegel himself asserts, sufficient to allow us to pass to the Idea of the Good.

283. Hegel is, I think, right in maintaining that the necessity of the harmony, considered as determined from the side of the Universe, entitles us to conceive it as being equally determined from the side of the Individual. If a harmony is imperfect, if it is only accidentally perfect, or if the necessity of its perfection is due to some outside cause, there is some meaning in saying that the harmony is determined by one side rather than the other — by A and not by B. For in all these three cases a want of a perfect harmony can be conceived, and our assertion means that, in such a case, we should regard B, and not A, as defective in harmony. We say that the actions of a citizen are in harmony with the law, and not that the law is in harmony with them. For we can conceive that the citizen should cease to be law-abiding; and, if he did, we should condemn his actions, and not the law, for the discrepancy.

And, again, it might be that A could exist without being in harmony with B, while B could not exist without being in harmony with A. In this case, also, we might say that A rather than B determined the harmony, on account of the logical priority of A.

But it is not so here. The harmony between the Universal and the Individual is perfect, necessary, and. not due to any outside cause, but to the intrinsic nature of the related terms. The absence of the harmony is inconceivable. We cannot therefore say that one term rather than the other is shown to be defective by any possible discrepancy, and so declare the other term to be the determinant.

Nor can we pronounce either term determinant on the other possible ground — that it is independent of the harmony while the other is not independent. For, if the category is correct, the Universe depends on the harmony quite ,is much as the Individual. They only exist In virtue of the harmony between their systems and the system of the Universe. But the same is true of the Universe. And therefore it is no truer to say that the Universe determines the Individuals: than it is to say that the Individuals determine the Universe.

284. The first use that Hegel makes of this result is to conclude that, as one is no truer than the other, we must say both. To the statement that the Universe-system determines the Individual-systems, we must add the statement that the Individual-systems determine the Universe-system. So we reach

B. The Idea of the Good.

(G. L. iii. 320. Enc. 233), which is called in the Encyclopaedia by the name of Volition. (Wollen). Volition must not be taken here as meaning the desire to change, or to resist change, which is the form in which Volition usually shows itself. If this were the case there would be nothing appropriate in naming this category after it, since the category involves a perfect harmony, and also a necessary harmony so that there can be no question either of promoting or of resisting change.

It is not this, however, which Hegel means by Volition here. He means by it the judgment of the existent by the standard of Good. Such a Judgment, of course, leads us to desire action if it reveals a difference between the fact and the ideal, but involves no desire of action when the harmony between the fact and the ideal is already perfect. Taken in this sense Volition is an appropriate name for a category which asserts that the Individual determines the nature of the Universe, since in volition, as we said above. it is the object, and not the self, which is regarded as defective if the harmony is imperfect.

The Idea of the Good is a better name for this category than Volition in so far as it does riot, like Volition, suggest the idea of change. In other respects, however, Volition is the better name, since the example Hegel means to take is clearly a psychical state and not the ethical idea of Goodness.

It is, I think, evident that Hegel took the essence of the psychical state of volition to be as described above, since the category of Volition, as treated by him, includes a state of perfect harmony, which could certainly not have as its example a desire for change[9].

285. But it must be noticed that lie fell into an error with regard to this category analogous to that which he committed with regard to the Idea of the True. He conceives the category as dealing with the process of producing such a harmony, before it deals with the established perfect harmony. This is erroneous. For, in the first place, the reasons given above (Sections 281, 282) to show that the Idea of the True deals only with a harmony inevitably and originally perfect, and not with the production of such a harmony, are also applicable here.

In the second place, even if the production of the harmony could have found a place in the Idea of the True, it could not do so in the Idea of the Good. Fur at the end of the Idea of the True, the harmony, Hegel says, has been established in its necessity and perfection. Now it is from this point that his treatment of the Idea of the Good begins. And since his argument, as seen above, is that the necessary and perfect harmony, under the earlier category, involves necessary and perfect harmony under the later category, then the later category must have the necessary and perfect harmony throughout, even if the earlier did not.

The order of these two categories could not have been inverted. It is impossible that the Universe-system should be determined by the Individual-systems so as to be in harmony with all of them, if the Individual-systems varied indefinitely from one another in content (cp. above, Section 279). And the possibility of this is only disproved by showing that the Individual-systems are all determined by the Universe-system, so as to be in harmony with it. Thus we could not have the Idea of the Good, in which the Individuals are determinant, until we have had the Idea of the True, in which the Universe is determinant.

286. Hegel says of the Idea of the Good that it is higher than the Idea of the True, “ because it has not only the value of the Universal, but also the value of the simply Actual “ (G. L. iii. 320). It would seem from this that the second category — the Idea of the Good — has both values, that of the Universal and that of the Actual. As the Universality is regarded by Hegel as the characteristic of the Idea of the True, it follows that the second category contains the first, besides containing also fresh content. Its standpoint is one which finds its example, not in gratified volition by itself, but in the combination of true knowledge and gratified volition.

Hegel is entitled to take this position, for the argument which led us on to the Idea of the Good did not do so by showing that there was any contradiction in the harmony with the Universe taken as the determinant, but that the validity of that conception involved the validity of the harmony with the Individuals taken as determinant. The second conception was added to the first, and did not replace it.

This is not inconsistent with the general principle of the dialectic method, for, though the two categories question stand, apparently[10], in the relation of Thesis and Antithesis, yet we are here so close to the end of the dialectic that its movement, according to the law laid down by Hegel[11], has become almost a direct advance from each category to the next.

It is thus the combination of the two standpoints, exemplified by knowledge and volition, which is regarded by Hegel as being higher than the standpoint exemplified by knowledge. There is nothing to suggest that he would consider the standpoint exemplified by volition as being by itself higher than that exemplified by knowledge. Indeed, his application of the dialectic to concrete facts strongly suggests that he would not consider the standpoint exemplified by volition as being higher.

For nothing is clearer about Hegel than that he does not regard the concrete spiritual state of volition as higher than that of knowledge, and that he does not regard virtue as a higher excellence than wisdom.

287. Hegel clearly considers that the establishment of this category gives us the right to assert that the Universe is completely good. Can this be legitimately deduced from the result reached in the category — that the nature of the Universe conforms to a description whose only example, known or imaginable, includes gratified volition? The question does not really belong to the dialectic itself, but to its cosmological applications, and does not concern us here[12].

288. The transition from this category rests on the fact that the complete harmony, with the Individual as determinant, involves (as we have previously seen) the complete harmony, with the Universe as determinant. “In this result Cognition is restored, and united with the practical Idea, the given Actuality is at the same time determined as the realised absolute End, but not, as in the process of Cognition (im suchenden Erkennen) simply as an objective world without the subjectivity of the Notion, but as the objective world of which the Notion is the inner ground and actual existence” (G. L. iii. 327. Cp. Enc. 235).

The argument is that it is impossible to adhere to the position at which we now stand — that, in the harmony of the Universe and the Individual, the Universe determines the Individual, and the Individual also determines the Universe.

It will be remembered that the transition to the Idea, of the Good was effected by the argument that, since the harmony between the Universe and the Individual was necessary, perfect, and intrinsic, any question as to which would be pronounced defective if the harmony were defective was absurd, and that, since the harmony was essential to the existence of either term, neither could be said to be logically prior to the other in the harmony. From this the result was reached that it was no truer to say that the Universe determines the Individuals than to say that the Individuals determine the Universe. From this Hegel starts by saying that, since one proposition is no truer than the other, both are true. This gave us the category of the Idea of the Good (cp. above, Section 284),

But this, Hegel now goes on, is inade quate, and must be transcended. For the real result of what has been shown is to put the two sides of the harmony on a level, not by making them each determine the other, but by removing altogether the conception of either side being determinant. That side is determinant to which, in one way or the other, the other is subordinate. We see now that neither side is subordinate to the other, since neither is logically subsequent to the other, and neither is to be condemned as defective for an actual or possible want of harmony. The consequence of this is not that each of them is determinant, but that neither is.

Thus we see that the harmony is ultimate. It is essential to the nature of existence that it should form a Universe composed of Individuals, that the Universe and that each Individual should form an organic system, anti that the Universe-system and each of the Individual-systems should be in perfect harmony with one another.

289. Hegel takes this as the transition to the Absolute Idea. If the symmetry of the dialectic was to be preserved, he should have first passed to a third subdivision of Cognition, which should complete the triad of which the Idea of the True and the Idea of the Good are the first two Members, and then, from this new category, have passed over to the Absolute Idea.

If the Absolute Idea, like Cognition, had been subdivided, the last subdivision in Cognition would have been identical in. content with the first subdivision of the Absolute Idea. But the Absolute Idea is not subdivided, and the last subdivision in Cognition could riot consistently with the general method of the dialectic be identical in content with the Absolute Idea as a whole. Hegel, apparently, could discover no intermediate stage between the category of the Idea of the Good, and the category of the Absolute Idea. And I can make no suggestion to fill the gap. The transition remains unsymmetrical, but not, I think, invalid.


290. (G. L. iii. 327. Enc. 236.) In this not only the Idea of the True and the Idea of the Good are synthesised, but also Life and Cognition. Cognition, as is natural so close to the end of the dialectic, is so direct an advance upon Life, that we do not find many characteristics of Life in the Absolute Idea which were not also in Cognition. But in the Absolute Idea, as we have seen, the harmony is recognised as ultimate — not as due to the dependence of one side on the other. And in this the Absolute Idea may be said to have returned to a characteristic which belonged to the category of Life, when the expression of the Seele in and by the Body was conceived as an ultimate fact, not due to the subordination of either side to the other[13].

The transition, as I said above, seems to me valid, for the Absolute Idea, to judge by Hegel’s words, does just mean what the category of Cognition would mean after the elimination of the erroneous conception that one side is determined by the other.

The nearest approach to a definition given in the Greater Logic is as follows: “The Notion is not only Seele, but free subjective Notion, which is for itself and therefore has Personality — it is the practical objective Notion, determined in and for itself, which, as a Person, is impenetrable, atomic Subjectivity, but which is just as much not exclusive Individuality, but Universality for itself, and Cognition, and which has in its Other its own Objectivity as Object (Gegenstand). All else is error, confusion, opinion, strife, caprice, and impermanence; the Absolute Idea alone is Being, permanent Life, Truth which knows itself. It is all Truth “ (G. L. iii. 327). In the Encyclopaedia he says, “The Idea, as unity of the Subjective and Objective Idea, is the Notion of the Idea — a Notion for which the Idea as such is Object (Gegenstand) and Object (Objekt) — an Object (Objekt) in which all determinations have come together” (Enc. 236).

291. What does Hegel mean by this? We must first consider a suggestion which he makes — as I think, erroneously. We find it stated most clearly in the Encyclopaedia. The content of the Absolute Idea he says “ is the system of Logic. All that is at this stage left as form for the Idea is the Method of this content — the specific consciousness of the value and currency of the moments in its development. To speak of the Absolute Idea may suggest the conception that we are at length reaching the right thing and the sum of the whole matter. It is certainly possible to indulge in a vast amount of senseless declamation about the Absolute Idea. But its true content is only the whole system of which we have been hitherto studying the development “ (Enc. 237). And again in the Greater Logic: “Thus what here still has to be observed is not a Content m such, but the Universal of its Form — that is, the Method” (G. L. iii. 329).

There is doubtless an element of truth in this. The step we take in reaching the Absolute Idea is no different in character from previous stages in the dialectic, process, nor is the advance we gain in it greater than in previous steps. We have reached the absolute truth about reality now, but we had very nearly reached it in the previous category, Hegel would be perfectly Justified if he merely wished to warn us against expecting anything in the last stage of the dialectic which should be much more mystical or wonderful than the stages immediately preceding it.

But, Hegel means more than this, and in doing so I think lie falls into error. The meaning of the Absolute Idea is not, and cannot be, simply that it is the idea which is reached at the end of the dialectic prop . Each category in the process asserts certain characteristics of existence, and has therefore a, meaning which cannot be reduced to its place in the dialectic. In fact, it only has its place In the process by reason of the relation which the determination of existence given by it bears to the determinations given by the other categories in the process.

The Absolute Idea, therefore, has a content. And, although much of its content is to be found also in previous categories, it is not necessary to go back through the whole series of previous categories whenever we wish to state the content of the Absolute Idea — though of course the validity of the Absolute Idea can only be proved by going through all these previous stages. it is not necessary to go through them to state the content of the Absolute Idea because that Idea contains the truth of them all, not by containing the separate categories as a process, but by containing that part of their content which is true, synthesised into a single unity, the false and inadequate part of the content of those lower categories having been transcended. It is not, therefore, necessary to go through the categories, nor would it be sufficient, since, after all, the Absolute Idea is an advance, even 01) the Idea of the Good, and so there is something in it which is not in any of the other categories.

Besides, Hegel is here inconsistent. In the passages quoted above (G. L. iii. 327. Enc. 236. Cp. above, Section 290) he has given accounts of the nature of the Absolute Idea which are not in the least statements of the Method of the dialectic, but, on the contrary, statements of what existence is conceived to be, when it is taken tinder this category.

292. Returning to these two accounts, we find, I think, that they are what Hegel is justly entitled to assert about the Absolute Idea in consequence of the transition by which, as he has demonstrated, it is reached from the Idea of the Good. It will be, as was said above, the same in content with tile Idea of the Good, except that the two sides of the harmony are no longer asserted each to determine the other. That is, in affirming it we assert that all that exists forms a Universe composed of Individuals, that the Universe and that each Individual is an organic system, and that the relation which exists between the. Universe-system and each of the Individual-systems is one of perfect harmony.

This is what Hegel is entitled to assert as the content of the Absolute Idea.. and this, I think, is what he does assert. In both the Greater Logic and the Encyclopaedia, he states that the Idea is Its own Object. The use of the word Object suggests that the relation in question is analogous to the relation between a state of consciousness and its object, while the statement that the Object of the Idea is the Idea itself suggests that the whole of the content is to be found on both sides of the relation. So far, then, his words support my view of what he means by this category. The fact that he says that it is the Idea which is its own Object — while, if I am right, what he means is, that, according to the idea, the Universe is the Object — can be no objection to anyone familiar with Hegel’s methods of expression.

According to the view I have put forward, indeed, there are other characteristics which must be included in the Absolute Idea. The Universe is differentiated. It consists of an organic system of Individuals. And the Subject-Object relation of which Hegel speaks is one where the Universe as a whole is Object to each of the Individuals as Subjects. These further characteristics are not mentioned by Hegel here. But there is nothing in what he says which is inconsistent with them. And as there is, I think, no doubt. that all of them are found in the category of Cognition, and it’s there nothing in the transition from that category which could involve their removal, we are entitled to hold that they are all found in the category of the Absolute Idea.

293. We may add something which not mentioned by Hegel, but which seems a fair deduction from his position. Each Individual, we have seen, is in harmony with the Universe, and the Universe is an organic unity consisting of all the Individuals. From this it follows that each Individual is in harmony with all. the other Individuals. This statement would riot be an adequate substitute for the previous statement — that the Universe and each Individual are in harmony For, in saying that the harmony is between the Universe and each Individual, we bring out the fact that the harmony is between the whole and its part — a fact which is essential to the category. And this is not brought out when we say that each Individual is in harmony with all other Individuals, But if one statement is true the other will. be. And, when the results of the dialectic are to be applied to concrete problems, it may be a matter of some importance to remember that each Individual’s harmony with the Universe implies his harmony with all other Individuals.

It may be objected that the new statement ignores the organic unity of the, Universe. It is not the case that the Universe is equivalent to the Individuals in isolation, or as a mere aggregate, or as a mechanically determined system. It .is only equivalent to the Individuals when they are joined in just this organic system. And, it might be said, this is ignored if we treat the harmony of each Individual with the Universe as involving its harmony with all other Individuals.

I should reply to this that it is the objection itself which falls to do justice to the organic unity of the Universe, and so falls into a kind of spiritual atomism. For it assumes that it is at any rate conceivable that Individuals could exist as isolated, or as merely aggregated, or as mechanically determined. Now this is just what the dialectic has disproved if it has done anything at all. It has shown, not only that the Individuals are in fact connected in an organic unity, but that it is essential to their nature that they should be, and that if they were not connected in this particular way they would not be Individuals at all. Thus to speak of an Individual is to speak of an Individual in organic unity with the others, just as to speak of a triangle is to speak of a figure whose angles are equal to two right angles. To object that, when the Individuals are mentioned without mentioning the organic unity, that unity is neglected, is to ignore this essentiality of the organic unity to the Individuals, and it is thus the objection which is unduly atomistic.

294. In this category the dialectic ends, and we reach, according to Hegel, the absolute truth, so far as it can be reached by pure thought. “All else,” as he has told us, “is error, confusion, opinion, strife, caprice, and impermanence.” There are, he asserts, no defects to be found in this conception, which compel us to proceed to a higher category to remove them. There is, indeed, one defect which reveals itself here, as in every other case where pure thought is taken in abstraction from the other elements of existence, and by means of which Hegel’s philosophy is driven on, beyond the Logic, to the conception of Nature, and from that to, the conception of Spirit — the final and supreme truth about all existence. But with the Absolute Idea we reach the highest and final form of pure thought.

The proof that this is the final form of pure thought must always remain negative. The reason why each previous category was pronounced not to be final was that in each some inadequacy was discovered, which rendered it necessary, on pain of contradiction, to go beyond it. Our belief in the finality of the Absolute Idea rests on our inability to find such an inadequacy. Hegel’s position will. hold good, unless some future philosopher shall discover some inadequacy it, the Absolute Idea which requires removal by means of another category.

Most of the space devoted by Hegel to the Absolute Idea, both in the Greater Logic and in the Encyclopaedia, is concerned with questions relating. to the dialectic method. That such questions should be discussed here follows, of course, from the Position, discussed above that the content of the Absolute Idea is the dialectic method itself. But, in any case, the end of the dialectic would be a natural place for a review of the method which had been followed. To discuss the dialectic method would, however, be beyond the object I have proposed to myself in this book.

295. Is the Absolute tied in any concrete state known to us, in the same way that, the category of Cognition was? It seems clear to me that Hegel regarded it as exemplified by consciousness of some sort. In the first place there are the references to personality iii the quoted above from the Greater Logic (iii. 327). The Notion is here, “as a Person, impenetrable atomic Subjectivity.” This does not, I think, indicate that the nature of the Universe as a whole is exemplified by personality, since the would never be described by Hegel as impenetrable or atomic. It is, I think, the parts of the Universe which are to be, as having these characteristics, and as therefore, having a nature exemplified in personality. In the second place, we have the statement that the Idea is it’s own Object, and again that the Absolute Idea is the truth which knows itself. Moreover, the harmony in the Absolute Idea is the same as the harmony in Cognition, except that neither side is taken as determinant. Now Cognition was regarded by Hegel as exemplified in states of consciousness.

But what sort of consciousness gives us an example of the category of. the Absolute Idea?’ It cannot be knowledge, or volition. For knowledge, as we have seen, exemplifies the Idea of the True — the category in which the Universe is the determinant of the harmony. And volition exemplifies the Idea of the Good — the category in which the Individual is also the determinant of the harmony. In the Absolute Idea neither side of the harmony is determinant.

Hegel does not, so far as I can see, consider this point at I believe that the state of. consciousness which would exemplify the Absolute Idea is since in love we have a state of harmony — which neither the subject nor the object can be considered as determinant. To discuss this here, however, would take us beyond the sphere of the Logic, since love, though it may exemplify the Absolute Idea, is not itself a category, but a concrete state of spirit[14].

Would Hegel hay agreed with this? As I have just said, the question in the Logic. On the other he does not consider hand, we are not left without means of judging what his opinion would be. For, according to Hegel, the Absolute Idea must be true of all that really exists, and Spirit really exists in fact, nothing but Spirit exists. If, therefore, among the various forms under which Spirit appears to us, we can find one which adequately expresses the nature of Spirit, while none of the others do so, then that form will be an example of tile Absolute Idea (awl, also, though this does not concern us in the Logic, the only instance of it).

There is no doubt, I think, that Hegel believes himself to have, in the Philosophy a dialectic process such that the last term, and the term alone, gives us the truth about Spirit. This then would seem to be the example of the Absolute Idea. But this term is not love, but philosophy. Whether Hegel was justified in holding this may be doubted[15], but the fact that he did hold it seems to indicate that he would not have accepted love as the state of consciousness which is an example of the Absolute Idea.

On the other hand, in the Philosophy of Religion, the, kingdom of the Holy Ghost” is apparently taken as the absolutely true description of Spirit. And that is represented as a Community bound together by love. The question must, I think, remain undecided.

296. A Commentary such as this necessarily throws more emphasis on points of difference than on points of agreement. I should wish, therefore, in concluding the exposition of Hegel’s philosophy which has been the chief object of my life for twenty-one years, to express my conviction that Hegel has penetrated further into the true nature of reality than any philosopher before or after him. It seems to me that the next task of philosophy should be to make a fresh investigation of that nature by a dialectic method substantially, though not entirely, the same as Hegel’s. What results such an investigation may produce cannot be known till it has been tried, but much of Hegel’s reasoning seems to me to vary so little from the truth, where it varies at all, that I believe the results, like the method, would have much resemblance to Hegel’s own.


1. This connexion by causal relation was, of course, first reached in Reciprocity, but its development was not taken up again until Objectivity had been reached.

2. We may compare Kant’s account of an organised being. (Critique of Judgment, Section 65.) “In the first place it is requisite that its parts (regards their presence and their form) are only possible through their reference to the whole .... It is requisite secondly that its parts should so combine in the unity of a whole that they are reciprocally cause and effect of each other’s form.”

3. Here, and wherever I write Body with a capital initial, I mean the element of plurality in Hegel’s category of Life. When I mean the body as known to biology I write the word without a capital.

4. Individual here stands for Das Individuum, and not, as elsewhere in this book, for Das Einzelne.

5. It is possible that Hegel may have vaguely conceived the Idea of the Kind as including an Ideal of the way in which the Class-Universal should be possessed, so that a lion who was not a lion in the best sort of way was not an adequate manifestation of the Idea of a lion. But he has not explicitly stated, still less justified, the introduction of this fresh element into the Idea of a Kind. And all that would follow would be the possibility that no lions were, in this sense, adequate manifestations of the Idea of the Kind. It would not follow that no lion could be an adequate manifestation, which is what Hegel asserts.

6. There remains the possibility that the inadequacy, though not inconsistent with the existence of the Organism, would cause such friction among its parts as to wear it out after a time. But such a quantitative relation could never, I think, be proved à priori, as it must he if it is to form part of the dialectic. And certainly Hegel makes no attempt to prove it.

7. In this second sense it would be equally correct, as will be seen later, to say that the Universe is an expression of each Individual.

8. Wallace, in his translation, avoids this inconvenience by calling the subdivision Cognition Proper.

9. Lotze takes a similar view of the essence of volition. cp. Microcosmus, Book IX Chapter 5 (trans. Vol. 2, p. 706),

10. This is only an inference, as no third term is explicitly given. But I cannot doubt that the term left to be supplied is the Synthesis, and that the two which are given are the Thesis and Antithesis.

11. Cp. e.g. my Studies in the Hegelian Dialectic, Chapter IV.

12. Even if the Universe were completely good, Hegel would not be justified in his corollary: “All unsatisfied endeavour ceases, when we recognise that the final purpose of the world is accomplished no less than ever accomplishing itself” “ (Enc. 234). If the Universe is seen as it truly is, then, according to Hegel, there could be no unsatisfied endeavour, or endeavour of any kind. And so endeavour could not cease because of its superfluity, since it never existed. U, on the other hand, the Universe is looked at in such a partially illusory manner that endeavour appears to exist, then the utility of the endeavour may be as real as its existence. When Hegel came to apply his philosophy to the time-world, he realised this. He did not, for example, condemn the efforts of Socrates, or of Luther, as useless.

13. Perhaps it should rather he said that this characteristic should have belonged to the category of Life, since it scarcely seems consistent with Hegel’s treatment of the expression of the Seele by the Body as necessarily inadequate.

14. For a discussion of this question cp. e.g. my Studies in Hegelian Cosmology, Chapter IX. especially Section 284.

15. Cp. e.g. my Studies in the Hegelian Dialectic, Sections 204-206.