- Special Introduction
- I.: Descartes—his Life and Writings .
- II.: Philosophy In the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries Preceding Descartes .
- III.: The Cogito Ergo Sum — Its Nature and Meaning .
- IV.: Cogito Ergo Sum — Objections to the Principle.
- V.: The Guarantee of the Principle .
- VI.: The Criterion of Truth .
- VII.: The Ego and the Material World .
- VIII.: Innate Ideas.
- IX.: Malebranche (1638-1715) †
- X.: Spinoza (1632-1677) — Relations to Descartes .
- XI.: Development of Cartesianism In the Line of Spinoza—omnis Determinatio Est Negatio .
- XII.: Hegelian Criticism — the Ego and the Infinite .
- Discourse On Method
- Part I.
- Part II.
- Part III.
- Part IV.
- Part V.
- Part VI.
- The Meditations
- Preface to the Reader.
- Synopsis of the Six Following Meditations.
- Meditations On the First Philosophy In Which the Existence of God, and the Real Distinction of Mind and Body, Are Demonstrated.
- Meditation I.: Of the Things On Which We May Doubt .
- Meditation II.: Of the Nature of the Human Mind ; and That It Is More Easily Known Than the Body .
- Meditation III.: Of God: That He Exists.
- Meditation IV.: Of Truth and Error .
- Meditation V.: Of the Essence of Material Things ; and , Again , of God; That He Exists .
- Meditation VI.: Of the Existence of Material Things , and of the Real Distinction Between the Mind and Body of Man .
- The Principles of Philosophy.
- To the Most Serene Princess , Elisabeth, Eldest Daughter of Frederick, King of Bohemia, Count Palatine , and Elector of the Sacred Roman Empire .
- The Principles of Philosophy.
- Part I.: Of the Principles of Human Knowledge .
- Part II.: Of the Principles of Material Things .
- Part III.: Of the Visible World .
- Part IV.: Of the Earth .
- Appendix: Reasons Which Establish the Existence of God, and the Distinction Between the Mind and Body of Man, Disposed In Geometrical Order.
Development of Cartesianism in the Line of
Spinoza—Omnis Determinatio Est Negatio.
According to Spinoza's interpretation of Descartes, the latter is represented as holding the finite — whether self-consciousness or extension — to be mere negation. The real is the infinite substance which grounds these. Even if this interpretation of Descartes were shown to be erroneous, which it is, Spinoza would yet force this meaning on the principles of Descartes—especially by means of the principle, or at least the assumption, involved in it—Omnis determinatio est negatio. This principle, though only incidentally stated by Spinoza, is, we are told, the whole of him. It certainly has been most profusely used by those who have followed him in the same line, and it is accepted by Hegel as virtually the principle of his own dialectic. It is necessary, therefore, somewhat fully to examine it in itself and its bearings. A precise analysis of its real meaning should help to settle the validity of a good many important applications of it. The Spinozistic line in relation to Descartes is mainly this,— that self-consciousness and extension as definite or positive attributes — as, in fact, implying limit — are necessarily negative of what is above and beyond themselves. In fact, they do not imply the presence of the real by being positive or definitely self-consciousness and extension. They, in this respect, rather imply the absence of the real. And it is only when limit or definiteness is removed from them that they become truly real. The true real is the infinite substance — rather, perhaps, the indeterminate. Accordingly, neither the self-conscious Ego nor the reality extension have any proper existence as individual substances or things. Whatever reality they may have is only a mode of that which has absolutely no limit, or more correctly, of that to which no limit has been assigned—the indeterminate.
1. The principle expressed in the phrase, Omnis determinatio est negatio is, as employed by Spinoza, identical with that of abstraction from limit. For the limit of the individual requires to be removed at each step of progress to the only true reality, the indeterminate substance. But before I examine this meaning of the phrase, it is necessary to consider it in its general signification, and to see especially how, since Hegel gave it its full development, it has been accepted by him and by writers of his school.
This principle of determination is explicitly stated in the Logic of Hegel (I quote from the Logic of the Encyclopædie), as far on as § 91, where, under Quality, he tells us that “the foundation of all determinateness is negation (as Spinoza says), Omnis determinatio est negatio.” Hegel has got by this time to Quality,— There and Then Being—as a stage in the deduction from Pure Being. It is necessary, therefore, to look back for a moment at the previous stages of the dialectical process, and to see how this principle is now stated for the first time. We have previously the pre-suppositionless stage of Pure Being, with its necessary implicate Naught or Non-Being, and the resumption of the two moments in Becoming. We have the whole pretension of the dialectic laid bare. We have the pre-suppositionless Pure Being; we have its necessary self-movement into its opposite, and the inter-connection of the moments summed up in Becoming; the pretension that those self-evolved determinations are the predicates of Being. Out of Becoming, as a fresh starting-point, we have the moment of Quality (Daseyn), determinate Being in Space, and Time,— Something (Etwas). This may be regarded as the first step of the dialectic in the region of definite cognizable reality. I do not at present propose to discuss those positions fully. If I did, the first question I should ask would be whether there is here an absolute pre-suppositionless beginning. I should certainly challenge the statement that pure Being as a thought is pre-suppositionless. Such a thought or concept is only intelligible in my consciousness; and the process, at least, must take place there as the abstraction from, and therefore the correlative of the concrete being which I already know, from a source different from pure thought. Hegel's pure Being is just as much a shot out of a pistol as Schelling's intuition of the absolute, which he so characterizes. The truth is, that pure being as a simple abstraction from the conditions of apprehended Being supposes an abstractor—an Ego, or thinker, whose thought also is a correlative condition of its possibility, and who, therefore, is at the beginning as much as the pure Being is. Take the basis of the system as pure Being, or as a concrete Some-being of consciousness, how is either of these guaranteed to us? We have seen what is the guarantee of Descartes. It is intuition regulated by non-contradiction. But what is the guarantee of Hegel's basis? Mere is, or being, is an abstraction from immediate consciousness. What guarantees this consciousness? What grasps this abstraction? Nothing whatever in his system. There is nothing to give the one; there is nothing to guarantee the other. He has thrown away the possibility of even holding the pure being as an abstraction: for it is an abstraction from subject and attribute — from self-consciousness and its act. The isness of pure Being is ex hypothesi, not deduced; it is as little guaranteed. It is the merest meaningless abstraction. On the other hand, reinstate self-consciousness and its act of abstraction: this act is a process of consciousness, as much as the act of doubt is; and the basis now is not mere Being, or pure thought; it is the very definite one of a self-conscious thinker, who is the ground of the abstraction and of the whole process of development, instead of being a stage or moment merely in the development. This self-consciousness is not deduced at least; and no guarantee can be found for it save intuition and non-contradiction.
2. I should deny, further, the thought of pure Being per se, as a beginning; or a point from which any movement of thought is possible. How can pure Being be supposed capable of movement, or of passing into Nothing, and thence gathering itself up into the unity called Becoming? Can the abstraction pure Being or mere Being as conceived by my intelligence, pass into anything to be otherwise named, or worthy of being so named, because of a difference between the two? This notion can pass into another notion, ex hypothesi, only from itself,—of its own power of motion. We are told that it does so pass, and it must so pass. How? Because it has in itself an inherent negation, it must negate itself,— place against itself its simple opposite or contradiction. It is not meanwhile explicitly said which of the two. Now I say in reply that the concept of pure Being — mere qualityless, indeterminate Being, is utterly inconsistent with the concept of any inherent necessity of negation or movement whatever. Movement and necessity of movement are determinations — qualities or predicates which are wholly incompatible with a purely indeterminate concept as a beginning. Pure Being is the mere Dead Sea of thought, and once in it there is no possibility from anything it contains of anything whatever different from itself, or worthy of being named as different, being evolved out of it. And if it is said that the mere concept of pure Being involves the concept of its opposite, non-Being, I say, in reply, in that case, the beginning was not from pure Being, but from the correlation of Being and non-Being, and there never was any movement or dialectical passage in the matter. When thus it is said, for example, that “pure thought” must issue in a world of space and time,— that it cannot rest in itself,— we have a virtual confession of the impossibility of conceiving “ pure thought “ per se, and therefore, of any progress or movement from it as a starting-point. The world of time, at least the singular or concrete, is necessary even to its existence as a consciousness at all from the very first. It means, in fact, that the universal side of knowledge cannot be realized or conceived per se, and as such cannot be the ground of any evolution. To tell us that “pure thought” is synthetic, is simply a form of words which covers the begging of the two points at issue,— first, whether there is pure thought to begin with, and whether pure thought can be qualified as synthetic or anything else. The real meaning of synthetic here is, that it expresses a relation already assumed between the universal and particular, while it is meant to suggest evolution or development of the latter out of the former.
3. Besides, to say this — that these two contradictories are involved in a concept — is to give up the professed problem of deducing the one from the other — that is, of solving the contradiction; it is to assume simply that the contradiction already exists, and that the concept embodying it is thinkable. The truth is, that so far as pure thought or pure Being is concerned, there is and can be no movement. The Becoming which is conjured up to express its completion is not a product of pure thought at all; and it might further be readily shown that this concept which is said to unite the opposites does not really do so. It has no unity for absolute Being and absolute non-Being. Nothing must always be less than Being. Becoming, moreover, is a concept which has meaning in relation to a definite experience, where a determinate germ or form of being rises to its own completeness or totality, as the seed to the tree. But it is wholly inapplicable as a notion to the abstractions Being and Not-Being — the falling of one abstraction into another, or the stating the same qualityless abstraction in different words, and deluding oneself that one has got different concepts even as moments.
4. But the pretension of the dialectic is, that there is here from the first an application of the movement of negation. Negation is the impulse of the whole dialectic; it is the means by which pure thought moves from its mere in-itselfness to the successive assertions or determinations of thought and being, to quality, quantity, substance, and so on. Now I challenge the dialectic in the first place with a double use, and an abuse, of the principle of negation. It is applied equally to the indeterminate and the determinate. It is, first of all, applied to the mere pure qualityless abstract of being. This is not even something, not an Etwas, it is not in this or that space of time — it is, to begin with, above relation and category of any sort, it is not compassable by the intuition of experience, or by the concept of the understanding. The question is, Can you apply to this the laws of identity and non-contradiction? Can you have either affirmation or negation in any proper meaning of those words? Can it be said that the mere indeterminate, call it Being or Thought, is identical with itself or different from another? Or can an opposite of any sort be put against it? The laws of identity and non-contradiction are well known as to their nature and essence. The nature of opposition, especially contradictory opposition, in any form, implies a definite or determinate to begin with. something is at least cognized; nay, besides quality in general, even definite attribute or class, ere the negation can have a definite application or real meaning at all. But how can the laws of identity and non-contradiction apply, when the alleged starting-point is wholly indeterminate, not even fixed as this or that? There is only the mere abstract is or isness; but this is in everything that is. It is thus impossible to negate except by the mere abstract is-not. And as the former is not yet applied to anything definite or determinate, not even to something, there is only a possible negation, or rather an abstract terminal formula, which we know cannot be applied to two definite concepts at once, but which is as yet applied to neither. This is a purely hypothetical formula; there is as yet no actual negation, for there is as yet not even this or that to which such a formula can be applied. The purely indeterminate cannot be actually negated, for the reason that the negation is as much the indeterminate as the so-called positive is; and, therefore, there is nothing to oppose it either as contrary or contradictory.
The delusion thus propagated by the Hegelian logic is, that this vague notion of being,— this mere indefinitude — In fact, even mere qualityless being,— has in itself a power of development. It has really nothing of the sort. We rise out of it through a definite and accumulating experience — not through a logical or rational development. This indefinite is mere extension — mere generalized empty width, — and unless experience of differences or differenced things come to our aid, it will remain the same vague indefinite for ever to us. The facts or details of our experience or knowledge cannot be filled up by any deduction from mere is or isness,— even from knowing that something is. It is predicable of those different facts or details; but they cannot be evolved from it. In other words, the things or kinds of things in the universe must be known quite otherwise than by mere inference from our first knowledge. This source of knowledge is simply a successive and varying experience, having nothing in common with the is or isness of the starting-point, except that such an element is involved in each new experience. And even though is gave the thought of difference, — the is-not,— this would imply no real being or possibility of advance. This is but a mere ideal negation, which a bad logic galvanizes into a positive or reality.
5. But it may be supposed that the dialectic reaches stronger ground when it comes down to Quality or Determinate Being. Here it is emphatically proclaimed that Omnis determinatio est negatio,—that every determination not only implies but is literally negation.
Let us hear how Hegel himself states the point:— “Quality, as existing determinateness in contrast to the negation which is contained in it, but is distinguished from it, is Reality. Negation, which is no longer an abstract nothing, but a There Being and Something, is only form in this; it is other Being. Quality, since this other Being is its proper determination, yet, in the first instance, distinct from it, is Being for another,— a width of Determinate Being, of Somewhat. The Being of Quality as such, contrasted with this reference connecting it with another, is Being-in-itself.” “The foundation,” he adds, “of all determinateness is negation (as Spinoza says Omnis determinatio est negatio).”
Again: “Being firmly held as distinct from determinateness, the In-itself Being, were only the empty abstraction of Being. In There-Being, determinateness is one with its Being, which at the same time, posited as negation, is bound, limit. Accordingly Other-being is not an equal or fellow external to being, but is its own proper moment. Something is, through its quality, first finite, second alterable, so that finitude and alterableness belong to its being.”
6. Now we know two kinds of negation, and if Hegelianism knows a third, let it vindicate it articulately. In the first case, we have pure or simple logical negation. We can deny what a concept holds or affirms absolutely or merely, without putting anything whatever in its place. We can negate A by not-A,— one by none,— some by none,— and the result is zero. We can negate, on the other hand, by a positive concept which yet is opposed to the positive concept with which we start, and which we place in negative relation to it. We can negate pleasure by pain,— green by red,— and so on. This is real as compared with formal negation. Now, which is used by the Hegelian dialectic? Obviously not the former, — not the purely logical negation; and therefore the progress of the dialectic is not of pure thought at all in even a subordinate sense of that term. Absolute logical negation leaves nothing in its place. The Something—the Etwas,—being negated, leaves no positive in the shape of Other. It leaves merely the ideal concept not anything — or nothing, if you chose. The something is thus a positive against a mere negation; but by a trick of language it is sought to contrast this is or something, with an other or positive being. This is unwarrantable. other or another is not the proper negative of Something or Somewhat; this negative is none, or not-any. This is mere negation, not position at all. That the opposite of Somewhat is more than a mere negation is simply an assumption of the point at issue. “ Limit in so far as negation of something is not abstract non-being in general, but a non-being which is, or that which we call other.” The questions for the dialectic here are the possibility of movement from Some to Other, and the nature of the Other as compared with the Some or Something. This passage is operated wholly by negation,— by the negation of the immanent, ever pressing on movement of the conditioning thought or concept passing into negation. And every determination is negation. But the is-not is no development of is; there is no motion or progress from the one to the other; there is simple paralysis of all motion; and there is as little possibility of any medium either between or above them. As David Hume pointed out, this is the true or absolute contradiction. The dialectic at the earliest stage, and especially later in the case of Quality, assumes what it ought to prove,— nay, what is unprovable,— that the negation of a positive is always and necessarily itself a positive. Thought is thus baptized synthetic: and this is deemed a sufficient basis for the construction of the universe.
But let us take the other form of negation,— that of mere opposition or contrariety. This we know well. Here we negate one affirmative concept by another affirmative concept. We negate the Somewhat by Some Other. We negate red by green,—black by white,— square by round, — and so on. Now we have got beyond the formalism of the something and the opposite,— the position and the mere negation. We are now dealing with definite concepts of some thing and other thing. But how do we get the some other, or positive, which in this relation we set in opposition to our original positive? Can we get it by pure negation? This has been shown to be impossible. All that negation implies is the relative assertion of nonexistence or non-reality. This implies nothing positive. If, therefore, we set positive against positive as in real or contrary opposition, we oppose one concept to the first, which does not flow from that first by negation. In fact, we are now dealing with species under a genus,— with the results of intuition, experience, and classification,— results only possible, in the first instance, through the negative regulation of the logical laws of identity and non-contradiction; and we are setting positive concept against positive concept, of which pure thought knows nothing and can say nothing. We are now really in the sphere of space and time. Here if we negate one member of the constituted class by another equally positive we know both members independently. But we can negate even under contraries when we are ignorant of the precise positive opposite. It is enough if the positive concept be opposed to some one of its possible opposites, for I may quite well say, the thing spoken of is not this particular species under the genus; it is some one of them, yet I do not know which. The sum is either 10, or 12, or 15, or 20. I know it is not lower than the first, nor higher than the last; which I cannot say. A definite opposite goes quite beyond pure negation; it is a simple matter of experience, and experience alone. So that, strictly considered, even real or contrary opposition does not of itself imply a definite contrary concept; the negation of a positive concept, when already subsumed under a class, implies only the possibility of its being found in some concept or other under the sphere of that class.
From this we may gather the following as the rules of determination:—
- a.Determination is the condition of negation; there is no actual negation unless in relation to actual determination. Negation, therefore, as a moment of progress or movement, cannot follow the purely indeterminate. The formula is and is-not, here, is but a terminal abstract, and indicates only the possible or hypothetical application of the relation to content not yet supplied. The so-called movement on the principle of negation of Pure Being into Pure Nothing is meaningless.
- b.A determination does not imply a greater negation than is requisite to preserve its reality as an affirmation. This applies both to contradictories and to contraries — e. g., Contradictory, as one and none; contrary, as veracity and untruthfulness, or the ideal exclusion of the violation of the law of truth-speaking. This obviously holds in relation to contraries, where there is a limitation to certain possible members of a class. Hence it is erroneous to maintain that every (indeed any) negation is necessarily as positive as the affirmation or determination.
7. The doctrine thus maintained by Hegel, under the category of quality, that every determinate being or object of thought leads directly to that which is the other, or negation of itself, is erroneous. But it is not less a mistake to maintain that every determinate object of experience is what it is, only because it is not something else. This doctrine is not correct because a determinate object of space and time — say hardness or resistance — is not what it is mainly or only because it is not its opposite, contradictory or contrary. On the contrary, the opposite, whether contradictory or contrary, is merely a limitative concept in respect of its positive reality, and lies necessarily in a different sphere, or one negatively related to it. The reality of the object does not depend on its not being in the other sphere; but the existence of this sphere is relative to the previously determinate character of the object. This determinate character it has obtained as the definite effect of a definite cause. Otherwise, we should have the absurdity that the whole contents of space and time could be determined, not by science or inductive research, but by the negation successively of determinate objects; and as in the case of real opposition, this negation might be many and various, we might have the most conflicting results vaunted as equally the results of necessary deduction. Nay, in every case the determinate would be explained by what is the very opposite of its nature, as resistance by non-resistance, and sentiency by insentiency. The fallacy here consists in assuming that mutually exclusive concepts are, as correlative, identical, whereas they are simply limitative. This fallacy pervades nearly the whole logic of Hegel. It comes out transparently in his doctrine of Essence, and in the deduction of Difference from Identity.
It is, further, assumed in this doctrine that a concept, as possessed of definite qualities, is not an object even of thought or meaning, unless in so far as the concept of the negation of those qualities gives them reality in thought; whereas the reverse is true,—the negative conception is conditioned by the positive, and has itself no meaning unless in relation to that positive. The negation subsists through the positive; not the positive through it. In the case particularly of contrary opposition, while the positive concept is one and definite, there may be many negations of it,— e. g., green may be equally negated by red, black, or blue. But its reality as a concept does not depend on our knowledge of which of these is its counterposed negative.
8. Closely connected with this is another sense of the principle Omnis determinatio est negatio. And it is this sense in which it is brought especially to bear on the first principle of Descartes. It is assumed as the character of determination itself that it is a negation,— a negation of something or some concept preceding it, really or logically. This meaning of the principle seems to be common alike to Spinoza and Hegel; and it is necessary to enable them to force on Descartes the meaning which it is averred his system truly bears — viz, that the real is not to be found in the determinate of our experience, but in that higher sphere of which it is simply a negation. Spinoza illustrates the principle by reference to Body. But the results can hardly be said to justify us in carrying it further. To know matter as it really is, we must abstract from any limit which it possesses. It is figured, for example; but Spinoza tells us that this is a mere negation. It must therefore be got rid of. Matter viewed infinitely or indefinitely can have no limit; limit belongs only to finite or determinate bodies—that is, they are defective in possessing limit at all. They are not truly matter. Matter is the non-figured. The fallacy here is not far to seek. Matter in space is seen by me only as it exists, a colored and extended surface, limited by coadjacent color and extension. Difference of color is necessary to our apprehension of figure in material bodies, and of difference of figures. If I could suppose that there is no color in bodies, there would of course be no difference of color, so therefore no difference of figure. But with the absence of figure, would matter remain matter to our vision? or with the entire absence of extended limit, or limit to touch, would matter remain matter to touch? Does the taking away of the limit or amount of extension which a body possesses, leave or render that body indefinite or infinite in extension? Does the taking away this limit in succession from all the bodies of my experience leave or render these indefinitely or infinitely extended? There cannot be greater misconception than in supposing this. The true residuum in such a case is not body infinitely extended, it is simply the non-extended; for with the extinction of the limit to the extension of the body—say a red line with beginning and end — there is extinction absolutely of the extension which I perceive or can know in the circumstances; that is, there is the extinction in every case of the given body altogether. The residuum is a mere blank indeterminate for thought.
But take this principle generally. Let us see its issue. We have to abstract from the limits of the finite, and the residuum is the real—the infinite. It is indeed the only reality; the finite is only apparent or illusory. Now, what is the residuum on such a process? The mere vague indeterminate of thought, and nothing more or else — the so-called substance, in fact, of Spinoza. Let the finite thing be my self-consciousness. I am conscious of an act of volition, at a given time. To know the reality, I have to abstract from the limits of this act. Volition is a limit; so is self, and so equally is consciousness; so also is my being at a given time: all these must be discarded, and what remains? No object of thought whatever. There is, if you choose, the vague possibility of thought. Because I cannot actually deprive myself of consciousness, but must always be supposed conscious of some process of thought even in abstracting from the limits of thought itself, this vague possibility of determination remains to me. But nothing actually is as an object of thought; for if all limits be supposed taken away, nothing can be predicated. I cannot now even say that the residuum is, for that would be a limit. I have now reached an absolutely vague form of the suspense of thought and knowledge itself. This may be called the infinite — it is simply the absence of thought and predication. It may be called reality, and the only reality— it would be better to call it nonsense.
9. To the Hegelian the substance of Spinoza is a pure indeterminate. The negation of the finite or of finite determination is held to be allowable and just, and with it the abolition of the distinctive character of the mind and body of our experience. But Spinoza's defect is, that he does not reach a proper first or whole. With him it is the absence of quality rather than the presence of Spirit. It is pure affirmation without negation; whereas it should be affirmation that necessarily negates itself by affirming the finite. It is a simple indeterminate or absence of determination; it ought to be that which is self-determining, the living individual whole or spirit, which manifests itself in all that is. But I maintain that this absolutely indeterminate is the true and logical residuum of the abstraction from all limit. This process will not yield a positive in any form. Finite self and consciousness being abstracted from, there can remain no infinite self and consciousness. For we are not here saying that the degree of the quality is increased, — as when we say that there is intelligence higher than our intelligence; but we are seeking to throw off limit and quality altogether. The very limit is a negation, —a negation of the unlimited. The void indeterminate cannot be filled up by the Infinite Spirit. Nor can we properly be said to have reached the knowledge of a whole which includes our self-consciousness as a part — whatever that may mean. This were simply to take up the discarded limits, the definite predicates of self and consciousness — and baptize them infinite self and consciousness. The abstraction must be done in good faith. Self, without or apart from limit, is to me no-self; and consciousness, unless as a definite consciousness, as a conscious act at a given time, is no consciousness. Self and consciousness may indeed be regarded as logical concepts. self and consciousness are capable of being thought by me as notions or as names for classes of things. But as such they have their limits or attributes; they are what they are, though determination and attribution, like other notions; and they are realizable by me only in connection with individual instances of them. This is a totally different position from the abstraction from their limits; in fact, it is impossible under such an abstraction. The residuum, accordingly, of this abstraction is not an infinite self or self-consciousness; it is simply a vague indeterminate, which is neither thought nor being, and which is possible at all or conceivable only because while abstracting from all limits I surreptitiously retain the limits of self-consciousness and thought. To call this a whole in which I am included as a part, is to apply an illegitimate analogy. Whole and part imply limitation as much as finite self-consciousness does; and we are not entitled to seek to express the absolute abstraction from all limits by correlation or limitation.
It may, of course, be said that abstraction from the limits of the Ego of consciousness gives us the notion of an Ego in general. The Ego of my consciousness is an individual embodiment of the notion of a universal Ego. By abstracting from limits — that is, considering me as but an Ego — or one of the Egos, I get to the universal notion — Ego, the Ego. “I” is predicable of me; it is predicable of others, it is predicable of God. But what then becomes of the individuality which is attributed to the infinite Ego, or infinite self-consciousness? How can “I,” the individual, be in any sense a part or manifestation of this infinite Ego, if “I” and “He” are but exemplifications of a common notion?
10. There is a sense, no doubt, in which we must suppose that finite self-consciousness is related to something beyond itself. As a reality in time, it has relations to other points of being in time; and we must go back to a ground of it, either in or above temporal conditions. But the question at present is not whether this be so or not; or whether we can reach a solution of this problem; but whether in the way indicated we do or can connect or identify our finite self-consciousness with what is here called an, or the, Infinite self-consciousness.
The main objection to this view has been anticipated in the criticism of the principle of determination involving negation. If in affirming my self-consciousness, I necessarily and knowingly negate an infinite self-consciousness by imposing a limit upon it, I must be first of all conscious of this infinite self-conscious being. He is necessarily first in the order of my knowledge. Negation means previous, at least conditioning, affirmation. Conscious limitation means a previous consciousness of the absence of limit. I can only consciously impose limit on that which had no limit, by knowing first of all the unlimited.
Now this reduces the whole process to absurdity and self-contradiction. If I know this infinite self-consciousness which I negate in asserting myself, I must know both before I know and before I am. My knowledge no longer begins with me being conscious, but with me being conscious not of, but as, an infinite self-consciousness, and that when as yet I am not distinguished from it as either existent or conscious. Or do I distinguish myself from this infinite self-consciousness when I know it? Then what becomes of its infinity? And how then am I a mere negation of it or a moment of it? Am I identified with the primary consciousness of it? Then what becomes of me and my knowledge? And how can I be said to negate this infinite self-consciousness which I am in order that I may be?
But the truth is, that if every determination is a negation of a previous determination, there never was any determination at all to begin with. Knowledge or determination never could have a beginning; for as any given determination is only a negation of another determination, and dependent on this other, every determination is a negation. But the negation at the same time, needs a determination as a condition of its existence — that is, it needs what, by the very conditions of the probblem, is impossible. Such a statement implies not only the non-commencement of knowledge—it implies the very subversion of the conception of knowledge; for it ends in identifying affirmation and negation—. i. e., in pure non-determination.
II. But what, it may be asked, is the moral bearing of such a doctrine? In order to get the truly real, the first limit that must disappear here is our own individuality; we are no longer truly one; we are not really distinguished from the infinite substance as individuals; we have no independent existence or reality. But take away the notion with which we delude ourselves that we have an existence in any way distinct from the substance of all, and a good deal else must go. Good and evil, freedom, responsibility, all these must disappear with our personality. It is because we think ourselves as distinct from the substance which is identified with God, that we are conscious of doing the right or the wrong, have merit or demerit. But we may give up these thoughts altogether; they have no reality; we need not trouble ourselves either about good or evil, pity or repentance, pride or humility. They are all the same in reality. Personality as a limitation is a mere negation, is unreal; the only true reality is the unlimited substance. To it all personality is indifferent; to it also necessarily is all good and evil; these are mere temporary limitations of its development. Regarded from the finite point of view, good and evil are delusively distinguished; but these seeming differences disappear the moment they are contemplated from the point of view of the infinite substance. All that is, is alike to it; all is equally what it is; there is really ultimately no difference of right or wrong in the one — that is, in the universe.
As for the abolition of the temporal distinction of good and evil, and their identification in the absolute one or substance, all that need be said is, that whatever be the ultimate solution of the mystery of good and evil—whether absorption or sublimation, or elevation of moral will in the universe — this Spinozistic solution is obviously none. It is the mere audacity of reckless assertion to say that there is neither good nor evil in time — that neither temporally is real; it is a misconception, moreover, to suppose that abstraction of the differences between good and evil really identifies them; the result is not identification, but the destruction of each in thought; for the difference being abstracted, neither remains to be identified with the other. And that they are the same in or to the eternal substance, is only vindicable on the supposition that this substance is neither intelligent nor moral, but a name for the suspension of both functions.
II. But ft may be worth while, in closing this section, to look for a moment at the correction and supplement of Spinoza, as put by Hegel himself. “Germany,” as Trendelenburg tells us, “knows the formula by heart that Hegel's great merit is that he defines God as a subject, in contradistinction to Spinozism, which defines him as a substance.” “Substance,” says Hegel, “is the principle of the philosophy of Spinoza. But this principle is incomplete. Substance is doubtless an essential moment of the development of the idea; but it is nevertheless not the idea itself; it is the idea under the limited form of necessity. God is without doubt necessity or the absolute thing, but he is also a person, and to this Spinoza has not risen. Spinoza was a Jew, and he placed himself at the oriental point of view, according to which all that which is finite only appears as transitory and passing. The defect of his system is the absence of the Western principle of individuality which first appeared in a philosophical form, contemporaneously with Spinoza, in the monadology of Leibnitz.”
The points of the deduction are these:—
- 1.The tie which connects things, which causes a thing to enter into actuality as soon as its conditions are fulfilled, is Necessity.
- 2.This Necessity, considered in itself, is Substance — the point of view of Spinoza.
- 3.But substance, as absolute power, is determined in relation to Accident. It thus operates—becomes Causality.
- 4.Substance is thus cause, inasmuch as, passing into accident, it is reflected upon itself, and thus becomes the original thing (ursprüngliche Sache—i.e., thing presupposed in the effect).
- 5.The effect is distinguished from the cause; but this distinction, as immediate or posited, is to be abolished. Because the cause operates, there is another substance— the effect — upon which the action happens. This, as substance, acts in opposition, or reacts on the first substance. There is action and reaction. Causality passes into the relation of Reciprocity of action.
- 6.The self-dependence of the substance thus issues in several self-dependents, and thus the generated, like the generating, is substance; and because causes and effects act and react, these are self-balancing. Effects are causes. The substance thus remains in this change-relation, identical with itself. And herein lies the truth,— the conciliation of Necessity and Freedom.
In other words, substance regarded simply in relation to its attributes or accidents is a necessary or fatal relation; regarded as cause operating effect, it is free or attains to freedom, because what it produces necessarily is from itself and identical with itself, is itself cause, and thus remains “with itself.” Substance in relation to accidents is out of itself, or in relation to what is out of itself; but substance as cause in relation to its effect is as thus cause identical with itself, and yet combines self-identity with development.
There is hardly a statement in this series, or a link of connection, which might not be properly challenged. What does the whole amount to but an identification of the relation of substance and accident with that of cause and effect? But apart from this, what is the identity introduced? Simply the identity or rather proportional energy of substance as cause with effect as determined result. Is this identity of substantial cause with itself? Will any one maintain that this is so in relation to physical transmutation, or in relation to mental manifestation? Is it so in any act of volition? Then what is the sense, if there is any coherent meaning at all, in the position that accident or effect is cause in respect of the substance or cause by which it is produced? Does the reflection or so-called reaction of an effect on its cause constitute it a cause in respect of its own cause? Substances may generate other substances, and causes other causes; but these are so not in respect of their own substances or causes, but in respect of the accidents or effects which in their turn follow from them. This is simply a specimen of the common Hegelian fallacy that correlatives, as mutually reflecting upon or implying each other, are identical. This, though really the vital point of the whole Logic, referring as it does to the development of Spirit, is about the worst and weakest specimen of so-called deduction in the system.
This process is brought forward as the true generative or creative process of the universe of God and Man. The theory has advanced on Spinoza; it has introduced negation, superseded his pure affirmation, and solved the problems of the infinite and finite,—of Liberty and Necessity. Substance has now become subject or spirit; it is on the eve of passing into, or rather has in it the power of, the Concept (Begriff), which posits in itself differences which return to unity with itself.
The process, moreover, is not only the way in which we may best think of God, but it is God — God passing before us in the creation of himself and the universe. He is thus far on his way to his true being, in the complete realization of the process, in which, starting from the primeval nothing, he creates himself and the universe by a series of nots by which he is sustained and enriched.
He is Substance developed into Cause, and thus into Concept and so regarded as conscious subject or spirit. He operates, and in the operation remains identical with himself. But how is either consciousness, freedom, or purpose provided for here? Substance is under a necessity of passing into cause, and cause again into effect, which is counter-cause. What is there here beyond fatal evolution? If substance merely produces substance and cause cause, what provision is there here for consciousness or purpose? Have we yet come to subject or spirit? Have we yet come to, or made the least approach to, a unity of self-consciousness which is identical with itself, or have we the slightest provision for conscious end or purpose in the development? What sort of freedom, moreover, is that which is compatible with fatal emanation, provided only the spring or source of that emanation be either substance or cause itself, and the process of emanation necessary? Is this the highest kind of freedom, or the freedom which we are to attribute to Deity? It is infinitely short of the notion of freedom in our own experience. “ In necessary emanation all is virtually predetermined, and freedom, though proclaimed the essence of spirit, is necessity for the individual.” It is the freedom of which the material mass would be conscious, if it were conscious at all, when let loose from the tie which bound it to the height it descended to the earth. Or, as Trendelenburg has well put it: “Freedom, a grand word, has thus in this relation no other content than this comfort of the substance, that the upspringing are still substances, and the effects as working against are again causes. This relation is the most abstract reflection everywhere applicable, where anything moves. Who ever called it Freedom? Then were necessity even freedom, if the master strikes the slave; for therein are they identical that both are substances; and the slave who gives up his back is operating in this opposite action, as the master in the first cause.”