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Becoming Viii

Becoming Viii

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Published by: stephen theron on Dec 19, 2009
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BECOMING VIII: ESSENCE The Infinite, as the unity of quality and quantity in measure, is simple relation toself (
sich auf sich beziehen
) and uniquely so. For only the Infinite is itself its ownmeasure or, we might say, “judges all things”. Now Being is immediacy simply.
Hence
it is the Beginning (of logic). Not that we immediately
find 
Being withoutthe possibility of critique (this seems to be the basis of McTaggart’s view thatHegel “had no right” to assume Being as beginning his dialectic). Rather, theimmediate, immediacy, is what Being initially
names
. Any question of what is oris not immediate, however, just does not and cannot arise here. It, as category,i.e. its possibility, is
the
condition for anything arising, or rather
resulting
, at all.Being or immediacy, which by the negation of itself is a mediationwith self and a reference to self, - which consequently is also amediation which cancels itself into reference-to-self, or immediacy, -is Essence (111).Being is Essence, “being and all its forms”. It is as if he had said Being isimmediacy beyond all idea of immediacy, since this term “immediacy” is alreadya (defining) mediation, a step beyond the beginning. So it “cancels itself” again,or perpetually, thus becoming or manifesting itself as Essence or, one might say,comprehensively mutual reference as such. It is not merely the type or form of reference, i.e. the form which
is
reference as due, merely, to “our reflection onwhat takes place”. That is, it is not merely the
 passing
of one category intoanother, which we had, so to say, subjectively taken to be the very dialecticitself, but which was merely our starting out upon the ladder which we weregoing to have to kick away. It is not, that is, the mere abstract idea of reference,still less of essence. The categories remain, but as mutually referring to theextent that “there is no real other”. Anything and anything has “
its
own other”,immanently. Transition is excluded, as twice dead metaphor, giving way torelation. Yet this remaining relation is “self-relation”, the same in difference. Thisis the celebrated or maligned contradiction of Trinitarianism, as it wereuniversalized. This, quite obviously, is where Hegel the one-time seminarian is“coming from”. After that we may see him as thinking his way either out of it ordeeper into it. In his own philosophy these two processes are anyway the same! Those who advocate skipping a line whenever he mentions God simply refuse orfail to read him. Being and Nothing are now seen to have no sense except inmutual reference. “In God there is light and no darkness at all”, proclaims anapostolic writer. But he still has to
say 
it. They are in themselves referred to theirother, as condition for “surprise”. The positive as positive negatives the negative,as the negative negatives the positive. This is the ancient post-Eden state of being “as gods, knowing good and evil”, the
sic et non
transcending the either/or. This mutual reference is “explicit”. That is, it is intrinsic to any “one” whatever, ina way which finally overthrows language and predicative judgment, as has slowlyto appear, again as a form of kicking away a ladder or previous but indispensableposition from which it results, as the era of the algae destroyed itself in givingway to the more complex life-forms, indispensably, or so runs the theory. “In
 
Being everything is immediate, in Essence everything is relative.” Yet in the endwe will see that everything cannot be relative, that relation itself will besubverted, transformed, superseded.Being is Essence. Yet “in essence the actual unity of the notion is not realized,but only postulated by reflection” (112). Essence “is self-relatedness, only in sofar as it is relation to an Other”, an Other as necessarily postulated, however.Still, “Essence… is Being.” Being, all the same, is now “deposed to a merenegative, to a seeming”, to our own starting-point. Essence is so to say a moretrue or “objective” being, “reflecting light into itself”, active. “The Absolute is theEssence” (112). In general, if everything, taken distributively, is mediated bysomething else, then everything is its other and every other is its other again. Therefore one cannot advance
from
one thing to another as if that thing, or any“thing”, stood alone and independent. All, rather, must be taken at once and notmerely posited thus, as if there were some anterior position from which to dothis. This is Essence. Essence, that is, precludes anything’s having its ownexclusive and particular essence. Essence negates essence, in that self-relationwhich negates any possible relation. Hegel calls it immanent Being, Being goneinto itself, never going beyond, being there (
Dasein
we might again say, thoughwith new insight backwardly applied) “in the beginning”. We have now tounderstand, however, how, all the same, the
actual
unity of the notion is notrealised yet, but postulated
by reflection
. Only so will we be able later toappreciate what that realization or “advance” will show itself ever to be.Hegel here makes a connection between Essence and our sense of the past, ourpast
tense
, in fact, as it emerges in (German) language before or without anyexplicit notion of The Past being formed. He clearly recalls a similar moment inAristotle where, however, no appeal to any
testimony 
of a language-form ismade. Essence, says, Aristotle, is what was to be,
quod erat esse, ti en einai
. InGerman, however, he notes,
Wesen
, essence, is “the term used for the pasttense”, putting it the other way round (equally validly), as it were. First wedistinguish past from present, the seeming, then we begin to subvert, overcomethe finite notion of time altogether. Of course at the end of 
that 
process we willhave to see that we never “began” anything at all. “No birth no death” (Buddhistsaying). We might say that our unreflected notion of a
 past 
is (was) our first“model” for the changeless relation of each to other (its others) in the Notionwhich, moving backwards now, is Essence. To promote Benthamism from theUnderstanding to the Notion of Reason, we say in effect that each is to count forall and none for less than all. Why, though, unless each
is
all, I am (count for)“you”? It is only the “ought” thus based upon “is” that could really count at all. Things really are not what they immediately show themselves. Thereis thus something more to be done than simply rove from one qualityto another… there is a permanent in things… in the German auxiliaryverb ‘
sein
the past tense is expressed by the term for Essence(
Wesen
):…
gewesen
This anomaly of languagecorrectperception… Essence we may certainly regard as past Being,… (112,
 Zus.
).
 
We have, that is, finished transcending Being, while it is still “at the same timepreserved”. That is, all “times” are so to say possessed, the alpha and omega of the Absolute. The past is a kind of first picture of this, since the future is, inrealist or common-sense perception, just as future not real at all, an
ens rationis
or “being of reason”. The present, as immediacy, is transcended in Essence asuse of the past tense is the same as denying the immediacy of what it otherwiseaffirms. In the sweep of the logic this is equivalent to
 Aufhebung
of pastness andhence of Time with all its antinomies and contradiction. But the same of coursemay be said of the whole of Nature. We may ask, did the dinosaurs “really” rantand roar over millions of years, the sun rise and set, without rational observation?“The outside is the inside.” That is, out and in are “out”. Have a cup of tea!(Buddhist saying). “Come ye apart a while” (Christian saying). “The content is thesame” (Hegel).Hegel also notes that
Wesen
can denote aggregates, collections, as of Press, Postor Revenue (
Steuerwesen
), referring thus to them as “not to be taken single, intheir immediacy, but as a complex, and then, perhaps… in their variousbearings.” He
asserts
, “this usage… is not very different in its implication fromour own.” This refers especially to the “various bearings”, a potential relation(bearing),
as belongs to rationality 
, of each thing with everything and hence withevery other thing, as is claimed now, today, for the particles of physics viewed,by physicists at least, as potential ultimates,
relata
salvaged while standingbefore the abyss of the Notion. Hegel, however, thinks we can as well begin withthe
Steuerwesen
, making the last first, as he will later reverse cause and effectprior to overcoming it all together, as indeed Hume’s analysis had called for. It isquite clear that Hegel does not reject but incorporates or “saves” philosophicalskepticism or, just, skepticism. “What is God”, asked Thomas Aquinas, unlessfinally unknowable or “incomprehensible”. Yet, unlike the
Ding-an-sich
, God, theAbsolute by definition (whether we like the proper name or not), is not, Hegelthinks, to be likewise dropped, since just anything else is a type and symbol of it. Thus
das Unzulängliches ist getan
, he will have read in Goethe, not merely as justifying imperfect actions (it forgives them rather) but as
situating
anythingfinite whatever in the dialectical advance “from shadows to reality”, a new slanton a well-rehearsed, indeed ancient conception.“People also speak of 
finite
Essences, such as man.” He mentions a plural hedoes not himself allow. This has implications regarding “man”. It was significantwhen Kant began speaking not of man but of “the rational creature”. What Hegelclaims to show though is that “creature” too must overcome itself as notion, aswhen he says, again, that created things, nature, the
finite spirit 
even, are, “intheir difference from God, untrue” (83,
 Zus.
, as finally prefacing the whole Logicbeginning at 84). Aristotle was pointing in the same direction when he showed(
Metaphysics
VII) that the determining
essence
of man lay not, really, in thecomposite “rational animal” but, as with everything, in the ultimate or specificdifference, which is rationality. The “rational soul” determines everything, eventhe form or appearance of the body. Thus it is
forma corporis
, which is as muchas to say that “the body” has no form of its own. While the Thomists, followingtheir master, maintain this “unicity of the substantial form” against Scotist ideas

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