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Existence then appears at just this place in the Logic as a category in the Doctrine of Essence, succeeding upon Ground, as described at the end of Chapter X here, where we cited 122. Essence is “intermediation in itself” and Ground, correspondingly, is the totality of possibility which is, indeed, the very ground of Mind or Thought, ad opposita or not determinatum ad unum or determined to one thing, as is the case with or in Nature. Nature, thus, is the Idea, this Idea, in an alienated state. There, in nature, this web of inter-relation is, so to say, abstracted from, in that the intermediation, the circle, the opposite including the one and its other and the other of this other and beyond, “is annulled”. This “going forth as nature”, however, inevitable since it is possible, yet for all that freely chosen, since Freedom is one with this necessity of the Ground, as will be shown, is first conceived and hence posited within the dialectic itself, just here. It is after this that it is represented as a kind of journey out of the dialectic, the Logic, into a new mode (of what, nonetheless, will remain dialectical). Thus Hegel tells us that the Logic represents the divine or absolute Mind in itself. There is, therefore, also in the Logic itself, necessarily, a moment of the “Idea freely going forth”, viz. the very idea, the category, of this. There, however, it is not represented absolutely as an Idea going forth, since it remains, along with every other element of thought, within this logic as simply a stage in the dialectic. This version of the “emanation” we here consider, therefore, is closer to the absolute conception of it than its later representation, in this Encyclopaedia, as a passing out from the logic into a “philosophy of nature”. Hegel had thus to offer a philosophy of nature even though he had in a sense forestalled it. Within the divine mind, in other words, there is not found this absolute cleavage between what is and what is not. Absolute Mind is ad opposita and there also the Negative is. Still less could there be such an absolutisation of this category, in Essence, which is Existence. In religious terms, “In God we live and move and have our being.” That is to say, apart from this one infinite existence anything else is false, as Hegel baldly and frequently asserts. “In”, however, should rather be expanded to Identity and this as a general rule. For really, Hegel implies, existence (in other philosophies actus essendi, being) is not contradistinguished against thought. Nothing is. In the Phenomenology he relates this to the Gospel saying “He is not here, he is risen”, coming “after” the “Golgotha” of spirit which is precisely this self-realisation of contradiction as “the very moving principle of the world” though not, of course, of the dialectic itself as finally surmounting all contradiction in the union of all opposites and of opposition itself. Existence is not contradistinguished against thought because it is conceived and hence realised within it, within Mind as the necessity which is spirit. The going forth as nature should later be seen in this light. Quite obviously the Idea never literally went forth but remains ever the same as originating Result which is in no sense “pre-originating”, apart, that is, from the categorical
priority contained in the very notion of Result freed from all considerations of time and change. Immediacy was “intermediated” by annulling the intermediation in, so to say, the flat formality, effecting nothing, of the Ground (122). The Being this returns us to is Existence. This says Hegel is the explicit putting of Essence’s “unity with itself” when (he says “when”) “it has completed the circle of intermediation”. This “when” refers though and must refer to a purely dialectical advance. Nor should we interpret this as the dialectical or absolute conception of existence as a possibility in distinction from being freely actualised or not in a separable creation. This is precisely to deny or annihilate the dialectic as Absolute Mind. Mind itself could then never be absolute or, hence, Mind, reduced thus to a mere epiphenomenon in our speculation. Rather, the dialectic is itself the overcoming of this opposition between possible and actual. Thus in the very doctrine of the Divine Ideas as earlier developed (Augustine, Aquinas, Bonaventure) we find it stated and fully argued that any and every divine idea is one with the divine essence, or with the most real of all.1 This is why Existence is a “poor” category to apply exclusively or definingly to Mind, “our true and essential self” (194, Zus.). The development is implicit when it is first conceived that a man is God, “not by conversion of the godhead into flesh but by taking of the manhood into God”.2 Man too, however, the composite, disappears in this process in favour of mind or spirit3, as in confirmed by the Aufhebung, in the dialectic, of the category of Life in favour of the Idea. In a later idiom, all else is a “cultural posit”, including culture itself. We posit culture. Who then are, or is, the “we” that posits? The question has been sufficiently answered in preceding pages here. *************************************************************************** The ground Is the unity of identity and difference; and because it unifies them it has at the same time to distinguish itself from itself (123, Zus.). That is, it is the third (after identity and difference) of those "categories of reflection", of "shining or showing in self", which is Essence, or "Being gone into itself". It unites these two categories, identity and difference, as they are themselves found to be identical. So the ground includes absolutely everything, each thing and its other and the other of this other, but formally only. But just in virtue of this power of uniting of opposites it must itself be united with its opposite, must "distinguish itself from itself". Yet this that is distinguished cannot, by the same reasoning, itself be mere difference, or the ground itself mere abstract self-identity. Rather, The ground works its own suspension: and when suspended, the result of its negation is existence. Having issued from the ground, existence contains the ground in it… the ground does not remain, as
1 2 3
Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Ia Q XV. From the document (8th or 9th century) known as the Creed of Athanasius. Cf. Aristotle, Metaphysics VII, on the ultimate and hence specifying difference.
it were, behind existence, but by its very nature supersedes itself and translates itself into existence. The conception of ground precedes, conditions and indeed grounds causality, motive and so on. Hegel therefore, taking account of the Humean and Kantian critique of causality, supplies what should take its place as necessary groundaxiom. At the same time he overcomes certain contradictions in the unreflected notion of divine creation of a world. To be sure, this forms no part of the dialectic here but is rather, in McTaggart's terminology, a cosmological consequence of it, too striking for us to avoid mentioning it. The ground is alone proportioned to infinite Essence as infinite Being. It is the sufficient ground for all things, which Leibniz had already made into a logical principle. Those who imagine that he therefore intends merely to say that everything must have its own cause and explanation misread Leibniz, Hegel argues. "On one hand any ground suffices" or is "sufficient", since otherwise it is no ground at all. On the other, "no ground suffices as mere ground;… it is yet void of a content, and is therefore not self-acting and productive." A content thus objectively and intrinsically determined, and hence self-acting, will hereafter come before us as the notion: and it is the notion which Leibniz had in his eye when he spoke of sufficient ground… It is unfair to Leibniz to suppose that he was content with anything so poor as this formal law of the ground." Hegel identifies this formalism with adopting a "mechanical" principle of explanation. He thus sees finite causality as itself a mere matter of moving a problem one step backwards. One claims to sufficiently explain the circulation of the blood by the contractions of the heart, or claims punishment's purpose "to lie in deterring people from crime, in rendering the criminal harmless, or in other extraneous grounds of the same kind." Elsewhere he shows how he conceives getting behind this extraneousness when he explains punishment as what crime itself requires for its conceptual completion. My point here is that he sees mechanical causality as merely a describing of the same phenomenon in other terms which, he elsewhere argues, may as well be represented backwards or reciprocally, cause and effect being one. Here we should note that ground is represented, as it should be, as a preliminary "stab" at the content, which is indeed the notion. This is the Content that he claims philosophy and religion both set forth, as indeed does art, but imperfectly in the two latter cases. We are on central Hegelian "ground". The ground "translates itself into existence." This is the next point to make. It cannot "abide alone". The Absolute cannot have knowledge of or commerce with unrealised possibilities. All possibility, which is ground, is merely Actuality as abstracted from. Hence existence is just one such actuality. Rather, every nonexistence is itself existence too, is actualised, is itself, though fundamentally and reciprocally related to its other, to its Negative, in this case the Negative of its Negative, though it applies equally in the opposite direction since also, we have
seen, all opposites are one. Reason is ad opposita indeed, as was said, but actually so and not merely as a kind of unpre-judiced preliminary, as one might have been tempted to take it. Reason does not just stand at the beginning between two opposites as if preparing to exercise its indeed unique but subsidiary or immediate freedom to choose between alternatives. Reason takes in both opposites, the opposition itself, whole. "The ground works its own suspension" into Existence. Even "in our ordinary mode of thinking… we look upon the ground of a thing… as itself also an existent" and not "something abstractly inward". This would mean, in context, that even existence is as it were formal or "ideal". Or, the one existent is grounded in another. Such indeed is the ordinary aspect in which the existent would originally appear to reflection, - an indefinite crowd of things existent, which being simultaneously reflected on themselves and on one another are related reciprocally as ground and consequence (my stress). Anything then is also ground of itself. But simultaneously In this motley play of the world… there is nowhere a firm footing to be found; everything bears an aspect of relativity, conditioned by and conditioning something else… the question touching an ultimate design is so far left unanswered. This is the pure possibility which is the ground, the absolute potentiality. Indeed the proof of an Absolute is not ultimately "design" but the world itself, any world and, what is more, the Ground is one with such an Absolute as being genuinely if momentarily predicated of it. We will, that is, pass "beyond this position of mere relativity". With the ground, then, we as it were dismantle finite causality in the very act of "grounding" it. Insofar as the ground "suspends itself" to existence, to a world, the world remains within the ground and never goes out from it. This is Essence" or "Being gone into itself". There is not and cannot be, as a mere matter of logic, any "ontological discontinuity" between the Absolute and something else. Hegel is thus far in agreement with what he elsewhere calls Spinoza's "acosmism". Hegel's solution to the problems posed by Kantian dualism is thus in certain respects or, which is the same, a qualified return to the monistic position of Spinoza and, above all, Leibniz. Of Spinoza he says that he "defrauds the principle of difference or finitude of its due" (151, Zus.)."It is true that God is necessity, or,… he is the absolute Thing." Yet that "he is the absolute Person… is a point which the philosophy of Spinoza never reached." This is important as showing that such theistic utterances belong for Hegel in philosophy, whatever his not very well observed reservations about use of the name "God" there. Spinoza has an "Oriental view of the unity of substance" from which Hegel here distances himself, despite his stress on the falsity of "everything finite". One does
not immediately see how contradiction is avoided with positions already outlined here, according to which indeed "the nature of the finite world seems frail and transient". The solution, however, lies in Hegel's dialectical Aufhebung of the category of Substance itself, based as it is upon the "abstract" identity that "each thing is itself and not another thing", his opposition to which has been abundantly demonstrated here. Substance "is not the final idea". It lacks "the principle of individuality, which first appeared under a philosophical shape… in the Monadology of Leibniz." This is a very striking concession, or rather attribution, on Hegel's part, appearing to compel us to view his philosophy, a logic, as an elaboration and development of such Monadology. This, Hegel will go on to say, "represents contradiction in its compete development" (194), contradiction as "the moving principle of the world" and, differently, of dialectic. Leibniz, however, stops at stating "that the Absolute is the Object", a position Hegel claims to "put by" or "transcend" in his Notion which is "the absolute Idea" and which is also seen as transcending or fulfilling (rescuing?) "rationalist metaphysics" in general. Of course this will not be merely a matter of overcoming unreflected importation into philosophy of the in turn unreflected name, "God". What's in a name? Essential though to understanding his position regarding Leibniz's and similar systems is especially his view of identity, difference and the ground as set forth just here. His view of Kant and the Kantian Thing-in-itself comes out particularly in the very next section in the Logic of the Encyclopaedia, "The Thing" (125).4 This, after Existence and "The pure… categories of Reflection" (divided into Identity, Difference and Ground), is the third and final section of "Essence as Ground of Existence" (where "Ground" and "Existence" appear at a more basic or higher level of the dialectic). After it we come to Appearance and Actuality as completing Essence, leading on into the Notion. What is clear now is that the world of existents is not separate from the Ground. In just the same way, in the doctrine of the divine ideas, inseparable from Aquinas’s system of thought concerning the Absolute vis à vis “the world”, each idea, each “ground”, is identical with the Essence (of God, although it follows that God is essence as such). Again, God, Aquinas argues, has no knowledge of the individual or of any other finite thing, but only of its idea as found within God as one with him. That is, God has no relation with men, who yet are all the same in relation with him. What is this but to say, concurring with Hegel, that “Everything finite is false”? At the same time, it follows that persons, in their idea, have a certain infinity, as known by the Infinite and as one in essence (with it). Further, a question is raised implicitly about the composite “man” which recalls even Aristotle’s Metaphysics VII. There it is concluded that it is the ultimate specific difference which stands for and determines the “whole” (which is now, when so viewed, no longer a whole or composite) as being in no sense a mere part of it (unicity of the “substantial form”; cf. Hegel on form and matter under “The Thing” at Enc. 128).5 As knowing the Absolute we are each absolute and infinite, since only Thought “thinks itself”. Conversely, “the body” is an abstraction.
I am of course prescinding, here as in this whole work, from the introductory chapters on attitudes "of Thought to Objectivity", such as c. IV, II, "The Critical Philosophy".
Cf. F. Inciarte, ”Die Einheit der aristotelischen Metaphysik”, Philsophisches Jahrbuch 101 (1994), pp.1-22.
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