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Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel.

Lectures on the philosophy of religion, together with a work on the proofs of the existence of God online

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but the abolition of the opposition has become infinitely
difficult, because the opposition is of sucli an infinite kind,
and because the Other is so entirely free, being something
which exists in another sphere, in a sphere beyond.

Thus the grandeur of the standpoint of the modern
world consists in this going down of the subject into
itself whereby the finite knows itself to be the Infinite
and is yet hampered with the antithesis or opposition
which it is forced to solve. V' Tor the Infinite has an
Infinite opposed to it, and thus the Infinite itself takes
on the form of something finite, so that the subject,



352 THE PHILOSOPHY OF RELIGION

because of its infinitude, is driven to do away with this
antithesis or opposition which is just what has so deepened
it as to make it realise its infinitude.'' The antithesis
consists in this, that I am subject, free, a person existing
for myself, and therefore I leave the Other free as some-
thing which is in another sphere and remains there.
The ancients did not attain to a consciousness of this
antithesis or division, which can be tolerated only by
Spirit when it exists for itself. \v Spirit, in fact, simply
means that which comprehends itself in an infinite way
in antithesis or opposition.V^ Our present standpoint
implies that we have on the one side the notion of God,
and on the other Being as opposed to the Notion.
"What accordingly is demanded is the reconciliation of
the two in such a way that the Notion will force itself to
take on the form of Being, or that the nature of Being
will be deduced from the Notion and the Other, the
antithesis or contrasted element will proceed out of the
Notion. It is necessary to explain briefly the mode and
manner in which this takes place, as also the forms of
the understanding which belong to it. ''

The form in which this mediation appears is that of
the Ontological Proof of the existence of God, in which we
start from the Notionv\\What then is the notion of God ?
It is the most real of all things, it is to be conceived of
affirmatively only, it is determined in itself, its content
has no limitation, it is all reality, and only as reality is it
without limit, and consequently nil that really remains
outside of it is a dead abstraction, as has been already
remarked. The possibility of this Notion, i.e., its identity
liavin'^ in it no element of contradiction, is exhibited in the
form proper to the Understanding. The second point is
involved in the statement. Being is a reality. Non-being is
negation, defect, simply the opposite of Being. The third
point consists of the conclusion. Being is therefore reality,
and this belongs to the notion or conception of God.

The objections brought by Kant against this mode of



THE ABSOLUTE RELIGION 353

reasoning amount to an annihilation of the Proof, and
their correctness lias come to be taken for granted.
Kant tells us that the Being of God cannot be got out
of the notion or conception of God, for Being is some-
thing different from the Notion ; we distinguish between
the two, they are mutually opposed, and thus the JSTotiou
cannot contain Being, which is something outside of it
and beyond it. He says further, that Being is not in any
sense reality, it is to God that all reality is to be attri-
buted, consequently Being is not contained in the notion
of God, and thus it does not stand for any specific content
or determination of content, but, on the contrary, is pure
Form. I may imagine I have a hundred thalers, or may
actually possess them, but in either case the thalers are
not altered, and consequently the content is always the
same whether I have them or not. Kant thus under-
stands by the content what constitutes the notion or
conception, although the meaning attached to the latter
is not what is usually implied in the Notion. We may
certainly put it so, if by the Notion we understand the
determination of the content, and make a distinction
between the content and the form which contains the
thought, and, on the other side. Being. In this way
all content is referred to the Notion, and all that is
left to the other side is simply the characteristic of
Being. ' Put shortly, it amounts to saying that the
Notion is not Being, but that the two are different. We
cannot understand anything about God, or get any know-
ledge of Him ; we can, it is true, form notions or concep-
tions about Him, but tliis by no means implies that there
is anything actually corresponding to these notionsC-

As a matter of fact, we know that it is possible to
build castles in the air, which, all the same, don't exist.
Kant thus appeals to popular ideas so far, and in this
way he has, in the general judgment, annihilated the Onto-
logical Proof, and has won great applause for himself.
Anselm of Canterbury, a thoroughly learned theologian,
VOL. II. z



354 THE PHILOSOPHY OF RELIGION

presented the Proof ia the following form. God is the
most perfect of all existences, the substance of all reality ;
but if God is siraply an idea, a subjective idea, then He
is not the most perfect of beings, for we only regard as
perfect something which we do not merely picture to our-
selves by an idea, but which has in addition Being. This
is perfectly correct, and ^"^ it contains a presupposition
which everybody has in his mind, namely, that what is
merely represented in the form of a mental picture is
imperfect, and that that alone is perfect which has reality
as well, that that only is true which exists just as really
as it is thought of.^God is thus the most perfect of
beings, and must therefore be as truly real and truly
exist as He is conception or notion. But it is further
implied in the idea, as thus understood, that the ordinary
idea and the notion are different, and consequently we
get the idea that what is merely pictured to the mind as
an idea is imperfect, while God, again, is the most perfect
of beings. Kant does not demonstrate the difference
between notion or conception and Being; it is under-
stood in a popular sense, its truth is granted, but the
healthy human understanding forms pictorial ideas only
in connection with imperfect things.

Anselm's proof, as well as the form given to it in the
Ontological Proof, contains the thought that God is the
substance of all reality, and consequently contains Being
as well. This is perfectly correct. Being is such a poor
characteristic or quality that it directly attaches to the
JSTotion. The other point is that Being and Notion are
also different from each other. Being and Thought,
ideality and reality, are different from and opposed to
each other; the true difference is opposition as well, and
this contrast is to be done away with, and the unity of
the two characteristics is to be exhibited in such a way
that it will be seen to be what results from the negation
of the contrast. Being is contained in the Notion. This
reality when it is unlimited gives us only empty words.



THE ABSOLUTE RELIGION 355

empty abstractions. Thus it has to be shown that the
characteristic or quality of Being is affirmatively con-
tained in the ISTotion, and so we get the unity of the
JSTotion and Being.

They are, however, different, too, and thus their unity
is the negative unity of both, and what we are concerned
with is the abolition of the difference. The difference
must be discussed, and the existence of the unity must
be estaWished and exhibited in accordance with this
difference. It belongs to logic to exhibit the unity in
this way — that the Notion is this movement according
to which it characterises itself and takes on the form of
Being, and that this dialectic, this movement in accord-
ance with which the Notion gives itself the characteristics
of Being, of its opposite, and which we may call the
logical element, is a iurther development of thought
which is accordingly not found in the Ontological Proof.
It is this which constitutes tlie defect of the latter.

As regards the form of Anselm's thought, it has been
remarked that it is implied in the content that the
notion or conception of God presupposes reality, because
God is the most perfect of beings. The real point is that
the notion gives itself an objective form on its own
account ; but God is thus the most perfect of beings only
in idea, or popular thought. It is when measured with
the idea of tlie most perfect being that tlie bare conception
of God appears defective. The conception of perfection
is the standard, and thus it is seen that God as simply
notion or thought does not come up to this standard.

Perfection is a merely indeterminate idea. What is
really meant when anything is called perfect ? The
essential quality of the perfect may be directly seen in
something which is the opposite of that to which it is
here applied, that is to say, imperfection represents
merely tlie thought of God, and thus perfection is the
unity of thought or the Notion with reality, and this
unity is therefore presupposed or pre-posited here. In



356 THE PHILOSOPHY OF RELIGION

tliat God is posited as the Most Perfect. He has here
no further determination or characterisation, He is the
perfect one only, He exists only as such, and this repre-
sents His determinate character. It is clear from this
that the real point is only this xmity of the Notion and
reality. This unity is the characteristic of perfection
and at the same time of the Godhead itself, and it is
in fact the characteristic of the Idea too. It certainly,
however, belongs still more to the determination of God.
~^The presupposition which really underlies the Notion,
as it was understood by Anselm, is that of the unity of
the Notion and reality, and thus we see why this proof
cannot satisfy reason, because it is just this very pre-
supposition that is in question. ' The view according to
which the Notion determines itself in itself, gives it-
self an objective form or realises itself, is one which is
reached later, and proceeds from the nature of the Notion
itself, and cannot exist apart from this. This is the
view which raises the question as to how far the Notion
can itself do away with its one-sidedness.

If we compare this view with that which belongs to
our own day, and which in a very special sense origin-
ated with Kant, it may be put thus : Man thinks, per-
ceives, wills, and his acts of will are connected with his
acts of thought, he both thinks and forms conceptions,
and is a being both with a concrete sense nature and a
rational nature. Then, further, the notion of God, the
Idea, the Infinite, the Unlimited, is, according to this
view, a notion merely which we construct; but we must
not forget that it is only a notion which exists in our
heads. Why is it said that it is only a notion ? The
notion is something imperfect since thought is only one
quality, one form of human activity amongst others, i.e.,
we measure the notion by the reality which we have
actually before us in concrete individuals. Man is cer-
tainly not merely a thinking being ; he is a being with a
sense nature as well, and may have sense objects even



THE ABSOLUTE RELIGION 357

in his thought. This is, iti fact, merely the subjective
element in the notion. We find it to be imperfect on
account of the standard applied to it, because this stan-
dard is the concrete man. It might be said that we
declare the Notion to be nothing more than a notion, and
what is perceived by the senses to be reality, and assert
that reality means what we see, feel, or perceive in sen-
sation. This might possibly be maintained, and there
are many who do maintain this, and who recognise
nothing as reality unless what is felt or tasted; only it
is not conceivable that men should fall so low as to
ascribe reality only to what is perceived by the senses,
and not to what is spiritual. It is the concrete total
subjectivity of man which is floating before the mind,
and which is taken as the standard, measured by which
the grasping of things in the Notion is nothing more
than a forming of notions or conceptions.

If, accordingly, we compare the two views — that of
Anselm, and that which belongs to the present time — we
see that what they have in common is that both make
presuppositions. Anselm presupposes indeterminate per-
fection, the modern view the concrete subjectivity of men
in general. As compared with that perfection, and, on
the other hand, as compared with that empirical and
concrete subjectivity, the Notion appears to be something
one-sided and unsatisfying. In Anselm's view, the char-
acteristic of perfection really means, too, that it is the
unity of the Notion and reality. With Descartes and
Spinoza, too,- God is the First, the absolute unity of
thought and Being, cogito, ergo sum,, the absolute Sub-
stance ; and this is also the view of Leibnitz. ~ What we
thus have on one side is a presupposition, which is
in reality something concrete, the unity of subject and
object, and judged by this the Notion seems to be defec-
tive. According to the modern view, we must hold to
the thought that the Notion is merely the Notion, and
does not correspond to the concrete. Anselm, on the



SSS THE PHILOSOPHY OF RELIGION

other hand, tells us that we must abandon the thought
of regarding the subjective notion as something fixed and
independent, and that, on the contrary, we must start
from its one-sidedness. ^ Both views have this in common,
that they contain presuppositions, and what is distinctive
in each is that the modern world makes the concrete the
basis, while, according to Anselm's view — the meta-
physical view — on the other hand, it is absolute thought,
the absolute Idea which is the unity of the Notion and
reality, that forms the basis. /^ This old view is, so far,
superior, inasmuch as it does not take the concrete iu
the sense of empirical men, empirical reality, but as
thought ; and it is superior to the other also, because it
does not keep to the idea of something imperfect. In
the modern view the contradiction between the concrete
and what is only notion or conception is not solved ; the
subjective notion exists, it has a real value, it must be
considered as subjective, it is what is real. 'J'hus the
older point of view is greatly to be preferred, because its
keynote rests on the Idea. The modern view, again, has
one characteristic of a broader kind, since it represents
the concrete as the unity of the Notion and of reality ;
while, in contrast to this, the older view does not get
beyond an abstraction of perfection.



END OF VOL. ir.



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Online LibraryGeorg Wilhelm Friedrich HegelLectures on the philosophy of religion, together with a work on the proofs of the existence of God → online text (page 30 of 31)