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Prolegomena to the study of Hegel's philosophy and especially of his logic online

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(katabolic changes) by which its composing elements
are disintegrated and left behind, with accompanying
liberation of energy. Protoplasm or ' living matter ' is
the incessantly formed and re-formed thin line on
which these two currents for the moment converge, —
a temporary crest of white foam, as it were, raising
itself on the Heraclitean wave of vicissitude, where all
things flow on and nothing abides. But wherever
protoplasm arises and maintains itself on this border-
line of ascending and descending states, it exhibits the
three well-known properties of assimilation, contrac-
tility, and sensitiveness. Protoplasm, placed as it were
in the mean between these two processes, is or has the
synthetic power which governs them and keeps them
in one. It is no mere chemical substance, undergoing
composition and decomposition, but rather, if looked at
from the somewhat speculative standpoint of molecular
physics, a kind of intricate movement or dance of

' See e. g. Professor Michael Foster's article on Physiology in the
Encyclopaedia Britannica,


particles, a shape or 'form' instinct with the power
of producing and reproducing itself, and, ultimately,
in some highly differentiated phases (nerve-system),
with a power of producing and reproducing a world of

A philosophy of Nature is only half a philosophy.
Its purport is to set free the spirit in nature, to release
intelligence from its imprisonment in material encase-
ments which hide it from the ordinary view, and to
gather together the disjecta membra of the divine into
the outlines of one continuous organisation. It seeks
to spiritualise nature, i.e. to present the inner idea,
unity, and genetic interdependence of all its pheno-
mena : to delineate natura formaliter spectata not as
a logical skeleton of abstract categories, but in its
organisation and continuous life. There remains the
problem of what Schelling calls ' Transcendental
Idealism': — called 'transcendental' to avoid confusion
with the vulgar idealism which supposes the world to
be what it calls a mere ' idea ' or phantom of the mind.
Schelling's is on the contrary an 'Ideal-ReaHsm': it
'materialises the laws of intelligence to laws of nature \'

We need not in details consider the genesis of
Reality from the action of the Ego. Substantially it .
is the same as that given by Fichte. An activity,
which is at once self-limiting and superior to all limit,
rises through stage to stage, from sensation and intuition,
to reflection and intelligence, till it becomes the con-
sciousness of a world of objective reality. 'Give me,' says
the transcendental philosopher, ' a nature with opposing
activities, of which the one goes to infinity, and the
other endeavours to behold itself in this infinity, — and
from that I will show you intelligence arising with the
whole system of its ideas ^.' In the first phase the

^ Schelling, iii. 352, 386. ^ Ibid. iii. 427.

158 PROLEGOMENA. [xill.

' ideal-real ' world arises by the synthetic action of the
'productive intuition/ Ideas, as it were, live and
move : they grow and build up : causality is neither
a category nor a schema, but an inteUigent 'form'
which is also a force— an 'idee-force/ They are (in
the Hegelian sense) 'Ideas,' i.e. neither merely ob-x/
jective nor merely subjective, but both at once. But
such an ideal world is outside and beyond conscious-
ness : it belongs to the same region as that higher Ego
where there is no distinction between the Ego I am
and the Ego I know. To follow the movement in this
region needs a combination of mental vision and visual
intellect, which Schelling has called the 'Intellectual
Intuition.' It is a power which rising above the
materialism of sense yet retains its realism ; which,
while intellectual, is free from abstractness. It is
synthetic, and widely different from mere logical
analysis. It is, in short, analogous to the artistic
genius : it creates a quasi-objectivity, an ideal-reality,
without which the mere words of the speculator are
meaningless. By means of this 'organ,' philosophy
can 'freely imitate and repeat the original series of
actions in which the one " act " of self-consciousness is
evolved \'

But the 'productive intuition' is, as Kant would
say, blind : it is unconscious in its operation : and it
is only after an arrest, a Sabbath when it surveys and
judges its work, that it begins to realise itself through
a process of analysis and reflection which elicits and
fixes the categories that have been operative in it. By
this abstraction intelligence rises out of mere pro-\/
duction to intelligent and conscious production, i.e. to
volition, where it has an ideal and realises it. With
volition and voluntary action, objectivity is to appear-

^ Schelling, iii. 397.


ance further certified and fortified. It is as active, i. e.
as free, and even moral, agents^ that we set forward
categorically the reality of the world. So, too, Fichte
had declared. But, as Schelling reminds us, with this
intensified assertion of a law and an ideal to which the
real must and shall correspond, — with the declaration
that the realm of absolute consistency and ideal truth
of reason is the true and real for ever and ever — we
come across the fundamental antithesis of the ' Is ' and
the 'Ought,' of the objective and subjective, of uncon-
scious necessity and self-conscious freedom. With an
attempt to get a philosophy of history, — i. e. of man and
mind as the culminating truth of things, we see our-
selves confronted with the opposition of fatalism and
chance. On one hand history is only possible for
beings who have an ideal in view, — one persistent aim
and principle which their work and will is the means
of realising. And yet it is an ideal which only the
series of generations, only the whole race, can realise.
Man's license to do or to refrain rests upon a larger,
latent, divine necessity which constrains it. What
human agents by their free choice determine and carry
out, is carried out, in the long run, by the force of an
everlasting and unchanging order, to which their
wills seem but a mere plaything. But that man's free
agency should thus harmonise with the constrained
uniformities of nature is only possible on the assump-
tion that both are phenomena of a common ground, or
basis of identity, of an ' absolute identity, in which
there is no duplication, and which for that reason,
because the condition of all consciousness is duplica-
tion, can never reach consciousness. This ever-Un-
conscious, which, as it were the everlasting Sun in the
spirit-kingdom, is hidden in its own undimmed light, and
which, though it is never an object, still impresses its

l6o PROLEGOMENA. [xiii.

identity on all free objects, is simultaneously the same
for all intelligences, the invisible "root" of which alW
intelligences are only the "powers," and the everlasting
mediator between the self-determining subjective in us
and the objective or percipient, — simultaneously the
ground of the uniformity in freedom, and of the free-
dom in uniformity of the objective \' To rise to the
sense of this Absolute Identity, as common basis ofv/
harmony between the ^ Ought' and the 'Is,* is to
recognise Providence : it is Religion.

But this 'Absolute* is never in history completely
revealed — we cannot see free action coincide with
predetermination. Thus if History as a whole be>
conceived as a 'continuous and gradual self revelation
of the Absolute,* 'God never /5, if is means exhibition
in the objective world : if God were, we should not be^* l^
Nor is the Absolute so revealed in Nature. Yet, even
as the apparent contingency of human action throws
us back on an everlasting necessity which is yet
freedom, so the apparent uniformity of natural order
shows us in organic life the traces of a free self-
regulating development. To apprehend the truth at
which both seem to point we want an organ of intelli-
gence which shall unite in itself the conscious activity
of free production with the unconscious instinct of
natural creation. Such an organ is found in the v
aesthetic power of genius, in the Artist. The artistic
product is the work of two intimately-conjoined prin-
ciples : — of the art (in the narrower sense) which can
be taught and learned, and is exercised consciously
and with reflection, ^nd of that 'poesy in Art,' the
unconscious grace of genius which can neither be
handed down nor acquired, but can only be inborn
by free gift of nature. In the work thus brought to

^ Schelling, iii. 600. ^ Ibid. iii. 603.


birth there is something definite, precise, and capable
of exposition in finite formulae: there is also something
which no ' prose ' can ever explicate, something which
tells us of the infinite and eternal, which ever reveals
and"'}'et conceals the Absolute and Perfect. Art, thus
springing from ' imagination, the one sole power by
which we can think and conjoin even the contradictory,*
gives objectivity and outward shape to that 'intellectual
intuition ' by which the philosopher subjectively (in his
own consciousness) sought to realise to himself the
unity of thought and existence.

'To the philosopher,* Schelling concludes, 'Art is
supreme, because it as it were opens to him the Holy
of Holies, where in everlasting and original unity there
burns, as it were in one flame, what is parted asunder
in nature and history, and what in life and conduct,
no less than in thinking, must for ever flee apart. The
view the philosopher artificially makes for himself of
nature is for Art the original and natural. What we
call nature is a poem which is locked up in strange and
secret characters. Yet could the riddle be disclosed,
we should recognise in it the Odyssey of the mind,-
which, strangely deceived, in seeking itself, flees from
itself: for through the sense-world there is a glimpse,
only as through words of the meaning, only as through
half- transparent mist of the land ^of imagination, after
which we 3^earn. That splendid picture emerges, as it
were, by the removal of the invisible partition-wall
which sunders the actual and the ideal world, and is
only the opening by which those figures and regions
of the world of imagination, that but imperfectly
glimmer through the actual, come forward in all
their fulness. Nature is to the artist no more than
it is to the philosopher, viz. the ideal world as it
appears under constant limitations^ or only the im-



perfect reflex of a world which does not exist outside
him, but within him/

^ If it is Art alone, then, which can succeed in making
objective and universally accepted what the philosopher
can only exhibit subjectively, it may also be expected
that philosophy, as it was in the infancy of science born
and nourished by poetry, and with it all those sciences
which were by it carried on towards perfection, will
after their completion flow back as so many single
streams into the universal ocean of poetry from which
they issued. Nor is it in general hard to say what will
be the means for the return of science to poetry : for
such a means has existed in mythology before this,
as it now seems, irrevocable separation took place.
But as to how a new mythology, — which cannot be the
invention of the single poet, but of a new generation, i^
as it were representing only a single poet, — can itself
arise, is a problem, the solution of which is to be
expected only from the future destinies of the world
and the further course of history \'

^ Schelling, iii. 628.



Thus far Schelling (aetat. 25) had gone in 1800. Two
sides of philosophy had been alternately presented as
complementary to each other; and now the task lay
before him to publish the System itself which formed
the basis of those complementary views. To that task
Schelling set himself in 1801 (in his Journal for Specu-
lative Physics) : but the Darstellung meines Systems
remained a torso. The Absolute was abruptly 'shot
from the pistol ' : but little followed save a restatement
in new terms of the Philosophy of Nature. Meanwhile
Hegel, who had inherited some little means by his
father's death, began to think that the hour had struck
for his entrance into the literary and philosophical arena,
and wrote in the end of 1800 to Schelling asking his
aid in finding a suitable place and desirable surround-
ings from which to launch himself into action. What
answer or advice he received is unknown : at any rate
in the early days of 1801 he took up his quarters at
Jena, and in the autumn he gave his first lectures at the
University. Gossip suggested that Schelling, left alone
(since Fichte's departure) to sustain the onset of respecta-
bility and orthodoxy upon the extravagances of the new
Transcendentalism, had summoned his countryman and
old friend to bear a part in the fray. And the rumour

1 64 ^ PROLEGOMENA. [xiv.

seemed to receive corroboration. The two friends
issued conjointly a Critical Journal of Philosophy, which
ran through two years. So closely were the two editors
associated that in one article it seems as if the younger
had supplied his more fluent pen to expound the ideas
of his senior.

The influence of Hegel is to be seen in the Bruno, or on
the Divine and Natural Principle of Things, published in
1802. It is a dialogue, in form closely modelled after
the Timaeus of Plato, dealing with the old theme of the
relation of art (poesy) and philosophy, and with the ^
eternal creation of the universe. It presents philosophy
as a higher than Art ; for while Art achieves only an
individual truth and beauty, philosophy cognises truth
and beauty in its essence and actuality {ait undfur sich).
Philosophy itself Bruno (the chief speaker of the
dialogue) does not profess to set forth, but ^only the
ground and soil on which it must be built up and
carried out ' : and that soil is ' the Idea of something
in which all antitheses are not so much combined, as
rather one, and not so much superseded, as rather not
at all parted,' — 'a unity, in which unity and antithesis,
the self-similar with the dissimilar, are one\' From
such a standpoint it is not wonderful that ' in the finite
understanding (Verstand), compared with the supreme
Idea and the way in which all things are in it, every- i^
thing seems reversed, and as if standing on its head,
exactly like the things we see mirrored on the surface of
water ^.'

This supreme Unity is essentially a trinity : an
Eternal, embracing infinite and finite; an eternal and ^
invisible father of all things, who, never issuing forth
from his eternity, comprehends infinite and finite in one

^ Schelling, iv. 231, 235, 236. ^ Ibid. 244.


andthe same act ofdivine knowledge. The infinite, again,
is the Spirit, who is the unity of all things ; while the
finite, though potentially equal to the infinite ^, is by its
own will a God suffering and made subject to the con-
ditions of time^ This trinity in unity (which is the
Absolute) is by logic — a mere science of understanding
— rent asunder : and the one Subject-object of philo-
soph}^ becomes for reflection and understanding the
three independent objects which such a 'logical ' philo-
sophy calls respectively the Soul (erewhile the infinite),
the world (once the finite), and God (the eternal unity).
' Opposing and separating the world of intelligence from
the world of nature, men have learned ' to see nature
outside God, and God outside nature, and withdrawing
nature from the holy necessity, have subordinated it to
the unholy which they name mechanical, while by the
same act they have made the ideal world the scene of
a lawless liberty. At the same time as they defined
nature as a merely passive entity, they supposed they had
gained the right of defining God, whom they elevated
above nature, as pure activity, utter '' actuosity," as if the
one of these concepts did not stand and fall with the
other, and none had truth by itself^.'

The problem therefore of philosophy is on one hand
to ' find the expression for an activity which is as repose-
ful as the deepest repose, for a rest which is as active as

^ * In things thou seest nought but the misplaced images of that
absolute unity ; and even in knowledge, so far as it is a relative
unity, thou seest nought but an image — only drawn amiss in another
direction — of that absolute cognition, in which being is as little
determined by thought as thought by being.'

^ Schelling, iv. 252. See further, iv. 327: 'The pure subject,
that absolute knowledge, the absolute Ego, the form of all forms,
is the only-begotten Son of the Absolute, equally eternal with him,
not diverse from his Essence, but one with it.'

^ Schelling, iv. 306. Cp. for actuosity, notes in vol. ii. 396.
Spinoza, Cogit. Met. ii. 11, speaks of the aduosa essentia of God.

1 66 PROLEGOMENA. [xiv.

the highest activity ^' On the other hand ; 'to find the
point of unity is not the greatest thing, but from it also to
develop its opposite, this is the proper and deepest secret
of art ^' The world as it first presents itself labours
under a radical antithesis : it offers a double face, body
and soul, finite and infinite. But to an absolute philo-
sophy, or that high idealism which sees all things in the
light of the Eternal, the two sides are not so separate
as they first appeared. Each is also the whole and one,
but under a phase, a ^ Differ enz,^ a preponderating aspect
which disguises the essential identity of both. Behind
mind, as it were, looms body : through body shines
mind. The ideal is but a co-aspect with the real. The
difference of nature and spirit presupposes and leads
back to the indifference of the Absolute One. ' Wherever
in a thing soul and body are equated, in that thing is an
imprint of the Idea, and as the Idea in the Absolute is '
also itself being and essence, so in that thing, its copy,
the form is also the substance and the substance the
form ^'

'Thus/ so Bruno concludes, 'we shall, first in the
absolute equality of essence and form, know how both
finite and infinite stream forth from its heart, and how
the one is necessarily and for ever with the other, and
comprehend how that simple ray, which issues from the
Absolute and is the very Absolute, appears parted into
difference and indifference, finite and infinite. We
shall precisely define the mode of parting and of unity
for each point of the universe, and prosecute the universe
to that place where that absolute point of unity appears
parted into two relative unities. We shall recognise in
the one the source whence springs the real and naturaK
world ; in the other, of the ideal and divine world.

^ Schelling, iv. 305. 2 j^j^j j^^ 228.

' Ibid. iv. 306.


With the former we shall celebrate the incarnation of
God from all eternity ; with the latter the necessary
deification of man. And while we move freely and
without resistance up and down on this spiritual ladder,
we shall, now, as we descend, see the unity of the divine
and natural principle parted, now, as we ascend and
again dissolve everything into one, see nature in God
and God in nature '.' Such was the programme which
Schelling offered. Hegel accepting it, — or perhaps
helping to frame it — made two not unimportant changes.
He attempted in his Phenomenology to lead up step by
step to, and so warrant, that strange position of idealism i
which claims to be the image of the Absolute. He tried
in his Logic to give for this point of view a systematic
basis and a filling out of the bare Idea of a Unity,
neither objective nor subjective, neither form nor
substance, neither real nor ideal, but including and
absorbing these. He tried, in short, to trace in the
Absolute itself the inherent difference which issued
Tii two different worlds, and to show its unity and
identity there.
^ A System of philosophy, and a philosophy of the
Absolute! The project to the sober judgment of
common sense stands self-condemned, palpably beyond
the tether of humanity. For if there be anything agreed
upon, it is that the knowledge of finite beings like us
can never be more than a — comparatively poor —collec-
tion of fragments, and can never reach to that which —
and such is the supposed character of the Absolute — is
utterly un-related, rank non-relativity. But in the first
place, let us not be the slaves of words, and let us not
be terrified by unfamiliar terms. After all, a System
is only our old friend the unity of knowledge, and the
Absolute is not something let quite loose, but the

* Schelling, iv. 328.

1 68 PROLEGOMENA, [xiv.

consummation and inter-connexion of all ties. It is no
doubt an audacious enterprise to set forth on the quest
of the unity of knowledge, and the completion of all
definition and characterisation. But, on the other hand,
it may perhaps claim to be more truly modest than the
self-complacent modesty of its critics. For ordinary
belief and knowledge rest upon presuppositions which
they dare not or will not subject to revision. They too
are sure that things on the whole, or that the system
of things, or that nature and history, are a realm of
uniformity, subject to unvarying law, in thorough inter-
dependence. They are good enough, occasionally, to
urge that they hold these beliefs on the warranty of
experience, and not as, what they are pleased to call,
intuitions, a priori ideas, and what not. But to ba^
a truth on experience is a loose manner of talking :
not one whit better than the alleged Indian foundation
of the earth on the elephant, and the elephant erected
on the tortoise. For by Experience it means experi-
ences ; and these rest one upon another, one upon
another, till at length, if this be all that holds them
together, the last hangs unsupported, (and with its
superincumbent load), ready to drop in the abyss of

This 'transcendental,' 'absolutist,' ^ a priori' philo-
sophy, which stands so strange and menacing on the
threshold of the nineteenth century, is after all only,
as Kant sometimes called it, an essay to comprehend
and see the true measures and dimensions of this much-
quoted Experience. All knowledge rests in (not on)
the unity of Experience. All the several experiences
rest in the totality of one experience, — ultimate, all-
embracing, absolute, infinite, unconditioned ; universal
and yet individual, necessary and yet free, — eternal, and
yet filling all the nooks of time, — ideal, and yet the


mother of all reality,^unextended, and yet spread
through the spaces of the universe. Call it, if you like,
the experience of the race, but remember that that
apparently more realistic and scientific phrase connotes
neither more nor less (if rightly understood) than normal,
ideal, universal, infinite, absolute experience. This is
the Unconditioned, which is the basis and the builder
of all conditions : the Absolute, which is the home and
the parent of all relations. Experience is no doubt
yours and mine, but it is also much more than either
yours or mine. He who builds on and in Experience,
builds on and in the Absolute, in the System — a system
which is not merely his. In his every utterance he
claims to speak as the mouth-piece of the Absolute,
the Unconditioned ; his words expect and require
assent, belief, acceptance ; — they are candidates (not
necessarily, or always successful) for the rank of
universal and necessary truth : they are dogmatic
assertions, and even in their humblest tones, none
the less infected with the fervour of certainty. For,
indeed, otherwise, it would be a shame and an insult
to let them cross the lips.

It is the aim of the Absolute a priori philosophy to
raise this certainty to truth : or, as one may rather say,
to reduce this certainty to its kernel of truth. It seeks
to determine the limits — not q/'this absolute and basic
experience (for it has no external limits) — but in this
experience : the anatomy and physiology of the Abso-
lute, — the correlations and inclusions, the distinctions
and syntheses in the unconditioned field. It examines
the foundation of all knowledge. But — if this be the
phrase — we must be on our guard against a misappre-
hension of its terms. The foundations are also know
ledge : they are in all knowledge and experience, its
synthetic link and its analytic distinctions. We must

I70 , PROLEGOMENA. [xiv.

Online LibraryWilliam WallaceProlegomena to the study of Hegel's philosophy and especially of his logic → online text (page 13 of 36)