utorak, 22.05.2007.

GWFH: der Grundbegriff der Philosophie, das wahrhafte Unendliche

Hegel on Truth and Correctness

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E 24, 135, 164, 167, 172, 213; PR 21; HP 375; SL 1633; PM III-1

To ask if a category is true or not, must sound strange to the ordinary mind: for a category apparently becomes true only when it is applied to a given object, and apart from this application it would seem meaningless to inquire into the truth. But this is the very question on which every thing turns. We must however in the first place understand clearly what we mean by Truth. In common life truth means the agreement of an object with our conception of it. We thus presuppose an object to which our conception must conform. In the philosophical sense of the word, on the other hand, truth may be described, in general abstract terms, as the agreement of a thought-content with itself. This meaning is quite different from the one given above. At the same time the deeper and philosophical meaning of truth can be partially traced even in the ordinary usage of language. Thus we speak of a true friend; by which we mean a friend whose manner of conduct accords with the notion of friendship. In the same way we speak of a true work of Art. Untrue in this sense means the same as bad, or self-discordant. In this sense a bad state is an untrue state; and evil and untruth may be said to consist in the contradiction subsisting between the function or notion and the existence of the object. Of such a bad object we may form a correct representation, but the import of such representation is inherently false. Of these correctnesses, which are at the same time untruths, we may have many in our heads. God alone is the thorough harmony of notion and reality. All finite things involve an untruth: they have a notion and an existence, but their existence does not meet the requirements of the notion. For this reason they must perish, and then the incompatibility between their notion and their existence becomes manifest. It is in the kind that the individual animal has its notion; and the kind liberates itself from this individuality by death.

E 24

We must remember, however, what "untrue" signifies. When it occurs in a philosophical discussion, the term "untrue" does not signify that the thing to which it is applied is non-existent. A bad state or a sickly body may exist all the same; but these things are untrue, because their notion and their reality are out of harmony.

E 135

What are called notions, and in fact specific notions, such as man, house, animal, etc., are simply denotations and abstract representations. These abstractions retain out of all the functions of the notion only that of universality; they leave particularity and individuality out of account and have no development in these directions. By so doing they just miss the notion.

E 164

A judgment is however distinguished from a proposition. The latter contains a statement about the subject, which does not stand to it in any universal relationship, but expresses some single action, or some state, or the like. Thus, "Caesar was born at Rome in such and such a year waged war in Gaul for ten years, crossed the Rubicon, etc.", are propositions, but not judgments. Again it is absurd to say that such statements as "I slept well last night" or "Present arms!" may be turned into the form of a judgment. "A carriage is passing by" should be a judgment, and a subjective one at best, only if it were doubtful, whether the passing object was a carriage, or whether it and not rather the point of observation was in motion: in short, only if it were desired to specify a conception which was still short of appropriate specification.

E 167

It is one of the fundamental assumptions of dogmatic Logic that Qualitative judgments such as "The rose is red" or "is not red" can contain truth. Correct they may be, i.e. in the limited circle of perception, of finite conception and thought: that depends on the content, which likewise is finite, and, on its own merits, untrue. Truth, however, as opposed to correctness, depends solely on the form, viz. on the notion as it is put and the reality corresponding to it. But truth of that stamp is not found in the Qualitative judgment.

In common life the terms truth and correctness are often treated as synonymous: we speak of the truth of a content, when we are only thinking of its correctness. Correctness, generally speaking, concerns only the formal coincidence between our conception and its content, whatever the constitution of this content may be. Truth, on the contrary, lies in the coincidence of the object with itself, that is, with its notion. That a person is sick, or that some one has committed a theft, may certainly be correct. But the content is untrue. A sick body is not in harmony with the notion of body, and there is a want of congruity between theft and the notion of human conduct. These instances may show that an immediate judgment in which an abstract quality is predicated of an immediately individual thing, however correct it may be, cannot contain truth. The subject and predicate of it do not stand to each other in the relation of reality and notion.

E 172

Truth is at first taken to mean that I know how something is. This is truth, however, only in reference to consciousness; it is formal truth, bare correctness. Truth in the deeper sense consists in the identity between objectivity and the notion. It is in this deeper sense of truth that we speak of a true state, or of a true work of art. These objects are true, if they are as they ought to be, i.e. if their reality corresponds to their notion. When thus viewed, to be untrue means much the same as to be bad. A bad man is an untrue man, a man who does not behave as his notion or his vocation requires. Nothing however can subsist, if it be wholly devoid of identity between the notion and reality. Even bad and untrue things have being, in so far as their reality still, somehow, conforms to their notion. Whatever is thoroughly bad or contrary to the notion is for that very reason on the way to ruin. It is by the notion alone that the things in the world have their subsistence; or, as it is expressed in the language of religious conception, things are what they are, only in virtue of the divine and thereby Creative thought which dwells within them.

E 213

In philosophy truth is had when the conception corresponds to reality. A body is the reality, and soul is the conception. Soul and body should be adequate to each other. A dead man is still an existence, but no longer a true existence; it is a reality void of conception. For that reason the dead body decays.

PR 21

Istinitost samog predmeta sastoji se u tome što to predmetno odgovara mišljenju, a ne mišljenje predmetu; jer predmet može biti čulan, promjenljiv, lažan, slučajan, i na taj način on je za duh pretvoran, nije istinit.

HP 375

If thoughts are merely subjective and contingent, they certainly have no further value, but in this respect they are not inferior to temporal and contingent actualities which likewise have no further value than that of contingencies and phenomena. On the other hand if, conversely, the Idea is not to have the value of truth, because in regard to phenomena it is transcendent, and no congruent object can be assigned to it in the world of sense, this is an odd misunderstanding that would deny objective validity to the Idea because it lacks that which constitutes Appearance, namely, the untrue being of the objective world.

SL 1633

Truth and falsehood as commonly understood belong to those sharply defined ideas which claim a completely fixed nature of their own, one standing in solid isolation on this side, the other on that, without any community between them. Against that view it must be pointed out, that truth is not like stamped coin that is issued ready from the mint and so can be taken up and used. Nor, again, is there something false, any more than there is something evil. Evil and falsehood are indeed not so bad as the devil, for in the form of the devil they get the length of being particular subjects; qua false and evil they are merely universals, though they have a nature of their own with reference to one another. Falsity (that is what we are dealing with here) would be otherness, the negative aspect of the substance, which [substance], qua content of knowledge, is truth. But the substance is itself essentially the negative element, partly as involving distinction and determination of content, partly as being a process of distinguishing pure and simple, i.e. as being self and knowledge in general. Doubtless we can know in a way that is false. To know something falsely means that knowledge is not adequate to, is not on equal terms with, its substance. Yet this very dissimilarity is the process of distinction in general, the essential moment in knowing. It is, in fact, out of this active distinction that its harmonious unity arises, and this identity, when arrived at, is truth. But it is not truth in a sense which would involve the rejection of the discordance, the diversity, like dross from pure metal; nor, again, does truth remain detached from diversity, like a finished article from the instrument that shapes it. Difference itself continues to be an immediate element within truth as such, in the form of the principle of negation, in the form of the activity of Self. All the same, we cannot for that reason say that falsehood is a moment or forms even a constituent part of truth. That "in every case of falsity there is something true" is an expression in which they are taken to be like oil and water, which do not mix and are merely united externally. Just in the interest of their real meaning, precisely because we want to designate the aspect or moment of complete otherness, the terms true and false must no longer be used where their otherness has been cancelled and superseded. Just as the expressions "unity of subject and object", of "finite and infinite", of "being and thought", etc., are clumsy when subject and object, etc., are taken to mean what they are outside their unity, and are thus in that unity not meant to be what its very expression conveys; in the same way falsehood is not, qua false, any longer a moment of truth.

Dogmatism as a way of thinking, whether in ordinary knowledge or in the study of philosophy, is nothing else but the view that truth consists in a proposition, which is a fixed and final result, or again which is directly known. To questions like, "When was Caesar born?", "How many feet make a furlongs", etc., a straight answer ought to be given; just as it is absolutely true that the square of the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides of a right-angled triangle. But the nature of a so-called truth of that sort is different from the nature of philosophical truth.


Hegel on Freedom and Necessity

PR 15; E 35, 48, 145, 158, PH 17, HP 2c

Freedom of the will is, in this view of it, caprice, in which are contained both a reflection, which is free and abstracted from everything and a dependence upon a content or matter either internally or externally provided. Since the content is in itself or implicitly necessary as all end, and in opposition to this reflection is a definite possibility, caprice, when it is will, is in its nature contingent.

Remark: The usual idea of freedom is that of caprice. It is a midway stage of reflection between the will as merely natural impulse and the will as free absolutely. When it is said that freedom as a general thing consists in doing what one likes, such an idea must be taken to imply an utter lack of developed thought, containing as yet not even the suspicion of what is meant by the absolutely free will, right, the ethical system, etc. Reflection, being the formal universality and I unity of self-consciousness, is the will's abstract certitude of its freedom, but it is not yet the truth of it, because it has not as yet itself for content and end; the subjective side is still different from the objective. Thus the content in such a case remains purely and completely finite. Caprice, instead of being will in its truth, is rather will in its contradiction.

In the controversy carried on, especially at the time of the metaphysic of Wolf, as to whether the will is really free or our consciousness of its freedom is a delusion, it was this caprice, which was in the minds of both parties. Against the certitude of abstract self-direction, determinism rightly opposed a content, which was externally presented, and not being contained in this certitude came from without. It did not matter whether this "without" were impulse, imagination, or in general a consciousness so filled that the content was not the peculiar possession of the self-activity as such. Since only the formal element of free self-direction is immanent in caprice, while the other element is something given to it from without, to take caprice as freedom may fairly be named a delusion. Freedom in every philosophy of reflection, whether it be the Kantian or the Friesian, which is the Kantian superficialised, is nothing more than this formal self-activity.

Addition: Since I have the possibility of determining himself in this or that way, since I have the power of choice, possess caprice, or what is commonly called freedom. This choice is due to the universality of the will, enabling me to make my own this thing or another. This possession is a particular content, which is therefore not adequate to me, but separated from me, and is mine only in possibility; just as I am the possibility of bringing myself into coincidence with it. Hence choice is due to the indeterminateness of the I, and to the determinateness of a content. But as to this content the will is not free, although it has in itself formally the side of infinitude. No such content corresponds to will; in no content can it truly find itself. In caprice it is involved that the content is not formed by the nature of my will, but by contingency. I am dependent upon this content. This is the contradiction contained in caprice. Ordinary man believes that he is free, when he is allowed to act capriciously, but precisely in caprice is it inherent that he is not free. When I will the rational, I do not act as a particular individual but according to the conception of ethical life in general. In an ethical act I establish not myself but the thing. A man, who acts perversely, exhibits particularity. The rational is the highway on which every one travels, and no one is specially marked. When a great artist finishes a work we say: "It must be so." The particularity of the artist has wholly disappeared and the work shows no mannerism. Phidias has no mannerism; the statue itself lives and moves. But the poorer is the artist, the more easily we discern himself, his particularity all caprice. If we adhere to the consideration that in caprice a man can will what he pleases, we have certainly freedom of a kind; but again, if we hold to the view that the content is given, then man must be determined by it, and in this light is no longer free.

PR, § 15

Nature they regard as subject in its workings to necessity; Mind they hold to be free. No doubt there is a real foundation for this distinction in the very core of the Mind itself: but freedom and necessity, when thus abstractly opposed, are terms applicable only in the finite world to which, as such, they belong. A freedom involving no necessity, and mere necessity without freedom, are abstract and in this way untrue formulae of thought. Freedom is no blank indeterminateness: essentially concrete, and unvaryingly self-determinate, it is so far at the same time necessary. Necessity, again, in the ordinary acceptation of the term in popular philosophy, means determination from without only – as in finite mechanics, where a body moves only when it is struck by another body, and moves in the direction communicated to it by the impact. This however is a merely external necessity, not the real inward necessity which is identical with freedom.

E 35

The main gist of it is that freedom and necessity as understood by abstract thinkers are not independently real, as these thinkers suppose, but merely ideal factors (moments) of the true freedom and the true necessity, and that to abstract and isolate either conception is to make it false.

E 48

Free Will

Of contingency in respect of the Will it is especially important to form a proper estimate. The Freedom of the Will is an expression that often means mere free choice, or the will in the form of contingency. Freedom of choice, or the capacity for determining ourselves towards one thing or another, is undoubtedly a vital element in the will (which is in its very notion free); but instead of being freedom itself, it is it is only in the first instance a freedom in form. The genuinely free will, which includes free choice as suspended, is conscious to itself that its content is intrinsically firm and fast, and knows it at the same time to be thoroughly its own. A will, on the contrary, which remains standing on the grade of option, even supposing it does decide in favour of what is in import right and true, is always haunted by the conceit that it might, if it had so pleased, have decided in favour of the reverse course. When more narrowly examined, free choice is seen to be a contradiction, to this extent, that its form and content stand in antithesis. The matter of choice is given, and known as a content dependent not on the will itself, but on outward circumstances. In reference to such a given content, freedom lies only in the form of choosing, which, as it is only a freedom in form, may consequently be regarded as freedom only in supposition. On an ultimate analysis it will be seen that the same outwardness of circumstances, on which is founded the content that the will finds to its hand, can alone account for the will giving its decision for the one and not the other of the two alternatives.

E 145

Freedom and Necessity

Necessity is often called hard, and rightly so, if we keep to necessity as such, i.e. to its immediate shape. Here we have, first of all, some state or, generally speaking, fact, possessing an independent subsistence: and necessity primarily implies that there falls upon such a fact something else by which it is brought low. This is what is hard and sad in necessity immediate or abstract. The identity of the two things, which necessity presents as bound to each other and thus bereft of their independence, is at first only inward, and therefore has no existence for those under the yoke of necessity. Freedom too from this point of view is only abstract, and is preserved only by renouncing all that we immediately are and have. But, as we have already seen, the process of necessity is so directed that it overcomes the rigid externality which it first had and reveals its inward nature. It then appears that the members, linked to one another, are not really foreign to each other, but only elements of one whole, each of them, in its connection with the other, being, as it were, at home, and combining with itself. In this way, necessity is transfigured into freedom – not the freedom that consists in abstract negation, but freedom concrete and positive. From which we may learn what a mistake it is to regard freedom and necessity as mutually exclusive. Necessity indeed, qua necessity, is far from being freedom: yet freedom presupposes necessity, and contains it as an unsubstantial element in itself.

A good man is aware that the tenor of his conduct is essentially obligatory and necessary. But this consciousness is so far from making any abatement from his freedom, that without it, real and reasonable freedom could not be distinguished from arbitrary choice – a freedom which has no reality and is merely potential. A criminal, when punished, may look upon his punishment as a restriction of his freedom. Really the punishment is not foreign constraint to which he is subjected, but the manifestation of his own act. In short, man is most independent when he knows himself to be determined by the absolute idea throughout. It was this phase of mind and conduct which Spinoza called Amor intellectualis Dei.

E 158

...the History of the World is nothing but the development of the Idea of Freedom. But Objective Freedom – the laws of real Freedom – demand the subjugation of the mere contingent Will – for this is in its nature formal. If the Objective is in itself Rational, human insight and conviction must correspond with the Reason which it embodies, and then we have the other essential element – Subjective Freedom – also realized. 45

29. Formal Will or Subjective Freedom is inclination or mere casual liking, and is opposed to Substantial or Objective Will – also called Objective Freedom – which denotes the principles that form the basis of society, and that have been spontaneously adopted by particular nations or by mankind generally. The latter as well as the former may lay claim to being a manifestation of Human Will. For however rigid the restraints which those principles impose on individuals, they are the result of no extraneous compulsion brought to bear on the community at large, and are recognized as rightfully authoritative even by the individuals whose physical comfort or relative affections they most painfully contravene. Unquestioning homage to unreasonable despotism, and the severe rubrics of religious penance, can be traced to no natural necessity or stimulus ab extra. The principles in which these originate, may rather be called the settled and supreme determination of the community that recognizes them. The term "Objective Will" seems therefore not unfitly used to describe the psychological phenomena in question. The term "Substantial Will" (as opposed to "Formal Will"), denoting the same phenomena, needs no defence or explanation. The third term, "Objective Freedom," used synonymously with the two preceding, is justified on the ground of the unlimited dominion exercised by such principles as those mentioned above. "Deus solus liber."

PH 17

Or when we say of the mind of man that it has freedom, the understanding at once brings up the other quality, which in this case is necessity, saying, that if Mind is free it is not in subjection to necessity, and, inversely, if its will and thought are determined through necessity, it is not free – the one, they say, excludes the other. The distinctions here are regarded as exclusive, and not as forming something concrete. But that which is true, the Mind, is concrete, and its attributes are freedom and necessity. Similarly the higher point of view is that Mind is free in its necessity, and finds its freedom in it alone, since its necessity rests on its freedom. But it is more difficult for us to show the unity here than in the case of natural objects. Freedom can, however, be also abstract freedom without necessity, which false freedom is self-will, and for that reason it is self-opposed, unconsciously limited, an imaginary freedom which is free in form alone.

HP 2c

Hegel on Infinity and Finitude

The Absolute is the finite to the extent to which the finite is nothing at all but negative relation to itself. – Dieter Henrich on Hegel's Absolute (in Bowie on Schelling)

This ideality of the finite is the chief maxim of philosophy; and for that reason every genuine philosophy is idealism. (…) The fundamental notion of philosophy, the genuine infinite…

Diese Idealität des Endlichen ist der Hauptsatz der Philosophie, und jede wahrhafte Philosophie ist deswegen Idealismus. (...) der Grundbegriff der Philosophie, das wahrhafte Unendliche...

E 95

The will which exists absolutely is truly infinite, because its object being the will itself, is for it not another or a limitation. In the object the will has simply reverted into itself. Moreover, it is not mere possibility, capacity, potentiality (potential), but infinitely actual (infinitum actu), because the reality of the conception or its visible externality is internal to itself.

Hence when the free will is spoken of without the qualification of absolute freedom, only the capacity of freedom is meant, or the natural and finite will (§ 11), and, notwithstanding all words and opinions to the contrary, not the free will. Since the understanding comprehends the infinite only in its negative aspect, and hence as a beyond, it thinks to do the infinite all the more honour the farther it removes it into the vague distance, and the more it takes it as a foreign thing. In free will the true infinite is present and real; it is itself the actually present self-contained idea.

The infinite has rightly been represented as a circle. The straight line goes out farther and farther, and symbolises the merely negative and bad infinite, which, unlike the true, does not return into itself. The free will is truly infinite, for it is not a mere possibility or disposition. Its external reality is its own inner nature, itself.

PR, 22

The relationship between God and the finite, to which we belong, may be represented in three different ways: firstly, only the finite exists, and in this way we alone exist, but God does not exist – this is atheism; the finite is here taken absolutely, and is accordingly the substantial. Or, in the second place, God alone exists; the finite has no reality, it is only phenomena, appearance. To say, in the third place, that God exists and we also exist is a false synthetic union, all amicable compromise. It is the popular view of the matter, that the one side has as much substantiality as the other; God is honoured and supreme, but finite things also have Being to exactly the same extent. Reason cannot remain satisfied with this "also," with indifference like this. The philosophic requisite is therefore to apprehend the unity of these differences in such a way that difference is not let slip, but proceeds eternally from substance, without being petrified into dualism.

On Spinoza

f. In the sixth place, the definition of the infinite is also of importance, for in the infinite Spinoza defines more strictly than anywhere else the Notion of the Notion. The infinite has a double significance, according as it is taken as the infinitely many or as the absolutely infinite.

"The infinite in its kind is not such in respect of all possible attributes; but the absolutely infinite is that to whose essence all belongs that expresses an essence and contains no negation."

In the same sense Spinoza distinguishes in the nine-and-twentieth Letter the infinite of imagination from the infinite of thought (intellectus), the actual (actu) infinite. Most men, when they wish to strive after the sublime, get no farther than the first of these; this is the false infinite, just as when one says "and so on into infinity," meaning perhaps the infinity of space from star to star, or else the infinity of time. An infinite numerical series in mathematics is exactly the same thing. If a certain fraction is represented as a decimal fraction, it is incomplete; 1/7 is, on the contrary, the true infinite, and therefore not an incomplete expression, although the content here is of course limited. It is infinity in the incorrect sense that one usually has in view when infinity is spoken of; and even if it is looked on as sublime, it yet is nothing present, and only goes ever out into the negative, without being actual (actu). But for Spinoza the infinite is not the fixing of a limit and then passing beyond the limit fixed – the sensuous infinity – but absolute infinity, the positive, which has complete and present in itself an absolute multiplicity which has no Beyond. Philosophic infinity, that which is infinite actu, Spinoza therefore calls the absolute affirmation of itself. This is quite correct, only it might have been better expressed as: "It is the negation of negation." Spinoza here also employs geometrical figures as illustrations of the Notion of infinity. In his "Opera posthuma", preceding his "Ethics", and also in the letter quoted above, he has two circles, one of which lies within the other, which have not, however, a common centre.

"The inequalities of the space between A B and C D exceed every number; and yet the space which lies between is not so very great." That is to say, if I wish to determine them all, I must enter upon an infinite series. This "beyond" always, however, remains defective, is always affected with negation; and yet this false infinite is there to hand, circumscribed, affirmative, actual and present in that plane as a complete space between the two circles. Or a finite line consists of an infinite number of points; and yet the line is present here and determined; the "beyond" of the infinite number of points, which are not complete, is in it complete and called back into unity. The infinite should be represented as actually present, and this comes to pass in the Notion of the cause of itself, which is therefore the true infinity. As soon as the cause has something else opposed to it – the effect – finitude is present; but here this something else is at the same time abrogated and it becomes once more the cause itself. The affirmative is thus negation of negation, since, according to the well-known grammatical rule, duplex negatio affirmat. In the same way Spinoza's earlier definitions have also the infinite already implied in them, for instance in the case of the just mentioned cause of itself, inasmuch as he defines it as that whose essence involves existence. Notion and existence are each the Beyond of the other; but cause of itself, as thus including them, is really the carrying back of this "beyond" into unity. Or "Substance is that which is in itself and is conceived from itself;" that is the same unity of Notion and existence. The infinite is in the same way in itself and has also its Notion in itself; its Notion is its Being, and its Being its Notion; true infinity is therefore to be found in Spinoza. But he has no consciousness of this; he has not recognized this Notion as absolute Notion, and therefore has not expressed it as a moment of true existence; for with him the Notion falls outside of existence, into the thought of existence.

g. Finally Spinoza says in the seventh place: "God is a Being absolutely infinite, i.e. a substance consisting of infinite attributes, each of which expresses an eternal and infinite essence." Does substance, one might here ask, possess an infinite number of attributes? But as with Spinoza there are only two attributes, thought and extension, with which he invests God, "infinite" is not to be taken here in the sense of the indeterminate but positively, as a circle is perfect infinity in itself.

On Spinoza

It degrades Reason to a finite and conditioned thing, to identify it with a mere stepping beyond the finite and conditioned range of understanding. The real infinite, far from being a mere transcendence of the finite, always involves the absorption of the finite into its own fuller nature.

E 45

The first of the cosmological antinomies, for example, implies a recognition of the doctrine that space and time present a discrete as well as a continuous aspect: whereas the old metaphysic, laying exclusive emphasis on the continuity, had been led to treat the world as unlimited in space and time. It is quite correct to say that we can go beyond every definite space and beyond every definite time: but it is no less correct that space and time are real and actual only when they are defined or specialised into 'here' and 'now' – a specialisation which is involved in the very notion of them.

E 48

This Infinity is the wrong or negative infinity: it is only a negation of a finite: but the finite rises again the same as ever, and is never got rid of and absorbed. In other words, this infinite only expresses the ought-to-be elimination of the finite. The progression to infinity never gets further than a statement of the contradiction involved in the finite, viz. that it is somewhat as well as somewhat else. It sets up with endless iteration the alternation between these two terms, each of which calls up the other.

If we let somewhat and another, the elements of determinate Being, fall asunder, the result is that some becomes other, and this other is itself a somewhat, which then as such changes likewise, and so on ad infinitum. This result seems to superficial reflection something very grand, the grandest possible. But such a progression to infinity is not the real infinite. That consists in being at home with itself in its other, or, if enunciated as a process, in coming to itself in its other. Much depends on rightly apprehending the notion of infinity, and not stopping short at the wrong infinity of endless progression. When time and space, for example, are spoken of as infinite, it is in the first place the infinite progression on which our thoughts fasten. We say, Now, This time, and then we keep continually going forwards and backwards beyond this limit. The case is the same with space, the infinity of which has formed the theme of barren declamation to astronomers with a talent for edification. In the attempt to contemplate such an infinite, our thought, we are commonly informed, must sink exhausted. It is true indeed that we must abandon the unending contemplation, not however because the occupation is too sublime, but because it is too tedious. It is tedious to expatiate in the contemplation of this infinite progression, because the same thing is constantly recurring. We lay down a limit: then we pass it: next we have a limit once more, and so on forever. All this is but superficial alternation, which never leaves the region of the finite behind. To suppose that by stepping out and away into that infinity we release ourselves from the finite, is in truth but to seek the release which comes by flight. But the man who flees is not yet free: in fleeing he is still conditioned by that from which he flees. If it be also said that the infinite is unattainable, the statement is true, but only because to the idea of infinity has been attached the circumstance of being simply and solely negative. With such empty and other-world stuff philosophy has nothing to do. What philosophy has to do with is always something concrete and in the highest sense present.

No doubt philosophy has also sometimes been set the task of finding an answer to the question, how the infinite comes to the resolution of issuing out of itself. This question, founded, as it is, upon the assumption of a rigid opposition between finite and infinite, may be answered by saying that the opposition is false, and that in point of fact the infinite eternally proceeds out of itself, and yet does not proceed out of itself. If we further say that the infinite is the not-finite, we have in point of fact virtually expressed the truth: for as the finite itself is the first negative, the not-finite is the negative of that negation, the negation which is identical with itself and thus at the same time a true affirmation.

The infinity of reflection here discussed is only an attempt to reach the true infinity, a wretched neither-one-thing-nor-another. Generally speaking, it is the point of view which has in recent times been emphasised in Germany. The finite, this theory tells us, ought to be absorbed; the infinite ought not to be a negative merely, but also a positive. That 'ought to be' betrays the incapacity of actually making good a claim which is at the same time recognised to be right. This stage was never passed by the systems of Kant and Fichte, so far as ethics are concerned. The utmost to which this way brings us is only the postulate of a never-ending approximation to the law of Reason: which postulate has been made an argument for the immortality of the soul.

[c] What we now in point of fact have before us, is that somewhat comes to be an other, and that the other generally comes to be an other. Thus essentially relative to another, somewhat is virtually an other against it: and since what is passed into is quite the same as what passes over, since both have one and the same attribute, viz. to be an other, it follows that something in its passage into other only joins with itself. To be thus self-related in the passage, and in the other, is the genuine Infinity. Or, under a negative aspect: what is altered is the other, it becomes the other of the other. Thus Being, but as negation of the negation, is restored again: it is now Being-for-self.

Dualism, in putting an insuperable opposition between finite and infinite, fails to note the simple circumstance that the infinite is thereby only one of two, and is reduced to a particular, to which the finite forms the other particular. Such an infinite, which is only a particular, is conterminous with the finite which makes for it a limit and a barrier: it is not what it ought to be, that is, the infinite, but is only finite. In such circumstances, where the finite is on this side, and the infinite on that – this world as the finite and the other world as the infinite – an equal dignity of permanence and independence is ascribed to finite and to infinite. The being of the finite is made an absolute being, and by this dualism gets independence and stability. Touched, so to speak, by the infinite, it would be annihilated. But it must not be touched by the infinite. There must be an abyss, an impassable gulf between the two, with the infinite abiding on yonder side and the finite steadfast on this. Those who attribute to the finite this inflexible persistence in comparison with the infinite are not, as they imagine, far above metaphysic: they are still on the level of the most ordinary metaphysic of understanding. For the same thing occurs here as in the infinite progression. At one time it is admitted that the finite has no independent actuality, no absolute being, no root and development of its own, but is only a transient. But next moment this is straightway forgotten; the finite, made a mere counterpart to the infinite, wholly separated from it, and rescued from annihilation, is conceived to be persistent in its independence. While thought thus imagines itself elevated to the infinite, it meets with the opposite fate: it comes to an infinite which is only a finite, and the finite, which it had left behind, has always to be retained and made into an absolute.

After this examination (with which it were well to compare – Plato's "Philebus"), tending to show the nullity of the distinction made by understanding between the finite and the infinite, we are liable to glide into the statement that the infinite and the finite are therefore one, and that the genuine infinity, the truth, must be defined and enunciated as the unity of the finite and infinite. Such a statement would be to some extent correct; but is just as open to perversion and falsehood as the unity of Being and Nothing already noticed. Besides it may very fairly be charged with reducing the infinite to finitude and making a finite infinite. For, so far as the expression goes, the finite seems left in its place – it is not expressly stated to be absorbed. Or, if we reflect that the finite, when identified with the infinite, certainly cannot remain what it was out of such unity, and will at least suffer some change in its characteristics (as an alkali, when combined with an acid, loses some of its properties), we must see that the same fate awaits the infinite, which, as the negative, will on its part likewise have its edge, as it were, taken off on the other. And this does really happen with the abstract one-sided infinite of understanding. The genuine infinite however is not merely in the position of the one-sided acid, and so does not lose itself. The negation of negation is not a neutralisation: the infinite is the affirmative, and it is only the finite which is absorbed.

In Being-for-self enters the category of Ideality. Being-there-and-then, as in the first instance apprehended in its being or affirmation, has reality (§ 91); and thus even finitude in the first instance is in the category of reality. But the truth of the finite is rather its ideality. Similarly, the infinite of understanding, which is coordinated with the finite, is itself only one of two finites, no whole truth, but a non-substantial element. This ideality of the finite is the chief maxim of philosophy; and for that reason every genuine philosophy is idealism. But everything depends upon not taking for the infinite what, in the very terms of its characterisation, is at the same time made a particular and finite. For this, reason we have bestowed a greater amount of attention on this distinction. The fundamental notion of philosophy, the genuine infinite, depends upon it. The distinction is cleared up by the simple, and for that reason seemingly insignificant, but incontrovertible reflections contained in the first paragraph of this section.

E 94 & 95

(2) The quantitative infinite progression is what the reflective understanding usually relies upon when it is engaged with the general question of Infinity. The same thing however holds good of this progression, as was already remarked on the occasion of the qualitatively infinite progression. As was then said, it is not the expression of a true, but of a wrong infinity; it never gets further than a bare 'ought', and thus really remains within the limits of finitude. The quantitative form of this infinite progression, which Spinoza rightly calls a mere imaginary infinity (infinitum imaginationis), is an image often employed by poets, such as Haller and Klopstock, to depict the infinity, not of Nature merely, but even of God Himself. Thus we find Haller, in a famous description of God's infinity, saying:

I heap up monstrous numbers, mountains of millions; I pile time upon time, and world on the top of world; and when from the awful height I cast a dizzy look towards Thee, all the power of number, multiplied a thousand times, is not yet one part of Thee.

Here then we meet, in the first place, that continual extrusion of quantity, and especially of number, beyond itself, which Kant describes as 'eery'. The only really 'eery' thing about it is the wearisomeness of ever fixing, and anon unfixing a limit, without advancing a single step. The same poet however well adds to that description of false infinity the closing line:

These I remove, and Thou liest all before me.

Which means that the true infinite is more than a mere world beyond the finite, and that we, in order to become conscious of it, must renounce that progressus in infinitum.

E 104

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel


1770 27. August: Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel wird als Sohn des Rentkammersekretärs und späteren Expeditionsrates Georg Ludwig Hegel und seiner Ehefrau Maria Magdalena, geb. Fromm, in Stuttgart geboren
1773 -1775 Besuch der Deutschen Schule, dann der Lateinschule in Stuttgart
1780 Übertritt zum Gymnasium Illustre (später Eberhard-Ludwigs-Gymnasium in Stuttgart)
1784 Tod der Mutter
1788 Abitur. Hegel tritt ab dem WS 1788/89 als Stipendiat in das Tübinger Stift ein und studiert Philosophie und Theologie.
1790 Ab dem WS 1790/91 bewohnen Hegel, Hölderlin und Schelling dasselbe Zimmer im Stift und schließen eine Freundschaft, die erst durch Hölderlins schwere Erkrankung und durch die langsame Entfremdung Hegels und Schellings ab 1807 auseinanderbrach. Hegel begeistert sich für Rousseau. 27. September: Promotion zum Magister der Philosophie.
1793 Abschluss des Studiums mit dem theologischen Konsistorialexamen am 20. September. Ab Oktober Hauslehrer.
1797 Hauslehrer in Frankfurt am Main. Im „Systemfragment“ skizziert Hegel seine dialektische Methode. Übergang von theologischen zu staatspolitischen Themen.
1799 Tod des Vaters. Hegel erbt ein kleines Vermögen und kann sich auf die akademische Laufbahn vorbereiten.
1801 Durch Vermittlung Schellings konnte sich Hegel am 27. August in Jena habilitieren. Vorher war seine erste philosophische Schrift erschienen: „Differenz des Fichteschen und Schellingschen Systems“.
1802 Durch Vermittlung Schellings konnte sich Hegel am 27. August in Jena habilitieren. Vorher war seine erste philosophische Schrift erschienen: „Differenz des Fichteschen und Schellingschen Systems“.
1802 Hegel begründet mit Schelling das „Kritische Journal der Philosophie“
1805 Ernennung zum a. 0. Professor für Philosophie mit einer jährlichen Besoldung von 100 Talern
1806 „Die Phänomenologie des Geistes“. Hegel verlässt Jena.
1807 Hegel übernimmt die Redaktion der „Bamberger Zeitung“.
1808 Ernennung zum Professor der Vorbereitungswissenschaften und Rektor des Ägidiengymnasiums in Nürnberg.
1811 Der einundvierzigjährige Philosoph heiratet die zwanzigjährige Marie von Tucher in Nürnberg
1812 Die „Wissenschaft der Logik“ liegt vor.
1816 Ruf auf den philosophischen Lehrstuhl der Universität Heidelberg. Neben den üblichen Vorlesungen (Logik, Metaphysik und Naturrecht) liest Hegel über Ästhetik und Geschichte der Philosophie
1817 Erscheinungsjahr der „Enzyklopädie der philosophischen Wissenschaften“. In den „Heidelberger Jahrbüchern für Literatur“ veröffentlicht Hegel verschiedene philosophische und politische Artikel.
1818 Hegel wird Fichtes Nachfolger in Berlin. Antrittsvorlesung am 22. Oktober.
1820 Hegel wird Ordentliches Mitglied der Königlich-Wissenschaftlichen Prüfungskommission der Provinz Brandenburg. Differenzen mit Schleiermacher.
1821 Die Rechtsphilosophie erscheint unter dem Titel „Grundlinien der Philosophie des Rechts" und "Naturrecht und Staatswissenschaft im Grundriss“. In den Vorlesungen spricht Hegel zur Religionsphilosophie und über die Philosophie der Weltgeschichte.
1822 Reise nach Brüssel und den Niederlanden
1824 Reise über Prag nach Wien
1827 Reise nach Paris. Auf dem Rückweg trifft Hegel mit Goethe in Weimar zusammen.
1829 Hegel auf dem Höhepunkt seines Ruhmes. Der Einfluss des „Professors der Professoren“ reicht über Preußen auf fast alle deutschen Universitäten. In Berlin überträgt man ihm das Amt des Rektors der Universität. Im Herbst begegnen sich Hegel und Schelling zufällig und zum letzten Male in Karlsbad.
1831 Am :14. November stirbt Hegel überraschend nach kurzer Krankheit. Er wird neben Fichte auf dem Dorotheenstädter Friedhof in Berlin beigesetzt.

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