Superphysics Superphysics
Section 5b

What is Reason?

by Hegel
8 minutes  • 1597 words

'235' Reason is the certainty of being all reality. This its inherent nature, this reality, is still, however, through and through a universal, the pure abstraction of reality.

It is the first positive character which self-consciousness per se is aware of being, and ego is, therefore, merely the pure, inner essence of existence, in other words, is the Category bare and simple.

The category, which heretofore had the significance of being the inmost essence of existence — of existence indifferent to whether it is existence at all, or existence over against consciousness — is now the essential nature or simple unity of existence merely in the sense of a reality that thinks.

To put it otherwise, the category means this, that existence and self-consciousness are the same being, the same not as a matter of comparison, but really and truly in and for themselves. It is only a onesided, unsound idealism which lets this unity again appear on one side as consciousness, with a reality per se over against it on the other.

'236' This category, or simple unity of self-consciousness and being, has difference within it.

This is because its very nature consists just in being immediately one and identical with itself in otherness or in absolute difference.

Difference therefore is completely transparent.

  • It is a difference and none at the same time.
  • It appears in the form of a plurality of categories.

Since idealism pronounces the simple unity of self-consciousness to be all reality, and makes it straightway the essentially real without first having comprehended its absolutely negative nature — only an absolutely negative reality contains within its very being negation, determinateness, or difference — still more incomprehensible is this second position, viz. that in the category there are differences, kinds or species of categories.

This assurance in general, as also the assurance as to any determinate number of kinds of categories, is a new assurance, which, however, itself implies that we need no longer accept it as an assurance.

Difference starts in the pure ego, in pure understanding itsel.

Here, immediacy makes assurances. It finds that something is given. Immediacy must then be abandoned and reflective comprehension begins.

But to pick up the various categories again in any sort of way as a kind of happy find, hit upon, e.g. in the different judgments, and then to be content so to accept them, must really be regarded as an outrage on scientific thinking.

(5) Where is understanding to be able to demonstrate necessity, if it is incapable of so doing in its own case, itself being pure necessity?

In this way, the pure essential being of things, as well as their aspect of difference, belongs to reason, we can, strictly speaking, no longer talk of things at all, i.e. of something which would only be present to consciousness by negatively opposing it.

For the many categories are species of the pure category, which means that the pure category is still their genus or essential nature, and not opposed to them. But they are that ambiguous being which contains otherness too, as opposed to the pure category in its plurality.

They, in point of fact, contradict the pure category by this plurality, and the pure category must sublate them in itself, a process by which it constitutes itself the negative unity of the different elements.

Qua negative unity, however, it puts away from itself and excludes both the diverse elements as such, and that previous immediate unity as such; it is then individual singleness — a new category, which is an exclusive form of consciousness, i.e. stands in relation to something else, an other.

This individuality is its transition from its notion to an external reality, the pure “schema”, which is at once a consciousness, and in consequence of its being a single individual and an excluding unit, points to the presence of an external other.

But the “other” of this category is merely the “other” categories first mentioned, viz. pure essential reality and pure difference; and in this category, i.e. just in affirming the other, or in this other itself, consciousness is likewise itself too.

Each of these various moments points and refers to an other.

At the same time, however, they do not involve any absolute otherness. The pure category refers to the species, which pass over into the negative category, the category of exclusion, individuality; this latter, however, points back to them, it is itself pure consciousness, which is aware in each of them of being always this clear unity with itself — a unity, however, that in the same way is referred to an other, which in being disappears, and in disappearing is once again brought into being.

'237' Pure consciousness is here affirmed in a twofold form.

In one case it is the restless activity which passes hither and thither through all its moments, seeing in them that otherness which is sublated in the process of grasping it; in the other case it is the imperturbable unity certain of its own truth.

That restless activity constitutes the “other” for this unity, while this unity is the “other for that activity; and within these reciprocally determining opposites consciousness and object alternate. Consciousness thus at one time finds itself seeking about hither and thither, and its object is what absolutely exists per se, and is the essentially real; at another time consciousness is aware of being the category bare and simple, and the object is the movement of the different elements.

Consciousness, however, qua essential reality, is the whole of this process of passing out of itself qua simple category into individuality and the object, and of viewing this process in the object, cancelling it as distinct, appropriating it as its own, and declaring itself as this certainty of being all reality, of being both itself and its object.

'238' Its first declaration is merely this abstract, empty phrase that everything is its own. For the certainty of being all reality is to begin with the pure category.

Reason knowing itself in this sense in its object is what finds expression in abstract empty idealism; (6) it merely takes reason as reason appears at first, and by its pointing out that in all being there is this bare consciousness of a “mine”, and by expressing things as sensations or ideas, it fancies it has shown that abstract mine” of consciousness to be complete reality.

It is bound, therefore, to be at the same time absolute Empiricism, because, for the filling of this empty “mine”, i.e. for the element of distinction and all the further development and embodiment of it, its reason needs an impact (Anstoss) operating from without, in which lies the fons et origo of the multiplicity of sensations or ideas. This kind of idealism is thus just such a self-contradictory equivocation as scepticism, only, while the latter expresses itself negatively, the former does so in a positive way.

But it fails just as completely as scepticism to link up its contradictory statements about pure consciousness being all reality, while all the time the alien impact, or sense-impressions and ideas, are equally reality. It oscillates hither and thither from one to the other and tumbles into the false, or the sensuous, infinite.

(7) Since reason is all reality in the sense of the abstract “mine”, and the “other” is an externality indifferent to it, there is here affirmed just that sort of knowledge of an “other” on the part of reason, which we met with before in the form of “intending” or meaning” (Meinen), (8) “perceiving”, and “understanding”, which grasps what is “meant” and what is “perceived”.

Such a kind of knowledge is at the same time asserted by the very principle of this idealism itself not to be true knowledge; for only the unity of apperception is the real truth of knowledge.

Pure reason as conceived by this idealism, if it is to get at this “other” which is essential to it, i.e. really is per se, but which it does not possess in itself — is thus thrown back on that knowledge which is not a knowledge of the real truth.

It thus condemns itself knowingly and voluntarily to being an untrue kind of knowledge, and cannot get away from “meaning” and “perceiving”, which for it have no truth at all.

It falls into a direct contradiction.

It asserts that the real has a twofold nature, consists of elements in sheer opposition, is the unity of apperception and a “thing” as well; whether a thing is called an alien impact, or an empirical entity, or sensibility, or the “thing in itself”, it remains in principle precisely the same, viz. something external and foreign to that unity.

'239' This idealism falls into such a contradiction because it asserts the abstract notion of reason to be the truth.

Consequently reality comes directly before it just as much in a form which is not strictly the reality of reason at all, whereas reason all the while is intended to be all reality. Reason remains, in this case, a restless search, which in its very process of seeking declares that it is utterly impossible to have the satisfaction of finding.

But actual concrete reason is not so inconsequent as this. Being at first merely the certainty that it is all reality, it is in this notion well aware that qua certainty qua ego it is not yet in truth all reality; and thus reason is driven on to raise its formal certainty into actual truth, and give concrete filling to the empty “mine”.

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