Section 2b

Observation of Organic Nature


Such an object which sustains the procedure in the simple activity of the notion is an organism.

Organic existence is this absolutely fluid condition wherein determinateness, which would only put it in relation to an other, is dissolved. Inorganic things involve determinateness in their very essence; and on that account a thing realizes the completeness of the moments of the notion only along with another thing, and hence gets lost when it enters the dialectic movement. In the case of an organic being, on the other hand, all determinate characteristics, by means of “which it is palpable to another, are held under the control of the simple organic unity; none of them comes forward as essential and capable of detaching itself from the rest and relating itself to an other being. What is organic, therefore, preserves itself in its very relation.

'255' The aspects of law on which the instinct of reason directs its observation here are, as we see from the above, in the first instance organic nature and inorganic nature in their relation to one another. The latter means for organic nature just the free play-a freedom opposed to the simple notion of organic nature — loosely connected characteristics in which individuated nature is at once dissolved, and out of the continuity of which the individuated unit of nature at the same time breaks away and exists separately.

Air, water, earth, zones and climate are universal elements of this sort, which make up the indeterminate simple being of natural individualities, and in which these are at the same time reflected into themselves. Neither the individuality nor the natural element is absolutely self-contained. On the contrary: in the independent detachment, which observation finds these assuming towards one another, they stand at the same time in essential relation to one another, but in such a way that their independence and mutual indifference form the predominating feature, and only in part become abstractions. Here, then, law appears as the relation of an element to the formative process of the organic being, which at one moment has the element over against itself, at another exhibits it within its own self-determining organic structure.

But laws like these: animals belonging to the air are of the nature of birds, those belonging to water have the constitution of fish, animals in northerly latitudes have thick coats of hair, and so on-such laws exhibit a degree of poverty which does not do justice to the manifold variety of organic nature. Besides the fact that the free activity of organic nature can readily divest its forms of determinate characters like theses and everywhere presents of necessity exceptions to such laws or rules, as we might call them; the characterization of those very animals to which they do apply is so very superficial that even the necessity of the “laws” can be nothing else but superficial too, and does not carry us further than what is implied in speaking of the “great influence” of environment on the organism. And this does not tell us what properly is due to that influence and what is not. Such like relations of organic beings to the elements they live in cannot therefore be strictly called laws at all. For, on the one hand, such a relation, when we look at its content, does not exhaust, as we saw, the range of the organic beings considered, and on the other, the terms of the relation itself stand indifferently apart from one another and express no necessity. In the concept of an acid lies the notion of a base, just as the notion of positive electricity implies that of negative; but even though we do find as a fact a thick coat of hair associated with northerly latitudes, the structure of a fish with water, or that of birds with air, there is nothing in the notion of the north implying the notion of a thick covering of hair, the notion of the structure of fish does not lie in the notion of the sea, nor that of birds in that of the air. Because of this free detachment of the two notions from one another there are, as a fact also land animals with the essential characters of a bird, of fish, and so on. The necessity, just because it cannot be conceived to be an inner necessity of the object, ceases also to have a foothold in sense, and can be no longer observed in actual reality, but has quitted the sphere of reality. Finding thus no place in the real object itself, it becomes what is called a “teleological relation”, a relation which is external to what is related, and consequently the very reverse of a law of its constitution. It is an idea entirely detached from the necessity of nature, a thought which leaves this necessity of nature behind and floats above it all by itself. (4)

Φ 256. If the relation, above alluded to, of organic existence to the elemental conditions of nature does not express its true being, the notion of Purpose, on the other hand, does contain it. The observing attitude does not indeed take the to be the genuine essence of organic existence; this notion seems to it to fall outside the real nature of the organism, and is then merely that external teleological relation above mentioned. Yet looking at how the organic being was previously characterized, the organic is in point of fact just realized concrete purpose. For since itself maintains itself in relation to another, it is just that kind of natural existence in which nature reflects itself into the notion, and the moments of necessity separated out [by Understanding]-a cause and an effect, an active and a passive-are here brought together and combined into a single unity. In this way we have here not only something appearing as a result of necessity, but, because it has returned to itself, the last or the result is just as much the first which starts the process, and is to itself the purpose which it realizes. What is organic does not produce something, it merely conserves itself, or what is produced is as much there already as produced.

Φ 257. We must elucidate this principle more fully, both as it is in itself and as it is for the instinct of reason, in order to see how reason finds itself there, but does not know itself in what it finds. The concept of purpose, then, which rational observation has reached, is, while reason has apprehended it in consciousness, given to reason as something actually real as well; it is not merely an external relation of the actual, but its inner being. This actual, which is itself a purpose, is related purposively to an other, i.e. its relation is a contingent one with respect to what both are immediately; prima facie they are both self-subsistent and indifferent to one another. The real nature of their relation, however, is something different from what they thus appear to be, and its effect has another meaning than sense-perception directly finds. The necessity inherent in the process is concealed, and comes out at the end, but in such a way that this very end shows it to have been also the first. The end, however, shows this priority of itself by the fact that nothing comes out of the alteration the act produced, but what was there already. Or, again, if we start from what is first, this, in coming to the end or the result of its act, merely returns to itself, and, just by so doing, it demonstrates itself to be that which has itself as its end, that is to say, qua first it has already returned to itself, or is self-contained, is in and for itself. What, then, it arrives at by the process of its action is itself; and its arriving merely at itself means feeling itself, is its self-feeling. Thus we have here, no doubt, the distinction between what it is and what it seeks; but this is merely the semblance of a distinction, and consequently it is a notion in its very nature.

Φ 258. This is exactly, however, the way self-consciousness is constituted. It distinguishes itself in like manner from itself, without any distinction being thereby established. Hence it is that it finds in observation of organic nature nothing else than this kind of reality; it finds itself in the form of a thing, as a life, and yet, between what it is itself and what it has found, draws a distinction which is, however, no distinction. Just as the instinct of an animal is to seek and consume food, but thereby elicits nothing except itself; similarly too the instinct of reason in its search merely finds reason itself. An animal ends with self-feeling. The instinct of reason, on the other hand, is at the same time, self-consciousness. But because it is merely instinct, it is put on one side as against consciousness, and in the latter finds its opposite. Its satisfaction is, therefore, broken in two by this opposite; it finds itself, viz. the purpose, and also finds this purpose in the shape of a thing. But the purpose is seen to lie, in the first instance, apart from the thing presenting itself as a purpose. In the second place, this purpose qua purpose is at the same time objective; it is taken to fall, there. fore, not within the observing consciousness, but within another intelligence.

Φ 259. Looked at more closely, this character lies also just as much in the notion of the thing — that of being in itself purpose. It preserves itself; this means at one and the same time it is its nature to conceal the controlling necessity and to present that necessity in the form of a contingent relation. For its freedom, its being on its own account, means just that it behaves towards its necessary condition as something indifferent. It thus presents itself as if it were something whose notion falls apart from its existence. In this way reason is compelled to look on its own proper notion as falling outside it, to look at it as a thing, as that towards which it is indifferent, and which in consequence is reciprocally indifferent towards it [reason] and towards its own notion. Qua instinct it continues to remain within this state of being, this condition of indifference; and the thing expressing the notion remains for it something other than this notion, and the notion other than the thing. Thus for reason the thing organized is only per se a purpose in the sense that the necessity, which is presented as concealed within the action of the thing — for the active agency there takes up the attitude of being indifferent and independent — falls outside the organism itself.

Since, however, the organic qua purpose per se can not behave in any other way than as organic, the fact of its being per se a purpose is also apparent and sensibly present, and as such it is observed. What is organic shows itself when observed to be something self-preserving, returning and returned into itself. But in this state of being, observation does not recognize the concept of purpose, or does not know that the notion of purpose is not in an intelligence anywhere else, but just exists here and in the form of a thing. Observation makes a distinction between the concept of purpose and self-existence and self-preservation, which is not a distinction at all. That it is no distinction is something of which it is not aware; what it is aware of is an activity which appears contingent and indifferent towards what is brought about by that activity, and towards the unity which is all the while the principle connecting both; that activity and this purpose are taken to fall asunder.

Φ 260. On this view the special function of the organic is the inner operating activity lying between its first and last stage, so far as this activity implies the character of singleness. So far, however, as the activity has the character of universality, and the active agent is equated with what is the outcome of its operation, this purposive activity as such would not belong to organic beings. That single activity, which is merely a means, comes, owing to its individual form, to be determined by an entirely individual or contingent necessity. What an organic being does for the preservation of itself as an individual, or of itself qua genus, is, therefore, quite lawless as regards this immediate content: for notion and universal fall outside it. Its activity would accordingly be empty functioning without any content in it; it would not even be the functioning of a machine, for this has a purpose and its activity in consequence a definite content. If it were deserted in this way by the universal, it would be an activity of a mere being qua being, i.e. would be an activity like that of an acid or a base, not forthwith reflected into itself-a function which could not be cut off from its immediate existence, nor give up this existence (which gets lost in the relation to its opposite), but could preserve itself. The kind of being whose functioning is here under consideration is, however, set down as a thing preserving itself in its relation to its opposite. The activity as such is nothing but the bare insubstantial form of its independent existence on its own account; and the purpose of the activity, its substances — substance, which is not simply a determinate being, but the universal-does not fall outside the activity. It is an activity reverting into itself by its own nature, and is not turned back into itself by any alien, external agency.

Φ 261. This union of universality and activity, however, is not a matter for this attitude of observation, because that unity is essentially the inner movement of what is organic, and can only be apprehended conceptually. Observation, however, seeks the moments in the form of existence and duration; and because the organic whole consists essentially in not containing the moments in that form, and in not letting them be found within it in that way, this observing consciousness, by its way of looking at the matter, transforms the opposition into one which conforms and is adapted to its own point of view.

Φ 262. An organism comes before the observing consciousness in this manner as a relation of two fixed and existing moments — as a relation of elements in an opposition, whose two factors seem in one respect really given in observation, while in another respect, as regards their content, they express the opposition of the organic concept of purpose and actual reality. But because the notion as such is there effaced, this takes place in an obscure and superficial way, where thought sinks to the level of mere ideal presentation. Thus we see the notion taken much in the sense of what is inner, reality in the sense of what is outer; and their relation gives rise to the law that “the outer is the expression of the inner”.

Φ 263. Let us consider more closely this inner with its opposite and their relation to one another. In the first place we find that the two factors of the law no longer have such an import as we found in the case of previous laws, where the elements appeared as independent things, each being a particular body; nor, again, in the second place, do we find that the universal is to have its existence somewhere else outside what actually is. On the contrary, the organic being is, in undivided oneness and as a whole, the fundamental fact, it is the content of inner and outer, and is the same for both. The opposition is on that account of a purely formal character; its real sides have the same ultimate principle inherently constituting them what they are. At the same time, however, since inner and outer are also opposite realities and each is a distinct being for observation, they each seem to observation to have a peculiar content of their own. This peculiar content, since it consists of the same substance, or the same organic unity, can, however, in point of fact, be only a different form of that unity, of that substance; and this is indicated by observation when it says that the outer is merely the expression of the inner.

We have seen in the case of the concept of purpose the same characteristic features of the relation, viz. the indifferent independence of the diverse factors, and their unity in that independence, a unity in which they disappear.

Φ 264. We have now to see what shape and embodiment inner and outer assume in actually existing. The inner as such must have an outer being and an embodiment, just as much as the outer as such; for the inner is an object, or is affirmed as being, and as present for observation to deal with.

Φ 265. The organic substance qua inner is the Soul simply, the pure notion of purpose or the universal which in dividing into its discrete elements remains all the same a universal fluent continuity, and hence in its being appears as activity or the movement of vanishing reality; while, on the other hand, the outer, opposed to that existing inner, subsists in the passive being of the organic. The law, as the relation of that inner to this outer, consequently expresses it content, now by setting forth universal moments, or simple essential elements, and again by setting forth the realized essential nature or the form and shape actually assumed. Those first simple organic properties, to call them so, are Sensibility, Irritability, and Reproduction. These properties, at least the two first, seem indeed to refer not to any and every organism, but merely to the animal organism. Moreover, the vegetable level of organic life expresses in point of fact only the bare and simple notion of an organism, which does not develop and evolve its moments. Hence in regard to those moments, so far as observation has to take account of them, we must confine ourselves t the organism which presents them existing in developed form.

Φ 266. As to these moments, then, they are directly derived from the notion of self-purpose, of a being whose end is its own self. For Sensibility expresses in general the simple notion of organic reflexion into itself, or the universal continuity of this notion. Irritability, again, expresses organic elasticity, the capacity to exercise the function of reacting simultaneously with self-reflexion, and expresses, in contrast to the previous state of being passively and inertly within itself, the condition of being explicitly actualized-a realization, where that abstract existence for its own sake is an existence for something else. Reproduction, however, is the operation of this entire self-reflected organism, its activity as having its purpose in itself, its activity qua genus, wherein the individual repels itself from itself, where in procreating it repeats either the organic parts or the whole individual. Reproduction, taken in the sense of self-preservation in general, expresses the formal principle or conception of the organic, or the fact of Sensibility; but it is, properly speaking, the realized notion of organic existence, or the whole, which either qua individual returns into itself through the process of producing individual parts of itself, or qua genus does so through the production of distinct individuals.

Φ 267. The other significance of these organic elements, viz. as outer, is their embodiment in a given shape; here they assume the form of actual but at the same time universal parts, or appear as organic systems. Sensibility is embodied in the form, for instance, of a nervous system, irritability, of a muscular system, reproduction, of an intestinal system for the preservation of the individual and the species.

Φ 268. Laws peculiar to organic life, accordingly, concern a relation of the organic moments, taking account of their twofold significance — viz. of being in one respect a part of definite organic formation or embodiment, and in another respect a continuous universal element of a determinate kind, running through all those systems. Thus in giving expression to a law of that sort, a specific kind of sensibility, e.g. would find, qua moment of the whole organism, its expression in a determinately formed nervous system, or it would also be connected with a determinate reproduction of the organic parts of the individual or with the propagation of the whole, and so on. Both aspects of such a law can be observed. The external is in its very conception being for another; sensibility, e.g. finds its immediately realized form in the sensitive system; and, qua universal property, it is in its outer expressions an objective fact as well. The aspect which is called “inner” has its own outer” aspect, which is distinct from what is in general called the outer.

Φ 269. Both the aspects of an organic law would thus certainly be open to observation, but not the laws of their relation. And observation is inadequate to perceive these laws, not because, qua observation, it is too short-sighted, i.e. not because, instead of proceeding empirically, we ought to start from the “Idea” — for such laws, if they were something real must, as a matter of fact, be actual, and must thus be observable; it is rather because the thought of laws of this sort proves to have no truth at all.

Φ 270. The relation assumed the role of a law in the case where the universal organic property had formed itself in an organic system into a thing and there found its own embodied image and copy, so that both were the same reality, present, in the one case, as universal moment, in the other, as thing. But besides, the inner aspect is also by itself a relation of several aspects; and hence to begin with there is presented the idea of a law as a relation of the universal organic activities or properties to one another. Whether such a law is possible has to be decided from the nature of such a property. Such a property, however, being universal and of a fluid nature, is, on the one hand, not something restricted like a thing, keeping itself within the distinction of a definite mode of existence, which is to constitute its shape and form: sensibility goes beyond the nervous system and pervades all the other systems of the organism. On the other hand, such a property is a universal moment, which is essentially undivided, and inseparable from reaction, or irritability, and reproduction. For, being reflection into self, it eo ipso already implies reaction. Merely to be reflected into itself is to be a passive, or lifeless being, and not ,sensibility; just as action — which is the same as reaction — when not reflected into self, is not irritability. Reflexion in action or reaction, and action or reaction in reflexion, is just that whose unity constitutes the organic being, a unity which is synonymous with organic reproduction. It follows from this that in every mode of the organism’s actuality there must be present the same quantity of sensibility — when we consider, in the first instance, the relation of sensibility and irritability to one another — as of irritability, and that an organic phenomenon can be apprehended and determined or, if we like, explained, just as much in terms of the one as of the other. What one man takes for high sensibility, another may just as rightly consider high irritability. and an irritability of the same degree. If they are called factors, and this is not to be a meaningless phrase, it is thereby expressly stated that they are moments of the notion; in other words, the real object, the essential nature of which this notion constitutes, contains them both alike within it, and if the object is in one way characterized as very sensitive, it must be also spoken of in the other way as likewise very irritable.

Φ 271. If they are distinguished, as they must be, they are so in their true nature (dem Begriffe, nach), and their opposition is qualitative. But when, besides this true distinction, they are also set down as different, qua existent and for thought, as they might be if made aspects of the law, then they appear quantitatively distinct. Their peculiar qualitative opposition thus passes into quantity; and hence arise laws of this sort, e.g. that sensibility and irritability stand in inverse quantitative relations, so that as the one increases the other diminishes; or better, taking directly the quantity itself as the content, that the, magnitude of something increases as its smallness diminishes.

Should a specific content be given to this law, however, by saying, for example, that the size of a hole increases the more we decrease what it is filled with, then this inverse relation might be just as well changed into a direct relation and expressed in the form that the quantity of a hole increases in direct ratio to the amount of things we take away—a tautological proposition, whether expressed as a direct or an inverse relation; so expressed it comes merely to this that a quantity increases as this quantity increases. The hole and what fills it and is removed from it are qualitatively opposed, but the real content there and its specific quantity are in both one and the same, and similarly the increase of magnitude and decrease of smallness are the same, and their meaningless opposition runs into a tautology. In like manner the organic moments are equally inseparable in their real content, and in their quantity which is the quantity of that reality. The one decreases only with the other, and only increases with it, for one has literally a significance only so far as the other is present. Or rather, it is a matter of indifference whether an organic phenomenon is considered as irritability or as sensibility; this is so in general, and likewise when its magnitude is in question: just as it is indifferent whether we speak of the increase of a hole as an increase of the hole qua emptiness or as an increase of the filling removed from it. Or, again, a number, say three, is equally great, whether I take it positively or negatively; and if I increase the three to four, the positive as well as the negative becomes four: just as the south pole in the case of a magnet is precisely as strong as its north pole, or a positive electricity or an acid, is exactly as strong as its negative, or the base on which it operates.

An organic existence is such a quantum, like the number three or a magnet, etc. It is that which is increased or diminished, and if it is increased, then both its factors are increased, as much as both poles of the magnet or both kinds of electricity increase if the potential of a magnet or of one of the electric currents is raised.

That both are just as little different in intension and extension, that the one cannot decrease in extension and increase in intension, while the other conversely has to diminish its intension and increase in extension — this comes from the same notion of an unreal and empty opposition. The real intension is absolutely as great as the extension and vice versa.

Φ 272. What really happens in framing a law of this kind is obviously that at the outset irritability and sensibility are taken to constitute the specifically determinate organic opposition. This content, however, is lost sight of and the opposition goes off into a formal opposition of quantitative increase and diminution, or of different intension and extension — an opposition which has no longer anything to do with the nature of sensibility and irritability, and no longer expresses it. Hence this mere playing at law-making is not confined to organic moments but can be carried on everywhere with everything and rests in general on want of acquaintance with the logical nature of these oppositions.

Φ 273. Lastly, if, instead of sensibility and irritability, reproduction is brought into relation with one or other of them, then there is wanting even the occasion for framing laws of this kind; for reproduction does not stand in any opposition to those moments, as they are opposed to one another; and since the making of such laws assumes this opposition, there is no possibility here of its even appearing to take place.

Φ 274. The law-making just considered implies the differences of the organism, taken in the sense of moments of its notion, and, strictly speaking, should be an a priori process. But it essentially involves this idea, that those differences have the significance of being present as something given, and the attitude of mere observation has in any case to confine itself merely to their actual existence. Organic reality necessarily has within it such an opposition as its notion expresses, and which can be determined as irritability and sensibility, as these again both appear distinct from reproduction. The aspect in which the moments of the notion of organism are here considered, their Externality, is the proper and peculiar immediate externality of the inner; not the outer which is the outer embodied form of the whole organism; the inner is to be considered in relation to this later on.

Φ 275. If, however, the opposition of the moments is apprehended as it is found in actual existence, then sensibility, irritability, reproduction sink to the level of common properties, which are universals just as indifferent towards one another as specific weight, colour, hardness, etc. In this sense it may doubtless be observed that one organic being is more sensitive, or more irritable, or has a greater reproductive capacity than another: just as we may observe that the sensibility, etc., of one is in kind different from that of another, that one responds differently from another to a given simulus, e.g. a horse behaves differently towards oats from what it does towards hay, and a dog again differently towards both, and so on. These differences can as readily be observed as that one body is harder than another, and so on.

But these sense properties, hardness, colour, etc., as also the phenomena of responding to the stimulus of oats, of irritability under certain kinds of load, or of producing the number and kind of young — all such properties and phenomena, when related to one another and compared inter se, essentially defy the attempt to reduce them to law. For the characteristic of their being sensuous facts consists just in their existing in complete indifference to one another, and in manifesting the freedom of nature emancipated from the control of the notion, rather than the unity of a relation — in exhibiting nature’s irrational way of playing up and down the scale of contingent quantity between the moments of the notion, rather than in these forth these moments themselves.

Φ 276. It is the other aspect, in which tile simple moments of the notion of organism are compared with the moments of the actual embodiment, that would first furnish the law proper for expressing the true outer as the copy of the inner.

Now because those simple moments are properties that permeate and pervade the whole, they do not find such a detached real expression in the organic thing as to form what we call an individual system with a definite structure (Gestalt). Or, again, if the abstract idea of organism is truly expressed in those three moments merely because they are nothing stable, but moments of the notion and its process, the organism, on the other hand, qua a definite embodiment, is not exhaustively expressed in those three determinate systems in the way anatomy analyses and describes them. So far as such systems are to be found in their actual reality and rendered legitimate by being so found, we must also bear in mind that anatomy not only puts before us three systems of that sort, but a good many others as well.

Further, apart from this, the sensitive system as a whole must mean something quite different from what is called a nervous system, the irritable system something different from the muscular system, the reproductive from the intestinal mechanism of reproduction. In the systems constituting an embodied form (Gestalt) the organism is apprehended from the abstract side of lifeless physical existence: so taken, its moments are elements of a corpse and fall to be dealt with by anatomy; they do not appertain to knowledge and to the living organism. Qua parts of that sort they have really ceased to be, for they cease to be processes. Since the being of an organism consists essentially in universality, or reflexion into self, the being of its totality, like its moments, cannot consist in an anatomical system. The actual expression of the whole, and the externalization of its moments, are really found only as a process and a movement, running throughout the various parts of the embodied organism; and in this process what is extracted as an individual system and fixated so, appears essentially as a fluid moment. So that the reality which anatomy finds cannot be taken for its real being, but only that reality as a process, a process in which alone even the anatomical parts have a significance.

Φ 277. We see, then, that the moments of the “inner” being of the organism taken separately by themselves are not capable of furnishing aspects of a law of being, since in a law of that sort they are predicated of an objective existence, are distinguished from one another, and thus each aspect would not be able to be equally named in place of the other. Further, we see that, when placed on one side, they do not find in the other aspect their realization in a fixed system; for this fixed system is as little something that could convey truly the general nature of organic existence, as it is the expression of those moments of the inner life of the organism. The essential nature of what is organic, since this is inherently something universal, lies altogether rather in having its moments equally universal in concrete reality, i.e. in having them as permeating processes, and not in giving a copy of the universal in an isolated thing.

Φ 278. In this manner the idea of a law in the case of organic existence slips altogether from our grasp. The law wants to grasp and express the opposition as static aspects, and to attach as predicates of them the characteristic which is really their relation to one another. The inner, to which falls the universality appearing in the process, and the outer, to which belong the parts of the static structure of the organism, were to constitute the corresponding sides of the law; but they lose, in being kept asunder in this way, their organic significance. And at the bottom of the idea of law lies just this, that its two aspects should have a subsistence each on its own account indifferent to the other, and the relation of the two sides should be shared between them, thus appearing as a twofold characteristic corresponding to that relation. But really each aspect of the organism consists inherently in being simple universality, wherein all determinations are dissolved, and in being the process of this resolution.

Φ 279. If we quite see the difference between this way of framing laws and previous forms, it will clear up its nature completely. Turning back to the process of perceiving and that of understanding (intelligence), which reflects itself into itself, and by so doing determines its object, we see that understanding does not there have before itself in its object the relation of these abstract determinations, universal and individual, essential and external; on the contrary, it is itself the actual transition, the relational process, and to itself this transition does not become objective. Here, on the other hand, the organic unity, i.e. just the relation of those opposites, is itself the object; and this relation is a pure process of transition. This process in its simplicity is directly universality; and in that universality opens out into different factors, whose relation it is the purpose of the law to express, the moments of the process take the form of being universal objects of this mode of consciousness, and the law runs, “the outer is an expression of the inner”. Understanding has here grasped the thought of the law itself, whereas formerly it merely looked for laws in a general way, and their moments appeared before it in the shape of a definite and specific content, and not in the form of thoughts of laws.

As regards content, therefore, such laws ought not to have place in this connexion which merely passively accept and put into the form of universality purely existential distinctions; but such laws as directly maintain in these distinctions the restless activity of the notion as well, and consequently possess at the same time necessity in the relation of the two sides. Yet, precisely because that object, organic unity, directly combines the endless superseding, or the absolute negation of, existence with inactive passive existence, and because the moments are essentially pure transition — there are thus not to be found any such merely existent aspects as are required for the law.

Φ 280. To get such aspects, intelligence must take its stand on the other moment of the organic relation, viz. on the fact that organic existence is reflected into itself. But this mode of being is so completely reflected into self that it has no specific character, no determinateness of its own as against something else, left over. The immediate sensuous being is directly one with the determinate quality as such, and hence inherently expresses a qualitative distinction, e.g. blue against red, acid against alkaloid, etc. But the organic being that has returned into itself is completely indifferent towards an other; its existence is simple universality, and refuses to offer observation any permanent sense distinctions, or, what is the same thing, shows its essential characteristic to be merely the changing flux of whatever determinate qualities there are. Hence, the way distinction qua actually existing expresses itself is just this, that it is an indifferent distinction, i.e. a distinction in the form of quantity. In this, however, the notion is extinguished and necessity disappears. If the content, however, and filling of this indifferent existence, the flux and interchange of sense determinations are gathered into the simplicity of an organic determination, then this expresses at the same time the fact that the content does not have that determinateness (the determinateness of the immediate property and the qualitative feature falls solely within the aspect of quantity, as we saw above.

Φ 281. Although the objective element, apprehended in the form of a determinate character of organic existence, has thus the notion inherent in it, and thereby is distinguished from the object offered to understanding, which in apprehending the content of its laws proceeds in a purely perceptive manner, yet apprehension in the former case falls back entirely into the principle and manner of mere percipient understanding, for the reason that the object apprehended is used to constitute moments of a law. For by this means what is apprehended receives and keeps the character of a fixed determinate quality, the form of an immediate property or a passive phenomenon; it is, further, subsumed under the aspect of quantity, and the nature of the notion is suppressed.

The exchange of a merely perceived object for one reflected into itself, of a mere sense character for an organic, thus loses once more its value, and does so by the fact that understanding has not yet cancelled the process of framing laws.

Φ 282. If we compare what we find as regards this exchange in the case of a few examples, we see, it may be, something that perception takes for an animal with strong muscles characterized as an animal organism of high irritability”; or, what perception takes to be a condition of great weakness, characterized as a “condition of high sensibility”, or, if we prefer it, as an abnormal affection”, and, moreover, a raising of it to a “higher power-expressions which translate sensuous facts into Teutonized Latin, instead of into terms of the notion. That an animal has strong muscles may also be expressed by understanding in the form that the animal “possesses a great muscular force” — great weakness meaning similarly “a slight force”. Characterization in terms of irritability has this advantage over determination by reference to “force”, that the latter expresses indeterminate, the former determinate reflection into self; for the peculiar force characteristic of muscles is just irritability; and irritability is also a preferable determination to “strong muscles”, in that, as in the case of force, reflexion into self is at once implied it, it. In the same way “weakness”, or “slight force”, organic passivity, is expressed in a determinate manner by sensibility. But when this sensibility is so taken by itself and fixed, and the element of quality is in addition bound up with it, and qua greater or less sensibility is opposed to a greater or less irritability, each is reduced entirely to the level of sense, and degraded to the ordinary form of a sense property; their principle of relation is not the notion, but, on the contrary, it is the category of quantity into which the opposition is now cast, thus becoming a distinction not constituted by thought. While in this way the indeterminate nature of the expressions, “force”, “strength”, “weakness”, would indeed be got rid of, there now arises the equally futile and indeterminate process of dealing with the oppositions of a higher and lower degree of sensibility and irritability, as they increase and decrease relatively to one another. The greater or less sensibility or irritability is no less a sensuous phenomenon, grasped and expressed without any reference to thought, than strength and weakness are sense determinations not constituted by thought. The notion has not taken the place of those non-conceptual expressions; instead, strength and weakness have been given a filling by a characteristic which, taken by itself alone, rests on the notion, and has the notion as its content, but loses entirely this origin and character.

Owing to the form of simplicity and immediacy, then, in which this content is made an element of a law, and through the element of quantity, which constitutes the principle of distinction for such determinations, the essential nature, which originally is a notion and is put forward as such, retains the character of sense perception, and remains as far removed from knowledge (Erkennen) as when characterized in terms of strength or weakness of force, or through immediate sense properties.

Φ 283. There is still left to consider what the outer side of the organic being is when taken by itself alone, and how in its case the opposition of its inner and outer is determined; just as at first we considered the inner of the whole in relation to its own proper outer.

Φ 284. The outer, looked at by itself, is the embodied form and shape (Gestaltung) in general, the system of life articulating itself in the element of existence, and at the same time essentially the existence of the organism as it is for an other — objective reality in its aspect of self-existence. This other appears in the first instance as its outer inorganic nature. If these two are looked at in relation to a law, the inorganic nature cannot, as we saw before, constitute the aspect of a law beside the organic being, because the latter exists absolutely for itself, and assumes a universal and free relation to inorganic nature.

Φ 285. To define more exactly, however, the relation of these two aspects in the case of the organic form, this form, in which the organism is embodied, is in one aspect turned against inorganic nature, while in an other it is for itself and reflected into itself. The real organic being is the mediating agency, which brings together and unites the self-existence of life [its being for itself], with the outer in general, with what simply and inherently is.

The one extreme, self-existence, is, however, the inner in the sense of an infinite “one”, which takes the moments of the embodied shape itself out of their subsistence and connexion with outer nature and withdraws these moments back into itself; it is that which, having no content, looks to the embodied form of the organism to provide its content, and appears there as the process of that form. In this extreme where it is mere negativity, or pure individual existence, the organism possesses its absolute freedom, whereby it is made quite secure and indifferent towards the fact of its being relative to another and towards the specific character belonging to the moments of the form of the organism. This free detachment is at the same time a freedom of the moments themselves; it is the possibility of their appearing and of being apprehended as existent. And just as they are therein detached and indifferent in regard to what is outer, so too are they towards one another; for the simplicity of this freedom is being or is their simple substance. This notion or pure freedom is one and the same life, no matter how varied and diverse the ways in which the shape assumed by the organism, its “being, for another”, may disport itself; it is a matter of indifference to this stream of life what sort of mills it drives.

In the first place, we must now note that this notion is not to be taken here, as it was formerly when we were considering the inner proper, in its character as the process or development of its moments; we must take it in its form as simple “inner”, which constitutes the purely universal aspect as against the concrete living reality; it is the element in which the existing members of the organic shape find their subsistence. For it is this shape we are considering here, and in it the essential nature of life appears as the simple fact of subsistence. In the next place, the existence for another, the specific character of the real embodied form, is taken up into this simple universality, in which its nature lies, a specificity that is likewise of a simple universal non-sensuous kind, and can only be that which finds expression in number. Number is the middle term of the organic form, which links indeterminate life with actual concrete life, simple like the former and determinate like the latter. That which in the case of the former, the inner, would have the sense of number, the outer would require to express after its manner as multiform reality — kinds of life, colour, and so on, in general as the whole host of differences which are developed as phenomena of life.

Φ 286. If the two aspects of the organic whole-the one being the inner, while the other is the outer, in such a way that each again has in it an inner and an outer — are compared with reference to the inner both sides have, we find that the inner of the first is the notion, in the sense of the restless activity of abstraction; the second has for its inner, however, inactive universality, which involves also the constant characteristic-number. Hence, if , because the notion develops its moments in the former, this aspect made a delusive promise of laws owing to the semblance of necessity in the relation, the latter directly disclaims doing so, since number shows itself to be the. determining feature of one aspect of its laws. For number is just that entirely inactive, inert, and indifferent characteristic in which every movement and relational process is extinguished, and which has broken the bridge leading to the living expression of impulses, manner of life, and whatever other sensuous existence there is.

Φ 287. This way of considering the embodied organic shape as such and the inner qua inner merely of that embodied form, is, however, in point of fact, no longer a consideration of organic existence. For both the aspects, which were to be related, are merely taken thereby reflection into indifferent to one another, and self, the essential nature of organism, is done away with. What we have done here is rather to transfer that attempted comparison of inner and outer to the sphere of inorganic nature. The notion with its infinity is here merely the inner essence, which lies hidden away within or falls outside in self-consciousness, and no longer, as in the case of the organism, has its presence in an object. This relation of inner and outer has thus still to be considered in its own proper sphere.

Φ 288. In the first place, that inner element of the form, being the simple individual existence of an inorganic thing, is the specific gravity. As a simply existing fact, this can be observed just as much as the characteristic of number, which is the only one of which it is capable; or properly speaking can be found by comparing observations; and it seems in this way to furnish one aspect of the law. The embodied form, colour, hardness, toughness, and an innumerable host of other properties, would together constitute the outer aspect, and would have to give expression to the characteristic of the inner, number, so that the one should find its counterpart in the other.

Φ 289. Now because negativity is here taken not in the sense of a movement of the process, but as an inoperative unity, or as simple self-existence, it appears really as that by which the thing resists the process, and maintains itself within itself, and in a condition of indifference towards it. By the fact, however, that this simple self -existence is an inactive indifference towards an other, specific gravity appears as one property alongside others; and therewith all necessary relation on its part to this plurality, or, in other words, all conformity to law, ceases.

The specific gravity in the sense of this simple inner aspect does not contain difference in itself, or the difference it has is merely non-essential; for its bare simplicity just cancels every distinction of an essential kind. This non-essential difference, quantity, was thus bound to find its other or counterpart in the other aspect, the plurality of properties, since it is only by doing so that it is difference at all . If this plurality itself is held together within the simple form of opposition, and is determined, say, as cohesion, so that this cohesion is self-existence in otherness, as specific gravity is pure self-existence, then cohesion here is in the first place this pure conceptually constituted characteristic as against the previous characteristic. The mode of framing the law would thus be what we discussed above, in dealing with the relation of sensibility to irritability. In the next place, cohesion, qua conception of selfexistence in otherness, is merely the abstraction of the aspect opposed to specific gravity, and as such has no existential reality. For self-existence in otherness is the process wherein the inorganic would have to express its self-existence as a form of self-conservation, which on the other hand would prevent it emerging from the process as a constituent moment of a product. But this goes directly against its nature, which has no purpose or universality in it. Rather, its process is simply the determinate course of action by which its self-existence, in the sense of its specific gravity, cancels itself. This determinate action, which in that case would constitute the true principle implied in its cohesion, is itself however entirely indifferent to the other notion, that of the determinate quantity of its specific gravity. If the mode of action were left entirely out of account, and attention confined to the idea of quantity, we might be able to think of a feature like this: the greater specific weight, as it is a higher intensiveness of being (Insichseyn), would resist entering into the process more than a less specific weight. But on the contrary, freedom of self-existence (Fürsichseyn) shows itself only in facility to establish connexion with everything, and maintain itself throughout this manifold variety. That intensity without extension of relations is an abstraction with no substance in it, for extension constitutes the existence of intensity. The self-conservation of the inorganic element in its relation lies however, as already mentioned, outside its nature, since it does not contain the principle of movement within it or because its being is not absolute negativity and not a notion.

Φ 290. When this other aspect of the inorganic, on the other hand, is considered not as a process, but as an inactive being, it is ordinary cohesion. It is a simple sense property standing on one side over against the free and detached moment of otherness, which lies dispersed into a plurality of properties indifferent to and apart from one another, and which itself comes under this (cohesion) as does specific gravity. The multiplicity of properties together, then, constitutes the other side to cohesion. In its case, however, as in the case of the multiplicity, number is the only characteristic feature. which not merely does not bring out a relation and a transition from one to another of these properties, but consists essentially in having no necessary relation; its nature is rather to make manifest the absence of all conformity to law, for it expresses the determinate character as one that is non-essential. Thus we see that a series of bodies, whose difference is expressed as a numerical difference of their specific weights, by no means runs parallel to a series where the difference is constituted by the other properties, even if, for purposes of simplification, we select merely one or some of them. For, as a matter of fact, it could only be the tout ensemble of the properties which would have to constitute the other parallel aspect here. To bring this into orderly shape and to make it a connected single whole, observation finds at hand the quantitative determinations of these various properties; on the other hand, however, their differences come to light as qualitative. Now, in this collection, what would have to be characterized as positive or negative, and would be cancelled each by the other — in general, the internal arrangement and exposition of the equation, which would be very composite, — would belong to the notion. The notion however is excluded from operating just by the way in which the properties are found lying, and are to be picked up as mere existent entities. In this condition of mere being, none is negative in its relation to another: the one exists just as much as the other, nor does it in any other fashion indicate its position in the arrangement of the whole.

In the case of a series with concurrent differences — whether the relation is meant to be that of simultaneous increase on both sides or of increase in the one and decrease in the other — interest centres merely in the last simple expression of this combined whole, which would constitute the one aspect of the law with specific gravity for the opposite. But this one aspect, qua resultant fact, is nothing else than what has been already mentioned, viz. an individual property, say, like ordinary cohesion, alongside and indifferent to which the others, specific gravity among them, are found lying, and every other can be selected equally rightly, i.e. equally wrongly, to stand as representative of the entire other aspect; one as well as the other would merely “represent” or stand for [German vorstellen] the essential reality (Wesen), but would not actually be the fact (Sache) itself. Thus it seems that the attempt to find series of bodies which should in their two aspects run continuously and simply parallel, and express the essential nature of the bodies in a law holding of these aspects, must be looked at as an aim that is ignorant alike of what it is about and of the means for carrying it through.

Φ 291. Heretofore the relation between the inner and outer phases in the organic form set before observation was forthwith transferred to the sphere of the inorganic. The determinate condition to which this is due can now be stated more precisely; and there arises thence a further form and relation of this situation. What seems to present the possibility of such a comparison of inner and outer in the case of the inorganic, drops away altogether when we come to the organic. The inorganic inner is a simple inner, which comes before perception as a merely existent property. Its characteristic determination is therefore essentially quantity, and it appears as an existent property indifferent towards the outer, or the plurality of other sense properties. The self-existence of the living organism, however, does not so stand on one side opposed to its outer; it has the principle of otherness in itself. If we characterize self-existence as a simple self-preserving relation to self, its otherness is simple negativity; and organic unity is the unity of self-identical self-relation and pure negativity. This unity is qua unity the inwardness of the organic; the organic is thereby inherently universal, it is a genus. The freedom of the genus with reference to its realization is, however, something different from the freedom of specific gravity with reference to embodied form. That of the latter is freedom in the sphere of existence (seyende Freiheit), in the sense that it takes its stand on one side as a particular property. But because it is an existent freedom, it is also only a determinate character which belongs essentially to this embodied form, or by which this form qua essence is something determinate. The freedom, however, of the genus is a universal freedom, and indifferent to this embodied form, or towards its realization. The determinateness which attaches to self-existence as such of the inorganic, falls therefore in the case of the organic under its self-existence, while in the case of the inorganic it applies merely to the existence of the latter. Hence, although in the case of the latter that determinate characteristic appears at the same time only as a property, yet it possesses the value of being essential, because qua pure negative it stands over against concrete existence which is being for another; and this simple negative in its final and particular determinateness is a number. The organic, however, is a form of singleness, which is itself pure negativity, and hence abolishes within it the fixed determinateness of number, which is applicable to the indifference of mere being. So far as it has in it the moment of indifferent being and thereby of number, this numerical aspect can therefore only be regarded as an incident within it, but not as the essential nature of its living activity.

Φ 292. But now, though pure negativity, the principle of the process, does not fall outside the organic, and though the organic does not in its essence possess negativity as an adjectival characteristic, the singleness of the individual organism being instead inherently universal, yet this pure singleness is not therein developed and realized in its various moments as if these were themselves abstract or universal. On the contrary, this developed expression makes its appearance outside that universality, which thus falls back into mere inwardness; and between the concrete realization, the embodied form, i.e. the self-developing individual singleness of the organism, and the organic universal, the genus, appears the determinate or specific universal, the species. The existential form, to which the negativity of the universal, the negativity of the genus, attains, is merely the explicitly developed movement of a process, carried out among the parts of the given shape assumed by the organism. If the genus had the different parts within itself as an unbroken simple unity, so that its simple negativity as such were at the same time a movement, carried on through parts equally simple and directly universal in themselves, which were here actual as such moments, then the organic genus would be consciousness. But, as it is, the simple determinate character, qua determinateness of the species, is present in an unconscious manner in the genus; concrete realization starts from the genus; in other words what finds express realization is not the genus as such, i.e. not really thought. This genus, qua actual organic fact, is merely represented by a deputy. Number, which is the representative here, seems to designate the transition from the genus into the individual embodiment, and to set before observation the two aspects of the necessary constitution, now in the form of a simple characteristic, and again in the form of an organic shape with all its manifold variety fully developed. This representative, however, really denotes the indifference and freedom of the universal and the individual as regards one another; the genus puts the individual at the mercy of mere quantitative difference, a non-essential element, but the individual qua living shows itself equally independent of this difference. True universality, in the way specified, is here merely inner nature; qua characteristic determining the species it is formal universality; and in contrast to the latter, that true universality takes its stand on the side of organic individual singleness, which is thereby a living individual entity, and owing to its inner nature is not concerned with its determinate character qua species. But this singleness is not at the same time a universal individual, i.e. one in which universality would have external realization as well; i.e. the universal individual falls outside the living organic whole. This universal individual, however, in the way it is immediately the individual of the natural embodiments of organic life, is not consciousness itself: its existence qua single organic living individual could not fall outside that universal if it were to be consciousness.

Φ 293. We have, then, here a connected system, where one extreme is the universal life qua universal or genus, the other being that same life qua a single whole, or universal individual: the mediating term, however, is a combination of both, the first seeming to fit itself into it as determinate universality or as species, the other as single whole proper or single individuality. And since this connected system belongs altogether to the aspect of the organic embodiment, it comprehends within it too what is distinguished as inorganic nature.

Φ 294. Since, now, the universal life qua the simple essence of the genus develops from its side the distinctions of the notion, and has to exhibit them in the form of a series of simple determining characteristics, this series is a system of distinctions set up indifferently, or is a numerical series. Whereas formerly the organic in the form of something individual and single was placed in opposition to this non-essential distinction [of quantity], a distinction which neither expresses nor contains its living nature: and while precisely the same has to be stated as regards the inorganic, taking into account its entire existence developed in the plurality of its properties: it is now the universal individual which is not merely to be looked on as free from every articulation of the genus, but also as the power controlling the genus. The genus disperses into species in terms of the universal characteristic of number, or again it may adopt as its principle of division particular characteristics of its existence like figure, colour, etc. While quietly prosecuting this aim, the genus meets with violence at the hands of the universal individual, the earth, (5) which in the role of universal negativity establishes the distinctions as they exist within itself, — the nature of which, owing to the substance they belong to, is different from the nature of those of the genus, — and makes good these distinctions as against the process of generic systematization. This action on the part of the genus comes to be quite a restricted business, which it can only carry on inside those mighty elements, and which is left with gaps and arrested and interrupted at all points through their unbridled violence.

Φ 295. It follows from all this that in the embodied, organic existence observation can only meet with reason in the sense of life in general, which, however, in its differentiating process involves really no rational sequence and organization, and is not an immanently grounded system of shapes and forms. If in the logical process of the moments involved in organic embodiment the mediating term, which contains the species and its realization in the form of a single individuality, had within it the two extremes of inner universality and universal individuality, then this middle term would have, in the movement of its reality, the expression and the nature of universality, and would be self-systematizing development. It is thus that consciousness takes as the middle term between universal spirit and its individuation or sense-consciousness, the system of shapes assumed by consciousness, as an orderly self-constituted whole of the life of spirit, the system of forms of conscious life which is dealt with in this treatise, and which finds its objective existential expression as the history of the world. But organic nature has no history; it drops from its universal, — life, — immediately into the individuation of existence; and the moments of simple determinateness and individual living activity which are united in this realization, bring about the process of change merely as a contingent movement, wherein each plays its own part and the whole is preserved. But the energy thus exerted is restricted, so far as itself is concerned, merely to its own fixed centre, because the whole is not present in it; and the whole is not there because the whole is not as such here for itself.

Φ 296. Besides the fact, then, that reason in observing organic nature only comes to see itself as universal life in general, it comes to see the development and realization of this life merely by way of systems distinguished quite generally, in the determination of which the essential reality lies not in the organic as such, but in the universal individual [the earth]; and among these distinctions of earth [it comes to see that development and realization] in the form of sequences which the genus attempts to establish.

Φ 297. Since, then, in its realization, the universality found in organic life lets itself drop directly into the extreme of individuation, without any true self-referring process of mediation, the thing before the observing mind is merely a would-be “meaning”; and if reason can take an idle interest to observe what is thus “meant” here, it is confined to describing and recording nature’s meanings” and incidental suggestions. This irrational freedom of “fancying” doubtless will proffer on all sides beginnings of laws, traces of necessity, allusions to order and sequence, ingenious and specious relations of all kinds. But in relating the organic to the different facts of the inorganic, elements, zones, climates, so far as regards law and necessary connexion, observation never gets further than the idea of a “great influence”. So, too, on the other side, where individuality has not the significance of the earth, but of the oneness immanent in organic life, and where this, in immediate unity with the universal, no doubt constitutes the genus, whose simple unity however, is just for that reason determined merely as a number and hence lets go the qualitative appearance; — here observation cannot get further than to make clever remarks, bringing out interesting points in connexion, a friendly condescension to the notion. But clever remarks do not amount to a knowledge of necessity; interesting points of connexion stop short at being simply of interest, while the interest is still nothing but fanciful “opinion” about the rational; and the friendliness of the individual in making allusion to a notion is a childlike friendliness, which is childish if, as it stands, it is to be or wants to be worth anything.


  1. Directed again Kant and Fichte.

  2. A term employed by a chemist, Winterl, at the beginning of the nineteenth century to denote combinations intermediate in character between physical mixtures and chemical combinastions. In synsomates the bodies undergo in the product, e.g. a change of colour, specific density, and even weight; these changes do not take place in mere physical mixtures, and yet they do not constitute chemical combination. Examples of synsomates are the blending of water and alcohol, and amalgrans of minerals.

  3. Heat, e.g. is a “mode of motion”, a form of “energy”.

  4. Cp. With the above, the oscillation between the mechanical and teleological conception of “law” in theoretical biology.

  5. Cp. Logik, W. W., V. p. 153: “The earth as a concrete whole is at once a universal nature or genus as well as an individual.” Cp. Also Naturphilosophie, §§ 337, 338.

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