Encyclopaedia of the Philosophical Sciences (1830) Part One

II: Preliminary Notion

Logic derived from a survey of the whole system
§ 19

Logic is the science of the pure Idea; pure, that is, because the Idea is in the abstract medium of Thought.

This definition, and the others which occur in these introductory outlines, are derived from a survey of the whole system, to which accordingly they are subsequent. The same remark applies to all prefatory notions whatever about philosophy.

Logic might have been defined as the science of thought, and of its laws and characteristic forms. But thought, as thought, constitutes only the general medium, or qualifying circumstance, which renders the Idea distinctively logical. If we identify the Idea with thought, thought must not be taken in the sense of a method or form, but in the sense of the self-developing totality of its laws and peculiar terms. These laws are the work of thought itself, and not a fact which it finds and must submit to.

From different points of view, Logic is either the hardest or the easiest of the sciences. Logic is hard, because it has to deal not with perceptions, nor, like geometry, with abstract representations of the senses, but with the pure abstractions; and because it demands a force and facility of withdrawing into pure thought, of keeping firm hold on it, and of moving in such an element. Logic is easy, because its facts are nothing but our own thought and its familiar forms or terms: and these are the acme of simplicity, the ABC of everything else. They are also what we are best acquainted with: such as ‘is’ and ‘is not’; quality and magnitude; being potential and being actual; one, many, and so on. But such an acquaintance only adds to the difficulties of the study; for while, on the one hand, we naturally think it is not worth our trouble to occupy ourselves any longer with things so familiar, on the other hand, the problem is to become acquainted with them in a new way, quite opposite to that in which we know them already.

The utility of Logic is a matter which concerns its bearings upon the student, and the training it may give for other purposes. This logical training consists in the exercise in thinking which the student has to go through (this science is the thinking of thinking): and in the fact that he stores his head with thoughts, in their native unalloyed character. It is true that Logic, being the absolute form of truth, and another name for the very truth itself, is something more than merely useful. Yet if what is noblest, most liberal, and most independent is also most useful, Logic has some claim to the latter character. Its utility must then be estimated at another rate than exercise in thought for the sake of the exercise.

§ 19n

(1) The first question is: What is the object of our science? The simplest and most intelligible answer to this question is that Truth is the object of Logic. Truth is a noble word, and the thing is nobler still. So long as man is sound at heart and in spirit, the search for truth must awake all the enthusiasm of his nature. But immediately there steps in the objection — are we able to know truth ? There seems to be a disproportion between finite beings like ourselves and the truth which is absolute, and doubts suggest themselves whether there is any bridge between the finite and the infinite. God is truth: how shall we know Him? Such an undertaking appears to stand in contradiction with the graces of lowliness and humility. Others who ask whether we can know the truth have a different purpose. They want to justify themselves in living on contented with their petty, finite aims. And humility of this stamp is a poor thing.

But the time is past when people asked: How shall I, a poor worm of the dust, be able to know the truth ? And in its stead we find vanity and conceit: people claim, without any trouble on their part, to breathe the very atmosphere of truth. The young have been flattered into the belief that they possess a natural birthright of moral and religious truth. And in the same strain, those of riper years are declared to be sunk, petrified ossified in falsehood. Youth, say these teachers, sees the bright light of dawn: but the older generation lies in the slough and mire of the common day. They admit that the special sciences are something that certainly ought to be cultivated, but merely as the means to satisfy the needs of outer life. In all this it is not humility which holds back from the knowledge and study of the truth, but a conviction that we are already in full possession of it. And no doubt the young carry with them the hopes of their elder compeers; on them rests the advance of the world and science. But these hopes are set upon the young, only on the condition that, instead of remaining as they are, they undertake the stern labour of mind.

This modesty in truth-seeking has still another phase: and that is the genteel indifference to truth, as we see it in Pilate’s conversation with Christ. Pilate asked ‘What is truth ?’ with the air of a man who had settled accounts with everything long ago, and concluded that nothing particularly matters — he meant much the same as Solomon when he says: ‘All is vanity’. When it comes to this, nothing is left but self-conceit.

The knowledge of the truth meets an additional obstacle in timidity. A slothful mind finds it natural to say: ‘Don’t let it be supposed that we mean to be in earnest with our philosophy. We shall be glad inter alia to study Logic: but Logic must be sure to leave us as we were before.’ People have a feeling that, if thinking passes the ordinary range of our ideas and impressions, it cannot but be on the evil road. They seem to be trusting themselves to a sea on which they will be tossed to and fro by the waves of thought, till at length they again reach the sandbank of this temporal scene, as utterly poor as when they left it. What comes of such a view, we see in the world. It is possible within these limits to gain varied information and many accomplishments, to become a master of official routine, and to be trained for special purposes. But it is quite another thing to educate the spirit for the higher life and to devote our energies to its service. In our own day it may be hoped a longing for something better has sprung up among the young, so that they will not be contented with the mere straw of outer knowledge.

(2) It is universally agreed that thought is the object of Logic. But of thought our estimate may be very mean, or it may be very high. On one hand, people say: ‘It is only a thought.’ In their view thought is subjective, arbitrary and accidental — distinguished from the thing itself, from the true and the real. On the other hand, a very high estimate may be formed of thought; when thought alone is held adequate to attain the highest of all things, the nature of God, of which the senses can tell us nothing. God is a spirit, it is said, and must be worshipped in spirit and in truth. But the merely felt and sensible, we admit, is not the spiritual; its heart of hearts is in thought; and only spirit can know spirit. And though it is true that spirit can demean itself as feeling and sense — as is the case in religion, the mere feeling, as a mode of consciousness, is one thing, and its contents another. Feeling, as feeling, is the general form of the sensuous nature which we have in common with the brutes. This form, viz. feeling, may possibly seize and appropriate the full organic truth: but the form has no real congruity with its contents. The form of feeling is the lowest in which spiritual truth can be expressed. The world of spiritual existences, God himself, exists in proper truth, only in thought and as thought. If this be so, therefore, thought, far from being a mere thought, is the highest and, in strict accuracy, the sole mode of apprehending the eternal and absolute.

As of thought, so also of the science of thought, a very high or a very low opinion may be formed. Any man, it is supposed, can think without Logic, as he can digest without studying physiology. If he has studied Logic, he thinks afterwards as he did before, perhaps more methodically, but with little alteration. If this were all, and if Logic did no more than make men acquainted with the action of thought as the faculty of comparison and classification, it would produce nothing which had not been done quite as well before. And in point of fact Logic hitherto had no other idea of its duty than this. Yet to be well informed about thought, even as a mere activity of the subject-mind, is honourable and interesting for man. It is in knowing what he is and what he does that man is distinguished from the brutes. But we may take the higher estimate of thought — as what alone can get really in touch with the supreme and true. In that case, Logic as the science of thought occupies a high ground. If the science of Logic then considers thought in its action and its productions (and thought being no resultless energy produces thoughts and the particular thought required), the theme of Logic is in general the supersensible world, and to deal with that theme is to dwell for a while in that world. Mathematics is concerned with the abstractions of time and space. But these are still the object of sense, although the sensible is abstract and idealised. Thought bids adieu even to this last and abstract sensible: it asserts its own native independence, renounces the field of the external and internal sense, and puts away the interests and inclinations of the individual. When Logic takes this ground, it is a higher science than we are in the habit of supposing.

(3) The necessity of understanding Logic in a deeper sense than as the science of the mere form of thought is enforced by the interests of religion and politics, of law and morality. In earlier days men meant no harm by thinking: they thought away freely and fearlessly. They thought about God, about Nature, and the State; and they felt sure that a knowledge of the truth was obtainable through thought only, and not through the senses or any random ideas or opinions. But while they so thought, the principal ordinances of life began to be seriously affected by their conclusions. Thought deprived existing institutions of their force. Constitutions fell a victim to thought: religion was assailed by thought: firm religious beliefs which had been always looked upon as revelations were undermined, and in many minds the old faith was upset. The Greek philosophers, for example, became antagonists of the old religion, and destroyed its beliefs. Philosophers were accordingly banished or put to death, as revolutionists who had subverted religion and the state, two things which were inseparable. Thought, in short, made itself a power in the real world, and exercised enormous influence. The matter ended by drawing attention to the influence of thought, and its claims were submitted to a more rigorous scrutiny, by which the world professed to find that thought arrogated too much and was unable to perform what it had undertaken It had not — people said — learned the real being of God, of Nature and Mind. It had not learned what the truth was. What it had done was to overthrow religion and the state It became urgent therefore to justify thought, with reference to the results it had produced: and it is this examination into the nature of thought and this justification which in recent times has constituted one of the main problems of philosophy.

Thought regarded as an activity

If we take our prima facie impression of thought, we find on examination first (a) that, in its usual subjective acceptation, thought is one out of many activities or faculties of the mind, coordinate with such others as sensation, perception, imagination, desire, volition, and the like. The product of this activity, the form or character peculiar to thought, is the UNIVERSAL, or, in general, the abstract. Thought, regarded as an activity, may be accordingly described as the active universal, and, since the deed, its product, is the universal once more, may be called the self-actualising universal. Thought conceived as a subject (agent) is a thinker, and the subject existing as a thinker is simply denoted by the term ‘I’.

The distinction between Sense, Conception, and Thought.

The propositions giving an account of thought in this and the following sections are not offered as assertions or opinions of mine on the matter. But in these preliminary chapters any deduction or proof would be impossible, and the statements may be taken as matters in evidence. In other words, every man, when he thinks and considers his thoughts, will discover by the experience of his consciousness that they possess the character of universality as well as the other aspects of thought to be afterwards enumerated. We assume of course that his powers of attention and abstraction have undergone a previous training, enabling him to observe correctly the evidence of his consciousness and his conceptions.

This introductory exposition has already alluded to the distinction between Sense, Conception, and Thought. As the distinction is of capital importance for understanding the nature and kinds of knowledge, it will help to explain matters if we here call attention to it. For the explanation of Sense, the readiest method certainly is to refer to its external source — the organs of sense. But to name the organ does not help much to explain what is apprehended by it. The real distinction between sense and thought lies in this — that the essential feature of the sensible is individuality, and as the individual (which, reduced to its simplest terms, is the atom) is also a member of a group, sensible existence presents a number of mutually exclusive units — of units, to speak in more definite and abstract formulae, which exist side by side with, and after, one another. Conception or picture-thinking works with materials from the same sensuous source. But these materials when conceived are expressly characterised as in me and therefore mine; and secondly, as universal, or simple, because only referred to self. Nor is sense the only source of materialised conception. There are conceptions constituted by materials emanating from self-conscious thought, such as those of law, morality, religion, and even of thought itself, and it requires some effort to detect wherein lies the difference between such conceptions and thoughts having the same import. For it is a thought of which such conception is the vehicle, and there is no want of the form of universality, without which no content could be in me, or be a conception at all. Yet here also the peculiarity of conception is, generally speaking, to be sought in the individualism or isolation of its contents. True it is that, for example, law and legal provisions do not exist in a sensible space, mutually excluding one another. Nor as regards time, though they appear to some extent in succession, are their contents themselves conceived as affected by time, or as transient and changeable in it. The fault in conception lies deeper. These ideas, though implicitly possessing the organic unity of mind, stand isolated here and there on the broad ground of conception, with its inward and abstract generality. Thus cut adrift, each is simple, unrelated: Right, Duty, God. Conception in these circumstances either rests satisfied with declaring that Right is Right, God is God; or in a higher grade of culture it proceeds to enunciate the attributes: as, for instance, God is the Creator of the world, omniscient, almighty, etc. In this way several isolated, simple predicates are strung together: but in spite of the link supplied by their subject, the predicates never get beyond mere contiguity. In this point Conception coincides with Understanding: the only distinction being that the latter introduces relations of universal and particular, of cause and effect, etc., and in this way supplies a necessary connection to the isolated ideas of conception; which last has left them side by side in its vague mental spaces, connected only by a bare ‘and’.

The difference between conception and thought is of special importance: because philosophy may be said to do nothing but transform conceptions into thoughts – though it works the further transformation of a mere thought into a notion. Sensible existence has been characterized by the attributes of individuality and mutual exclusion of the members. It is well to remember that these very attributes of sense are thoughts and general terms. It will be shown in the Logic that thought (and the universal) is not a mere opposite of sense: it lets nothing escape it, but, outflanking its other, is at once that other and itself. Now language is the work of thought: and hence all that is expressed in language must be universal. What I only mean or suppose is mine: it belongs to me — this particular individual. But language expresses nothing but universality; and so I cannot say what I merely mean. And the unutterable — feeling or sensation — far from being the highest truth, is the most unimportant and untrue. If I say ‘the individual’, ‘this individual’, ‘here’, ‘now’, all these are universal terms. Everything and anything is an individual, a ‘this’, and if it be sensible, is here and now. Similarly when I say ‘I’, I mean my single self to the exclusion of all others; but what I say, viz. ‘I’, is just every ‘I’, which in like manner excludes all others from itself. In an awkward expression which Kant used, he said that I accompany all my conceptions — sensations, too, desires, actions, etc. ‘I’ is in essence and act the universal: and such partnership is a form, though an external form, of universality. All other men have it in common with me to be ‘I’; just as it is common to all my sensations and conceptions to be mine. But ‘I’, in the abstract, as such, is the mere act of self-concentration or self-relation, in which we make abstraction from all conception and feeling, from every state of mind and every peculiarity of nature, talent, and experience. To this extent, ‘I’ is the existence of a wholly abstract universality, a principle of abstract freedom. Hence thought, viewed as a subject, is what is expressed by the word ‘I’; and since I am at the same time in all my sensations, conceptions, and states of consciousness, thought is everywhere present, and is a category that runs through all these modifications.


Our first impression when we use the term ‘thought’ is of a subjective activity — one among many similar faculties, such as memory, imagination, and will. Were thought merely an activity of the subject-mind and treated under that aspect by Logic, Logic would resemble the other sciences in possessing a well-marked object. It might in that case seem arbitrary to devote a special science to thought, while will, imagination, and the rest were denied the same privilege. The selection of one faculty however might even in this view be very well grounded on a certain authority acknowledged to belong to thought, and on its claim to be regarded as the true nature of man, in which consists his distinction from the brutes. Nor is it unimportant to study thought even as a subjective energy. A detailed analysis of its nature would exhibit rules and laws, a knowledge of which is derived from experience. A treatment of the laws of thought, from this point of view, used once to form the body of logical science. Of that science Aristotle was the founder. He succeeded in assigning to thought what properly belongs to it. Our thought is extremely concrete; but in its composite contents we must distinguish the part that properly belongs to thought, or to the abstract mode of its action. A subtle spiritual bond, consisting in the agency of thought, is what gives unity to all these contents, and it was this bond, the form as form, that Aristotle noted and described. Up to the present day, the logic of Aristotle continues to be the received system. It has indeed been spun out to greater length, especially by the labours of the medieval Schoolmen who, without making any material additions, merely refined in details. The moderns also have left their mark upon this logic, partly by omitting many points of logical doctrine due to Aristotle and the Schoolmen, and partly by foisting in a quantity of psychological matter. The purport of the science is to become acquainted with the procedure of finite thought: and, if it is adapted to its presupposed object, the science is entitled to be styled correct. The study of this formal logic undoubtedly has its uses. It sharpens the wits, as the phrase goes, and teaches us to collect our thoughts and to abstract — whereas in common consciousness we have to deal with sensuous conceptions which cross and perplex one another. Abstraction moreover implies the concentration of the mind on a single point, and thus induces the habit of attending to our inward selves. An acquaintance with the forms of finite thought may be made a means of training the mind for the empirical sciences, since their method is regulated by these forms: and in this sense logic has been designated Instrumental. It is true, we may be still more liberal, and say: Logic is to be studied not for its utility, but for its own sake; the superexcellent is not to be sought for the sake of mere utility. In one sense this is quite correct; but it may be replied that the superexcellent is also the most useful, because it is the all-sustaining principle which, having a subsistence of its own, may therefore serve as the vehicle of special ends which it furthers and secures. And thus, special ends, though they have no right to be set first, are still fostered by the presence of the highest good. Religion, for instance, has an absolute value of its own; yet at the same time other ends flourish and succeed in its train. As Christ says: ‘Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added unto you.’ Particular ends can be attained only in the attainment of what absolutely is and exists in its own right.

Thought in its bearings upon objects
§ 21

(b) Thought was described as active. We now, in the second place, consider this action in its bearings upon objects, or as reflection upon something. In this case the universal or product of its operation contains the value of the thing — is the essential, inward, and true.

In § 5 the old belief was quoted that the reality in object, circumstance, or event, the intrinsic worth or essence, the thing on which everything depends, is not a self-evident datum of consciousness, or coincident with the first appearance and impression of the object; that, on the contrary, Reflection is required in order to discover the real constitution of the object — and that by such reflection it will be ascertained.

Universals apprehended in Reflection
§ 21n

To reflect is a lesson which even the child has to learn. One of his first lessons is to join adjectives with substantives. This obliges him to attend and distinguish: he has to remember a rule and apply it to the particular case. This rule is nothing but a universal: and the child must see that the particular adapts itself to this universal. In life, again, we have ends to attain. And with regard to these we ponder which is the best way to secure them. The end here represents the universal or governing principle and we have means and instruments whose action we regulate in conformity to the end. In the same way reflection is active in questions of conduct. To reflect here means to recollect the right, the duty — the universal which serves as a fixed rule to guide our behaviour in the given case. Our particular act must imply and recognise the universal law. We find the same thing exhibited in our study of natural phenomena. For instance, we observe thunder and lightning. The phenomenon is a familiar one, and we often perceive it. But man is not content with a bare acquaintance, or with the fact as it appears to the senses; he would like to get behind the surface, to know what it is, and to comprehend it. This leads him to reflect: he seeks to find out the cause as something distinct from the mere phenomenon: he tries to know the inside in its distinction from the outside. Hence the phenomenon becomes double, it splits into inside and outside, into force and its manifestation, into cause and effect. Once more we find the inside or the force identified with the universal and permanent: not this or that flash of lightning, this or that plant — but that which continues the same in them all. The sensible appearance is individual and evanescent: the permanent in it is discovered by reflection.

Nature shows us a countless number of individual forms and phenomena. Into this variety we feel a need of introducing unity: we compare, consequently, and try to find the universal of each single case. Individuals are born and perish: the species abides and recurs in them all: and its existence is only visible to reflection. Under the same head fall such laws as those regulating the motion of the heavenly bodies. To-day we see the stars here, and tomorrow there; and our mind finds something incongruous in this chaos — something in which it can put no faith, because it believes in order and in a simple, constant, and universal law. Inspired by this belief, the mind has directed its reflection towards the phenomena, and learnt their laws. In other words, it has established the movement of the heavenly bodies to be in accordance with a universal law from which every change of position may be known and predicted. The case is the same with the influences which make themselves felt in the infinite complexity of human conduct. There, too, man has the belief in the sway of a general principle. From all these examples it may be gathered how reflection is always seeking for something fixed and permanent, definite in itself and governing the particulars. This universal which cannot be apprehended by the senses counts as the true and essential. Thus, duties and rights are all-important in the matter of conduct; and an action is true when it conforms to those universal formulae.

In thus characterising the universal, we become aware of its antithesis to something else. This something else is the merely immediate, outward and individual, as opposed to the mediate, inward, and universal. The universal does not exist externally to the outward eye as a universal. The kind as kind cannot be perceived: the laws of the celestial motions are not written on the sky. The universal is neither seen nor heard, its existence is only for the mind. Religion leads us to a universal, which embraces all else within itself, to an Absolute by which all else is brought into being: and this Absolute is an object not of the senses but of the mind and of thought.

The Subject-Object Relation
§ 22

(c) By the act of reflection something is altered in the way in which the fact was originally presented in sensation, perception, or conception. Thus, as it appears, an alteration must be interposed before the true nature of the object can be discovered.

What reflection elicits is a product of our thought. Solon, for instance, produced out of his head the laws he gave to the Athenians. This is half of the truth: but we must not on that account forget that the universal (in Solon’s case, the laws) is the very reverse of merely subjective, or fail to note that it is the essential, true, and objective being of things. To discover the truth in things, mere attention is not enough; we must call in the action of our own faculties to transform what is immediately before us. Now, at first sight, this seems an inversion of the natural order, calculated to thwart the very purpose on which knowledge is bent. But the method is not so irrational as it seems. It has been the conviction of every age that the only way of reaching the permanent substratum was to transmute the given phenomenon by means of reflection. In modern times a doubt has for the first time been raised on this point in connection with the difference alleged to exist between the products of our thought and the things in their own nature. This real nature of things, it is said, is very different from what we make out of them.

Kantian Scepticism

The divorce between thought and thing is mainly the work of the Critical Philosophy, and runs counter to the conviction of all previous ages, that their agreement was a matter of course. The antithesis between them is the hinge on which modern philosophy turns. Meanwhile the natural belief of men gives the lie to it. In common life we reflect, without particularly reminding ourselves that this is the process of arriving at the truth, and we think without hesitation, and in the firm belief that thought coincides with thing. And this belief is of the greatest importance. It marks the diseased state of the age when we see it adopt the despairing creed that our knowledge is only subjective, and that beyond this subjective we cannot go. Whereas, rightly understood, truth is objective, and ought so to regulate the conviction of every one, that the conviction of the individual is stamped as wrong when it does not agree with this rule. Modem views, on the contrary, put great value on the mere fact of conviction, and hold that to be convinced is good for its own sake, whatever be the burden of our conviction — there being no standard by which we can measure its truth.

We said above that, according to the old belief, it was the characteristic right of the mind to know the truth. If this be so, it also implies that everything we know both of outward and inward nature, in one word, the objective world, is in its own self the same as it is in thought, and that to think is to bring out the truth of our object, be it what it may. The business of philosophy is only to bring into explicit consciousness what the world in all ages has believed about thought. Philosophy therefore advances nothing new; and our present discussion has led us to a conclusion which agrees with the natural belief of mankind.

“Think for Yourself”[note]
§ 23

(d) The real nature of the object is brought to light in reflection; but it is no less true that this exertion of thought is my act. If this be so, the real nature is a product of my mind, in its character of thinking subject — generated by me in my simple universality, self-collected and removed from extraneous influences — in one word, in my Freedom.

‘Think for yourself’ is a phrase which people often use as if it had some special significance. The fact is, no man can think for another, any more than he can eat or drink for him and the expression is a pleonasm. To think is in fact ipso facto to be free, for thought as the action of the universal is an abstract relating of self to self, where, being at home with ourselves, and as regards our subjectivity utterly blank, our consciousness is, in the matter of its contents, only in the fact and its characteristics. If this be admitted, and if we apply the term humility or modesty to an attitude where our subjectivity is not allowed to interfere by act or quality, it is easy to appreciate the question touching the humility or modesty and pride of philosophy. For in point of contents, thought is only true in proportion as it sinks itself in the facts; and in point of form it is no private or particular state or act of the subject, but rather that attitude of consciousness where the abstract self, freed from all the special limitations to which its ordinary states or qualities are liable, restricts itself to that universal action in which it is identical with all individuals. In these circumstances philosophy may be acquitted of the charge of pride. And when Aristotle summons the mind to rise to the dignity of that attitude, the dignity he seeks is won by letting slip all our individual opinions and prejudices, and submitting to the sway of the fact.

The Objectivity of Thought
§ 24

With these explanations and qualifications, thoughts may be termed Objective Thoughts — among which are also to be included the forms which are more especially discussed in the common logic, where they are usually treated as forms of conscious thought only. Logic therefore coincides with Metaphysics, the science of things set and held in thoughts — thoughts accredited able to express the essential reality of things.

An exposition of the relation in which such forms as notion, judgment, and syllogism stand to others, such as causality, is a matter for the science itself. But this much is evident beforehand. If thought tries to form a notion of things, this notion (as well as its proximate phases, the judgment and syllogism) cannot be composed of articles and relations which are alien and irrelevant to the things. Reflection, it was said above, conducts to the universal of things: which universal is itself one of the constituent factors of a notion. To say that Reason or Understanding is in the world, is equivalent in its import to the phrase ‘Objective Thought’. The latter phrase however has the inconvenience that thought is usually confined to express what belongs to the mind or consciousness only, while objective is a term applied, at least primarily, only to the non-mental.


(1) To speak of thought or objective thought as the heart and soul of the world, may seem to be ascribing consciousness to the things of nature. We feel a certain repugnance against making thought the inward function of things, especially as we speak of thought as marking the divergence of man from nature. It would be necessary, therefore, if we use the term thought at all, to speak of nature as the system of unconscious thought, or, to use Schelling’s expression, a petrified intelligence. And in order to prevent misconception, ‘thought-form’ or ‘thought-type’ should be substituted for the ambiguous term thought.

From what has been said the principles of logic are to be sought in a system of thought-types or fundamental categories, in which the opposition between subjective and objective, in its usual sense vanishes. The signification thus attached to thought and its characteristic forms may be illustrated by the ancient saying that ‘nous governs the world’, or by our own phrase that ‘Reason is in the world’; which means that Reason is the soul of the world it inhabits, its immanent principle, its most proper and inward nature, its universal. Another illustration is offered by the circumstance that in speaking of some definite animal we say it is (an) animal. Now, the animal, qua animal, cannot be shown; nothing can be pointed out excepting some special animal. Animal, qua animal, does not exist: it is merely the universal nature of the individual animals, while each existing animal is a more concretely defined and particularised thing. But to be an animal — the law of kind which is the universal in this case — is the property of the particular animal, and constitutes its definite essence. Take away from the dog its animality, and it becomes impossible to say what it is. All things have a permanent inward nature, as well as an outward existence. They live and die, arise and pass away; but their essential and universal part is the kind; and this means much more than something common to them all.

If thought is the constitutive substance of external things, it is also the universal substance of what is spiritual. In all human perception thought is present; so too thought is the universal in all the acts of conception and recollection; in short, in every mental activity, in willing, wishing, and the like. All these faculties are only further specialisations of thought. When it is presented in this light, thought has a different part to play from what it has if we speak of a faculty of thought, one among a crowd of other faculties, such as perception, conception, and will, with which it stands on the same level. When it is seen to be the true universal of all that nature and mind contain, it extends its scope far beyond all these, and becomes the basis of everything. From this view of thought, in its objective meaning as nous, we may next pass to consider the subjective sense of the term. We say first, Man is a being that thinks; but we also say at the same time, Man is a being that perceives and wills. Man is a thinker, and is universal; but he is a thinker only because he feels his own universality. The animal too is by implication universal, but the universal is not consciously felt by it to be universal: it feels only the individual. The animal sees a singular object, for instance, its food, or a man. For the animal all this never goes beyond an individual thing. Similarly, sensation has to do with nothing but singulars, such as this pain or this sweet taste. Nature does not bring its nous into consciousness: it is man who first makes himself double so as to be a universal for a universal. This first happens when man knows that he is ‘I’. By the term ‘I’ I mean myself, a single and altogether determinate person. And yet I really utter nothing peculiar to myself, for every one else is an ‘I’ or ‘Ego’, and when I call myself ‘I’, though I indubitably mean the single person myself, I express a thorough universal. ‘I’, therefore, is mere being-for-self, in which everything peculiar or marked is renounced and buried out of sight; it is as it were the ultimate and unanalysable point of consciousness. We may say ‘I’ and thought are the same, or, more definitely, ‘I’ is thought as a thinker. What I have in my consciousness is for me. ‘I’ is the vacuum or receptacle for anything and everything: for which everything is and which stores up everything in itself. Every man is a whole world of conceptions, that lie buried in the night of the ‘Ego’. It follows that the ‘Ego’ is the universal in which we leave aside all that is particular, and in which at the same time all the particulars have a latent existence. In other words, it is not a mere universality and nothing more, but the universality which includes in it everything. Commonly we use the word ‘I’ without attaching much importance to it, nor is it an object of study except to philosophical analysis. In the ‘Ego’, we have thought before us in its utter purity. While the brute cannot say ‘I’, man can, because it is his nature to think. Now in the ‘Ego’ there are a variety of contents, derived both from within and from without, and according to the nature of these contents our state may be described as perception, or conception, or reminiscence. But in all of them the ‘I’ is found: or in them all thought is present. Man, therefore, is always thinking, even in his perceptions: if he observes anything, he always observes it as a universal, fixes on a single point which he places in relief, thus withdrawing his attention from other points, and takes it as abstract and universal, even if the universality be only in form.

In the case of our ordinary conceptions, two things may happen. Either the contents are moulded by thought, but not the form; or, the form belongs to thought and not the contents. In using such terms, for instance, as anger, rose, hope, I am speaking of things which I have learnt in the way of sensation, but I express these contents in a universal mode, that is, in the form of thought. I have left out much that is particular and given the contents in their generality: but still the contents remain sense-derived. On the other hand, when I represent God, the content is undeniably a product of pure thought, but the form still retains the sensuous limitations which it has as I find it immediately present in myself. In these generalised images the content is not merely and simply sensible, as it is in a visual inspection; but either the content is sensuous and the form appertains to thought, or vice versa. In the first case the material is given to us, and our thought supplies the form: in the second case the content which has its source in thought is by means of the form turned into a something given, which accordingly reaches the mind from without.

(2) Logic is the study of thought pure and simple, or of the pure thought-forms. In the ordinary sense of the term, by thought we generally represent to ourselves something more than simple and unmixed thought; we mean some thought, the material of which is from experience. Whereas in logic a thought is understood to include nothing else but what depends on thinking and what thinking has brought into existence. It is in these circumstances that thoughts are pure thoughts. The mind is then in its own home-element and therefore free; for freedom means that the other thing with which you deal is a second self — so that you never leave your own ground but give the law to yourself. In the impulses or appetites the beginning is from something else, from something which we feel to be external. In this case then we speak of dependence. For freedom it is necessary that we should feel no presence of something else which is not ourselves. The natural man, whose motions follow the rule only of his appetites, is not his own master. Be he as self-willed as he may, the constituents of his will and opinion are not his own, and his freedom is merely formal. But when we think, we renounce our selfish and particular being, sink ourselves in the thing, allow thought to follow its own course, and if we add anything of our own, we think ill.

If in pursuance of the foregoing remarks we consider Logic to be the system of the pure types of thought, we find that the other philosophical sciences, the Philosophy of Nature and the Philosophy of Mind, take the place, as it were, of an Applied Logic, and that Logic is the soul which animates them both. Their problem in that case is only to recognise the logical forms under the shapes they assume in Nature and Mind — shapes which are only a particular mode of expression for the forms of pure thought. If for instance we take the syllogism (not as it was understood in the old formal logic, but as its real value), we shall find it gives expression to the law that the particular is the middle term which fuses together the extremes of the universal and the singular.

The syllogistic form is a universal form of all things. Everything that exists is a particular, which couples together the universal and the singular. But Nature is weak and fails to exhibit the logical forms in their purity. Such a feeble exemplification of the syllogism may be seen in the magnet. In the middle or point of indifference of a magnet, its two poles, however they may be distinguished, are brought into one. Physics also teaches us to see the universal or essence in Nature: and the only difference between it and the Philosophy of Nature is that the latter brings before our mind the adequate forms of the notion in the physical world.

It will now be understood that Logic is the all-animating spirit of all the sciences, and its categories the spiritual hierarchy. They are the heart and centre of things: and yet at the same time they are always on our lips, and, apparently at least, perfectly familiar objects. But things thus familiar are usually the greatest strangers. Being, for example, is a category of pure thought: but to make ‘is’ an object of investigation never occurs to us. Common fancy puts the Absolute far away in a world beyond. The Absolute is rather directly before us, so present that so long as we think, we must, though without express consciousness of it, always carry it with us and always use it. Language is the main depository of these types of thought; and one use of the grammatical instruction which children receive is unconsciously to turn their attention to distinctions of thought.

Logic is usually said to be concerned with forms only and to derive the material for them from elsewhere. But this ‘only’, which assumes that the logical thoughts are nothing in comparison with the rest of the contents, is not the word to use about forms which are the absolutely real ground of everything. Everything else rather is an ‘only’ compared with these thoughts. To make such abstract forms a problem presupposes in the inquirer a higher level of culture than ordinary; and to study them in themselves and for their own sake signifies in addition that these thought-types must be deduced out of thought itself, and their truth or reality examined by the light of their own laws. We do not assume them as data from without, and then define them or exhibit their value and authority by comparing them with the shape they take in our minds. If we thus acted, we should proceed from observation and experience, and should, for instance, say we habitually employ the term ‘force’ in such a case, and such a meaning. A definition like that would be called correct, if it agreed with the conception of its object present in our ordinary state of mind. The defect of this empirical method is that a notion is not defined as it is in and for itself, but in terms of something assumed, which is then used as a criterion and standard of correctness. No such test need be applied: we have merely to let the thought-forms follow the impulse of their own organic life.

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.

The study of truth, or, as it is here explained to mean, consistency, constitutes the proper problem of logic. In our everyday mind we are never troubled with questions about the truth of the forms of thought. We may also express the problem of logic by saying that it examines the forms of thought touching their capability to hold truth. And the question comes to this: What are the forms of the infinite, and what are the forms of the finite ? Usually no suspicion attaches to the finite forms of thought; they are allowed to pass unquestioned. But it is from conforming to finite categories in thought and action that all deception originates.

(3) Truth may be ascertained by several methods, each of which however is no more than a form. Experience is the first of these methods. But the method is only a form: it has no intrinsic value of its own. For in experience everything depends upon the mind we bring to bear upon actuality. A great mind is great in its experience; and in the motley play of phenomena at once perceives the point of real significance. The idea is present, in actual shape, not something, as it were, over the hill and far away. The genius of a Goethe, for example, looking into nature or history, has great experiences, catches sight of the living principle, and gives expression to it.
A second method of apprehending the truth is Reflection, which defines it by intellectual relations of condition and conditioned. But in these two modes the absolute truth has not yet found its appropriate form. The most perfect method of knowledge proceeds in the pure form of thought: and here the attitude of man is one of entire freedom.

That the form of thought is the perfect form, and that it presents the truth as it intrinsically and actually is, is the general dogma of all philosophy. To give a proof of the dogma there is, in the first instance, nothing to do but show that these other forms of knowledge are finite. The grand Scepticism of antiquity accomplished this task when it exhibited the contradictions contained in every one of these forms. That Scepticism indeed went further: but when it ventured to assail the forms of reason, it began by insinuating under them something finite upon which it might fasten. All the forms of finite thought will make their appearance in the course of logical development, the order in which they present themselves being determined by necessary laws. Here in the introduction they could only be unscientifically assumed as something given. In the theory of logic itself these forms will be exhibited, not only on their negative, but also on their positive side.

When we compare the different forms of ascertaining truth with one another, the first of them, immediate knowledge, may perhaps seem the finest, noblest, and most appropriate. It includes everything which the moralists term innocence as well as religious feeling, simple trust, love, fidelity, and natural faith. The two other forms, first reflective, and secondly philosophical cognition, must leave that unsought natural harmony behind. And so far as they have this in common, the methods which claim to apprehend the truth by thought may naturally be regarded as part and parcel of the pride which leads man to trust to his own powers for a knowledge of the truth. Such a position involves a thorough-going disruption, and, viewed in that light, might be regarded as the source of all evil and wickedness — the original transgression. Apparently therefore the only way of being reconciled and restored to peace is to surrender all claims to think or know.

This lapse from natural unity has not escaped notice, and nations from the earliest times have asked the meaning of the wonderful division of the spirit against itself. No such inward disunion is found in nature: natural things do nothing wicked.

The tales and allegories of religion

The Mosaic legend of the Fall of Man has preserved an ancient picture representing the origin and consequences of this disunion. The incidents of the legend form the basis of an essential article of the creed, the doctrine of original sin in man and his consequent need of succour . It may be well at the commencement of logic to examine the story which treats of the origin and the bearings of the very knowledge which logic has to discuss. For, though philosophy must not allow herself to be overawed by religion, or accept the position of existence on sufferance, she cannot afford to neglect these popular conceptions. The tales and allegories of religion, which have enjoyed for thousands of years the veneration of nations, are not to be set aside as antiquated even now.

Upon a closer inspection of the story of the Fall we find, as was already said, that it exemplifies the universal bearings of knowledge upon the spiritual life. In its instinctive and natural stage, spiritual life wears the garb of innocence and confiding simplicity; but the very essence of spirit implies the absorption of this immediate condition in something higher. The spiritual is distinguished from the natural, and more especially from the animal, life, in the circumstance that it does not continue a mere stream of tendency, but sunders itself to self-realisation. But this position of severed life has in its turn to be suppressed, and the spirit has by its own act to win its way to concord again. The final concord then is spiritual; that is, the principle of restoration is found in thought, and thought only. The hand that inflicts the wound is also the hand which heals it.

We are told in our story that Adam and Eve, the first human beings, the types of humanity, were placed in a garden, where grew a tree of life and a tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God, it is said, had forbidden them to eat of the fruit of this latter tree: of the tree of life for the present nothing further is said. These words evidently assume that man is not intended to seek knowledge, and ought to remain in the state of innocence. Other meditative races, it may be remarked, have held the same belief that the primitive state of mankind was one of innocence and harmony. Now all this is to a certain extent correct. The disunion that appears throughout humanity is not a condition to rest in. But it is a mistake to regard the natural and immediate harmony as the right state. The mind is not mere instinct: on the contrary, it essentially involves the tendency to reasoning and meditation. Childlike innocence no doubt has in it something fascinating and attractive: but only because it reminds us of what the spirit must win for itself. The harmoniousness of childhood is a gift from the hand of nature: the second harmony must spring from the labour and culture of the spirit. And so the words of Christ, ‘Except ye become as little children’, etc., are very far from telling us that we must always remain children.

Again, we find in the narrative of Moses that the occasion which led man to leave his natural unity is attributed to solicitation from without. The serpent was the tempter. But the truth is, that the step into opposition, the awakening of consciousness, follows from the very nature of man; and the same history repeats itself in every son of Adam. The serpent represents likeness to God as consisting in the knowledge of good and evil: and it is just this knowledge in which man participates when he breaks with the unity of his instinctive being and eats of the forbidden fruit. The first reflection of awakened consciousness in men told them that they were naked. This is a naive and profound trait. For the sense of shame bears evidence to the separation of man from his natural and sensuous life. The beasts never get so far as this separation, and they feel no shame. And it is in the human feeling of shame that we are to seek the spiritual and moral origin of dress, compared with which the merely physical need is a secondary matter.

Next comes the Curse, as it is called, which God pronounced upon man. The prominent point in that curse turns chiefly on the contrast between man and nature. Man must work in the sweat of his brow: and woman bring forth in sorrow. As to work, if it is the result of the disunion, it is also the victory over it. The beasts have nothing more to do but to pick up the materials required to satisfy their wants: man on the contrary can only satisfy his wants by himself producing and transforming the necessary means. Thus even in these outside things man is dealing with himself.

The story does not close with the expulsion from Paradise. We are further told, God said, ‘Behold Adam is become as one of us, to know good and evil.’ Knowledge is now spoken of as divine, and not, as before, as something wrong and forbidden. Such words contain a confutation of the idle talk that philosophy pertains only to the finitude of the mind. Philosophy is knowledge, and it is through knowledge that man first realises his original vocation, to be the image of God. When the record adds that God drove men out of the garden of Eden to prevent their eating of the tree of life, it only means that on his natural side certainly man is finite and mortal, but in knowledge infinite.

We all know the theological dogma that man’s nature is evil, tainted with what is called Original Sin. Now while we accept the dogma, we must give up the setting of incident which represents original sin as consequent upon an accidental act of the first man. For the very notion of spirit is enough to show that man is evil by nature, and it is an error to imagine that he could ever be otherwise. To such extent as man is and acts like a creature of nature, his whole behaviour is what it ought not to be. For the spirit it is a duty to be free, and to realise itself by its own act. Nature is for man only the starting-point which he has to transform. The theological doctrine of original sin is a profound truth; but modem enlightenment prefers to believe that man is naturally good, and that he acts right so long as he continues true to nature.

The hour when man leaves the path of mere natural being marks the difference between him, a self-conscious agent, and the natural world. But this schism, though it forms a necessary element in the very notion of spirit, is not the final goal of man. It is to this state of inward breach that the whole finite action of thought and will belongs. In that finite sphere man pursues ends of his own and draws from himself the material of his conduct. While he pursues these aims to the uttermost, while his knowledge and his will seek himself, his own narrow self apart from the universal, he is evil; and his evil is to be subjective.

We seem at first to have a double evil here: but both are really the same. Man in so far as he is spirit is not the creature of nature: and when he behaves as such, and follows the cravings of appetite, he wills to be so. The natural wickedness of man is therefore unlike the natural life of animals. A mere natural life may be more exactly defined by saying that the natural man as such is an individual: for nature in every part is in the bonds of individualism. Thus when man wills to be a creature of nature, he wills in the same degree to be an individual simply. Yet against such impulsive and appetitive action, due to the individualism of nature, there also steps in the law or general principle. This law may either be an external force, or have the form of divine authority. So long as he continues in his natural state, man is in bondage to the law. It is true that among the instincts and affections of man, there are social or benevolent inclinations, love, sympathy, and others, reaching beyond his selfish isolation. But so long as these tendencies are instinctive, their virtual universality of scope and purport is vitiated by the subjective form which always allows free play to self-seeking and random action.

The concrete formations of consciousness
§ 25

The term ‘Objective Thoughts’ indicates the truth — the truth which is to be the absolute object of philosophy, and not merely the goal at which it aims. But the very expression cannot fail to suggest an opposition, to characterise and appreciate which is the main motive of the philosophical attitude of the present time, and which forms the real problem of the question about truth and our means of ascertaining it. If the thought-forms are vitiated by a fixed antithesis, i.e. if they are only of a finite character, they are unsuitable for the self-centred universe of truth, and truth can find no adequate receptacle in thought. Such thought, which can produce only limited and partial categories and proceed by their means, is what in the stricter sense of the word is termed Understanding. The finitude, further, of these categories lies in two points. Firstly, they are only subjective, and the antithesis of an objective permanently clings to them. Secondly, they are always of restricted content, and so persist in antithesis to one another and still more to the Absolute. In order more fully to explain the position and import here attributed to logic, the attitudes in which thought is supposed to stand to objectivity will next be examined by way of further introduction.

In my Phenomenology of the Spirit, which on that account was at its publication described as the first part of the System of Philosophy, the method adopted was to begin with the first and simplest phase of mind, immediate consciousness, and to show how that stage gradually of necessity worked onward to the philosophical point of view, the necessity of that view being proved by the process. But in these circumstances it was impossible to restrict the quest to the mere form of consciousness. For the stage of philosophical knowledge is the richest in material and organisation, and therefore, as it came before us in the shape of a result, it presupposed the existence of the concrete formations of consciousness, such as individual and social morality, art and religion. In the development of consciousness, which at first sight appears limited to the point of form merely, there is thus at the same time included the development of the matter or of the objects discussed in the special branches of philosophy. But the latter process must, so to speak, go on behind consciousness, since those facts are the essential nucleus which is raised into consciousness. The exposition accordingly is rendered more intricate, because so much that properly belongs to the concrete branches is prematurely dragged into the introduction. The survey which follows in the present work has even more the inconvenience of being only historical and inferential in its method. But it tries especially to show how the questions men have proposed, outside the school, on the nature of Knowledge, Faith, and the like — questions which they imagine to have no connection with abstract thoughts — are really reducible to the simple categories, which first get cleared up in Logic.

Note. “Think for yourself” Kant characterised as the slogan of the Enlightenment.

Findlay's explanation | III. First Attitude to Objectivity

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