Part One of the Encyclopedia of Philosophical Sciences: The Logic

Third Subdivision
IX. The Notion

§ 160

The Notion is the principle of freedom, the power of substance self-realised. It is a systematic whole, in which each of its constituent functions is the very total which the notion is, and is put as indissolubly one with it. Thus in its self-identity it has original and complete determinateness.

The position taken up by the notion is that of absolute idealism. Philosophy is a knowledge through notions because it sees that what on other grades of consciousness is taken to have Being, and to be naturally or immediately independent, is but a constituent stage in the Idea. In the logic of understanding, the notion is generally reckoned a mere form of thought, and treated as a general conception. It is to this inferior view of the notion that the assertion refers, so often urged on behalf of the heart and sentiment, that notions as such are something dead, empty, and abstract. The case is really quite the reverse.

The notion is, on the contrary, the principle of all life, and thus possesses at the same time a character of thorough concreteness. That it is so follows from the whole logical movement up to this point, and need not be here proved. The contrast between form and content, which is thus used to criticise the notion when it is alleged to be merely formal, has, like all the other contrasts upheld by reflection, been already left behind and overcome dialectically or through itself. The notion, in short, is what contains all the earlier categories of thought merged in it. It certainly is a form, but an infinite and creative form which includes, but at the same time releases from itself, the fullness of all content. And so too the notion may, if it be wished, be styled abstract, if the name concrete is restricted to the concrete facts of sense or of immediate perception. For the notion is not palpable to the touch, and when we are engaged with it, hearing and seeing must quite fail us. And yet, as it was before remarked, the notion is a true concrete; for the reason that it involves Being and Essence, and the total wealth of these two spheres with them, merged in the unity of thought.

If, as was said at an earlier point, the different stages of the logical idea are to be treated as a series of definitions of the Absolute, the definition which now results for us is that the Absolute is the Notion. That necessitates a higher estimate of the notion, however, than is found in formal conceptualist Logic, where the notion is a mere form of our subjective thought, with no original content of its own. But if Speculative Logic thus attaches a meaning to the term notion so very different from that usually given, it may be asked why the same word should be employed in two contrary acceptations, and an occasion thus given for confusion and misconception. The answer is that, great as the interval is between the speculative notion and the notion of Formal Logic, a closer examination shows that the deeper meaning is not so foreign to the general usages of language as it seems at first sight. We speak of the deduction of a content from the notion, e.g. of the specific provisions of the law of property from the notion of property; and so again we speak of tracing back these material details to the notion. We thus recognise that the notion is no mere form without a content of its own: for if it were, there would be in the one case nothing to deduce from such a form, and in the other case to trace a given body of fact back to the empty form of the notion would only rob the fact of its specific character, without making it understood.

§ 161

The onward movement of the notion is no longer either a transition into, or a reflection on something else, but Development. For in the notion, the elements distinguished are without more ado at the same time declared to be identical with one another and with the whole, and the specific character of each is a free being of the whole notion.

Transition into something else is the dialectical process within the range of Being: reflection (bringing something else into light), in the range of Essence. The movement of the Notion is development: by which that only is explicit which is already implicitly present. In the world of nature it is organic life that corresponds to the grade of the notion. Thus e.g. the plant is developed from its germ. The germ virtually involves the whole plant, but does so only ideally or in thought: and it would therefore be a mistake to regard the development of the root, stem, leaves, and other different parts of the plant, as meaning that they were realiter present, but in a very minute form, in the germ. That is the so-called ‘box-within-box’ hypothesis; a theory which commits the mistake of supposing an actual existence of what is at first found only as a postulate of the completed thought. The truth of the hypothesis on the other hand lies in its perceiving that in the process of development the notion keeps to itself and only gives rise to alteration of form, without making any addition in point of content. It is this nature of the notion — this manifestation of itself in its process as a development of its own self which is chiefly in view with those who speak of innate ideas, or who, like Plato, describe all learning merely as reminiscence. Of course that again does not mean that everything which is embodied in a mind, after that mind has been formed by instructions had been present in that mind beforehand, in its definitely expanded shape.

The movement of the notion is as it were to be looked upon merely as plan: the other which it sets up is in reality not an other. Or, as it is expressed in the teaching of Christianity: not merely has God created a World which confronts him as an other; he has also from all eternity begotten a Son in whom he, a Spirit, is at home with himself.

§ 162

The doctrine of the notion is divided into three parts.

(1) The first is the doctrine of the Subjective or Formal Notion.

(2) The second is the doctrine of the notion invested with the character of immediacy, or of Objectivity.

(3) The third is the doctrine of the Idea, the subject-object, the unity of notion and objectivity, the absolute truth.

The Common Logic covers only the matters which come before us here as a portion of the third part of the whole system, together with the so-called Laws of Thought, which we have already met; and in the Applied Logic it adds a little about cognition. This is combined with psychological, metaphysical, and all sorts of empirical materials, which were introduced because, when all was done, those forms of thought could not be made to do all that was required of them. But with these additions the science lost its unity of aim. Then there was a further circumstance against the Common Logic. Those forms, which at least do belong to the proper domain of Logic, are supposed to be categories of conscious thought only, of thought too in the character of understanding, not of reason.

The preceding logical categories, those viz. of Being and Essence, are, it is true, no mere logical modes or entities: they are proved to be notions in their transition or their dialectical element, and in their return into themselves and totality. But they are only in a modified form notions (cf. §§ 84 and 112), notions rudimentary, or, what is the same thing, notions for us. The antithetical term into which each category passes, or in which it shines, so producing correlation, is not characterised as a particular. The third, in which they return to unity, is not characterised as a subject or an individual: nor is there any explicit statement that the category is identical in its antithesis — in other words, its freedom is not expressly stated: and all this because the category is not universality. What generally passes current under the name of a notion is a mode of understanding, or even a mere general representation, and therefore, in short, a finite mode of thought (cf. § 62).

The Logic of the Notion is usually treated as a science of form only, and understood to deal with the form of notion, judgment, and syllogism as form, without in the least touching the question whether anything is true. The answer to that question is supposed to depend on the content only. If the logical forms of the notion were really dead and inert receptacles of conceptions and thoughts, careless of what they contained, knowledge about them would be an idle curiosity which the truth might dispense with. On the contrary they really are, as forms of the notion, the vital spirit of the actual world. That only is true of the actual which is true in virtue of these forms, through them and in them. As yet, however, the truth of these forms has never been considered or examined on their own account any more than their necessary interconnection.


Development of the Subjective Notion
Notion - Judgment - Syllogism

(a) The Notion as Notion

§ 163

The Notion as Notion contains the three following ‘moments’ or functional parts.

(1) The first is Universality — meaning that it is in free equality with itself in its specific character.

(2) The second is Particularity — that is, the specific character, in which the universal continues serenely equal to itself.

(3) The third is Individuality — meaning the reflection-into-self of the specific characters of universality and particularity; which negative self-unity has complete and original determinateness, without any loss to its self-identity or universality.

Individual and actual are the same thing: only the former has issued from the notion, and is thus, as a universal, stated expressly as a negative identity with itself. The actual, because it is at first no more than a potential or immediate unity of essence or existence, may possibly have effect: but the individuality of the notion is the very source of effectiveness, effective moreover no longer as the cause is, with a show of effecting something else, but effective of itself. Individuality, however, is not to be understood to mean the immediate or natural individual, as when we speak of individual things or individual men: for that special phase of individuality does not appear till we come to the judgment. Every function and ‘moment’ of the notion is itself the whole notion (§ 160); but the individual or subject is the notion expressly put as a totality.

(1) The notion is generally associated in our minds with abstract generality, and on that account it is often described as a general conception. We speak, accordingly, of the notions of colour, plant, animal, etc. They are supposed to be arrived at by neglecting the particular features which distinguish the different colours, plants, and animals from each other, and by retaining those common to them all. This is the aspect of the notion which is familiar to understanding; and feeling is in the right when it stigmatises such hollow and empty notions as mere phantoms and shadows. But the universal of the notion is not a mere sum of features common to several things, confronted by a particular which enjoys an existence of its own. It is, on the contrary, self-particularising or self-specifying, and with undimmed clearness finds itself at home in its antithesis. For the sake both of cognition and of our practical conduct, it is of the utmost importance that the real universal should not be confused with what is merely held in common. All those charges which the devotees of feeling make against thought, and especially against philosophic thought, and the reiterated statement that is dangerous to carry thought to what they call too great lengths, originate in the confusion of these two things.

The universal in its true and comprehensive meaning is a thought which, as we know, cost thousands of years to make it enter into the consciousness of men. The thought did not gain its full recognition till the days of Christianity. The Greeks, in other respects so advanced, knew neither God nor even man in their true universality. The gods of the Greeks were only particular powers of the mind; and the universal God, the God of all nations, was to the Athenians still a God concealed. They believed in the same way that an absolute gulf separated themselves from the barbarians. Man as man was not then recognised to be of infinite worth and to have infinite rights. The question has been asked, why slavery has vanished from modern Europe. One special circumstance after another has been adduced in explanation of this phenomenon. But the real ground why there are no more slaves in Christian Europe is only to be found in the very principle of Christianity itself, the religion of absolute freedom. Only in Christendom is man respected as man, in his infinitude and universality. What the slave is without, is the recognition that he is a person: and the principle of personality is universality. The master looks upon his slave not as a person, but as a selfless thing. The slave is not himself reckoned an ‘I’ — his ‘I’ is his master.

The distinction referred to above between what is merely in common, and what is truly universal, is strikingly expressed by Rousseau in his famous Contrat social, when he says that the laws of a state must spring from the universal will (volonte generale), but need not on that account be the will of all (volonte de tous). Rousseau would have made a sounder contribution towards a theory of the state, if he had always kept this distinction in sight. The general will is the notion of the will: and the laws are the special clauses of this will and based upon the notion of it.

(2) We add a remark upon the account of the origin and formation of notions which is usually given in the Logic of Understanding. It is not we who frame the notions. The notion is not something which is originated at all. No doubt the notion is not mere Being, or the immediate: it involves mediation, but the mediation lies in itself. In other words, the notion is what is mediated through itself and with itself. It is a mistake to imagine that the objects which form the content of our mental ideas come first and that our subjective agency then supervenes, and by the aforesaid operation of abstraction, and by colligating the points possessed in common by the objects, frames notions of them. Rather the notion is the genuine first; and things are what they are through the action of the notion, immanent in them, and revealing itself in them. In religious language we express this by saying that God created the world out of nothing. In other words, the world and finite things have issued from the fullness of the divine thoughts and the divine decrees. Thus religion recognises thought and (more exactly) the notion to be the infinite form, or the free creative activity, which can realise itself without the help of a matter that exists outside it.

§ 164

The notion is concrete out and out: because the negative unity with itself, as characterisation pure and entire, which is individuality, is just what constitutes its self-relation, its universality. The functions or ‘moments’ of the notion are to this extent indissoluble. The categories of ‘reflection’ are expected to be severally apprehended and separately accepted as current, apart from their opposites. But in the notion, where their identity is expressly assumed, each of its functions can be immediately apprehended only from and with the rest.

Universality, particularity, and individuality are, taken in the abstract, the same as identity, difference, and ground. But the universal is the self-identical, with the express qualification, that it simultaneously contains the particular and the individual. Again, the particular is the different or the specific character, but with the qualification that it is in itself universal and is as an individual. Similarly the individual must be understood to be a subject or substratum, which involves the genus and species in itself and possesses a substantial existence. Such is the explicit or realised inseparability of the functions of the notion in their difference (§ 160) — what may be called the clearness of the notion, in which each distinction causes no dimness or interruption, but is quite as much transparent.

No complaint is oftener made against the notion than that it is abstract. Of course it is abstract, if abstract means that the medium in which the notion exists is thought in general and not the sensible thing in its empirical concreteness. It is abstract also, because the notion falls short of the idea. To this extent the subjective notion is still formal. This however does not mean that it ought to have or receive another content than its own. It is itself the absolute form, and so is all specific character, but as that character is in its truth. Although it be abstract therefore, it is the concrete, concrete altogether, the subject as such. The absolutely concrete is the mind (see end of § 159) — the notion when it exists as notion distinguishing itself from its objectivity, which notwithstanding the distinction still continues to be its own. Everything else which is concrete, however rich it be, is not so intensely identical with itself and therefore not so concrete on its own part — least of all what is commonly supposed to be concrete, but is only a congeries held together by external influence. What are called notions, and in fact specific notions, such as man, house, animal, etc., are simply denotations and abstract representations. These abstractions retain out of all the functions of the notion only that of universality; they leave particularity and individuality out of account and have no development in these directions. By so doing they just miss the notion.

§ 165

It is the element of Individuality which first explicitly differentiates the elements of the notion. Individuality is the negative reflection of the notion into itself, and it is in that way at first the free differentiating of it as the first negation, by which the specific character of the notion is realised, but under the form of particularity. That is to say, the different elements are in the first place only qualified as the several elements of the notion, and, secondly, their identity is no less explicitly stated, the one being said to be the other. This realised particularity of the notion is the Judgment.

The ordinary classification of notions, as clear, distinct, and adequate, is no part of the notion; it belongs to psychology. Notions, in fact, are here synonymous with mental representations; a clear notion is an abstract simple representation: a distinct notion is one where, in addition to the simplicity, there is one ‘mark’ or character emphasised as a sign for subjective cognition. There is no more striking mark of the formalism and decay of Logic than the favourite category of the ‘mark’. The adequate notion comes nearer the notion proper, or even the Idea: but after all it expresses only the formal circumstance that a notion or representation agrees with its object, that is, with an external thing. The division into what are called subordinate and coordinate notions implies a mechanical distinction of universal from particular which allows only a mere correlation of them in external comparison. Again, an enumeration of such kinds as contrary and contradictory, affirmative and negative notions, etc., is only a chance-directed gleaning of logical forms which properly belong to the sphere of Being or Essence (where they have been already examined) and which have nothing to do with the specific notional character as such. The true distinctions in the notion, universal, particular, and individual, may be said also to constitute species of it, but only when they are kept severed from each other by external reflection. The immanent differentiating and specifying of the notion come to sight in the judgment: for to judge is to specify the notion.

(b) The Judgment

§ 166

The Judgment is the notion in its particularity, as a connection which is also a distinguishing of its functions, which are put as independent and yet as identical with themselves not with one another.

One’s first impression about the Judgment is the independence of the two extremes, the subject and the predicate. The former we take to be a thing or term per se, and the predicate a general term outside the said subject and somewhere in our heads. The next point is for us to bring the latter into combination with the former, and in this way frame a Judgment. The copula ‘is’, however, enunciates the predicate of the subject, and so that external subjective subsumption is again put in abeyance, and the Judgment taken as a determination of the object itself. The etymological meaning of the Judgment (Urtheil) in German goes deeper, as it were declaring the unity of the notion to be primary, and its distinction to be the original partition. And that is what the Judgment really is.

In its abstract terms a Judgment is expressible in the proposition: ‘The individual is the universal.’ These are the terms under which the subject and the predicate first confront each other, when the functions of the notion are taken in their immediate character or first abstraction. (Propositions such as, ‘The particular is the universal’, and ‘The individual is the particular’, belong to the further specialisation of the judgment.) It shows a strange want of observation in the logic-books, that in none of them is the fact stated, that in every judgment there is still a statement made, as, the individual is the universal, or still more definitely, The subject is the predicate (e.g. God is absolute spirit). No doubt there is also a distinction between terms like individual and universal, subject and predicate: but it is none the less the universal fact, that every judgment states them to be identical.

The copula ‘is’ springs from the nature of the notion, to be self-identical even in parting with its own. The individual and universal are its constituents, and therefore characters which cannot be isolated. The earlier categories (of reflection) in their correlations also refer to one another: but their interconnection is only ‘having’ and not ‘being’, i.e. it is not the identity which is realised as identity or universality. In the judgment, therefore, for the first time there is seen the genuine particularity of the notion: for it is the speciality or distinguishing of the latter, without thereby losing universality.

Judgments are generally looked upon as combinations of notions, and, be it added, of heterogeneous notions. This theory of judgment is correct, so far as it implies that it is the notion which forms the presupposition of the judgment, and which in the judgment comes up under the form of difference. But on the other hand, it is false to speak of notions differing in kind. The notion, although concrete, is still as a notion essentially one, and the functions which it contains are not different kinds of it. It is equally false to speak of a combination of the two sides in the judgment, if we understand the term ‘combination’ to imply the independent existence of the combining members apart from the combination. The same external view of their nature is more forcibly apparent when judgments are described as produced by the ascription of a predicate to the subject.

Language like this looks upon the subject as self-subsistent outside, and the predicate as found somewhere in our head. Such a conception of the relation between subject and predicate however is at once contradicted by the copula ‘is’. By saying ‘This rose is red’, or ‘This picture is beautiful’, we declare, that it is not we who from outside attach beauty to the picture or redness to the rose, but that these are the characteristics proper to these objects. An additional fault in the way in which Formal Logic conceives the judgment is, that it makes the judgment look as if it were something merely contingent, and does not offer any proof for the advance from notion on to judgment. For the notion does not, as understanding supposes, stand still in its own immobility. It is rather an infinite form, of boundless activity, as it were the punctum saliens of all vitality, and thereby self-differentiating.

This disruption of the notion into the difference of its constituent functions — a disruption imposed by the native act of the notion — is the judgment. A judgment therefore means the particularising of the notion. No doubt the notion is implicitly the particular. But in the notion as notion the particular is not yet explicit, and still remains in transparent unity with the universal.

Thus, for example, as we remarked before (§ 160n), the germ of a plant contains its particular, such as root, branches, leaves, etc.: but these details are at first present only potentially, and are not realised till the germ uncloses. This unclosing is, as it were, the judgment of the plant. The illustration may also serve to show how neither the notion nor the judgment are merely found in our head, or merely framed by us. The notion is the very heart of things, and makes them what they are. To form a notion of an object means therefore to become aware of its notion: and when we proceed to a criticism or judgment of the object, we are not performing a subjective act, and merely ascribing this or that predicate to the object. We are, on the contrary, observing the object in the specific character imposed by its notion.

§ 167

The Judgment is usually taken in a subjective sense as an operation and a form, occurring merely in self-conscious thought. This distinction, however, has no existence on purely by which the judgment is taken in the quite universal signification that all things are a judgment. That is to say, they are individuals which are a universality or inner nature in themselves — a universal which is individualised. Their universality and individuality are distinguished, but the one is at the same time identical with the other.

The interpretation of the judgment, according to which it is assumed to be merely subjective, as if we ascribed a predicate to a subject is contradicted by the decidedly objective expression of the judgment. The rose is red; Gold is a metal. It is not by us that something is first ascribed to them. A judgment is however distinguished from a proposition. The latter contains a statement about the subject, which does not stand to it in any universal relationship, but expresses some single action, or some state, or the like. Thus, ‘Caesar was born at Rome in such and such a year waged war in Gaul for ten years, crossed the Rubicon, etc.’, are propositions, but not judgments. Again it is absurd to say that such statements as ‘I slept well last night’ or ‘Present arms!’ maybe turned into the form of a judgment. ‘A carriage is passing by’ should be a judgment, and a subjective one at best, only if it were doubtful, whether the passing object was a carriage, or whether it and not rather the point of observation was in motion: in short, only if it were desired to specify a conception which was still short of appropriate specification.

§ 168

The judgment is an expression of finitude. Things from its point of view are said to be finite, because they are a judgment, because their definite being and their universal nature (their body and their soul), though united indeed (otherwise the things would be nothing), are still elements in the constitution which are already different and also in any case separable.

§ 169

The abstract terms of the judgment, ‘The individual is the Universal’, present the subject (as negatively self-relating) as what is immediately concrete, while the predicate is what is abstract, indeterminate, in short, the universal. But the two elements are connected together by an ‘is’: and thus the predicate (in its universality) must also contain the speciality of the subject, must, in short, have particularity: and so is realised the identity between subject and predicate; which, being thus unaffected by this difference in form, is the content.

It is the predicate which first gives the subject, which till then was on its own account a bare mental representation or an empty name, its specific character and content. In judgments like ‘God is the most real of all things’, or ‘The Absolute is the self-identical’, God and the Absolute are mere names; what they are we only learn in the predicate. What the subject may be in other respects, as a concrete thing, is no concern of this judgment. (Cf. § 31.)

To define the subject as that of which something is said, and the predicate as what is said about it, is mere trifling. It gives no information about the distinction between the two. In point of thought, the subject is primarily the individual, and the predicate the universal. As the judgment receives further development, the subject ceases to be merely the immediate individual, and the predicate merely the abstract universal: the former acquires the additional significations of particular and universal, the latter the additional significations of particular and individual. Thus while the same names are given to the two terms of the judgment, their meaning passes through a series of changes.

§ 170

We now go closer into the speciality of subject and predicate. The subject as negative self-relation (§§ 163, 166) is the stable sub-stratum in which the predicate has its subsistence and where it is ideally present. The predicate, as the phrase is, inheres in the subject. Further, as the subject is in general and immediately concrete, the specific connotation of the predicate is only one of the numerous characters of the subject. Thus the subject is ampler and wider than the predicate.

Conversely, the predicate as universal is self-subsistent, and indifferent whether this subject is or not. The predicate outflanks the subject, subsuming it under itself: and hence on its side is wider than the subject. The specific content of the predicate (§ 19) alone constitutes the identity of the two.

The Judgment (continued) - The Syllogism

Transition to the Object

§ 193

This ‘realisation’ of the Notion — a realisation in which the universal is this one totality withdrawn back into itself (of which different members are no less the whole, and which has given itself a character of ‘immediate’ unity by merging the mediation) — this realisation of the notion is the Object.

This transition from the Subject, the notion in general, and especially the syllogism, to the Object, may, at the first glance, appear strange, particularly if we look only at the Syllogism of Understanding, and suppose syllogising to be only an act of consciousness, ... whether our usual conception of what is called an ‘object’ approximately corresponds to the object as here described. By ‘object’ is commonly understood not an abstract being, or an existing thing merely, or any sort of actuality, but something independent, concrete, and self-complete, this completeness being the totality of the notion. That the object is also an object to us and is external to something else, will be more precisely seen when it puts itself in contrast with the subjective. At present, as that into which the notion has passed from its mediation, it is only immediate object and nothing more, just as the notion is not describable as subjective, previous to the subsequent contrast with objectivity.

Further, the Object in general is the one total, in itself still unspecified, the Objective World as a whole, God, the Absolute Object. The object, however, has also difference attaching to it: it falls into pieces, indefinite in their multiplicity (making an objective world); and each of these individualised parts is also an object, an intrinsically concrete, complete, and independent existence.

Objectivity has been compared with being, existence, and actuality; and so too the transition to existence and actuality (not to being, for it is the primary and quite abstract immediate) may be compared with the transition to objectivity. The ground from which existence proceeds, and the reflective correlation which is merged in actuality, are nothing but the as yet imperfectly realised notion. They are only abstract aspects of it — the ground being its merely essence-bred unity, and the correlation only the connection of real sides which are supposed to have only self-reflected being. The notion is the unity of the two; and the object is not a merely essence-like, but inherently universal unity, not only containing real distinctions, but containing them as totalities in itself.

It is evident that in all these transitions there is a further purpose than merely to show the indissoluble connection between the notion or thought and being. It has been more than once remarked that being is nothing more than simple self-relation, and this meagre category is certainly implied in the notion, or even in thought. But the meaning of these transitions is not to accept characteristics or categories, as only implied — a fault which mars even the Ontological argument for God’s existence, when it is stated that being is one among realities. What such a transition does, is to take the notion, as it ought to be primarily characterised per se as a notion, with which this remote abstraction of being, or even of objectivity, has as yet nothing to do, and looking at its specific character as a notional character alone, to see when and whether it passes over into a form which is different from the character as it belongs to the notion and appears in it.

If the Object, the product of this transition, be brought into relation with the notion, which, so far as its special form is concerned, has vanished in it, we may give a correct expression to the result, by saying that notion (or, if it be preferred, subjectivity) and object are implicitly the same. But it is equally correct to say that they are different. In short, the two modes of expression are equally correct and incorrect. The true state of the case can be presented in no expressions of this kind. The ‘implicit’ is an abstraction, still more partial and inadequate than the notion itself, of which the inadequacy is on the whole suspended, by suspending itself to the object with its opposite inadequacy. Hence that implicitness also must, by its negation, give itself the character of explicitness. As in every case, speculative identity is not the above-mentioned triviality of an implicit identity of subject and object. This has been said often enough. Yet it could not be too often repeated, if the intention were really to put an end to the stale and purely malicious misconception in regard to this identity — of which however there can be no reasonable expectation.

Looking at that unity in a quite general way, and raising no objection to the one-sided form of its implicitness, we find it as the well-known presupposition of the ontological proof for the existence of God. There it appears as supreme perfection. Anselm, in whom the notable suggestion of this proof first occurs, no doubt originally restricted himself to the question whether a certain content was in our thinking only. His words are briefly these: "Certainly that, than which nothing greater can be thought, cannot be in the intellect alone. For even if it is in the intellect alone, it can also be thought to exist in fact: and that is greater. If then that, than which nothing greater can be thought, is in the intellect alone; then the very thing, which is greater than anything which can be thought, can be exceeded in thought. But certainly this is impossible". The same unity received a more objective expression in Descartes, Spinoza, and others: while the theory of immediate certitude or faith presents it, on the contrary, in somewhat the same subjective aspect as Anselm. These Intuitionalists hold that in our consciousness the attribute of being is indissolubly associated with the conception of God. The theory of faith brings even the conception of external finite things under the same inseparable nexus between the consciousness and the being of them, on the ground that perception presents them conjoined with the attribute of existence: and in so saying, it is no doubt correct. It would be utterly absurd, however, to suppose that the association in consciousness between existence and our conception of finite things is of the same description as the association between existence and the conception of God. To do so would be to forget that finite things are changeable and transient, i.e. that existence is associated with them for a season, but that the association is neither eternal nor inseparable. Speaking in the phraseology of the categories before us, we may say that, to call a thing finite, means that its objective existence is not in harmony with the thought of it, with its universal calling, its kind, and its end. Anselm, consequently, neglecting any such conjunction as occurs in finite things, has with good reason pronounced that only to be the Perfect which exists not merely in a subjective, but also in an objective mode. It does no good to put on airs against the Ontological proof, as it is called, and against Anselm thus defining the Perfect. The argument is one latent in every unsophisticated mind, and it recurs in every philosophy, even against its wish and without its knowledge — as may be seen in the theory of immediate belief.

The real fault in the argumentation of Anselm is one which is chargeable on Descartes and Spinoza, as well as on the theory of immediate knowledge. It is this. This unity which is enunciated as the supreme perfection or, it may be, subjectively, as the true knowledge, is presupposed, i.e. it is assumed only as potential. This identity, abstract as it thus appears, between the two categories may be at once met and opposed by their diversity; and this was the very answer given to Anselm long ago. In short, the conception and existence of the finite is set in antagonism to the infinite; for, as previously remarked, the finite possesses objectivity of such a kind as is at once incongruous with and different from the end or aim, its essence and notion. Or, the finite is such a conception and in such a way subjective, that it does not involve existence. This objection and this antithesis are got over, only by showing the finite to be untrue and these categories in their separation to be inadequate and null. Their identity is thus seen to be one into which they spontaneously pass over, and in which they are reconciled.

The Object (next section)

Findlay's explanation | Corresponding sections in the Science of Logic:
The Idea Notion in General - The Idea

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