Thursday, March 3, 2011

Phenomenology of Spirit, Preface, paragraph 16

Withal does it hold this monotony and abstract universality to be the absolute. It assures us that to be dissatisfied therewith argues an incapacity to grasp the standpoint of the absolute, and keep a firm hold on it. If it was once the case that the bare possibility of thinking of something in some different manner was enough to refute a proposition [Vorstellung], and the naked possibility, the general thought, had the entire positive value of true cognition, we find here in like manner all the value ascribed to the general idea in this unreal form, and the method of speculative treatment identified with the dissolution of what is determinate and distinct, or rather with the casting into the abyss of emptiness that which has neither been further developed nor has been able to justify itself to itself. To consider any existing thing as it is in the absolute, consists here in nothing else than saying about it that, while it is doubtless now  spoken of as something specific, yet in the absolute, in the abstract identity A = A, there is no such thing at all, for everything there is one. To pit this single knowledge, that “in the absolute everything is one,” against the distinguishing and fulfilled, or fulfillment-seeking and demanding cognition, or to pass off this absolute as the night in which, as one is wont to say, all cows are black – that is the naivete of emptiness in cognition. The formalism which has been deprecated and despised by recent philosophy, and which has arisen once more in philosophy itself, will not disappear from science, even though its inadequacy is known and felt, till the cognition of absolute reality has become quite clear about its nature. Having in mind that the general understanding [Vorstellung] of what is to be done, if it precedes the attempt to carry it out, facilitates the comprehension of this process, it is worthwhile to indicate here some rough idea of it, with the intention at the same time of giving us the opportunity to set aside certain forms the customary presence of which is an obstruction blocking philosophical cognition.

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