Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Phenomenology of Spirit, Preface, paragraph 15

With regard to content, the other side no doubt at times makes it sound easy enough to have a wide extension. They haul on to their soil a quantity of material, namely, that which is already familiar and arranged in order; and since they are concerned more especially about what is exceptional, strange, and curious, they seem all the more to be in possession of the rest – which knowledge in its way was finished and done with – as well as to have control over what was unregulated and disorderly. Hence they appear to have brought everything within the compass of the absolute idea, which seems thus to be recognized in all of it, and to have been broadened into extensive science. But if we look more closely at this expansion we find that it has not been reached by one and the same principle taking shape in diverse ways; it is the shapeless repetition of one and the same thing applied in an external fashion to different material, the wearisome reiteration of which keeps up the semblance of diversity. The idea, for itself indeed true, really never gets off the ground as long as the development of it consists in nothing else than such a repetition of the same formula. The knowing subject carrying around in the present the one unmoved form, dipping the material from outside into this static element, this, as little as arbitrary notions regarding the content, is the fulfillment of that which was required  – a self-originated wealth and a self-determining distinction of shapes. It is rather a monochrome formalism, which only arrives at distinction of material because of the latter's having already been prepared and known.

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