Edward Caird's Hegel



THE account of the Hegelian Logic given in the last chapter may serve as at least a partial answer to some of the ordinary objections made to it, objections based upon the absoluteness of distinctions to which it attaches only a subordinate importance. The Hegelian Logic is at once a Logic and a Metaphysic-i.e., it treats at once of the method and of the matter of knowledge, of the processes by which truth is discovered, and of the truth itself in its most universal aspects. In Hegel's view there is no merely formal process of intelligence - no process of intelligence that is not also a determination of its object by categories;-and the advance from less to more perfect knowledge is a continual transition from one category to another by which that determination is changed, and made more complete and accurate.

While, therefore, knowledge is a process which, in its first aspect, seems to involve the negation of intellectual activity, and the absolute surrender of the mind to an indifferent and external object, it is really a process in which the mind is continually bringing that object more and more within the net of its categories, and changing its aspect, till all its strangeness has disappeared, and it has been made one with the thought that apprehends it. Thus the investigation of the object turns out to be at the same time the evolution of the mind in relation to it; and the highest category by which it is determined is at the same time the discovery of its essential relativity to the mind for which it is, and the recognition that in thus dealing with an object, the mind is really dealing with itself-or in other words, with something that forms an essential element in its consciousness of self. Thus the perfect revelation of what the object is, is also the return of intelligence into itself, or rather the discovery that in all its travels, it has never really gone beyond itself. The highest fruit of knowledge is the deepening of self-consciousness.


We may illustrate this view by reference to the ordinary opposition of a priori and a posteriori. According to Leibnitz, all knowledge was developed from within, however it might appear to come from without; for the monad evolved all its ideas and perceptions from itself by a pure a priori process. To Locke, on the other hand, or at least to many of the school of Locke, knowledge was a filling of the mind with experience from without, an inscription written by a foreign hand upon a tabula rasa. The more ordinary compromise is that knowledge is partly apriori and partly a posteriori, that we get facts from without, but "necessary ideas" from within. Now Hegel does not adopt either of the two opposing methods, nor yet the compromise between them. He maintains that all knowledge is a posteriori in one point of view, and that all knowledge is a priori in another. All is a posteriori; for no knowledge whatever is possible to the mind except through experience, and even its consciousness of self is possible only in relation to the not-self. Yet all knowledge is a priori, for this empirical process, which seems at first to be merely the introduction of foreign matter into the mind, is really its own evolution, and our highest knowledge is that in which we come to the consciousness of this ideal nature of things, and so transcend altogether the opposition of fact and idea. Hegel is simply following the footsteps of Aristotle, who, though he continually insists that all knowledge is derived from. experience, also declares that the mind is "potentially all that is knowable," and that "fully realized knowledge is identical with its object," i.e., that the full development of the knowledge of the intelligible world, as such, is one with the evolution of thought to complete consciousness of self.

The reasons by which Hegel was led to this view will be evident if we go back for a moment to Kant. Kant appears to adopt the compromise that knowledge is partly a priori and partly a posteriori; but he secretly undermines it by the assertion that the a priori element is the form, and the a posteriori element the matter, of knowledge. For if by the form be meant the conditions under which the object is knowable, we cannot separate the a posteriori from the a priori. There are no " facts " as opposed to " ideas;" for the simplest fact we can mention already implies certain ideal principles, by which it is determined as a fact in relation to other facts and to the mind that knows it. The intelligence, in so far as it "makes nature," cannot be opposed to nature, as one object is opposed to another, for, so far, nature and intelligence are identical.

Kant, however, confines the identity of nature and intelligence to certain general principles or laws, and supposes that beyond this there is a contingent element which is "given" to the intelligence under conditions of space and time, but not otherwise determined by it. Hence he thinks that the special laws that we discover in nature cannot be anticipated a priori, though the general principles of quantity, quality, and relation can be so anticipated. There is, therefore, so to speak, an a posteriori residuum in nature, or rather it is all a posteriori except the most general laws, to which the unity of knowing and being is limited. For though nature has in it all the content of mind, it has also a great deal more, which for mind is simply a posteriori matter of information, received from without, or at least from some unknown source.

Now Hegel carried out the unity of knowing and being, and so of a priori and a posteriori, to complete identity, by taking two steps beyond Kant, one of which has been indicated. In the first place, as we have seen, he added a new genus to Kant's genera of categories, the categories of "ideal unity," or, what is the same thing from another side, he conceived the process of knowledge as including another stage beyond those enumerated by Kant - the stage, namely, of philosophy as distinguished from science, of reason as distinguished from reflection or understanding. In the second place, by the taking this step, Hegel was enabled to take another; for the categories of reason, and especially the idea of the unity of subject and object in which the 'Logic' ends, enabled Hegel to connect the forms of perception, space and time, with the forms of thought, in a way that was not possible for Kant, for whom the categories of reflection-categories like causality and reciprocity-were the last scientific determination of nature. In other words, Hegel's widened conception of the logical forms and processes enabled him to bridge over the gulf which, for Kant, separated the a posteriori from the a priori, the manifold world of objects in time and space from the pure unity of thought or consciousness with itself. We can only indicate in a general way how this was possible.


So long as the laws of causality and reciprocity were conceived to be the ultimate principles of science, it was impossible that the gulf between the form and the matter of science should be filled up. These laws presuppose a matter that is external to themselves, and to the nature of which they afford us no clue. They are principles in accordance with which we investigate the relations of things, but which do not enable us to determine the particular nature of the things so related. The complete application of these principles, therefore, and the discovery of the laws of nature by means of them, seems still to leave the intelligence outside of the things it thus comes to know.

The laws of gravitation, of chemical affinity, of electric polarity, seem still to be purely objective truths, indifferent and external to the mind that apprehends them. They may awaken, in the imagination, an anticipation or presentment of the unity of nature and spirit, but they do not clearly reveal that unity to the understanding. But it is different when we begin to apply such categories as self-determination, final causality, organic unity, and the like. In that which is in any sense self-determined, the intelligence recognizes its counterpart. Such recognition, taking place in an immediate and unreflecting way, is what unites self-conscious beings to each other, and, in a minor sense, to all living beings. In man's earliest consciousness of the world, indeed, no distinct line is drawn between what has consciousness and what has merely life, or between what has life and what has not.

The advance of reflection, however, gradually narrows the familiar world, as it intensifies man's consciousness of what he himself is, and his sense of difference from the rest of the universe. He becomes accustomed to regard objects as determined not by themselves, but by other objects, until to modem science this mode of viewing them seems the only natural one, and instead of finding its own freedom in the world, the mind rather begins to consider itself, like all other objects, as subjected to the law of external necessity. So conceiving of itself as well as of everything else, or rather regarding the universe as one in which, strictly speaking, there is no 'self' present whatever, the intelligence is, as it were, estranged from itself and the world. Nature and human nature have both alike become for it mere objects without any subject, though the real objectivity and necessity of man's life is strangely perplexed by an illusion of freedom. Consciousness, as Professor Huxley represents it, is the occasional inactive spectator of a world with which it has nothing to do, and in which it falsely imagines itself to have the power to do anything. So far from finding itself, its own subjectivity, in the objective world which it observes, the intelligence finds nothing but an object even in itself.

Now the application of such categories as "self-determination" or "organic unity" to the world, still more the recognition that in these categories is found "the truth " or ultimate meaning of all other categories, involves a complete inversion of this way of thinking. It involves the denial of external necessity as the final explanation of anything, and teaches us to seek for self-determination, not only in self-conscious beings and animals, but, in a sense, even in what we call dead matter. It makes us regard the world as an organism in which even what is termed by distinction the inorganic is a vital part or organ. The partial prevalence of this mode of thought is shown by the tendency of this century, as contrasted with the last, to regard human society as an organism, - a whole in which there is some kind of unity or self which is present in every part, - and not as a mere collection of units externally related to each other.


Very often this tendency is accompanied by an imperfect analysis of the idea of organism, which practically degrades it to the category of "reciprocal influence," so that a writer who insists on the organic nature of society, will sometimes be found all but denying that an animal is anything more than the resultant of the action and reaction of its parts. A Comte-ist, however, who tells us that "the family," or that "humanity," is a reality, but who vehemently attacks the doctrine that "the soul" is anything but an abstraction, should look well to the security of the branch upon which he is sitting. The soul is an abstraction in the same sense as the family is an abstraction-i.e., it does not exist without the members, but as a living principle of self-determination in them; but the members also are "abstractions" without it. The imperfect realization of what is involved in a category does not, however, affect the truth of the "instinct of reason," which leads to its application. It proves only that categories that rule the mind are, as not seldom happens, at war with those of which it is distinctly conscious.

The Comte-ist conception of humanity as an organism in an inorganic world - a world to which man as an organism is not essentially related, but which, in spite of, and even by reason of, its opposition, he gradually subordinates to his own needs, or turns into an instrument for the realization of himself-is a temporary compromise of philosophy. And, like other compromises, it does complete justice to neither of the opposite modes of thought which it would combine, -neither to the necessary relation, between man and the medium in which he lives, nor to the self-determination of men in relation to that medium. To do such justice is possible only when it is seen, in the sense explained in the last chapter, that "the truth of necessity is freedom."

In other words, the ultimate explanation of things is to be found only when we take into account the fact that they are essentially related to the intelligence for which they exist, and when we recognize that all that so exists for intelligence is essentially a manifestation of intelligence. The object-and all things that exist are objects-is that in opposition, yet in relation, to which the subject is conscious of self. It is a form of the life of the subject, and it can be that, only as it has something of the ideal nature of the subject in itself. For a self-determined principle is, as we have seen, one that is determined, only as its self is present in all its determinations; or, to put the same idea in another form, an organic unity is one in which the whole is in every part.

When, therefore, we once recognize that relation to the conscious subject or self is essential to every object, we are forced, at the same time, to conceive it-like the organ of a living body-as having a certain independent self-centered being in itself; for only so can it form an element in the life of intelligence. Thus the spiritual or ideal meaning of things is their ultimate meaning-that in which the secret of their existence is to be sought. They are real only as they are ideal. The scientific interpretation of things in which they are referred to themselves, and regarded as independent of thought, must therefore be subjected to a reinterpretation, in which we correct the abstraction involved in that way of looking at them, and regard them also in their relation to thought.

But this new interpretation is so far from taking away their independence, or reducing them, according to the common view of idealism, to "mere ideas," or phenomena of a subjective consciousness, that rather it, for the first tim6, enables us to attribute to them a real independence-a being which is centered in itself. For while the ordinary scientific idea of the world as a system in which everything is determined from without according to the principles of causality, annihilates all distinctions and turns all the individuality of things into a semblance, the idea of the world as an organic system whose center lies in a self-conscious intelligence breaks up this leveling fatalism, and reveals in every existence a center of self-individualizing energy.


Where, therefore, science seemed to turn all things-even life and intelligence itself-into dead matter, which moves only as it is moved by another, philosophy, guided by this new idea, is enabled to find life even in that which is inorganic and dead. While to the former the facts and laws of the world are an absolute a posteriori, in which the intelligence cannot find itself, but which it must simply take as they are given, without hoping to understand their reason; to the latter there are no facts which are not at heart ideas, -no reality of nature or spirit which can permanently remain as an irreducible surd, an external and incomprehensible datum, for the intelligence. The a posteriori is but the a priori in the making. In this sense there is no presumption in the strong words of Hegel: "The nature of the universe, hidden and shut up in itself as it is at first, has no power which can permanently resist the courageous efforts of the intelligence: it must at last open itself up; it must reveal all its depth and riches to the spirit, and surrender them to be enjoyed by it." For this is but saying that the world is essentially intelligible, and therefore may ultimately be seen in its unity with the intelligence.

At the same time this must not be interpreted as if it involved anything of what is commonly meant by an a priori, construction of the world, Hegel is well aware that there is a "hard husk" to break through before it is possible to reach the ideal meaning of things, and he is aware also that this "hard husk" must be broken by science, before it can be finally dissolved by philosophy. In other words, he is aware that the external contingency in which things present themselves to the ordinary consciousness, as simply existing side by side in space, and happening contemporaneously or successively in time, must yield to the scientific determination of them in their laws and causes, before it is possible for philosophy to discover in them the organic manifestation of intelligence.

"The philosophy of nature takes up the matter, which physical science has prepared out of experience, at the point where science leaves it, without looking back to experience for its verification. Science, therefore, must work into the hands of philosophy, that philosophy in turn may translate the universality of reflection which science has produced into the higher universality of the reason, showing how the intelligible object evolves itself out of the intelligence as an organic whole, whose necessity is in itself. The philosophical way of presenting things is not a capricious effort, for once in a way, to walk upon one's head, as a change from the ordinary method of walking on one's feet-or to escape the monotony of one's ordinary face by painting it; but it is because the manner of science does not finally satisfy the intelligence that we are obliged to go beyond it." (Hegel)

The "hard husk," however, - the contingency of space and time, - has itself its necessity in the nature of the intelligence to which it presents so much resistance, and which it seems often to baffle. This is a point on which there has often been a misunderstanding of the Hegelian system, but which is closely connected with its central idea. Thus Schelling objects to the dialectic by which Hegel passes from the Logic to the philosophy of nature, as a mere tissue of metaphors which conceal an absolute break in thought. And at first it is not easy to see more than this in Hegel's assertion that "the Idea freely lets itself go out of itself, while yet resting in itself, and remaining absolutely secure of itself;" or again, that "Nature is the extreme self-alienation (Entausserung) of spirit, in which it yet remains one with itself." If, however, the reader will recall what has already been said of the unity of opposites, and of a self-determined principle as being one that necessarily goes out of itself, or gives the utmost possible freedom to its determination, the obscurity and apparently metaphorical character of such expressions will partly disappear.


Nature is for Hegel that extreme of possible opposition to spirit through which, and through which alone, it can fully realize itself. We may make this clearer by a short reference to the treatment of this contrast in other philosophies. To the Cartesian school, nature and spirit, matter and mind, were absolute opposites, between which no link of connection could be detected, and which therefore were conceived as connected only by the will of God. Mind was that which is undivided and indivisible-purely self-determined and active. Matter was that which is infinitely divisible and purely passive, or determined by another than itself. Each must therefore be explained entirely for itself, and without aid of the other. Yet they are bound together by the inexplicable and incomprehensible relation of each to God, who, though spiritual, yet acts upon the essentially passive matter, and imparts to it activity and motion, and who determines the essentially self-determined mind to apprehend the phases of this alien matter.

A similar opposition strangely reappears in the philosophy of Mr. Herbert Spencer, who holds that the world is presented to us in two ways - as a series of motions of matter and as a series of feelings or ideas of mind; but that we are unable to bring these two views together, or to penetrate to the unknown reality which is beneath both. Now there can be no doubt that, as Descartes saw, mind and matter are opposites; but as they are correlative opposites and so necessarily united, it is not necessary to seek for any Deus ex machimi to bring them together. Mind or self-consciousness "overreaches," as Hegel says, this opposition of itself to that which is opposed to it as its object; or, to put it from the other side, a self-conscious principle can reveal itself as a self-determined principle only in this extreme opposition, and in overcoming it.

The "free" existence of the world as an external aggregate of objects in space, with no appearance of relation to mind, and the "free" existence of each object in the world, as external to the other objects and merely in contingent relation to them, are characteristics which belong to these objects just because they are the manifestations of a self-determined principle, which can realize itself only as it goes out of itself, or gives itself away, but which in this " self-alienation " remains " secure of itself and resting in itself." On the other hand, this security of intelligence in the freedom of its object is possible just because its own nature is what it has given to the object, which therefore, in realizing itself, must return to its source. The movement or process of the external world, thus freed or left to itself in its externality, can only be to go into itself, or to "sublimate" or remove its own externality so as to return to that unity which seems to have abandoned it, and which it seems at first to have abandoned.

It is not merely, therefore, that the contingency of nature is discovered by science to be the mask or disguise of necessity, and this necessity again by philosophy is detected to be the mask or disguise of freedom. This of itself would be merely a subjective process of knowledge, without any objective movement corresponding to it in nature, and thus the self-alienation or self-manifestation of the mind in nature would be reduced to an illusion. But nature itself, regarded as independent of intelligence, is this process "writ large," and fixed in the form of an external hierarchy of existences, which in their relation and subordination exhibit the successive stages of development by which the object returns to the subject In its mechanical, chemical, and vital substances, nature presents to us, though still in the form of externality, the various steps of the process whereby this independence of things of each other and of the intelligence, as it were, refutes and transcends itself. In the inorganic world the ideal principle is present as an inner or hidden nature of things, a law of relation between parts external to each other, which manifests itself only as these external parts, in their notions and changes, continually betray the secret of their essential relativity to each other.

In the living being, however, this inner nature does not merely underlie the fixed difference of external parts, but is revealed in them as a principle of organization, continually distributing itself to them as members of one body, which can maintain their independence only as they make themselves subordinate to the common life. Thus in life we have the differentiating and integrating movement of thought expressed in outward form; and Hegel therefore calls it the ideality of nature-that in which the external, as it were, visibly contradicts and refutes its own externality. But this idealization is still imperfect, for it is not conscious of itself; it is not present to the living being itself, but only to us. Nature rises to self-consciousness only in man, who thus becomes conscious not only of it, but of himself in distinction from and in relation to it; and who, in the process of his development, has to overcome this still remaining antagonism between himself and the world, or between consciousness and self-consciousness, and so to realize his unity and the unity of all things and beings with the absolute spirit "in whom they live, and move, and have their being."


Such is the general outline that Hegel seeks to fill up by his philosophy of nature and spirit. In the former part of his task, in dealing with nature, and especially with the inorganic world, he is least successful. Obviously, if we adopt Hegel's view, it will be more difficult to trace the ideal meaning of nature, which is the idea in its extreme self-alienation, than of spirit, in which it is returning to itself. The general necessity of such an external realization of the ideal principle under conditions of space and time it is not difficult to comprehend, and it is easy also to detect a link of analogy that runs through all nature, and makes it into a continual illustration of ideal relations. "Nature," as Novalis said, "is a kind of illuminated table of the contents of the spirit."

Gravitation, chemical affinity, vital nutrition, may be all used as pictures of the processes of intellectual and moral life, and many so-called philosophical theories have been little more than logical developments of the consequences of such metaphors. Poetry, again, is often little more than a continual playing upon the latent accords that bind all forms of existence together. When, however, it is attempted to turn such poetry into philosophy, to discover what exactly is the identity that lies beneath these analogies, and to follow logically the affiliation and connection of its changes of form, the "hard husk" is found difficult to penetrate, and it must be the more difficult the lower the existence we are examining in the scale of being, i.e., the further it is from the nature of spirit.

Hence it is the simplest things of nature with which it is hardest for an ideal philosophy to deal. The physical is harder for it than the chemical, the chemical than the vital, for the same reason which makes poetry prefer life to death. The idealistic interpretation of nature is therefore exposed to serious difficulties and dangers, especially in the region of mechanics and physics; and indeed it cannot be successfully attempted at all till science has carried its interpretation to an advanced stage. Attempted earlier, it is apt to become little better than a systematic and therefore lifeless kind of poetry, which intuitively grasps at a unity it cannot yet define. Of this character, probably, is much of Hegel's philosophy of nature. Science in these departments had not reached the point that, as Hegel himself maintained, it must reach, before the categories of reason could be applied to them; and his own knowledge of physics and chemistry was at best second-hand. He devoted, indeed, comparatively little of his attention to such subjects: all that he published on the Philosophy of Nature was the outline in the Encyclopedia, which, with the addition of some notes taken from his Lectures, makes one volume of his works.

The principles of the 'Logic' were used by him for the most part as a key to the life of man, and especially to his highest spiritual experiences, in morality, art, and religion. Thus it is upon "the first and the last things"-upon the metaphysical principles in which philosophy begins, and upon that highest idealization of man's life in which it ends-that the main lights of the Hegelian philosophy are cast. The intermediate regions of nature, and of human life so far as it is most closely linked with nature, are only briefly sketched, and remain on the whole a desideratum. In spite of his encyclopedic industry, Hegel had not the impartial exhaustive curiosity of Aristotle, and preferred to direct his thought to those objects in which the ideal meaning is most easily read. His speculation therefore, like Plato's, was predominantly guided - at least where it goes beyond the sphere of abstract metaphysic - by the practical instincts of the higher life of man, by the desire to restore the moral and religious basis of human existence, which a revolutionary skepticism had destroyed. To this the Lectures, which form the greater part of his works, are devoted.

It must, however, be remembered that we have these Lectures in a form which was never authorized by Hegel himself, and that they were compiled after his death, mainly from the notes of students who were among his audience. Even if we could always depend upon the verbal accuracy of the report, it is obvious that such discourses, delivered with reference to the needs of the hearers, rather than to a complete discussion of the subject, cannot be regarded in the same light as works like the 'Logic,' which came from his hand as a completely reasoned system. Their informality and discursive character, however, if it takes from their authority as expressions of the author's mind and from their value as scientific treatises, has some compensating advantages, if we regard them as a means of education in philosophy; for in this point of view their very artlessness gives them something of the same stimulating suggestive power which is attained by the consummate art of the Platonic Dialogues.


To follow out in detail any of these applications of the principle of Hegel would be beyond the scope of the present volume. It may, however, be desirable to indicate, more fully than has yet been done, how it was that Hegel could regard this principle as in a special sense Christian, and even as identical with the essential idea of Christianity.

In an earlier chapter it has been shown how Hegel at first found in Greek literature and Greek life that unity of the ideal with the real, of the freedom of spirit with the necessity of nature, which Kant and Fichte seemed to deny. In the State the Greek saw, not a mere external authority, but only the realization of his own freedom; and in the gods he worshipped, not a foreign and despotic power, but only the ideal unity of the natural and social organism in which he was a member. He was at home in the little world in which he lived and moved, which his spirit had made, and was continually remaking. For him, the division of "self " and "not-self " had "passed in music out of sight," had been overcome unconsciously without even being thought of; for the spirit of his city was, as it were, the "substance," the presupposed substratum, of his consciousness of himself.

Yet just herein, as Hegel came to see, lay the fragility, the imperfection, the transitory character, of the Greek reconciliation of man with the world. It was not based on any deep consciousness of the antagonism of the inner and outer life, or of a spiritual process, by which that antagonism could be overcome. It was a gift received from the hands of nature, which was in itself a contradiction, for the spirit cannot accept gifts except from itself, and a possession ceases to be spiritual by the very fact that it is not spiritually achieved. As soon, therefore, as reflection suggested the idea of a division between the individual and his world, at that moment the unity disappeared; for it was not based on reason, - on any consciousness of a unity which transcended the division, - but rather on an unconsciousness of the division itself. Hence even the idealization of this unconscious reconciliation in Art and Poetry, by making it into an object and dealing with it freely as such, tended to disturb it, and to substitute for it that consciousness of the self in its loneliness and opposition to the world, which is expressed in the individualistic philosophy of the Stoics, Epicureans, and Skeptics.


The Aristophanic comedy may be regarded as the last happy moment of the Greek spirit, its last triumphant consciousness of self, in which it rejoices over a "world turned upside down," over the perversion of all the ideal and real forms of its existence. But this happy moment rapidly passes into the stern, self-centered life of the Stoic, who withdraws from the world into the fortress of his own soul,-into the hard prose of Roman life, in which the only social bond is the legal relation of persons, and finally into the despair of the skeptic, who, doubting everything, is driven in the end to doubt himself, and regarding everything objective as an empty appearance, is forced at last to recognize the very consciousness of self as an illusion. For the division of man from the world is his division from himself, and when he shuts himself up within his own soul, he finds there nothing but emptiness and vanity.

What, then, was to heal this division, to reconcile man to the world and to himself, and to bring back that joyful consciousness which Greece had lost? The problem is one for the present day, as well as for the earlier days of the Roman empire; for now even more than then, the intense sense of personality, of subjective freedom, has disturbed man's consciousness of unity with the world, and thrown him back upon himself, only to awake in him a painful sense of emptiness and weakness, and a longing for what seems an impossible deliverance from himself.

In the following passage of his earlier work, 'The Phenomenology,' Hegel paints the disease, and hints at its cure, in words in which poetry and speculation are wonderfully united: "The Stoic independence of thought, passing through the movement of skepticism, finds its true meaning revealed in a consciousness - which is at the same time a despair - of self. To this despairing self-consciousness is revealed the hollowness both of the real claims vindicated for the abstract person in Roman law, and also of the ideal claims vindicated for the thinking self in Stoicism. It has learnt that the claims so vindicated are in truth entirely lost; that the self so asserted is rather absolutely estranged from itself. Its despair, therefore, may be regarded as the counterpart and completion of that triumphant joy with which the spirit of Comedy in Aristophanes rejoices in itself, looking down upon the annihilation of all that which is not the self. For while in this comic consciousness all objective reality is alienated from itself and emptied of substantial worth in relation to the self; the despair that follows upon skepticism is the tragic fate which immediately falls upon the self which thus in its isolation has raised itself to the absolute. It is the consciousness of the loss of all reality in the assurance of the self, and again of the loss of this last assurance, - it is that agony of desertion which expresses itself in the hard saying that God is dead.

"Thus, then, the ethical life of the ancient State has disappeared in the legality of Rome, as the religion which idealized that State has vanished in Comedy, and the despairing self-consciousness is simply the knowledge of all that has been lost. For it, as we have seen, neither the immediate dignity and value of the individual, nor that secondary ideal value which he received from thought, any longer exists. Trust in the eternal laws of the gods is silenced, like the oracles by which they revealed particular events to men. The statues worshipped in earlier religion are now dead stones, whose inspiring soul has departed, and the hymns of praise that were sung to them are become words in which no one believes. The tables of the gods are without spiritual meat and drink, and from the games and festivals no longer does the spirit of man receive back the joyful sense of his unity with the divine. The works of the Muse are now deserted by that spiritual force which drew the assurance of itself even out of the very annihilation of all glory of gods and men.

"These works have already become what they are for us now, fair fruits broken away from the tree, which a friendly fate has conveyed to us, as a maiden might present those fruits; for with the fruits she cannot give us the real life on which their existence depended, not the tree that bore them, not the earth and the elements from which they drew their substance, not the climate which gave them their peculiar character, nor the vicissitude of the seasons that ruled over the process of their growth. In like manner, the fate which has preserved for us the works of antique art does not bring with them the world to which they belonged-not the spring and summer of that ethical life in which they blossomed and ripened, but only a dim remembrance of such a reality. Our enjoyment of them is not, therefore, an act of divine worship in which our consciousness reaches its complete and satisfying truth; it is only the external service which washes away from their purity any drops of rain or particles of dust that may adhere to them, and which, in place of the inner constituents of the ethical life which produced and inspired them, raises up an endless scaffolding of the dead elements of their outward existence, the language, the historical circumstances, etc., which throw light upon them.

"Our end also in all this service is, not to give our own life to them, but merely to set them up as pictures before our imagination. But yet, as the maiden who presents the plucked fruits is more than the nature which first produced them, with all its conditions and elements-the tree, the air, the light, etc., since in a higher way she gathers all this together in the light of the self-conscious eye, and the expression of the offering gesture; so the spirit of the fate which presents us with these works of art is more than all that was attained in that ancient national existence, for it is the realization in us as an inward life of the spirit which in them was still outward and external; it is the spirit of the tragic fate, which gathers all those individualized gods and attributes of the divine substance into one Pantheon, the spirit which is conscious in itself of its own spiritual nature." (Hegel, Phenomenology)


"The spirit that is conscious of itself as spirit." This to Hegel is the solution of the difficulty in which the individualism of ancient and of modem times has involved itself. Its value will be understood only if we have the difficulty itself clearly before us. The dualism between the object and subject-between man and his world-which the Stoic sought to escape by withdrawing into himself, follows him, as the skeptic showed, even into the inner life. The soul opposed to the world and emptied of it, is found to be opposed to and emptied of itself. It finds no inner wealth to console it in its barren self-assertion. As the Roman citizen, invested by law with absolute rights of person and property, found no security for them except in the mere will and brute force of the emperor, and thus in practice his absolute freedom converted itself into absolute slavery; so in like manner the Stoic consciousness of the absolute worth and dignity of the rational life which is present to each individual, needed but a little maturing-a deeper realization of its own meaning- to pass into an abject self-despair, into a sense of infinite want, and into a superstitious readiness to accept any outward oracle or revelation which might deliver it from its own inward emptiness.

So again, in modern times, those nations who have come to regard every kind of law and fixed institution as a foreign yoke, and to seek for freedom in nihilism and universal revolt, have often been found ready, in the inevitable weariness of their own caprice, to accept any despotism that will free them from themselves. And those men who have most deeply been imbued by the modern spirit of subjectivity, which knows no authority but itself and opposes its own inner light to all external teachings of experience, have not infrequently been driven in the end to save themselves from the waywardness and vacuity of mysticism by subjecting themselves to the outward rule of an authoritative Church. Such changes are not accidents; they are simply the natural development of the consciousness of self. They show, in the "logic of facts," that extreme subjectivity and individualism contains in itself its own contradiction, as the acorn contains the oak. Give it only the necessary conditions and opportunities of growth, and this is what it must result in.


The lesson to be learnt from this rapid conversion of the merely subjective into the merely objective, is not that the truth lies in the latter apart from the former. The cure for diseases of rationalism and skepticism is not implicit faith, any more than despotism is the cure for revolution. The assertion of reason and liberty, - of the subject as against the object in which he was hitherto lost, was a great step in the spiritual development of man; and any effort to recover the intellectual and moral harmony of the inward and the outward life, which should begin by withdrawing from the position thus gained, would be essentially reactionary, and, in the end, futile. For reaction cannot again restore the unity as it existed before the distinction and opposition were seen; all that it can do is to put the object, as opposed to the subject, in place of the subject as opposed to the object - in other words, to pass from one extreme to another, which is equally imperfect and self-contradictory. Implicit faith, by its sacrifice of reason, cannot restore the first unity of the mind with its object, which the assertion of "private judgment" has broken; rather it will be a unity of slavery, whereas that first unity was imperfect freedom.

Or, to take another example, empiricism cannot furnish a correction for that subjective idealism which arises out of the first imperfect interpretation of the truth, that all objects are essentially related to the subject that knows them. It will only be equivalent to a resolve to forget the inconvenient fact of the subjectivity of knowledge, and to treat things as if they were entirely independent of mind. In these and all similar cases, when the distinction or opposition is once made, the only real escape from its power, and so from the assertion of one of the opposed elements at the expense of the other, is to find the limit of the opposition, or the point where it gives way to unity. And that there is a point where it will so give way, is already manifest from the fact, that each of the opposites, if taken as absolute, involves its own contradiction.

What was fatal to the Greek state, and with it to all the political and religious life of the ancient world, was the assertion that man, as a rational or self-conscious being, is a law and an end to himself. In this it is involved that, ultimately, he can know and obey nothing but himself. Taken in a one-sided and exclusive sense, this doctrine is the denial of all relation of the individual either in thought or action to anything but himself; but taken in this sense it contains, as we have seen, its own refutation, and passes into its opposite. The truth, however, is to be found by considering what this self-contradiction really means. It means, in the first place, that the opposition is a relative one, and that the self which is opposed to the world, even in such opposition, is essentially related to it. And it means, in the second place, that while the direct and immediate attempt to assert and realize the self as against the not-self is suicidal, there is a higher assertion and realization of the self in, and through the not-self, which, however, is possible only in so far as that first suicidal attempt is abandoned.


The way to self-realization is through self-renunciation, i.e., through renunciation of that natural and immediate life of the self in which it is opposed to the not-self. Spiritual life is not like natural life-a direct development and outgoing of energy, which only at its utmost point of expansion meets with death as an external enemy, and in it finds its limit and its end. On the contrary, the life of a spiritual being, as such, is, in a true sense, a continual dying. Every step in it is won by a break with the immediate or natural self-the self that is opposed to the not-self; for only as the self dies can the higher self, which is in unity with the not-self, be developed. And, on the other hand, just for this reason there is for the spiritual self no absolute death. Because it is capable of dying to itself, -because, indeed, as will be more fully shown in the sequel, it cannot live but by some kind of dying to self, -it cannot in any final sense die. As it can make that which most seems to limit it a part of its own life, it has no absolute limit; it takes up death into itself as an element, and does not therefore need to fear it as an enemy.

Words like these will, no doubt, seem at first to be mystical and metaphorical to those who look at them in an external way. And, indeed, they fairly represent the usual language of Christian mysticism, or rather, we might say more truly, the universal language of the religious life of Christianity wherever that life has reached any real depth of self-consciousness-the language of St. Paul and of St Augustine, of Thomas a Kempis and Martin Luther, as of men like Maurice and Campbell in our own day. Such language, however, though not denied to have a certain truth in its own sphere, is usually kept to that sphere, and not brought down into the region of the ordinary understanding, or weighed against the words and categories which hold good there.

What is peculiar to Hegel is, that he brings the two regions together and compares them; that he weighs the vivid poetic utterance of spiritual intuition, and the prose of common life and of science, together in the same scales; and that he seeks to prove that, as exact and scientific definitions of the reality of things, the former has a higher truth than the latter. To him, therefore, the great aphorism, in which the Christian ethics and theology may be said to be summed up, that "he that saveth his life shall lose it, and he that loseth his life shall save it," is no mere epigrammatic saying, whose self-contradiction is not to be regarded too closely; it is rather the first distinct, though as yet undeveloped, expression of the exact truth as to the nature of spirit. To show how this is possible, it will be best, in the first place, to take the words in their immediate ethical meaning.

Taken, then, in its application to morals, the maxim, "Die to live," seems to combine the principle of asceticism with the principle of hedonism or utilitarianism;for while it points, like the latter, to a positive realization of self, it implies, like the former, that the way to such self-realization is through self-abnegation. Interpreted in a coarse external way, it might be supposed to mean only that this world must be sacrificed in order that the next may be won. But such an interpretation is equally imperfect on the side of the sacrifice and of the realization. It is imperfect on the side of the sacrifice; for a mere giving up of a present for a future satisfaction is far from being a real giving up of the self; it is only a substitution of "other-worldliness" for "worldliness," and selfishness is not overcome by its gratification merely postponed. And it is imperfect on the side of the realization; for it is not the life of this world, the life renounced, which is regained, but a life in another world which is supposed to be utterly different from it.

The true interpretation of the maxim is, that the individual must die to an isolated life, i.e., a life for and in himself, a life in which the immediate satisfaction of desire as his desire is an end in itself, in order that he may live the spiritual life, the universal life which really belongs to him as a spiritual or self-conscious being. Now it is a simple psychological fact that, as we cannot know ourselves except in relation to objects from which we distinguish ourselves, so we cannot seek our own pleasure except in objects which are distinguishable from that pleasure, and which we desire for themselves. Desire always in the first instance looks outward to the object, and only indirectly through the object at the self; pleasure comes of the realization of desire, but the desire is primarily for something else than the pleasure; and though it may gradually become tinctured, by the consciousness of the subjective result, it can never entirely lose its objective reference. The pleasure-seeker is an abstraction: for just in proportion as we approximate to the state of the pure hunter for pleasures, for whom all objective interest is lost in mere self-seeking, it is demonstrable by the nature of the case, and shown by experience, that for us all pleasure must cease. As it is a condition of our intellectual life that we exist for ourselves only as other things and beings exist for us, so it is a condition of our practical life that we can realize ourselves or live for ourselves only as we live for other ends and beings than ourselves.

Thus it appears that there is an element of self-negation even in our most immediate theoretical and practical existence, and that we must die to live - go out of ourselves to be ourselves - even in the most sensuous and selfish life we can possibly live. Obviously, however, this does not take away the significance of the principle as a moral law, but rather for the first time shows the possibility of obeying it, as a law which is grounded in the real nature of man: a law under which we not only might to live, but under which we must in some measure live, if as rational beings we are to live at all We are thus also enabled to remove a misconception which in many minds stands in the way of the acceptance of the principle of self-sacrifice, as if it involved a mere ascetic self-annihilation or a rejection of all the positive elements in life. In view of such a negative interpretation of the principle, we can easily understand how many should be prepared, with Bentham, to denounce the ascetic as a superstitious believer in the "universal misery theory," and to declare with Spinoza that philosophy "should be the meditation not of death, but of life." But when it is seen that all that is really positive in our life has, in the sense of the principle, a negative element in it, and that it is only through such negation of self that any positive good can ever be attained, it can no longer be apprehended that the further development of this negative or self-renouncing aspect of morality will impoverish human life, or strip it of any of its real sources of joy.

In truth, the abstract distinction drawn between positive self-gratification and negative self-denial-which is at the basis of the ordinary opposition of asceticism and hedonism-is essentially mistaken; for, in the sense of the distinction, there are no pure pleasures possible to man. What we have is always a positive mediated by a negative; and if we could absolutely sever either from the other, we should come in both cases to the same result. The absolute pleasure-seeker would, by the opposite road, reach the same goal with the absolute ascetic-the extinction of all desire and pleasure. On the other hand, the same line of thought enables us to see that the wider and completer is the good-i.e., the realization of ourselves-which we seek, the deeper and more thorough must be the negation of self on which it is based.

"More life and fuller, that we want;" but by a law that cannot be defeated or cheated, this fuller life is possible to us only through the sacrifice, renunciation, or death of the immediate or natural self-the self which is opposed to the not-self-and which seeks a good for itself which is not a good for others. For it is only in breaking down the boundary that separates our life from the life of others, that we can at the same time break down the boundary which prevents their life from becoming ours. St Paul's saying, "All things are yours, for ye are God's," expresses the true conditions on which alone the limits of the individual life can be removed, viz., that it should cease to will itself except through the whole of which it is a part.

The principle that he who loses his life in this sense saves it, has, however, another application. It is already seen to be true, in so far as life is measured by its interests, and in so far as even the pains and sorrows of the wider life contain a kind of compensation in them, which makes them rather to be chosen than the narrower joys. "We can only have the highest happiness - such as goes along with being a great man - by having wide thoughts, and much feeling for the rest of the world as well as ourselves; and this sort of happiness often brings so much pain with it that we can only tell it from pain by its being what we would choose before everything else, because our souls see it is good." (Geeorge Eliot, Romala) But this inward compensation might seem to be reconcilable with a constitution of the universe in which all that we call higher interests were, after all, sacrificed to an adverse or indifferent fate.

Really, however, it is not so reconcilable; for "morality," as it has been said, "is the nature of things." The innate law of spiritual life cannot fail of its effect outwardly, any more than inwardly. To suppose that it could so fail would be to suppose that a spiritual being is simply one finite existence beside the others, which must "take its chance" with them in the struggle for existence. This, however, is just that view of things of which the whole process of thought, expressed in the Hegelian philosophy, is the refutation. For what Hegel sought to show is, that the intelligible world is not only, as Kant declared, essentially related to the intelligence for which it exists, but that, as a consequence of this, it is in itself nothing but the manifestation of intelligence.

In a world that is essentially spiritual, it is impossible to conceive that the existence of spiritual beings should be a means to an external end, or a link like the other links in the chain of causation. And it is equally, impossible that in such a world the essential law of spiritual life should not be the truth that underlies, overreaches, and interprets all other laws. The moral principle that we must lose our lives in order to save them, has therefore its counterpart and complement in a law of the universe, according to which all the evils and sorrows that belong to the development of the spiritual life-(and in a world which is in its essence spiritual, this ultimately means all evils and sorrows whatever)- contain in them "the promise and the potency" of a good, in which they are not merely compensated, but taken up and transcended. "The wounds of the spirit can be healed, so that not even a scar remains."


"Die to live," is a principle that can be true only for a being for whom, as has been said, there is no absolute death, but in all death the means of a higher life. Now it is just this belief which constitutes the Christian optimism, that "all things work together for good." Pessimism is based on the idea that evil is a necessary and absolute existence; and a modified optimism, which opposes it merely by dwelling on the positive side of life-on the fact, or supposed fact, e.g., that there are numbers of people who are tolerably happy, and that in most lives there is a balance of pleasure over pain-is very far from being a satisfactory answer to it. The only satisfactory answer must lie in the perception of the essentially relative character of evil and sorrow itself, and this is what is implied in the words "shall save it." The Christian optimism is the recognition that in a spiritual world a spiritual being, as such, cannot find an absolute limit or foreign necessity, against which his life must be broken in pieces; but that, on the contrary, all apparent outward limits, and even death itself, are for it but the means to a higher freedom and realization of self.

The Christian theology is, in its essence, little more than the development of this idea; for its primary doctrine is that God-the absolute principle to which, as their unity, we must refer all things and beings-is a " Spirit,"-i.e., a Being whose life is self-determination and self-revelation-a self-revelation which includes also the element of self-sacrifice. For, as we have seen, the communication or giving out of life, which is involved in the idea of such a Being, cannot stop short of the communication of a self, and so of Himself to His creatures, which are thus "made partakers of the divine nature." Or, to put it otherwise, what Christianity teaches is only that the law of the life of spirit-the law of self-realization through self-abnegation-holds good for God as for man, and, indeed, that the spirit that works in man to " die to live " is the Spirit of God. For Hegel such a doctrine was the demonstrated result of the whole idealistic movement that is summed up in his Logic. So far, then, as Christianity means this, it was not in any spirit of external accommodation that he tried to connect his doctrine with it. Rather it was the discovery of this as the essential meaning of Christianity, which first enabled him to recognize it as the ultimate lesson of the idealistic movement of thought in Kant, Fichte, and Schelling.


The Hegelian philosophy, some of the main aspects of which we have attempted to exhibit, is so comprehensive in its range of thought, and it is the product of a time still so near our own, that it is not yet easy, or perhaps even possible, to fix its permanent value as an element in philosophical culture. The tendencies and ideas, which it attempts to bring to a unity, are still striving for the mastery around us and within us; and the sifting process, by which a principle is gradually delivered from the accidents of its first expression, and from the misunderstandings and prejudices that are due to such accidents, is yet far from being completed. When Hegel died, his philosophy held all but undisputed predominance in Berlin and the other Prussian universities; and, in spite of the protest which Schelling and others kept up against it, it was generally acknowledged as the greatest intellectual influence in all the scientific schools of Germany.

The criticisms to which it had as yet been subjected were so superficial, or based on such obvious misunderstanding, that the faith of Hegel's disciples was as yet put to no very hard test: nor could it be said that there was much arrogance in his own attitude when, after repelling one or two feeble attacks upon his principles, he used the language of the great Frederic in reference to the half-barbarous Pandours by whom he was so often beset: "This is the sort of fry with which I have to keep struggling." But after the death of Hegel all this was gradually changed. By the publication of his Lectures, the doctrine was at last set before the world in its completed form-in all its manifold applications. Criticism soon began to penetrate beyond the outworks, and to assail the central ideas of the system; and the master was no longer there to repel the attack with crushing dialectic, and to turn it into a means of throwing new light upon his principles. In the Hegelian school itself, the affinities of different minds for different aspects of so comprehensive a system began to disturb the unity and balance of elements which Hegel had established.


There were some for whom the main value of the philosophy lay in its results-in the return to religious faith and social morality which it seemed to make possible: and such minds were sometimes apt to forget that reconstruction is not merely restoration, and that it was only by developing the principle of freedom itself that Hegel was able to discover the sound and permanent elements in the institutions and traditions of the past. Those who thus mistook or narrowed the principle of development into a defense of things established, were gradually gathered into a more or less homogeneous group under the name of the " Hegelian Right." On the other hand, there were those to whom the idea of freedom, and the negative dialectic by which it was developed, seemed the one important element in Hegel; and for them Hegelianism tended to become only a more effective and profound expression of the spirit which had already manifested its power in the Aufkarung and the Revolution. This group formed what was known as the "Hegelian Left." Thus, just as the death of Socrates was the signal for the rise of a number of antagonistic sects, each of which grasped only a fragment of the master's doctrine, but gave it a fuller development than the master had done, and set it in direct opposition to the other fragments, so within the Hegelian school a division of tendency now showed itself, so wide and far-reaching, that the same principles which, on the one side, were interpreted as the defense of orthodoxy and reactionary politics, were used on the other side for the support of atheism and nihilism.

And as usually happens in the divisions of religion and politics, there was soon an increasing number of observers who drew from the controversy a proof that Hegelianism, or even philosophy itself, contained in it no living scientific principle of unity, but was merely a confused syncretism of opinions, which might be held together for a moment by a tour de force of genius, but which necessarily fell asunder as soon as the master's hand was removed. Such a skepticism is a natural and frequently recurring phenomenon of man's spiritual life, by reason of the antagonisms through which it develops, and it can be overcome only by a deeper consciousness of the nature and laws of that development. There is, however, no reason for wonder or despair as to the essential truth of the principles of the Hegelian philosophy in the fact that it has gone, or is going, through the same phases of life which have been traversed by the ideas of Socrates, by the Christian religion, and indeed by every living principle which has profoundly influenced the mind of man.

Hegel himself has interpreted his own fate for us. "A party first truly shows itself to have won the victory when it breaks up into two parties: for so it proves that it contains in itself the principle with which at first it had to conflict, and thus that it has got beyond the one-sidedness which was incidental to its earliest expression. The interest that formerly divided itself between it and that to which it was opposed now falls entirely within itself, and the opposing principle is left behind and forgotten, just because it is represented by one of the sides in the new controversy that now occupies the minds of men. At the same time, it is to be observed that when the old principle thus reappears, it is no longer what it was before; for it is changed and purified by the higher element into which it is now taken up. In this point of view, that discord which appears at first to be a lamentable breach and dissolution of the unity of a party, is really the crowning proof of its success."(Hegel) In other words, such discord is the proof of vitality; for it is the conflict of elements which, in spite of their apparently absolute antagonism, are really held within the unity of one life, and which, therefore, must be reconciled by its further development.

That the form and the matter of Hegel-the dialectical process and the positive or constructive result of his philosophy-can thus be set against each other, proves nothing more than what a survey of his work has already shown us, -viz., that the development of that philosophy in Hegel's own works is very incomplete; or, to put it in a slightly different point of view, that the application of the principle expressed in the Hegelian Logic to the complex facts of nature and history, was only imperfectly carried out by him. Hence the sifting affinity, -by which the new principle, like a germinating seed, draws to itself the fruitful elements of the life of the past, while it repels all that is merely traditional and dead, -is apt to show itself in an alternation or opposition of negative and positive, skeptical and constructive tendencies in different minds; which may thus often appear as irreconcilable enemies, though they are really the organs of one spiritual life, and the ministers of its development.


It is sometimes said that in Germany Hegel's philosophy has entirely lost the credit which it partially retains in other countries. And indeed, if by adherence to Hegel be meant that kind of discipleship which is content to be labeled with the name of Hegelian as a complete indication of all its ideas and tendencies, we might state the fact still more generally. For there are few, if any, in any country, who could now take up the same position towards Hegel which was accepted by his immediate disciples. To us, at this distance of time, Hegel, at the highest, can be only the last great philosopher who deserves to be placed on the same level with Plato and Aristotle in ancient, and with Spinoza and Kant in modern times, and who, like them, has given an "epoch-making" contribution to the development of the philosophic, or, taking the word in the highest sense, the idealistic, interpretation of the world. In other words, he can only be the last writer who has made a vitally important addition to the proof that those ideas, which are at the root of poetry and religion, are also principles of science. But, like these earlier philosophies, like every other spiritual influence, the Hegelian philosophy has to die that it may live; to break away from the accidents of its first immediate form, that it may become an element in the growing life of man. And this means that, to a certain extent, it is ceasing to be possible to regard it as a separate product, the value or truth of which can be weighed by itself.

For any one whose view is not limited by words or superficial appearances, it is not difficult to see that, in the scientific life of Germany as of other countries, there is no greater power at present than Hegelianism, especially in all that relates to metaphysics and ethics, to the philosophy of history and of religion. It is, however, a necessary part of the greatness of such spiritual force that it is not like a definite scientific discovery, "whose influence we can exactly measure. Rather it is so inextricably entangled with the whole culture of the time, and so closely identified with the general movement of thought, that we are increasingly unable to say what specially belongs to it alone. If we cannot estimate how much the poetical culture of modern times owes to Dante or to Shakespeare, much less can we precisely determine what, in the speculative development to which they all contribute, is respectively due to earlier philosophers, to Hegel, and to those who, since his day, have attempted to supersede, to criticize, or to complete his work. The only important question now is, not whether we are disciples of Hegel, - the days of discipleship are past, - but whether we recognize the existence of a living development of philosophy, and especially of that spiritual or idealistic view of things in which philosophy culminates-a development which begins in the earliest dawn of speculation, and in which Kant and Hegel are, not indeed the last names, but the last names in the highest order of speculative genius, "i Maestri di color che sanno."