Anti-Dühring/Part I/Chapter 4

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Anti-Dühring by Friedrich Engels
Part I, Chapter 4: World Schematism

"All-embracing being is one. In its self-sufficiency it has nothing alongside it or over it. To associate a second being with it would be to make it something that it is not, namely, a part or constituent of a more comprehensive whole. Due to the fact that we extend our unified thought like a framework, nothing that should be comprised in this thought-unity can retain a duality within itself. Nor, again, can anything escape this thought-unity... The essence of all thought consists in bringing together the elements of consciousness into a unity {Kursus der Philosophie p.16} ... It is the point of unity of the synthesis where the indivisible idea of the world came into being and the universe, as the name itself implies, is apprehended as something in which everything is united into unity" {17}.

Thus far Herr Dühring. This is the first application of the mathematical method:

"Every question is to be decided axiomatically in accordance with simple basic forms, as if we were dealing with the simple ... principles of mathematics" {224}.

"All-embracing being is one." If tautology, the simple repetition in the predicate of what is already expressed in the subject — if that makes an axiom, then we have here one of the purest water. Herr Dühring tells us in the subject that being embraces everything, and in the predicate he intrepidly declares that in that case there is nothing outside it. What colossal "system-creating thought" {525}!

This is indeed system-creating! Within the space of the next six lines Herr Dühring has transformed the oneness of being, by means of our unified thought, into its unit. As the essence of all thought consists in bringing things together into a unity, so being, as soon as it is conceived, is conceived as unified, and the idea of the world as indivisible; and because conceived being, the idea of the world, is unified, therefore real being, the real world, is also an indivisible unity. And with that

"there is no longer any room for things beyond, once the mind has learnt to conceive being in its homogeneous universality" {Kursus der Philosophie p.523}.

That is a campaign which puts Austerlitz and Jena, Königgrätz and Sedan completely in the shade1. In a few sentences, hardly a page after we have mobilised the first axiom, we have already done away with, cast overboard, destroyed, everything beyond the world — God and the heavenly hosts, heaven, hell and purgatory, along with the immortality of the soul.

How do we get from the oneness of being to its unity? By the very fact of conceiving it. In so far as we spread our unified thought around being like a frame, its oneness becomes a unity in thought, a thought-unity; for the essence of all thought consists in bringing together the elements of consciousness into a unity.

This last statement is simply untrue. In the first place, thought consists just as much in the taking apart of objects of consciousness into their elements as in the putting together of related elements into a unity. Without analysis, no synthesis. Secondly, without making blunders thought can bring together into a unity only those elements of consciousness in which or in whose real prototypes this unity already existed before. If I include a shoe-brush in the unity mammals, this does not help it to get mammary glands. The unity of being, or rather, the question whether its conception as a unity is justified, is therefore precisely what was to be proved; and when Herr Dühring assures us that he conceives being as a unity and not as twofold, he tells us nothing more than his own unauthoritative opinion.

If we try to state his process of thought in unalloyed form, we get the following: I begin with being. I therefore think what being is. The thought of being is a unified thought. But thinking and being must be in agreement, they are in conformity with each other, they "coincide". Therefore being is a unity also in reality. Therefore there cannot be anything "beyond". If Herr Dühring had spoken without disguise in this way, instead of treating us to the above oracular passages, his ideology would have been clearly visible. To attempt to prove the reality of any product of thought by the identity of thinking and being was indeed one of the most absurd delirious fantasies of — a Hegel.

Even if his whole method of proof had been correct, Herr Dühring would still not have won an inch of ground from the spiritualists. The latter would reply briefly: to us, too, the universe is simple; the division into this world and the world beyond exists only for our specifically earthly, original-sin standpoint; in and for itself, that is, in God, all being is a unity. And they would accompany Herr Dühring to his other beloved celestial bodies and show him one or several on which there had been no original sin, where therefore no opposition exists between this world and the beyond, and where the unity of the universe is a dogma of faith.

The most comical part of the business is that Herr Dühring, in order to prove the non-existence of God from the idea of being, uses the ontological proof for the existence of God. This runs: when we think of God, we conceive him as the sum total of all perfections. But the sum total of all perfections includes above all existence, since. a non-existent being is necessarily imperfect. We must therefore include existence among the perfections of God. Hence God must exist. Herr Dühring reasons in exactly the same way: when we think of being, we conceive it as one idea. Whatever is comprised in one idea is a unity. Being would not correspond to the idea of being if it were not a unity. Consequently it must be a unity. Consequently there is no God, and so on.

When we speak of being, and purely of being, unity can only consist in that all the objects to which we are referring — are, exist. They are comprised in the unity of this being, and in no other unity, and the general dictum that they all are not only cannot give them any additional qualities, whether common or not, but provisionally excludes all such qualities from consideration. For as soon as we depart even a millimetre from the simple basic fact that being is common to all these things, the differences between these things begin to emerge — and whether these differences consist in the circumstance that some are white and others black, that some are animate and others inanimate, that some may be of this world and others of the world beyond, cannot be decided by us from the fact that mere existence is in equal manner ascribed to them all.

The unity of the world does not consist in its being, although its being is a precondition of its unity, as it must certainly first be before it can be one. Being, indeed, is always an open question beyond the point where our sphere of observation ends. The real unity of the world consists in its materiality, and this is proved not by a few juggled phrases, but by a long and wearisome development of philosophy and natural science.

To return to the text. The being which Herr Dühring is telling us about is

"not that pure, self-equal being which lacks all special determinants, and in fact represents only the counterpart of the idea of nothing or of the absence of idea" {Kursus der Philosophie p.22}.

But we shall see very soon that Herr Dühring's universe really starts with a being which lacks all inner differentiation, all motion and change, and is therefore in fact only a counterpart of the idea of nothing, and therefore really nothing. Only out of this being-nothing develops the present differentiated, changing state of the universe, which represents a development, a becoming; and it is only after we have grasped this that we are able, even within this perpetual change, to

"maintain the conception of universal being in a self-equal state" {Kursus der Philosophie p.23}.

We have now, therefore, the idea of being on a higher plane, where it includes within itself both inertness and change, being and becoming. Having reached this point, we find that

"genus and species, or the general and the particular, are the simplest means of differentiation, without which the constitution of things cannot be understood" {24}.

But these are means of differentiation of qualities; and after these have been dealt with, we proceed:

"in opposition to genus stands the concept of magnitude, as of a homogeneity in which no further differences of species exist" {26};

and so from quality we pass to quantity, and this is always "measurable" {26}.

Let us now compare this "sharp division of the general effect-schemata" {Kursus der National- und Sozialökonomie p.6} and its "really critical standpoint" {Kursus der Philosophie p.404} with the crudities, wild ravings and delirious fantasies of a Hegel. We find that Hegel's logic starts from being — as with Herr Dühring; that being turns out to be nothing, just as with Herr Dühring; that from this being-nothing there is a transition to becoming the result of which is determinate being [Dasein], i.e., a higher, fuller form of being [Sein] — just the same as with Herr Dühring. Determinate being leads on to quality, and quality on to quantity — just the same as with Herr Dühring. And so that no essential feature may be missing, Herr Dühring tells us on another occasion:

"From the realm of non-sensation a transition is made to that of sensation, in spite of all quantitative gradations, only through a qualitative leap, of which we can say that it is infinitely different from the mere gradation of one and the same property" {142}.

This is precisely the Hegelian nodal dine of measure relations, in which, at certain definite nodal points, the purely quantitative increase or decrease gives rise to a qualitative leap; for example, in the case of heated or cooled water, where boiling-point and freezing-point are the nodes at which — under normal pressure — the leap to a new state of aggregation takes place, and where consequently quantity is transformed into quality.

Our investigation has likewise tried to reach down to the roots, and it finds the roots of the deep-rooted basic schemata of Herr Dühring to be — the "delirious fantasies" of a Hegel, the categories of Hegelian Logic, Part I, the Doctrine of Being, in strictly old-Hegelian "succession" and with hardly any attempt to cloak the plagiarism!

And not content with pilfering from his worst-slandered predecessor the latter's whole scheme of being, Herr Dühring, after himself giving the above-quoted example of the leaplike change from quantity into quality, says of Marx without the slightest perturbation:

"How ridiculous, for example, is the reference" (made by Marx) "to the Hegelian confused, hazy notion that quantity is transformed into quality!" {Kritische Geschichte der Nationalökonomie und des Sozialismus p.498}.

Confused, hazy notion! Who has been transformed here? And who is ridiculous here, Herr Dühring?

All these pretty little things are therefore not only not "axiomatically decided", as prescribed, but are merely imported from outside, that is to say, from Hegel's Logic. And in fact in such a form that in the whole chapter there is not even the semblance of any internal coherence unless borrowed from Hegel, and the whole question finally trickles out in a meaningless subtilising about space and time, inertness and change.

From being Hegel passes to essence, to dialectics. Here he deals with the determinations of reflection, their internal antagonisms and contradictions, as for example, positive and negative; he then comes to causality or the relation of cause and effect and ends with necessity. Not otherwise Herr Dühring. What Hegel calls the doctrine of essence Herr Dühring translates into "logical properties of being" {Kursus der Philosophie p.29}. These, however, consist above all in the "antagonism of forces" {31}, in opposites. Contradiction, however, Herr Dühring absolutely denies; we will return to this point later. Then he passes over to causality, and from this to necessity. So that when Herr Dühring says of himself:

"We, who do not philosophise out of a cage" {41},

he apparently means that he philosophises in a cage, namely, the cage of the Hegelian schematism of categories.

Notes[edit]

1. Engels enumerates a number of major battles in European wars of the nineteenth century.

The battle of Austerlitz (now Slavkov in Czechoslovakia), December 2, 1805, in which Napoleon I defeated a combined Russo-Austrian army.

The battle of Jena, October 14, 1806, in which Napoleon I crushed the Prussian army.

The battle of Königgrätz (now Hradec Kralove), or of Sadowa, July 3, 1866, in Bohemia, in which Prussian forces defeated the army of Austria and Saxony, thereby securing Prussia's victory over Austria in the war of 1866.

The battle of Sedan, September 1-2, 1870, in which Prussian forces defeated -the French army under MacMahon and compelled it to surrender. This was the decisive battle in the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-71. (Back)