Page:Ethical Theory of Hegel (1921).djvu/33
such a definite object is, for a ‘definite object’ involves much more than does mere ‘being’. We are to say ‘is’, and nothing else. But when we have said this our meaning is indistinguishable from ‘nothing’. If we take away all the particular qualities of things, we abstract from them everything by means of which we distinguish what is from what is not. Being which is not existence in some place and time, and under some special circumstances, and so forth, is as good as non-existence—it is the same as non-existence. Hegel’s contention is that if we are in earnest with our thought and carry it as far as it will go, such a category changes in our hands and shows a meaning which we try to exclude from it. This state of things can be mended only when we adopt a more concrete principle which includes both aspects as part of itself. That is to say, the implication of the one aspect in the other is at the first level a force compelling thought from outside; at the second level it is part of the content of thought itself. When we force reality, as it were, into one of these primitive categories and try to take it abstractly, it avenges itself by turning into another form. The neglected aspects appear in spite of us, and the despised unity of the system as a whole reveals itself by forcing a half idea to turn into its opposite. This change, however, is not part of the category itself. That is to say, the change is immediate for the thinker who uses such principles; he does not apprehend the inner nexus which produces the conversion, and each term is, for him, unmediated by its opposite. Generally speaking, we are offered the alternative of unity or difference by these bare and elementary forms of thought; and the abstractness of our choice amends itself by the unforeseen passage of the one element into the other. In the higher reaches of the dialectic the various aspects have been incorporated by thought to such an extent that the process is not from one aspect to its complementary by this primarily negative path, but is a more straight-forward development; and Hegel speaks of it as mere play.
This brings us to the third point, the power behind the process. This has been said to be contradiction. But such