A. That which the Science of Knowledge deduces is to be a faithful and complete picture of fundamental consciousness. Can its deductions then contain more or less or anything else than what occurs in actual consciousness?
R. By no means. Every deviation from actual consciousness would be a sure proof of the incorrectness of the deduction of that science.
A. Hence, according to all our previous results, the total consciousness of a finite rational being can involve only the following:
Firstly—The primary and fundamental determinations of consciousness, or common consciousness, or immediate experience, or whatever else you choose to call it.
These determinations form in themselves a complete system, which is altogether the same—apart from its exclusively individual determinations—for all rational beings. We have called this system common consciousness, or the first degree of consciousness.
Secondly—The reflection and representation of this common consciousness, the free separating, composing, and infinite judging of it; which, being dependent upon freedom, varies according to the different use made of that freedom. This we have called the higher degrees of consciousness—the middle region of our mind, as it were. It is to be remembered that nothing can occur in these higher degrees which has not occurred previously in common consciousness, at least in its elements. The freedom of the mind has the power infinitely to separate and compose that which is given in fundamental consciousness, but it cannot create anything anew.
Thirdly and finally—A complete deduction of all that which occurs in common consciousness—without any relation to actual experience—from the mere necessary manner of acting of the Intelligence in general; precisely as if that common consciousness were the result of this manner of acting. This is the Science of Knowledge, as the absolute highest degree, which no consciousness can transcend. In this science, also, nothing can occur which has not occurred in actual consciousness, or in experience, in the highest significance of that word.
According to our principles, therefore, nothing can enter the consciousness of a rational being, in any manner, which docs not in its elements occur in experience, and in the experience of all rational beings, without exception. All have received the same gifts, and the same freedom further to develop these gifts; and no one can create something of his own. Our philosophy is, therefore, most decidedly favorably disposed towards common sense, and secures its rights, as we asserted at the beginning; and all other philosophy which opposes it in this respect is in opposition to common sense.
We have said that the Science of Knowledge is a faithful image of fundamental consciousness. Can this image be that consciousness itself, and does it pretend to be it?
R. According to what you have said, and as I now see clearly enough myself, on no account, The determinations of life, which it establishes, must necessarily lack that penetrating something, whereby they tear our self away from us and immerse it in themselves. In the Science of Knowledge we immerse our self altogether in the constructing of these determinations, but not in the determinations themselves, as such; precisely as I immersed my self in the representing of my friend's presence, but not in that presence itself.
A. Very true. The Science of Knowledge pretends to be nothing but a picture of life, not life itself. Whosoever mistakes that science for the latter, utterly misapprehends it. Not a single one of its propositions, thoughts, or results, is one of actual life, or fits into actual life. Those thoughts are, in truth, only thoughts of thoughts, which we have, or ought to have; propositions of propositions which we ought to make our own; statements of statements which we ought to state. The reason why it is so difficult to consider that the Science of Knowledge is nothing more than this, is because other philosophies have claimed to be more, and it seems hard to believe that the new one should be so very different from the former. These previous philosophies claimed to be not only science, but, moreover, wisdom—world-wisdom, or life-wisdom, as they called it;—and hence they were neither. Ours is content to be science, and has from the very beginning disclaimed being anything else by its very name. It cannot make men good, wise, or religious, by demonstration, any more than the previous philosophies could do so; but it knows that it cannot do it, and does not desire to do what it knows it cannot do. It only desires to make those who cultivate it, scientific. Whatsoever it says concerning wisdom, virtue, or religion, must be actually lived and experienced in order to become actual wisdom, virtue, or religion.
R. Hence it probably does not make its study or comprehension the condition of wisdom or of a virtuous life.
A. On the contrary, it is a decided opponent of those who assert all the culture and education of man to consist in his intellectual development, and who believe that they have gained everything when they have made men able arguers. Our science knows very well, and never forgets, that life can be developed only through life.
R. You, therefore, do not, I suppose, invite every one to a study of your science.
A. On the contrary, we rather deplore that half-true philosophical propositions of other systems have already been scattered amongst the people at large. But this we do demand—I may as well make already known all the pretensions of our science, though a century should elapse until they are fulfilled—that every one who studies a science, and moreover every one who is connected with the education of mankind in general or with the administration of government, ought to be in possession of our science.
R. But in spite of the harmony between your science and common sense, which you assert to exist, you cannot well deny that you say: Whatsoever is for us, we produce ourselves. Now this is doubtless an assertion which directly contradicts common consciousness. We are not conscious of producing that which exists, but are conscious only that it exists as we find it, or that we find it given.
A. I do not even clearly understand the assertion which you ascribe to us; hence do not know whether I ought to recognize it as our own, or deny it. But let us examine it. The very description of the Science of Knowledge involves that every one who produces it within himself, produces himself a picture of actual consciousness, and hence a series of pictures of all that is found as actually occurring in consciousness, and contemplates himself in thus producing it. Every one who studies and comprehends that science must find this as an immediate fact in himself. To say that this same series is produced in the same manner in ordinary consciousness would not only be a contradiction of this immediate consciousness itself, but also of the express assertion of the Science of Knowledge, and would annul its whole system; for this Science holds that common consciousness is a complete system, and that no separate part thereof can be without all others, nor all others without each separate part. This Science cannot, therefore, hold that common consciousness produces gradually, and in a series, first a separate A, and then a separate B, &c, &c; since the one is not possible without the other, and since, therefore, the whole, with all its separate parts, would have to be produced at once, if we could speak at all of production in this connection.
But why should we speak of production in connection with actual consciousness? Actual consciousness is; is wholly and altogether complete the moment we ourselves are complete and have self-consciousness, with which self-consciousness, as its ultimate link, the Science of Knowledge concludes. Our existing world is complete, as undoubtedly all will confess, when we are. Our actual life can do nothing more than become conscious of this world, piece by piece, as inexplicable chance may have connected these pieces, and to' comprehend, analyze and form a judgment of these pieces. To assert generating in actual life is, therefore, senseless. Life is not a generating, but a finding. This very pretended generating is what our philosophy contradicts and refutes.
But this absolutely existing world can, according to our philosophy, be treated and judged in actual life, as if it had arisen through an original construction similar to the constructions of the Science of Knowledge. Actual life can be complemented and regarded according to the laws of such a construction, and we can, moreover, be sure that actual observation will confirm such a complementing. It is not necessary to live and experience everything, or all the intermediate links; exactly as we need not, supported by a scientific geometry, actually measure all the lines which we require to use, but can discover some through mere calculation.
But to consider this as if in the light of a categorical it is so, this fiction, in the light of a narrative of a true event which happened at a certain time, is an evident misunderstanding. Does any one believe that we intended to furnish, in our construction of fundamental consciousness in the Science of Knowledge, a history of the acts of consciousness before consciousness was—the history of a man before his birth? How could we, when we expressly declare that consciousness exists only together with all its determinations, and that we do not desire any consciousness in advance of all consciousness and without consciousness? These are misapprehensions which no one guards himself against, because they are not expected until they actually occur.
Thus all cosmogonies are attempts to narrate an original construction of the universe from its fundamental components. But does any originator of a cosmogony pretend to say that things really did happen in the way in which he describes them to have happened in his cosmogony? Certainly not, if he but understands himself and knows whereof he speaks. For he doubtless holds the universe to be an organic whole, whereof no separate part can exist unless all others exist, and which therefore could not rise into existence gradually at all, but must necessarily have been complete at any time when it was. It is true that unscientific understanding—which ought to be kept within the sphere of the Given, and ought not to be invited to investigate matters of this kind—believes itself listening to a narrative, because it can understand only narratives. May we not conclude from the present assumption of so many people, that our gnosogony is intended to be a narrative, that they would not be indisposed to accept it as such if it were but stamped with the seal and authority of age?
R. Nevertheless I hear you speak only of determinations of a consciousness which exists, or of a system of consciousness which exists, &c. But with this the others are not content: they require, first, a system of things, and from this system a consciousness to be generated.
A. You now speak no longer as common sense and actual consciousness speak, but as one of those professional philosophers would speak whom I thought I had silenced long ago. Tell me, and reflect well before you answer: does, then, a thing enter you. and exist for you, except through and together with your consciousness of it? Can the thing, then, in and for your self, be ever separated from your consciousness thereof; or can the consciousness—provided it is the actual or completely determined consciousness of the first degree—be ever separated from the thing? Can you think the thing without the consciousness of it, or an altogether determined consciousness without its thing? Does reality arise for you in any other manner than through your immersing your consciousness into its lowest degree? nay, does not your thinking utterly vanish when you attempt to think differently?
R. If I reflect maturely, I must admit it.
A. It certainly is always you who speak, out of your soul and into your soul. Do not, then, desire to plunge out of yourself, and to grasp something in a different manner than is possible for you; namely, as thing and consciousness, or as consciousness and thing; or rather as neither of both, but as that which is separated into both only after having been grasped: the absolute subjective-objective and objective-subjective.
Common sense never judges otherwise; it always holds both consciousness and the thing together, and always speaks of both in their union. It is only the philosophical system of Dualism which holds differently, when it separates the absolutely inseparable, and when it believes to be thinking very profoundly after its thinking has utterly vanished into smoke.
Now this mature consideration and attentiveness of each one to what passes in his own consciousness appears to us to be so easy and natural, that it ought to require no study to find it, but should be known to every one. For everyone who but awakes to clear consciousness, and tears himself loose from the condition midway between plant and man, finds it thus; and should it be impossible for him to find it thus, there is no help for him.
Some have considered this self-attentiveness to be itself the Science of Knowledge. If it were, the possession of that science would be the easiest thing achievable: that attentiveness to one's self is not the science itself, but merely the first and simplest, but also an exclusive condition of its comprehension.
What ought we to think of the minds of those who even here still scent the escape of a critical and transcendental skepticism, and who believe that they can doubt whether they really must know whereof they speak, and who hold this doubt to be the true philosophical enlightenment.
I beg you, dear reader, do shake these men out of their dreams, and ask them: Do you ever know without having a consciousness? Can you ever, therefore, with your knowledge—and since this knowledge, unless you change yourselves into logs and stones, is inseparable from your nature—can you ever with your whole nature go beyond determinations of consciousness? If you have once obtained a clear insight into this, do, for heaven's sake retain that conviction; keep it always in mind, and let nothing induce you to forget it for a single moment!
Of course, it is well known to us, that if you again pass judgment upon these determinations of consciousness, you generate a consciousness of the second degree, and that this second consciousness now appears to you in this connection as more particularly consciousness, and as mere consciousness, without any relation to the thing; whereas the determination of the first consciousness appears to you now, when related to this mere consciousness, as a mere thing, precisely as the measure of your line appears to you a something else than the line itself.
But you will surely not allow yourself to be deceived by this appearance, since you have now convinced yourself that nothing can exist for you except determinations of consciousness. You will, therefore, understand that that seeming thing is nothing but such a determination of your consciousness, as you have named thing merely in its relation to a higher consciousness; precisely as you can at every moment become conscious that your measure of the line is altogether nothing but the line itself, and is this line only as thought is another relation, and more definitely.
Neither is it unknown to us, that if you think a permanent system of fundamental determinations of consciousness—which you certainly must think in order properly to seize the conception of the Science of Knowledge—it is not well possible for you to fix and place before you as permanent and steady that ever living and constantly becoming somewhat, as which your consciousness appears to you; and that this system, therefore, in its relation to your consciousness changes into a system of the universe, as, indeed, your whole world, even as/ thought on the standpoint of ordinary consciousness is nothing but this tacitly presupposed system of the fundamental determinations of consciousness in general. But you ought to know from your previous reflection, and keep in mind always, that, nevertheless, as sure as you think, know and speak of it, and not—not think, not know, and not speak of it, it in reality can be only a system of determinations of your consciousness.