The Vocation of Man/Part 2
Chagrin and anguish stung me to the heart. I cursed the returning day which called me back to an existence whose truth and significance were now involved in doubt. I awoke in the night from unquiet dreams. I sought anxiously for a ray of light that might lead me out of these mazes of uncertainty. I sought, but only became more deeply entangled in the labyrinth.
Once, at the hour of midnight, a wondrous shape appeared before me, and addressed me, —
“Poor mortal,” I heard it say, “thou heapest error upon error, and fanciest thyself wise. Thou tremblest before the phantoms which thou hast thyself toiled to create. Dare to become truly wise. I bring thee no new revelation. What I can teach thee thou already knowest, and thou hast but to recall it to thy remembrance. I cannot deceive thee; for thou, thyself, wilt acknowledge me to be in the right; and shouldst thou still be deceived, thou wilt be deceived by thyself. Take courage; — listen to me, and answer my questions.”
I took courage. “He appeals to my own understanding. I will make the venture. He cannot force his own thoughts into my mind; the conclusion to which I shall come must be thought out by myself; the conviction which I shall accept must be my own creation. Speak, wonderful Spirit!” I exclaimed, “whatever thou art! Speak, and I will listen. Question me, and I will answer.”
The Spirit. Thou believest that these objects here, and those there, are actually present before thee, and out of thyself?
I. Certainly I do.
Spirit. And how dost thou know that they are actually present?
I. I see them; I would feel them were I to stretch forth my hand; I can hear the sounds they produce; they reveal themselves to me through all my senses.
Spirit. Indeed! Thou wilt perhaps by and by retract the assertion that thou seest, feelest, and hearest these objects. For the present I will speak as thou dost, as if thou didst really, by means of thy sight, touch, and hearing, perceive the real existence of objects. But observe, it is only by means of thy sight, touch, and other external senses. Or is it not so? Dost thou perceive otherwise than through thy senses? and has an object any existence for thee, otherwise than as thou seest, hearest it, &c.?
I. By no means.
Spirit. Perceptible objects have, therefore, an existence for thee, only in consequence of a particular determination of thy external senses: thy knowledge of them is but a result of thy knowledge of this determination of thy sight, touch, &c. Thy declaration — ‘there are objects out of myself,’ depends upon this other — ‘I see, hear, feel, and so forth’?I. This is my meaning.
Spirit. And how dost thou know then that thou seest, hearest, feelest?
I. I do not understand thee. Thy questions appear strange to me.
Spirit. I will make them more intelligible. Dost thou see thy sight, and feel thy touch, or hast thou yet a higher sense, through which thou perceivest thy external senses, and their determinations?
I. By no means. I know immediately that I see and feel, and what I see and feel; I know this while it is, and simply because it is, without the intervention of any other sense. It was on this account that thy question seemed strange to me, because it appeared to throw doubt on this immediate consciousness.
Spirit. That was not my intention: I desired only to induce thee to make this immediate consciousness clear to thyself. So thou hast an immediate consciousness of thy sight and touch?
Spirit. Of thy sight and touch, I said. Thou art, therefore, the subject seeing, feeling, &c.; and when thou art conscious of the seeing, feeling, &c., thou art conscious of a particular determination or modification of thyself.
Spirit. Thou hast a consciousness of thy seeing, feeling, &c., and thereby thou perceivest the object. Couldst thou not perceive it without this consciousness? Canst thou not recognise an object by sight or hearing, without knowing that thou seest or hearest?
I. By no means.
Spirit. The immediate consciousness of thyself, and of thy own determinations, is, therefore, the imperative condition of all other consciousness; and thou knowest a thing, only in so far as thou knowest that thou knowest it: no element can enter into the latter cognition which is not contained in the former. Thou canst not know anything, without knowing that thou knowest it?
I. I think so.
Spirit. Therefore thou knowest of the existence of objects only by means of seeing, feeling them, &c.; and thou knowest that thou seest and feelest, only by means of an immediate consciousness of this knowledge. What thou dost not perceive immediately, thou dost not perceive at all.
I. I see that it is so.
Spirit. In all perception, thou perceivest in the first place only thyself and thine own condition; whatever is not contained in this perception, is not perceived at all?
I. Thou repeatest what I have already admitted.
Spirit. I would not weary of repeating it in all its applications, if I thought that thou hadst not thoroughly comprehended it, and indelibly impressed it on thy mind. Canst thou say, I am conscious of external objects?
I. By no means, if I speak accurately; for the sight and touch by which I grasp these objects are not consciousness itself, but only that of which I am first and most immediately conscious. Strictly speaking, I can only say, that I am conscious of seeing and touching these objects.
Spirit. Do not forget, then, what thou hast now clearly understood. In all perception thou perceivest only thine own condition.
I will, however, continue to speak thy language, since it is most familiar to thee. Thou hast said that thou canst see, hear, and feel objects. How then, — that is, with what properties or attributes, — dost thou see or feel them?
I. I see that object red, this blue; when I touch them, I find this smooth, that rough — this cold, that warm.
Spirit. Thou knowest then what red, blue, smooth, rough, cold, and warm, really signify?
I. Undoubtedly I do.
Spirit. Wilt thou not describe it to me then?
I. It cannot be described. Look! Direct thine eye towards that object: — what thou becomest conscious of through thy sight, I call red. Touch the surface of this other object: — what thou feelest, I call smooth. In this way I have arrived at this knowledge, and there is no other way by which it can be acquired.
Spirit. But can we not, at least from some of these qualities known by immediate sensation, deduce a knowledge of others differing from them? If, for instance, any one had seen red, green, yellow, but never a blue colour; had tasted sour, sweet, salt, but never bitter, — would he not, by mere reflection and comparison, be able to discover what is meant by blue or bitter, without having ever seen or tasted anything of the kind?
I. Certainly not. What is matter of sensation can only be felt, it is not discoverable by thought; it is no deduction, but a direct and immediate perception.
Spirit. Strange! Thou boastest of a knowledge respecting which thou art unable to tell how thou hast attained it. For see, thou maintainest that thou canst see one quality in an object, feel another, hear a third; thou must, therefore, be able to distinguish sight from touch, and both from hearing?
I. Without doubt.
Spirit. Thou maintainest further, that thou seest this object red, that blue; and feelest this smooth, that rough. Thou must therefore be able to distinguish red from blue, smooth from rough?
I. Without doubt.
Spirit. And thou maintainest that thou hast not discovered this difference by means of reflection and comparison of these sensations in thyself. But perhaps thou hast learnt, by comparing the red or blue colours, the smooth or rough surfaces of objects out of thyself, what thou shouldst feel in thyself as red or blue, smooth or rough?
I. This is impossible; for my perception of objects proceeds from my perception of my own internal condition, and is determined by it, but not the contrary. I first distinguish objects by distinguishing my own states of being. I can learn that this particular sensation is indicated by the wholly arbitrary sign, red; — and those by the signs, blue, smooth, rough; but I cannot learn that the sensations themselves are distinguished, nor how they are distinguished. That they are different, I know only by being conscious of myself, and being conscious of internal change. How they differ, I cannot describe; but I know that they must differ as much as my self-consciousness differs; and this difference of sensations is an immediate, and by no means an acquired, distinction.Spirit. Which thou canst make independently of all knowledge of the objects themselves?
I. Which I must make independently of such knowledge, for this knowledge itself is dependent on that distinction.
Spirit. Which is then given to thee immediately through mere self-consciousness?
I. In no other way.
Spirit. But thou shouldst then content thyself with saying, — “I feel myself affected in the manner that I call red, blue, smooth, rough.” Thou shouldst place these sensations in thyself alone, and not transfer them to an object lying entirely out of thyself, and declare the modifications of thyself to be properties of this object.
Or, tell me, when thou believest that thou seest an object red, or feelest it smooth, dost thou really perceive anything more than that thou art affected in a certain manner?
I. From what has gone before, I have clearly seen, that I do not, in fact, perceive more than what thou sayest, and this transference of what is in me to something out of myself, from which nevertheless I cannot refrain, now appears very strange to me.
My sensations are in myself, not in the object, for I am myself and not the object; I am conscious only of myself and of my own state, not of the state of the object. If there be a consciousness of the object, that consciousness is, certainly, neither sensation nor perception: — thus much is clear.
Is there then in the object, as thou usually conceivest of it, anything more than its red colour, its smooth surface, and so on; in short, anything besides those characteristic marks which thou obtainest through immediate sensation?
I. I believe that there is: besides these attributes there is yet the thing itself to which they belong; the substratum which supports these attributes.
Spirit. But through what sense dost thou perceive this substratum of these attributes? Dost thou see it, feel it, hear it; or is there perhaps a special sense for its perception?
I. No. I think that I see and feel it.
Spirit. Indeed! Let us examine this more closely. Art thou then ever conscious of thy sight in itself, or at all times only of determinate acts of sight?
I. I have always a determinate sensation of sight.
Spirit. And what is this determinate sensation of sight, with respect to that object there?
I. That of red colour.
Spirit. And this red is something positive, a simple sensation, a specific state of thyself?
I. This I have understood.
Spirit. Thou shouldst therefore see the red in itself as simple, as a mathematical point, and thou dost see it only as such. In thee at least, as an affection of thyself, it is obviously a simple, determinate state, without connexion with anything else, — which we can only describe as a mathematical point. Or dost thou find it otherwise?
I. I must admit that such is the case.
Spirit. But now thou spreadest this simple red over a broad surface, which thou assuredly dost not see, since thou seest only a simple red. How dost thou obtain this surface?
I. It is certainly strange. — Yet, I believe that I have found the explanation. I do not indeed see the surface, but I feel it when I pass my hand over it. My sensation of sight remains the same during this process of feeling, and hence I extend the red colour over the whole surface which I feel while I continue to see the same red.
Spirit. This might be so, didst thou really feel such a surface. But let us see whether that be possible. Thou dost not feel absolutely; thou feelest only thy feelings, and art only conscious of these?
I. Certainly. Each sensation is a determinate something. I never merely see, or hear, or feel, in general, but my sensations are always definite; — red, green, blue colours, cold, warmth, smoothness, roughness, the sound of the violin, the voice of man, and the like, — are seen, felt, or heard. Let that be settled between us.
Spirit. Willingly. — Thus, when thou saidst that thou didst feel a surface, thou hadst only an immediate consciousness of feeling smooth, rough, or the like?
Spirit. This smooth or rough is, like the red colour, a simple sensation, — a point in thee, the subject in which it abides? And with the same right with which I formerly asked why thou didst spread a simple sensation of sight over an imaginary surface, do I now ask why thou shouldst do the same with a simple sensation of touch?
I. This smooth surface is perhaps not equally smooth in all points, but possesses in each a different degree of smoothness, only that I want the capacity of strictly distinguishing these degrees from each other, and language whereby to retain and express their differences. Yet I do distinguish them, unconsciously, and place them side by side; and thus I form the conception of a surface.
Spirit. But canst thou, in the same undivided moment of time, have sensations of opposite kinds, or be affected at the same time in different ways?
I. By no means.
Spirit. Those different degrees of smoothness, which thou wouldst assume in order to explain what thou canst not explain, are nevertheless, in so far as they are different from each other, mere opposite sensations which succeed each other in thee?
I. I cannot deny this.
Spirit. Thou shouldst therefore describe them as thou really findest them, — as successive changes of the same mathematical point, such as thou perceivest in other cases; and not as adjacent and simultaneous qualities of several points in one surface.
I. I see this, and I find that nothing is explained by my assumption. But my hand, with which I touch the object, and cover it, is itself a surface; and by it I perceive the object to be a surface, and a greater one than my hand, since I can extend my hand several times upon it.Spirit. Thy hand is a surface? How dost thou know that? How dost thou attain a consciousness of thy hand at all? Is there any other way than either that thou by means of it feelest something else, in which case it is an instrument; or that thou feelest itself by means of some other part of thy body, in which case it is an object?
I. No, there is no other. With my hand I feel some other definite object, or I feel my hand itself by means of some other part of my body. I have no immediate, absolute consciousness of my hand, any more than of my sight or touch.
Spirit. Let us, at present, consider only the case in which thy hand is an instrument, for this will determine the second case also. In this case there can be nothing more in the immediate perception than what belongs to sensation, — that whereby thou thyself, and here in particular thy hand, is conceived of as the subject tasting in the act of taste, feeling in the act of touch. Now, either thy sensation is single; in which case I cannot see why thou shouldst extend this single sensation over a sentient surface, and not content thyself with a single sentient point; — or thy sensation is varied; and in this case, since the differences must succeed each other, I again do not see why thou shouldst not conceive of these feelings as succeeding each other in the same point. That thy hand should appear to thee as a surface, is just as inexplicable as thy notion of a surface in general. Do not make use of the first in order to explain the second, until thou hast explained the first itself. The second case, in which thy hand, or whatever other member of thy body thou wilt, is itself the object of a sensation, may easily be explained by means of the first. Thou perceivest this member by means of another, which is then the sentient one. I ask the same question concerning this latter member that I asked concerning thy hand, and thou art as little able to answer it as before.
So it is with the surface of thy eyes, and with every other surface of thy body. It may very well be that the consciousness of an extension out of thyself, proceeds from the consciousness of thine own extension as a material body, and is conditioned by it. But then thou must, in the first place, explain this extension of thy material body.
I. It is enough. I now perceive clearly that I neither see nor feel the superficial extension of the properties of bodies, nor apprehend it by any other sense. I see that it is my constant practice to extend over a surface, what nevertheless in sensation is but one point; to represent as adjacent and simultaneous, what I ought to represent only as successive, since in mere sensation there is nothing simultaneous, but all is successive. I discover that I proceed in fact exactly as the geometer does in the construction of his figures, extending points to lines, and lines to surfaces. I am astonished how I should have done this.
Spirit. Thou dost more than this, and what is yet more strange. This surface which thou attributest to bodies, thou canst indeed neither see nor feel, nor perceive by any organ; but it may be said, in a certain sense, that thou canst see the red colour upon it, or feel the smoothness. But thou addest something more even to this surface: thou extendest it to a solid mathematical figure; as by thy previous admission thou hast extended the line to a surface. Thou assumest a substantial interior existence of the body behind its surface. Tell me, canst thou then see, feel, or recognise by any sense, the actual presence of anything behind this surface?
I. By no means: — the space behind the surface is impenetrable to my sight, touch, or any of my senses.
Spirit. And yet thou dost assume the existence of such an interior substance, which, nevertheless, thou canst not perceive?
I. I confess it, and my astonishment increases.
Spirit. What then is this something which thou imaginest to be behind the surface?
I. Well — I suppose something similar to the surface, — something tangible.
Spirit. We must ascertain this more distinctly. Canst thou divide the mass of which thou imaginest the body to consist?
I. I can divide it to infinity; — I do not mean with instruments, but in thought. No possible part is the smallest, so that it cannot be again divided.
Spirit. And in this division dost thou ever arrive at a portion of which thou canst suppose that it is no longer perceptible in itself to sight, touch, &c.; — in itself I say, besides being imperceptible to thy own particular organs of sense?
I. By no means.
Spirit. Visible, perceptible absolutely? — or with certain properties of colour, smoothness, roughness, and the like?
I. In the latter way. Nothing is visible or perceptible absolutely, because there is no absolute sense of sight or touch.
Spirit. Then thou dost but spread through the whole mass thy own sensibility, that which is already familiar to thee, — visibility as coloured, tangibility as rough, smooth, or the like; and after all it is this sensibility itself of which alone thou art sensible? Or dost thou find it otherwise?I. By no means: what thou sayest follows from what I have already understood and admitted.
Spirit. And yet thou dost perceive nothing behind the surface, and hast perceived nothing there?
I. Were I to break through it, I should perceive something.
Spirit. So much therefore thou knowest beforehand. And this infinite divisibility, in which, as thou maintainest, thou canst never arrive at anything absolutely imperceptible, thou hast never carried it out, nor canst thou do so?
I. I cannot carry it out.
Spirit. To a sensation, therefore, which thou hast really had, thou addest in imagination another which thou hast not had?
I. I am sensible only of that which I attribute to the surface; I am not sensible of what lies behind it, and yet I assume the existence of something there which might be perceived. Yes, I must admit what thou sayest.
Spirit. And the actual sensation is in part found to correspond with what thou hast thus pre-supposed?
I. When I break through the surface of a body, I do indeed find beneath it something perceptible, as I pre-supposed. Yes, I must admit this also.
Spirit. Partly, however, thou hast maintained that there is something beyond sensation, which cannot become apparent to any actual perception.
I. I maintain, that were I to divide a corporeal mass to infinity, I could never come to any part which is in itself imperceptible; although I admit that I can never make the experiment, — can never practically carry out the division of a corporeal mass to infinity. Yes, I must agree with thee in this also.
Spirit. Thus there is nothing remaining of the object but what is perceptible, — what is a property or attribute; — this perceptibility thou extendest through a continuous space which is divisible to infinity; and the true substratum or supporter of the attributes of things which thou hast sought, is, therefore, only the space which is thus filled?
I. Although I cannot be satisfied with this, but feel that I must still suppose in the object something more than this perceptibility and the space which it fills, yet I cannot point out this something, and I must therefore confess that I have hitherto been unable to discover any substratum but space itself.
Spirit. Always confess whatever thou perceivest to be true. The present obscurities will gradually become clear, and the unknown will be made known. Space itself, however, is not perceived; and thou canst not understand how thou hast obtained this conception, or why thou extendest throughout it this property of perceptibility?
I. It is so.
Spirit. As little dost thou understand how thou hast obtained even this conception of a perceptibility out of thyself, since thou really perceivest only thine own sensation in thyself, not as the property of an external thing, but as an affection of thine own being.
I. So it is. I see clearly that I really perceive only my own state, and not the object; that I neither see, feel, nor hear this object; but that, on the contrary, precisely there where the object should be, all seeing, feeling, and so forth, comes to an end.
But I have a presentiment. Sensations, as affections of myself, have no extension whatever, but are simple states; in their differences they are not contiguous to each other in space, but successive to each other in time. Nevertheless, I do extend them in space. May it not be by means of this extension, and simultaneously with it, that what is properly only my own feeling or sensation becomes changed for me into a perceptible something out of myself; and may not this be the precise point at which there arises within me a consciousness of the external object?
Spirit. This conjecture may be confirmed. But could we raise it immediately to a conviction, we should thereby attain to no complete insight, for this higher question would still remain to be answered, — How dost thou first come to extend sensation through space? Let us then proceed at once to this question; and let us propound it more generally — I have my reasons for doing so — in the following manner: — How is it, that, with thy consciousness, which is but an immediate consciousness of thyself, thou proceedest out of thyself; and to the sensation which thou dost perceive, superaddest an object perceived and perceptible, which yet thou dost not perceive?
I. Sweet or bitter, fragrant or ill-scented, rough or smooth, cold or warm, — these qualities, when applied to things, signify whatever excites in me this or that taste, smell, or other sensation. It is the same with respect to sounds. A relation to myself is always indicated, and it never occurs to me that the sweet or bitter taste, the pleasant or unpleasant smell, lies in the thing itself; — it lies in me, and it only appears to be excited by the object. It seems indeed to be otherwise with the sensations of sight, — with colours, for example, which may not be pure sensations, but a sort of intermediate affections; yet when we consider it strictly, red, and the others, means nothing more than what produces in me a certain sensation of sight. This leads me to understand how it is that I attain to a knowledge of things out of myself. I am affected in a particular manner — this I know absolutely; — this affection must have a foundation; this foundation is not in myself, and therefore must be out of myself; — thus I reason rapidly and unconsciously, and forthwith assume the existence of such a foundation, namely, the object. This foundation must be one by which the particular affection in question may be explained; — I am affected in the manner which I call a sweet taste, the object must therefore be of a kind to excite a sweet taste, or more briefly, must itself be sweet. In this way I determine the character of the object.
Spirit. There may be some truth in what thou sayest, although it is not the whole truth which might be said upon the subject. How this stands we shall undoubtedly discover in due time. Since, however, it cannot be denied that in other cases thou dost discover some truth by means of this principle of causality, — so I term the doctrine which thou hast just asserted, that everything (in this case thy affection) must have a foundation or cause, — since this, I say, cannot be denied, it may not be superfluous to learn strictly to understand this procedure, and to make it perfectly clear to ourselves what it is thou really dost when thou adoptest it. Let us suppose, in the meantime, that thy statement is perfectly correct, that it is by an unconscious act of reasoning, from the effect to the cause, that thou first comest to assume the existence of an outward object; — what then was it which thou wert here conscious of perceiving?
I. That I was affected in a certain manner.
Spirit. But of an object, affecting thee in a certain manner, thou wert not conscious, at least not as a perception?
I. By no means. I have already admitted this.
Spirit. Then, by the principle of causality, thou addest to a knowledge which thou hast, another which thou hast not?
I. Thy words are strange.
Spirit. Perhaps I may succeed in removing this strangeness. But let my words appear to thee as they may. They ought only to lead thee to produce in thine own mind the same thought that I have produced in mine; not serve thee as a text-book which thou hast only to repeat. Once thou hast the thought itself firmly and clearly in thy grasp, then express it as thou wilt, and with as much variety as thou wilt, and be sure that thou wilt always express it well.
How, and by what means, knowest thou of this affection of thyself?
I. It would be difficult to answer thee in words: — Because my consciousness, as a subjective attribute, as the determination of my being in so far as I am an intelligence, proceeds directly upon the existence of this affection as its object, as that of which I am conscious, and is inseparably united with it; — because I am only possessed of consciousness at all in so far as I am cognisant of such an affection; — cognisant of it absolutely as I am cognisant of my own existence.
Spirit. Thou hast therefore an organ, namely, consciousness itself, whereby thou perceivest such an affection of thyself?
Spirit. But an organ whereby thou perceivest the object itself thou hast not?
I. Since thou hast convinced me that I neither see nor feel the object itself, nor apprehend it by any external sense, I find myself compelled to confess that I have no such organ.
Spirit. Bethink thee well of this. It may be turned against thee that thou hast made me this admission. What then is an external sense at all, and how canst thou call it external, if it have no reference to any external object, and be not the organ whereby thou hast any knowledge of such?
I. I desire truth, and trouble myself little about what may be turned against me. I distinguish absolutely because I do distinguish them, green, sweet, red, smooth, bitter, fragrant, rough, ill-scented, the sound of a violin and of a trumpet. Among these sensations I place some in a certain relation of likeness to each other, although in other respects I distinguish them from each other; thus I find green and red, sweet and bitter, rough and smooth, &c., to have a certain relation of similarity to each other, and this similarity I feel to be respectively one of sight, taste, touch, &c. Sight, taste, and so forth, are not indeed in themselves actual sensations, for I never see or feel absolutely, as thou hast previously remarked, but always see red or green, taste sweet or bitter, &c. Sight, taste, and the like, are only higher definitions of actual sensations; they are classes to which I refer these latter, not by arbitrary arrangement, but guided by the immediate sensation itself. I see in them therefore not external senses, but only particular definitions of the objects of the inward sense, of my own states or affections. How they become external senses, or, more strictly speaking, how I come to regard them as such and so to name them, is now the question. I do not take back my admission that I have no organ for the object itself.
Spirit. Yet thou speakest of objects as if thou didst really know of their existence, and hadst an organ for such knowledge?
Spirit. And this thou dost, according to thy previous assumption, in consequence of the knowledge which thou really dost possess, and for which thou hast an organ, and on account of this knowledge?
I. It is so.
Spirit. Thy real knowledge, that of thy sensations or affections, is to thee like an imperfect knowledge, which, as thou sayest, requires to be completed by another. This other new knowledge thou conceivest and describest to thyself, — not as something which thou hast, for thou hast it not, — but as something which thou shouldst have, over and above thy actual knowledge, if thou hadst an organ wherewith to apprehend it. “I know nothing indeed,” thou seemest to say, “of things in themselves, but such things there must be; if I could but find them, they are to be found.” Thou supposest another organ, which indeed is not thine, and this thou employest upon them, and thereby apprehendest them, — of course in thought only. Strictly speaking, thou hast no consciousness of things, but only a consciousness (produced by a procession out of thy actual consciousness by means of the principle of causality) of a consciousness of things (such as ought to be, such as of necessity must be, although not accessible to thee); and now thou wilt perceive that, in the supposition thou hast made, thou hast added to a knowledge which thou hast, another which thou hast not.
I. I must admit this.
Spirit. Henceforward let us call this second knowledge, obtained by means of another, mediate, and the first immediate knowledge. A certain school has called this procedure which we have to some extent described above, a synthesis; by which we are to understand not a con-nexion established between two elements previously existing, but an an-nexion, and an addition of a wholly new element arising through this an-nexion, to another element previously existing independently of such addition.
Thus thou findest the first consciousness as soon as thou findest thy own existence, and thou dost not find the latter without the former; the second consciousness is produced in thee by means of the first.
I. But not successive to it in time; for I am conscious of external things at the very same undivided moment in which I become conscious of myself.
Spirit. I did not speak of such a succession in time at all; but I think that when thou reflectest upon that undivided consciousness of thyself and of the external object, distinguishest between them, and inquirest into their connexion, thou dost find that the latter can only be conceived of as conditioned by the former, and as only possible on the supposition of its existence; but not vice versa.
I. So I find it to be; and if that be all thou wouldst say, I admit thy assertion, and have already admitted it.
Spirit. Thou engenderest, I say, this second consciousness; producest it by a real act of thy mind. Or dost thou find it otherwise?
I. I have surely admitted this already. I add to the consciousness which is simultaneous with that of my existence, another which I do not find in myself; I thus complete and double my actual consciousness, and this is certainly an act. But I am tempted to take back either my admission, or else the whole supposition. I am perfectly conscious of the act of my mind when I form a general conception, or when in cases of doubt I choose one of the many possible modes of action which lie before me; but of the act through which, according to thy assertion, I must produce the representation of an object out of myself, I am not conscious at all.
Spirit. Do not be deceived. Of the act of thy mind thou canst become conscious only in so far as thou dost pass through a state of indetermination and indecision, of which thou wert likewise conscious, and to which this act puts an end. There is no such state of indecision in the case we have supposed; the mind has no need to deliberate what object it shall superadd to its particular sensations, — it is done at once. We even find this distinction in philosophical phraseology. An act of the mind, of which we are conscious as such, is called freedom. An act, without consciousness of action, is called spontaneity. Remember that I by no means demand of thee an immediate consciousness of the act as such, but only that on subsequent reflection thou shouldst discover that there must have been an act. The higher question, what it is that prevents any such state of indecision, or any consciousness of our act, will undoubtedly be afterwards solved.
This act of the mind is called thought; a word which I have hitherto employed with thy concurrence; and it is said that thought takes place with spontaneity, in opposition to sensation which is mere receptivity. How is it then, that, in thy previous statement, thou addest in thought to the sensation which thou certainly hast, an object of which thou knowest nothing?
I. I assume that my sensation must have a cause, and then proceed further, —
Spirit. Wilt thou not, in the first place, explain to me what is a cause?
I. I find a thing determined this way or that. I cannot rest satisfied with knowing that so it is; — it has become so, and that not by itself, but by means of a foreign power. This foreign power, that made it what it is, contains the cause, and the manifestation of that power, which did actually make it so, is the cause of this particular determination of the thing. That my sensation must have a cause, means that it is produced within me by a foreign power.
Spirit. This foreign power thou now addest in thought to the sensation of which thou art immediately conscious, and thus there arises in thee the presentation of an object? Well, — let it be so.
Now observe; if sensation must have a cause, then I admit the correctness of thy inference; and I see with what perfect right thou assumest the existence of objects out of thyself, notwithstanding that thou neither knowest nor canst know aught of them. But how then dost thou know, and how dost thou propose to prove, that sensation must have a cause? Or, in the general manner in which thou hast stated the proposition, why canst thou not rest satisfied to know that something is? why must thou assume that it has become so, or that it has become so by means of a foreign power? I remark that thou hast always only assumed this.
I. I confess it. But I cannot do otherwise than think so. It seems as if I knew it immediately.
Spirit. What this answer, “thou knowest it immediately,” may signify, we shall see should we be brought back to it as the only possible one. We will however first try all other possible methods of ascertaining the grounds of the assertion that everything must have a cause.
Dost thou know this by immediate perception?
I. How could I? since perception only declares that in me something is, according as my nature is determined; but never that it has become so; still less that it has become so by means of a foreign power lying beyond all perception.
Spirit. Or dost thou obtain this principle by generalisation of thy observation of external things, the cause of which thou hast always discovered out of themselves; an observation which thou now appliest to thyself and to thine own condition?
I. Do not treat me like a child, and ascribe to me palpable absurdities. By the principle of causality I first arrive at a knowledge of things out of myself; how then can I again, by observation of these things, arrive at this principle itself. Shall the earth rest on the great elephant, and the great elephant again upon the earth?
Spirit. Or is this principle a deduction from some other general truth?
I. Which again could be founded neither on immediate perception, nor in the observation of external things, and concerning the origin of which thou wouldst still raise other questions! I might only possess this previous fundamental truth by immediate knowledge. Better to say this at once of the principle of causality, and let thy conjectures rest.
Spirit. Let it be so; — we then obtain, besides the first immediate knowledge, through sensible perception, of our own states, a second immediate knowledge concerning a general truth?
I. So it appears.
Spirit. The particular knowledge now in question, namely, that thy affections or states must have a cause, is entirely independent of the knowledge of things?
I. Certainly, for the latter is obtained only by means of it.
Spirit. And thou hast it absolutely in thyself?
I. Absolutely, for only by means of it do I first proceed out of myself.
Spirit. Out of thyself therefore, and through thyself, and through thine own immediate knowledge, thou prescribest laws to being and its relations?
I. Rightly considered, I prescribe laws only to my own presentations of being and its relations, and it will be more correct to make use of this expression.Spirit. Be it so. Art thou then conscious of these laws in any other way than as thou dost act in accordance with them?
I. My consciousness begins with the perception of my own state; I connect directly therewith the presentation of an object according to the principle of causality; — both of these, the consciousness of my own state, and the presentation of an object, are inseparably united, there is no intervening consciousness between them, and this one undivided consciousness is preceded by no other. No, it is impossible that I should be conscious of this law before acting in accordance with it, or in any other way than by so acting.
Spirit. Thou actest upon this law therefore without being conscious of it; thou actest upon it immediately and absolutely. Yet thou didst but now declare thyself conscious of it, and didst express it as a general proposition. How hast thou arrived at this latter consciousness?
I. Doubtless thus. I observe myself subsequently, and perceive that I have thus acted, and comprehend this ordinary course of procedure in a general law.
Spirit. Thou canst therefore become conscious of this course of procedure?
I. Unquestionably. — I guess the object of these questions. This is the above-mentioned second kind of immediate consciousness, that of my activity; as the first is sensation, or the consciousness of my passivity.
Spirit. Right. Thou mayest subsequently become conscious of thine own acts, by free observation of thyself and by reflection; but it is not necessary that thou shouldst become so; — thou dost not become immediately conscious of them at the moment of thy internal act.
I. Yet I must be originally conscious of them, for I am immediately conscious of my presentation of the object at the same moment that I am conscious of the sensation. — I have found the solution; I am immediately conscious of my act, only not as such; but it moves before me as an objective reality. This consciousness is a consciousness of the object. Subsequently by free reflection I may also become conscious of it as an act of my own mind.
My immediate consciousness is composed of two elements: — the consciousness of my passivity, i.e. sensation, and of my activity in the production of an object according to the law of causality; the latter consciousness connecting itself immediately with the former. My consciousness of the object is only a yet unrecognised consciousness of my production of a presentation of an object. I am only cognisant of this production because I myself am the producer. And thus all consciousness is immediate, is but a consciousness of myself, and therefore perfectly comprehensible. Am I in the right?
Spirit. Perfectly so; but whence then the necessity and universality thou hast ascribed to thy principles; — in this case to the principle of causality?
I. From the immediate feeling that I cannot act otherwise, as surely as I have reason; and that no other reasonable being can act otherwise, as surely as it is a reasonable being. My proposition, — “All that is contingent, such as in this case my sensation, must have a cause,” — means the following: “I have at all times pre-supposed a cause, and every one who thinks will likewise be constrained to pre-suppose a cause.”
Spirit. Thou perceivest then that all knowledge is merely a knowledge of thyself; that thy consciousness never goes beyond thyself; and that what thou assumest to be a consciousness of the object is nothing but a consciousness of thine own supposition of an object, which, according to an inward law of thought, thou dost necessarily make simultaneously with the sensation itself.
I. Proceed boldly with thy inferences; — I have not interrupted thee, I have even helped thee in the development of these conclusions. But now, seriously, I retract my whole previous position, that by means of the principle of causality I arrive at the knowledge of external things; and I did indeed inwardly retract it as soon as it led us into serious error.
In this way I could become conscious only of a mere power out of myself, and of this only as a conception of my own mind, just as for the explanation of magnetic phenomena, I suppose a magnetic — or for the explanation of electrical phenomena, an electrical — power in Nature.
The world to me does not appear such a mere thought, — the thought of a mere power. It is something extended, something which is thoroughly tangible, not, like a mere power, through its manifestations, but in itself; — it does not, like this, merely produce, it has qualities; — I am inwardly conscious of my apprehension of it, in a manner quite different from my consciousness of mere thought; — it appears to me as perception, although it has been proved that it cannot be such; and it would be difficult for me to describe this kind of consciousness, and to distinguish it from the other kinds of which we have spoken.
Spirit. Thou must nevertheless attempt such a description, otherwise I shall not understand thee, and we shall never arrive at clearness.
I. I will attempt to open a way towards it. I beseech thee, O Spirit! if thy organ of sight be like mine, to fix thine eye on the red object before us, to surrender thyself unreservedly to the impression produced by it, and to forget meanwhile thy previous conclusions; — and now tell me candidly what takes place in thy mind.
Spirit. I can completely place myself in thy position; and it is no purpose of mine to disown any impression which has an actual existence. But tell me, what is the effect you anticipate?
I. Dost thou not perceive and apprehend at a single glance, the surface? — I say the surface, — does it not stand there present before thee, entire and at once? — art thou conscious, even in the most distant and obscure way, of this extension of a simple red point to a line, and of this line to a surface, of which thou hast spoken? It is an after-thought to divide this surface, and conceive of its points and lines. Wouldst thou not, and would not every one who impartially observes himself, maintain and insist, notwithstanding thy former conclusions, that he really saw a surface of such or such a colour?
Spirit. I admit all this; and on examining myself, I find that it is exactly so as thou hast described.
But, in the first place, hast thou forgotten that it is not our object to relate to each other what presents itself in consciousness, as in a journal of the human mind, but to consider its various phenomena in their connexion, and to explain them by, and deduce them from, each other; and that consequently none of thine observations, which certainly cannot be denied, but which must be explained, can overturn any one of my just conclusions.
I. I shall never lose sight of this.
Spirit. Then do not, in the remarkable resemblance of this consciousness of bodies out of thyself, which yet thou canst not describe, to real perception, overlook the great difference nevertheless existing between them.
I. I was about to mention this difference. Each indeed appears as an immediate, not as an acquired or produced consciousness. But sensation is consciousness of my own state. Not so the consciousness of the object itself, which has absolutely no reference to me. I know that it is, and this is all; it does not concern me. If, in the first case, I seem like a soft strain of music which is modulated now in this way now in that, in the other, I appear like a mirror before which objects pass by without causing the slightest change in it.
This distinction however is in my favour. Just so much the more do I seem to have a distinct consciousness of an existence out of myself entirely independent of the sense of my own state of being; — of an existence out of myself, I say — for this differs altogether in kind from the consciousness of my own internal states.
Spirit. Thou observest well; — but do not rush too hastily to a conclusion. If that whereon we have already agreed remain true, and thou canst be immediately conscious of thyself only; if the consciousness now in question be not a consciousness of thine own passivity, and still less a consciousness of thine own activity; — may it not then be an unrecognised consciousness of thine own being? — of thy being in so far as thou art a knowing being, — an Intelligence?
I. I do not understand thee; but help me once more, for I wished to understand thee.
Spirit. I must then demand thy whole attention, for I am here compelled to go deeper, and expatiate more widely, than ever. — What art thou?
I. To answer thy question in the most general way, — I am I, myself.
Spirit. I am well satisfied with this answer. What dost thou mean when thou sayest “I”; — what lies in this conception, — and how dost thou attain it?
I. On this point I can only make myself understood by contrast. External existence — the thing, is something out of me, the cognitive being. In my own case, I am myself this cognitive being, one with the object of my cognition. As to my consciousness of the former, there arises the question, — Since the thing cannot know itself, how can a knowledge of it arise? — how can a consciousness of the thing arise in me, since I myself am not the thing, nor any of its modes or forms, and all these modes and forms lie within the circle of its own being, and by no means in mine? How does the thing reach me? What is the tie between me, the subject, and the thing which is the object of my knowledge? But as to my consciousness of myself, there can be no such question. In this case, I have my knowledge within myself, for I am intelligence. What I am, I know because I am it; and that whereof I know immediately that I am it, that I am because I immediately know it. There is here no need of any tie between subject and object; my own nature is this tie. I am subject and object: — and this subject-object-ivity, this return of knowledge upon itself, is what I mean by the term “I,” when I deliberately attach a definite meaning to it.
Spirit. Thus it is in the identity of subject and object that thy nature as an intelligence consists?
Spirit. Canst thou then comprehend the possibility of thy becoming conscious of this identity, which is neither subject nor object, but which lies at the foundation of both, and out of which both arise?
I. By no means. It is the condition of all my consciousness, that the conscious being, and what he is conscious of, appear distinct and separate. I cannot even conceive of any other consciousness. In the very act of recognising myself, I recognise myself as subject and object, both however being immediately bound up with each other.
Spirit. Canst thou become conscious of the moment in which this incomprehensible one separated itself into these two?
I. How can I, since my consciousness first becomes possible in and through their separation, — since it is my consciousness itself that thus separates them? Beyond consciousness itself there is no consciousness.
Spirit. It is this separation, then, that thou necessarily recognisest in becoming conscious of thyself? In this thy very original being consists?
I. So it is.
Spirit. And on what then is it founded?I. I am intelligence, and have consciousness in myself. This separation is the condition and result of consciousness. It has its foundation, therefore, in myself, like consciousness.
Spirit. Thou art intelligence, thou sayest, at least this is all that is now in question, and as such thou becomest an object to thyself. Thy knowledge, therefore, in its objective capacity, presents itself before thyself, i.e. before thy knowledge in its subjective capacity; and floats before it, although thou canst indeed never become conscious of such a presentation?
I. So it is.
Spirit. Canst thou not then adduce some more exact characteristics of the subjective and objective elements as they appear in consciousness?
I. The subjective appears to contain within itself the foundation of consciousness as regards its form, but by no means as regards its substance. That there is a consciousness, an inward perception and conception, — of this the foundation lies in itself; but that precisely this or that is conceived, — in this it is dependent on the objective, with which it is conjoined, and by which it is borne along. The objective, on the contrary, contains the foundation of its being within itself; it is in and for itself, — it is, as it is, because it is. The subjective appears as the still and passive mirror of the objective; the latter floats before it. That the former should reflect images generally, lies in itself. That precisely this image and none other should be reflected, depends on the latter.
Spirit. The subjective, then, according to its essential nature, is precisely so constituted as thou hast previously described thy consciousness of an existence out of thyself to be?
I. It is true, and this agreement is remarkable. I begin to believe it half credible, that out of the internal laws of my own consciousness may proceed even the presentation of an existence out of myself, and independent of me; and that this presentation may at bottom be nothing more than the presentation of these laws themselves.
Spirit. And why only half credible?
I. Because I do not yet see why precisely such a presentation — a presentation of a mass extended through space — should arise.
Spirit. Thou hast already seen that it is only thine own sensation which thou extendest through space; and thou hast had some forebodings that it is by this extension in space alone that thy sensation becomes transformed for thee into something sensible. We have therefore only to do at present with space itself; and to explain its origin in consciousness.
I. So it is.
Spirit. Let us then make the attempt. I know that thou canst not become conscious of thy intelligent activity as such, in so far as it remains attached originally and unchangeably to unity; — i.e. in the condition which begins with thy very being, and can never be destroyed without at the same time destroying that being. But thou canst become conscious of it in so far as it passes from one state of transition to another within the limits of this unchangeable unity. When thou dost represent it to thyself in the performance of this function, how does it appear to thee — this internal spiritual activity?
I. My spiritual faculty appears as if in a state of internal motion, swiftly passing from one point to another; — in short, as an extended line. A definite thought makes a point in this line.
Spirit. And why as an extended line?
I. Can I give a reason for that, beyond the circle of which I cannot go without at the same time overstepping the limits of my own existence? It is so, absolutely.
Spirit. Thus, then, does a particular act of thy consciousness appear to thee. But what shape then is assumed, not by thy produced, but by thy inherited, knowledge, of which all specific thought is but the revival and farther definition? — how does this present itself to thee? Under what image does it appear?
I. Evidently as something in which one may draw lines and make points in all directions, namely, as space.
Spirit. Now then, it will be entirely clear to thee, how that, which really proceeds from thyself, may nevertheless appear to thee as an existence external to thyself, — nay, must necessarily appear so.
Thou hast penetrated to the true source of the presentation of things out of thyself. This presentation is not perception, for thou perceivest only thyself; — as little is it thought, for things do not appear to thee as mere results of thought. It is an actual, and indeed absolute and immediate consciousness of an existence out of thyself, just as perception is an immediate consciousness of thine own condition. Do not permit thyself to be perplexed by sophists and half-philosophers; things do not appear to thee through any representation; — of the thing that exists, and that can exist, thou art immediately conscious; — and there is no other thing than that of which thou art conscious. Thou thyself art the thing; thou thyself, by virtue of thy finitude — the innermost law of thy being — art thus presented before thyself, and projected out of thyself; and all that thou perceivest out of thyself is still — thyself only. This consciousness has been well named Intuition. In all consciousness I contemplate myself, for I am myself: — to the subjective, conscious being, consciousness is self-contemplation. And the objective, that which is contemplated and of which I am conscious, is also myself, — the same self which contemplates, but now floating as an objective presentation before the subjective. In this respect, consciousness is an active retrospect of my own intuitions; an observation of myself from my own position; a projection of myself out of myself by means of the only mode of action which is properly mine, — perception. I am a living faculty of vision. I see (consciousness) my own vision (the thing of which I am conscious.)
Hence this object is also thoroughly transparent to thy mind’s eye, because it is thy mind itself. Thou dividest, limitest, determinest, the possible forms of things, and the relations of these forms, previous to all perception. No wonder, — for in so doing thou dividest, limitest, and determinest thine own knowledge, which undoubtedly is sufficiently known to thee. Thus does a knowledge of things become possible. It is not in the things, and cannot proceed out of them. It proceeds from thee, and is indeed thine own nature.
There is no outward sense, for there is no outward perception. There is, however, an outward intuition; — not of things, but this outward intuition — this knowledge apparently external to the subjective being, and hovering before it, — is itself the thing, and there is no other. By means of this outward intuition are perception and sense regarded as external. It remains eternally true, for it is proved, — that I see or feel a surface, — but my sight or feeling is intuitive, and takes the shape of the sight or feeling of a surface. Space, — illuminated, transparent, palpable, penetrable space, — the purest image of my knowledge, is not seen, but is an intuitive possession of my own mind; in it even my faculty of vision itself is contained. The light is not out of, but in me, and I myself am the light. Thou hast already answered my question, “How dost thou know of thy sensations, of thy seeing, feeling, &c.?” by saying that thou hast an immediate knowledge or consciousness of them. Now, perhaps, thou wilt be able to define more exactly this immediate consciousness of sensation.
I. It must be a two-fold consciousness. Sensation is itself an immediate consciousness; for I am sensible of my own sensation. But from this there arises no knowledge of outward existence, but only the feeling of my own state. I am however, originally, not merely a sensitive, but also an intuitive being; not merely a practical being, but also an intelligence. I intuitively contemplate my sensation itself, and thus there arises from myself and my own nature, the cognition of an existence. Sensation becomes transformed into its own object; my affections, as red, smooth, and the like, into a something red, smooth, &c. out of myself; and this something, and my relative sensation, I intuitively contemplate in space, because the intuition itself is space. Thus does it become clear why I believe that I see or feel surfaces, which, in fact, I neither see nor feel. I intuitively regard my own sensation of sight or touch, as the sight or touch of a surface.
Spirit. Thou hast well understood me, or rather thyself.
I. But now it is not at all by means of an inference, either recognised or unrecognised, from the principle of causality, that the thing is originated for me; it floats immediately before me, and is presented to my consciousness without any process of reasoning. I cannot say as I have formerly done, that perception becomes transformed into a something perceivable, for the perceivable, as such, has precedence in consciousness. It is not with an affection of myself, as red, smooth, or the like, that consciousness begins, but with a red, smooth object out of myself.
Spirit. If, however, thou wert obliged to explain what is red, smooth, and the like, couldst thou possibly make any other reply than that it was that by which thou wert affected in a certain manner, that thou namest red, smooth, &c.?
I. Certainly not, — if you were to ask me, and I were to enter upon the question and attempt an explanation. But originally no one asks me the question, nor do I ask it of myself. I forget myself entirely, and lose myself in my intuition of the object; become conscious, not of my own state, but only of an existence out of myself. Red, green, and the like, are properties of the thing; it is red or green, and this is all. There can be no farther explanation, any more than there can be a farther explanation of these affections in me, on which we have already agreed. This is most obvious in the sensation of sight. Colour appears as something out of myself, and the common understanding of man, if left to itself, and without farther reflection, would scarcely be persuaded to describe red, green, &c. as that which excited within him a specific affection.
Spirit. But, doubtless, it would if asked regarding sweet or sour. It is not our business at present to inquire whether the impression made by means of sight be a pure sensation, or whether it may not rather be a middle term between sensation and intuition, and the bond by which they are united in our minds. But I admit thy assertion, and it is extremely welcome to me. Thou canst, indeed, lose thyself in the intuition; and unless thou directest particular attention to thyself, or takest an interest in some external action, thou dost so, naturally and necessarily. This is the remark to which the defenders of a groundless consciousness of external things appeal, when it is shown that the principle of causality, by which the existence of such things might be inferred, exists only in ourselves; they deny that any such inference is made, and, in so far as they refer to actual consciousness in particular cases, this cannot be disputed. These same defenders, when the nature of intuition is explained to them from the laws of intelligence itself, themselves draw this inference anew, and never weary of repeating that there must be something external to us which compels us to this belief.
I. Do not trouble thyself about them at present, but instruct me. I have no preconceived opinion, and seek for truth only.Spirit. Nevertheless, intuition necessarily proceeds from the perception of thine own state, although thou art not always clearly conscious of this perception, as thou hast already seen. Even in that consciousness in which thou losest thyself in the object, there is always something which is only possible by means of an unrecognised reference to thyself, and close observation of thine own state.
I. Consequently, at all times and places the consciousness of existence out of myself must be accompanied by an unobserved consciousness of myself?
Spirit. Just so.
I. The former being determined through the latter, — as it actually is?
Spirit. This is my meaning.
I. Prove this to me, and I shall be satisfied.
Spirit. Dost thou imagine only things in general as placed in space, or each of them individually as occupying a certain portion of space?
I. The latter, — each thing has its determinate size.
Spirit. And do different things occupy the same part of space?
I. By no means; they exclude each other. They are beside, over or under, behind or before, each other; — nearer to me, or further from me.
Spirit. And how dost thou come to this measurement and arrangement of them in space? Is it by sensation?
I. How could that be, since space itself is no sensation?
Spirit. Or intuition?
I. This cannot be. Intuition is immediate and infallible. What is contained in it does not appear as produced, and cannot deceive. But I concern myself to estimate, measure and deliberate upon the size of an object, its distance, its position with respect to other objects; and it is a truth known to every beginner, that we originally see all objects in the same line; that we learn to estimate their greater or lesser distances; that the child attempts to grasp distant objects as if they lay immediately before his eyes; and that one born blind who should suddenly receive sight would do the same. This conception of distances is therefore a judgment; — no intuition, but an arrangement of my different intuitions by means of the understanding. I may err in my estimate of the size, distance, &c. of an object; and the so-called optical deceptions are not deceptions of sight, but erroneous judgments formed concerning the size of the object, concerning the size of its different parts in relation to each other, and consequently concerning its true figure and its distance from me and from other objects. But it does really exist in space, as I contemplate it, and the colours which I see in it are likewise really seen by me; — and here there is no deception.
Spirit. And what then is the principle of this judgment, to take the most distinct and easy case, — thy judgment of the proximity or distance of objects, — how dost thou estimate this distance?
I. Doubtless by the greater strength or feebleness of impressions otherwise equal. I see before me two objects of the same red colour. The one whose colour I see more vividly, I regard as the nearer; that whose colour seems to me fainter, as the more distant, and as so much the more distant as the colour seems fainter.
Spirit. Thus thou dost estimate the distance according to the degree of strength or weakness in the sensation; and this strength or weakness itself, dost thou also estimate it?
I. Obviously only in so far as I take note of my own affections, and even of very slight differences in these. — Thou hast conquered! All consciousness of objects out of myself is determined by the clearness and exactitude of my consciousness of my own states, and in this consciousness there is always a conclusion drawn from the effect in myself to a cause out of myself.
Spirit. Thou art quickly vanquished; and I must now myself carry forward, in thy place, the controversy against myself. My argument can only apply to those cases in which an actual and deliberate estimate of the size, distance, and position of objects takes place, and in which thou art conscious of making such an estimate. Thou wilt however admit that this is by no means the common case, and that for the most part thou rather becomest conscious of the size, distance, &c. of an object at the very same undivided moment in which thou becomest conscious of the object itself.
I. When once we learn to estimate the distances of objects by the strength of the impression, the rapidity of this judgment is merely the consequence of its frequent exercise. I have learnt, by a lifelong experience, rapidly to observe the strength of the impression and thereby to estimate the distance. My present conception is founded upon a combination, formerly made, of sensation, intuition, and previous judgments; although at the moment I am conscious only of the present conception. I no longer apprehend generally red, green, or the like, out of myself, but a red or a green at this, that, or the other distance; but this last addition is merely a renewal of a judgment formerly arrived at by deliberate reflection.
Spirit. Has it not then, at length, become clear to thee whether thou discoverest the existence of things out of thyself by intuition, or by reasoning, or both, — and in how far by each of these?
I. Perfectly; and I believe that I have now attained the fullest insight into the origin of my conceptions of objects out of myself.
The properties or attributes of the object proceed from the perception of my own internal state; the space which it fills, from intuitive contemplation. By a process of thought, both are conjoined; the former being added to the latter. It is, assuredly, as we have stated above; — that which is merely a state or affection of myself, by being transferred or projected into space becomes an attribute of the object; but it is so projected into space, not by intuition, but by thought, by measuring, regulating thought. Not that this act is to be regarded as an intellectual discovery or creation; but only as a more exact definition, by means of thought, of something which is already given in sensation and intuition, independent of all thought.
Spirit. Whatever affects me in such or such a manner is to be placed in such or such relations: — thus dost thou reason in defining and arranging objects in space. But does not the declaration that a thing affects thee in a certain manner, include the assumption that it affects thee generally?
Spirit. And is any presentation of an external object possible, which is not in this manner limited and defined in space?
I. No; for no object exists in space generally, but each one in a determinate portion of space.
Spirit. So that in fact, whether thou art conscious of it or not, every external object is assumed by thee as affecting thyself, as certainly as it is assumed as filling a determinate portion of space?
I. That follows, certainly.
Spirit. And what kind of presentation is that of an object affecting thyself?
I. Evidently a thought; and indeed a thought founded on the principle of causality already mentioned. I see now, still more clearly, that the consciousness of the object is engrafted on my self-consciousness in two ways, — partly by intuition, and partly by thought founded on the principle of causality. The object, however strange it may seem, is at once the immediate object of my consciousness, and the result of deliberate thought.
Spirit. In different respects, however. Thou must be capable of being conscious of this thought of the object?
I. Doubtless; although usually I am not so.Spirit. Therefore to thy passive state, thy affection, thou dost assume in thought an activity out of thyself, such as thou hast above described in the case of thy thought according to the principle of causality?
Spirit. And with the same meaning and the same validity as thou didst describe it above. Thou thinkest so once for all, and must think so; thou canst not alter it, and canst know nothing more than that thou dost think so?
I. Nothing more. We have already investigated all this thoroughly.
Spirit. I said, thou dost assume an object: — in so far as it is so assumed, it is a product of thy own thought only?
I. Certainly, for this follows from the former.
Spirit. And what now is this object which is thus assumed according to the principle of causality?
I. A power out of myself.
Spirit. Which is neither revealed to thee by sensation nor by intuition?
I. No; I always remain perfectly conscious that I do not perceive it immediately, but only by means of its manifestations; although I ascribe to it an existence independent of myself. I am affected, there must therefore be something that affects me, — such is my thought.
Spirit. The object which is revealed to thee in intuition, and that which thou assumest by reasoning, are thus very different things. That which is actually and immediately present before thee, spread out in space, is the object of intuition; the internal force within it, which is not present before thee, but whose existence thou art only led to assert by a process of reasoning, is the object of the understanding.
I. The internal force within it, saidst thou; — and now I bethink me, thou art right. I place this force also in space, and superadd it to the mass by which I regard space as filled.
Spirit. And what then, according to thy view, is the nature of the relation subsisting between this force and the mass?
I. The mass, with its properties, is itself the result and manifestation of the inward force. This force has two modes of operation: — one whereby it maintains itself, and assumes this particular form in which it appears; another upon me, by which it affects me in a particular manner.
Spirit. Thou hast formerly sought for another substratum for sensible attributes or qualities than the space which contains them; something permanent amid the vicissitudes of perpetual change besides this space.
I. Yes, and this permanent substratum is found. It is force itself. This remains for ever the same amid all change, and it is this which assumes and supports all sensible attributes or qualities.
Spirit. Let us cast a glance back on all that we have now established. Thou feelest thyself in a certain state, affected in a certain manner, which thou callest red, smooth, sweet, and so on. Of this thou knowest nothing, but simply that thou feelest, and feelest in this particular manner. Or dost thou know more than this? Is there in mere sensation anything more than mere sensation?
I. No.Spirit. Further, it is by thine own nature as an intelligence, that there is a space spread out before thee; — or dost thou know anything more than this concerning space?
I. By no means.
Spirit. Between that state of simple sensation, and this space which is spread out before thee, there is not the smallest connexion except that they are both present in thy consciousness. Or dost thou perceive any other connexion between them?
I. I see none.
Spirit. But thou art a thinking, as well as a sensitive and intuitive, being; and yet neither dost thou know anything more of this matter, than that so thou art. Thou dost not merely feel thy sensible state, — thou canst also conceive of it in thought; but it affords thee no complete thought; thou art compelled to add something to it, an external foundation, a foreign power. Or dost thou know more of it than that thou dost so think, and that thou art compelled so to think?
I. I can know nothing more respecting it. I cannot proceed beyond my thought; for simply because I think it, does it become my thought, and fall under the inevitable laws of my being.
Spirit. Through this thought of thine, there first arises a connexion between thy own state which thou feelest, and the space which thou dost intuitively contemplate; thou supposest that the latter contains the foundation of the former. Is it not so?
I. It is so. Thou hast clearly proved that I produce this connexion in my consciousness by my own thought only, and that such a connexion is neither directly felt, nor intuitively perceived. But of any connexion beyond the limits of my consciousness I cannot speak; I cannot even describe such a connexion in any manner of way; for even in speaking of it I must be conscious of it; and, since this consciousness can only be a thought, the connexion itself could be nothing more than a thought; and this is precisely the same connexion which occurs in my ordinary natural consciousness, and no other. I cannot proceed a hair’s-breadth beyond this consciousness, any more than I can spring out of myself. All attempts to conceive of an absolute connexion between things in themselves, and the I in itself, are but attempts to ignore our own thought, — a strange forgetfulness of the undeniable fact that we can have no thought without having — thought it. A thing in itself is a thought; — this, namely, that there is a great thought, which yet no man has ever comprehended.
Spirit. From thee then I need fear no objection to the principle now established: — that our consciousness of things out of ourselves is absolutely nothing more than the product of our own presentative faculty, and that, with regard to external things, we can produce in this way nothing more than simply what we know, i.e. what is established, by means of our consciousness itself, as the result of our being possessed of consciousness generally, and of this particular determinate consciousness subject to such and such laws.
I. I cannot refute this. It is so.
Spirit. Thou canst not then object to the bolder statement of the same proposition; that in that which we call knowledge and observation of outward things, we at all times recognise and observe ourselves only; and that in all our consciousness we know of nothing whatever but of ourselves, and of our own determinate states.
I say, thou wilt not be able to advance aught against this proposition; for if the external world generally arises for us only through our own consciousness, what is particular and multiform in this external world can arise in no other way; and if the connexion between what is external to us and ourselves is merely a connexion in our own thought, then is the connexion of the multifarious objects of the external world among themselves undoubtedly this and no other. As clearly as I have now pointed out to thee the origin of this system of objects beyond thyself and their relation to thee, could I also show thee the law according to which there arises an infinite multiplicity of such objects, mutually connected, reciprocally determining each other with rigid necessity, and thus forming a complete world-system, as thou thyself hast well described it; and I only spare myself this task because I find that thou hast already admitted the conclusions for the sake of which alone I should have undertaken it.
I. I see it all, and must assent to it.Spirit. And with this insight, mortal, be free, and for ever released from the fear which has degraded and tormented thee! Thou wilt no longer tremble at a necessity which exists only in thine own thought; no longer fear to be crushed by things which are the product of thine own mind; no longer place thyself, the thinking being, in the same class with the thoughts which proceed from thee. As long as thou couldst believe that a system of things, such as thou hast described, really existed out of, and independently of, thee, and that thou thyself mightst be but a link in this chain, such a fear was well grounded. Now when thou hast seen that all this exists only in and through thyself, thou wilt doubtless no longer fear that which thou dost now recognise as thine own creation.
It was from this fear only that I wished to set thee free. Thou art delivered from it, and I now leave thee to thyself.
I. Stay, deceitful Spirit! Is this all the wisdom towards which thou hast directed my hopes, and dost thou boast that thou hast set me free? Thou hast set me free, it is true: — thou hast absolved me from all dependence; for thou hast transformed myself, and everything around me on which I could possibly be dependent, into nothing. Thou hast abolished necessity by annihilating all existence.
Spirit. Is the danger so great?
I. And thou canst jest! — According to thy system.
Spirit. My system? Whatever we have agreed upon, we have produced in common; we have laboured together, and thou hast understood everything as well as myself; — but it would be difficult for thee at present even to guess at my true and perfect mode of thought.I. Call thy thoughts by what name thou wilt; by all that thou hast hitherto said, there is nothing, absolutely nothing but presentations, — modes of consciousness, and of consciousness only. But a presentation is to me only the picture, the shadow of a reality; in itself it cannot satisfy me, and has not the smallest worth. I might be content that this material world without me should vanish into a mere picture, or be dissolved into a shadow; — I am not dependent on it: but according to thy previous reasoning, I myself disappear no less than it; I myself am transformed into a mere presentation, without meaning and without purpose. Or tell me, is it otherwise?
Spirit. I say nothing in my own name. Examine, — help thyself!
I. I appear to myself as a body existing in space, with organs of sense and of action, as a physical force governed by a will. Of all this thou wilt say, as thou hast before said of objects out of myself, the thinking being, that it is a product of sensation, intuition, and thought combined.
Spirit. Undoubtedly. I will even show thee, step by step, if thou desirest it, the laws according to which thou appearest to thyself in consciousness as an organic body, with such and such senses, — as a physical force, &c., and thou wilt be compelled to admit the truth of what I show thee.
I. I foresee that result. As I have been compelled to admit that what I call sweet, red, hard, and so on, is nothing more than my own affection; and that only by intuition and thought it is transposed into space out of myself, and regarded as the property of something existing independently of me; so shall I also be compelled to admit that this body, with all its organs, is nothing but a sensible manifestation, in a determinate portion of space, of myself the inward thinking being; — that I, the spiritual entity, the pure intelligence, and I, the bodily frame in the physical world, are one and the same, merely viewed from two different sides, and conceived of by two different faculties; — the first by pure thought, the second by external intuition.
Spirit. This would certainly be the result of any inquiry that might be instituted.
I. And this thinking, spiritual entity, this intelligence which by intuition is transformed into an earthly body, — what can even it be, according to these principles, but a product of my own thought, something which is so conceived of by me only because I am compelled to imagine its existence by virtue of a law to me wholly inconceivable, proceeding from nothing and tending to nothing.
Spirit. It is possible.
I. Thou becomest timid and wavering. It is not possible only: it is necessary, according to these principles.
This perceiving, thinking, willing, intelligent entity, or whatever else thou mayest name that which possesses the faculties of perception, thought, and so forth; — that in which these faculties inhere, or in whatever other way thou mayest express this thought; — how do I attain a knowledge of it? Am I immediately conscious of it? How can I be? It is only of actual and specific acts of perception, thought, will, &c., as of particular occurrences, that I am immediately conscious; not of the capacities through which they are performed, and still less of a being in whom these capacities inhere. I perceive, directly and intuitively, this specific thought which occupies me during the present moment, and other specific thoughts in other moments; and here this inward intellectual intuition, this immediate consciousness, ends. This inward, intuitive thought, now becomes itself an object of thought; but according to the laws under which alone I can think, it seems to me imperfect and incomplete, just as formerly the thought of my sensible states was but an imperfect thought. As formerly to mere passivity I unconsciously superadded in thought an active element, so here to my determinate state (my actual thought or will) I superadd a determinable element (an infinite, possible thought or will) simply because I must do so, and for the same reason, but without being conscious of this mental apposition. This manifold possible thought I further comprehend as one definite whole; — once more because I must do so, since I am unable to comprehend anything indefinite, — and thus I obtain the idea of a finite capacity of thought, and — since this idea carries with it the notion of a something independent of the thought itself — of a being or entity which possesses this capacity.
But, on higher principles, it may be made still more conceivable how this thinking being is produced by its own thought. Thought in general is genetic, assuming the previous creation of an object immediately revealed, and occupying itself with the description of this object. Intuition gives the naked fact, and nothing more. Thought explains this fact, and unites it to another, not found in intuition, but produced purely by thought itself, from which it, the fact, proceeds. So here. I am conscious of a determinate thought; thus far, and no farther, does intuitive consciousness carry me. I think this determinate thought, that is, I bring it forth from an indeterminate, but determinable, possibility of thought. In this way I proceed with everything determinate which is presented in immediate consciousness, and thus arise for me all those series of capacities, and of beings possessing these capacities, whose existence I assume.
Spirit. Even with respect to thyself, therefore, thou art conscious only that thou feelest, perceivest, or thinkest, in this or that determinate manner?
I. That I feel, I perceive, I think? — that I, as the efficient principle, produce the sensation, the intuition, the thought? I By no means! Not even so much as this have thy principles left me.
I. Necessarily; — for see: All that I know is my consciousness itself. All consciousness is either an immediate or a mediate consciousness. The first is self-consciousness; the second, consciousness of that which is not myself. What I call I, is therefore absolutely nothing more than a certain modification of consciousness, which is called I, just because it is immediate, returning into itself, and not directed outward. Since all other consciousness is possible only under the condition of this immediate consciousness, it is obvious that this consciousness which is called I must accompany all my other conceptions, be necessarily contained in them, although not always clearly perceived by me, and that in each moment of my consciousness I must refer everything to this I, and not to the particular thing out of myself thought of at the moment. In this way the I would at every moment vanish, and reappear; and for every new conception a new I would arise, and this I would never signify anything more than not the thing.
This scattered self-consciousness is now combined by thought, — by more thought, I say — and presented in the unity of a supposed capacity of thought. According to this supposition, all conceptions which are accompanied by the immediate consciousness already spoken of, must proceed from one and the same capacity, which inheres in one and the same entity; and thus there arises for me the notion of the identity and personality of my I, and of an efficient and real power in this person, — necessarily a mere fiction, since this capacity and this entity are themselves only suppositions.
Spirit. Thou reasonest correctly.
I. And thou hast pleasure in this! I may then indeed say “it is thought,” — and yet I can scarcely say even this; — rather, strictly speaking, I ought to say “the thought appears that I feel, perceive, think” — but by no moans that “I feel, perceive, think.” The first only is fact; the second is an imaginary addition to the fact.
Spirit. It is well expressed.
I. There is nothing enduring, either out of me, or in me, but only a ceaseless change. I know of no being, not even of my own. There is no being. I myself absolutely know not, and am not. Pictures are: — they are the only things which exist, and they know of themselves after the fashion of pictures: — pictures which float past without there being anything past which they float; which, by means of like pictures, are connected with each other: — pictures without anything which is pictured in them, without significance and without aim. I myself am one of these pictures; — nay, I am not even this, but merely a, confused picture of the pictures. All reality is transformed into a strange dream, without a life which is dreamed of, and without, a mind which dreams it; into a dream which is woven together in a dream of itself. Intuition is the dream; thought, — the source of all the being and all the reality which I imagine, of my own being, my own powers, and my own purposes, — is the dream of that dream.
Spirit. Thou hast well understood it all. Employ the sharpest expressions to make this result hateful, if thou must submit to it. And this thou must do. Thou hast clearly seen that it cannot be otherwise. Or wilt thou retract thy admissions, and justify thy retractation on principle?
I. By no means. I have seen, and now see clearly, that it is so; yet I cannot believe it.
Spirit. Thou seest it clearly, and yet canst not believe it? That is a different matter.
I. Thou art a profligate spirit: thy knowledge itself is profligacy, and springs from profligacy; and I cannot thank thee for having led me on this path!
Spirit. Short-sighted mortal! When men venture to look into being, and see as far as themselves, and a little further, — such as thou art call it profligacy. I have allowed thee to deduce the results of our inquiry in thine own way, to analyze them, and to clothe them in hateful expressions. Didst thou then think that these results were less known to me than to thyself, that I did not understand, as well as thou, how by these principles all reality was thoroughly annihilated, and transformed into a dream? Didst thou then take me for a blind admirer and advocate of this system, as a complete system of the human mind?
Thou didst desire to know, and thou hadst taken a wrong road. Thou didst seek knowledge where no knowledge can reach, and hadst even persuaded thyself that thou hadst obtained an insight into something which is opposed to the very nature of all insight. I found thee in this condition. I wished to free thee from thy false knowledge; but by no means to bring thee the true.
Thou didst desire to know of thy knowledge. Art thou surprised that in this way thou didst discover nothing more than that of which thou desiredst to know, — thy knowledge itself; and wouldst thou have had it otherwise? What has its origin in and through knowledge, is merely knowledge. All knowledge, however, is but pictures, representations; and there is always something awanting in it, — that which corresponds to the representation. This want cannot be supplied by knowledge; a system of mere knowledge is necessarily a system of mere pictures, wholly without reality, significance, or aim. Didst thou expect anything else? Wouldst thou change the very nature of thy mind, and desire thy knowledge to be something more than knowledge?
The reality, in the perception of which thou didst formerly believe, — a material world already existing independently of thee, of which thou didst fear to be come the slave, — has vanished; for this whole material world arises only through knowledge, and is itself our knowledge; — but knowledge is not reality, just because it is knowledge. Thou hast seen through the illusion; and, without belying thy better insight, thou canst never again give thyself up to it. This is the sole merit which I claim for the system which we have together discovered; — it destroys and annihilates error. It cannot give us truth, for it is in itself absolutely empty. Thou dost now seek, and with good right, as I well know, something real lying beyond mere appearance, another reality than that which is thus annihilated. But in vain wouldst thou labour to create this reality by means of thy knowledge, or out of thy knowledge; or to embrace it by thy understanding. If thou hast no other organ by which to apprehend it, it will never be found by thee.
But thou hast such an organ. Arouse and animate it, and thou wilt attain to perfect tranquillity. I leave thee alone with thyself.