Page:Ethical Theory of Hegel (1921).djvu/50

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

assertion as a transcendental principle in conjunction with an uncritical view of the phenomena of experience. The cause, Hegel insists, is cause only in the effect, and the effect is such only in relation to the cause; the two aspects have an identical content. This may be clearer if we discuss an imaginary objection to it. It is admitted, it may be said, that the real meaning of the conception is the transformation of energy from one phase to another. The cause of the heat generated by the impact of a bullet on a target is the kinetic energy of the moving bullet, but the previous shape of the energy does not pass into the later one. The shapes alternate; the constant content is merely a constant quantity of energy. Thus Hegel’s statement seems to go too far, the truth being that cause and effect have only in part a common content, while in part each has also a private element, viz. the shape or form of the energy.[1] In reply to this statement it may be said that the conception embodied by it is not causality but substance. It was this omission of difference that set the problem which Hegel is here trying to solve, and it is hardly probable that he overlooked this. Hegel’s illustrations are not always the truest index of his meaning,[2] but he does seem to meet this difficulty. In the Encyclopaedia he says, ‘The rain (the cause) and the wet (the effect) are the self-same existing water. In point of form the cause (rain) is dissipated or lost in the effect (wet): but in that case the result can no longer be described as effect; for without the cause it is nothing, and we should have only the unrelated wet left.’[3] The cause involves its effect in its conception, and vice versa. ‘Both cause and effect are thus one and the same content: and the distinction is primarily only that the one lays down, and the other is laid down.’[4] But if this be so, there is only one substance present; only in the effect does the cause become cause. That is to say, the cause determines itself, and in going into the effect it is really becoming itself. ‘The cause, consequently, is in its full truth causa sui.’[5] The difficulty which ordinary thought has in grasping this con-

  1. Cf. McTaggart, Commentary on Hegel’s Logic, §§ 173-4.
  2. Cf. Bosanquet in Mind, January 1911, p. 82.
  3. § 153, Wallace’s trans, p. 277.
  4. Ibid. § 153 note, Wallace’s trans, p. 278.
  5. Ibid. § 153, Wallace’s trans, p. 277.