DR Geoffrey Klempner.

          RIP. Dr Geoffrey Klempner (1951-2022).
          Absolute pleasure to have known and work with you since 2003.

Letting beings be: The Disclosure of Being? by Martin Jenkins. “To see a world in a grain of sand And Heaven in a wild flower Hold infinity in the palm of your hand And eternity in an hour.” 1 “Einai gar kai entautha theous. (Here too, the gods are present…..”(Gk)2 In a previous paper published some time ago, entitled Humanism and the Ecstatic, I provided a brief account of Martin Heidegger's history of Western Philosophy and its relation to What Is, or Being. To briefly recap: falling away from unthematised, unconceptualised approach, Being became manifested from the Greeks onward in Metaphysical philosophy. 3 This generally categorises beings as something standing before the human subject, to be instrumentally understood and used by that subject. Beings are valued only as mere ‘standing in reserve’ until used, valued only as enframed potential for subsequent use and exploitation. Metaphysical conceptions of Being are seemingly located in the defined being of a thing be it essentia, existentia or subiectum. Located in this reflexive defining of phenomena, human being or Dasein closes itself off to alternative solicitations of Being. The ‘danger’ of this prevailing perspective, as Heidegger diagnoses it, daily confronts and threatens us in the global domination and violence of technicist thinking and being. Heidegger exposes this metaphysical conception of the human essence and contrasts it with his own understanding of human ek-sistence or Da-Sein. This is a site which in Being and Time, is categorised by structures of Being-In-the-World on the one hand and, in his later writings, of openness to the calls of Being on the other [i.e. the eckstatic essence of the Da of Dasein]. Heeding to Being may redeem human beings and turn us away from the danger. If Dasein is to turn away from the metaphysical-technicist structures of Being, Thinking and doing, so as to be receptive in the clearing of Being, how is this to be achieved? Moreover, what precisely is Being? In what follows, I will examine routes to an understanding of Being by means of three texts. Firstly, using Being and Time (B&T), the notion of Being-in-the World is analysed. 4 Secondly, On the Essence of Truth (1929 & 1949) situated after the so-called ‘Turn’ (Kehre) is cited with its themes of Presentative Truth and the Truth as Aletheia (un-concealment). 5 Finally, elements from Letter On Humanism (1946) explicitly, in my view, provide definitive pointers towards answering the question What is Being? 6 In respect of the voluminous output of Heidegger’s writngs – many of which remain unpublished or not translated into English, my conclusion is not exhaustive and the question still animates my curiosity. Yet I believe the general thrust of this paper attends to how we let beings be and in so doing, Being unconceals itself. Being and Time. In Being and Time (1927), the issue of Being is raised anew. After initially explored by Plato and Aristotle, the question of the nature of Being became sedimented in the presence of things, substance Ousia. On the one hand, the basis of Christian Theology used the philosophical insights of Plato and Aristotle to provide what Heidegger would term ‘Onto-Theology’. 7 On the other hand, Natural Philosophy (Science) attempted to combine its insights and developments within metaphysical categories. Eventually, the metaphysical categories were discarded…… So, in Being and Time, in raising a question forgotten since the early Greek philosophers - ‘What is Being’ - Heidegger provides three existing perspectives. Firstly, Being is the most universal of concepts, it presupposes the very apprehension of beings. 8 This perspective is present in Aristotle, in the Thomist onto-theology of the Transcendent and is evident in the beginning of Hegel’s Science of Logic in his indeterminate concept of Being. Despite this, this perspective of Being remains undeveloped. Secondly, Being is regarded as indefinable. 9 It cannot have the definition of an entity which would anyway, be based on logic which in turn, is based on ancient ontology (onto-theology). This does not exhaust enquiry but is a spur to further investigation. Thirdly and finally, the concept of Being is judged as self-evident. When a person cognises something, asserts something, comports themselves toward something; there is a nascent understanding of what Being is. It is, for example found in propositions such as ‘The sky is blue’, ‘I am typing’. Being Is. This understanding of Being as prosaically intelligible remains unintelligible and signals that the question of Being needs greater exploration. Being-In-the-World. Thus, in Being and Time, Heidegger undertakes a phenomenological analytic of the lived modes of Dasein’s Being-In the-World. Unlike the Cartesian and Natural Sciences whereby beings are viewed as ontically existing alongside entities in the World (entities existing objectively in time and space so understood through mathematics, science and other impersonal Theoretical approaches); Da-sein, as its name suggests, already exists in the world, it does not exist alongside side it as an observer, it is ‘There-being’, or ‘being-there’ Dasein: it is Ontological. It has an intimate, pre-theoretical understanding of what it is and how it is to be, in the world. This pre-theoretical, pre-mteaphysical understanding may provide insights into Being. Dasein has concernful dealings with things in the world. For instance, a hammer is equipment which is used in order to, as a towards-which in the sense of being employed for tasks, uses, assignments. Unlike the Cartesian approach to things, they do not have the status of mere objectivity or being indifferently Present-to-Hand but one of being Ready-to-Hand. The latter is intrinsic to Da-seins’ involvements in the World as it has irreducible ‘meanings’ which importantly, constitute important issues to Dasein itself. The very Being of equipment is disclosed in the concernful relations of involvements. From immediate usage, a totality of involvements can further be discerned. The hammer repairs a house roof. The roof proves shelter from the weather. This allows domestic life to continue cooking eating, sleeping, reading, the children to play, to grow up. It allows rest enabling work to be done on the Farmstead, itself with ‘its utensils and outlying lands’. 10 For the products of the Farmstead to be taken to markets in nearby towns and so on. As Heidegger terms it, this is the Worldhood of the World: a totality of involvements, of meanings, a ‘knowledge’ of the World Importantly, it is precisely here that entities disclose themselves Ontologically and Da-sein Ontologically discloses its Being (In-the-World) through its involvements with those entities. This precedes and cannot be reduced to any theoretical analyses of the World be it by Natural Science, Metaphysics or Cartesianism. Accordingly, this is a concern not of the ontic but of the ontological. Being-in-the-World stands before Da-sein and the potentiality of its Being. Hence: “That wherein Dasein understands itself beforehand in the mode of assigning itself, is that for-which it has let entities be encountered beforehand. The ‘wherein’ of an act of understanding which assigns or refers itself, is that for which one lets entities be encountered in the kind of being that belongs to involvements, and this ‘wherein’ is the phenomenon of the world. And the structure of that to which Dasein assigns itself, is what makes up the worldhood of the world.” 11 The being of equipment and its relevance for Being-in-the-World can also be made conspicuous by a damaged tool which impedes the intended project of ‘for-the-sake-of-which’. A flat tyre highlights the unready-to-Hand of my car and the totality of involvements which follow from it. Missing equipment exposes all related equipment as obtrusive. When my missing car keys prevent me from traveling to my destination for the sake of involvements there, the frustrating, useless equipment that is my car stands inversely in proportion to the importance of the keys and the totality of my impeded involvements stand illuminated before me, as it were. The flat tyre displays the obstinacy of something that must be attended to, to be replaced if that ‘for–the–sake-of-which’ I was driving to, is to be achieved. So for the point of our enquiry, the being of Dasein, of entities and phenomena are encountered and disclosed by means of their Ready-to-Handness in involvements in the context of Being-In-the-World. The ‘environmentality’ of the enviroment is thrown in front of us by our concernful dealings with and in it. I conclude that Being as Being-in-the-World is thereby highlighted. The Essence of Truth. Presentative Truth. A later approach to Being is found in his lecture On the Essence of Truth. Heidegger explores the orthodox conceptions of truth. Namely the correspondence of the matter itself to human knowledge and, the correspondence of human knowledge to the thing or matter itself: Propositional truth. He asks what is it that makes the propositional statement accord with the phenomena in its correctness? Heidegger provides the example of the two five Mark coins. The statement that both are round accords with the thing. Yet other statements about the coins do not correspond to this statement, it says nothing about the material of the coin although it is made of metal; it says nothing about what can be purchased by the coin although that it is the significance of the coins as monetary value. So asks Heidegger, what is it in the essence of a statement that enables it to accord with a thing? The correctness of propositional truth means that the truth of a statement [logos], corresponds to the essence of the matter/thing [pragma] by means of a prior directive. This guides the statement in what Heidegger terms ‘the Open Region’ in which a thing presents itself. 12 The Open region is the Freedom of correct or incorrect accord between statement and thing in a narrative called Knowledge. The Essence of such correct accord between statement and thing [i.e. Truth] is therefore Freedom. Hence: “That which is opened up, that to which a presentative statement corresponds, are beings opened up in an open comportment. Freedom for what is opened up in an open region lets beings be the beings they are. Freedom now reveals itself as letting beings be.” 13 This is Presentative Truth. It is integral to that Knowledge which ‘knows’ beings only so as to use and manipulate them as instruments as elaborated in Heideggers’ essay Question Concerning Technology.14 The letting be of such beings is presupposed by and limited to task orientated thinking. Entities are let -be as tools, as standing-reserve in a Technicist Thinking. It is this thinking that dominates and saturates human being. The Truth of Aletheia. However, Freedom inherent to the Open Region also lends itself to a different way of ‘Truth’, onto a different manner of letting beings be. This sets us upon the way to answering our question on how Being can disclose itself to human beings. The Freedom of the Open-Region, allows ‘Truth’, it allows Philosophy to think Being. Heidegger writes that the Open Region of Freedom is the source from which the Letting Be of beings’ happens. This letting-be used to be termed Aletheia (un-concealment) and is other to the existing mode of disclosure such as Presentative Truth. Indeed, it is other to the whole of Western-metaphysical thinking and its reception of Being. Letting Be ocurrs in the open region which is received by the openness of Dasein - now understood as ek-static Dasein. As Heidegger writes: “Freedom, understood as letting beings be, is the fulfillment and consummation of the essence of truth in the sense of the disclosure of beings. “Truth” is not a feature of correct propositions which are asserted of an “object” by a human “subject” and then are valid” somewhere, in what sphere we know not. Rather, truth is disclosure of beings through which an openness essentially unfolds. All human comportment and bearing are exposed in its open region. Therefore man is in the manner of ek-sistence”. (my emphasis)15 Ek-Static Da-sein is open to alternative givings, to alternative un-concealments of Being. No longer restricted in presupposing subjectivity by the strictures of metaphysical shematism and its technicist descendents, Da-sein is open, standing outside itself, to the unconcealment of Being. In other words, the phenomena of the world can be received and articulated in different ways to that of metaphysical philosophy and its inheritor of technological instrumentalism which see nothing more than utilitarian objects in time and space. This is the unconcealment and disclosure of Being. It is letting beings be.(to avoid digression, Im not discussing the Being/beings issue). Further, in his 1946 work Letter On Humanism, we find that otherness to existing paradigms is articulated through language, as the latter is the house of Being. “Language is the house of being. In its home, man dwells. Those who think and create with words are the custodians of the dwelling.” 16 Being can disclose, unconceal itself to receptive, ek-static Da-sein. Da-Sein can attempt to articulate, to communicate this unconcealment by means of language. Language such as Poetry? Literature? Perhaps by means of other mediums such as Music? Essential thinking is openness to Being. What then, is Being? Being. Again, in Letter on Humanism, the following is found: “Yet Being- what is Being? It "is" It itself. The thinking that is to come must learn to experience that and to say it. "Being"- that is not God and not a cosmic ground. Being is essentially farther than all beings and is yet nearer to the human being than every being, be it a rock, a beast, a work of an, a machine, be it an angel or God. Being is the nearest. Yet the near remains farthest from the human being. Human beings at first cling always and only to beings. But when thinking represents beings as beings it no doubt relates itself to Being”. 17 • Being ‘is’ It itself. • It is not God. It is not a metaphyscial ground. • It is nearest and furthest suggesting it is familiar yet at the same time, not fully appreciated (because thought and not grasped in metaphysical thinking). • Human beings ‘at first’ cling to beings. • Yet when thinking represents beings as beings, thinking relates itself to Being. Does the last sentence mean that humans ‘at first’ think of beings but; as such, this thinking can further allow Being to be thought (unconceal itself)? A subsequent passage lends itself to such a possibility (as we’ve already encounterd in the above On the Essence of Truth) “But how - provided we really ought to ask such a question at all- how does Being relate to ek-sistence? Being itself is the relation to the extent that It, as the locality of the truth of Being amid beings, gathers to itself and embraces ek-sistence in its existential, that is, ecstatic, essence. Because the human being as the one who ek-sists comes to stand in this relation that Being destines for itself, in that he ecstatically sustains it, that is, in care takes it upon himself, he at first fails to recognize the nearest and attaches himself to the next nearest. He even thinks that this is the nearest. But nearer than the nearest, than beings, and at the same time for ordinary thinking farther than the farthest is nearness itself: the truth of Being”. 18 Nearer than beings (not for ordinary metaphysical/technisist thinking) – is the truth of Being. Being embraces ek-static Da-Sein. Being ‘is’ it. Heidegger writes in Essence of Truth that the Open Region of Freedom is the source from which the Letting Be of beings’ happens. This letting-be used to be termed Aletheia (un-concealment) and is other to the existing mode of disclosure such as Presentative Truth. If Being is what Is, and is It, and Being un-conceals itself through ek-static Da-Sein and this is done in the ‘house of Being’ (Letter On Humanism) then Being un-conceals itself and this (and potentially in other ways) may be articulated in Language. So Being is and it allows the un-concealing of beings in ways other to their usual articulation or thematisation. 19 Conclusion. So Being is It. It un-conceals itself in manifold ways. This is how we let beings be. Being is not an underlying metaphysical ousia, it is not God. Yet, is it ultimately beyond articulation, like a deus absconditus? Like a ding-an-sich? Or is it an almost mystical foundationless foundation, like Schellings Absolute. If so, could there be a pure, unthematised knowing of it? Unfortunately, to pose this position would be to maintain metaphysical ways of thinking. As Heidegger is seeking a non-metaphysical thinking, this position seems misplaced tout court. So to reiterate in conclusion Being is it that which Is and unconceals itself in many ways……… Unconcealing in ways other to the dominant narrative of linear, performative goal – oriented thinking. Such thinking only recognises value in beings which are of productive use. Value can aslo be found in the appreciation and receptiveness to things, of the world, of people, of nature, of the mystery, profundity of life before death, of the moment. Is every human being capable of this? Is there a viable social or Political movement, platform to achieve this? References. 1. William Blake. Auguries of Innocence. The Complete Poems. Penguin. 1977. 2. Martin Heidegger. Letter On Humanism. Heidegger: Basic Writings ed. David Farrell Krell. Routlidge. 1993. p. 257. 3. Martin Jenkins. Humanism and the Ecstatic. Pathways Electronic Journal: Issue 160. Klempner.freeshell.org//newsletter 4. Martin Heidegger. Being and Time. Blackwell. 1992. 5. Martin Heidegger. On the Essence of Truth. Krell. Op cite. p. 115. 6. Martin Heidegger. Letter On Humanism. Krell. Op cite. p.217. 7. Martin Heidegger. Identity and Difference. University of Chicago. 2002. 8. Being and Time. Op cite. p. 22. 9. ibid. p.23. 10. ibid. p. 116. 11. ibid. p. 119. 12. Essence of Truth. Op cite. p. 121. 13. ibid. p. 125. 14. Martin Heidegger. Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays. Harper & Row. 1982. 15. Essence. Op cite. p. 127. 16. Letter. Op cite. p. 217. Being and Time. Op cite. p. 55. Similarly in Introduction to Metaphysics Heidegger writes that: ‘In the word, in language, things come to be and are.’ Martin Heidegger. Introduction to Metaphysics. Yale University Press. 2000. p. 15. 17. Letter. Op cite. p. 234. 18. ibid. p. 235. 19. There is a difference in interpretation as to what this means. Richard Copobianco proposes Heidegger’s philosophical project is explore the primacy of Being in relation to human beings. He argues that scholars such as Thomas Sheehan have departed from this to interpret Heidegger as concentrating on the production of meaning, of Dasein ‘meaning making’ of Being. The latter being likened more to Husserlian Phenomenology than the ontologicalquestiion as to what is Being. (Seinfrage).See for example: Richard Capobianco. Heidegger’s Way of Being. University of Toronto Press. 2014.


Letting beings be: The Disclosure of Being?


Substance, Subject, Proleteriat by Martin Jenkins

When at Berlin University, Bruno Bauer (1809-1882) was Marx’s tutor. Both would frequent ‘Hippels’ Wine Bar - once the meeting place of the so-called Doktor Klub and later the ‘Young Hegelians’ - where radical politics along neo-Hegelian lines were discussed. In 1842 under increased repression from the regime of Frederick IV, Bauer was dismissed from his teaching post and Marx became a Journalist in the face of few academic opportunities. Describing themselves as ‘The Free’ (Die Frie), Bauer and his followers remained firmly in neo-Hegelian territory whereas Marx, reporting on more empirical social, political and economic matters, began his journey towards Communism. The divergence was to reach fruition in Marx’s disagreements with and significant criticism of ‘The Free’ in The Holy Family and The German Ideology.

In this paper, I examine the ideas of a leading Young Hegelian Bruno Bauer. This is to shine light on a rather obscure issue that surfaces in The Holy Family where Marx attacks Bauer for being elitist and dismissive of the ignorant Mass, Masses...

DOWNLOAD https://archive.org/details/bauer.-substance-subject-proletariat.-pathways.

'Hegel: Walking on the path of the Absolute' by Martin Jenkins

The term 'Absolute' is associated with German Idealist Philosophy. It plays the foundational role upon which, the structure of indubitable human knowledge can be built. For JG. Fichte, the Absolute was based in the 'I' and became known in the dialectical movement between the said 'I' and the 'Not-I'.1 FWJ Shelling's understanding of the Absolute is that of an underlying Identity of the Subjective and Objective, the Conscious and the Unconscious, of Intelligence and Nature which sustains them but which is beyond, direct human cognition.2 Unlike Schelling and others, Hegel maintains that the Absolute can be known by human cognition.

In this paper I will provide a brief overview of how Hegel demonstrates this in his Encyclopaedia of the Philosophical Sciences.3 This will be followed by consideration on how the content of the Encyclopaedia actually coheres. The ostensible view is that the content and development of the Absolute is identical with the way the three books of the Encyclopedia are presented. This is contentious as I shall hopefully demonstrate.

The first of the three books of the Encyclopaedia of the Philosophical Sciences is the Logic. In it, Hegel outlines how Reason or God arrives at an understanding of itself: i.e. categories of Thought thinking itself. The Mind of God/Reason externalises itself in Nature and becomes Nature,- explored in the Encyclopaedia Nature - creating orderly systems before manifesting itself in Encyclopaedia Geist in human beings ultimately as self-understanding Geist: as Geist understanding itself in the Idea or Absolute Idea. Firstly, to the Logic.

Encyclopaedia Logic

In the Encyclopaedia Logic, Hegel demonstrates how Thinking thinks itself. Whilst Thought is initially confronted with intuitions, feelings, - experience, the truth of these can only be known through and within Thought. Thought or Reason or God is taken (this a contentious point) to enable cognition of Reality.4 It is, as the Ancient Greeks termed it, Nous.5 Objective Thought Determinations are immanent to the Universe -although Thought only becomes aware of this much later in the final book of the Logic.6 Thought determinations arise of necessity which is facilitated by dialectic (more below) and, they are dialectically cognised to achieve self-awareness by and through Subjective human cognition in a cumulative, process that has its terminus in the Absolute Idea. The Logic is thus 'the science of the 'Pure Idea'..of the Idea in the abstract element Thinking'.7

In other words, Thought/Reason/God cognises what is initially other to itself. It sublates, supersedes (Aufhebung) this other to itself thus heralding a higher, more comprehensive result and understanding of itself. This continues until all otherness-to-itself is ended in the comprehensive identity of the Absolute Idea. As Hegel writes:

"But the Idea shows itself as thinking that is strictly identical with itself and this at once shows itself as the activity of positing itself over and against itself in order to be For-Itself and to be, in this other, only at home with itself."8

This journey in the Logic from Being to Absolute Idea and in the Encyclopaedia of the Philosophical Sciences itself (Logic, Nature and Geist) occurs by means of Dialectic. Namely the mediation of Thinking Reason with itself. As described by Hegel, Dialectical thinking has three moments:

a) the side of abstraction or of the understanding.

b) the dialectical or negatively rational side.

c). the speculative or positively rational side.9

Abstraction or Understanding is limited to cognising fixed, separate thought determinations - the principle of bi-valence in standard Logic. A thing is what it is and nothing else (Law of Identity); A thing cannot be and not be (Law of Non-Contradiction and either a thing is or it is not, it cannot be both (Law of Excluded Middle).

In the Dialectical moment of the negatively rational, however, the fixed determinations become opposites. Thought is confronted by contradiction.10 In the final moment of speculative positive reason, apprehension of the unity of the opposites entails the affirmation that is contained in their dissolution and sublation, supersession (Aufhebung) in a progressive, cumulative result.

For instance, in the Logic, it famously begins with Being. Pure Being is. It is undetermined, simple and immediate.11 As pure, and abstract, taken immediately, Being is simultaneously Nothing. Side by side in Understanding, we have Being and Nothing. The negatively rational side of Thinking posits them as opposites. Yet Being is Nothing and Nothing is Being: the truth of them both is found by speculative or positively rational thought in Becoming.12 In Becoming, the unity of Being and Nothing is, due to their vague nature, a vanishing unity. Dialectical Negative Reason detects a contradiction. The contradiction is overcome or superseded (Aufhebung) in a new term of Being-There.13 This whole movement is the determination of Thinking developing dialectically in a necessary way by examining its concepts.

The Logic consists of three sections or Doctrines: Being, Essence and Concept. The schema of Thinking Thought is outlined and described. Being is immediacy of thought determinations. (Thinking In-Itself). Essence is the mediation of thought determinations with themselves (Thinking for-itself). Concept, which is the form of dialectical development of Identity sublating thought determinations or contents which are momentarily negative to it, progressively reaches fruition by achieving self-knowledge of itself as the totality of the previous process and the very Idea of this process which results in the Absolute Idea. Finite thinking accesses Infinite Thinking by means of cognising the Categories that are inherent to being. What is 'objective' therefore, is made 'subjective' and the 'subjective' comprises the 'objective', resulting finally, in the Absolute Idea. The epistemological and ontological foundation of human knowledge is situated with the Absolute Idea. Hegel writes:

"As the unity of the subjective and objective Idea, the Idea is the Concept of the Idea, for which the Idea as such, is the object and for which the object is itself - an object in which all determinations have come together. This unity therefore, is the absolute truth and all truth, it is the Idea which thinks itself and, at this stage moreover, it is present as thinking i.e. as logical Idea."14

To reiterate, the Logic concludes by grasping the Concept of itself as the Concept of the Idea. The Concept is the methodological content and process of the dialectical development culminating in Absolute Idea's self-realisation which as an object for-itself; achieves awareness of itself as this process in its Totality and result. It is its otherness and the otherness is it, in a final state of Identity, of knowing self-awareness.

Self-awareness is intuiting. As intuiting the Idea posits the negation of itself in its other, as immediate being. In other words, the absolute freedom of the Idea launches from out of itself and as such, it posits itself as Nature.

"Considered according to this unity that it has with itself, the Idea that is for itself is intuiting and the intuiting Idea is Nature. But as intuiting, the Idea is posited in the one-sided determination of immediacy or negation through external reflection. The absolute freedom of the Idea however, is that it does not merely pass over into life, nor that it lets its life shine within itself as finite cognition but, in the absolute truth of itself, it resolves to release out of itself into freedom the moment of its particularity or of the initial determining and otherness [i.e.] the immediate Idea as its reflexion or itself as Nature."15

The Absolute Idea becomes Nature.

As Alison Stone writes:

"The absolute idea, recognising itself as the mere thought (or concept) of the unity of concept and matter, is 'driven' to overcome its merely intellectual mode of existence, assuming the form of a really existing unity....the Idea, having recognised its own character as a form of thought, sees that this is a partial, merely intellectual character. This prompts the Idea to transcend its limitation by becoming an objectively existing unity of concept and matter: that is, by becoming nature."16 [Alison Stone. Hegel's Philosophy of Nature: Overcoming the Division between Matter and Thought. Reproduced from Dialogue 39 (2000) 725-43]. www.GWFHegel.org

Nature is the Idea and, is the object of the Idea. As such, object Nature will disclose the immanent operation of Reason or the Idea. This operation occurs dialectically - by the categories established in the Logic.

"At this stage, it is important simply to note that Hegel does, indeed, make this identification: 'The Idea, ...contracting itself into the immediacy of being, is the totality in this form - nature' Hegel is thus required to develop a philosophy of nature because, in his view, being - the 'object' with which philosophy is always concerned - itself turns out to be nothing but nature. Nature, as it emerges in Hegel's philosophy, is in turn understood to be not just brute contingency or sheer givenness, but existing actually - 'the Idea as being', the 'Idea that is' (diese seiende Idee), or, as Hegel puts it in his 1819/20 lectures on the philosophy of nature, 'the embodied immediate Idea'.17 An Introduction to Hegel, Freedom, Truth and History. Stephen Houlgate, Blackwell 2005, pp. 106-8

Encyclopaedia Nature.

The Absolute Idea is sublated as Nature.

"Nature has presented itself as the idea in the form of otherness. Since in nature the idea is as the negative of itself or is external to itself nature is not merely external in relation to this idea, but the externality constitutes the determination in which nature as nature exists." (192. EN)18

Here, the Idea finds nature particularised, existing in a condition of 'asunderness'. In a cumulative succession of dialectical movements, the otherness that the Idea finds in the asundered phenomena of Nature is sublated by it. This could be termed an intermediation between 'the One' (the inner Idea) and the 'Many' (the variegated phenomena of Nature existing in a condition of externality) in which, the otherness of the 'Many' is incorporated, sublated (Aufhebung) by and, into the Idea. This otherness is not a wholly alien quality, as by means of progressive dialectical intermediation, Idea finds itself in what was previously, otherness. Thus:

"Nature is to be viewed as a system of stages, in which one stage necessarily arises from the other and is the truth closest to the other from which it results, though not in such a way that the one would naturally generate the other, but rather in the inner idea which constitutes the ground of nature." (194. EN)19

Encyclopaedia Nature is composed of three sections: Mathematics, Inorganic Physics and Organic Physics. In Part One, Mathematics, the Idea becomes Space, Time and Motion.20 . In Inorganic Physics, Matter and its characteristics are outlined culminating in individual body and, Life. Organic Physics explores Life in its Geological, Vegetative and Animal manifestations.

Throughout the processes, the Idea acquires an 'Ideality' of Nature. That is, the Idea conceptualises the external otherness of Nature as the 'embodied immediate idea'. In so doing, Nature is sublated by the Idea but the latter fails to adequate itself in Nature. It does not find the truth of itself within Nature.21 In other words, the real being of the Idea does not adequate to its Concept within Nature.

Thus, in the final stages of the Encyclopaedia Nature, we read that the subjectivity of the individual animal cannot allow for the realisation of the Concept/Idea. The individual animal is immediate with Nature subject to all its vicissitudes including death. Positively, animals as are included in their Genus or Universal. Yet negatively, the individual only achieves an abstract objectivity with its Genus, as it is subject to death. Despite this, positively, there is a subjectivity in both the individual and the Genus. The Idea as subjectivity in the Genus has 'sublated the last externality of Nature' i.e. immediacy.22

"In this way Nature has passed over into its truth, into the subjectivity of the Concept whose objectivity is itself the suspended immediacy of individuality, the concrete generality, the Concept which has the concept as its existence - into Geist". EN 298.23

Encyclopaedia Mind/Geist.

Dialectically, Geist emerges from Nature as a process. The third book of the Encyclopaedia series -Encyclopaedia Geist - is constituted by three parts: Mind Subjective, Mind Objective and Absolute Mind. The first part is itself composed of sub-sections: A. Anthropology: The Soul, B. The Phenomenology of Mind, Consciousness; C. Psychology, Mind.

In sub-section A: Anthropology, Hegel accounts how Geist or the Idea remains immediate or implicit in Nature. Here, the Idea is not yet conscious of itself, is not yet an object for itself, is not yet 'For-Itself.' This goal will eventually be achieved by means of the development of the Idea dialectically sublating (Aufgehobun) its otherness, sublating itself in its otherness.

Nature realises its 'externality', 'separateness', its 'materiality as an untruth', inadequate to the immanent Concept.24 Accordingly, Nature 'sets itself aside' passing over into Geist as its truth, a truth emerging from, yet remaining within Nature's corporeity.25 So, returning to Anthropology, the Idea is firstly actualised as a World Soul: "the Soul is the awaking of Consciousness'.26 It is a universality which is one and simple 'the sleep of Geist - the passive Nous of Aristotle, which is potentially all things'.27 Again, it is not yet conscious of itself.

Yet the world soul has no determinate existence, it simply is, it is Ideal.28 From it are particularised individual sentient souls who have immediate being and as such, remain abstract. Within such immediacy, there are feelings, sensations which, due to immediate Ideality gives the place of a subject which is immersed in them.29 This 'Self-Feeling' is indistinct from them. There is an awareness without an awareness, so to speak.

From a latent self-relation of Ideality to the particulars - to feelings and sensations - emerges a formal universal of self. From this simple being, the soul breaks with its corporeity.30 Again, there is at this stage, no conscious awareness.

The soul is nether distinct from, nor absorbed in the sensations, rather 'has them and moves in them, without feeing or consciousness of the fact."31 The regular, repetitiveness of feelings and sensations of corporeality is incorporated into the soul creating habitual practice: Habit. The soul is imposingpurpose on corporeity and the latter is conceived as external and 'a barrier'.32


"The Soul, when its corporeity has been moulded and made thoroughly its own, finds itself there a single subject; and the corporeity is an externality which stands as a predicate, in being related to which, it is related to itself...In this identity of interior and exterior, the latter subject to the former, the soul is actual: in its corporeity it has free shape, in which it feels itself and makes itself felt, and which, as the Souls work of art, has human pathognomic and physiognomic expression."33

External body and internal soul exist in a temporary unity of intermediation. Yet the soul shows the unreality of corporeity as the body offers little resistance to the moulding influence of the soul.34 The soul sets itself apart from corporeity of the body, absorbs it and makes it its own. The immediacy of the soul, of Being -as cited above- is accordingly left behind as the soul realises the Ideality of its qualities. As such, an inwardness of infinite self-relation is arrived at in the soul.35 From this 'Free Universality'' an Ego or 'I' emerges. The stage is now set for the emergence of Consciousness.

Consciousness is immediate, experiencing the 'Here and Now' of sensations. It is certain of sensations but not of their truth.36 Their truth is found in a combination of thought and sensible qualities, mediated by Universals ( as manifestations of the Concept) Mediated objects take the guise of appearance in which conscious intellect of the 'I' discerns the operation of Universals.37 In such judgements, the object is not distinct from the I as in it, the I finds the counterpart or reflex of its own self. Present in the other object is the categories and concepts of the 'I' and, in the other, the I becomes conscious of its own activity.38 Self=Consciousness is achieved.

Desire leads self-consciousness to cognise itself in an object, the latter becoming subjective and the subjectivity become objective.39 Appetite is destructive, consuming and annihilating the object. Satisfaction of appetite is therefore, transient.40 This immediacy is negated by Universality as self-consciousness finds itself identical with the object. This is an action of a Free object. In the object therefore, the Universal of self-consciousness is found by self-consciousness. From one-sided particularity, subjective self-consciousness is now Universal.41

In beholding the other Self-Consciousness, I behold myself. Yet this other is opposed to me. Each wants to be recognised as a free self , consequently, a struggle ensues. This contradiction is solved by the death of the other. This apparent solution only gives rise to another and greater contradiction: recognition is rendered impossible if the struggle results in the death of the other.42

Here we arrive at the Master and Slave, the initial structure of human, political and social life. To keep his life, the defeated enters slavery and gives up any hope of the equal recognition of his freedom. The Master reigns over the slave by Force.43 In this one-sided relation, the slave is not recognised as a particular instantiation of Universal self-consciousness. This socio-political relation becomes settled and established.

However, whilst the master suppresses the slave with the force and institutions deriving from his single self-hood, the slave 'in the service of his Master' overcomes the blind and immediate expression of appetite, develops a sense of individualism through the his 'fear of his lord'. This is 'the beginning of wisdom' and the passage to Universal self-consciousness.44

It marks such a beginning as obedience, in this instance to the Master, 'is a necessary moment in the education of all men'.45 In observing obedience, the appetite, egotism and self-will of the slave are suppressed. That is, the myopic, immediate, desire driven self-consciousness (egotism) which closes itself off to others is negated. The slave consciousness is open to other. This, does not apply to the Master.

Universal Self-consciousness is the awareness of a free, universal and independent self in the other. With this mutual recognition, Subjectivity has become Objective in its Universality.46 The Universality is Reason. Reason, as the Absolute Idea dialectically unifies the Concept and reality. Indeed, this dialectical process of unification underpins the whole movement as described above. (i.e. the adequation of reality to the Concept in the dialectical movement).47

Objects, which nominally, stand before self-consciousness are understood by Reason/Idea as they are inherently constituted, structured by Reason itself. Reason is thinking itself. Concept/self-consciousness and object (whether human or not) are unified. Hegel writes:

"The universality of Reason...whilst it signifies that the object which was only given in consciousness qua consciousness, is now itself universal, permeating and encompassing the ego, also signifies that the pure ego is the pure form which overlaps the object and encompasses it"48

Self-consciousness is therefore satisfied that the determinations it has are not just restricted to its thought determinations; they are determinations of the objects themselves. This identity is the activity of Reason. In Hegel's terminology, substance knows itself a s subject, it exists for-itself.49

From here, Section II: Mind Objective, Hegel's socio-political philosophy -expounded in greater detail in the Philosophy of Right- is outlined. Social structures are the dialectical instantiation of Reason or Geist of a people so as to allow the utmost Freedom. In Section III Absolute Mind, Art, Religion and Philosophy, we have the Absolute Idea becoming self-conscious of itself. In short, Art and Religion are inadequate to understand the ultimate end found in Philosophy: thought thinking itself as the Absolute Idea.

The overall pattern.

The issue I wish to examine here, is how the three books of the Encyclopedia cohere. The ostensible presentation of the Encyclopaedia of the Philosophical Sciences is of course as follows: Logic is followed by Nature and finally Mind or Geist. The Logic externalises itself in Nature where the latter is seen as a transition to the Geist. This 'linear' reading is explicitly outlined by Hegel in his Introduction to the Encyclopedia Geist, section 18. Near the end of the Encyclopedia Geist, appear three Syllogysms. The First syllogism 575 reiterates the linear reading already cited. However, this reading is subsequently problematised by the remaining two syllogysms.50

The very next syllogism 576, has Geist as the Middle term which 'presupposes Nature and couples it with the Logical principle'.51 Mind reflects upon itself in the Idea. Does this mean that Mind dialectically develops out of Nature, and realises this by means of reactive reflection upon Nature after it has achieved Self-Consciousness? It further discovers the Idea manifesting itself in the social structure of society by means of Philosophy, to further freedom.

With the third syllogism 577, the Idea of Philosophy as Self-knowing Reason , the Absolute universal, stands as the Middle term.52 This divides into Mind and Nature. Whereas Mind is Reason's presupposition as the development of subjectivity; Nature is the 'process of the objectively and implicitly existing Idea". Self-knowing Reason knows itself in Philosophy - complete knowledge of itself and of its dialectical development through Nature and Mind.


The First syllogism could set out the general scheme from which, the ensuing syllogisms provide differing perspectives on simultaneous developments. Indeed, S. Alexander maintains that all three syllogysms provide differing, simultaneous perspectives.53 The second syllogism could be interpreted as Geist, in presupposing Nature, has developed out of it. When Self-Consciousness appears, Geist discovers in Nature the 'Logical Principle'. On the one hand, 'looking backwards' from the position of Self-Consciousness, Geist subjectively discovers the Logic objectively immanent in Nature to disclose a Philosophy of Nature Naturphilosophie (as stated in the First syllogism when Logic externalises itself into Nature). Yet this cannot disclose the Absolute Idea, as Nature proves inadequate to the realisation of self-consciousness which is the sine qua non for cognition of the Absolute Idea, so the latter could not find its truth in Nature. On the other hand, from the position of realised Self-Consciousness, Geist, in reflecting upon itself 'in the Idea' proceeds historically to construct a socio-political actuality as guided by thinking Reason - in and by the 'subjective cognition' of Philosophy. Geist has emerged from and cognised Nature but not yet realised the Absolute Idea as espoused in Absolute Mind.

Finally, the third syllogism has the Idea of Philosophy, of self-knowing Reason as the middle term. It divides itself into Geist and Nature. This self -judging division into the two appearances of Geist and Nature (the First and Second syllogisms) 'characterises both as its (self-knowing g Reason) manifestations'.54 So the Absolute Idea manifests itself in Nature to understand itself by means of Geist understanding the Absolute Idea's implicit objectification in Nature (although to reiterate, at this stage, Nature cannot permit the self-consciousness of the Idea in understanding itself) and, manifests itself subjectively in Geist to achieve self-knowledge of itself by understanding the Absolute Idea as Mind Objective as demonstrated by and in Philosophy.

This process is cumulative: the Concept's necessary dialectic causes the 'movement and development' of the process, yet simultaneously, the movement and development of the process is 'equally the action of cognition'. From Nature, to Nature being understood by Self-conscious human beings -Geist-, to the manifestation of Freedom in sociality and to the cognition in Philosophy of this process and its result: all is for the cognition of the Absolute Idea. When this 'essence' of the Absolute Idea is understood, the Idea is fully understanding itself, is 'In and For-Itself'. Its essence is realised as Truth.

In the truth, the 'eternal Idea', 'eternally' sets itself to work. This could mean that what is, what exists, is the immanent action of the 'eternal Idea'. Unlike Spinoza' non-reflexive Substance that is God/Nature (Deus sive Natura), the eternal Idea 'enjoys itself as absolute mind'.55 Namely, what is, not merely exists but understands itself (through human beings) as 'absolute Mind' as espoused in Philosophy. According to Ermylos Plevrakis, this is the Noesis Noeseos of Theos as stipulated by Aristotle in his Metaphysics. So when we think in the Mind Absolute, we are thinking the thinking of self-knowing Reason. Finite is Infinite, human is 'God' so to speak.56

Granted this is the case. If so, what is the point of the First syllogism? For both the First and Third syllogysms can be read as the same: in the beginning is the Absolute idea, it is externalised in Nature and achieves its self-reflexive truth in the Encyclopaedia Geist. This is not correct as the first syllogism does not account for how both Self Consciousness arises and further, as Krill Chepurin terms it, retroactively 'spiritualises nature' - finding the Logical principle immanently active in Nature.57 The third syllogism does account for this.

To conclude, The Syllogisms provide differing perspectives of the activity of the Absolute with the Third providing the definitive activity. The Absolute Idea eternally exists. It acquires self-knowledge of itself by means of Nature and Geist - especially by means of human self-consciousness. This entails finite human consciousness partaking of the infinite consciousness of the Absolute Idea by a double movement. Firstly, when self-consciousness is reached, human self-consciousness can 'look back' to cognise the Absolute in Nature, retrospectively, so to speak. Secondly, human self-consciousness qua self-consciousness is Geist, collective mindfulness, self-consciousness of a people. 'Looking forward', as it were, this is manifested in the ethical, political and cultural being of a state. Art and Religion are not adequate to the full cognition of the Absolute Idea, as this is realised in Philosophy alone.

Unlike the Absolute of Schelling which remains hidden and beyond human knowledge, Hegel's Absolute is knowable - as he demonstrates. In Being, it is nascent, to become fully known in the Absolute Idea. As such, people, in their everyday lives, are being and acting, ' walking' within the existing instantiation of the Absolute Idea.58


1. JG Fichte. The Science of Knowledge. Cambridge University Press. 1991

2. FWJ Schelling. System of Transcendental Idealism. University of Virginia Press. 1978.

3. GWF Hegel. Encyclopaedia of the Philosophical Sciences.

Logic. (1830). Oxford University Press. 1975.

Nature. (1830). Oxford University Press. 1970.

Mind. (1830). Oxford University Press. 1971.

4. -13. Logic. Op cite.

5. - 11. Zusatze. (Z). ibid.

6. -24. ibid.

7. -19. ibid.

8. -18,-11, 24 & 238 ibid. See also EM -382. The Concept is identical with itself yet negative to itself. This disjunction is inherent to the Dialectical process pending the adequation of the Concept with itself as realised Absolute Idea: as self-conscious Identity. Freedom is frequently mentioned in connection with the process as the Freedom of Thought striving to understand itself by means of Necessity. Perhaps this harks back to the centrifugal movement of Fichte's Absolute I?

9. -79 E Logic. Op cite. Although Hegel scholars maintain Hegel employs differing schemas of the Dialectic. See for instance Andy Blunden. Non-Linear Processes and the Dialectic. https://ethicalpolitics.org/ablunden/pdfs/Non-linear%20processes%20and%20the%20dialectic.pdf Blunden writes thirteen different compositions of the Dialectic can be found within Hegel's works.

10. - 11 E. Logic. Op cite.

11. -87 ibid.

12. ibid.

13.-89. ibid.

14. -236. ibid.

15.-244. ibid.

16. Alison Stone. Hegel's Philosophy of Nature. Overcoming the Division between Matter and Thought. Dialogue Issue 39 (2000). Hosted on www.gwfhegel.org/nature/as.html

17. Stephen Houlgate. An Introduction to Hegel, Truth and History. Blackwell. 2005. Pp. 106-8.

18. GWF Hegel. Encyclopedia Nature op cite. -192.

19. ibid. -194.

20. ibid. -203, 205.

21. -381. E.M. Zusatze

22. -296, 7, 8 E.N. See also: -218-222. EL.

23. -298. E.N.

24. -389. Zusatze. E.M.

25. -388. ibid.

26. -387. ibid.

27. -389. ibid.

28. -390. Zusatze. ibid.

29. -407. ibid.

30. -409. ibid.

31. -410. ibid.

32. ibid.

33. -411. ibid.

34. -412. ibid.

35. -413. ibid.

36. -418. ibid.

37. -420. ibid.

38. -423. ibid.

39. -427. ibid.

40. -428. ibid.

41. -429. ibid.

42. -432. ibid.

43. -433. ibid.

44. -435. ibid.

45. Zusatze. ibid.

46. -436. ibid.

47. -437. ibid.

48. -438. ibid.

49. -439. ibid.

50. -575. ibid.

51. -576. ibid.

52. -577. ibid.

53. S. Alexander quoted in Cincia Ferrini. Hegel on Nature and Spirit. Hegel Studien. 9/03/2012. P. 25.

54. -577. E.G. op cite.

55. Schelling's letter to Hegel dated. 4th February 1795 announces the influence of Spinoza: "In the meanwhile, I have become a Spinozist -Don't be amazed: you are about to hear in what way. For Spinoza, the world (the object pure and simple, as opposed to the subject) was all; for me, it is the I. It seems to me that the real difference between critical philosophy and dogmatic philosophy lies in the fact that the critical philosophy begins with the absolute I (the I which is as yet unconditioned by any object), and dogmatic philosophy begins with the absolute object, or the not-!. The ultimate consequence of the latter is Spinoza 's system; of the former, the Kantian system. Philosophy must begin with the unconditioned. Now the question is where this unconditioned lies: in the I or in the not-!. When this question is decided, everything is decided. For me, the supreme principle of all philosophy is the pure, absolute!.. .. The absolute I comprises an infinite sphere of absolute being; within this sphere, finite spheres take shape, which arise through the restriction of the absolute sphere ... " Cited in Alexandre Guilherme. Fichte and Schelling: The Spinoza Connection. Durham Theses, Durham University. http://etheses.dur.ac.uk/2471/ Note 23, P 183.

56. Ermylos Plevrakis. The Aristotelian Theos in Hegel's Philosophy of Mind. Hegel Bulletin 82. Volume 41. Spring 2020. pp. 83-101. See -552 EM and the quote from Aristotle's Metaphysics xi.7.at the end of the Encyclopaedia Mind. (1817 & 1830).

57. Krill Chepurin. Nature, Spirit and Revolution: Situating Hegel's Philosophy of Nature. Comparative and Continental Philosophy.. 2016. Vol 8, No 3, pp. 302-314.

58. -24. EL. Addition 2. Hegel writes the following about the Absolute: "We usually suppose that the Absolute must lie far beyond; but it is precisely what is wholly present, what we as thinkers always carry with us and employ, even though we have no express consciousness of it". (my emphasis)


Cyril Joad is Britain's lost philosopher.

With C.E.M. Joad's new headstone being put in place at his grave in London – St John-at-Hampstead – perhaps this is a good time to outline his enduring contribution to philosophy.

1. "Cyril Joad, a philosopher who believed that philosophy should not be a mere academic speciality, but a power in everyday life", says Birkbeck's Geoffrey Thomas. He provides a greater sensitivity to the structure of arguments, to ambiguities, fallacies and inconsistencies, and has an ability to identify assumptions. Professor of Moral Philosophy JA Smith put it another way, saying to his fledgling students, "if you work hard and diligently you should be able to detect when a man is talking rot".

This philosopher saw a unity of theory (theoria) and practice (praxis) in which philosophy has a critically constructive role; working alongside, and being informed by, other disciplines embedded into everyday affairs.

2. Joad popularised philosophy, bringing the discipline down from its 'ivory towers'. His highly accessible Guide to Philosophy [1936], Guide to the Philosophy of Politics and Morals [1938], and Teach Yourself Philosophy [1944] opened up philosophy for the general reader – especially the 1944 wartime book, which is still the best book to read for any student interested in the subject for the first time. There were any number of histories of philosophy around at the time – the main form that introductions took – but they didn't exhibit Joad's presentational skills. He did philosophy a service with his 1930s/40s guides, which were models of their kind. He was the first popular writer on philosophy who divided chapters into tidy and useful sub-sections in each chapter. Joad opened up philosophy to a much wider audience in the BBC's wartime Brains Trust – the forerunner to Any Questions and Question Time. Thousands of listeners began to take an active interest in the subject. "It all depends what you mean by..." was Joad's catchphrase in the popular programme, encouraging both critical and philosophical thinking – and a sense of fun. In the Brains Trust he set an example of structured critical thinking which was new to most people at the time, encouraging listeners more on how to think rather than what to think, with many realising for the first time how to deal with a moral and intellectual problem, by dividing it into its parts. He inspired many how to think and decide for themselves on any given issues, and to question – not accept – the given thinking of others. This approach to questions was seen to be quite radical at the time, which did not please certain people in authority within the BBC – and beyond it.

3. Joad developed a philosophy of religion from the mid-40s onward, first abandoning atheism and then trying to work out a Christian philosophy. He critiqued logical positivism and attacked moral relativism, providing an alternative approach – late in life – in the form of a Christian philosophy. Birkbeck's Geoffrey Klempner thought the soul worthy of a 2019 book 'Searching for the Soul'. Joad also searched for the soul in 1952, having the audacity to think he might have found it in his last book 'The Recovery of Belief – A Restatement of Christian Philosophy'.

Birkbeck's Anton Garmoza, who raised funds for Joad's new headstone in Hampstead, states:

"I would say that his greatest contribution as a populariser of philosophy is to bring philosophy to the people; by first showing that the philosophical disquisitions have an important bearing on our everyday life; and second, by demonstrating that philosophy can and should be accessible to the masses, and not limited to the elites. His teaching at Birkbeck college, an institution committed to bringing knowledge to the working people, is a case in point. Today's philosophers and philosophy enthusiasts are greatly indebted to people like Joad who might have sparked their interest in the subject in the first place"

Joad provided the stimulus to at least two distinguished philosophical careers, those of Bede Rundle and Anthony Quinton – whose contribution to philosophy has been incalculable.

C.E.M. Joad is more circumspect as to his own contribution – his last-known published words in the posthumous 'Folly Farm' [1954]:

"Though you may with difficulty bring a reader struggling to the brink of the dark river of thought, it is a matter of almost superhuman strength and strategy to make him take the plunge"

Image: Cyril Edwin Mitchinson Joad – painting by Michelsen Gordon – National Portrait Gallery

Article: Fichte's Absolute. Grounds For Mysticism?

Fichte's Absolute. Grounds for Mysticism?

By Martin Jenkins

The Absolute. Such an enigmatic term. It is found in mystical thinking and philosophy. It is taken to be the 'Ultimate', the 'highest', the Ground and Foundation of all being, of being knowable or unknowable and in certain accounts, only accessible by means of 'mystical' experiences. 1 The term 'the Absolute' is cited in the Idealism of J.G. Fichte (1762-1814). The latter's Idealist Philosophy espouses the efficacy of Reason yet, is it paradoxically also inviting non-rational mystical insights? In the following, I will explore the Absolute as espoused in the writings of Fichte and, opportunities for the claims of mysticism, if any.

Fichte & his Wissenschaftslere

With the Absolute 'I', Fichte believed he had secured the unconditional first principle, an indubitable foundation upon which human knowledge could be built. Without such a foundation, human 'knowledge' would be deemed to be precarious, uncertain and unaccountable. The Absolute I is an activity which posits itself and its negation - the Not-I (objects in the world, other people and the like). Without the limiting activity of the Not-I, the Absolute I would be unlimited activity like a line reaching to infinity. Intermediation between the two is the Grounding Principle and this (objects in the world, other people and the like) allows individual I's to come forth. The dialectical synthesis or intermediation between the Absolute I, through Individual I's and the Not-I, is the productive site upon which human knowledge and the intellectual categories which conditions it, develops. The Absolute I is distinct from individual 'I's or consciousness' yet is the prerequisite of their existence. How is it known? It is known by what Fichte terms 'Intellectual Intuition'. The example he gives in The Science of Knowledge (1794) centres around the proposition that A=A. 2 That A is identical with A is a necessary relation Fichte terms 'X'. Revealingly, the very understanding of this necessary relation or judgement X is the act of the Absolute I. Further, the positing of consequent A with antecedent A provides an analogous insight into how the Absolute I posits itself. As Fichte writes:

"That where being or essence consists simply in the fact that it posits itself as existing, i s the self as absolute subject. As it posits itself, so it is; and as it is, so it posits itself; and hence the self is absolute and necessary for the self. What does not exist for itself i s not a self." 3.

The Absolute I posits itself. As it so posits itself, it exists. Positing is activity. This positing activity is the Absolute I and this activity is the foundation of all being. Accordingly, the Absolute I is a 'deed-act' (Tadhandlung). So, the Absolute I is precisely, spontaneous, perpetual positing activity. To elaborate further, the positing activity can be understood as when a person thinks about what they are thinking. As Fichte supposedly said to his students: "Gentlemen, think the wall. Gentlemen, think of him who is thinking the wall". 4 For, in Intellectual Intuition, the I can reflect upon itself to discover the activity of the Absolute I. Or to phrase differently, the finite I can access the infinite, Absolute I. This can elicit two responses. Firstly, this line of reasoning could invite the accusation of committing an infinite regress in that thinking about who is thinking the wall is itself subject to thinking and this would be subject to thinking and so on ad infinitum. Thus contrary to Fichte's fundamental thesis, no unconditional first principle such as the Absolute I could ever be reached. Fichte would retort that Intellectual Intuition does not invite an infinite regress but reveals a circular action. Underpinning the thought of the individual I is the positing activity of the Absolute I, as revealed by a reflective, act of Intellectual Intuition performed by the individual thinker itself. This reflexive movement does not entail an infinite regress. Secondly, an Absolute I is superfluous. Intellectual intuition reveals at most, a transcendental ego, an 'I Think' that accompanies all my representations (pace Kant). For this 'I Think' (reflexive self-consciousness) is either already existing prior to being consciously recognised in Intellectual Intuition or facilitated by the awareness of the Not-I (this is what I understand Fichte's Absolute I to be) or; it is a socially acquired 'I Think'. The latter position seemingly does not require an Absolute I. 5 The first position is Fichte's position. The second position is however, also endorsed by Fichte in a later work marking a tension between the two. In his Foundations of Natural Right (1797), Fichte argues that human beings can only achieve self-consciousness in a social environment of other, self-conscious human beings. 6 This apparently offsets any requirement of an Absolute I. However, in the aforementioned text, Fichte states how the self, prior to achieving self-consciousness is pure activity. So individual self-consciousness is acquired via the activity of the Not-I in the guise of other individuals and objects. This is the position of The Science of Knowledge. As such, there is no tension between the Absolute I and socially acquired consciousness as charged above.

What is the Absolute?

To recap. The Absolute I is a positing activity which posits itself/being. It simultaneously posits a Not-I which limits its activity. The dialectical intermediation between Absolute I and Not I furnishes knowledge about the world by means of transcendental categories and, the Absolute I and Not I divide, creating individual objects in the world, including individual, self-conscious human beings. Through self-consciousness, humans can grasp the Absolute I by means of Intellectual Intuition. So far, the Absolute I has been defined as a 'deed-act' of 'perpetual positing activity'. An unconditional principle that allows the possibility of human consciousness and knowledge to manifest themselves. Alexandre Guilherme proposes three feasible interpretations of the Absolute I: The Classical Reading, the Strong Idealist reading and the Modern Reading. 7

The Classical Reading. In his On the I Principle of Philosophy (1795), a text heavily influenced by Fichte, F.W.J. von Schelling (1775-1854) defines the Absolute I as God, whose condition is unconditioned and unknowable. In a letter to philosopher Karl Reinhold, (2nd July 1795), Fichte wrote that Schelling's interpretation was correct. Further, in later writings, Fichte actually does replace the term Absolute I with the term God.8 In this Classical reading, the Absolute I is, following Spinoza, an immanent God which creates the whole of reality including the Not I (Nature) and all particular existents. Through the Absolute I/God, knowledge of the Not-I and finite existents is made possible. This reading further allows exploration on the subject matter of Spinoza upon German Idealism, particularly upon the thinking of Fichte and Schelling. This is too broad a subject matter to be entered into here.

The Strong Idealist Reading.

This view contests the equating of the Absolute I with Spinoza's pantheistic God/ Nature (Deus sive Natura.) The Absolute I might play the same role as God/Nature as a foundational principle but it is not God/Nature. The Absolute I is pure spontaneity and positing activity, it is the basis for individual, human consciousness. Without the former, the latter could not exist; without the latter, the former could not be known. The Absolute I is the spontaneous activity of Rationality that allows the individual self to arise. This individual self opposes the Not-I. Intermediation between the two produces knowledge. Or in other words, the Subject I dialectically intermediates with the Object. Terry Pinkard reads the positing acts of the Absolute I as the normativity of Reason. 9This position of Strong Idealism seems not dissimilar to that which I have outlined earlier in this paper.

The Modern Reading.

The Absolute I is pure positing activity as known through Intellectual Intuition performed by the individual. Yet knowledge can only be acquired through and by, intermediation with the Not-I. Contrary to the above reading, the Absolute I does not create the I and Not-I, it is the 'I Think' that accompanies the individuals experience of the Not-I furnishing categorical cognition of it.

Guilherme writes:

"Note here that according to this reading the Absolute I does not create the not-I as the strong idealist reading holds. In other words, according to this interpretation the mind is sheer activity and it is spontaneous, that is, one cannot switch off the activity and spontaneity of one's mind. This activity and spontaneity gives rise to one's particular self, that is, through this activity and spontaneity one comes to realise that one is always thinking. But in order for one to gain knowledge and achieve self-consciousness one needs contact with a not-I, with reality, so that the subject-object relation is established and the proper conditions for knowledge and self -consciousness is well grounded." 10

The limiting activity (Anstoss) of the Not-I is highlighted here. By means of such limiting, human knowledge arises. Without such limiting, the Absolute I would remain an act of infinite compulsion, of pure spontaneity totally unaware of itself. Fichte describes this process:

"The Anstoss (which is posited by the positing I) occurs to the I insofar as it is active and, i s thus an Anstoss only insofar as the I is active. Its possibility is conditioned by the activity of the I: no activity of the I, no Anstoss. And vice versa' the I's activity of determining itself would, in turn, be conditioned by the Anstoss: no Anstoss, no determination." 11

This modern reading appears to me, to be very close to Kant's original Transcendental Idealism; save it rules out the problematic Noumea or thing-in-itself. For the intermediation between the individual I and the objects of the Not-I (or subject and object) fully provides the scope for human knowledge. The Absolute I is not God, it is not an ontological entity of any sort, it is an epistemological condition for the possibility of human knowledge.

Mysticism: No Thanks.

The Strong Idealist reading has the Absolute as an ontological foundation for human knowledge. It is further qualified as Reason or Rationality. The Modern Reading has the Absolute as an epistemological phenomena actualised through negation. With both readings, the Absolute is explicable in intellectual terms i.e. through Intellectual Intuition. There are no grounds for any claims of 'mysticism' tout court. So perhaps the Classical reading provides the most favourable approach for the Absolute to be interpreted in a mystical or crypto-mystical manner. With this position, the Absolute is identified with the underlying substance that is God/Nature in Spinoza's Ethics and the I and Not-I are understood as the finite attributes of Mind and Extension respectively. 12 Whether Spinoza's avowedly intellectual conception of God and his larger epistemology lends itself to mysticism is highly unlikely in my opinion. Any claims of 'mysticism' may find the Identity Philosophy of FWJ Schelling more amenable.


1. The Absolute. Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Absolute_(philosophy)

2. JG Fichte. The Science of Knowledge. Cambridge University Press. 1991.

3. ibid. p. 98.

4. F. Coppleston. A History of Western Philosophy. Continuum. 2003. p.40.

5. The thesis is that the existence of individual self-consciousness, presupposes and requires socialisation by other, existing conscious beings. Self-consciousness is not self-developing nor is it possible to exist in an isolated, per-social individual.

This theme is found in Schelling and Hegel and in post-German Idealism philosophers such as Karl Marx. Viz:

"Feuerbach resolves the religious essence into the human essence. But the human essence is no abstraction inherent in each single individual. In its reality, it is the ensemble of the social relations." Karl Marx. Thesis on Feuerbach VI. The German Ideology. Lawrence & Wishart. 1996. Ed. CJ. Arthur. P. 122.

"It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence but, their social existence which determines their consciousness" Karl Marx. Preface. A Contribution to a Critique of Political Economy. Foreign Languages Press. Peking. 1976. Pp.3/4.

6. J.G. Fichte. Foundations of Natural Right. 29. Cited in Will Dudley. Understanding German Idealism. Acumen. 2007. p.97.

7. Alexandre Guilherme. Fichte and Schelling: The Spinoza Connection. The Influence of Spinoza on the Fichtean and Shellingian Systems of Philosophy. VDM Verlag. 2009.

8. ibid Pp. 83/4. Further, in Fichte's later writings, the Absolute I is explicitly referred to as God. See for example his The Way Towards a Blessed Life. 1806. Biblio Life. 2009

Outlines of the Doctrine of Knowledge. 1810. https://www.marxists.org/reference/subject/philosophy/works/ge/fichte.htm

9. Terry Pinkard. German Philosophy 1760-1860. The Legacy of Idealism. Cambridge University Press. 2002. P. 114.

10. Guilherme. Op cite. p.94.

11. Fichte. Science of Knowledge. Op cite. p. 212.

12. B. Spinoza. The Ethics. Penguin. 1996.

The new Philosophy Pathways e-journal: published by the ISFP

Philosophy Pathways is back!

The Philosophy Pathways electronic journal is looking for articles on Philosophy, Book Reviews and the like.

Please send contributions and suggestions to the Editor Martin Jenkins at martin.jenkins866@gmail.com.

Articles must not exceed 3,000 words.

Martin has a BA{Hons) in Philosophy from the University of Bolton and a Masters in Philosophy from the University of Liverpool. A PhD from the latter awaits completion.

He has been involved with Pathways to Philosophy since 2003. Interested in most branches of Philosoophy, he is particularly interested in the Philosophy of Politics, of Religion, Continental Philosophy and the writings of Martin Heidegger and Friedrich Nietzsche. Copious articles published including two books:

Nietzsche: Aristocratic Radicalism or Anarchy? and Introduction to the Dialectic: From Hegel to Althusser.

The views expressed in this newsletter do not necessarily reflect those of the Editor.

Geoffrey Klempner


Geoffrey Klempner

International Society for Philosophers

Books by Geoffrey Klempner

YouTube channel


The end of SYMPA and the new Pathways

According to Wikipedia, 'SYMPA is a Mailing list management (MLM) software. Its name, which is an acronym for Systeme de Multi-Postage Automatique (i.e. Automatic Mailing System), also means "nice" (friendly) in French.'

This is the mailing list that we have been using over the last two decades via the University of Sheffield, UK. Recently, I received a notification that SYMPA has been closed down. The new mailing list system is only available for members of the University.

Although it would be possible to use an alternative method of email list management, the decision has been taken to make the Pathways List blog the primary medium for news about Pathways and the ISFP. If you wish to keep up to date, you can follow the blog by email.

We have some exciting news. Tuition for the six Pathways to Philosophy, published on Amazon in Kindle and paperback, is now available. Tutors are listed on the following page:


Profiles from Maya Levanon, Tony Flood and Martin Jenkins — previously Pathways 'Mentors' — have been posted. Esther Shallan and Bruce Gahir will be joining shortly. In time, the list will grow.

The new arrangements allow tutors to negotiate fees and other matters with their clients independently of Pathways. However, as it states on the page, student feedback is important, and I will keep a watchful eye on this. I am here to respond to any feedback and if students praise or complain I will let the tutor know, and, if necessary, take action.

Personally, I feel that this is the opening of a new chapter in the life of Pathways to Philosophy, and hopefully will be the mainstay of the ISFP for years to come.

[Pathways] Contribute to Philosophy Summaries

Hello philosophers,

Recently, a blog has been set up with a few posts. This blog will be an archive of summaries of philosophical works. The link is: https://azphilosophy.blogspot.com/.

I would greatly appreciate it if you could help me out! The task is simple:

- read a philosophical work
- write a summary, around 2 pages, feel free to include quotes.

Then all you need to do is tell me the title of the work and email your summary to azhong2252@gmail.com. You can include the summary as part of the email or as an attached file.

I will then add it to the collection and yes, I will make sure to include your name.

There is a link to my blog on Dr Klempner's 'Tentative Answers' site https://tentativeanswers.blogspot.com.

If we are able to build up this collaboration, we will have greatly contributed to ISFP and there will be other benefits.

If you have any questions, please let me know at azhong2252@gmail.com!

Thank you very much everyone,

Andrew Zhong

[Pathways] The New ISFP

The New ISFP


Today, I have some important items of news regarding the ISFP.

The first you may have already heard about: Life Membership of the ISFP is free and will remain so for the foreseeable future. You can join by following the link at https://askaphilosopher.org or the link at https://www.geoffreyklempner.net. At the moment we are using two different setups for processing forms but the questions are exactly the same. It doesn't matter which one you use.

The second piece of news is that we have a new, permanent web address at http://isfp.sdf.org. SDF is a public access UNIX host founded in the USA back in 1987. It is one of the few places on the Internet where anyone can have access to the powerful tools of a UNIX server through the command line.

'SDF' are adjacent letters on a computer keyboard, and is also short for 'Super-Dimensional Fortress Macross', a Japanese anime series from 1982 which was later made into a video game.

We are a fortress, in a way, a place of refuge for Independent philosophers around the world. Our principles of inclusion and dialogue ensure that no genuine lover of wisdom is stranded without support.

I have decided to let the old address http://isfp.co.uk expire primarily because we are not a 'company' and we are not based in the UK. Until the renewal date for the co.uk domain, http://isfp.co.uk will continue to forward to http://isfp.sdf.org, as will the temporary address http://klempner.freeshell.org/society/.

The third news item is that we have three new Officers joining Sanja Ivic, Editor of ISFP Publishing:

Martin Jenkins is now responsible for our membership database and receiving submissions for the Associate and Fellowship Awards. He is Secretary of the ISFP. Email martinllowarch.jenkins@virgin.net.

Eric George, the other Admin for this page who set up the GK Public Figure page back in 2012, is the new ISFP Publicity Manager. Email ps.egeorge@gmail.com.

Lev Lafayette is our new University Outreach Officer. Amongst other activities, Lev is President of the Committee of The Isocracy Network (isocracy org). Email lev.lafayette@isocracy.org.

Eric is from New Zealand, while Lev (coincidentally) is based in Oz, although he hails from NZ. Martin is based in the UK.

Last but not least, the remit of ISFP Publishing has changed. Previously the books on our List were only available on request. From now onwards, we will be making the books we publish available for free download, with no strings (no promises of a 'review'). If you are an author and you want to share your work and are not looking for a commercial publisher then send your manuscript to our Editor Sanja Ivic.

Note that we are only interested in high quality material. The difference between the ISFP and other publishers is that we are entirely non-profit, so the question whether or not your book 'will sell' does not arise. But it has to be good.

You can reach Sanja Ivic at aurora1@yubc.net.

– That's all for today. If you have any comments or ideas for ways in which we can grow or improve, email me at klempner@fastmail.net.

Geoffrey Klempner


Geoffrey Klempner

International Society for Philosophers

Books by Geoffrey Klempner

YouTube channel


DR Geoffrey Klempner.

          RIP. Dr Geoffrey Klempner (1951-2022).           Absolute pleasure to have known and work with you since 2003. ...