Philosophical Fragments by Sören Kierkegaard
Sören Kierkegaard is one of the towering Christian existential thinkers of the mid-nineteenth century. While his literary style was experimental, his writings call for Christian morality; a defense of faith and religion. Among his many books are Training in Christianity, Sickness Unto Death, and Fear and Trembling. Originally published by Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey in 1936. Translated by David F. Swenson, translation revised by Howard V. Hong. This material was prepared for Religion Online by Ted and Winnie Brock.
Dear reader! Let us now assume that this Teacher has made his appearance, that he is dead and buried, and that some time intervenes between Chapters IV and V. Likewise it sometimes happens in a comedy that several years elapse between two successive acts. In order to indicate this passage of time, the orchestra is occasionally made to play a symphony or the like, foreshortening the time by filling it with music. In a somewhat similar manner I have thought to fill out the intervening time by a consideration of the problem set forth above. How long the interval should be, I am content to leave to your discretion; but if it seems agreeable to you, let us in a spirit of jest and earnest assume that precisely 1843 years have elapsed. You will note that I ought to proceed somewhat leisurely, if only for the sake of the illusion; for 1843 years is an exceptionally generous allotment of time, likely to put me in a predicament the opposite of that in which our philosophers find themselves, whom the time usually permits only an indication of their meaning; and the opposite also to that of our historians, who find that not the material, but the time, leaves them in the lurch. Hence when you find me somewhat long-winded, repeating the same things, "about the same things" please notice, you must remember that it is for the sake of the illusion; and then you will no doubt pardon my prolixity, and interpret it in a manner more satisfactory to yourself rather than suppose that I allowed myself to think that this matter needed consideration, even by you, in that I suspected you of not completely understanding yourself with respect to it. And this in spite of the fact that I do not by any means doubt that you have completely understood and assented to the newest philosophy, which like the modern age generally seems to suffer from a curious distraction, confusing promise with performance, the superscription with the execution; for what age and what philosophy was ever so wonderful and wonderfully great as our own -- in superscriptions!
1. Coming into Existence
In what sense is there change in that which comes into existence? Or, what is the nature of the coming-into-existence kind of change ()? All other change () presupposes the existence of that which changes, even when the change consists in ceasing to exist But this is not the case with coming into existence. For if the subject of coming into existence does not itself remain unchanged during the change of coming into existence, that which comes into existence is not this subject which comes into existence, but something else. Then the question involves a in that the inquirer in the given case either sees another change co-present with the change of coming into existence, which confuses the question for him, or he mistakes the nature of what is coming into existence and therefore is not in position to ask the question. If a plan in coming into existence [in being fulfilled or carried out] is in itself changed, it is not this plan which comes into existence; but if it comes into existence without being changed, what then is the change of coming into existence? This coming-into-existence kind of change, therefore, is not a change in essence but in being and is a transition from not existing to existing. But this non-being which the subject of coming into existence leaves behind must itself have some sort of being. Otherwise "the subject of coming into existence would not remain unchanged during the change of coming into existence," unless it had not been at all, and then the change of coming into existence would for another reason be absolutely different from every other kind of change, since it would be no change at all, for every change always presupposes something which changes. But such a being, which is nevertheless a non-being, is precisely what possibility is; and a being which is being is indeed actual being or actuality; and the change of coming into existence is a transition from possibility to actuality.
Can the necessary come into existence? Coming into existence is a change, but the necessary cannot be changed, since it always relates itself to itself and relates itself to itself in the same way. All coming into existence is a suffering, and the necessary cannot suffer; it cannot undergo the suffering of the actual, which is that the possible (not only the excluded possibility but also the accepted possibility) reveals itself as nothing in the moment it becomes actual, for the possible is made into nothing by the actual. Everything which comes into-existence proves precisely by coming into existence that it is not necessary, for the only thing which cannot come into existence is the necessary, because the necessary is.
Is not necessity then a synthesis of possibility and actuality? What could this mean? Possibility and actuality do not differ in essence but in being; how could there from this difference be formed a synthesis constituting necessity, which is not a determination of being but a determination of essence, since it is the essence of the necessary to be. If possibility and actuality could be united to become necessity, they would become an absolutely different essence, which is not a kind of change; and in becoming necessity or the necessary, they would become that which alone of all things excludes coming into existence, which is just as impossible as it is self-contradictory. (Compare the Aristotelian principle: "it is possible," "it is possible that not," "it is not possible." -- The theory of true and false propositions -- Epicurus -- tends only to confuse the issue here, since essence and not being is reflected upon, and in this way no help is given with respect to the characterization of the future.)
The necessary is a category entirely by itself. Nothing ever comes into existence with necessity; likewise the necessary never comes into existence and something by coming into existence never becomes the necessary. Nothing whatever exists because it is necessary, but the necessary exists because it is necessary or because the necessary Is. The actual is no more necessary than the possible, for the necessary is absolutely different from both. (Compare Aristotle’s doctrine of the two kinds of possibility in relationship to the necessary. His mistake lies in his beginning with the principle that everything necessary is possible. In order to avoid having to assert contradictory and even self-contradictory predicates about the necessary, he helps himself out by two kinds of possibility, instead of discovering that his first principle is incorrect, since possibility cannot be predicated of the necessary.)
The change involved in coming into existence is actuality; the transition takes place with freedom. No coming into existence is necessary. It was not necessary before the coming into existence, for then there could not have been the coming into existence, nor after the coming into existence, for then there would not have been the coming into existence.
All coming into existence takes place with freedom, not by necessity. Nothing comes into existence by virtue of a logical ground, but only by a cause. Every cause terminates in a freely effecting cause. The illusion occasioned by the intervening causes is that the coming into existence seems to be necessary; the truth about intervening causes is that just as they themselves have come Into existence they point back ultimately to a freely effecting cause. Even the possibility of deducing consequences from a law of nature gives no evidence for the necessity of any coming into existence, which is clear as soon as one reflects definitively on coming into existence. The same is the case with manifestations of freedom, provided we do not let ourselves be deceived by the manifestations of freedom but reflect upon the coming into existence.
2. The Historical
Everything that has come into existence is eo ipso historical. For even if it accepts no further historical predicate, It nevertheless accepts the one decisive historical predicate: it has come into existence. That whose coming into existence is a simultaneous coming into existence (Nebeneinander, Space) has no other history than this. But even when viewed in this light (en masse), and abstracting from what an ingenious speculation calls the history of nature in a special sense, nature has a history.
But the historical is the past (for the present pressing upon the confines of the future has not yet become historical). How then can it be said that nature, though immediately present, is historical, except in the sense of the said ingenious speculation? The difficulty comes from the fact that nature is too abstract to have a dialectic with respect to time in the stricter sense. This is nature’s imperfection, that it has no history in any other sense; but it is a perfection in nature that it nevertheless has this suggestion of a history, namely that it has come into existence. (This constitutes its past, the fact that it exists is its present.) On the other hand, it is the perfection of the Eternal to have no history and, of all that is, the Eternal alone has absolutely no history.
However, coming into existence may present a reduplication, i.e., the possibility of a second coming into existence within the first coming into existence. Here we have the historical in the stricter sense, subject to a dialectic with respect to time. The coming into existence which in this is a possibility, a possibility which for nature is its whole sphere is identical with the coming into existence of nature is a possibility, a possibility which for nature is its whole reality. But this historical coming into existence in the stricter sense is a coming into existence within a coming into existence, which should constantly be kept in mind. The more specifically historical coming into existence occurs by the operation of a relatively freely effecting cause, which in turn points ultimately to an absolutely freely effecting cause.
3. The Past
What has happened has happened, and cannot be undone; in this sense it does not admit of change (Chrysippus the Stoic -- Diodorus the Megarian). Is this immutability identical with the immutability of the necessary? The immutability of the past has been brought about by a change, namely the change of coming into existence; such an immutability does not exclude all change, since it did not exclude this change. All change is excluded (subjecting the concept to a temporal dialectic) only by being excluded in every moment. If the past is conceived as necessary, this can happen only by virtue of forgetting that it has come into existence; is such forgetfulness perhaps also necessary?
What has happened has happened as it happened; in this sense it does not admit of change. But is this immutability identical with the immutability of the necessary? The immutability of the past consists in the fact that its actual "thus" cannot become different; but does it follow from this that its possible "how" could not have been realized in a different manner? The immutability of the necessary, on the contrary, consists in its constant relating itself to itself, and in its relating itself to itself always in the same manner, excluding every change. It is not content with the immutability that belongs to the past, which as we have shown is not merely subject to a dialectic with respect to a prior change from which it emerges, but must even suffer a dialectic with respect to a higher change which annuls it. (Repentance, for example, which seeks to annul an actuality.)
The future has not yet happened. But it is not on that account less necessary than the past, since the past did not become necessary by coming into existence, but on the contrary proved by coming into existence that it was not necessary. If the past had become necessary it would not be possible to infer the opposite about the future, but it would rather follow that the future also was necessary. If necessity could gain a foothold at a single point, there would no longer be any distinguishing between the past and the future. To assume to predict the future (prophesy) and to assume to understand the necessity of the past are one and the same thing, and only custom makes the one seem more plausible than the other to a given generation. The past has come into existence; coming into existence is the change of actuality brought about by freedom. If the past had become necessary it would no longer belong to freedom, i.e., it would no longer belong to that by which it came into existence. Freedom would then be in a sorry case, both an object of laughter and deserving of tears, since it would be responsible for what did not belong necessity to devour. Freedom itself would be an illusion, to it, being destined to bring offspring into the world for and coming into existence no less so; freedom would be witchcraft and coming into existence a false alarm.1
4. The Apprehension of the Past
Nature, as the spatial order, has only an immediate existence. But everything that admits of a dialectic with respect to time is characterized ‘by a certain duality, in that after having been present it can persist as past. The essentially historical is always the past (it is over, but whether years since or only a matter of days ago makes no difference), and has as past its own actuality; for the fact that it has happened is certain and dependable. But the fact that it has happened is on the other hand the ground of an uncertainty, by which the apprehension will always be prevented from assimilating the past as if it had been thus from all eternity. Only in terms of this conflict between certainty and uncertainty, the distinguishing mark of all that has come into existence, and hence also of the past, can the past be understood. When the past is understood in any other manner, the apprehension has misunderstood itself in the role of apprehension; and it has misunderstood its object, as if anything such could be the object of an apprehension. Every apprehension of the past which proposes to understand it better by construing it,; has only the more thoroughly misunderstood it. (A manifestation theory instead of a construction theory is at first sight deceptive, but the next moment we have the secondary construction and the necessary manifestation.) The past is not necessary, since it came into existence; it did not become necessary by coming into existence (which is a contradiction); still less does it become necessary through someone’s apprehension of it. (Distance in time tends to promote an intellectual illusion, just as distance in space provokes a sensory illusion. A contemporary does not perceive the necessity of what comes into existence, but when centuries intervene between the event and the beholder he perceives the necessity, just as distance makes the square tower seem round.) If the past became necessary through being apprehended, the past would be the gainer by as much as the apprehension lost, since the latter would come to apprehend something else, which is a poof sort of apprehension. If the object of apprehension is changed in the process of apprehension, the apprehension is changed into a misapprehension. Knowledge of the present does not confer necessity upon it; foreknowledge of the future gives it no necessity (Boethius); knowledge of the past confers no necessity upon the past; for no knowledge and no apprehension has anything of its own to give.
Whoever apprehends the past, historico-philosophus, is therefore a prophet in retrospect (Daub). That he is a prophet expresses the fact that the certainty of the past is based upon an uncertainty, an uncertainty that exists for the past in precisely the same sense that it exists for the future, being rooted in the possibility (Leibniz and the possible worlds) out of which it could not emerge with necessity, nam necessariam se ipso prius sit, necesse est. The historian thus again confronts the past, moved by the emotion which is the passionate sense for coming into existence: wonder. If the philosopher never finds occasion to wonder (and how could it occur to anyone to wonder at a necessary construction, except by a new kind of contradiction?) he has eo ipso nothing to do with the historical; for wherever the process of coming into existence is involved, as is the case in relation to the past, there the uncertainty attaching to the most certain of events (the uncertainty of coming into existence) can find expression only in this passion, which is as necessary to the philosopher as it is worthy of him. (Plato, Aristotle.) Even if the event is certain in the extreme, even if wonder offers its consent in advance, saying that if this had not happened it would have had to be invented (Baader), even then the passion of wonder would fall into contradiction with itself if it falsely imputed necessity, and thereby cheated itself. -- As for the Method, both the word itself and the concept sufficiently show that the progress connoted is teleological. But in every such movement there is each instant a pause (where wonder stands in pausa and waits upon coming into existence), the pause of coming into existence and of possibility, precisely because the lies outside. If there is only one way possible, the is not outside, but in the movement itself, and even behind it, as in the case of an immanent progression.
So much for the apprehension of the past. We have in the meanwhile presupposed that a knowledge of the past is given; how is such knowledge acquired? The historical cannot be given immediately to the senses, since the elusiveness of coming into existence is involved in it. The immediate impression of a natural phenomenon or of an event is not the impression of the historical, for the coming into existence involved cannot be sensed immediately, but only the immediate presence. But the presence of the historical includes the process of coming into existence, or else it is not the presence of the historical as such.
Immediate sensation and immediate cognition cannot deceive. This is by itself enough to show that the historical -cannot be the object of either, because the historical has the elusiveness which is implicit in all coming into existence. As compared with the immediate, coming into existence has an elusiveness by which even the most dependable fact is rendered doubtful. Thus when the observer sees a star, the star becomes involved in doubt the moment he seeks to become aware of its having come into existence. It is as if reflection took the star away from the senses. So much then is clear, that the organ for the historical must have a structure analogous with the historical itself; it must comprise a corresponding somewhat by which it may repeatedly negate in its certainty the uncertainty that corresponds to the uncertainty of coming into existence. The latter uncertainty is two-fold: the nothingness of the antecedent non-being is one side of it, while the annihilation of the possible is another, the latter being at the same time the annihilation of every other possibility. Now faith has precisely the required character; for in the certainty of belief (Tro is translated here and in the following three pages as belief or "faith . . . in a direct and ordinary sense," as distinguished from Faith "in an eminent sense." See pp. 108-09. -- H.V.H.) [Danish: Tro, faith or belief] there is always present a negated uncertainty, in every way corresponding to the uncertainty of coming into existence. Faith believes what it does not see; it does not believe that the star is there, for that it sees, but it believes that the star has come into existence. The same holds true of an event. The "what" of a happening may be known immediately, but by no means can it be known immediately that it has happened. Nor can it be known immediately that it happens, not even if it happens as we say in front of our very noses. The elusiveness pertaining to an event consists in its having happened, in which fact lies the transition from nothing, from non-being, and from the manifold possible "how." Immediate sensation and immediate cognition have no suspicion of the uncertainty with which belief approaches its object, but neither do they suspect the certainty which emerges from this uncertainty. Immediate sensation and immediate cognition cannot deceive, This is important for the understanding of doubt, and for the assignment to belief of its proper place through a comparison with doubt. This thought underlies Greek skepticism, strange as it may seem. Yet it should not be so difficult to understand, nor to perceive the light that this throws upon the nature of belief, provided one has escaped being altogether confused by the Hegelian doctrine of a universal doubt, against which it is certainly not necessary to preach. For what the Hegelians say about this is of such a character as rather to encourage a modest little doubt of how far it can be true that they have ever doubted anything at all. Greek skepticism was of the retiring kind (). The Greek skeptic did not doubt by virtue of his knowledge, but by an act of will (refusal to give assent --). From this it follows that doubt can be overcome only by a free act, an act of will, as every Greek skeptic would understand as soon as he had understood himself. But he did not wish to overcome his skepticism, precisely because he willed to doubt. For this he will have to assume the responsibility; but let us not impute to him the stupidity of supposing that doubt is necessary, or the still greater stupidity of supposing that if it were, it could ever be overcome. The Greek skeptic did not deny the validity of sensation or immediate cognition; error, he says, has an entirely different ground, for it comes from the conclusions that I draw. If I can only refrain from drawing conclusions, I will never be deceived. If my senses, for example, show me an object that seems round at a distance but square near at hand, or a stick bent in the water which is straight when taken out, the senses have not deceived me. But I run the risk of being deceived when I draw a conclusion about the stick or the object. Hence the skeptic keeps his mind constantly in suspense, and it was this frame of mind that he willed to maintain. In so far as Greek skepticism has been called , , , these predicates do not express its distinctive feature, for Greek skepticism had recourse to knowledge only for the sake of protecting the state of mind which was its principal concern, and therefore did not even express its negative cognitive results , for fear of being caught in a conclusion. The state of mind was the skeptic’s chief concern. ( , Diogenes Laertius, IX, 107.) 2 -- By way of contrast it now becomes easy to see that belief is not a form of knowledge, but a free act, an expression of will. It believes the fact of coming into existence, and has thus succeeded in over- coming within itself the uncertainty that corresponds to the nothingness of the antecedent non-being; it believes the "thus" of what has come into existence, and has consequently succeeded in annulling within itself the possible "how." Without denying the possibility of another "thus," this present "thus" is for belief most certain.
In so far as that which through its relation to belief becomes historical and as historical becomes the object of belief (the one corresponds to the other) has an immediate existence, and is immediately apprehended, it is not subject to error. A contemporary may then safely use his eyes and so forth, but let him look to his conclusions.
He cannot know, as a matter of immediate cognition, that his fact has come into existence, but neither can he know it as a matter of necessity; for the very first expression for coming into existence is a ‘breach of continuity. The moment faith believes that its fact has come into existence, has happened, it makes the event and the fact doubtful in the process of becoming, and makes its "thus" also doubtful through its relation to the possible "how" of the coming into existence. The conclusion of belief is not so much a conclusion as a resolution, and it is for this reason that belief excludes doubt. When belief concludes: this exists, ergo, it must have come into existence, it might appear to be making an inference from effect to cause. However, this is not quite the case; and even if it were so it must be remembered that the cognitive inference is from cause to effect, or rather, from ground to consequent (Jacobi). But it is not accurate to say that the conclusion of belief is an inference from effect to cause; I cannot sense or know immediately that what I sense or know immediately is an effect, since for the immediate apprehension it merely is. I ‘believe that it is an effect, for in order to bring it under this category I must already have made it doubtful with the uncertainty implicit in coming into existence. When belief resolves to do this, doubt has been overcome; in that very instant the indifference of doubt has been dispelled and its equilibrium overthrown, not by knowledge but by will. Thus it will be seen that belief is the most disputable of things while in process of approximation; for the uncertainty of doubt, strong and invincible in making things ambiguous, dis-putare, is brought into subjection within it. But it is the least disputable when once constituted, by virtue of its new quality. Belief is the opposite of doubt. Belief and doubt are not two forms of knowledge, determinable in continuity with one another, for neither of them is a cognitive act; they are opposite passions. Belief is a sense for coming into existence, and doubt is a protest against every conclusion that transcends immediate sensation and immediate cognition. The skeptic does not, for example, deny his own existence; but he draws no conclusion from fear of being deceived. In so far as he has recourse to dialectics in order to make the opposite of any given conclusion seem equally probable, it is not on the foundation of these dialectical arguments that he sets up his skepticism. They are but outworks, human accommodations. He has no result, therefore, not even a negative result; for this would be to recognize the validity of knowledge. By an act of will he resolves to keep himself under restraint, and to refrain from every conclusion ( ).
One who is not contemporary with the historical, has, instead of the immediacy of sense and cognition, in which the historical is not contained, the testimony of contemporaries, to which he stands related in the same manner as the contemporaries stand related to the said immediacy. Even if the content of the testimony has undergone in the process of communication the change which makes it historical, the non-contemporary cannot take it up into his consciousness without giving it his assent, thus making it historical for himself, unless he is to transform it into something unhistorical for himself. The immediacy of the testimony, i.e., the fact that the testimony is there, is what is given as immediately present to him; but the historicity of the present consists in its having come into existence, and the historicity of the past consists in its having once been present through having come into existence. Whenever a successor believes the past (not its truth, which is a matter of cognition and concerns not existence but essence), whenever he believes that the past was once present through having come into existence, the uncertainty which is implicit in coming into existence is present in the past that is the object of his belief. This uncertainty (the nothingness of the antecedent non-being -- the possible "how" corresponding to the actual "thus") will exist for him as well as for a contemporary; his mind will be in a state of suspense exactly as was the mind of a contemporary. He has no longer a mere immediacy before him; neither does he confront a necessary coming into existence. A successor believes, to be sure, on accounting into existence, but only the "thus" of coming into existence. A successor believes, to be sure, on account of the testimony some contemporary; but only in the same sense as a contemporary believes on account of his immediate sensation and immediate cognition. But no contemporary can believe by virtue of this immediacy alone, and neither can any successor believe solely by virtue of the testimony to which he has access.
Thus at no time does the past become necessary, just as it was not necessary when it came into existence nor revealed itself as necessary to the contemporary who believed it, i.e., believed that it had come into existence. For belief and coming into existence correspond to one another, and are concerned with the two negative determinations of being, namely the past and the future, and with the present in so far as it is conceived from the point of view of a negative determination of being, namely as having come into existence. Necessity, on the other hand, is wholly a matter of essence, and thus it is of the essence of the necessary to exclude coming into existence. The possibility from which that which became actual once emerged still clings to it and remains with it as past, even after the lapse of centuries. Whenever a successor reasserts its having come into existence, which he does by believing it, he evokes this potentiality anew, irrespective of whether there can be any question of his having a more specific conception of it or not.
What has here been said applies to the historical in the direct and ordinary sense, whose only contradiction is that it has come into existence, which contradiction is implicit in all coming into existence.3 Here again one must guard against the illusion of supposing that it is easier to understand after the event than before the event. Whoever thinks this does not yet grasp the fact that what he apprehends has come into existence; he has before him only the present content of a sensory and cognitive immediacy, in which coming into existence is not contained. Let us now return to our story, and to our hypothesis that the God has been. As far ‘as the direct and ordinary form of the historical is concerned, we have seen that this cannot become historical for immediate sensation or cognition, either for a contemporary or for a successor. But this historical fact which is the content of our hypothesis has a peculiar character, since it is not an ordinary historical fact, but a fact based on a self-contradiction. (This is sufficient to show that in relation to this fact there is no difference between an immediate contemporary and a successor; for over against a self-contradiction, and the risk involved in giving it assent, an immediate contemporaneity can yield no advantage.) Yet it is an historical fact, and only for the apprehension of Faith. Faith is here taken first in the direct and ordinary sense [belief], as the relationship of the mind to the historical; but secondly also in the eminent sense, the sense in which the word can be used only once, i.e., many times, but only in one relationship. From the eternal point of view, one does not have Faith that the God exists [eternally is], even if one assumes that he does exist. The use of the word Faith in this connection enshrines a misunderstanding. Socrates did not have faith that the God existed. What he knew about the God he arrived at by way of Recollection; the God’s existence was for him by no means historical existence. If his knowledge of the God was imperfect in comparison with his who according to our supposition receives the condition from the God himself, this does not concern us here; for Faith does not have to do with essence, but with being [historical existence], and the assumption that the God is determines him eternally and not historically. The historical fact for a contemporary is that the God has come into existence; for the member of a later generation the historical fact is that the God has been present through having come into existence. Herein precisely lies the contradiction. No one can become immediately contemporary with this historical fact, as has been shown in the preceding; it is the object of Faith, since it concerns coming into existence. No question is here raised as to the true content of this; the question is if one will give assent to the God’s having come into existence, by which the God’s eternal essence is inflected in the dialectical determinations of coming into existence.
Our historical fact thus stands before us. It has no immediate contemporary, since it is historical in the first degree, corresponding to faith [belief] in the ordinary sense; it has no immediate contemporary in the second degree, since it is based upon a contradiction, corresponding to Faith in the eminent sense. But this last resemblance, subsisting between those who are most diversely situated temporally, cancels the difference which in respect of the first relation exists for those of diverse temporal situations. Every time the believer makes this fact an object of his Faith, every time he makes it historical for himself, he re-instates the dialectical determinations of coming into existence with respect to it. If ever so many thousands of years have intervened, if the fact came to entail ever so many consequences, it does not on that account become more necessary (and the consequences themselves, from an ultimate point of view, are only relatively necessary, since they derive from the freely effecting cause); to say nothing of the topsy-turvy notion that the fact might become necessary by reason of the consequences, the consequences being wont to seek their ground in something else, and not to constitute a ground for that of which they are the consequences. If a contemporary or a predecessor saw ever so clearly the preparations, perceived intimations and symptoms of what was about to come, the fact was nevertheless not necessary when it came into existence. That is to say, this fact is no more necessary when viewed as future, than it is necessary when viewed as past.
1. A prophesying generation despises the past, and will not listen to the testimony of the scriptures; a generation engaged in understanding the necessity of the past does not like to be reminded of the future. Both attitudes are consistent, for each would have occasion to discover in the opposite the folly of its own procedure. The Absolute Method, Hegel’s discovery, is a difficulty even in Logic, aye a glittering tautology, coming to the assistance of academic superstition with many signs and wonders. In the historical sciences it is a fixed idea. The fact that the method here at once begins to become concrete, since history is the concretion of the Idea, has given Hegel an opportunity to exhibit extraordinary learning, and a rare power of organization, inducing a quite sufficient commotion in the historical material. But it has also promoted a distraction of mind in the reader, so that, perhaps precisely from respect and admiration for China and Persia, the thinkers of the middle ages, the four universal monarchies (a discovery which, as it did not escape Geert Westphaler, has also set many a Hegelian Geert Westphaler’s tongue wagging), he may have forgotten to inquire whether it now really did become evident at the end, at the close of this journey of enchantment, as was repeatedly promised in the beginning, and what was of course the principal issue, for the want of which not all the glories of the world could compensate, what alone could be a sufficient reward for the unnatural tension in which one had been held -- that the method was valid. Why at once become concrete, why at once begin to experiment in concreto? Was it not possible to answer this question in the dispassionate brevity of the language of abstraction, which has no means of distraction or enchantment, this question of what it means that the Idea becomes concrete, what is the nature of coming into existence, what is one’s relationship to that which has come into existence, and so forth? Just as it surely might have been cleared up in the Logic what "transition" is and means, before going over to write three volumes describing its workings in the categories, astounding the superstitious, and making so difficult the situation of one who would gladly owe much to the superior mind and express his gratitude for what he owes, but nevertheless cannot over this forget what Hegel himself must have considered the matter of principal importance.
* Tro is translated here and in the following three pages as belief or "faith . . . in a direct and ordinary sense," as distinguished from Faith "in an eminent sense." See pp. 108-109. -- H.V.H.
2. Both Plato and Aristotle insist on the principle that immediate sensation and immediate cognition cannot deceive. Later also Descartes, who says precisely as do the Greek skeptics, that error has its root in the will, which is over-hasty in drawing conclusions. This also throws light on faith; when faith resolves to believe it runs the risk of committing itself to an error, but it nevertheless believes. There is no other road to faith; if one wishes to escape risk, it is as if one wanted to know with certainty that he can swim before going into the water.
3. The word "contradiction" must not here be taken in the frothy sense into which Hegel has beguiled himself and others and the concept -- that it has the power to produce something. As long as nothing has come into existence, the contradiction is merely the impulsive power in the passion of wonder, its nisus; but it is not the nisus of the process of coming into existence itself. When the process of coming into existence has occurred, the contradiction is ‘again present as the nisus of the wonder in the passion which reproduces the coming into existence.