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HEGEL 77     Lectures on the History of Philosophy. Translated by E. S. Haldane and F.H. Simson. London, 1896. Vol. III., p. 62 et seg.

“This proof was included among the various proofs up to the time of Kant, and—by some who have not yet reached the Kantian standpoint—it is so included even to the present day. It is different from what we find and read of amongst the ancients. For it was said that God is absolute thought as objective; for because things in the world are contingent, they are not the truth in and for itself—but this is found in the infinite. The scholastics also xviiiknew well from the Aristotelian philosophy the metaphysical proposition that potentiality is nothing by itself, but is clearly one with actuality. Later, on the other hand, the opposition between thought itself and Being began to appear with Anselm. It is noteworthy that only now for the first time through the Middle Ages and in Christianity, the universal Notion and Being, as it is to ordinary conception, became established in this pure abstraction as these infinite extremes; and thus the highest law has come to consciousness. But we reach our profoundest depths in bringing the highest opposition into consciousness. Only no advance was made beyond the division as such, although Anselm also tried to find the connection between the sides. But while hitherto God appeared as the absolute existent, and the universal was attributed to Him as predicate, an opposite order begins with Anselm—Being becomes predicate, and the absolute Idea is first of all established as the subject, but the subject of thought. Thus if the existence of God is once abandoned as the first hypothesis, and established as a result of thought, self-consciousness is on the way to turn back within itself. Then we have the question coming in, Does God exist? while on the other side the question of most importance was, What is God?

“The ontological proof, which is the first properly metaphysical proof of the existence of God, consequently came to mean that God as the Idea of existence which unites all reality in itself, also has the reality of existence within Himself; this proof thus follows from the Notion of God, that He is the universal essence of all essence. The drift of this reasoning is, according to Anselm (Proslogium, C. 2), as follows: ‘It is one thing to say that a thing is in the understanding, and quite another to perceive that it exists. Even an ignorant person (insipiens) will thus be quite convinced that in thought there is something beyond which nothing greater can be thought ; for when he hears this he understands it, and everything that is understood is in the understanding. But that beyond which nothing greater can be thought cannot certainly be in the understanding alone. For if it is accepted as in thought alone, we may go on farther to accept it as existent; that, however, is something greater’ than what is merely thought. ‘Thus were that beyond which nothing greater can be thought merely in the understanding, that beyond which nothing greater can be thought would be something beyond which something greater can be thought. But that is truly impossible; there thus xixwithout doubt exists both in the understanding and in reality something beyond which nothing greater can be thought.’ The highest conception cannot be in the understanding alone; it is essential that it should exist. Thus it is made clear that Being is in a superficial way subsumed under the universal of reality, that to this extent Being does not enter into opposition with the Notion. That is quite right; only the transition is not demonstrated—that the subjective understanding abrogates itself. This, however, is just the question which gives the whole interest to the matter. When reality or completion is expressed in such a way that it is not yet posited as existent, it is something thought, and rather opposed to Being than that this is subsumed under it.

“This mode of arguing held good until the time of Kant; and we see in it the endeavor to apprehend the doctrine of the Church through reason. This opposition between Being and thought is the starting-point in philosophy, the absolute that contains the two opposites within itself—a conception, according to Spinoza, which involves its existence likewise. Of Anselm it is however to be remarked that the formal logical mode of the understanding, the process of scholastic reasoning is to be found in him; the content indeed is right, but the form faulty. For in the first place the expression ‘the thought of a Highest’ is assumed as prius. Secondly, there are two sorts of objects of thought—one that is and another that is not; the object that is only thought and does not exist, is as imperfect as that which only is without being thought. The third point is that what is highest must likewise exist. But what is highest, the standard to which all else must conform, must be no mere hypothesis, as we find it represented in the conception of a highest acme of perfection, as a content which is thought and likewise is. This very content, the unity of Being and thought, is thus indeed the true content, but because Anselm has it before him only in the form of the understanding, the opposites are identical and conformable to unity in a third determination only—the Highest—which, in as far as it is regulative, is outside of them. In this it is involved that we should first of all have subjective thought, and then distinguished from that, Being. We allow that if we think a content (and it is apparently indifferent whether this is God or any other), it may be the case that this content does not exist. The assertion ‘Something that is thought does not exist’ is now subsumed under the above standard and is not conformable to it. We grant that the truth is that which is not merely thought xxbut which likewise is. But of this opposition nothing here is said. Undoubtedly God would be imperfect, if He were merely thought and did not also have the determination of Being. But in relation to God we must not take thought as merely subjective; thought here signifies the absolute, pure thought, and thus we must ascribe to Him the quality of Being. On the other hand if God were merely Being, if He were not conscious of Himself as self-consciousness, He would not be Spirit, a thought that thinks itself.

“Kant, on the other hand, attacked and rejected Anselm’s proof—which rejection the whole world afterwards followed up—on the ground of its being an assumption that the unity of Being and thought is the highest perfection. What Kant thus demonstrates in the present day—that Being is different from thought and that Being is not by any means posited with thought—was a criticism offered even in that time by a monk named Gaunilo. He combated this proof of Anselm’s in a Liber pro insipiente to which Anselm himself directed a reply in his Liber apologeticus adversus insipientem. Thus Kant says (Kritik der reinen Vernunft, P. 464 of the sixth edition): If we think a hundred dollars, this conception does not involve existence. That is certainly true: what is only a conception does not exist, but it is likewise not a true content, for what does not exist, is merely an untrue conception. Of such we do not however here speak, but of pure thought; it is nothing new to say they are different—Anselm knew this just as well as we do. God is the infinite, just as body and soul, Being and thought are eternally united; this is the speculative, true definition of God. To the proof which Kant criticises in a manner which it is the fashion to follow now-a-days, there is thus lacking only the perception of the unity of thought and of existence in the infinite; and this alone must form the commencement.”

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